Tahitian Breeze - 27 Jan - 7 Feb 2013
We booked this cruise over a year ago. This was our 11th cruise having
sailed previously with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and 8 times with Princess.
As we discussed this cruise, our TA strongly encouraged us to try Oceania.
Princess and Oceania had similar itineraries, and while Oceania was slightly
more expensive, we agreed to try a new cruise experience.
There were two changes to the itinerary after we booked. One was a change
in the order ports (same ports just a different order). Fortunately, the
private tour operators were very accommodating, and were able to help us
re-schedule our planned activities. Then weeks (days) prior to the cruise
we learned a port had to be cancelled due to insufficient infrastructure
in-place/completed to accommodate our ship. First time ever we had a change
in itinerary and it happened twice.
Pre-booking shore excursions and dinner reservations at the specialty
restaurants was very easy and intuitive using the Oceania web-site. The
pre-cruise documentation was also the finest we have ever received. The
information was specifically tailored to our cruise (shore excursions,
dinner reservations, etc.).
We arranged our own air arrangements thru our TA - it was price competitive
to the Oceania rates, and we could tailor the flights to our schedule. We
flew Delta from the mid west to LAX, purchased a day pass for the Sky Club
and took a quick shower prior to catching our Air Tahiti flight. While our
bags were checked thru to FAA, we did have to transfer from the Delta
terminal to the International terminal (easy 5 minute walk). We then
checked-in with Air Tahiti and used one of the more remote gates within the
terminal. The flight was uneventful (we mostly slept since it was a
Upon arriving in FAA, we quickly cleared customs, found our bags, grabbed a
taxi from the taxi stand and headed off to our pre-cruise hotel. We try to
arrive at least 1 day ahead of the cruise to avoid flight/weather delay
Our TA booked a room for us at the Manava Suite Resort - with an available
early check-in (e.g., 0700). The resort was beautiful, the infinity pool
gorgeous, service helpful. We knew eating in Tahiti was going to be
expensive - but the $20 continental breakfast for each of us was still
disappointing. Cokes and bottled water were also about $4.00 each.
Although we ate breakfast and lunch on the property for ease, we did venture
out (based on other guest suggestions) and ate dinner using one of the
local food vendor trucks. The two of us had a full dinner for $20 - no tip
required/accepted. Taxi from FAA to Manava was 5-7 minutes and cost 3,000
XPF (including mandatory tip). Taxi from Manava to the ship was max 10
minutes and was less than 5,000 XPF (2 people and 2 bags).
Due to late flight departures, Oceania allowed the previous cruise guests to
stay on-board until 1700. This delayed our embarkation until 1800. While
some complained about this delay, Oceania made lemonade out of lemons. They
notified us a couple of weeks prior to the cruise, provided an air
conditioned waiting area with snacks and refreshments within 2-3 blocks of
the ship. You were also able to check-in at this alternate site and have
your luggage collected and delivered to your stateroom. When it started to
rain (downpour) Oceania provided hundreds of umbrellas for guests to use -
again ..hundreds of umbrellas! I'm not aware of any guest requesting an
umbrella who didn't receive one.
Once at the ship, boarding was done as soon as you walked up the gangway.
Oceania doesn't have ship photographers (just a videographer) so no waiting
for the obligatory boarding picture. Oceania also swipes your cruise card -
no magical "ding" sound announcing you are onboard.
First impressions was this was a fabulous ship. Easy to find your way
around (the telephones in the stairwell/elevator lobby are on side with even
numbered cabins). The carpet is plush compared to other ships, the
stateroom was gorgeous with dark wood accents, and the bed - I think the
term Oceania uses is Prestige Tranquility Bed was fabulous. Others we met
on the cruise have even tried to find the mattress at home. The bathroom is
never as spacious as home - but the 2 different shower heads in the shower,
and a separate shower head in the bathtub should make anyone content.
Granite is used almost exclusively in the bathroom, and it is very very
nice. No names posted outside stateroom doors - and very few decorated.
Stateroom grade: A+
After leaving Tahiti we headed to Huahine. We used an Oceania shore
excursion for this port. We traveled to a Motu - had a locally prepared
lunch while seated in the lagoon (not on shore - in the lagoon) and were
entertained by several local islanders. We then walked a short distance and
spent a couple of hours on a beach where you could go swimming or
snorkeling. In addition to fish, several people on our tour also found that
coral is sharp when legs/arms come into contact with it. Recommendation -
always take antiseptic and bandages with you when you are snorkeling near
coral. While our guide was nice, and freely answered any and all
questions - she also didn't use any "filters" when responding. She was
speaking from her heart, spoke the truth as she responded to the questions.
Filters on thoughts/language may have been more appropriate but would not
have been as much fun. Shore excursion grade: C
On Raiatea, we opted to take a shore excursion with many on our roll call.
We used Bruno from L' Excursion Bleue, and there were about 6 boats full of
cruise critic members each with about 8 passengers. We traveled completely
around the island of Tahaa stopping for a snorkel trip for 30-45 minutes.
Unfortunately while the fish were plentiful, and the water was 4' deep, the
coral was 3.5' high. Our guide appeared to be doing yoga underwater to
avoid the coral himself. Many (many!) left the water bruised, cut and with
clothing torn. Some simply left the water and walked back to our boat. We
then continued around the island and visited a pearl farm (15-20 minutes),
and then continued to our lunch. Lunch was again locally prepared using an
earth oven. The food was good - the restrooms let's just say they were
"rustic." After lunch several on our boat opted to try snorkeling again
but in deeper water. All went well, and while there were no injuries most
were tired due to the strong currents in the area. A quick trip to a
vanilla farm (could have been eliminated) and then we headed home. Shore
excursion grade: B (but bring bandages).
On Bora Bora we did an other excursion with our roll call group using
Patrick from Maohi Nui, with a combo 4X4 and snorkel tour. Our group was
so large that we split into 2 groups. We did the snorkel first, the others
did the 4X4 first. Our first stop was just outside of the lagoon in the
Pacific Ocean. We were in about 30-40 feet of water and snorkeled in this
location for about 45 minutes observing the fish and watching the Lemon
sharks. Patrick, and other guides, swam with the sharks (Shark
Whisperer???), while we watched. Our next stop was to swim with the sting
rays (Patrick was now the Sting Ray Whisperer) - and this experience was
very similar to Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman. Our final snorkel stop was
near a reef - but this time the water was deeper and no known injuries
occurred. Then we were off to lunch at a Motu with the 4X4 group. Another
earthen oven cooked lunch with local specialties - again eating in the
lagoon on picnic tables. After lunch it was our turn to head out on the 4X4
tour (previous group laughing at us). We've done other 4X4 tours - but this
was incredible. There are 8 of us in a Land Rover climbing inclines and
going thru mud (axle deep) to get to a look out over the islands. How
steep, rocky and muddy was this road....a couple of people got car sick.
This would have been a perfect location for a Land Rover commercial. The
rocky road demo area at our local dealership is like a smooth sandy beach
compared to what we traveled. After this scenic lookout, we then visited an
old WWII gun site. Our guide for this part of the tour (Frank) was very
knowledgeable and even remembered the service members who were stationed
there during WWII. Shore excursion grade: A+ (best of the cruise).
We spent a second day on Bora Bora and elected to support the local economy
with souvenir purchases.
Moorea was cancelled after arriving in the harbor due to bad weather. A
bonus sea day. The cruise staff quickly derived a game plan for the day,
and even published an extra edition of "Currents" listing all of the newly
Our next port was Nuku Hiva after a second (but planned sea day). Our
excursion was again with our roll call and was with Claude. Claude
apparently was really located in Moorea, so Philippe was our guide for the
caravan of 6 or 7 4X4 pickup trucks. I'm not aware of any drivers able to
speak English - so Philippe only provided an explanation when we stopped
periodically. After traveling 3+ hours we stopped for lunch in Hatiheu at a
local restaurant Chez Yvonne Katupa's. It was "acclaimed" to be the best
restaurant on the island. While we ate another locally prepared meal, and
the locals were hard working and gracious - the food truck in Tahiti was
just as good. Then surprise surprise - we learned the road we took for the
last 3+ hours had to be retraced to get back to the ship. One way in - one
way out. Fortunately there was cell coverage on the island and we were able
to monitor the status of the Super Bowl (even the power outage). Shore
excursion grade" C-. Note at the end of the trip, as they collected the
money they wanted to charge different rates than agreed to in e-mails due to
currency exchange rates. This was not the only excursion we heard where
this was attempted. There was no change in the price specified in the
e-mail when paying in XPF.
Hive Oa - previously cancelled due to port issues, so we stayed another day
on Nuku Hiva. We elected to spend this day on-board as a sea day. Not
sure why this didn't turn into an actual sea day, as there were limited
excursion opportunities on Nuku Hiva. A true day at sea followed.
Rangiroa - a beautiful island with lots of snorkel, scuba opportunities.
Somewhat of a regret that we didn't do more - but for the first time in 11
cruises we stayed on board and utilized a near empty ship. That was very
nice. We heard positive reports about the Blue Lagoon tour as well as trips
to Pearl farms.
Post cruise - while it was our turn to stay on board until 5, we previously
arranged for a day room (1000-1800) at a local Radisson. We arrived at the
Radisson at 1030 and were told our room would be ready at 1400...clearly
unacceptable. After going back and forth with the desk clerk, and the
manager - I simply asked how they would like me to record my experiences on
various social media websites. A suite was available for our use 15 minutes
later. The hotel clearly needs repairs - the pool area and the black sand
beach were the highlights. However, if visiting again, we would return to
the Manava Suite Resort (no questions asked). Taxi from ship to Radisson ~
2,200 XPF, and then from the Radisson to FAA about 3,000 XPF. On the flight
home, we once again flew Air Tahiti to LAX and then Delta back home. We
wish Delta opted to hold our connection in Memphis for 7 minutes (after a 2
hour maintenance delay in LAX) - but they let the LAST flight of the day,
and LAST direct flight for the weekend depart on time. So we spent the
night, courtesy of Delta, in a hotel about to under go remodeling (and
partial demolition) to bring it up to Holiday Inn standards. We arrived
home 14 hours later, and exhausted, over a 7 minute late connecting flight.
We're very glad that our TA suggested that we try Oceania. The ship is
clearly a step up compared to others we've sailed. I rarely saw the ship's
crew maintaining the vessel - but is was in the best shape I've observed.
The crew was warm, eager to help even with the smallest requests (e.g., hot
chocolate instead of tea or coffee in a cool dining room, 2 tea bags not
one, honey instead of sugar for tea). The best way it was explained to me -
is that nothing is "rushed." Everything is done exactly as requested - and
you are simply able to relax and enjoy your vacation.
Terrace Cafe - prior to boarding we met a couple at Manava - they stated
they rarely go to the main dining room - the service and food was so good at
the Terrace Cafe. We now understand and agree.
Grand Dining Room - Very elegant - awesome food - but expect a 2 1/2 hour
dining experience. If this fits your taste, you will have an excellent
experience. For someone (like me) who eats lunch within 5-7 minutes at
work, anything above 90 minutes for a meal begins to feel like eternity.
Red Ginger - a unique dining experience which should be enjoyed by most.
You never would know you were even on the ship.
Jacques - did not try.
Toscana - our favorite - best service and meal we had on board.
Polo Grill - Very nice - just like going to a nice steak house in a large
city (you know the names).
Cruise Critic - again provided a wealth of information to make informed
decision about the cruise and shore excursion opportunities. All of the
people we met were warm, friendly and we enjoyed each other's company and
experience. This was clearly a high-light of the cruise.
The Oceania experience. Glad we sailed on the Marina. A beautiful ship,
with a crew that appears to be happy and wants to serve their guests. A
perfect choice for those traveling without kids (only 1 child observed on
board, passengers aged from 20's to post retirement). While this was the
first cruise for some, it appeared most were well traveled.
Internet speed - not 1 issue, not 1. Appeared to be as fast as when I'm
home using my iPhone. Never once frustrated about the speed checking
e-mails, sending texts to family members. Web pages of course were slower
loading but not frustrating (except on wife's BlackBerry).
Shore excursions - Many more private options available, at a significantly
reduced cost. We believe the cost differential is enough to overcome all of
the "benefits" of booking an excursion with the ship. While I expect to pay
a slight premium for an excursion book with Oceania, I didn't expect (and
won't pay) such a large difference. The value simply isn't there. This
brings me to pre-post cruise transfers/hotels.
I understand and appreciate the ability to work only with Oceania on
pre/post cruise arrangements. It's simple, and everything is taken care of
for you. Again, I expect to pay a premium for this service. However, the
prices we were quoted were so outside of range, it appears to be a corporate
decision not to want to get involved in these type of services. If this is
the business model, I wish they would simply state this and let everyone
make their own arrangements. For example - the simple transfer from the
ship to the airport was easily a 10X+ cost delta. You can also book
pre/post hotels for 50% of the cost published - even at the same hotels. I
just can't find the "value" in those services provided by Oceania.
Bottom Line - a fabulous cruise vacation on Oceania, a beautiful ship,
fantastic crew, passengers we easily connected with.
To FDR - thank you, we will be back and look forward to sharing our Oceania
experience and pictures with our friends!! Two new members of the Oceania
family (two fewer members of the Delta family).