I've been on about 15 cruises since 1989, on many different lines, so I guess you could say I am an experienced cruiser. I have cruised Tahiti twice. The previous one, on Renaissance (now defunct) was my favorite cruise ever. Here is a link to my photos from the trip: https://picasaweb.google.com/moxiethebeagle/TAHITIJan2012?authuser=0&feat=directlink
As you can see, we had excellent weather. The service on the ship was friendly and very good.
Embarkation was a breeze on this small ship. We easily found our cabin, since we had been on this ship before on a Med cruise in Oct. 2010. We arrived about 8 PM, so just unpacked and went to bed.
The next day after breakfast we went on a ship's tour around Tahiti, which was very nice. We came back for lunch, and then went over to the Papeete Market and bought a lovely tropical flower arrangement in a container for our room for only $10. We also bought papaya, passion fruit, limes and those tiny bananas for our room - yummy! For some reason, there was very little papaya on board the ship's buffet, but we could only get just a little if we asked for it special in the dining room.
I had noticed that on this ship, in this tropical flower paradise, that there were NO flowers. Not on the buffet, public rooms, reception desk..nothing. Nothing in the dining room at all, and no carved ice or other niceties to see upon entering. They must be cutting back in that area. Strange, since the flowers were so gorgeous and inexpensive in Papeete at the market, even the very large arrangements.
They also seem to be cutting back on the ship's maintenance. Many of the balconies had a lot of rust showing, the jacuzzi's and pool needed painting and varnishing, and even the public restroom doors needed paint. It was so obvious, that it really shocked me. I have never seen a ship in such poor maintenance before.
The next day was at sea, unlike our original itinerary. Princess had changed our itinerary with only one day notice! NOT nice. When I asked, they said there was another ship scheduled at Rangiroa on our original date. Don't they know these things far in advance? We were supposed to be in Huahini, and we had a private tour scheduled, so we were worried about whether we could still have the tour on the new date. As it turned out, were were OK, but others on the ship were quite upset about the last minute change. They were meeting friends or relatives and were now going to miss seeing them. We had a formal night and dinner and service were very good. In general the food on the cruise was good, not great. Presentation was fine, but not WOW. The one improvement I noticed was the deserts - much better than previously.
Next day, Rangiroa, and we had a morning ship's snorkel tour scheduled. The huge coral atoll was very interesting to see as we approached. Be sure to be out to see it. Not much else to see or do on the atoll except swim and snorkel and look at the ocean side. Shopping is minimal. Our snorkeling was just OK. Fish were large, but the water was deep and not as clear as I expected, and the guide kept yelling directions at all of us very loudly. Not a good place for beginners. Luckily, we are very experienced snorkelers.
The next day was again at sea. We enjoyed the pool and the spa. The music poolside was great. We watched the ice carver.
We had a private tour on Huahini - Motu picnic tour with Marc. Luckily, he was able to accommodate us. We snorkeled in a lovely coral area, saw a pearl farm, and had a nice Polynesian lunch on a motu. A very good day.
Next day was Raiatea, and another private tour to Tahaa - with Bruno and L'Excursion Blue. I cannot recommend this tour, although the scenery and snorkeling was magnificent. Bruno (a Frenchman) was very unfriendly, did not help people into or out of our boat, and his English was very hard to understand. He spoke fluent French to one lady on the boat, however. The drift snorkel spot had the best coral and fish, but it was really slightly dangerous and he did not prepare us for it. It was like a shallow and tight maze of coral, and we followed him in single file. The problem was all the people - we were all bashing into each other in the strong current, and then into the coral. I got a bad shin scrape on the coral, and my friend had punctures by a sea urchin on her foot. He actually had the boat over an urchin bed, so when she jumped into the water from the ladder she got punctured. Others were similarly hurt. There was a HUGE moray eel that one lady almost stepped on. Not good.
Back on Raiatea that evening, the local families and children came onboard to entertain. Do NOT miss this. It is so special. Really unique. Later that night, there was a big party poolside, which was also really fun.
We had 2 days in Bora Bora. Our ship's tour of the island by L'Truck was very nice. The second day we had another private tour - Patrick's 3/4 day lagoon tour. Fabulous. Best tour ever. Can't recommend it enough. We snorkeled with rays and reef sharks, then snorkeled in some beautiful coral gardens. Patrick and his driver played their ukeleles and sang for us on the boat. The motu picnic included fish and lobster and nice drinks..it was all so good. Tables right in the water. Worth every penney. They motu is right next to the 4 Seasons Bora Bora. Location is tops. That night we rushed to get ready for the 2nd formal night, which was again a great dinner. Too bad we were so full from the motu picnic! The singers and dancers on the ship were some of the best I have seen at sea. Considering the size of the ship, they did a magnificent job.
On Moorea we rented a car with Albert's rental car for about $100 for the day. We drove all around the island, walked on the beach near the Sofitel Hotel, went to the Belvedere, saw lots of sights, had lunch at the Hilton, and shopped. Lovely, lovely green island.
Our last day was back in Papeete. Our flight was not until 11, and we were allowed to stay on the ship all day. This is a real plus. We checked our carry-ons in the Sterling Steak House, so they were safe. Then we grabbed a poolside chair and enjoyed a nice swim. We also went into town and shopped some more and went to Bouganville Garden (nice).
It was a great trip. Ocean Princess is getting old and needs some sprucing up and flowers and better art in the stairwells and elsewhere, but she is still a very pretty ship. We also loved the smaller ship size and smaller number of passengers. We made lots of friends aboard, both Cruise Critic folks and others. It is so nice to see the Captain walking around the ship greeting everyone, too.