WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY Flying to Tahiti and Papeete
What a long day or was it two days? Started out at 1pm with a regional flight to Denver on Wednesday. Then Denver to LAX arriving at 4:30pm. Walked 8 minutes from terminal 7 to International terminal to find sleeping bodies with huge luggage scattered along walls of lobby. Some in chairs, most were on the floor. The departure ticketing gates do not open until just hours before the flights. So we found a spot in a secluded corner (around the elevators) away from crying children and snoring adults. There has got to be a better way! Air Tahiti Nui opened early (sign said 7:30pm). It was around 6:30pm when we re-checked the counters. The attendant was friendly and efficient. We were invited to the International Lounge on the 6th floor. We first ate at one of the many fast food places. $16 for a burger and salad. $12 for Chow Mein, chicken and vegs. Both were good. The International lounge had food (had we known), liquor, soda, snacks and comfortable chairs. We were in business class on the flight, so the seats reclined. Pillows, a thin comforter, and toiletries were provided.
8 hours later (Thursday 5am) we arrived to a singing group welcoming us to Papeete’s airport. After getting luggage and going through customs we were greeted by a smiley and friendly Princess rep. They took our luggage and informed us to be back in 3 hours for the excursion/transfer to the ship (7:30am). We sat in metal chairs and watched the sun come up. At 7am the bus loaded. I guess everyone was anxious to “get going”. The excursion tour of the island was very nice. Evon and Evette were our driver and tour guide. She was very funny. We drove to Jardin Botanical Garden, about 60 km and turned around. Evette pointed out every church, school, beach, fence or interesting building along the way. We stopped at the black sand beach, fern caves, waterfall, marae, and botanical garden. We then drove through a little bit of Papette downtown. A little bit is all you need to see.
Arriving at the boat the Princess staff directed us from station to station. The longest wait was to climb up the ramp onto the boat where your photo is taken for security.
We ate lunch at the Panoramic buffet. There was fish, scallops, pasta, salads, which were good. The ham was excellent along with the desserts. Drinks were served with a smile. We walked around Papeete to the Tourist Information building, the Market, The Viara. I bought a Vini Sim card for Internet and Phone Service. The only place I could use the Internet card was the post office with their computers. The phone card ended up being a SCAM. They lied to me. It could only be used with a local cell phone. RIP OFF! We found the people of the town cold and unfriendly. Even after I bought a few things, no one said thank you. The staff at the Toursist Bureau weren’t friendly either. IT was just four people sitting at the their desks. Didn’t talk to us. Didn’t ask if we had questions or needed assistance. Nothing, they just sat there. We found that weird. The pareos are from Indonesia, NOT Tahiti, and every store at the Market sold the same stuff. All crap from somewhere else. The craved wood was NOT local. Cheap t-shirts, lei necklaces, and not a great selection for NICE gifts. It was dusty, junky, and yucky. The streets were hard to walk on. Cracks, uneven pavement, changing levels that you could easily trip, dirty, and crowded. We couldn’t wait to get back on board the ship.
Our cabin steward, Chai, was friendly and gave us ice and fresh robes. Our shore excursion tickets were waiting for us also. Our bags arrived around 4pm. We unpacked, finding plenty of hangars and drawer/closet space. We ate dinner at the buffet. First thing I saw was a sweet pineapple drink – delicious. Chicago round of beef, great spinach, carrots, and potatoes, and papaya fish. Wonderful taramiso ice cream and mango cheesecake. We couldn’t wait to go to sleep.
We took the 4WD excursion to Papenoo Valley and Waterfall. We met at the end of the pier at 7:50am. That was much easier that wating to be called in the ship’s lounge. We wore swim suits under clothes and reef walkers (sandals). WE brought towels, hats, sun block, insect repellant. We left the dock on time with 6 passengers in the back of a covered truck. We drove through busy downtown Papeete, around the coast then turned inland. Beautiful valley of high rock walls with tiny waterfalls floating down to the river, which you drive along. We stopped to take photos a couple of times. Twice at larger waterfalls, an ancient marae, and a beautiful river, where we swam in the stream. A beautiful excursion.
We lunched with people we met on the excursion. The meat loaf was good. Again, a good selection of rice/Asian meals. There is always cheese and luncheon meat, fruits, three different pre-made sandwiches, 2 soups, 2 ice creams with toppings, custards, cookies.
Muster Station Drill was much more organized than other ships we have been on. The Captain even came on and gave us a safety talk. That was nice.
Dinner tonight at the buffet had pork roast. Great Asian noodles and fresh shrimp. The hazelnut mousse was good. But the dining room was very empty. 99% must go to the formal dining room. It is not our thing to sit around for 2 hours for a meal, so the buffet worked out great for us. They offer the same entrees as the dining room, so we aren’t missing anything. It was nice to sit by the window and watch Moorea pass by. It was very quiet and relaxing. The wait staff is very efficient, polite, and friendly.
We took our own excursion with Marc’s Moto Picnic. They could probably charge more; it was that good. We had a wonderful day. There were a couple of different tours going out from the pier with Marc’s. Marc and his assistants were organized and had it all under control. We were put on a smaller boat with 12 passengers, each with your own seat (with back). The first stop after a beautiful boat ride was to fairly shallow area about 50 feet from the shore. There were lots of hidden creatures swimming around coral heads in beautiful clear water. Next we toured a couple of lagoons on the way to a pearl farm in the middle of the bay. The tour was very interesting. We felt it could have been a quicker stop. We then did a drift snorkel. What a wonderful experience. Floating above the coral at about 1 knots. It felt much quicker! Just a short boat drive away was lunch on a beautiful tree lined beach. Right on the edge of the big, blue ocean, crashing over the protective reef. Lunch was prepared right in front of us. Tasty grilled striped marlin with Marc’s homemade tomato garlic salsa. Safron rice with raisins was my favorite. Grilled chicken, salad and plenty to drink. The local juice was fantastic. Dessert was local – I mean right there on that island local grown fruits. Watermelon, pineapple, sweet bananas, and cantelope. The entire lunch was cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful. BUT the best part was the flush toilets on this secluded island. There was even a fresh water shower to use after a day of snorkeling. That is a very nice touch! The entertainers sang the ENTIRE time we were there. They never took a break! It was a very enjoyable day!! It was a quick ten minute boat ride back to the pier to catch a tender back to the boat.
SUNDAY At Sea
Lagoon Snorkel Excursion. The BEST snorkel I have ever been on – NOT the prettiest, just the best. The coral is nothing to look at but the amount and variety of sealife was fantastic. We saw Trumpet fish, Surgeon fish, Queen Angel, black tip Reef Sharks, Triggerfish, Emperor Angelfish, Parrotfish, Unicornfish and numerousWrasses. Two sharks were swimming RIGHT at me, but then turned away at about 25-30 feet. It seemed much closer! WE probably saw about 10 to 15 sharks, mostly swimming right on top of the reef, in about 10-15 feet of water. My highlight was a 8 to 10 foot Yellow Margin Moray Eel free swimming through the coral heads. I followed it for about 2 minutes until it swam into a cavern in the bottom of the coral. About 12 inches of its tail was still hanging out. After the snorkel we boated out to see the dolphins catching waves and riding them into the pass. A very enjoyable experience.
Top Dive Rangiora
After taking a tender to the pier, Top Dive picks you up in a van and drives to their shop. It took about 5 minutes to get there. Finished the paperwork, got the equipment I needed, they gave us the dive profile for the first dive. They had all the equipment loaded in their boat. They handled all that themselves. There was one guide for 3 to 4 divers. We fell backwards out of the boat to start the dive. We dove the pass. We saw huge Blue Clams, schools of Moorish Idols, Triggerfish, Napolean Wrasses, Parrotfish, and a Turtle. When the dive was done, the Divemaster inflated a Dive Sausage and the Zodiak boat located us for pick up. Lunch was in a shack on the beach. My Divemaster said he’d be back at 2pm for the second dive. He never showed up. At 2pm a large French group got their dive briefing, got on the baot and left. So the guy who runs the place, Nicolas Barnard, says I missed the boat. Claudio never showed up. No one gave me a dive briefing. No one directed me to a boat. They called the boat back. The second dive went further out of the pass and east to Shark Wall. We saw dozens of sharks, schools of thousands of fish, eels, Moorish Idols. We dove the entire pass and came up on the other side of the island. For the second dive (after saying their was equipment on the boat) my BC was too small, there was not enough weight, and no regard for my personal dive profile. Diving is all about safety. They did not have my safety as a concern on this dive. I am not impressed with their organization or operation. The water was beautiful and the sea life fantastic, but will not dive with them again.
TUESDAY At Sea
Tahaa Drift Snorkel Excursion
This was WILD! Well organized at the pier (Terminal). There were two boats with 12 persons each. We drove for about 30 minutes to the pass. They anchored in about 12” of water in a sandy part of the area. We walked to the beach and then across the island to the starting point. It took about 5 minutes. Reef walkers or sandals are a MUST! You enter the water at the end of the path and put your fins on. The guide takes your reef walkers/sandals and puts them in a bag to float along with him. You enter one at a time about 10 feet apart from the person in front of you. And away you go. No need to paddle, the current takes you. You do need to steer, and follow the person in front of you as well as the deeper path in the pass. Those that didn’t follow the guide suffered the consequences with coral cuts on their knees, and I don’t know how, their elbows and arms.
By the time the current eases you are ready to get out. Some went and did it again. Some enjoyed the view and the warm water near the beach. The second time we did a different cut in the pass; a little further out. It was much better. The current wasn’t as strong and it was a little deeper. We gathered around a soft coral and watched “Nemo”, a clownfish swim with his family. Afterwards they served fresh fruit and cared for the wounded. This was a very nice excursion.
4WD Crater, Motus, Marae, Vanilla Plantation Excursion
We also did a 4WD Crater Excursion that afternoon. There was enough time to shower, change clothes, eat lunch between two excursions, but we walk fast. Cathy and her sister pick you up in their 4 WD vehicles. They were wonderful guides and their island is beautiful. We drove around the East side of the island and then through the center over hillsides and through rivers. The information on vanilla was amazing! The most sacred marae in Tahiti was nice to see. What history and a beautiful spot. They had local fruit for us to try. Along the way Cathy spotted fresh pineapple ready to eat. She shared one with us at the marae stop too. It was the best pineapple we had ever had (even better than Hawaii’s!). There was also local papaya, bananas, and mango. All fantastic! There was fresh, chilled coconuts and vanilla for purchase. They were GREAT hostesses!
THURSDAY Bora Bora Day 1
We rented a EuroCar to drive around the island. What was supposed to be leisurely drive turned out to be a dangerous vehicle rental that ended in 1 hours time. The seatbelt/harness in the Bugster couldn’t be adjusted. The mirrors did not stay in place to be able to see behind you. We tried to return it but no one was at the rental shack. We tried later in the afternoon and were told to come back one more time as the two people at the shack just stared at us. By 2pm we finally got to talk with someone, who told us there was nothing he could do except rent us another POS car. There was no time to use the car so we asked for a partial credit, as we did not use it the entire day. He was rude and said he already had our payment. We are taking it up with our credit card.
FRIDAY Bora Bora 2nd day
Snorkel and Stingray Excursion
We took the morning excursion with Moana Adventures. The catamaran is large with bench seats facing forward. There were large stairs to get in and out of the water. What a special place. It really isn’t a snorkel at the stingray location. YOU STAND up in 2 to 4 feet of water just wearing your reefwalkers/sandals in a sandy reef about 30 minutes from shore. A couple boats were already there feeding the rays and sharks. It was a fairly windy day so the waves would hit you if you weren’t watching. But it is such a unique experience to be able to touch the stingrays and view a shark within a few feet from where you stand. The barbs have been removed from the rays. The stingrays arrive immediately and stuck around the entire hour we were there. You could touch, kiss, swim with, take pictures with and pictures of the sea life as close as you wanted to get. At one point I counted 10 rays in one spot. It was amazing! The second snorkel stop was called Coral Garden. We were about a quarter mile from the fringing reef with huge waves constantly crashing over. The current was strong and seas choppy so I declined going in, but people said it was beautiful. On board the Captain served delicious local juices. (Later on Moorea we will visit the plantation where it is processed) A must see adventure!!
Top Dive Bora Bora
Top Dive was on time for pick up. There were a couple people from the boat that went with them. Everything was ready to go on the boat. There were 2 Divemasters for 5 divers. We were surprised there were no depth gauges. The Divemasters were very professional and friendly. They switched the BC’s on the boat for the second dive. The boats were well designed but tight with 10 divers. Spectacular sea life. Jurald was good about checking you air gauge under water.
Dr. Poole’s Whale Watch and Dolphin Cruise
The PhD was arrogant, but the Captain and Spotter were terrific! We went out beyond the barrier reef and right away spotted a baby whale (or as I was corrected a calf) and its mother. The mother surfaced in 12 to 15 minute intervals as she was resting. It was very exciting! At one point Michael Poole stood in front of me. I tapped him on the back and said I was a paying customer and could he please sit down. One side of the boat is supposed to sit while the other side can stand. He informed me that he paid plenty and would not. What they heck does that mean? When the other whale surfaced VERY CLOSE to the back of the boat he ran back and got in front of everyone’s photo, so he could get take a picture. So most in the boat saw his back, not the whale. Most questions were answered after he made sure that you knew your question was stupid. He ate an apple in front of everyone as he talked on our way out of the bay. (I felt that was rude) He did go row by row and asked where you were from. That was nice, BUT, he then proceeded to have a comment about each home town. Like, how he’s been there, who he knows, and sometimes strange comments like Is there a highway that goes through San Antonio? I guess he is trying to be more friendly or warm. He came off as weird and not comfortable around people. Why not just say, Welcome, Glad you’re here. We don’t need to be impressed that you know important people around the world. We went into calmer waters of the bay. We never saw, and they tried hard, to spot any dolphins. We stopped in the middle of Cook’s Bay and took photos of anyone who wanted a terrific background to a group shot. It was very scenic. The whales are worth it, you just need to tune out the egomaniacal PhD.
The boat left Moorea around 5pm and arrived Papeete at 7:30pm. Some disembarked that evening for late night flights. We disembarked, on our own at 7am, caught a ferry back to Moorea for a 5 night stay at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort. It has a 5 star location, but is a 3.5 star hotel. Would NOT recommend that hotel to anyone.
GENERAL Boat Comments
We liked the smaller boat. Nothing was really missing, except less walking to and from. It took us half the time to get on and around the boat compared to the Sapphire or Ruby Princess. It didn’t sway any differently and we were in some high winds and swells for some crossing. The boat ran on time. We arrived when we were suppose, shows started on time, etc. The entire Pacific Princess staff was friendly and helpful. They always greeted us in the halls or back on the boat was met with a “welcome back” or “Did you enjoy your day?” I would like to see in the safety drill (when all are present) a lesson on how to close your stateroom door without slamming. Hard to believe your neighbors can’t figure out how to hold the door and pull it shut so it doesn’t SLAM shut.
We would also like to see a larger TV and more selection of channels. The Love Boat all day? Really? Remember to fill out the recognition forms to recognize a crew member.
Everyone are nice, but some more than others. It means something to them.
We had no complaint with the food. Even on theme night; if you didn’t want any of the German entrees they would have 2 fish dishes, seafood, and you could always get cheeses, salad, pizza or go to the BBQ grill for hamburgers, bratz, or hot dogs with fries. You never left hungry. My favorite foods were the chilled papaya and apple cider cream soup and the cream cheese brownies. For lunch there was always cheese, luncheon meats, multiple cold salads, pre-made sandwiches, jello, as well as warm vegs, meat and fish, pasta made to order, 2 hot soups,, rolls galore, at least 6 cakes, puddings, tarts and 2 flavored ice creams of the day. The staff was ALWAYS friendly, helpful and courteous.
Internet: I bought a 100 minute package ($69) from the boat as none of our devices worked. No real free Wi-Fi, the Vini cards I bought were a rip off, etc. I wouldn’t complain about the SLOW speed until I noticed it took more than 2 minutes to get connected to my Gmail account, and I type fast. That’s 20 minutes in a 10 day cruise that I did not get minutes I paid for. The Internet Manager on the boat said that the Tahiti cruises get twice as many signing up for an Internet package than any other itinerary. It’s the only thing that worked. So be wary of how may minutes you might need and how many just to connect. The Internet room always had plenty of computers available. You CAN connect from your stateroom, or most places on the boat. I just felt I could type faster with a keyboard then from my cell phone.
The stateroom was clean and never felt cramped. There was plenty of closet space, hangars, drawers and shelves for our stuff for the 10 days. The shower and toiletries were adequate.
Shows: We did not frequent the night shows. The culinary presentation with the Chefs was good. The tour of the kitchen was amazing. I couldn’t believe how clean the entire kitchen was. They serve 3,000 meals a day. Amazing! I did go to BINGO a couple times. The final $1,500 prize money was hard to resist. We found they start on time and are organized.
The Captain was on hand. We saw him just about every day. His afternoon briefings were fun to listen to. His sense of humor… priceless! It sounds like he loves what he does and cares about every passenger’s safety.
Photos: We would have bought more photos but the backgrounds (in the ports) weren’t as nice as they could have been. We didn’t want people behind us, where they could have been a spectacular view of the islands.
We really had a great time on the cruise! Read Less