We took the Islands & Incas cruise on the Oceania Marina in April/May 2014. Easter Island was one of the ports of call. This is a blog on our visit.
Easter Island did not disappoint. We had two good days of nice, warm sunny weather, and the Moai were gorgeous. Hanga Roa was a tender port. Tendering in was a slow and challenging process. Because of the hidden large rocks lining the approach into the tender pier, only one boat was allowed to enter and dock at a time. Another tender was only permitted to approach after the docked tender had departed and cleared the area. Tendering started at 9:00 am on the first day we were in Easter Island. We lined up in the Marina Lounge at 7:00 am; by 8:30 am, the lounge was filled to over-capacity. We managed to get onshore to join our private tour by 9:30 am. Not bad at all! However, some fellow passengers who joined the line up after 8:30 am were only able to get ashore after 11:00 am.
Marina's tendering practice was actually very fair and efficient. Every passenger ready to go ashore had to be seated in the Marina Lounge and tender tickets would be given out one to each passenger when a tender is available to take the passenger ashore - no seat reservations were allowed; you have to be there physically in order to receive a tender ticket. Its other practice which allowed independent passengers to interlace with those booked on Oceania-ran excursions on the same tender was much better than many other cruise lines - in particular Celebrity. In February 2014, we visited Banoa, Bali on Celebrity's Millennium. The tender service was so poorly operated and managed; we waited for almost 4 hours before we could get into a tender to go ashore, and consequently missed most of our privately arranged excursion in Bali.
Although the ship stayed overnight anchored outside of Hanga Roa, the last tender from shore on Day 1 was at around 7:30 pm, because tendering was not allowed before sunrise and after sunset. Tendering on Day 2, which started at 8:00 am, was a lot easier and quicker because we didn't have to clear Chilean Immigration when we reach the tendering pier. Speaking of Immigration and Customs, please make sure that you don't bring ashore any fruits and meat products onto Easter Island. Your bags will be searched! Other than the U$50 port charge and U$60 (cash) National Park Entrance Fee that we had to pay upon disembarkation in Easter Island, we didn't have to pay the Chilean Visa fee.
The decision to go to Easter Island on Oceania's Marina was a good one. First, Marina was a smaller ship with less than 1300 passengers and we had two days on Easter Island. I'd hate to be on one of the larger ships, like Holland America, which only have ¾ day in Easter Island. You may end up wasting most of your shore time waiting for the tender! Good luck, if the ship needs to go to the alternate landing site. One more thing, if you take Oceania's "Islands & Incas" cruise which continues from Easter Island to Lima, my suggestion would be to book a cabin on the starboard side. After the ship departs Hanga Roa, you will have a good long view of the Easter Island western and southern shorelines, including seeing the Orongo Citadel, Rano Raraku and Tangariki.
The following was the description of our 2 Day Private Tour itinerary by our operator Green Island Tours (www.gitourseasterisland.com/tours.html). For 22 of us, we had our own private bus, a driver and an English-speaking guide. The cost was U$100 per person per day, which included a box lunch on Day 1 and a sit-down lunch on Day 2. The U$60 National Park Fee was extra. We did not follow the itinerary in the order as outlined, but did cover everything listed. Our tour guide Daniela Pino (www.mahakitour.cl, email email@example.com) was excellent and spoke very good English. She used to be a TAM airline hostess from Santiago before she married a native Rapa Nui and settled in Easter Island. I highly recommend her.
"Full Day Tour 1: Vaihu - Akahanga - Rano Raraku - Tongariki - Te Pito Kura - Anakena
"This tour starts at 10am when you will picked up by your guide and taken to Vaihu and Akahanga both unrestored sites where you will have a introduction of the overall history, culture and day-to-day living of the ancient Rapanui peoples. These two sites are a great way to see the Island's great civilization as it lays shattered and abandoned. Here you will hear how the ceremonies, housing and religious rites made up every day life as it was set out in ancient times. You will also see the moai as they now lie shattered as a result of the sudden downfall of this once great civilization. (This was actuallt the last site we visited on Day 1 - not particularly memorable.)
"From there we head to the great quarry where the moai were carved. This is an awe-inspiring place like no other, where more than 300 statues lie in different stages of carving, forever waiting to be moved to the tribal areas to which they were destined belonged. (Rano Raraku is a wonderful place. Although most of the Moai there are "unfinished", they were the most beautiful. - Don't miss it!)
"Next is 'Tongariki', otherwise known as the 15 moai, the largest restored platform of the island with 15 great statues restored to some of their former splendor, this a chance to see the moai at their finished best, and , if you are game, a time for some fun photos. (Tongariki Ahu is the best restored Moai platform - absolutely beautiful with the ocean background. If you are on a cruise, see if you can spot Rano Raraku and Tongariki as the ship sails away along the southern shore of Easter Island.)
"The 'navel of the world' a round magnetic rock is next. With legends abounding this rock will tickle the imagination before heading to the Anakena beach; rated among the top 10 beaches in the world according to Tripadvisor 2013. With its crystal blue waters and a backdrop of the 'royal' statues, this is a great place to relax, swim, and contemplate all you have seen today. (This was our first stop on Day 1. There were 6 beautifully restored Moai on an ahu facing a field of coconut palms and their back, the Anakena Beach - very beautiful setting. Nearby was one of the first restored moai.)
"Full Day Tour 2: Ana Kai Tangata - Rano Kau - Orongo - Vinapu - Puna Pau - Ahu Akivi - Ana Te Pahu
"In the morning you will be picked up from the pier by your guide at 10:00am and taken to a cave with some beautiful paintings before heading to the volcano Rano Kau. It is here that you will see the greatest natural wonder of the Island. The hike is about 30 minutes depending on your fitness level. The views are amazing! This is a must see place! A crater that drops almost two hundred meters below to a beautiful lake, it is a 360 degree bird's eye view over the island and down onto the only town below - Hanga Roa. It can be very windy up the top so carry a jacket or wind breaker.
"Then we go to the ceremonial village of Orongo where politics and competition of ancient times met in one of the most incredible ceremonial rites in the world. It was here where once a year selected people competed to see who would be the chief of the island for that year. The 'Birdman' Contestants had to swim one mile to the island where the birds nest, collect an egg, swim back, climb the cliff and present the egg to their tribal chief. Orongo is also the main rock art site of Rapa Nui with thousands of varied petroglyphs accounting of the importance achieved by this place in ancient times. (Rano Kau and Orongo are a must! The crater lake in Rano Kau is gorgeous, and you will be fascinated by the story of the Birdman. - T-shirts were cheapest here outside of the Orongo centre.)
"Next we head off to Vinapu - the ceremonial center which includes one of the larger ahu on Rapa Nui. The ahu exhibits extraordinary stonemasonry consisting of large, carefully fitted slabs of basalt rockwork. The rocks in this ahu are so well cut, they rival in quality with the stonework of the Incas in Cuzco, Peru. Look at how well the surfaces match between adjacent rocks and how that small rectangular stone fits exactly in the opening. Also look at the size of the rocks between platform 1 and 2 and how flat the surface is of the platform. An average slab here is 8 X 5.5 feet (2.5 x 1.7meters) and weighs 7 tons. This mystery leads some to believe there may have been a colonization of the island by the Incas. (The Vinapu ahu was a disappointment compared to others; it bored little resemblance to the Inca platforms of Peru.)
"Next we head to Puna Pau where you will witness a "frozen in time"-quarry where the strange red rocks were carved to adorn the heads of the giant statues. Te Puna Pau is the place where the great buns that covered the moai were extracted and prepared (most of them did not carry them). The ancient islanders opened this quarry belatedly in one of the many adventitious cones of the island. The red rock used to make the pukao is very soft, since it is formed by volcanic slag. The real difficulty the sculptors faced was extracting these hats from the craters, and particularly, rolling them over carefully in order to transport them without damaging them. Many believe that due to the lack of instruments like cranes, whoever lifted the moai first placed the pukao on their heads, and then lifted the whole set with a system which consisted of piling up stones and using levers. Archaeologist Heyerdahl carried out the experiment in Anakena in 1956. The weight of the pukao ranged from 9 to 12 tons. (I liked Puna Pau with its green fields and panoramic view.)
"Having seen this we turn to the 'seven moai'. This is the only platform where the statues are gazing out to sea. (The seven Ahu Akivi moai are the only ones on Easter Island that face the sea. Our guide said they were elected to honour the 7 original navigators who directed their people to Easter Island. The statues look across the seas to the Polynesian island where they came from.)
(We also went to Tahai Ahu which was the one and only "most complete" moai on Easter Island, as it came with eyes and a red pukao.)
"We finish the tour by exploring the natural wonder which is Ana Te Pahu, an open and covered cave featuring gardens and sleeping areas where people once lived."