Liz Coleman is the Director of Sales for the Northeast and Midwest for Paul Gauguin Cruises. As part of our series “Experts of Tahiti,” Liz shares her favorite experiences, tips, activities, cuisine, and memorable moments from her voyages.
How many times have you sailed Paul Gauguin and whom did you travel with?
I have been on seven or eight sailings—I’ve lost count! I think I need to check my passport. Most sailings were for business, escorting our travel partners to this exotic part of the world. In 2012, I took a personal trip with family and my favorite friends. My husband, three boys, parents, and several friends joined us. It was exquisite!
Wow–that is over 30 days spent in paradise. Do you still get excited about returning to the islands?
Each time I return to the islands it is magical. Even though most of my trips have been for work, it’s never really work at all. (But don’t tell my husband that.) The experience is always sublime. I am energized by the people I am hosting, since they, too, are having a terrific time. Combine the beautiful backdrop of the islands with hospitality of our staff, and the Polynesian spirit on and off the ship, and I feel like I am home once again. Truly, each time I leave to venture back home to Boston, I feel like I have left my other family.
How was the experience traveling with your family and showing your kids where Mom goes for work?
They couldn’t believe that I get to sell paradise. My two older boys, now 18 and 13, still talk about how special this trip was and ask when we are going back. Each time the word vacation comes up, they ask if they can go back on the ship. And each time I go back for work, they ask if they can come.
Any thoughts or stories you want to share about your kids and The Gauguin’s family program?
When I first became involved with Tahiti and her islands, my first impression was that it was just for honeymooners and those wanting to celebrate a special event like a birthday, anniversary, etc. Then, once I experienced the islands, my impression changed completely. I found that Tahiti is for all kinds of people, including families and multi-generational groups.
To this day, my children still say that it was one of their best trips ever (and this is four years later) and they can’t wait to go back. The family program made it special for them, because the instructors were engaged and it was a very hands-on experience. They were learning, yet having a blast at the same time. They swam with the stingrays and the sharks, they participated in the crab races on the beach, they painted pareos, and the list goes on. For me, it was awesome since I, too, was able to take part in a very experiential program. As a working mom, I want to spend time with my kids when I am on vacation. I don’t want to send them to a program where I can’t engage with them at all. This was the best of both worlds–we all got to enjoy the destination while enjoying each other.
Do you have any advice for guests who are thinking about traveling with their families?
If you want to provide a completely enriching experience for your family, please consider sailing with Paul Gauguin Cruises. Take Grandma and Grandpa, too. This is terrific for multi-generational groups, and there is something for everyone. I would never have thought this was a place for families until I started to learn about the experiences the agents' clients, who were traveling there with families, were having aboard The Gauguin. I found myself living vicariously through their tales. They would tell me how fulfilling it was for everyone. I then had the opportunity to do the same and thought our experience was over the top. The reason it’s so special is that you are introducing all types of ages and backgrounds to a part of the world that people dream of. And when you experience something special for the first time with the people you love, it makes it even more memorable. And it’s for this reason that my family, including my parents, still consider this one of their best trips ever!
Do you have any favorite activities while on board?
Since I am an active person and can’t sit still, I love the watersports marina. I enjoy kayaking and paddleboarding in particular. I also enjoy the water toys on our beach days at Motu Mahana and Bora Bora—that’s pretty terrific, too. The other thing that I love are the activities while on board. My favorite was the Tahitian Zumba. I had never tried Zumba previously, so I thought it was a great way to become involved. It’s presented by one of our stunning Les Gauguines—moving with such beauty and grace. I can only hope to move my hips and arms like that. I guess this means I need to return so that I can practice some more.
Do you have a favorite place for dining?
Since I am an early riser, I love having a light breakfast in La Palette, the ship’s versatile lounge. Sometimes, it’s so early that the sun is still rising. Here, I can enjoy a cup of coffee, fresh fruit, and pastries. I take my book and just sit back and relax. One morning, I even saw a whale breach off the back of the ship. What a sight! For dinner, I enjoy eating in L’Etoile, the ship’s main dining room. Part of it is that I love to dine with new people, and secondly, I adore the diverse dishes that are offered on a daily basis. It’s nice to be able to come and go without worrying about a reservation. The food is over the top, along with the service.
Do you have a favorite island? Which one and why?
I think my favorite island is either Huahine, which is known as the “Garden Island,” or our own Motu Mahana. Huahine has the largest concentration of outdoor Polynesian temples in French Polynesia. I find the historical and cultural references incredibly interesting. I also can’t help mentioning our beach barbecue day on our very own Motu Mahana. For me, it’s a really relaxing beach day to eat, drink, and be merry. And, when I am not doing that, I am snorkeling and kayaking in Motu Mahana’s lagoon.
What suggestions do you have for our guests to make the most of their time in the islands?
I would suggest doing a little of everything while still finding time for yourself. That means be as active as you want, or as sedentary as you want, but still find time to explore the islands a little bit so that you can get a sense of the landscape and the culture. I might recommend at least one shore excursion per day. It can be as simple as tendering over from the ship and walking about the island’s village, or doing something more organized like taking a 4x4 Jeep tour. If you can arrive at least a day early, book a pre-cruise hotel stay through Paul Gauguin Cruises. This allows you to acclimate and relax before the voyage.
What do you recommend as a must-do activity or shore excursion?
One of my favorite enrichment lecturers is Mark Eddowes. He offers a tour called “Trails of the Ancients - Trek” in Moorea. It combines a tour of Moorea with some light hiking through the rainforest. We visit marae (outdoor Polynesian temples) and get some great photo ops, too. While I have done this shore excursion a number of times, I always listen to his lecture in the ship’s Grand Salon while we are in Moorea. He is informative and very entertaining. Boy, does he have stories!
What three words describe the Paul Gauguin Cruises experience?
Sublime, magical, extraordinary.
What is the best part about your job?
I get to sell happiness. What’s not to love about making people smile and helping them build a memory?
When you first introduce yourself to a travel agent, what do you tell them about Paul Gauguin Cruises?
Actually, at first I don’t tell them anything. I start with “have you ever been to paradise?”
How important is it for travel agents to experience The Gauguin for themselves?
Seeing is believing, for sure. What I found the most amazing, aside from the natural beauty of the islands, is the compassion and the warmth of The Gauguin’s staff. There is a kind-heartedness and thoughtfulness about them. They are very intuitive—they know when to engage with our guests, and they know when guests want to relax.
To learn more about Paul Gauguin Cruises and activities mentioned in this blog, please click on the links below:
The Gauguin’s Dining Venues
Onboard Expert Mark Eddowes