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I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary - a round-trip voyage out of L.A. to French Polynesia by way of Hawaii and Bora Bora. It had been on my bucket list for a number of years; imagine: traveling to Tahiti without getting on a plane? How cool is that? What I had trepidations about was that the Emerald Princess, one of the larger ships in the Princess fleet, would be the assigned ship for this cruise. 28 days with over 3,000 people on board? It would be a long voyage, indeed... Embarkation: spent the night before the cruise at one of San Pedro's better lodging establishments that offered a "park and cruise" option. Left the car there for 28 days and hoped it would still be there upon my return. The Missus and I got to the cruise terminal a bit early, hoping we could hit the dining room for lunch. Didn't get that far. In fact, we never made it to the dining room. We are Princess Elite-level - priority check-in, and a lounge for Elite guests. We made it as far as the Elite lounge where we waited. And waited. And waited. Pretty soon, the lounge was overflowing with guests. So were the other non-Elite lounges. Whatever announcements were made about our boarding status were so garbled, few of us could understand them. We were there for what must have been four hours. Eventually Princess sent over some folks from the ship with juice, water and pastries. We were lucky. No one in the other lounges apparently got anything. What we could hear was that there was some immigration and/or Customs issue which held up disembarkation of the guests from the previous cruise; the ship had arrived from South America. At noon, guests from that cruise were still getting off the Emerald Princess. I don't think we boarded until close to 3:00 p.m. So much for the dining room. We made do with a snack in the Lido - a place the Missus swore she would never frequent on this cruise. Usually a 4:00 or 6:00 sailaway means leaving port while it was still light. It was past sunset - 7:30 - when we finally left L.A. At least we were on our way. Dining: we were Anytime Dining, which meant either Michelangelo on Deck 5 or DaVinci on Deck 6 for dinner. Fixed dining was in the rear dining room (Botticelli), as well as breakfast and lunch. Would have preferred that one of the two centrally-located MDRs be used for those two purposes, but that's the breaks. The MDR food was mostly okay. The meat dishes were what I expected from Princess - the entrees could be a little dry and overdone or a bit too rare. The seafood - various takes on whitefish, the house salmon, and scallops - was always my best bet on this long cruise; it is awfully hard to screw up a fish dinner. The menus would repeat after about half the cruise was over, which gave me either the chance to try something I didn't go for the first time...or settle for one of the traditional favorites. The food in the buffet was edible - that's about the best way I can put it. As mentioned previously, the Missus wouldn't go near the place unless there was not a reasonable alternative. The serving areas are cramped. The variety of food is much less than on other lines I've sailed on, and the quality could be pretty mediocre. Cruisers who rave about Princess' buffet have never sailed on Celebrity, where the buffet serving area is far more spacious and there are more choices for food. What was worse, was that staff in the dining areas were slow to replace tables with napkins and tableware after a prior diner had departed. We should never have had to scrounge around for that stuff after finding a table. We ate in only two of the four offered specialty restaurants. We took advantage of a BOGO offer in a coupon book in our cabin for the Crown Grill on the first night. The Grill never seemed crowded, ever - and unless you ate early, reservations were hardly needed. The ambiance and service were great as ever. The Grill is the only place on the ship that could cook a steak to my liking. The other speciality restaurant we patronized was Salty Dog Gastropub. The menu was a bit limited but the food was excellent. It was probably the best meal we had on this cruise. The service charge was extremely reasonable. We didn't bother with Share or the Crab Shack. Previous not-so-positive reviews of both on CC were good enough reasons for us to avoid these venues. Enrichment Activities: we were in the presence of two Hawaii lecturers for port talks, as well as longtime naturalist Sharon Faff to discuss the environment of Polynesia, both French and American. The port talks were folksy enough but were overly long and the visuals and information seemed rather dated. Faff's talks were well attended and interesting but they, too, could use some updating. Note to Sharon: you can NO LONGER walk up the steps to the Government House in Pago Pago; they are off-limits to visitors, and only a broken sign at the bottom is there to warn people. Entertainment: two things we noted about the environment for the nightly shows. The first was that they were incredibly crowded! You can't put a Grand Princess-sized theater in a ship the size of the Emerald and not expect this. The theater holds roughly 800, which will not work on a ship with 3,000 guests and only two evening shows. The Entertainment Director thankfully noticed this and began scheduling three evening shows of shorter duration. However, this did not stop people from lining up at least an HOUR before the start of a show. You were out of luck if you expected to come to the theater 15-20 minutes prior to showtime because almost all of the seats would be filled. The other thing we noticed was the intensity of the sound level. Note to Princess: WE ARE NOT DEAF! It is not necessary to crank the sound level to a high level. This factor, alone, kept us from enjoying/attending many shows in the theater. I personally didn't care for most of the onboard activities. This cruise became the "Trivia" cruise - seemingly one of the few pleasurable activities. We went to trivia no less than three times a day, and formed a team that hung together throughout the entire cruise. I generally enjoyed the Cruise Director staff. Armando, Trelawny and Sandra were very engaging. The big turnoff was the DJ, Gonzalo, who had to take his turn at daily cruise activities. The man simply did not know how to use a handheld microphone! He would use it to blast out his voice when he clearly did not need to. At trivia, you could hear him from two decks up! It took several complaints to the Entertainment Director to get "Gonzo" to tone down his delivery. Entertainment highlights for me included the Crew Pub show (always a hoot) and various folkloric shows featuring dancers from the various Pacific islands we visited. The lounge musicians were fine. I also liked the stargazing activities on some French Polynesian evenings. They were led by Armando of the cruise staff and he gave some nice talks about the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. Tough ticket to get (tickets were free but obtaining them was akin to a free-for-all) but a great way to spend a late night. Fitness & Recreation: I did not utilize the Fitness Center or the Spa. My exercise consisted of a mile or two each morning around the Promenade Deck (the wraparound deck remains one of the best things about Princess ships). Onboard Experience: the experience is typical Princess - endless come-ons for the art auction, spa and shopping. I threw away almost 100% of the junk mail left outside our cabin door. I did not watch Movies Under The Stars; we were off doing other things during the day and evening, and it was either too hot or too rainy/windy to want to watch the movies. We settled for watching movies on our stateroom TV. The stateroom TV isn't yet as high-tech as I've seen on other Princess / other cruise ships. No way to bring up the daily charge statement unless you go down to the front desk. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next dry dock period. Public Rooms: see my prior comments about the theater. What worked for the Grand-class ships (big theater, three lounges and a disco) just doesn't work for the newer and larger ships such as the Emerald - not enough venues, and the venues are too small to handle the crowds. Service: was generally good, especially at dinner in the Main Dining Rooms. We especially liked Mariano, our Maitre d' in DaVinci, and our more-than-occasional waiters Jason and Dragana. Very nice people who really appreciated us, and we appreciated in return. Our stateroom steward didn't always succeed. I'll cut him some slack since he had no less than *seventeen* staterooms to make up, twice a day. Princess: can't you give him some help? I enjoyed the talk with the ship's captain. Definitely a no-BS kind of guy, and one who really goes the extra mile to ensure the safety of his ship, crew and guests. Also, the first Canadian captain I've seen on a Princess ship; they are usually Italians and Brits. I didn't think much of the Captain's Circle Host. Her office hours were pretty limited, which made me wonder what the heck she did the rest of the day. I disagree with the decision to not host a disembarkation lounge for Elites at the end of the cruise. While there were a lot of Elite and Platinum-level guests on board, I think Princess could have (and should have) tried to make something work. If you're Elite, you should be entitled to *everything* promised to you as a perk. Shore Excursions: nothing for Hawaii; we've been there a lot. We used private companies for tours in Moorea and Bora Bora. The one Princess-arranged tour we took was in Tahiti, and it was a complete bust. The bus was late getting to the pier. The tour guide was nice but she provided only the most minimal information to the guests on the PA system. The stops on the tour, including the outstanding Museum of Tahiti, were far too short. By the time we arrived at the final stop, it was well after dark and people were stumbling around by the light of their cellphones. I will think twice before ever booking another Princess shore excursion. Of the islands: Moorea was my overall choice for favorite island. It seemingly rose out of the ocean with majestic crags and cliffs. It seemed to be the least touristy/commercial island. American Samoa was green and lush with friendly people. The secret is to get yourself out of Pago Pago. Bora Bora was pretty spectacular. The private 4x4 tour was quite informative and showed how the locals cope with a crush of 3,000 cruise ship passengers. Tahiti was very French-cosmopolitan. Papeete is a modern French colonial city with a lot to offer. Value for Money: overall, and despite the annoyances, the cruise was worthwhile because of the wide-ranging itinerary. I liked the sea days, and there were eight of them before arriving back in L.A. The size of the ship and the amount of guests kept this from being as enjoyable a cruise as I had hoped. I would be happy to sail the same itinerary again...but I would want it to be on a way-smaller ship.

A long, LONG review of a long, LONG cruise

Emerald Princess Cruise Review by Cyberchomp

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2018
  • Destination: South Pacific
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony
I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary - a round-trip voyage out of L.A. to French Polynesia by way of Hawaii and Bora Bora. It had been on my bucket list for a number of years; imagine: traveling to Tahiti without getting on a plane? How cool is that?

What I had trepidations about was that the Emerald Princess, one of the larger ships in the Princess fleet, would be the assigned ship for this cruise. 28 days with over 3,000 people on board? It would be a long voyage, indeed...

Embarkation: spent the night before the cruise at one of San Pedro's better lodging establishments that offered a "park and cruise" option. Left the car there for 28 days and hoped it would still be there upon my return.

The Missus and I got to the cruise terminal a bit early, hoping we could hit the dining room for lunch. Didn't get that far. In fact, we never made it to the dining room.

We are Princess Elite-level - priority check-in, and a lounge for Elite guests. We made it as far as the Elite lounge where we waited. And waited. And waited.

Pretty soon, the lounge was overflowing with guests. So were the other non-Elite lounges. Whatever announcements were made about our boarding status were so garbled, few of us could understand them. We were there for what must have been four hours. Eventually Princess sent over some folks from the ship with juice, water and pastries. We were lucky. No one in the other lounges apparently got anything.

What we could hear was that there was some immigration and/or Customs issue which held up disembarkation of the guests from the previous cruise; the ship had arrived from South America. At noon, guests from that cruise were still getting off the Emerald Princess.

I don't think we boarded until close to 3:00 p.m. So much for the dining room. We made do with a snack in the Lido - a place the Missus swore she would never frequent on this cruise.

Usually a 4:00 or 6:00 sailaway means leaving port while it was still light. It was past sunset - 7:30 - when we finally left L.A. At least we were on our way.

Dining: we were Anytime Dining, which meant either Michelangelo on Deck 5 or DaVinci on Deck 6 for dinner. Fixed dining was in the rear dining room (Botticelli), as well as breakfast and lunch. Would have preferred that one of the two centrally-located MDRs be used for those two purposes, but that's the breaks.

The MDR food was mostly okay. The meat dishes were what I expected from Princess - the entrees could be a little dry and overdone or a bit too rare. The seafood - various takes on whitefish, the house salmon, and scallops - was always my best bet on this long cruise; it is awfully hard to screw up a fish dinner. The menus would repeat after about half the cruise was over, which gave me either the chance to try something I didn't go for the first time...or settle for one of the traditional favorites.

The food in the buffet was edible - that's about the best way I can put it. As mentioned previously, the Missus wouldn't go near the place unless there was not a reasonable alternative. The serving areas are cramped. The variety of food is much less than on other lines I've sailed on, and the quality could be pretty mediocre. Cruisers who rave about Princess' buffet have never sailed on Celebrity, where the buffet serving area is far more spacious and there are more choices for food. What was worse, was that staff in the dining areas were slow to replace tables with napkins and tableware after a prior diner had departed. We should never have had to scrounge around for that stuff after finding a table.

We ate in only two of the four offered specialty restaurants. We took advantage of a BOGO offer in a coupon book in our cabin for the Crown Grill on the first night. The Grill never seemed crowded, ever - and unless you ate early, reservations were hardly needed. The ambiance and service were great as ever. The Grill is the only place on the ship that could cook a steak to my liking.

The other speciality restaurant we patronized was Salty Dog Gastropub. The menu was a bit limited but the food was excellent. It was probably the best meal we had on this cruise. The service charge was extremely reasonable.

We didn't bother with Share or the Crab Shack. Previous not-so-positive reviews of both on CC were good enough reasons for us to avoid these venues.

Enrichment Activities: we were in the presence of two Hawaii lecturers for port talks, as well as longtime naturalist Sharon Faff to discuss the environment of Polynesia, both French and American. The port talks were folksy enough but were overly long and the visuals and information seemed rather dated. Faff's talks were well attended and interesting but they, too, could use some updating. Note to Sharon: you can NO LONGER walk up the steps to the Government House in Pago Pago; they are off-limits to visitors, and only a broken sign at the bottom is there to warn people.

Entertainment: two things we noted about the environment for the nightly shows. The first was that they were incredibly crowded! You can't put a Grand Princess-sized theater in a ship the size of the Emerald and not expect this. The theater holds roughly 800, which will not work on a ship with 3,000 guests and only two evening shows. The Entertainment Director thankfully noticed this and began scheduling three evening shows of shorter duration. However, this did not stop people from lining up at least an HOUR before the start of a show. You were out of luck if you expected to come to the theater 15-20 minutes prior to showtime because almost all of the seats would be filled.

The other thing we noticed was the intensity of the sound level. Note to Princess: WE ARE NOT DEAF! It is not necessary to crank the sound level to a high level. This factor, alone, kept us from enjoying/attending many shows in the theater.

I personally didn't care for most of the onboard activities. This cruise became the "Trivia" cruise - seemingly one of the few pleasurable activities. We went to trivia no less than three times a day, and formed a team that hung together throughout the entire cruise.

I generally enjoyed the Cruise Director staff. Armando, Trelawny and Sandra were very engaging. The big turnoff was the DJ, Gonzalo, who had to take his turn at daily cruise activities. The man simply did not know how to use a handheld microphone! He would use it to blast out his voice when he clearly did not need to. At trivia, you could hear him from two decks up! It took several complaints to the Entertainment Director to get "Gonzo" to tone down his delivery.

Entertainment highlights for me included the Crew Pub show (always a hoot) and various folkloric shows featuring dancers from the various Pacific islands we visited. The lounge musicians were fine.

I also liked the stargazing activities on some French Polynesian evenings. They were led by Armando of the cruise staff and he gave some nice talks about the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. Tough ticket to get (tickets were free but obtaining them was akin to a free-for-all) but a great way to spend a late night.

Fitness & Recreation: I did not utilize the Fitness Center or the Spa. My exercise consisted of a mile or two each morning around the Promenade Deck (the wraparound deck remains one of the best things about Princess ships).

Onboard Experience: the experience is typical Princess - endless come-ons for the art auction, spa and shopping. I threw away almost 100% of the junk mail left outside our cabin door. I did not watch Movies Under The Stars; we were off doing other things during the day and evening, and it was either too hot or too rainy/windy to want to watch the movies. We settled for watching movies on our stateroom TV.

The stateroom TV isn't yet as high-tech as I've seen on other Princess / other cruise ships. No way to bring up the daily charge statement unless you go down to the front desk. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next dry dock period.

Public Rooms: see my prior comments about the theater. What worked for the Grand-class ships (big theater, three lounges and a disco) just doesn't work for the newer and larger ships such as the Emerald - not enough venues, and the venues are too small to handle the crowds.

Service: was generally good, especially at dinner in the Main Dining Rooms. We especially liked Mariano, our Maitre d' in DaVinci, and our more-than-occasional waiters Jason and Dragana. Very nice people who really appreciated us, and we appreciated in return.

Our stateroom steward didn't always succeed. I'll cut him some slack since he had no less than *seventeen* staterooms to make up, twice a day. Princess: can't you give him some help?

I enjoyed the talk with the ship's captain. Definitely a no-BS kind of guy, and one who really goes the extra mile to ensure the safety of his ship, crew and guests. Also, the first Canadian captain I've seen on a Princess ship; they are usually Italians and Brits.

I didn't think much of the Captain's Circle Host. Her office hours were pretty limited, which made me wonder what the heck she did the rest of the day. I disagree with the decision to not host a disembarkation lounge for Elites at the end of the cruise. While there were a lot of Elite and Platinum-level guests on board, I think Princess could have (and should have) tried to make something work. If you're Elite, you should be entitled to *everything* promised to you as a perk.

Shore Excursions: nothing for Hawaii; we've been there a lot. We used private companies for tours in Moorea and Bora Bora. The one Princess-arranged tour we took was in Tahiti, and it was a complete bust. The bus was late getting to the pier. The tour guide was nice but she provided only the most minimal information to the guests on the PA system. The stops on the tour, including the outstanding Museum of Tahiti, were far too short. By the time we arrived at the final stop, it was well after dark and people were stumbling around by the light of their cellphones. I will think twice before ever booking another Princess shore excursion.

Of the islands:

Moorea was my overall choice for favorite island. It seemingly rose out of the ocean with majestic crags and cliffs. It seemed to be the least touristy/commercial island.

American Samoa was green and lush with friendly people. The secret is to get yourself out of Pago Pago.

Bora Bora was pretty spectacular. The private 4x4 tour was quite informative and showed how the locals cope with a crush of 3,000 cruise ship passengers.

Tahiti was very French-cosmopolitan. Papeete is a modern French colonial city with a lot to offer.

Value for Money: overall, and despite the annoyances, the cruise was worthwhile because of the wide-ranging itinerary. I liked the sea days, and there were eight of them before arriving back in L.A. The size of the ship and the amount of guests kept this from being as enjoyable a cruise as I had hoped. I would be happy to sail the same itinerary again...but I would want it to be on a way-smaller ship.
Cyberchomp’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin ME D211
We were on Dolphin deck in a mini-suite. We wanted the lowest balcony cabin we could find in case there was rough weather. We also welcomed the extra space the mini-suite provided on this long cruise. The room was ready when we arrived, but it was a hasty job due to the late disembarkation. We were missing several towels, as well as ship's laundry bags. Our previously-ordered bathrobes had not yet arrived. The last guests left a pair of women's underwear behind the sofa. The window was extremely dirty - my wife had to negotiate with the room steward to clean off a little dirt. The partitions of the verandah were stained with bird crap; for some reason, this was never cleaned off for the duration of the cruise.

The bed was reasonably comfortable. The bathroom was clean and orderly, but a problem with the sink faucet meant we got hot water instead of cold.

A Dolphin deck balcony on this ship means you are always out in the open. The verandahs above you are tiered, meaning everyone can look down on you. There always seemed to be a lingering odor from smokers - some other guest may have been smoking nearby, or we were picking up the exhaust vent from the crew smoking area forward of us.
Dolphin Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • 4WD Island Tour
    I had a great tour from a local operator I booked online prior to the cruise. The 4WD tour took me all around the island, as well as to several scenic lookouts. WW2 buffs will appreciate the ride up a short, steep track to one of two large cannons hauled up a mountainside at the beginning of the war to protect the harbor (the U.S. used Bora Bora as a major supply depot but the guns never fired a shot in anger). What you will not see, except at a distance, are the major resorts of Bora Bora; they are almost all on the outer reef islands of the atoll surrounding the main island.
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  • Hilo
    The cruise terminal is a large warehouse with some tourist services. There are shuttles to downtown Hilo (it isn't worth it to walk) as well as Walmart and car rental services. The car rentals are almost all at the nearby Hilo airport. I rented a car to tour Hawaii Volcanos National Park, which was spectacular. I recommend a rental car over the ship's tour. Cars negotiate the Chain of Craters road in the park better than the tour buses. Whichever mode of transportation you take, bring an umbrella or rain parka. At certain times of the year, the park (which is located above 3,000 feet) can be cloudy and rain is definitely a possibility.
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  • Honolulu
    Cruise ships dock a short walk away from Aloha Tower and downtown Honolulu. If you want to go to Waikiki or Ala Moana mall, take a cab or The Bus.
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  • Kauai
    The ship seesaws its way into Nawiliwili Harbor, a challenge for any ship's captain. The cruise terminal is in a warehouse and there are shuttles outside for shoppers and rental cars. I've been here before, so I rented a car to bum around the island for a few hours. I think the Fern Grotto is worth a look (you can see it on your own or take the ship's tour) and I believe everyone should see Waimea Canyon at least once in their lives. The Canyon was socked in by clouds on this visit, however.
    View All 517 Kauai Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Los Angeles
    My embarkation/disembarkation port. Parking at the pier is $17 a day. I saved a little by using the "park and sail" option at a San Pedro hotel the night before. My car was still there after a 28-day cruise.

    Emerald Princess was the only ship in port that day. The terminal can feel really squeezed if embarkation moves slowly or not at all, as it did in my case. The shore staff did a poor job of announcing the delay and keeping us informed. The PA system could be heard by only a few people. The terminal should install, instead, electronic information boards to notify passengers.
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  • Maui
    Tender port. Tenders drop you in the heart of downtown Lahaina. A little too commercial for my tastes. I met up with friends and walked back to the tender pier. No excursions, because I've been here before.
    View All 589 Maui Cruise Port Reviews
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  • 4WD Excursion
    One of the best island tours I have ever experienced. Ron, my tour guide, was extremely knowledgeable in all matters of flora and fauna. He was a really safe driver, which helped when negotiating the track up Magic Mountain. Magic Mountain is definitely worth visiting; from its lookout, I could see my ship out in the bay. Ron had me back at the tender pier in plenty of time. The tour included Belvedere Lookout (a must-see, and a steep but easy drive), and the Fruit Juice Factory (worth a look if you like alcoholic and non-alcoholic products, but I did not take the tour there).
    View All 12 4WD Excursion Reviews
  • Pago Pago
    The entrance into Pago Pago harbor in American Samoa is one of the most beautiful in the world. After that...

    The ship's pier is on one side of the harbor. The tuna cannery is on the other. I had the port, and a noisy, smelly view of the container shipping yard.

    Tour possibilities were few and far between (the ship's excursion desk offered only four or five tours). I chose to walk around Pago Pago. You can do it in less than an hour.

    I did not experience the "$2 dollar beach". I did visit the Tauese Ocean Center for a presentation that was filled with cruise ship passengers but its electronic presentation was on the fritz that morning.

    Downtown Pago Pago is a mix of fairly modern buildings (most of them government) and older buildings dating back to the 1920s. On boat days, there will be kiosks selling clothing and souvenirs if you turn right when leaving the port and walk about a quarter-mile. Note that there are no major department stores or malls in American Samoa. Shoppers can visit the open-air Fagatogo Market, or one of the two local "supermarkets" a short walk from the pier.

    Keep in mind that if you choose to take public transit, the buses are fairly primitive and wooden benches are the rule and not the exception. They are not expensive and, being a U.S. territory, dollars are widely accepted. It is probably worth it to take a bus around the island and experience the lushness of this tropical island, as well as the National Park on the other side of the island from the city of Pago Pago.
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  • Island Tour
    I would give this tour a big fat "zero" if I could. The one Princess-arranged tour we took was in Tahiti, and it was a complete bust. The bus was late getting to the pier. The tour guide was nice but she provided only the most minimal information to the guests on the PA system. The stops on the tour, including the outstanding Museum of Tahiti, were far too short. By the time we arrived at the final stop, it was well after dark and people were stumbling around by the light of their cellphones. I will think twice before ever booking another Princess shore excursion.
    View All 40 Island Tour Reviews
  • Museum of Tahiti
    I highly recommend a visit to this museum. It gives a comprehensive history of the indigenous peoples of Polynesia. Wall-sized maps show where they live. Expansive exhibits show off their arts, culture and lifestyle. The museum has an extensive garden in back but this Princess Cruises tour gave us less than an hour to see the place; I did not get to experience the garden.
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