We departed Sydney at 9:15am, Sunday April 15th. Our flight was with Air Tahiti Nui (ATN). ATN operates code-share services with Qantas and, being a Qantas Club Member, I initially looked at booking the flight through Qantas. It would have cost me an additional AU$480 to book with Qantas so I made a direct booking through ATN. The flight arrived at FAAA Airport, Papeete, at 8:05pm Saturday April 14th. We cleared Immigration & Customs with a minimum of fuss and were at the Sofitel Maeva Beach Resort in less than an hour after a very short taxi ride that cost 2000 Pacific Francs.
We ordered room service meals just after arrival – a cheeseburger with fries & two salads for the princely sum of 4,900 Francs.
The morning of Sunday the 15th we turned right out of the hotel car park to walk the short distance to the Carrefour Supermarket. It is immediately after the pedestrian overpass of the street. We got some baguettes, cheese, cold cut meats and salads for very reasonable prices. We enjoyed these in lieu of the expensive motel meals. The bread was just fantastic – just like the baguettes in France.
The Sofitel was very comfortable and the garden, pool and beach very pleasant and tidy.
We enjoyed the Sofitel pool and surrounds until our check-out at 12:00pm. There were 4 other couples joining the ship so we shared a maxi-cab with them for a cost of 1000 Francs each (couple). We arrived at the Tahitian Princess (TP) around the advised embarkation time of 1:00pm. Embarkation was unbelievably quick – just a few minutes. We went to the Panorama Buffet on Deck 9 for lunch whilst waiting for our cabin to be made available. An announcement was made soon after sitting down to our meal – all cabins were now ready. Our baggage was available within an hour of embarking. We were in Stateroom 6053. I had pre-ordered an egg-crate mattress topper but it was not fitted to the bed. We found the bed a little too firm for our liking and asked the Customer Service Desk for a mattress topper the following day. It was on the bed the next night. Our Steward, Reynaldo, provided an outstanding service. He was a bit like Mr Walker (the Phantom), we never saw him but we always saw the evidence of his work. Of course, if we needed him to attend to some issue in the cabin, we had his phone number to activate his beeper.
Dinner the first evening was at first seating (we were second seating for the rest of the cruise) and it was not at the table assigned for the cruise. We sat at a table for 4 whilst our regular table was a table for eight.
Today was the first opportunity we had to meet our fellow CC Rollcall members. Four couples were booked on Patrick’s ½ day tour. Our rollcall involved 7 couples. The person who started the rollcall ceased participation several months before the cruise and may not have actually made the cruise. Another late joiner made a few posts immediately before the cruise but was never identified by any of the other CC members. Patrick’s tour had its moments. We found ourselves stranded with a flat tire and no spare early into the tour. Fortunately, Patrick had friends who were able to assist with a replacement tire. Patrick already had his spare fitted because he had damaged a tire a few days earlier and his replacement tire had not yet arrived in country. Apart from the tire incident, Patrick was a knowledgeable and entertaining host and we enjoyed the outing.
We set sail from Papeete at 5:00pm with a large gathering on Decks 9 & 10. The view of the sunset over Moorea was absolutely wonderful. None of our CC Rollcall was seated together for meals. We shared a table with newlyweds 100 miles from our hometown and four members of an American family essentially based in California. We thoroughly enjoyed our dining companions and looked forward to every evening meal. Our Waiter, Kristopher, and Assistant Waiter, Daniel, were just fantastic. Whilst the food really was not exceptional, the wait staff was absolutely the best. Nothing was too much trouble for either of these guys. After the second night they were able to accurately anticipate each individuals preferred needs.
We arrived at Huahine early morning, dropping anchor at 7:13am. The tender service commenced at 7:46am. All of our CC group had booked Marc’s – three of the couples did Marc’s canoe trip while the rest of us took Marc’s 4x4. We all met again at the motu for lunch. Everyone enjoyed Marc’s excursions. The motu is particularly scenic.
The ship weighed anchor at 4:46pm and set sail for Rarotonga. Entertainment in the Cabaret Lounge was a magician named Hal Marquardt (7:00pm 2nd sitting, 8:30pm 1st sitting) and the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ at 10:15. There was a ‘movie under the stars’, poolside at 9:45pm – ‘South Pacific’.
A full day at sea en-route to Rarotonga. This was the night of the Captain’s Cocktail Party, Tahitian Lounge Deck 10, and the first Formal night. Dress was pretty much 50-50 tuxedos / suits. There was a tiny smattering of men who wore open neck shirts. The ship is well air-conditioned and the tropical heat really is no excuse for not dressing formally.
There were just too many activities occurring throughout the ship to be able to participate in all of them. You will need to look at the ‘Patter’ to plan your day.
Entertainment for the evening consisted of a show by the dancers and singers with a planned movie under the stars being cancelled due to windy conditions.
We arrived at Rarotonga at 7:39am and were unable to anchor. Instead, the ship drifted or held position using thrusters and engines for the remainder of the day. The tender service commenced at 8:00am. I had booked the Princess Circle-Island Tour because of the uncertainty of making landfall at Rarotonga. I had circled Rarotonga many times before but it was the first visit for my wife and she got to see all of the Island. Most of those snorkeling found the water a little choppy and the experience a little chilly because of a moderate easterly breeze that persisted throughout most of the day. We set sail for Raiatea at approximately 5:00pm.
Entertainment this evening was singer Donnie Abraham and the movie under the stars was ‘Casino Royale’.
Another full day at sea with more activities than you could possible attend. The culinary demonstration was good fun and it is followed by a tour of the ships galley for those interested. You will have to collect your Passports this morning and clear Immigration. A relatively painless procedure but the Cruise Director’s promise of no lines was rubbish – be prepared to take some time for this evolution. Again, refer to the ‘Patter’ to help plan your day.
Entertainment was the dancers and singers with the movie under the stars being ‘The Queen’.
We were secured alongside the wharf in Raiatea at 6:35am. Three of the couples from our CC group had booked Bruno’s tour and we had a great day. The pearl farm was a little bit more expensive than most had anticipated. The vanilla plantation gave an insight into the many uses for vanilla beans and most people purchased some beans. The highlights were the opportunity to play with the sharks and rays as well as observe turtles, puffer fish, stone fish and many others at the area where we lunched and then the drift snorkel immediately after.
We got back to the ship in time to attend ‘The Children of Tamarii Uturoa’ show. Tonight was ‘Tropical Attire’ night so everyone purchased their lei’s and floral headbands from the Raiatean women on the ship – they were $5 each and still beautifully fragrant when we threw them out at the end of the cruise.
Entertainment tonight was the tropical deck party, champagne waterfall and another folkloric show with the elder dancers. Again, too much to do and not enough time.
The ship set sail at 6:27am. We ordered breakfast on the balcony this morning because we were on the starboard side of the ship and could enjoy the view as we sailed round Tahaa bound for Bora Bora.
We dropped anchor at 11:48am off Bora Bora and the tender service started at 12:12pm. I had booked the Aqua Safari through Princess and it was fantastic. We had 40 minutes walking around the bottom of the lagoon festooned with hundreds of colorful fish. After our time under the water we were able to snorkel above the top of the next group that went under. I highly recommend this and you can only book it through Princess – they fully book the operator for the two days they are at Bora Bora. That afternoon we returned to the ship, showered and changed then went to Bloody Mary’s for a Bloody Mary. It is a $5 per person taxi fare there and the same for the return.
We returned to the ship for dinner and the evening shows. Tonight it was a ‘comedian’ named Jeff Wayne and the movie under the stars was ‘Mission Impossible III’.
At anchor off Bora Bora. Today we were booked on Damien’s tour with another couple from our CC group. It was a fantastic trip around the island with great snorkeling and a lengthy spell at a really beautiful motu. Damien is a wealth of information and constantly stopped to enlighten us with really interesting information about some of the things around us. The best part of this tour is the ‘personal touch’ – Damien only takes six in his boat.
We weighed anchor at 5:18pm and proceeded towards Moorea. Tonight was the second formal night and response to the dress code was much the same as the first formal night. This was ‘Lobster’ night. Entertainment was the ‘Big Production Show Finale’ by the dancers and singers. I found all the entertainment provided by the dancers and singers enjoyable. They are a small troupe out great performers who put their entire soul into their performance.
We dropped anchor at 7:15am and the first tender was at 7:38am. I booked the Princess 4x4 tour because I did not want to be packing wet swimmers for the flight home. The tour provided some spectacular views from the peaks as well as taking us to the pineapple plantation, a marae and the Tropical Fruit Juice Factory. Those ‘juices’ are very tasty indeed.
We weighed anchor at 4:35pm and proceeded to Papeete, arriving at 8:00pm. The evenings entertainment was singer Donnie Abraham and comedian Jeff Wayne with a folkloric show at 10:15pm. There was a movie under the stars – ‘The Bounty’.
We disembarked at 11:30pm and took a taxi to the airport for our 2:15am flight to Sydney. The taxi was 2900 francs.
We tended to have breakfast in the Club Restaurant. We did have it on the balcony on two occasions but only ate the once at the Panorama Buffet – we found the buffet breakfast fare tended to be cold and greasy.
We never had lunch in the Club Restaurant, preferring instead the speed of the Panorama Buffet. The Pizza was very good as was the salads.
We had 2nd seating so we headed to the Grill at the pool for a hamburger or hot dog at around 5:00pm just to tide us over until dinner.
We had all dinners in the Club Restaurant but understand that the Pizzeria at the buffet was a very good alternative if you wanted a one course meal. We did not try the specialty restaurants.
We enjoyed our time immensely and can not think of a single thing that we could possibly complain about – except that ten days on the ship was just not long enough.