Honolulu to Papeete
The Pacific Princess departed Honolulu on September 28, 2009 for 11 nights. Kauai, Maui, Big Island (Hilo) were the first ports, followed by 5 days at sea before visiting the ports of Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti. At the conclusion of the day in Moorea, the ship set sail for Tahiti where it over-nighted in Papeete after arriving at 8:00 PM. Weather was warm and sunny on port and sea days.
The cruise was scheduled for 4 hours of scenic cruising around Christmas Island but the ship arrived late, leaving us time for a 1-hour drive-by. The ship was scheduled to be in Bora Bora 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (changed to 12:30 PM to 9:00 PM) because the ship arrived late. The Captain gave everyone $50 shipboard credit for the disappointment.
Princess was used for all travel arrangements. Embarkation was effortless. Princess flew us LAX to HNL on Delta's 8:25 AM flight, arriving at 11:05 AM Hawaii Time. Princess reps were in the baggage retrieval area to direct people to the ship's shuttle (for those with transfers). The wait was about 20 minutes for the 15-minute ride to the ship where we stepped right aboard. On Debarkation Day cabin evacuation was by 8:00 AM. Our flight home on Air Tahiti Nui was at 11:30PM. Because our Princess transfer to the airport was at 8:30 PM, we had plenty of time to enjoy Tahiti and go back and forth to the ship. It took almost two hours and five security checks to get through the check-in line to the boarding area in Faa'a International. The flight was thirty minutes late because of delays in processing the many passengers. After the first hour of flight, the first of two warm meals was served.
We learned the current Pacific Princess was built for Renaissance (now defunct in the aftermath of 9/11) and to date is mostly unaltered by Princess. Passenger capacity is approximately 670.
The ship was adequately maintained but had an old ambience. The dEcor made us think something of maybe an old English manor. It felt heavy, tired, worn and stuffy.
We heard small ships experience more movement than larger ones. This ship rocked, rolled, bounced, and vibrated during the entire cruise. One day the air-conditioning went out, and one evening toilets malfunctioned in at least one section of the ship including our cabin. Both problems were quickly fixed. Princess was very good about trying to make things right.
Our standard balcony (port-side) stateroom #7090 on Deck 7 was 184 square feet plus an 8' by 4' balcony. The layout was poor and we felt cramped and in each other's way. There was insufficient drawer and surface space. The bed was comfortable but the couch was not. The bathroom was so tiny that the micro-mini sink's faucet was off to the left side. While showering, a normal sized person will be against the wall and/or shower curtain. The side of the cabin leading to the balcony was floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door and window. In addition, the open balcony railing gave a natural view. The gaps in the balcony separating partitions however were too wide for any visual and voice privacy. We were really glad to have a balcony.
Dining: The Club Restaurant is the main dining room with early and late seating. The Panorama Buffet on the Pool Deck is the casual option. In addition, two specialty dinner dining choices were available in Sabatini's Italian and Sterling's Steakhouse. These two alternated evenings of operation and had a surcharge. We just didn't like the food in the Club Restaurant. It was no one's fault; we just didn't like it. Our table waiter and the maitre d tried to make it better. We gotta give Princess "A" for effort. But we just didn't like what they did to the food. There was usually something we could find in the Panorama Buffet.
The Pool Deck has one small pool with 2 jazuzzis, bar, BBQ (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.), and bandstand. Adults were able to fully enjoy the area because there were so few children (we saw 4) you could say there were none. The water in the pool, jazuzzis, and fresh water showers was warm and the saltiness of the pool kept you afloat even though the depth was 5 feet 6 inches. The wave action from the edges of the pool was nice and nicely enhanced by the rocking of the ship. Gave the feeling you were in the ocean.
Entertainment: Limited small venue entertainment and low-key activities were held in the Cabaret Lounge, Pacific Lounge, Club Bar and on deck. The best entertainment was Princess' Dancers & Singers—young, energetic, and entertaining followed by the Tropical Fiesta Deck Party. The opera singer was good but not what we were expecting on a cruise. For us too much of the entertainment lacked entertainment and there was no quantity. The casino slots were so dull and lifeless that we saved money by not losing there.
The Crossing the Equator Ceremony was great fun. Activities such as needlepoint, grandparents' bragging get-together, wills/trusts and estates, create a legacy, animal lovers get-together, drawing/bookmaking, etc. weren't what we were looking for on a cruise. The destination ports series lecturer was elderly and boring. The cruise director was old. The vast majority of the passengers were elderly. We're old people too but this was all too sedate for our likes.
We found the Pacific Princess and the Princess experience to be boring, anemic, and geriatric. It made us sleepy and zapped our energy. Regrettably, we would be reluctant to cruise Princess again.
But this was a cruise about the ports...
PORTS/TOURS: We booked all of our tours through Princess.
Kauai (docked): The Hollywood Movies and Waterfalls Tour (9:30 to 3:30) Kauai is often the backdrop to many major motion pictures and television shows. The tour had special access to certain areas not open to the public such as the Coco Palms Resort. The tour started from Nawiliwili through Hanalei, with our young, lively, entertaining, informative, knowledgeable tour guide who respected Old Hawaii. There were numerous stops and she helped people off and on the bus and around the locations. You could tell she enjoyed her job and was eager to please and answer questions. We saw and learned much about the locations and programs filmed as well as Kauai in general. A beach-side sandwich lunch was included. Tour was properly timed to allow enough time for the stops without being rushed. This is a beautiful laid back island in a lush garden setting punctuated by gleaming waterfalls.
Maui (tendered): Lanai 4x4 Trekker Expedition (8:45 to 3:00) Tour included the 45-minute ferry ride to and from Maui. Tour was comprehensive and there was enough time spent at the stops to enjoy them without being rushed. Except for the two Four Seasons resorts, this is a much different landscape from the other islands and with a much simpler way of life. The tour guide was informative, knowledgeable, respectful of old Hawaiian ways, and willing to answer questions. We traveled along dirt roads among what were once pineapple plantations and through the Cook Islands Pine Forest and the Ironwood Forest. Some of the stops were at the Garden of the Gods and Shipwreck Beach where we saw green sea turtles and the WWII Liberty Ship that crashed into the reef decades ago. We had a short stop at the Koele Four Seasons Resort for a quick peek. A sandwich lunch was served in the small quaint City of Lanai. This island has withstood commercial tourism and is a refreshing change of pace from Maui.
Hilo (docked): The Waipio Valley/Kings Expedition (9:00 to 2:30) It was raining (typical Hilo weather) during the drive to and from the entry to the Valley's floor. The driver was exceeding the speed limit by almost twice as he raced by picturesque scenery in both directions. The driver of the 4x4 who would take us on our journey to the Valley's floor was a young Hawaiian who lived in the valley but wasn't informative or interesting whatsoever. You had to drag information from him about the historical and sacred nature of the place we were visiting and even then he hardly said a mouthful. We drove through many streams and several times were allowed to walk around. The area was extremely peaceful with a haunting beauty. Just wish we could have inhaled more of what was there.
Bora Bora (tendered): Highlights Tour (1:30 to 4:00) Bora Bora is a small island of about 15 square miles. The beautiful multi-colored lagoon and dramatic scenery is love at first sight until you take a closer look. The drive around was rushed and didn't have many stops. More time should have been allocated to the stops we did make such as Bloody Mary's Restaurant and the panoramic overlooks. The tour guide was not particularly forthcoming with information. This was the only island on the itinerary we had never visited and were surprised at the poverty, trash, graffiti, and closed resorts. Something wicked has reached paradise and we were saddened to see one of the most beloved and beautiful islands in the world tainted.
Moorea (tendered): Circle Island with Tiki Village Theater (8:30 to 12:00) This small island is about 51 square miles. Civilization has crept in but not too much. The island is still clean and spectacular but there was some graffiti and closed resorts. The drive around was rushed and inadequate time was given to the stops such as the Tiki Village Theater. Sometimes the driver didn't even get off the bus and he didn't have much to say. Stunning Cook's Bay and Opunahu Bay will renew your senses and their heart-stopping beauty is unforgettable. Tahiti (docked): Circle Island Drive, Gauguin Museum & Lunch. (8:30 to 3:15) Our tour guide was a warm Tahitian woman who was interesting and knowledgeable in telling us as much as possible about the island. We were never rushed and she was eager to answer questions. After getting some distance away from the ever-growing Papeete and graffiti, we were in gorgeous territory. The kind of territory you think of when you hear the word "Tahiti." She helped people off and on the bus and around the locations. We appreciated her candidness about French Polynesia and what caused the changes we noticed. Lunch at the Gauguin Museum was the best meal we had during the entire cruise. Some of the stops were at Point Venus, the Blowhole, Gauguin Museum, Vaipahi Gardens, Maraa Fern Grotto, and Sacred Marae. We saw breathtaking waterfalls tumble down lush cliffs. A short walk through a bamboo forest led us to one large one in particular. We got so close we could almost feel it against our faces.