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Mari Marks

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

Inspiring Cruise - French Polynesian Islands

An Authentic, Inspiring Cruise to Bora Bora and the French Polynesian Islands 

Travel is arguably my first love, but it wasn’t my first career. Before turning my focus exclusively to travel, I worked for many years as an administrator in a veterinary hospital, where I honed my organizational skills. Throughout this time, I was the “unofficial” travel advisor for my family and friends. For me, planning trips was a labor of love - I really enjoyed creating unique travel experiences for myself and my group. And I was good at it! In fact, I soon realized that I had more knowledge and skill at trip planning than many of the agents I was booking with.

One of these agents recognized my aptitude and actively tried to recruit me for several years. Eventually, I decided to follow my passion and join Protravel - and I have been helping clients book their dream vacations ever since. 

One of the things I’ve always loved about travel is the opportunity it provides for you to meet new people and to get outside of your comfort zone a little. I take pride in stretching myself and coming up with solutions to unexpected challenges - which, as anyone who has traveled before knows, can occur from time to time! Most of all, I feel grateful to be helping my clients create lasting memories, by crafting one-of-a-kind trips for them. 

Of course, working in the industry full-time has done nothing to diminish my love of travel - it’s actually increased it! I make a point of visiting as many places as I can in my free time, so that I can pass my knowledge on to prospective clients.  

I’m particularly fond of cruises, which I find to be among the more joyful travel experiences out there. Cruises enable you to see different places and experience different cultures from one single “home base”, and there are dozens of different types of cruise lines out there, catering to every vacation personality. I’ve been on many, many cruises over the years, and I’ve recently planned another one - a Crystal Cruise leaving from Dover, England and going to Monte Carlo. We’ll spend some time in London first, and then take a private tour in each cruise port that we visit. I always like to add private tours to my itinerary, as they give you much more insight into the culture of a given destination than the generic tours offered by the cruise lines. After our cruise, we’ll spend a few days in Provence. (I also like to either arrive early or stay late after my cruises, to soak up a little “on-land” culture.) 

If I had to choose one of my most memorable cruise experiences over the years, I think I’d pick the Paul Gauguin Tahiti cruise, which I’ve actually taken several times - with my husband, with some friends and their children. French Polynesia is very exotic and it actually very easy to get there from the West Coast (about an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles); depending on the time of year, it’s only a couple of time zone changes from California as well. 

We arrived in Papeete and spent the night there before boarding the cruise. Paul Gauguin cruises are known for their authenticity - they are staffed by lots of Polynesians, and the cruise food in particular features not only American cuisine but plenty of fresh, delicious Polynesian fare. The accommodations are terrific as well. 

Our first port of call was Huahine, which is a fascinating island. It’s particularly well-known for its eels, and there are no tour buses on the island - we were ferried around in school buses! The next stop was Bora Bora, which is probably one of the best known of the islands of French Polynesia. It’s surrounded by motus - tiny islands in a protected reef - and the water is an amazing 17 shades of blue! It’s also as gentle, calm, clean and warm as you could possibly imagine; you can look down and see the fish swimming around you. There’s a tiny little restaurant on Bora Bora called Villa Mahana that I always recommend that my clients visit - I’m close friends with the chef and the food is incredible. 

Our next stop was Taha’a - the Vanilla Island (and home to a Relais and Chateaux resort called Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa, which happens to be one of my favorites). After that, we sailed to Moorea, which is perhaps the most interesting of all of the islands. It’s about 13-15 kilometers in size and has no stop signs or traffic signals - though it does have a little bit of nightlife and some great restaurants (as well as the amazing Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa). Moorea is scuba and snorkel heaven - you can participate in water activities right off the back of the ship! From Moorea, we headed back to Tahiti and concluded our cruise. 

Every time I’ve taken part in a Tahiti cruise, I’ve had a wonderful time - and I’d be thrilled to help my clients discover the magic of this destination as well.

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