Background: We are in our early 50 fifties and most of our vacations have been land based. We have cruised only with Princess. (5 times)
Our first cruise was 5 years ago, South Pacific, and we had a mini suite on deck 8. All aspects of that trip were wonderful and we have always wanted to return.
Air Travel: We traveled Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles. The service was only OK and we thought the food was awful. We arrived late as we had to wait for the connecting passengers from Europe.
Pre-cruise: We spent 3 days at the Intercontinental (booked thru Princess) and we would highly recommend this hotel. Be prepared though as it is expensive. ($40 for breakfast buffet and $12 for a glass of orange juice at supper) There is a supermarket that sells everything (Carrefour) 20- 25 minutes downhill from the Hotel. Those that suggest 10 -15 minutes, are running and as the temperature is 80-85 degrees, I can only surmise that this is a pre-cruise wait loss technique. Have a hot ham, cheese and tomato baguette (best thing I ate in Papeete.)
Cruising: We had 10 great days of cruising. You can never repeat the absolute WOW factor of the first time, but French Polynesia is still the most beautiful place we have ever visited. The weather was perfect and we had maybe 1 hour of daytime rain (lots at night, but who cares). We also made it to shore on Raratonga , Cook Islands.
Shore excursions: We booked 2 shore excursions on our own (o.k. Cruise Critic Board friend Laurie B helped), Marc's in Huahine and Bruno's in Raiatea. Both were very good, but Bruno could benefit from more time practicing speaking English and less time eating bananas. (We spent a whole day with this guy and he never stopped eating) We did several excursions booked through Princess. The 4 X 4 Tour in Raratonga was very good and we were 4 wheeling for real. The Aqua Safari in Bora Bora was the highlight of the trip and should not be missed. We even had a newly wed man from New York in our group, who could not swim. He went down and had a blast.
Post-cruise: We did the 4 day package through Princess that included 3 days in Moorea in an overwater bungalow at the Sheraton and the last day back in Papeete at the Intercontinental. This was also very good. The only downside it that the Sheraton is very isolated, there are no buses and taxis are hard to come by. The car rental at the Hotel is double the price of rentals at the docks. If you want to eat off site, or go shopping, it can be difficult. The hotel store is very pricey: A bag of chips was $4.50 and a can of coke was $3.00. Dining options are very limited this time of year.
As for the Tahitian Princess: This is what we most looked forward to and where we were the most disappointed. We blew the budget and stayed in an owner's suite, cabin 6088. I can confirm that this cabin and 6091 are the largest on this ship. (I looked at the other owner suites.) Having this much room on a ship is a true indulgence but there were problems. Not having the "upgraded luxury" towels and bed linens was not a big deal. Having a broken mattress that took 2 days to replace was a bigger deal. Our room steward suggested that he did not notice the problem and I don't know how he could miss it when making the bed. The entire length was collapsed and flopped over on one side. You could see a 6" gap in the mattress even made up. Room service was quick, but they never got the order right. There was always something missing and some days our order never even showed up. The toilets on our section of deck 6 were not working most mornings. By the afternoon they would be fixed but on the last few days of our cruise, the sewer smell in the hallways was overwhelming. The food on this cruise was the worst we have had and it was no better in the dining room than the buffet. The best things to eat turned out to be the hamburgers/ hot dogs by the pool and the pizza. They ran out of Diet Coke on Day 3 of a 10 day cruise. Everyday we were told they would replenish at the next port. That never happened. They also ran out of several kinds of juice and a wide variety of wines.
I could go on and on but I'm sure you know where we're going. This will be our last cruise with Princess.