We were a group of 9 family and friends traveling together. My DH and I had been to French Polynesia before but the others had not. We chose this itinerary because we're avid snorkelers and family members like to get out of Wyoming Winter in February! Most of our cruising has been on Regent or Silversea so I'm sure that has biased my observations some. Other family members have mostly done Celebrity. Consider that as you read this review.
Ship: Overall ship was very nice. Only surprise was several of the common area restrooms are configured for only one person at a time (for privacy you had to lock the door on the way in). While the public restrooms outside the MDR and Terrace Café could service multiple users, I still found this a bit odd.
Cabin: We were in 4044, a Deluxe Oceanview. The location is really excellent! Close to Reception and MDR, amidships and low (DH gets seasick sometimes), and nothing that makes late night or early morning noise above or below. Cabin was viewed by everyone as small (even though I tried to manage everyone's expectations). That said, everything fit nicely and bathroom, while small was fine for two. We have tripled up on Regent and Silversea in the past, but this would not be possible here. Everything in the cabin worked and our room steward was excellent.
Dining: Everyone's favorite was Red Ginger. Second favorite was Terrace Café. Overall everyone thought food was excellent. Only issue with MDR was that it took about 2 1/2 hours to have dinner. Several in our group are big lobster fans, so being able to have "All You Can Eat" lobster was a big hit for the Terrace Café. I liked the "All You Can Eat" sushi; so Terrace was a Group hit. The surf and turf sandwich at Waves was also a big hit. Brother even took to ordering Surf and Turf, hold the turf and hold the bread! In my opinion the best steak I had on the trip was the turf part of the Surf and Turf sandwich. Only "real" negative comment regarded the Ice Cream/Milkshake bar next to Waves. While it opened at 0630 (who eats Ice Cream or a milkshake at 0630?), it closed at 1600. So, if you came back from an excursion after 4PM and wanted a milkshake you couldn't get it. Wasn't available from room service either. Even though "creamed spinach" (my personal favorite) was not on the MDR menu, I was able to get it every nite we ate in the MDR.
A special shout out to Gluten Free folks. My DH is GF so we let O know before hand. This worked out really nicely. Most dishes in the MDR and Red Ginger could be prepared GF with the one day notice using the menu provided in our cabin.. DH was even able to have a "standing order" for GF Escargot for lunch in Jacques. DH could always get GF bread in the MDR, and at the Terrace Cafe (though it took a few minutes longer there) and thought was good! DH even insists on making GF bread at home as we don't care for most "store bought." So I considered this a significant endorsement of O's GF products. Though Home Office couldn't tell me before hand, they do have GF soy sauce available at Red Ginger, but only in the Red Ginger. Brought our own for use in Terrace Café. Not sure why if GF Soy Sauce was available in Red Ginger why it wasn't available at MDR.
Entertainment: The production show staff were solid, maybe voices weren't as strong as I would have liked, but generally solid. The guest entertainers: comic, magician/comic, and singer were OUTSTANDING! All three were great in their craft and talented showmen.
Activities. The "usual" putting, shuffleboard, ping pong, bean bag toss and trivia games were all well executed and fun. One of the Guest Lecturers was mediocre at best. O would have done better to find someone local (like Polynesian Anthropologist Mark Eddowes) than lawyer/professor from DC. That said, the ship's Navigator gave a lecture on navigation that was just OUTSTANDING. Could have used one or two more from him.
Service in all venues was generally outstanding. There were occasional lapses but they were generally rare. All pre-arranged requests were honored (GF, Diet Mt. Dew or Coke Zero). Special requests in Dining Venues (see above) were met (except my brother's request for beef Wellington every night.).
Ports and Excursions: I agree O's excursions are overpriced; but, we did opt for the 4 included excursions per person and enjoyed them. That said, I'm sure glad I didn't pay list price for them! As expected, the ports made this trip. We had "private" tours in Fakarava, Bora Bora and Raiatea. The Bora Bora and Fakarava snorkel trips were the highlights of the cruise.
Truth Teller: We booked another O cruise while on board.
Size was only draw back
Snorkel stop combined with Island Tour from the boat followed by lunch at Motu with drift snorkel at same location.View All 17 Motu Islet Beach Reviews
Short (1 hour) snorkel at Aquarium; better than what I remember from previous trips.View All 18 Snorkeling Reviews
WOW!! Does not even begin to describe this outing. Price was $205pp for 7 of us to have a full day private tour in a nicely equipped speed boat (minimized transit times). David, our guide, started off by asking us "What we wanted to see." We snorkeled at 6 different locations inside and outside the lagoon. We went to one site for fishes (including barracuda and eels), one for Manta Rays, one outside the reef for coral and sharks, one for spotted Eagle Rays, and two for coral formations. One called "The Wreck" had the best coral formation I've seen. Our lunch included wine and beer and soda served on tables in knee deep water. Wow, what a day.View All 35 Snorkeling Reviews
$105pp for all day with lunch. Three snorkel stops on a boat with 19 pax. Weather was a bit off (windy with clouds and occasional rain) so visibility was down as was clarity of water. (out of Bruno's control). Lunch was with a couple of other tours on Motu with nice facilities and available swimming or beach snorkeling. One stop was a drift snorkel on the north side of Taha'a in a wide channel. Easier than Taha'a's famous drift snorkel but not as pretty or scenic.View All 8 Snorkeling Reviews
Snorkel stop was nice but Maroa, our guide really made the trip. She had everyone's name memorized within 10 minutes or so and was a real showman.View All 15 Snorkeling Reviews
Since we disembarked at 0900 and plane wasn't until 2230, we reserved a room at the Fare Suisse hotel for about $100. They picked us up at the ship and took us to the Airport for our flight. Meanwhile we had a nice place for a nap and shower close to town. No pool but lovely terrace, good price and location.