Total Solar Eclipse of 2020: Tropical Polynesia Cruise

Eclipse and Cruise Program aboard the Paul Gauguin
with Special Guest Jean-Michel Cousteau and Expert Astronomers Alex Filippenko, PhD and Rick Fienberg, PhD

Two Exceptional Ways to Experience the Eclipse of 2020

For the Total Solar Eclipse of 2020, we’re offering two phenomenal, unique itineraries. The Lakes to Volcanoes Eclipse Adventure Across the Andes is now sold out. Please contact us if you wish to be added to our waitlist. On that land-based program, we have selected an exclusive eclipse site with good viewing prospects in a spectacular region of Chile’s Lake District. We’ll be accompanied throughout the program by NASA astronomer Richard Terrile, PhD.
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On our ship-based program, we travel aboard the luxurious 332-passenger Paul Gauguin, which provides the flexibility to maneuver to the ideal viewing position on Eclipse Day. We’ll visit some of French Polynesia’s celebrated islands, including the Marquesas, Bora Bora, and enchanting Moorea.

Our Guest Experts

Jean-Michel Cousteau is an explorer, educator, award-winning producer, and an impassioned diplomat for the environment. Alex Filippenko, PhD, is a leading astronomer who was voted “Best Professor” at UC Berkeley an extraordinary nine times. Rick Fienberg, PhD, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the former editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. Mark Eddowes is an authority on Polynesian anthropology and archaeology. See the Leaders tab for complete biographical information.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2, December 5-6
Papeete, Tahiti / Taha’a

Embark the Paul Gauguin in Papeete and sail to Taha’a, with a full day on this idyllic, isolated island and a delicious barbecue lunch. Known as the “Vanilla Island,”  Taha’a produces most of French Polynesia’s vanilla and often exudes its perfume-like aroma. The island is also known for exceptionally high-quality pearls.

Days 3-5, December 7-9
Bora Bora / At Sea

Bora Bora’s legendary lagoon is a must-see—and a great place for a swim or snorkel. After a day of exploration, we continue our voyage to the eclipse path, heading toward the Marquesas. Our days at sea will be enriched by presentations by our guest experts on astronomy, Polynesian culture, and the marine environment, and we’ll enjoy stargazing under the Tahitian night sky.

Days 6-9, December 10-13
The Marquesas / Nuku Hiva / Hiva Oa / At Sea

With breathtaking vertical peaks reaching into the clouds, the Marquesas are one of the most beautiful island groups in the South Pacific, and we have two days to explore them. Zodiacs bring us ashore on Nuku Hiva with its lush valleys, impossibly blue bays, and sky-high waterfalls that inspired works by Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jules Verne. On Hiva Oa, the final resting place of artist Paul Gauguin, we visit the archaeological ruins of ancient Tiu people and get a close-up look at some of their remarkable tikis—human-like sculptures that were often used to mark sacred sites. Then we continue our voyage toward the eclipse path.

Day 10, December 14
Eclipse Day!

Our viewing of the total solar eclipse today includes the unusual opportunity to see the sun rise with a broad notch missing from its disc, as the partial phases of the eclipse will have begun 20 minutes before the sun crests the horizon. Low-altitude eclipses like this also enhance the experience of seeing the moon’s shadow racing across the Earth’s surface, an unforgettable spectacle that is not as apparent in eclipses when the sun is higher in the sky. The sun will be well above the horizon by totality.

While the eclipse is short—about 38 seconds—short eclipses have the unique advantage of showcasing the sun’s chromosphere. The chromosphere gives the eclipsed sun a brilliant red border that stretches most of the way around the shadow and is visible for the whole of totality, while longer eclipses show the chromosphere for only a few fleeting seconds at the start and end of totality. Being on a ship provides us the opportunity to maneuver to an ideal location between any clouds, so we expect excellent viewing.

*Local Contact Times For Our Planned Viewing Position at 10° 51.918' S 126° 05.035' W

First contact Partial eclipse begins 05:39:58 -04.5° altitude
Second contact Totality begins 06:33:26 07.5° altitude
Third contact Totality ends 06:34:04 07.6° altitude
Fourth contact Partial eclipse ends 07:33:16 21.1° altitude

Duration of totality: 37.8 seconds
*Times and duration approximate for our viewing site

Days 11-13, December 15-17
The Tuamotus / Fakarava / At Sea

We arrive at the remote atolls of the Tuamotus, whose luminous pink-sand beaches give way to warm, crystal-clear waters filled with colorful fish, sometimes swimming in schools numbering in the thousands. Fakarava is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a sanctuary for rare birds, plants, and crustaceans—and home to stunningly beautiful fluorescent corals. With a population of fewer than 1,000 people, the island’s small villages, bougainvillea-lined roads, and picturesque coral churches embody its name, which means “beautiful” or “making things superb.” Stroll the pristine beaches, and perhaps visit the black pearl farm or the ruins of the first church in French Polynesia, which is built entirely of coral.

Days 14-15, December 18-19
Moorea / Papeete

We visit the charming island of Moorea, with its spiky green mountain peaks and symmetrical bays, which are believed to have inspired James Michener’s mythical Bali Hai in Tales of the South Pacific. Keep an eye out for dolphins and rays, and catch the scent of the island’s abundant pineapple plantations. Finally, we continue to Papeete and disembark.

Eclipse Day Weather Prospects

The eclipse begins in the mid-Pacific, about 450 miles northeast of Hiva Oa in French Polynesia. An observation point 500 miles farther along the track, where the cloud cover is at a minimum, has been selected to view the spectacle.

Analysis of satellite data shows that in eight of the last 13 years, the eclipse would have been visible from the viewing site, and three more would require a movement of only 10 miles or so. Being on a ship provides a special opportunity to maneuver to a location between any possible clouds.

This view of the eclipse is a short one, but our position lets us view rare and exciting features including the spectacular chromosphere—a brilliant red border that appears to encircle the eclipsed sun—which will be visible for the whole of the 38-second totality. Low-level eclipses like this one also come with a marvelous cone-shaped shadow stretching from the sun—an ephemeral connection between the observer and the solar system.



Ship-based program offers flexible maneuvering to the ideal viewing position.
Shorter totality—38 seconds—allows prolonged and dramatic viewing of the sun’s red chromosphere.
Rare opportunity to see the partially eclipsed sun rise above the ocean.
The sun’s low position near the horizon typically showcases the moon’s cone-shaped shadow racing across the earth’s surface.
Special presentations on Polynesian culture and the ocean environment.


Length: 15 days
Cost From: $9495  
Arrive: Papeete, Tahiti
Depart: Papeete, Tahiti
Lodging: 14 nights aboard the luxurious Paul Gauguin
Meals: All meals included from dinner on December 5, 2020 through breakfast on December 19, 2020 as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Eclipse, Sea Kayaking, Small Ship Cruising, Snorkeling, Walking
Trip Level:

Total solar eclipse of 2020 brochure

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Download a PDF of our Total Solar Eclipse of 2020 brochure to learn more about our day-to-day itineraries, prices and dates, lodging, and guest experts.