The Tahitian Princess cruise was wonderful...the staff were fun and the people we met on our sailing were also great. We didn't book any excursions on the ship - we did our own thing and sometimes met other people who also joined us on some of our tours...this made things cheaper.
In Huahine we did a tour (run by Felix - very nice funny guy) who was at the port where we docked. But we got there early (say 8am) so we were lucky to be able to ride with him. Then another 6 people from the cruise also joined us so he was able to then depart and show us around the island. This cost us 35 euros each for a 3-4 hour tour. He took us to see the maintown (Fare), stopped at some historical monuments, showed us the fish traps, then to the blue eye eels and also great snorkeling behind the Sofitel. After this we came back to port and caught the cruise shuttle bus into town ($5 USD ea) and we were with some people who wanting to go diving so we got a boat out and some of us went snorkeling. Due to it being a little windy, we could not go too close to the shore where the coral would've been better. So we were in the deep and couldn't really see much apart from a couple of fish. Then we headed back to the ship after this (another $5 USD ea).
We had one day sailing now. This was the time to get involved in the activities on board the ship. Apart from the gym and swimming pool, the staff organize activities such as trivia, board games (like pictionary, scattegories or outburst), table tennis, water volleyball, line dancing and ballroom dancing. So much to do on board... And if you want to relax, there’s always movies in your cabin or a screening at the cabaret lounge. You can also just chill out at the pool but just make sure to grab a lounge chair by 10am…these get taken up quickly especially if it’s a nice day.
Next stop was Raratonga. We felt this place was trying to rip off cruise passengers. We got a taxi with another 4 people and the driver wanted to charge us $10 USD ea (one way). We ended up going with him to the main beach, Muri beach which was nice and would have been good for snorkeling. The day we went it was very overcast and we had light rain at one point. So the water was not as blue as you’d expect. We hired a kayak for $12 USD for 3 hours. We went halves with another couple. We rode it across to a small island and over there the water was much clearer and again some good snorkeling. Just watch out for stonefish as I was informed by one of the locals that these can be poisonous if stepped on – so keep your reef shoes or flippers on while in the water. After this we caught the shuttle bus back to the port for $3 USD each. There were souvenir stalls but everything was quite expensive.
We then had another day sailing and again there were more activities organized. On board they have duty free shopping which has some things at quite reasonable prices. Also, if you plan on getting an underwater camera, the one at the photo shop on board is only $22 USD (and includes one free processing). And the best thing is that this camera is re-usable – so can be used without the underwater casing too…quite a bargain!
Our next day was at Raiatea. Apart from Tahiti, this is the only port where we dock in – everywhere else uses tenders. At this stop we did a 6 hour tour for only $35 USD ea…a bargain! This tour took us on a boat (there were about 20 people) and showed us the pearl farming, vanilla plantation, swimming with sharks and rays, the river in Raiatea ending off the day with a picnic lunch at a motu (a small islet) and some snorkeling time. This tour was worth it and a good way to pass the day and see the island. Again, there were souvenir huts near the cruise port.
Next day to Bora Bora – this was definitely my favorite for snorkeling. We were here for 1.5 days. The first half day we caught a shuttle to the Intercontinental Resort where Matira beach is nearby. This is a beautiful long stretch of beach. The water is so clear and with the 3 shades of blue. We spent the afternoon here and did some snorkeling where we saw 2 stingrays swimming (in the wild!). It was scary yet exciting at the same time. We saw some other fishing but nothing too fancy. We then snorkeled on the other side (to the left of Matira beach near the bungalows) where the fish were nicer. However, because it was too windy, we felt the current was a little strong, so we decided to leave. We headed back to the ship after this.
The next day at Bora Bora, my husband and I hired a boat (only 2 adults can go in the boat due to the new laws there). It cost 9000 CPF (about $112 USD) for the boat for 4 hours. A taxi picked us up and took us to the Intercontinental where they hire the boats. We went out to a coral garden (about a 20 minute ride). This was definitely the best snorkeling!! We were here for about 2 hours. There were so many species of fish, different coral, bright colored clams. It was truly like swimming in an aquarium. We also had some bread with us and sprinkled it in the water. Just watching all the fish come up to get a nibble was fantastic. They swim right in front of your mask! We then headed to a motu (about 10 mins out). We snorkeled a bit and relaxed by the beach. There were other cruise passengers here with a tour. We then rode out towards the bungalows where we saw a manta ray. We could see this quite clearly from the top of the water. We did not swim here as we were not sure how safe these creatures were. We kept going and saw another 2 or 3 stingrays searching for food. We then went back to the coral garden and I went snorkeling again. It was so relaxing and so wonderful. We headed back after our 4 hours with the boat. Some people we met did the helmet dive on this day and they said they loved it. So that could be another option for Bora Bora (I believe it was around $95 USD each booking with cruise).
Then to Moorea – this was a close second to Bora Bora for snorkeling. We hired a car at the port for $70 USD for the day (we shared with another couple) – plus $10 USD petrol. We drove to the lookout where we could see Opohau bay and the large mountain – this was a spectacular view especially with the clouds touching the mountain peaks. We then drove to the Sheraton Resort where we went to the public beach behind the resort. Here you could swim up close to the over-water bungalows and had great coral and snorkeling for a while. I saw a huge fish which I didn’t get a chance to get close enough to take a picture. Later I saw another big fish (not as big) but managed to get a photo – I have to finish the film…so I look forward to seeing how this one turned out. We stayed here for a few hours. We then went to see a waterfall but after a bumpy ride and then find out you’d still have to walk for another 20mins, we decided to turn back. It then started pouring but we were lucky we were in the car and we drove to a pearl shop where we were given a free pearl pendant (we received a voucher per couple from the lady who hired the car to us). This pearl is beautiful and I use it a lot. After this we headed down to the Intercontinental Resort. They have a dolphin center where you can see dolphins swimming and performing as part of their dolphin encounter programs (we didn’t do this but if you wish to do it, it is about $165 USD for about 45 mins). They also have a lagoonarium where we went snorkeling but the water was too murky I thought. It was then time to head back to the port.
Finally, in Papeete, Tahiti there is not much to do here. We stayed another 2 days after the cruise and regretted it. Everything was closed being a Sunday and a public holiday Monday. Our last day we managed to organize a tour for 4 hours with Dave around the island. This was 4000 CPF (booking it directly with him – around $50 USD each). He showed us the grotto caves, the Paul Gaughin museum, blowhole, waterfall and gave us a history tour of Tahiti. This was a good tour if you wanted to learn about Tahiti and really see the island because Papeete is nothing exciting! He also took us to a place where we could watch the sunset and take some photos of the bay.
Now just a brief summary about the cruise ship: there’s 2 formal nights (so bring the appropriate gear), 1 tropical night (a flowery shirt is all that is needed – you can bring your own lays or purchase fresh ones on board on the night). Make sure to bring your own reef shoes, snorkeling mask (and fins if necessary) – this was useful having your own. If you haven’t got any, you can always purchase them on board. Food was great – although it depends on tastes. We generally went to the buffet at breakfast and lunch and then fixed seating at dinner. This worked well for us and we met a few people which we have remained in contact with since. There is also a burger grill which was good for an afternoon snack after coming back from the shore excursions. They have karaoke at night and some fun games like a honeymooner’s game show. The production shows after dinner were good, the comedian was funny, and the magician quite predictable. But all in all this was entertainment and something different.
This was my 9th cruise so I am someone who enjoys cruises and what they have to offer. The Tahitian Princess was a much smaller ship than most other ships in a cruise line this size. But from experience, with the small ones, you meet people and sometimes have more fun. Though you have fun as long as you both make the most of your holiday!
Hope this helps....
Cheers, Celz :)