Ocean Princess Cruise Review by janemp: Honolulu to Papeete January 8-19, 2013
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Honolulu to Papeete January 8-19, 2013
Destination: South Pacific
We flew in to Honolulu the night before the cruise departed and used the next morning to tour the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which I would highly recommend. The ship was docked at Diamond Head Terminal, a short walk up Punchbowl Street to the Judiciary History Bldg and statue of King Kamehameha. Set sail for Lahaina, Maui, that evening.
The Ocean Princess is a small ship, approx. 700 passengers to 350 crew. The personal attention was a welcome surprise. We boarded early at 1pm and had instant access to our stateroom. With the smaller number of passengers, the odds of actually winning a contest or drawing are very good.
The ship was at anchor in Maui, and we tendered in to Lahaina, where there are many shops and restaurants and public restrooms right at tender pier. I took the hiking trip, which is at an often rainy part of the island, so it was wet and muddy, and it was strenuous, which was part of the description of the tour. It was exactly what I wanted. A More chance to swim in a waterfall pool and eat lunch in a waterfall cave.
Next day's port was Nawiliwili, Kauai, where the ship docked at Pier N3. This island is lush and green, where "Jurassic Park" was filmed. The tubing tour from Mtn. Tubing Adventure was great fun, relaxing and scenic.
Next day's port was Hilo, where the ship docked at Pier 1. There's not much right at the dock. There are free shuttles provided by Hilo Hatties and Walmart. Take either one and then you can walk from one store to the other. Walmart has some good souvenirs at low prices. If you walk from the ship dock out the gate to the main road, then turn left, we were told there are some nice beaches less than a 1/4 mile away.
From here the Ocean Princess set sail for five days at sea. There were a lot of activities to keep everyone busy. On Day 3 at sea, Monday, 1/14, at 20:00 we crossed the Equator. The next day there was a celebration party with King Neptune, and we received certificates in our cabins stating that we have officially crossed the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere.
Two more days at sea, then on 1/17 we arrived at Bora Bora where the ship was at anchor and we tendered in to shore. There are shops, cafes and a small grocery a short walk to the left on the main road. Best prices are at the folk art stands inside the building at the pier. There is also a public restroom onshore. It rained a monsoon this day for us, blowing wind and rain. A trip to Bloody Mary's Bar helped raise the spirits, though. It has a white sand floor and the ladies room sink is a waterfall with a ring pull to turn on the water. A local Hinano beer and a cocktail added up to 20 bucks U.S.!
Next day was Moorea, where the ship anchored at Cook's Bay, but also sometimes the ship docks in the next bay over. Tender boats went to shore, which I understand there is some shops there, but we took a tour to a motu islet with a BBQ and stingrays (wild, not captive) came to the shore where you could touch them. The sand is full of coral pieces, so water shoes are suggested.
That night on ship, a Tahitian dance group came on board to put on a fantastic show! It only takes 3 hours for the ship to sail from Moorea to Papeete. There is a ferry boat that goes between the islands that takes 30 mins. That same evening we docked in Papeete, Tahiti, alongside Epi Sud #3 at the quay. Not sure if there is much nightlife on shore, but for daytime, it was walking distance to the Vanilla Market and other shops. We missed getting to try the roulettes, the food trucks, which are also close the the dock.
Now, here's the unusual part. Although the ship docked the evening before and the cruise ended, because all flights off the island leave at night around midnight, in this port, the Ocean Princess allowed passengers to use the ship at a hotel, in a sense until 8pm. You had to vacate your cabin, but they would tag and hold your bags for the day, you could eat in the Panorama Buffet till 5pm, use the showers and changing rooms in the spa.
I've never been treated so nicely on my last morning of a cruise. Ever. Usually it the get up, go outside, get off this ship treatment, but not here, not on the Ocean Princess.
We had booked a day room at the Intercontinental Hotel through Princess prior to the cruise. It included transfers ship to IC and IC to the airport later in the day. It is a short trip from the ship to the IC. You pass Fa'aa Airport on your way to the IC. This resort is four-star and has a beautiful pool. It was a great way to spend our last day in French Polynesia.
However, the hotel restaurant is prohibitively expensive. The front desk will provide a map and you can walk (or taxi) the .75 each way to the immense Carrefour grocery, where there's a hot food counter and cut-up fresh fruit and French bread and cheese. You leave and go right out of the IC on the main road, then pass the Shell station and the casino, then Carrefour is on your right. You can't miss it. And it accepts VISA and MC credit cards
The flight to LAX on Tahiti Nui was superb, two hot meals (you get a choice of two entrees each time) and an open bar. Much different than our United Airways flight from D.C. to Honolulu, what, ten hours and not even a pretzel, and even the for-purchase food, they didn't have the ham and cheese sandwich that day. Crackers and cheese spread is a snack, not a meal, in my opinion.
The Fa'aa airport is small with not enough seating for all those flights leaving at the same time. There is a shower and hair dryer in the ladies room, and there's a food counter with sandwiches and a duty free and both take VISA and MC credit cards.
The Ocean Princess is touted as Small Ship cruising. It felt like my own cruise ship and the crew were like family. And you get to meet and make friends with other passengers and see them frequently on the ship. I think I almost prefer it to the big ships filled with hordes of people. If you dislike crowds, this ship is for you. Great trip. I highly recommend it. Less
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