Q –  We had an extraordinary time on the Paul Gauguin sailing the Society Islands last May. Since then, we’ve heard rumors that there will be a Gauguin # 2. Any truth to the rumor? Wonder how they rate currently and when the 2012 Revised Cruise Line Ratings will be finalized? I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but we’re well into 2012.

A – We had some real concerns about the Paul Gauguin when the company was sold to Grand Circle. But the ship was sold again in late 2009 by Beachcomber Croisieres, a company managed by American hotelier, Richard Bailey. The Paul Gauguin is back to, and in our view currently exceeds, its former glory when it was operated by Regent Seven Seas. It will place well in our soon-to-be-completed 2012 Updated Top Ten Cruise Line Ratings.

The rumors of a second ship arfe true. Gauguin has acquired the 45 stateroom former Le Levant, a French-crewed yacht, from Compagnie du Ponant. This company’s luxury yachts are chartered out to company’s such as Abercrombie and Kent and Tauck Tours for seasonal programs. What is most interesting about the purchase of the 3,500 GRT Le Levant is that it will not initially be based in Tahiti even though it is being named Tere Moana.

Those who like small ships with excellent food, in a luxurious yacht-like setting may want to start exploring the new vessel’s 2013 schedule of cruises out of St, Martin to ports in the Caribbean as well as central and South America. The ship will then move tot he Mediterranean for seven-night cruises between April and November.

What this means in practical terms, is that the small ship lines of fewer than 200 guests, Sea Dream Yacht Club and Windstar, now have a new competitor in their back yard. And look for more than a few French nationals on board and, hopefully, a few of them will be found in the kitchen.