Q – Having sailed once on NCL with almost five thousand new friends sporting tee-shirts and tats (and that could be for dinner), we had decided that mega-ship vacations, how great their value, are not for us. But now, we have our hearts set on the South Pacific. We are looking at your reviews of the Gauguin and we think this is right for us. We’d love the water platform, the all-inclusive aspects, and, of course, the itinerary. But we’ve been burned once on the water and we can’t decide between the seven-night “Tahiti & Society Islands” itinerary or the 11-night Cook Islands & Society Islands program. Our gut is that we should get back into cruising with a one week before considering something longer. Are we on the right track in our thinking on this?

A – Probably not. First of all, you’ve got an eight hour plus flight from Los Angeles. That is a long way to travel for a week. The 11-day is the better of the itineraries by a fairly wide margin. The Society Islands are, in our opinion, one island with luxury accommodations (Bora Bora) and a number of sister islands where there has been minimal luxury development and infrastructure improvements. We think you will find The Cook Islands to be the highlight of your entire vacation. You will go out by boat to incredibly clear waters where you can snorkel and even walk across the water on a narrow sand bar out to a private, uninhabited island. It is the ultimate South Pacific introduction. As we have said elsewhere, the biggest mistake made by new cruisers is the “test” itinerary which is shorter than it ought to be. The only reason to do any seven-night cruise is if work requirements or family issues require a shorter vacation. There is also the issue of value – many of the same costs, including air, are built into both a seven-night and ten or eleven-night sailing. The air program is still built into the fare. As a result, the eleven-night program is the better value.