My husband and I and our adult son and daughter just returned from the Tahitian Princess Tahiti cruise the week of March 8th. We met in Los Angeles to board Air Tahiti. LAX airport is hectic and very crowded. We made the mistake of going through security and found that the terminal area has no facilities, (food, shops) at all. We needed something to eat so went back into the airport area, bought sandwiches, then passed through security again. We flew out on the 1pm flight which put us into Tahiti around 8pm. Arriving in Papeete was quick and easy after which we caught a prearranged shuttle to our hotel. The Sofitel was a good choice for our short stay. We ate breakfast at a poolside buffet the following morning (pricey), then lounged around the pool until noon. We had decided to fly in a day early so as to not be caught flying across country in inclement weather and miss our connection. Many passengers we talked with opted to fly in the same day and missed their flights making the trip more nerve wracking. Saturday, the day of embarkation, we went to a local store and bought liquor to put in our bags prior to boarding. The staterooms have a small fridge and you will need to take some plastic glasses with you.
Embarkation was well organized and quick. Our suitcases were whisked away, entering the ship in a very short time. We immediately went to locate our balcony stateroom. We have never had a balcony before when cruising and absolutely loved it. We could sit and watch when entering port, have a drink before dinner, or read in quiet. Upon waking we would open our drapes and doorwall to check the weather and see the port. We requested coffee to be delivered each morning so as not to have to rush around.
We enjoyed both breakfast and lunch aboard ship. The morning meal had a large selection and I couldn't imagine someone not finding something tasty. My husband enjoyed the omelets made to order. We had the choice of dining inside in the air conditioning or outside on the deck at the stern of the ship. Lunch was good with fresh salads, or heavier meal items. We could also opt to go to a hamburger grill and order. Later Panini sandwiches were made to grill and ice cream sundaes were available. Our only drawback was it was hard to get service for something to drink. (water, coffee etc) Dinners were really fun. We had fun table mates, and great service. We joked with the waiters and had excellent service. There was a varied selection of fish, meat and chicken on the menu daily. If we didn't like any of the choices one could order steak. I am allergic to seafood and received wonderful consideration. The maitre d would show me the menu at dinner for the following evening to preorder. They made sure my food was cooked separately and that there were no surprise ingredients.
I guess our least favorite days are the at sea days. I don't like the rush of people sitting around the pool but that is life on a ship. We had wonderful warm sunny weather the entire time so no complaints there. There was a problem with a couple who came and insisted I had their chair. I had been there at least an hour and there was nothing on the chair. The man was insistent, and, rather than argue, I moved. We did not enjoy the pool music entertainment. The music was so loud one couldn't talk to the person next to them. My husband would leave and go to our room rather than be blasted out. My idea of music is background, not in your face.
We really enjoyed the ports. In Papeete we walked a few blocks to the flower mart. It is a huge warehouse type place with postcards, pareos, flowers, local art, jewelry, fruit and veggies, etc. We bought a beautiful bouquet for $3.50 which we put on our stateroom coffee table with a vase provided by our room porter. Our son and daughter walked close by in the evening to LeTruck and bought wonderful crepes for dessert. We really enjoyed Huahine. Online we had previously booked Marc's Motu picnic which was worth every penny. The tour took us to a beautiful motu (island) for swimming, and sunning. He grilled tasty fish and grilled chicken served with ice cold Hinano beer. We had maybe 12 people on the tour so we quickly bonded and had a really fun day.
Raratonga is a place we would like to revisit. We took a shuttle bus right off the dock and spent the day at the Muir Beach Hotel. Here we had lounges with umbrellas, lunch at the hotel on the patio, and restrooms. All of us did have slight stomach problems after our lunch at the hotel. The beach was beautiful, and the sparkling water exquisite with many shades of blue. Just like the photos you see in a book. The water was shallow, and calm.
In Bora Bora we left ship first thing and took a van to an absolutely gorgeous beach. My husband sat in the shade at a little beach bar drinking beer with Jim and Betty, whom we met on Marks Motu tour, while we swam. Next day was the day we were to snorkel but the weather looked iffy. By the time we reached the snorkeling spot, which is supposed to be very good, it was a downpour. Our guide, Damien, then took us to another spot and, since it had quit raining, we snorkeled there. The guide was very knowledgeable and explained the formation of a coral reef, and atolls. When returning to the dock we decided to go to the famous Bloody Mary restaurant, bar. Our opinion is it is highly over rated and pricey. We were taken to a table and ordered drinks from a sullen waitress. When we said we weren't eating she said this was bad and we should have sat elsewhere. There was no sign and no one to seat us, plus the place was only half full anyway. There is a sand floor and my son was getting eaten up by mosquitoes until given bug spray by another customer. Yes, Bora Bora is a beautiful island but doesn't compare to Raratonga or Moorea in my eyes.
Raiaitea was our least favorite place. We booked a half day (nine to one) tour with Mata on the dock. We have taken many beach/side excursions over the years and found this one to be less organized. The problem was Mata tried to take two groups at the same time. He took us (group 1) to a Pearl Farm, left us to go back to pick up another group(group 2). There the owner explained the grading of pearls while trying to sell them to us. This farm was a house with a two sided covered porch set on a point of land that was beautiful. We were more interested in the location than the pearls. Mata then took us to a motu, about a half hour further away, with not enough chairs, some fruit and water, and questionable swimming. He then went back to the Pearl farm to pick up group 2. You get the idea, take one group, leave, go get the second group, leave, so running 2 groups to 3 destinations . We felt like we were dumped, and always waiting to continue. Mata did do what he advertised,and took us to swim with the sting rays, and feed the sharks. He played local music and sang songs. We did not get back to the ship until after 3 for our 9 to 12 trip. The second group didn't get back till after 5. The problem was none of us had eaten since early morning. My husband and a man named Dave had the foresight to go to the local grocery across from the dock and buy a six pack each of local beer to take along, which made the island more like a day at the beach. (As a side note, the ship drift snorkel tour was a problem. We talked with several passengers who had taken this tour and nearly all seemed to be cut from the coral. The problem was the coral was so close to the surface that they were all scraped by the coral. One man had touched sea urchins which painfully stuck in his hand. We had purposely avoided this tour as we had read online that the shallow snorkeling was a problem.)
In Moorea we had prerented a car online and took our own tour of the island. You pick up the car at the dock and need to be able to drive a stick shift. We went up to the lookout, out to lunch then stopped at a beach to snorkel. A fun day.
Day of debarkation worked out wonderfully for us. We prebooked the ferry for a 9am crossing back to Moorea. We had to be out of our rooms anyway so it worked out perfectly. The ferry was on the same dock so easily walked the short distance. We were at our hotel Pearl Moorea by 10am. Luckily we checked into our overwater bungalow right away. The Pearl is a beautiful hotel and our room stunning. We paid extra money to be on the premium bungalow which was well worth it. I would highly recommend it. We selected the Pearl over the Intercontinental due to price and made the right decision. We were very close to town and able to sample local fare at a greatly reduced prices from the hotel. Local restaurants will pick you up for free and deliver you back when you are done. We went to Rudy's which is a place you should not miss. Great food, personal service by the owner, with entertaining stories by Rudy's dad. We chose to fly to Papeete airport from Moorea. Piece of cake. A taxi drove us 10 minutes to the Moorea airport, which was very casual, We boarded with no security. The pilot turned around and tells us to put on our seatbelt and off we go. In five minutes we arrived at the Papeete Airport to line up for our Air Tahiti flight. Again, a great airline. Only complaint here was dinner choices were fish lasagna, or lamb curry. Kind of weird. I ate rolls for my dinner. Overall, we booked this trip as a once in a lifetime experience and felt it was phenomenal. We have talked about revisiting some the islands now that we are home in Michigan. It is a long air flight, but that is soon forgotten, what with all the other great memories.