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CruiseReportGrand Circle Cruises m/v Tere Moana4A cruise review of Grand Circle Cruises m/v Tere Moana in Africa
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
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  m/v Tere Moana Editorial
m/v Tere Moana Cruise Review
July 2013
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
2013 Editors' Choice AwardsItinerary: Istanbul, Canakkale, Kusadasi, Patmos, Rhodes, Paros, Piraeus (Athens) - read blog
[SUMMARY]Small ship sailing is taken to a new and exciting level aboard Paul Gauguin Cruises' Tere Moana![/SUMMARY]
Small ship sailing is different than a cruise aboard a "typical" cruise ship. By comparison, there is no entertainment, no casino, no glitz. The ships are smaller so there are no facilities to entertain small children. And, unlike some larger ships that now offer multiple dining venues, a small ship may only offer one or two venues in which to dine. So why is small ship cruising growing in popularity? Well, every coin has two sides. On a small ship, you rarely if ever, have to stand in line. There are no large crowds waiting for the dining room to open. Seating for meals is typically "open", so you can sit with whomever you choose whenever you wish. Service levels aboard small ships tend to be much higher due to a larger crew-to-guest ratio. And, small ships just have more personality and character. Large ships deliver a cruise, small ships deliver an experience.

Large ships deliver a 'cruise', small ships deliver an 'experience'...

Paul Gauguin Cruises has built an excellent reputation for 5-star service with the m/s Paul Gauguin, a 332-guest ship that sails the waters of the South Pacific. So, when they announced that they were adding a second, smaller vessel, the 90-guest m/v Tere Moana, expectations were high. Now, when a small, one-ship cruise line adds a second ship to its fleet, it is much different than when Carnival or Royal Caribbean bring out a new ship. The "big guys" can cannibalize other ships in their fleet for staff, crew and training resources. Getting a new small ship up-to-speed is a real challenge for a small company. That's not an excuse, just a physical reality.

Reading some of the reviews from guests who sailed aboard Tere Moana's very first sailings revealed a ship going through some serious growing pains. Whether or not the complaints were justified, we cannot say. But, as cruise journalists, we owed it to our audience, and to Paul Gauguin Cruises, to "see for ourselves" and report our findings. We were fortunate enough to secure a stateroom on a 7-night sailing from Istanbul to Athens.


Tere Moana

Launched on December 29, 2012, m/v Tere Moana (formerly Le Levant) is a sleek-looking vessel that can carry up to 90 guests which are served by a full-time crew of 60. The ship is only 3,500 tons, giving a more "yacht-like" feel than that of a cruise ship. The lack of stabilizers is one of the criticisms from guests on early sailings; however, on our 7-night sailing the ride was glass smooth for six of the seven nights. We did experience some motion one evening, but no worse than we have experienced on ships with functioning stabilizers. We have been informed that the ship actually does have two functioning stabilizers and will have an additional two functioning stabilizers after the ship emerges from dry dock in November 2013.

Le Grand Salon on Deck 3

The vessel is 15 years-old, but you have to really look close to see signs of age. The public areas look fresh and new. The ship received a brand-new propeller shaft (a multi-million dollar investment) to shore up any potential reliability issues during a dry dock in October-November 2012, at which time the entire ship was refurbished.

Tere Moana is equipped with Internet access and Wi-Fi hotspots. Connectivity was very good throughout our sailing, and was only dropped briefly one time for about 20 minutes. Access speeds were very good by cruise ship Internet standards. PG Cruises offers a choice of Internet packages: 250 minutes for $62.50 (0.25 per minute) or 100 minutes for $35, competitive pricing in the cruise ship world.

A hot tub and open deck space on Deck 6, Sun Deck

When you get thirsty, there are a few options. Le Grand Salon on Deck 3 aft is a full-service bar that operates in the late afternoon and evening. The Pool Bar on Deck 4 is the daytime refreshment center. All beverages are included in the cruise fare including soft drinks, bottled water, beer, wine, and cocktails. Bar service was excellent throughout the cruise. Liquor pours were generous and the brands being poured were top quality. Charlene made the best Pina Colada I have ever had at the Pool Bar and she cheerfully topped it off with an extra heavy shot of dark rum per my request.

Staterooms are located on Decks 3, 4 and 5 and have wisely been located amidships and forward. There are no staterooms located aft to prevent exposure to potential drive vibration and noise. The cabins on Deck 5 have small balconies. There is an elevator connecting all passenger decks. A main staircase in the ship's lobby leads from Deck 3 to Deck 5. Deck 6 (Sun deck) is only accessible by exterior stairs from the Pool Deck (5). There are also some exterior stairs leading from Deck 3 to Deck 5. Overall, Tere Moana is very easy to navigate.

The Pool Deck (5) can be converted for outdoor dining

Outdoor deck space is available on Decks 3, 4, 5 and 6. Deck 3 aft is fully covered for those who prefer the shade, however, it can be a little noisy when the ship is underway. Deck 4 space is limited to the aft seating for La Veranda restaurant and may not be available during certain times. It, too, is shaded by a canvas cover. Deck 5 is the Pool Deck and offers lounge chair seating around the small pool. There is some shade available on this deck, but it is limited. Deck 6 is completely open to the sun with the exception of the four Balinese Sun Beds forward which have some canvas shading. We did not see how the deck space could handle a full complement of guests since there were only 49 guests on our sailing. We suspect that seating would be adequate. Some reviews mention the lack of forward-facing deck space. This is basically accurate. Because of the vessel's design, the open deck space is primarily located amidships and aft.


There are two stateroom categories on Tere Moana: Window Staterooms and Balcony Staterooms at 194 sq. ft. and 298 sq. ft. respectively. Our Window Stateroom on Deck 4 was comfortable and had more then enough storage for even the heaviest packer. For those of you who have sailed on Windstar, you will see many similarities. This becomes most apparent when you visit the bathroom, which is large and also has tons of storage space. Notwithstanding the odd blue-tinted shower door, the round shower stall is an adequate size and equipped with great hardware. Ladies will be pleased to know that soon the wall-mounted wand hair dryers will be replaced with hand-held models and lighted makeup mirrors will be added to the space where the hair dryers are currently attached.

Small makeup table with lighted mirror in stateroom

In the cabin, there is a small oval makeup vanity with one little drawer and a lighted mirror mounted above it which has wisely been located away from the cabin's heavy traffic area. There is a chair that can be used at the vanity. The closet is large with plenty of hangers and there is an electronic safe for valuables. A second "closet" has eight storage bins above and four drawers below. A V-shaped cabinet located on the same wall as the vanity holds a small refrigerator/mini-bar stocked with beer and soft drinks that are replenished as needed on a complimentary basis. The marble surface of this cabinet is a good place to lay things when you came back into the cabin and the two glass shelves mounted above it offer yet another great place to put "stuff". A wall-mounted flat-screen television can easily be seen from the bed and there is a DVD player. A nice selection of complimentary DVD movies are available from Guest Services. There is also an iPod docking station with clock and speakers located on the small vanity table.

Quality L'Occitane amenities in bathroom

There is a small round table at the end of the bed along with a chair. These are kind of in the way and not really that useable, other than as a place to set things. Our bed was a true king-sized bed and was one of the most comfortable we have enjoyed on any ship. The mattress, linens and pillows were all high quality and very comfy. The air conditioner would freeze you out if you set the thermostat all the way to cold.

m/v Tere Moana Balcony
There are eight balcony staterooms on Deck 5

One area that could use some work is the closet doors and drawers, which are kind of clunky and noisy when opened and closed. The stateroom doors could also use some adjustment or dampening to prevent slamming shut. To be honest, this is really nit-picking. Overall, our stateroom was extremely comfortable, easily scoring 4 out of a possible 5. The skinny closet on the right as you enter that held two life vests even had three additional shelves to use for storage. The storage space in this cabin is outstanding!


m/v Tere Moana dining

Food is an important part of any vacation and Tere Moana does not disappoint. An Early Riser's Breakfast starts at 7am with a full buffet-style breakfast from 7:30am until 9:00am, which seems a little brief, especially for those who, like Rickee, rarely exit the stateroom until after 9:00am. Breakfast offers a huge assortment of cereals, nuts, seeds and the like for those who want to blend their own Mueslix or cereals. There are the standard scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms and the like. Omelets or other eggs-to-order are made at a chef-manned station. The pastries are as good as you will find anywhere. Breakfast is only available in La Veranda and the outdoor seating, which can accommodate 26 guests, is the most popular spot. The ship also offers a Continental Breakfast (variety of pastries, muffins, fresh fruit, cereals, coffee, and tea) at the Pool Bar until 10 a.m.

The Sun Deck (6) is converted to an elegant dining venue for a deck BBQ

The breads were obviously baked fresh daily and were amazing...

Lunch, too, is served in La Veranda each day from 12:30pm to 2:00pm. Lunch is our personal favorite meal of the day and this is an area where Tere Moana rises above many cruise lines. Even though we are not huge fans of buffets, the buffet lunches here were spectacular. A different international themed cuisine was offered each day (Italian, Greek, Asian, International, etc.) and each one was very good. The salad bar offered a large selection of local specialties each day and Rickee usually made a meal of the salads. I don't know where Chef Roy was sourcing the tomatoes for this sailing, but they were the best we have had in years. They tasted home-grown. The only soups offered at lunch were chilled soups, which we thought was a little strange, but then again, we were in the hot Mediterranean area. The breads were obviously baked fresh daily and were amazing. There is a huge assortment of olive oils and balsamic vinegars which can be combined for dipping. Excellent. One small detail that was overlooked was placing bread plates at the bread station. We first had to go get a large serving plate, or small dessert plate from the dessert station, then return to the bread station. We mentioned this to the Hotel Director and we are certain that it will be addressed. Each night at dinner, a different compounded butter was offered but missing was plain ole' butter. Now how am I supposed to clog my arteries without butter? Of course, plain butter was available for the asking, but it was the mini-butter pat variety. Chef Roy's talents really shined in the hot dishes made-to-order station creations. We always looked forward to lunch on Tere Moana.

La Veranda offers al fresco dining for up to 26 guests

Dinner is served each evening from 7:00pm to 8:30pm, which too, seems a bit abbreviated. We would like to see the hours extended to 7:00pm to 9:30pm to give late diners more options and to thin out potential crowding of the dining rooms. On our sailing, only two evening meals were served in Le Etoile, the formal dining room on Deck 2. We also enjoyed two deck BBQs held on Deck 5 and Deck 6 with the remainder of evening meals served in La Veranda. This gave guests a lot of opportunities to dine al fresco in the beautiful weather.

Elegant dining in L'Etoile

As for the venues themselves, Le Etoile is a very tastefully decorated "formal" dining room which is only used for evening meals. La Veranda is the "lido-style" dining venue which is used for buffet breakfast and lunch every day, and for dinner (menu service) on select evenings. La Veranda has a covered patio section aft that allows up to 26 guests to enjoy al fresco dining, weather permitting. Le Grand Salon is the main lounge on Deck 3 used for Afternoon Tea service and before-dinner cocktails and appetizers. The Pool Deck (5) and Sun Deck (6) were both used for deck BBQs. The Pool Deck BBQ was really hampered by high winds, but the crew managed to keep the tablecloths from blowing into the Aegean. The winds died down eventually and everyone had a good time and a good meal.

Selection of olive oil and balsamic each day at lunch in La Veranda

Most dishes we tried would fall into the 'good to better-than-good' level, with a few rising to 'excellent'. The only not-so-good dishes we had were the beef dishes, more specifically the T-Bone steak and the Prime Rib. The T-Bone I received at the deck BBQ was very hard to cut and chew. I returned it for another one, and had the same problem. Basically, the meat was extremely tough. Rickee had the same issue with a slice of prime rib she ordered in L' Etoile. We were told that they recently changed their beef supplier and that the beef comes from the US. The lamb, which comes from New Zealand, was excellent, tender and delicious. The Osso Bucco, which is veal, was also very tender and delicious. All of the seafood we tried was fresh and perfectly prepared. I had a special Indian combination plate one evening for dinner and it was also excellent.

A limited room service menu is also available 24-hours-a-day. I only tried this once by ordering the chicken wings. It took about 20 minutes for the order to arrive and they were hot, crispy and delicious. So, food in one form or another, is always available. There are jars of cookies, fruit, tea and coffee available in La Veranda at all times.

Service throughout the ship is efficient and friendly. The wait staff are excellent. Complimentary wine is served each evening (one red and one white) and the selections we tried were good. Getting refills on wine, or even water, could take a little time, however. On the one evening where we dined in L' Etoile, the speed of service from the galley was excellent. However, in fairness, there were only 49 guests sailing on our cruise.



As is typical on a ship this size, there is not much in the way of entertainment. There is a pianist on board (Alex, on our cruise) who played and sang in the lounge and at dinner. On evenings when we had a deck BBQ, Hotel Director, Nelson Trindade, brought on local entertainers, which was really special. There is a crew show on the next-to-last evening hosted by Cruise Director, Tom Ash. There are some quite talented crew members on board Tere Moana!

As previously mentioned, the ship offers complimentary DVD movies for playback in the stateroom and each stateroom also has an iPod connector with clock and speakers.


The main activity aboard a small ship like this is exploring the destinations. You won't find daytime Bingo, trivia or other mundane activities. The idea is to either get off the ship and explore the ports, or enjoy a good book while soaking up the sun on the open decks. We were surprised to see a few families with young children on board since there is really not much for kids to do on the ship. They seemed to have no trouble entertaining themselves, though.

There is a small spa on Deck 5 which offers manicures and pedicures, facials, massages and other spa services. A nice line of products was also available for purchase there. A boutique on Deck 3 is stocked with lots of logo wear, hats, some Tahitian pearl jewelry, tote bags, clothing, sunscreen and various other items. The shirts appeared to be made of high-quality material and were offered in both t-shirt and polo shirt styles. We found the boutique to be open at various times throughout the day and evening.


m/v Tere Moana Greek Isles

To read the daily cruise blog, click here


m/v Tere Moana Crew

We were very impressed with the service levels on board Tere Moana. Crew members were always smiling and willing to serve. With a few exceptions, however, we did not find a real effort to call guests by name, something you sort of expect on a ship this size. Nevertheless, everyone was polite and committed to good service. We did not ask for anything that we did not get. We never heard the word "no" the entire week.


As with any cruise line or ship, there are those things that really stand out as excellent, and other things that could bear improvement. Here are a few things that stand out in our mind:

Things We Love

  • Friendly crew
  • Visible and approachable senior staff
  • Breakfast & Lunch buffets are some of the best anywhere
  • Breads and pastries are as good as it gets
  • Selection of olive oil & balsamic at lunch
  • Healthy choices at breakfast
  • Deck BBQs
  • Great itinerary and ports
  • Super comfy bed and linens
  • Tons of storage in the stateroom & bathroom
  • Excellent Internet access
  • Inclusive beverages and gratuities
  • Excellent itinerary

Things We Would Like To See Improved

  • Lighted makeup mirror (coming soon)
  • Hand-held hair dryer (coming soon)
  • Quality of beef/steaks
  • Refill drink glasses a bit quicker


When we "rate" cruise ships, we only have from 1 to 5 stars. Tere Moana came about as close as is possible to just missing the 5-star rating, maybe a 4.7. We are convinced that with some of the upgrades already in the works, and a few minor tweaks, this will be a 5-star cruise ship. Of course, all ratings, including ours, are subjective. There is no question that some would already consider Tere Moana to be in the 5-star category.

The real measure of any cruise line and/or ship is how the guests feel about it. On our cruise, we had an opportunity to visit with several guests. Every one of them expressed a serious desire to sail on Tere Moana again. In fact, we did not hear one single negative comment from anyone. Combine that with our personal observations and we would have to assume that any challenges that did face Tere Moana in the beginning have been addressed and corrected. We would not hesitate to recommend Tere Moana to any of our readers looking for a great small ship experience. And, we would personally jump at the opportunity to sail with Paul Gauguin Cruises again.


It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines




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