This was our first time cruising with Oceania. We booked and deposited on this 1 ½ years ago to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and two other couples traveled with us also celebrating anniversaries. This was a bucket list trip so ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with Oceania. We booked and deposited on this 1 ½ years ago to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and two other couples traveled with us also celebrating anniversaries. This was a bucket list trip so there was much planning that went into this. We used Oceania’s free air as none of us had miles to use and the air was quite high. It actually turned out just fine. I really anticipated that we would leave the evening before (1/24) but Oceania put us on a charter that left LA at 2:00pm and arrived at 8:30pm in PPT on 1/25. So our flight left Columbus, Ohio at 6:51am arrived nonstop at 9:00am in LA and gave us a 5 hour layover, which was quite nice.
A note about Air Tahiti Nui. I was a little nervous as I had seen some pretty awful reviews, but we were pleasantly surprised. We were on the two seat side and the staff was incredible – very service oriented, two meals served, free French wine and champagne, tv screens in front of you with a large variety of entertainment, pillows, blankets, a small packet with socks, eye shields & ear plugs. The seats are economy seats, I won’t lie – like any other carrier. If you could afford business class obviously those are very nice, but we declined the upgrade option ( I think it was $799pp each way) because we decided that was a lot of money for entertainment better spent elsewhere. We were tired when we arrived, but the time passed quickly. The flight was smooth.
When we arrived in Papeete, the line was long to be entered into the country, but once we were through they greeted us warmly and put us on our transfer to the ship.
Check in on the Marina was very smooth (set up in the Marina Lounge), but as soon as we got into our cabin we had to return to the lounge for the second lifeboat drill – 10:30pm. That was kind of a pain, but I don’t know how else it could have been done.
Our cabin was a Penthouse and we were on deck 11 in cabin 11008. We loved the location. It was just down the hallway from the laundry room and fairly close to the executive lounge (which we used every day). If we walked up the stairs, we were on the pool deck and walked directly back to the Terrace Café each morning. We loved the space in our cabin – the walk in closet was really big. The bathroom was outstanding! The only thing was that we never really used our butler. He was very sweet and wanted to serve us, but I think the only thing we used him for was to iron my husband’s shirt. We had him try to get some extra dinner reservations, but they were completely sold out (if you think you want more than your initial four book them as soon as you get onboard). He eventually started bringing us some afternoon snacks (we didn’t ask for them), I think to try to do something for us. But, I would still book that category again (and we have) because I loved the cabin. Our friends were on deck 9 in concierge balcony cabins and they felt like their cabins were just fine, but when we booked our next cruise while onboard, one of the couples ended up booking a penthouse cabin after she saw ours
Because of the time change we were up early. We were usually waiting for Waves Café to open (6:30am) and then Terrace Café was generally a ½ hour after Waves. Many times the cruise director (Ray) would sit down with a couple of the guys in our group. As a side note, he was fantastic – very personable and had a sarcastic/dry sense of humor – which we appreciated very much. We worked out in the fitness center daily (early is best – not as busy as later in the day). None of us used the spa, so I cannot speak to that, but everything looked very nice. I watched some of the cooking classes (those looked fun) and the artist’s loft was across the way and that looked amazing as well. We played bingo (3 out of six of us won pots – that was nice) a couple of times, gambled in the small casino (very personable and friendly staff), went to happy hour daily and took advantage of the “drink of the day”. The women in our group purchased one wine package and shared it at dinner time and that seemed to work well. With the onboard credit we had, the bingo wins and purchasing our excursions in advance as well as paying for our prepaid gratuities in advance what we owed, our onboard accounts were fairly minimal.
We ate in all four of the restaurants (Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana & Jacques) and while all of them were excellent, I think we agreed we liked Polo Grill the best followed by Toscana (we had a full Italian with us). But, don’t get me wrong, they were all amazing. The food in the Grand Dining room was excellent as well. The only issue we had was the last evening, but I kind of felt something was a little off that night and it might have been just getting the ship ready to disembark the next day and staff being pulled different directions, I don’t know. It wasn’t bad service but just seemed a little off.
The ports were amazing. The other two couples did the same excursions together, most of them water related (like snuba, etc). My husband and I are pretty active and, while we like snorkeling, we really like to SEE the places we visit and understand the history behind them. So here is what we did in each port of call. We did book all excursions through the ship. I understand many people book their own and get them for less. We just felt more comfortable this trio booking through Oceania. The one piece of advice I will give is to read the descriptions of the tours. They are pretty accurate.
MOOREA – We booked the Hike the 3 Coconuts Trail. We had a fantastic guide. The description said “a very strenuous 3 mile hike over partly shaded and uneven terrain, uphill and downhill trail walking/hiking with an elevation of 1191 feet. This tour is for guests who are in very good physical condition”. This is why I said believe the descriptions. We had some people on the hike that probably shouldn’t have been there. My husband and I are 54 and consider ourselves in pretty good shape and I fell down once and he fell UP once. It was tough, but it was wonderful and the views were worth it
RAITEA – We did the Faaoa River & Motu by Canoe. I was confused and thought we would be kayaking. I booked the wrong thing. It was a motorized outrigger canoe. But we still enjoyed it. We had a great local guide who was originally from Canada and had been there for 35 years. Her name was Anne and she was great. The Motu was beautiful!
BORA BORA – We left the first day free. I wanted to go to the Yacht Club and have a drink and go to Blood Mary’s. The next day we did the Bora Bora Off-Road Adventure. Again, a fantastic guide who was very knowledgeable and we were taken to some amazing places with expansive views, visited the cannons from World War II, went to a Pareo house, etc.
NUKU HIVA – Unbelievable and stunning are the two words to describe this amazing place. I really felt like pterodactyls would come flying out of the mountains. The locals had a festival while we were there (we understand it’s the first time that has happened). They don’t speak much English and those that do, it’s very broken. They are very friendly. The second day we did the Visit to Taipivai Valley – again an amazing way to see the spectacular beauty of this island. With this tour, they use personally owned vehicles, so most of the drivers (ours included) do not speak any English at all – the most we got out of him was “uno dos” so he could communicate that his car had a 1 and 2 (for 12) on it and for us to remember which vehicle was ours. One guide who spoke fairly good English would address us all when we stopped at different points around the island.
RANGIROA – We went to the Pearl Farm here. Tours are only 1 ½ hours and they go all day long. It is obvious part of the reason is for us to be a captive audience and purchase while there (we had already purchased our pearls in Bora Bora) because the buses dropped us off and we had to wait for them to bring the next group of people before we could leave. But, besides that, it was a very informative tour and worth doing. This is an amazing Atoll – the second largest in the world and watching the ship come into the blue lagoon was interesting.
There were two sea days interspersed as well, which we very much enjoyed. I am ashamed to say that we didn’t get too many shows – we were too tired for a 9:30 show (isn’t that nuts?). But finally we did go to see the comedian one evening and the next evening we saw one of the production shows. They were enjoyable. I’ve seen better productions, but they are hardworking performers. When we were in Nuku Hiva they actually brought the local dancers onboard to do a show in the evening, which was quite entertaining.
When we disembarked the ship (everyone had to be out of their staterooms by 8am and off by 9am), we had purchased a day room at the Le Meridien because our flight was not until 11:05pm that evening. I will say that the hotel seemed somewhat surprised and overwhelmed when we arrived. There was an entire busload of us and then there were a bunch of people leaving and then yet another bus arrived that were just “hanging” out at the resort (I think it was a Gonext group). It was the slowest process I have ever seen. We finally did get our rooms about 10am. But there were many people who were supposed to have a room that didn’t get one until 3pm! Ours was old and musty smelling as was one of the other couples’. But the third couple with us had one of the newly renovated rooms. It is obvious they are going through some renovation. I didn’t really expect anything amazing since we were only there for the day. But, the hotel certainly had a captive audience. The food and drinks were VERY expensive. I think we spent about $200 on food and drink while there and the service was very, very slow. Again, I think they were completely overwhelmed and understaffed. We had to be checked out of our rooms by 6pm (which again took 45 minutes – we have no idea why) and the bus picked us up for the airport at 8pm.
Checking in at the airport was not a problem, but the airport was packed as there was a flight at 11:55pm (after ours at 11:05pm). There is only really one food location, it’s very warm and then there is much confusion and disorganization while trying to board the air craft. That might be more due to the people who stand in the way while rows 32-40 are called and they are in row 25, but I still think there should be a better way to organize that. There are a bunch of very hot, tired people who are cranky and just want to get on the plane. When I think back on it, it is quite funny.
Our flight back was very smooth. My husband and I were really able to sleep for 4 -5 hours. I woke up for the first snack (he didn’t) and then we were both up for breakfast. We only had a 3 hour layover in LA before our flight back to Columbus and we really needed every minute of it. It took us about 1 ½ hours to get through customs and immigration and then make the walk from Tom Bradley over to Terminal 6. I wouldn’t have wanted any less time, that’s for sure.
All in all – it was a wonderful trip. We LOVED Oceania and ended up booking another cruise for May of 2017 while onboard. I have cruised Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Disney, Princess, Holland and Celebrity and I can honestly say we will have a hard time sailing those again. Don’t get me wrong – they have their place and we always have a good time wherever we are, but we like the ship size (Holland is the one that comes the closest), the ratio of staff to guests and the food was so much better.
I was happy that we flew home the day we disembarked because we arrived back on a Friday and had the weekend to get sort of adjusted before going back to work on Monday. The only thing I would do differently is that I would do an air deviation and fly in two days prior in order to get acclimated. Otherwise, it was a pretty perfect trip. Read Less