We had a great time on our 10 night cruise on the Ocean Princess followed by 3 nights at the Moorea Pearl Resort in an over water bungalow. The ship was great - terrific staff, good food, enjoyable entertainment, wonderful ports, really great excursion I arranged myself, lots of sun, no rain, and nice people cruising with us. My husband and I first cruised in the early 80s on Royal Caribbean, and we've saved up every few years to continue with these luxury trips on various lines. This was our 15th cruise, the 5th on Princess, and we have also gone on 2 with Carnival, 1 with Celebrity, and a couple on small European cruise ships. I first discovered CruiseCritic.com in 2003 when planning our first trip to Tahiti. The valuable information I got then (and now) was so helpful that I feel I must now "pay it back" by writing this review. Most everything I read from other posters was on target and I recommend future cruisers take advantage of information relayed by generous travelers.
We flew the red eye on Air Tahiti Nui and found the seats to be the most uncomfortable we've ever experienced. As other reviewers previously mentioned, the food was not too good. The flight was jam packed but we survived, knowing Tahiti was at the end of the flight. There was no problem getting through customs, using the ATM for polynesian francs, or finding a taxi to the port. I had tried ahead of time to get a half day tour of the island with pickup at the airport, but no one would accept us with our luggage. I took a chance that Princess would have porters for drop off of luggage, and was so glad ther were there even thous embarkation did not start until around noon. By 9 a.m. we were walking around Le Marche which was open half day on Sunday for a farmer's market. The colorful fish, exotic fruits and vegetables, and fresh coconut drink were an enjoyable way to pass the time until we were allowed to embark at around noon. We also walked over to check out the ferry schedule to Moorea, which was just a few blocks adjacent to where the ship was docked.
The Ocean Princess was as good as when we first sailed her as the Tahitian Princess in April, 2003. This time there seemed to be more international passengers, perhaps because it was a holiday/New Year's Cruise. It was nice to hear people chatting in French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. There were a few children and youth on board, all nicely behaved. I saw middle aged couples, honeymooners, and retirees like us (we are 69 and 66, retired for 10 years). We always select second seating and usually like a table for 2, but this time there were too many other requests for the few tables for 2 that they have. Our table of 8 was a nice mix of 2 younger and 2 older couples. While the service was good, it did take about 2 hours to get through dinner. We all agreed that was too long. The variety of food on the menu had something for everyone, and we chose to dine there every night rather than visit the specialty restaurants. We had experienced them before on other cruises.
I prearranged excursions via internet with Marc's Nautique on Huahine, Patrick's on Bora Bora, and Albert's ATV tour on Moorea. All of them were really good, even though I am not a strong swimmer and am too timid to snorkle. I enjoyed the boat rides and photographed my husband swimming with the sting rays. I was not timid at all on the ATV up to the view points in Moorea. I highly recommend this tour for anyone. We had never done this before and felt like youngsters driving through the mud and hitting many potholes on the way to some beautiful spots.
The itinerary is just right, with an overnight in Papeete and Bora Bora and two sea days. Each island is unique and beautiful and we enjoyed them all. I planned the ATV tour on Moorea when the ship visited there so that we could get familiar with the island prior to arriving for our post cruise stay at the Pearl. The ferry took about 40 minutes, and we walked our luggage a block or so to the Avis counter to pick up our reserved car. The hotel was about 15 minutes away, and our over water bungalow was ready when we arrived. Since we had the car for 24 hours, we were able to drive to the Sofitel to enjoy the nice evening Polynesian show in their restaurant.
Ever since we sailed past them ten years ago, we had dreamed of some day staying in one of the over water bungalows, even though they cost more than we want to pay for a hotel room. This was definitely a splurge trip, and it was worth every penny. I found the Pearl to be less expensive than the other hotels on Moorea, and it had a wonderful Polynesian atmosphere. The staff was so helpful and welcoming which made our stay even more enjoyable. Since the hotel was not fully booked, they allowed us to stay until 3:30 p.m. on our final day. We took the last ferry back to Papeete, grabbed a taxi to the airport, and relaxed until the Air Tahiti Nui counter opened 3 hours before our 11 p.m. flight. We were pleased that the flight was not full, and we were able to stretch out in a 4 seat row to grab a few hours of sleep. I had read that the food was inedible and have to agree. Even the morning coffee was bad. We were on the plane named Rangiroa which had more comfortable seats than the previous one.
In summary, the Islands of French Polynesia are a magnificent place to spend a vacation, and the Ocean Princess was a wonderful way to visit them. The 3 nights in Moorea were a great way to relax after the active days we spent on the cruise. I would do this trip again in a heart beat!