This was my 6th cruise on everything from a converted fishing trawler to a mega ship. We chose this cruise because we wished to visit a variety of South Pacific islands (Cook and Society). I'd give the cruise a B+ and our overall ... Read More
This was my 6th cruise on everything from a converted fishing trawler to a mega ship. We chose this cruise because we wished to visit a variety of South Pacific islands (Cook and Society). I'd give the cruise a B+ and our overall vacation an A. The pros include: 1) ports, 2) ease of access, 3) size of ship/number of passengers, 4) quality of food, 5) cabins, 6) excursions. The cons include: 1) mediocre service especially in restaurants, 2) entertainment, 3) tender schedule, 4) poor communication.
Our window cabin felt relatively spacious (438) and was very quiet. Full bathroom and lots of storage. I wished we could have controlled how many lights were on at a given time. Beds were narrow but very comfortable. We did "separate" beds, which meant there was a sliver of space between the two. There was a small loveseat, which in this room is an extra bed.
Ports we visited were really enjoyable though we heard that the last two ships had not been able to tender at Aitutaki because the water was too rough. That would have been a disappointment. Also, we were told that you don't want to book these cruises during cyclone season Dec-Feb.
Except for Tahiti we tendered everyone. Mostly very short tender rides (starting at 8:30) but the schedule is once every 30 minutes in each direction not matter how close we were, and sometimes that was 2-3 minutes away. If you just miss a tender or want to be able to run back to the ship you end up with a lot of time killed.
Our ship was about 2/3 of the 330 capacity. It felt busy enough up on deck. Chairs would be taken so I don't know where another 100+ would fit. And because of the relatively smallness of the ship and the multiple uses outside areas are put to, the chairs around the pool deck would start "disappearing" well before sunset as the area was readied for the next event. I found that annoying. Maybe I'd like to lounge at 4:30 or 5:00 and not have the place packed up around me.
Food was good overall. We thought many of the lunch offerings were excellent. Breakfast was the weakest offering. Dinners had good choices and different menus across the three dining rooms. But acquiring the necessary reservations in two of the restaurants was a challenge between their hours and some other mystical force. Most nights if we inquired about the availability of last-minute reservations we were told "all booked up." Meanwhile, we'd peer into the windows of the restaurant throughout the evening to see myriad empty tables. And mind you, the ship was only 2/3 full. My husband was convinced the Maitre D liked it that way.
Restaurant service was a whole other story. It sucked to put it bluntly. Just about no one learned our name or preferences over 11 days. During breakfast and lunch buffets good luck getting someone to offer you anything from coffee to water to taking an actual order. One morning I nearly got into a fight with a server who cleared my still-full coffee mug from the table and refused to give it back. One night, after 20 minutes had passed and no one had offered me wine, I had to resort to flailing my arms. And the alcohol may be "free" but I did not have one decent glass of wine (and there are many other choices than the two bottles of the night they highlight, which I didn't learn until almost the end of the cruise). If you order one of something, expect that two will arrive. And even if you don't order something, it may appear because you asked about it. And during dinner service the waitstaff would deliver your food and never, ever check back with you to see if it were to your liking or if you needed something else.
The entertainment was passable. The piano player couldn't carry a tune and played a non-dynamic range. The magician was decent. The onboard Gauguines are cute to watch for a show or two but after that they got a bit monotonous. The best entertainment was the last night when an award-winning troupe came aboard. There were assorted activities such as craft projects and cultural talks to attend but most of these were scheduled just as excursions started. A number of passengers expressed frustration about there not being more offerings later in the afternoon as people returned to the ship.
There are a wide range of high quality excursions to choose from and in many cases the vendors are the same as you would book independently. Pricing was decent. We booked some PG excursions, some on our own, and rented cars on some islands (taxis are expensive and often few and far between). We received contradictory information about excursion length (which according to cruise staff includes tendering time). A hike we booked on Moorea was listed as 4 hours one place, 5 another, and in the end was more like 6 (which caused us to nearly miss lunch - that's a whole 'nother story and yet another example of unaccommodating dining room staff). They are accommodating when it comes to rescheduling and cancelling excursions.
There is a decently-equipped gym. Unfortunately, you couldn't walk the upper deck before 8:30 a or in the evening. We had to be creative in going for onboard walks. There is a steam room you can access by reservation in the spa. I managed laps in the postage-stamp sized swimming pool. The advertised onboard marina was a disappointment. Only once, in Huahine, were we able to use paddle board and kayaks. That was it from the ship.
Embarkation and disembarkation are really straightforward. We arranged our own transfers and hotel, which I think made for a more pleasant experience on the last day. You can use your room until 9:30. We left the ship at 10 for a full day at the Intercontinental. Passengers being transferred by PG had to mark time on the ship until 3 when they were transferred.
A lot of what I'm sharing wasn't readily communicated. One example of poor communication was that one evening we were told everyone would have to present themselves for customs in the Grande Salon when we arrived back into French Polynesia the next morning before they could get off the ship. What they failed to mention was that the entire ship would get a 7:45 a wake-up announcement and that your cabin phone would start ringing at 8 a if you hadn't shown up. I don't know why they made it sound like you could do this at your leisure rather than first thing in the morning. I don't appreciate being awakened while on vacation.
I'm happy to answer questions offline: cambiare2011 at gmail. Read Less