Port and Shore Excursions
Bora Bora: The CCers set up the tour with Patrick, but it was full before we even booked this cruise (We heard the tours in April and next Nov are full as well). There was a tent set up where the tenders docked, and we signed up for the afternoon snorkel/lagoon tour with Mata Tours ($75). It was a small boat, and there were 14 of us. Our Captain/guide was great! I wish I got his name. First he took us outside the lagoon, where Clarence and the other guys went snorkeling/swimming with sharks. He had 4 snorkels/masks, and some people had their own. Some people shared. Then we went to shallow water where we all got in the water and snorkeled/swam with sting rays. After that we went to Matira Beach for more snorkeling/sun. We got back to the pier at 5:30. We caught a tender back to the ship to get changed, and were supposed to join a group going to Bloody Mary's for dinner. Once we got back to the cabin, showered and changed, we ran out of steam and just had dinner onboard. Everyone that went said the dinner was very good, but very expensive.
Honolulu: We did not have an excursion planned. We took the free shuttle to Walmart, and stocked up for our sea days. We also found a Super Cuts hair salon (from the shuttle, walk to the left, past the Walmart entrance. At the corner, turn right and the shop is a few doors down on the right. Their prices are about 1/3 of the prices onboard, if you need a touch up or trim, or in Clarence's case, a haircut. There is a Starbucks next door, in case you have your laptop and want to catch up on things. After a trip back to the ship to drop off 2 wine, 2 champagne, & 2 six packs of beer, we caught The Bus to Waikiki ($2.50 each). We got off at the park, and strolled through there and along the beach. We passed the Pink Hotel (Royal Hawaiian), and got to Duke's about Â½ hour before sunset. We got a table out on the patio. They had a great band playing, Mauna Lea (CDs available on Red Apple Records) and hula dancers for some of the songs. We had dinner & drinks out there at sunset, and of course, their famous Hula Pie for dessert. Really a perfect way to end a day on Oahu. Every time we had been to Honolulu before, we did tours, so this was our day to relax and "play tourist". Before we went back to the ship, we walked over to the Beachcomber, and had a couple of drinks at Margaritaville. We caught a cab back to the ship ($17 + $3) tip. We made it back while the Deck Party was still hopping. The ship left at 11pm.
Kauai: We did the ships tour of the Wailua River Cruise, Fern Grotto, and Luau/show at Smith's Tropical Garden. Kauai is our favorite Hawaiian Island, and so beautiful. Our bus driver made some stops at beautiful places for photos on the way to the river. He also played the ukulele and sang for us! At the river, we got on the boats (like barges), and went upriver. At the Fern Grotto, our guide gave us a talk about the history there, and they had a Hawaiian band and a dancer that did the Hawaiian Wedding song. They have a platform there now, as folks are not allowed to walk up into the actual grotto, but it is a great spot for photos. A very lovely place. Then we went to Smith's Tropical Garden, and had a tour around the gardens before the luau. When we got to the Pavilion, Mr. Smith himself told us how they prepare the feast in the imu (underground oven). It is the traditional luau with all the trimmings, and open bar. They usually do this at night, of course, but Princess has arranged for them to do this for their passengers during the day. During the luau, "Uncle Larry" Rivera and his family put on a great show, and Uncle Larry is quite the entertainer. They get audience members up on stage to "help" with the show. We also had the "Romantic Ceremony", where they read the names of all the couples wishing to renew their commitment, and they got a kakui nut lei to place on their loved one. They read the Vows, and played the Hawaiian Wedding song. It is very sweet. Please note that if you are not doing the romantic ceremony, don't feel you won't love this tour- this is a small part (means a lot to the folks participating, tho). We would highly recommend this tour! Actually, we like it so much, we did it last time we were here, and came back again!
Kona: We did the ship's excursion to the Ocean Rider Sea Horse Farm at 12:30pm. We learned all about them, and at the end, had the opportunity to put our hands in the tank and have one of the seahorses wrap their tail around your finger. They also have 4 "dragons", which they are trying to breed. They look like a cross between a seahorse and Kelp. They have many different seahorses and other marine life in aquariums at the end of the tour. Their mission is the research and farming of seahorses and their food. Seahorses caught in the wild died within a few weeks, because they eat live food. They had to get seahorses to eat dead shrimp so people could buy food for them at pet stores (frozen). A few years ago, they started having requests for tours, so now they do some. Note for people with canes or walkers- The surface of the whole place is crushed lava/gravel. People had a hard time walking with and/or pushing their walkers. It would have been almost impossible if someone had a wheelchair. Also, it is Very Sunny out there. We got back to Kona in time to do a bit of shopping and have a Mai Tai overlooking Alii Drive and the beach.
Maui: We booked the ship's Snorkel at Molokini, which was great. We got off the tender, and the boat we went on was right there at the pier. They had all the snorkel equipment onboard, and passed it out on the way to Molokini. They had noodles, vests and float belts you could grab on your way off the boat if you wanted. It took almost an hour to get there. They had fruit, pastries, juice and coffee for us on the way. The snorkeling was great, with many varieties of fish closer to the crater in the coral. (Watch out for the coral!) The crew was very good with the people that did not snorkel before or were timid. They also had 3 of the crew out swimming with the experienced snorkelers. The water was about 75 degrees F. They had wet suits available for $10 cash, but no one needed them. On the way back they had trays of cold cuts and cheese to make your own sandwiches, and salads, chips, etc. Then we stopped in an area where the sea turtles were, and the fish that "clean" them. We snorkeled again there, with the turtles, & also saw a shark.
We got back to Lahiana with a couple hours to wander around and shop and have a cold one.
Moorea: We went on Hiro's tour ($60), another one set up by CCers. About 50 of us. First we went snorkeling in shallow water with stingrays and small sharks. The crew of the boat held a few of the stingrays up so we could pet them, and they really feel cool- quite soft. The sharks swam around us, but it wasn't scary. Then we went to a private island where one section was roped off for our group. They had picnic tables set up in the shade. We went snorkeling (they did not provide snorkels, but people brought their own) until our Barbeque lunch was ready- Chicken, beef, macaroni salad, fruit etc., and beer and water. Then we snorkeled or relaxed until about 2pm, and they took us back to the pier. We shopped at the vendors there, and found some beautiful hand painted tee shirts.
Pago Pago, American Samoa: We did Tisa's tour ($65), set up by Cers at Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango).
A tour of the island and then went to Tisa's Barefoot Bar for drinks, the Traditional Polynesian feast, and swimming (no snorkels provided but people brought their own). Tisa hosts the Annual Tattoo Festival (we missed that by a week), but you can still get the tee shirts there. We had a great time here, and lunch was delicious!
Papeete, Tahiti: We got off the ship and stopped at the Tourist Pavilion/ Info center. They had shows of dancing, sarong tying, lei making and other cultural presentations. It was fun to watch. From the pavilion, we walked across Boulevard Pomare, walked up a block or two and turned right, and that took us to the market. On the advice of friends, we went to the Market to get Black Pearls and flowers. Another CCer, told us about a wholesaler, Mihiarii Pearls. They are on the second floor of the market. You can tell them the price range and shape of the pearls you are interested in, and they will put a white cloth on the counter and pour a bin of pearls out. You can select the ones you like. You can have them put in settings (earring, pendants and rings) which run $20-$30 US. Actually, you can pick the settings before the pearls, and the ladies can tell you if the pearls you selected will fit in the settings. Then it takes 2 or 3 hours for them to be set. If you don't want to wait, they have a shop with jewelry already made, or you can take the pearls home to your jeweler to be set. I think you can take 10 pearls home to the US before you have to pay duty. We walked around the market some more and found a restaurant that served beer and wine across on the second floor. They had a band playing, and it was no hardship to wait. On our way back to the ship, we bought a basket of flowers, orchids and tiare (wonderful fragrance) that lasted until the last sea day. It was $15 US. They did not seem inclined to bargain at the market, but they were not pushy like some markets we've been to. Very laid back. Everyone took credit cards or US$. We did change $100 US on the ship and got $8000 CPF (8 $1000 bills). The ship charged $4.50. But we really didn't need to. If you do want to convert to CPF (francs) on the ship, don't wait too long. They ran out the day before we got to Bora Bora.