Nancy Miller is a travel professional with Trippin' Around The World, LLC. She successfully completed Paul Gauguin Cruises PEARLS Travel Agent Specialist Training Program in 2013, becoming a certified PEARLS expert in our cruise line, ship, and destination. Nancy sailed on the m/s Paul Gauguin on the September 3, 2016, Tahiti & the Society Islands voyage and shares her impressions about the cruise and the PEARLS Program.
This past September, you sailed aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin. Had you been to Tahiti before that?
No, I had never been to Tahiti or anywhere in French Polynesia before, but it was definitely on my bucket list.
You’ve been selling Tahiti for many years now. Can you describe what it was like to finally see the islands for yourself?
I have actually been selling Paul Gauguin Cruises since 2013, and I must say all the resources, webinars, photographs, and even television documentaries do not even come close to the feeling of sheer amazement when looking out over what I call “tropical paradise”—absolutely mesmerizing!
How important do you think it is that you have firsthand experience of Tahiti now?
If given the opportunity, I would recommend any travel agent selling French Polynesia to get firsthand experience. Now, when speaking with a client, I actually feel myself pumped with enthusiasm—a smile on my face—having an overwhelming confidence in selling an incredible experience!
How do Paul Gauguin Cruises and its PEARLS Specialist program differ from other cruise lines that you work with?
Taking part in the PEARLS Specialist Program is one of the key factors in my selling success. Having never experienced, and just dreaming of visiting this part of the world, I admit I was “clueless” about this destination. However, being always up for a challenge, I joined and graduated from the PEARLS Specialist Program in September 2013, and the rest is history…ongoing success! I had even been honored with the top producer title for my agency this past year.
The program really zeroed in on all the key factors to enhance my selling skills—destinations, ship features, accommodations, shore excursions, guest hosts, etc.—to the point I felt comfortable engaging in a conversation with a client with a confidence unsurpassed. I feel the PEARLS program offered by Paul Gauguin Cruises differs from other cruise line training in that it focuses on the “experience”—not the selling—and the uniqueness of this venture.
Do you have a favorite marketing tool (i.e., is there any other type of assistance that Paul Gauguin Cruises offers that you find helpful)?
I have to admit that I am behind the times and not really into marketing and social media; however, the Paul Gauguin Cruises website offers so much useful information, such as deck plans, accommodation descriptions, itinerary maps, ship profiles, etc., that it is very helpful in answering most questions clients routinely ask. I have also obtained many web links, photographs, and recommendations from the very knowledgeable PGC reservation agents—all of whom, by the way, are AWESOME! They are a very dedicated staff, whom I have gotten to know quite well over the past few years.
Would you recommend other agents sign up for our PEARLS program?
Absolutely—I cannot stress how much more knowledgeable and confident an agent will become after this program.
Do you have any client stories you’d like to share?
I actually had a couple who sailed along with 13 family members to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The group consisted of a combination of seniors, middle-aged adults, teenagers, and children. The family raved about the meticulous attention to detail experienced while on board (even a special get-together arranged in their Grand Suite for the entire family). Their favorite was the special program for children and families offered on select sailings. Long story short—the grandparents are now booked on the Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Islands voyage this coming June with their own circle of friends and without the kids.
While on board, do you have any favorite activities or indulgences?
Basically, for me it was rest and relaxation with our friends. Actually, a lot of my travel agent colleagues were also on the ship, so it was extra special! Everything from Tahitian handicrafts (I made a beautiful ring from pandanus leaves), hermit crab racing, crazy golf, pareo tying, ship bridge tours, enrichment lectures, Tahitian dance lessons, piano bar visits, and late nights in the La Palette Disco—something for everyone! My hubby actually did quite well in the ship’s casino.
Do you have a favorite place for breakfast (and/or dinner)?
Mimosa, anyone? Starting breakfast off each morning with my favorite beverage was top priority, and our very dedicated waiter, Flo, was on it! Enjoying each evening with an incredible menu choice in the L’Etoile Restaurant—I have to say this was my favorite dining venue! Although Le Grill did have some scrumptious appetizers while I sipped on the “cocktail of the day”—the “Beachcomber” (my favorite)!
When you first introduce yourself to a client, what do you tell them about Paul Gauguin Cruises?
Now that I have sailed the m/s Paul Gauguin myself, I am confident in saying that it is the most amazing luxury experience one could ever hope for—and then some!
What suggestions do you have for agents who want to make the most of their time in the islands?
To make the most out of my time, I selected activities of interest to me. I also gathered feedback from fellow colleagues, as well as other guests on board, on what their day involved, compiling opinions and advice to take back home with me to pass along to my clients.
Do you have a favorite island? Which one and why?
My main objective being “rest & relaxation,” I actually enjoyed visiting Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ private islet—the best! Upon a wet-landing arrival, I could feel the instant calm and serenity as I stepped into the warm waters and was greeted with a Polynesian serenade by the Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins. Making my way ashore, I passed by a floating bar. Now sipping my favorite cocktail from a hollow coconut, it’s time for some sun, fun, a great barbecue feast, snorkeling, local handicrafts, etc. I actually got my hubby into a kayak—and he can’t swim! Fortunately, a skilled marina staff is standing by, and full safety equipment is provided, including life vests for all guests.
What is the best part about your job?
The best part of my job as a travel agent is sharing in the excitement through my clients’ emails, phone conversations, and thank-you cards when returning from probably the most exhilarating travel venture of their life!
Did you stay at any of our resorts? Which ones? Can you describe the resort properties and experience?
Although I only experienced a one-night stay at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa in a lagoon-view room, being a curious travel agent, I was able to view all of the room categories. My friends, John and Barbara, stayed on for three nights in an overwater bungalow with absolutely breathtaking views of the lagoon. The motu overwater bungalows, just having been refurbished, would definitely make a great choice! Bridges, tropical fish, swim-up bar, amazing restaurants made for a great 24-hour experience–not enough time, though!
What three words describe the Paul Gauguin Cruise experience?
Simply put – AMAZING!
Name a “must-do” activity or shore excursion.
For any clients who are celebrating a special occasion, I would definitely invite them to experience the Polynesian Blessing Ceremony, which is a special gathering to honor such celebrations. I myself participated with my hubby and was romantically wrapped in a ceremonial blanket, a crown of flowers upon our head—which, by the way, was an unforgettable photo keepsake—and enjoyed a Champagne toast, cake, and a lovely reading of the poem “Love Eternal.” It was magical moment aside the Polynesian backdrop of the mountains and crystal blue waters!
Our enrichment lectures and entertainment are a highlight for many guests. Did you have a favorite?
I think the highlight of entertainment for me was the “Krew Kapers,” starring the crew of the m/s Paul Gauguin. It was quite entertaining and at times so hysterically funny watching our favorite crew member, Flo, perform his “mime” routine. What a very special crew—I miss them all!
Any packing tips or suggestions?
All you need to bring is your “love for adventure.” Plus, reef shoes!
Any other recommendations you have?
While overnighting in Bora Bora, I would recommend doing a side trip to Bloody Mary’s Restaurant & Bar. With the help of the ship’s concierge, arrangements were made for my friends and me to be shuttled to the restaurant one evening. Aside from the mouthwatering entrees and, of course, the Bloody Marys, it is a hotspot for celebrities, tourists, and locals. I did not see any celebrities, per se, but experiencing the atmosphere was worth the trip.
What was your favorite moment aboard ship?
It was wonderful meeting The Gauguin’s Captain Toni Mirkovic.
Do you have a favorite travel quote?
My own! “Live your dreams in paradise – French Polynesia.”