We are a mid-seventies couple on our tenth cruise; fifth on Princess. In preparation for this cruise we relied on our trusted travel agent and researched our options on many web sites. However, there is nothing like having a guardian angel also known as a travel agent to watch over you. In our case we used Judy Maybee of Cruiseshipcenters, www.cruiseshipcenters.com
All cruises are good but some are better than others often based on minor differences. Ocean Princess 10-days Polynesia cruise was simply breathtaking. Outstanding results!
The Princess web site is user friendly and provides a wealth of information. The only item that we wished it offered is the capability of booking specialty restaurants prior to sailing.
We wanted some days in Papeete before and after the cruise. We booked through Princess but added one more day on our own before the cruise in order to better match our selected flights.
We met with a nurse at the travel clinic to verify that all our inoculations were up to date and what precautions we needed to take before departure. In the Fall we took the annual Flu shot then in early 2014 took Dukoral. We also carry Cypro with us on cruises. The big issue in French Polynesia is the presence of Dengue/Zika Fever thus we used insect repellent extensively.
Overview – In this case it is indeed true that small is beautiful. Excellent ship, well run, and offering great food and services. Not sure I would want to cross the Atlantic on a 30,000 ton ship but for Polynesia it was perfect.
Electronic bookings – It is literally a piece of cake dealing with Princess electronically. We dutifully filled out our cruise personalizer forms, selected and booked shore excursions, obtained our Boarding passes and luggage tags. Princess has a bridge cam on its ship that updates every five minutes. It is a great way to review your itinerary before the trip. All is all, we find the Princess web site very complete and user friendly. The ‘seascanner’ web site also gives you the current position of your ship any time
Princess Arrangements – We booked a balcony cabin on the starboard side forward.
Embarkation – Transfer from Intercontinental Hotel to the ship was well arranged with baggage pick-up and bus transfer. Embarkation process in an outdoor tent is very smooth and the rooms were ready by 12:30. The bags appeared at our door within an hour.
Cabin/Stewart/Amenities – Good looking stateroom with balcony. Note: bed metal frame too low to accommodate a suitcase unless the bed is lifted to slide the case under. (Tore my duffle bag trying) No shower soap bar or shampoo bottle. All in two large dispensers in the shower (shower body gel and ordinary shampoo). Only a bar of face soap available at the sink. Need to bring your own bath soap and soap dish plus your own shampoo if you do not like the bottled product offered. This detracts from the great look and service in the stateroom. Good steward as expected.
Restaurant/Food/Service – The food layout in the buffet leaves a lot to be desired but there is little that can be done due to the architecture of the ship. The food and service throughout the ship were excellent. The buffet coffee is worse than hospital coffee! We had a specialty coffee card (great value) which we used to get our coffees throughout the day but the dining room coffee in the evening was better. Dining room was superb with our waiter Orlando and assistant Patricia. The head waiter visited our table every meals to enquire if all was to our satisfaction. Much better than we have seen on other ships. The menu selection was perfect for us and the Chef did excellent work. Dinner at the Sterling Grill was outstanding yet again. There is a Grill and an Italian Sabatini but not both each night. They alternate so it is wise to book early.
Public Facilities – The ship is simply gorgeous with beautiful rugs, dark wood and brass. Best looking ship in our ten cruises; no glitz here, just warmth and grace in all public rooms. There is also a guest lecturer that speaks in various public facilities and re-transmits his presentations on TV. Very knowledgeable and entertaining.
Itinerary – Great itinerary including two sea days. Excellent selection of islands with an overnight stay in Bora Bora. Could not suggest improvements.
Shore Excursions –
Huahine: Took a half-day tour that brought us to a vanilla farm, waterfalls, Manae (temple) etc. Good tour. Note: taxis and private tours are generally not available on most islands and with 680 passengers it is best to use the ship excursions.
Rangiroa: Glass bottom boat tour that offered an excellent view of the coral and fishes of the lagoon. This is the largest lagoon of Polynesia and it is very attractive.
Taha’a and Raiatea: Taha’a excursion brought us to an organic vanilla farm where the commentaries were excellent and the prices very good indeed. The pearl farm explanations were also very good. Took a 4X4 excursion on Raiatea up the mountains and then visited the largest and most important temple in Polynesia.
Bora Bora: Best panorama in Polynesia. Took a 4X4 excursion over very rough terrain (tough on back) to three viewpoints that took our breath away: entrance of the channel, WW II guns and airport, and the southern lagoon and caldera. The pearl farm that we stopped at was the best quality we saw in the islands but with high prices given that Bora Bora is the big tourist centre. On the second day we took a circle island tour which complemented the tour we had previously taken. Good combination of tours.
Moorea is also gorgeous. Took the Tiki village and juice factory tour. The juice factory has a very nice gift shop for other than pearls including local alcohol products. The Tiki village takes you back in time and has good explanations and nice gift shop as well.
Disembarkation – The disembarkation instructions we received were better than on our last two cruises where the baggage tags were wrong. Passengers that leave on a late night flight can spend the day on board the ship if they wish. That is a wonderful gesture but we opted to stay two more nights in Papeete.
We were told to be in the Cabaret Lounge by 1245 but there was a full length movie going on and no one to tell us what the alternative is. This is when they lost control plus the fact that the dock layout had been changed. Someone from the staff finally told us to disembark on our own. For the embarkation there was one tent for boarding and one separate tent for the disembarkation baggage. However on disembarking we faced two tents attached together crating a traffic horror show. We had to cut across the boarding process to go to identify our bags to the porters the re-cross the boarding process to get to our bus for the transfer to the hotel. In addition, there was only one confused junior officer to supervise that whole process. It must be said that the Tahitian responsible for the porterage was most helpful. Obviously someone has to do a time and motion study of this terrible situation and ensure a return to two separate tents: one for boarding passengers and one for disembarking passengers. It ruined our high impression of the ship and Princess cruises. The brand took a hit here. The transfer to the hotel and back to the airport later were very well handled by Manara Tours.