MS Paul Gauguin: Tahiti and French Polynesia

I got home late Saturday night from my cruise vacation to the islands of Tahiti, Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora, and Moorea on board the MS Paul Gauguin.
MS Paul Gauguin
It was a dream come true. Sigh.
I got to practice my French…
Moorea
eat gourmet food every night…
Escargot
interact with native people…
Bernadette in Raiatea
see native crafts being made…
Pareos in Raiatea
spend long, lazy days on some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen…
Paul Gauguin’s private motu in Taha’a
and view some of the most incredible sunsets imaginable.
The view from our balcony between Taha’a and Bora Bora
I saw mountains that I thought existed only in the movies…
Bali Hai on the island of Moorea
islands typically frequented by the rich and famous….
Bora Bora
and exotic flora and fauna.
Tiare, a type of gardenia
Best of all, I didn’t meet a stranger on the ship, from amazing crew members like Annie Rose who tended our cabin…
Annie Rose
my favorite bartender, Ernesto…
Ernesto
pianist Ruben who learned the song A Thousand Years just for me and played a different arrangement of it every night in the piano bar…
Ruben Ramos
to fellow passengers I became acquainted with over dinners, drinks, and shore excursions.
Newlyweds Melanie and Jay and me
I even had a cheeseburger in paradise. Along with a local beer.
At Les Tipaniers in Moorea
Now that it’s all over, the trip feels very surreal. It’s going to take me some time to process everything; to sort through the snapshots and journal entries and piles of notes; to fully grasp the impact of the sights and smells, the interpersonal encounters, and everything I learned. I know it will affect me deeply as I move forward with the rest of my life.
But I left fear on a sunny beach in Taha’a
And hopelessness along the sands of Bora Bora.
Now there is nothing left to keep me from the amazing life I am certain lies ahead of me. 
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Check back starting next Monday for a five-part travelogue of my time in Tahiti and French Polynesia. I hope you will join me!