My 2 friends flew from New Jersey on the 15th to California. The couple already live here as do I. We all joined up at the Flyaway station in Van Nuys. Most from Southern California know about this & it's the best way to get to LAX. We had booked our flights with Air Tahiti Nui on our own in March as we all could tell that prices would only get higher. Thank god we did. At times, our same air fare, was tripled. We were very happy. I can't say enough about Air Tahiti Nui. Wonderful airline, polite staff, fed us twice, still allow 2 pieces of checked luggage without any ridiculous fee's, gave us a little bag of goodies which included: eye mask, ear plugs, socks and earphones. There is not a lot of room between you and the seat in front but it was still better than I was used too. Food was good going, ok coming back. Still, I loved this airline and hope to fly them again.
We debated for a month, do we get French currency ahead of time or wait until we get there. We went back/forth. Finally, while at the LAX airport, we saw a currency exchange area. We asked about their rates and such. The gal "convinced" us that we would get the best rate here in LAX than in Papeete. Well, let me say. That was not true. Not just based on the daily fluctuation of rates but theirs was terrible. We got better rates at the ATM's in Tahiti. So don't get currency at LAX.
We originally were booked with the Sheraton in Papeete for our overnight stay on October 16th. This trip was 4 days land before boarding the cruise ship. The reason for the Sheraton was both that it was a nice hotel & that not many of the hotels can accommodate 3 adult women. Some rule there about 3 people to a room & certain square footage. So most hotels couldn't meet our needs. However, we all were having issues with paying almost $450 for less than 12 hours in a room. So we ended up booking Pension Ahitea Lodge. While it did the job, I would not stay at this place again. They picked us up from the hotel as arranged. But they went down a back road and then down an alley to the lodge. It was worrisome. I didn't like the vibe but there was 5 of us. The room was 2nd level, ceiling fan but requiring the windows remain open to get air, dirty bathroom, no water pressure, dirty/old looking linens-sheets/towels, no curtain for the shower, bad pressure for toilet. Just was awful to me. They did have a pool and offered a continental type breakfast of Baguettes/jam/juice in the morning. That was good. .And to top it off, there was a rooster out the window that started crowing at 0300 and stopped at 0900. I wanted to ring that rooster's neck. It was horrible. And the people were very nice but I just wasn't comfortable there. I would not recommend this place.
That first night, we walked to downtown. They had several of the food stands where you get could get all kinds of goodies. From meals to pastries. Excellent.
On October 17, we took the Aremiti 5 ferry to Moorea for our land vacation. It's the 30 minute ferry. Very fun. And they have great Chocolate Croissants. Easy to get to at the dock from downtown Papeete.
Once on Moorea, we arranged transportation with Albert's Tours. Loved them. They were on time, informative and funny. Cost was 4000 xpf for all 5 of us. Very affordable. And we used them for the Scooter/dune buggy rental too.
We had reservations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Moorea. They COULD accommodate 3 adults in one room, they were cheaper with more amenities. Plus, if you book over a weekend and join the Ambassador club, you can save a ton of $$. I got one night free. Very happy there.
The hotel was beautiful all over. Absolutely no complaints. We had an over the water bungalow. Our other friends had a garden room by the pool. We absolutely loved our bungalow. It was a sunset view, right over the lagoon by the Dolphin encounter. Room 604. It had a large sitting area/office area, balcony, main bedroom and the largest bathroom I've seen in ages with tile, separate tub/from shower, separate toilet area. It was amazing. Then we just went a few steps down OUR ladder to the Lagoon. Or as we called it for 3 days, "OUR OWN PRIVATE AQUARIUM". Literally, it felt like that. Not that many people were snorkeling. And the marine life were amazing. My friend wasn't in there 2 minutes before Stingrays went by. Absolutely loved it. And I'm a diver so I'm used to seeing some of this. But the South Pacific marine life is beautiful. And I would recommend buying dive skins if your someone who plans to spend a lot of time in the water. The first 3 days we did use dive skins except for diving. We paid for it with sunburns. Not fun. Didn't ruin the trip but I was sore for a day. The sunscreen wasn't enough.
In regards to Moorea or Tahiti in general. It's quite expensive. Most meals are about $50-$100 each. We didn't mind that for dinner but it was a bit much for breakfast and lunch. We went to the local store, got baguettes, lunch meat and such and made our own. The gals went daily for croissants for us all. It was great. We ate one night at the Mayflower restaurant. Very good food, not too expensive. The next night we ate at the Bus Stop. I thought the food was not good & the service worse with prices too expensive. It took forever to get service. I ordered a filet. First 2 bites were good then it was all grissel and not edible. The 3rd night, we at the hotel. Excellent food. And decent prices. The entire grounds of the hotel were wonderful. They have the Dolphin encounter, the Turtle reserve, Helene spa and Bathy's dive shop right on the grounds.
We did a 2 tank dive and had snorkelers for our dive. The shop was great. Awesome equipment, brand new. New BC's, new tanks. The average dives were 77-80 degrees, for 40-60 minutes. I used a dive skin with 2 mm shorty as did my friends. Worked great. No complaints. They even will video the dive if you want them too. Newer boat. All was well. This was my favorite island and we had the best time. We went up to Belvedere on scooters/dune buggies. It was a blast tooling around on Moorea. The hotel was awesome as was the staff. Flowers/cool cloths upon arrival. Then Hibiscus flowers in the room during the stay. Quite lovely.
On October 20, back to Papeete via the Aremiti 5 ferry. It was easy. A small walk, unless you have tons of luggage like myself, to the ship from the Aremiti dock. We came about 5:30 p.m. and were the only ones in line. We got checked in within minutes. Easiest check in ever. We got to our room and our luggage was there within 1 hour. We were docked overnight in Papeete so we didn't sail until Oct. 21.
The ship is smaller & loved that. It was more personal. Wish there was more than 1 pool as all you need is inconsiderate children to make it miserable. Speaking of children, we did not see many children at all. I imagine it is due to the location of this cruise, expense of the cruise. We had 1 teen in our roll call that was wonderful, polite. But there was a family of 3 children that were not very well mannered. They were a nightmare in the pool. The rest were great. And some more shops or bigger shops to have more stuff. The great thing was that on the last night, if you had made a purchase in the jewelry shop, you were entered into a drawing to have your purchase reimbursed up to $2000. The first name drawn never came forward but I was the 2nd name. Woo Hoo. My earrings were reimbursed and then I bought a ring I didn't think I could afford. It was great. The staff was very nice/friendly. It never seemed like you were "bothering" them for anything. Seemed they liked their job. But the ship was so easy to get around. I enjoyed the Cabaret lounge for shows. Much more personal . Though I do like big productions, I liked this too. Did not care for the comedian at all. Very small casino but I'm never there so it did not matter. Also, photo area is quite small too. But very nice staff there. But a cool thing is that they aren't "hounding" you to no end to do photos. It's very much if you want them done, you need to locate them. They were at Huahine and Raiatea. Did not see them at the other ports. Our room steward was Noel, he was familiar and good. We had him for 2 of our rooms on the Coral Princess April 2007. It was nice to see him again & he remembered us.
I thought the dining room meals were good. Some better but mostly very good. Our waiter for table 65 was Kim. Talk about a "hot" Asian man. Very handsome. However, the morning buffet's I thought were horrid. The eggs too runny, the bacon cooked too long, the pancakes rubbery. I ended going to the fried eggs frequently as the others weren't good. And to me, the coffee was the worst ever. But the lunch's & dinners there were fine. Our first night on the Tahitian Princess and our overnight on Raiatea, we had local dancers doing Folkloric shows. They were a highlight and very enjoyable. The first night we embarked, they did not have the Photographers out for embarkation photos. Not sure why. But I like those photos most. So in talking with the photo dept., Jen I think, she informed me that they could take any photo you want or took yourself and put it in the template of the embarkation photo. Woo hoo. Loved that. The ship overall was excellent & I would love to sail it again.
Excursions: We did 2 excursions on Oct. 21 through Princess. One was a highlights tour. It was ok. Loved the lookout spot over Papeete, took us to waterfalls & the Hall home. Then we did the Papenoo valley tour. I liked this better & wish they did a combo of both in 6 hours. It felt repetitive on the 2nd but I really enjoyed the 2nd one. It was through Princess but was with Patrick of Patrick's tours. He's a riot. But make sure you bring bug spray. I brought it but thought I was ok and did not use it. I paid for it. I looked like I had chicken pox from the bug bites. Not fun.
Prior to leaving Papeete, we went back to the marketplace, Le Marche I believe it is called. It's the 2 story indoor place. There is a lot of stuff there from fresh pastry, to souvenirs to vegetables and fresh fish. It was very hard to look at some of the beautiful fish that I take photos of. I do like to eat fish but not what they had. The good stuff is on the 2nd floor. It's quieter and your free to really look around and bargain a little. We also had been told to get one of the flower arrangements for our room. And we did. I loved it. It was a medium size one but it lasted almost the whole trip.
On Huahine we did the Motu picnic tour with Marc's motu picnic. It was excellent. We went to a shallow place for snorkeling first. Excellent. Then we went to the Pearl farm. They gave a talk about Pearl farming with the how's/why's of Pearl farming. Quite informative. And then, I did it. I found my pearl for my necklace. I was a happy girl. Then off to a deeper snorkel area. Excellent again. Then to the beach for the picnic. They made a great, fresh Ceviche. Absolutely delicious. All the drinks you want. The food was great. Then back to the ship. Did a little shopping. By the way, it's a great feeling to not be harassed when getting off the ship to the docks to buy stuff. That was the best.
Then to Rangiroa. We went on a snorkeling adventure through Princess. Again, very good but a little on the tame side. Several divers in the group. But great marine life & great boat.
Next port was Raiatea. Really enjoyed this port. We had a 2 tank dive scheduled in the a.m. The ship said it was with Atmosphere dive shop but the shirts said Hemisphere dive shop. I forgot to ask. Good boat. Required back roll entries. Good marine life. BC's/equipment looked good. I brought my own gear but my friends rented. They had warm tea after the first dive. Loved that. Then back to the ship for lunch. Then off to our Sunset sail booked with Princess. We really liked the guide, Summer. Excellent. She had rum punch and Hinano's. Told us some history of the Island. Excellent tour.
Next day, we left Raiatea & sailed to Bora Bora arriving at 12 p.m. We had a Snorkel Safari & Stingray adventure booked with Princess. This was awesome. The guide was excellent, the boat good. We got to swim with the rays, feed the rays, kiss the rays & snorkel on the 2nd part of the excursion. Loved it.
Our 2nd day in Bora Bora was a dive booked privately with Bathy's dive shop again. I really enjoyed diving in Bora Bora. The marine life great, great boat, great DM-Hideyo, she found me Nemo's. One dive here was a drift dive. Loved it. They are a great dive shop. And again, new equipment.
Next port was Moorea. This was my favorite Island followed by Bora Bora. Since we had stayed here for 3 days, we canceled all Princess excursions, rented scooters/dune buggy from Albert's tour/rentals and went around the Island ourselves. We went up to Belvedere again as I missed it the first time. Then we went to the Hibiscus hotel, they had a restaurant on the beach called Sunset. GREAT food. The chicken sandwich was the best I've ever had. Awesome. Then back to drop off rentals, then back to the ship. We shopped all the little booth's they had there. Lot's of local stuff.
One other point. It was so refreshing to get off the ship and not be attacked by people selling their goodies. Meaning, they are there if you want to seek them out but they are not in your face selling stuff. No Diamonds International. That was wonderful and several comments made by many passengers echoed that sentiment.
The airport in Tahiti is not as small as I expected it to be. But not like our modern airports of the U.S. The plane deplanes outside not up to a hub walkway. So you have to walk down the stairs of the plane. Something to think about for those that are handicapped or disabled. The transfer via Princess to the airport was fine. Had a detour but it’s so close, it didn’t matter. Our friends on the 10 p.m. flight waited in line for 2 hours as did we, give or take 20 minutes, to get checked in & luggage off to security. Then, we went right in the airport and through security for us. They had a small shop there. They had big chairs for everyone waiting. Very comfortable. There was a small bar or something up top but did not partake. It was all fine for me considering all that I had heard.
I never used the “official” room service but would get a little something for the early mornings of excursions or diving. I like the balcony and didn’t want to go to the buffet for breakfast. They were on time and pleasant. Also, very important. This has been a question/dilemma over and over for many. Here’s the skinny on the showers in the spa. Via several staff of the Spa, you are allowed to use the showers on the last day on the ship. It’s a first come, first serve basis. There is a sign up sheet and once the spaces are filled, then that’s it. You cannot sign up until the last day. We were in the hot tub, pool and basically, pool side all day. I did not want to fly like that, especially overnight. It would be unpleasant. So I asked and got all 5 in our group signed up for showers. It was fabulous. Speaking of the spa, I did use it’s service. I had a deep tissue massage with Melanie. She was wonderful. I had a lot of family/work stuff right before going on this trip. I wondered if I would make it based on several issues. Needless to say, I was a knotted mess. She definitely made relaxing easier. Thanks Melanie.
This cruise was awesome, definitely a dream of a lifetime. There is nothing like the crystal blue waters of Tahiti greeting as you come into and are at every port. I just couldn’t get enough of the waters. And the marine life there. I just hope we all do go back again as we talked about. It was lovely. Great ship. It’s too bad that Princess is pulling out of Tahiti on a full time basis. I can’t imagine what the locals will do as they rely on the tourism a lot. But maybe one day Princess will be back. It was a lovely trip.