Experts of Tahiti: Marcia Pilgeram on Family, Friends & Food


Experts of Tahiti: Marcia Pilgeram on Family, Friends & Food

October 31, 2016

Marcia Pilgeram is a charter, incentive, and group sales coordinator with Paul Gauguin Cruises. She shares her favorite experiences, tips, activities, cuisine, and memorable moments from her voyages as part of our ongoing “Experts of Tahiti” series.

How many times have you sailed with Paul Gauguin Cruises and whom did you travel with?

I have sailed three times. The first time was with my 21-year-old daughter Casey. The second time was with my daughter and two friends of mine. The last time was with two friends—including one from the previous trip—and their husbands.

 How was the experience cruising with friends vs. with your daughter?

Really they were not much different; we all share the same curiosities, love of adventure travel, and cultural interests. We did a lot of hiking to beautiful vistas to see The Gauguin floating in picturesque lagoons (great photo ops, by the way). We all love the water activities, the peaceful islands, and our amazing crew, who make us each feel so special.

What was your favorite onboard experience?

My background in culinary arts never escapes me. I am a former caterer and I currently write the food column for a local Arts & Entertainment publication. The food on board our ship is a highlight for me. One of my favorite pastimes, after an excursion or time spent paddling a kayak, is settling down with a quiet cup of afternoon tea and discussing the day’s adventures with my travel companions. Of course, the tea is accompanied by savory little tea sandwiches, rich scones, and tantalizing desserts. I look forward to this experience every time I sail.

How would you describe The Gauguin’s three dining venues?

Each restaurant is unique and accommodating! My daughter Casey is a vegetarian and I am not, but we agree that the choices in all three of our dining venues are incredible. I love the fusion of local and French flavors and the bounty of fresh fish at Le Grill. The abundance of creative selections in L’Etoile is extraordinary and impressive, especially considering the size of the ship’s galley. Casey really appreciated the thought and care that went into the vegetarian entrées.

What was your favorite dining moment? 

I was able to book the coveted Marina Dinner as a surprise for my travel companions the last time I sailed. The private dinner takes places on the ship’s watersports marina in Bora Bora for an additional charge. Since it is only available once per cruise, I couldn’t believe my great fortune. It was such a magical experience!  We enjoyed a sunset in the lagoon by Zodiac® while sharing Champagne with friends, followed by a flower-strewn welcome serenade on the Marina Deck. The table, adorned with a white linen tablecloth, fine china, silverware, and crystal glassware, was beautiful. As we dined, we viewed stunning Bora Bora while savoring the incomparable food of La Veranda, which was paired with wines and accompanied by impeccable service. It was one of those nights you never want to end and you will remember forever.

Do you have a favorite Tahitian recipe that you make at home?

Yes, the Tahitian Crème Brûlée that is served on board The Gauguin. I always bring back lots of vanilla beans so I can make this for family and friends.  
Editor’s Note: The recipe for Crème Brûlée with Tahitian Vanilla Beans is listed at the end of this blog post.

What is your favorite travel tip when in French Polynesia?

I always stock up on Tahitian vanilla beans, which are plumper and moister than other varieties. Its subtle flavor makes it the best vanilla choice for dishes with a vanilla flavor profile. In my home, you’ll always find homemade vanilla extract, in various stages of steeping. My favorite spot to pick them up is our own Motu Mahana, where you’ll find a handful of local vendors, so I always remember to take along some cash.

A highlight for me is when the local Polynesians come aboard The Gauguin and share their culture through dance and floral interpretation. I just adore those beautiful children of French Polynesia.

Which island did you enjoy most?

I love all the islands, but Bora Bora is magical with its exceptional snorkeling in the vibrant blue lagoons. I love hiking, especially on Moorea, where the hiking trails along the lush green mountainsides offer magnificent vistas. My favorite island is our very own, Motu Mahana! I love arriving to the welcoming songs of Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins, the chilled drinks served in coconut shells, the bountiful barbecue spread, and the tropical floating bar. Now, that pretty well sums up paradise, Gauguin-style!

Favorite island meal?

Freshly-prepared Poisson Cru, a traditional Polynesian dish consisting of raw fish marinated in citrus juice and coconut milk, was my favorite on Motu Mahana.

Do you have any advice for guests thinking about traveling with their families?

The old adage “the early bird gets the worm” comes to mind. Families are often scheduling around school breaks, so summer and holiday sailings are popular choices that fill up early. Plan ahead. I have many families who book one to two years in advance and are rewarded with their first choice in stateroom selections.

Any recommendations for shopping or eating on shore?

I think the best place to shop is right in our own boutique on The Gauguin. And the same can be said about eating. You won’t find any finer fare than what we offer on the ship. But a fun experience in Bora Bora is Bloody Mary’s. You can drop in, drop your shoes at the door, and wiggle your toes in the sand while you enjoy a meal or just a cocktail.

What do you recommend as a “must-do” activity or shore excursion?

I highly recommend the Lagoon Excursion with Maohi Nui in Bora Bora. We all loved sitting in the outrigger canoe and swaying to the ukulele-playing, singing Captain, while he expertly navigated the lagoon. He also shared many stories of his native culture and never seemed tired of the endless questions. There are three different stops—one for snorkeling in a beautiful coral garden filled with so many colorful fish! It’s a feast for the eyes. Then a stop to mingle with the gentle stingrays, and finally a stop to have a look at the blacktip reef sharks. The guides seem to know exactly where to find them. The boat ride itself offers many views of the beautiful blue lagoons of Bora Bora. We also enjoyed sliced fresh fruit.    

Did you have a routine when you sail aboard The Gauguin?

Actually, I do! I enjoy a quiet sunrise with coffee in La Palette. I am usually alone, since the others I travel with like to sleep in. Then, we gather together for breakfast at Le Grill. We always sit at a large table so we can meet new friends. We dine for lunch in La Veranda, enjoy teatime, then cocktails at the Piano Bar. With lots of snorkeling and excursions in between.

Did you treat yourself to a gift or experience?

My most indulgent moment on The Gauguin came when I savored the lavish “Champagne Breakfast in Bed,” which was a Bon Voyage gift from a generous coworker. On a pre-arranged morning, a white-gloved waiter rolled a cart laden with chilled Champagne, iced caviar, and all the accoutrements into my stateroom. This was also served with pastries and coffee, a vase with a rose, and a lovely gift card with a message. I fluffed my pillows, opened my balcony doors to stunning island views, and savored this decadent feast. I could not recommend this Bon Voyage gift more highly! 

What three words describe the Paul Gauguin Cruises experience?

Picture-perfect. Blissful. Paradise.

Any packing suggestions?

Besides a sense of adventure and reef shoes, little else is needed. 

Have you stayed at any of the resorts in French Polynesia before or after your cruise?

I’m a creature of habit, and though I have seen most InterContinental resort properties in French Polynesia, an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa is my favorite. After each cruise, I’ve spent some time there. I love lounging on the deck and stepping off for a cool plunge or venturing farther out with my snorkel gear. The property offers many interesting options to fill your day—the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, the Dolphin Experience, the beautiful infinity pool, or the ultimate in pampering at Helene Spa with a Bath of 1000 Flowers.

What do you look forward to each time you return?

Seeing the smiling faces and embracing familiar crew members—they’re like family!

Do you have a family moto or travel quote?         

“We’ve never wasted a dollar on travel.”

Looking back now, how important (or special) is it to have shared this experience with people you love?

I always return with a memory bank filled with fun and adventurous times and a heart filled with gratitude that I was able to share these experiences with the people I love!

What is the best part of your job?

Working with really great clients. Over the years, I’ve met so many wonderful people, and some have become really good friends. I especially love family groups and sharing in their joy of planning multi-generational celebrations, such as milestone birthdays and anniversaries, and I’m always delighted to hear from them upon their return! I receive numerous thank-you cards and letters that are testaments to the wonderful times these guests experienced on board and the memories they brought home. These words of praise and commendation for Paul Gauguin Cruises really make my day!

Crème Brûlée with Tahitian Vanilla Beans

8 Servings


1 cup milk

4 cups whipping cream

1 1/2 cups sugar

12 egg yolks

1 stick cinnamon

1 vanilla bean

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon powder


  • Whip the egg yolks with the sugar until slightly pale, about 2 minutes.
  • Place the milk, cream, cinnamon stick, and vanilla together in a pot and bring to a boil.
  • When the mixture starts to boil, combine it with the sugar-and-egg mixture in a bowl and set aside. Allow it to cool slightly.
  • Place 8 gratin dishes in a baking tray and fill them with the mixture.
  • Cook at 250◦F until just set (usually one hour). Remove from the oven and place in the refrigerator until completely cold.


  • Mix the granulated sugar with the cinnamon powder.
  • Cover the top of the crème brûlée with the mixture and caramelize with a gas torch until it is a nice golden-brown color.

Bon appétit.

To learn more about Paul Gauguin Cruises and items mentioned in this blog, please click on the links below:

The Gauguin’s Dining Venues

Champagne Breakfast in Bed Package

Shore Excursions

InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa Land & Sea Packages