Trip report 7/30/16 Cook & Society Islands 11 day Cruise

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#41
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Breakfast on our balcony again. Ordered for 730-8. Arrived about 735. They brought coffee even though we didn't order it.

The tender today was VERY rough getting on and off. Bouncing all over the place. They had 3 or 4 people to help you. They had to continually maneuver the tender to try to keep it close to the ship platform. When it was close enough you took a quick hop to get on. Might be really tough for people with disabilities or elderly. Though they did a good job of helping. It was the same the next day too. Then for the remainder of the cruise it was smoother.

We had booked a private excursion with Teking Tours -- I want to say it was amazing -- and it was! But there were some problems. This was a tour that was highly recommended on CC and Trip Advisor.

http://www.tekingtours.com/our-tours/


We did the Snorkeling Safari Cruise, a 7 hour tour which includes 3 snorkels, four motus, and lunch. It cost NZ $125 per person, paid in advance. At the time we booked that came to $89 per person in US dollars (this will vary depending on the exchange rate at the time you book).

First, the good stuff. There were three opportunities to snorkel, each one more amazing than the last. Impossibly blue clear water with a huge variety of fish, giant clams, purple coral, blue starfish. I think this was the most amazing snorkeling of our entire trip, and is just not to be missed.

We stopped at Honeymoon Island which must be the true definition of tropical paradise. Beautiful white sand, blue water, and practically deserted. Several people kite surfing, but other than that it was completely uncrowded.





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#42
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
There was an excellent Polynesian BBQ lunch: BBQ fish and chicken and delicious grilled bananas, grilled eggplant, curried potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, papaya, some fruit I have no idea what it was, tossed green salad. It was a deserted private island, I felt like we were on Gilligan's Island. There were picnic tables set up in a clearing on the island. The food was presented beautifully in dishes woven from palm leaves.

Somehow I failed to get a picture of our lunch spread, but here are our two little boats moored at the deserted island where we ate.



Here are some photos from our snorkeling stops:







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#43
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Then, on to One Foot Island which was just amazingly beautiful. No words to describe it, and my pictures cannot possibly do it justice. Truly a paradise.

Your passport is held by the ship, but for this tour they allowed us to pick it up so we could have it stamped at One Foot Island. I thought there would be some sort of, well.... something. I'm not sure what I thougt when I heard we should bring our passports to be stamped. But it turned out it was just our skipper Teking, with a rubber stamp and ink pad. It's a cool stamp in our passport though! We were the only people on the island! We had to return our passport to reception when we got back on board.





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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#44
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
So the tour was just incredible, but it wasn't perfect.

During our second snorkeling stop I suffered a jellyfish sting. Never saw what got me. But boy, it got my attenion! Felt like a hot poker being laid on my skin. I was stung severely on my arm and down my leg. I swam back to boat hoping Teking would have some experience with this sort of thing, maybe even a first aid kit with aloe or something. Given his line of work, I didn't think it was too outlandish to expect that he might have some idea what to do for this.

Instead, he told me repeatedly to calm down. I was perfectly calm, just hoping he had some suggestion for dealing with the problem. He said "calm down!" I said, "I'm ok, just want to know..." Him: "calm down!!" Me, "I'm fine, but do you have..." Him, "calm down!" What he really wanted was for me to stop talking. I am not a hysterical type, and "calming down" was not the issue. His admonition was extremely irritating and certainly not helping the situation.

Then, he actually told me, "s**t happens."

Ok, I know that. But really, I just wanted to know if he had any suggestions for what to do about the sting. It was quite painful and continuing to sting and burn very severely, with large red welps rising up on my skin. He had no suggestions. I thought his "s**t happens" comment was thoroughly unprofessional. Of course the jellyfish sting could not be prevented, but I thought he could definitely have had a better response.

He said it was a blue bottlefish that got me.
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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#45
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Another issue: Teking required a prayer at lunch. On another tour, the guide also said that saying grace was traditional, and that guide did offer a brief prayer. Here on our tour with Teking, however, it was handled a little differently. Teking asked for a volunteer to say a prayer. He said if no one volunteered, he would choose someone. This is exactly what happened.

No one volunteered, a long uncomfortable silence ensued, and then Teking called one of the men by name, asked him to stand, and demanded he say a prayer. I thought this was very awkward and so unpleasant for the poor young honeymooner who was called upon. This is not a religious tour. If Teking wants to say grace, I have no problem having a moment of thanks, but it was very awkward for him to demand that one of his clients lead a group prayer.

Also, aside from a thermos of water at lunch, there was no water or any other beverage offered during this 7 hour tour -- except for beer, at a price of $6 each. But our guide made jokes about the price, "charge it to my room," "the bar is open" etc. So we weren't sure if the beer was included or not, it sounded like he was making a joke about it. Several of us on the tour were confused about this. Turns out it was no joke. This was the only beverage of any kind available -- alcoholic or otherwise -- and it was in fact $6 a bottle. Cash only, and he couldn't make change.

Really, he could charge just a few dollars more for each person and that would easily cover his cost to have an ice chest with sodas and water on board. To have no water at all, except for a thermos at lunch, seems cheap. Every other full-day tour we went on offered a wide variety of beverages included in the cost of the tour.

I know I'm making it sound awful, but despite all this, the snorkeling and the motus were just amazing beyond belief. I really, really loved the tour and want to say good things about Teking, but have to make note of these issues.

In spite of everything, this was one of my favorite days of our cruise. Lunch on our secluded motu was wonderful. The snorkeling was absolutely incredible. We had a small group (another reason I love to book private tours. No huge tour bus here!). We had I think 9 people on our boat. There was another small boat with us with a few more people.

The tour just can't be beat. I still recommend it in spite of the problems. But definitely take at least 2 bottles of water with you (one for the morning and one for the afternoon), and prepare a prayer in case you are the unfortunate one who is called upon!!
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Carnival Breeze June 2012-- 12 day Mediterranean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1683745
Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#46
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
We returned to the ship later than scheduled, showered and dressed for dinner. We went to the casino briefly while waiting for time to go to dinner. We had a reservation at Le Grill for 730. The casino is adjacent to the piano bar, where they were serving little bite sized canapes which were very good. They served pre-dinner canapes every night, different selections, while Alex played piano. And of course you can get almost any drink you want. Here is the bar menu:









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#47
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Finally, we went to dinner at Le Grill. This was our first dinner here. It was a little loud. Lots of engine noise or something. Very fast service. Pumpkin bisque was delicious. Very good peanut dressing on the wedge salad. There is always a bread basket at every meal, with a variety of breads, always excellent. I asked, and they said the breads were baked fresh on board. Egg roll (nam) was super. I had a steak. Paul's papaya dessert was outstanding. One of the best things he ate the whole trip!


We never got around to making a second dinner reservation in Le Grill. It was noisy, and sometimes warm. As previously noted, we liked La Veranda best for breakfast and lunch, and we ate most dinners in L'Etoile. We were told that like La Veranda, Le Grill would serve the same menu every night for a week, then switch to a second menu for the remainder of the cruise.




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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#48
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Here's what we ate that night:

Vegetable nam


Wedge salad


Crab cakes


New York Strip




Five spice chocolate fondant (molten center chocolate cake) -- this was to die for!





Papaya cake. Paul said it didn't look very impressive, but was one of the best things he at the whole trip.





The desserts were so good, I think I would have to order both if I went back again. I don't think you can choose!


After dinner we saw the magician Gustavo Vierini in the Grand Salon. Loved his show! He is very talented and funny. Make sure to go to his show. Coincidentally, his cabin was on our hallway. We would pass him in the hall from time to time, and saw him often at lunch or dinner socializing with other passengers.



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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#49
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Rarotonga

We booked a lagoon cruise through Koka Lagoon Cruises. The first half of the cruise was identical to one you can book through PG, but we had some extras.

http://www.kokalagooncruises.com/cruises.htm


First, the drawback of using an outside provider: The PG passengers had a big bus waiting when they got off the tender. They loaded up quickly and off they went.

We had a lonely 20 mintue wait, until the appointed meeting time (we were a few minutes early, and they were a few minutes late.). A nice local lady used her cell phone to call the company and make sure they were coming for us. They soon arrived. Then we spent 45 minutes driving the long way around the island picking up other passengers. We finally made it to Muri beach an hour and half after we left the ship. So this is a drawback as opposed to using the ship tour, where you have a comfortable, air conditioned tour bus taking you directly to your destination. On the other hand, we had time to chat with the driver and see some of the island. I liked the drive.

We finally got to the beach. We checked in and were issued snorkel gear. We knew that snorkel gear was included on this tour, so we did not bother carrying our gear from the ship. Then we loaded onto 2 boats with about 30 or 40 other passengers on each one. It was very touristy but still fun. The crew were great and enthusiastically played drums and ukuleles as we motored through the lagoon.

Heading toward our snorkeling site, we passed a boat identical to ours, with people we recognized from the PG who were ahead of us on the tour. They had been on that tour bus that we saw leaving the pier. They snorkeled first. They were leaving just as we were arriving at the snorkel area.

The snorkeling paled in comparison to yesterday but we still enjoyed it. We were going against a bit of a current part of the time, which made the swimming slightly more difficult than on our last 2 excursions, but still do-able. Not too difficult.

Some older people stayed on the boat and did not snorkel. This is a good excursion for people who don't want to swim, because you still can enjoy the glass bottom boat followed by the cultural show.







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#50
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
After snorkeling, we got back on the boat and headed to a motu where we caught up with the PG tour again, they were leaving just as we were arriving. So our tours went to exactly the same places. I don't think the PG tour included lunch. It is not mentioned on the PG description of the tour. The people we saw on the PG tour were just leaving an area of picnic tables in the full sun. We were in a shaded area where we had a marvelous lunch on the motu, included in our tour: grilled fish and sausage, green salad, cole slaw, rice, bread, fresh grated coconut, papaya, star fruit, bananas, more fruits that I can't even remember.

You may have noticed that this is the third motu picnic we have had. Each one was marvelous. It's a totally different experience from the lunch you can get on board the PG. These motu picnics seemed more like authentic island food and were a highlight of our vacation.

Then we had a fabulous show with coconut tree climbing, coconut cracking, singing, pareo tying. The crew sang, played ukuleles and drums, and were just very enthusiastic. Good music. the guy who did the main show was very funny. The show really was very fun and definitely worthwhile.










I loved this sight of a dog on a stand-up paddleboard coming across the water with his master!




Like other places, there were lots of dogs everywhere. We saw one who apparently swam over to the motu where we had our picnic. When we all got on our boat and left the motu, the dog left too. We watched him swim several hundred yards to get back to the main island!




Here's a video of the guys playing music:





I don't think the PG tour included a show like this. The PG website offers a Muri Lagoon glass bottom boat cruise with snorkeling for $115, but does not mention the show or lunch.

Our cruise including everything the PG tour did, plus a polynesian lunch and show, cost NZ$79 per person, which translated to $54 each. This was the cheapest of allour tours and was a lot of fun.

As with our other tours, we got back to the PG much later than expected. We were scheduled to end around 1:30, but it was more like 3:30 when we got back to the pier.

After lunch and the show, we boarded our boats to return from our motu to Muri Beach and transfer back to the ship. It was already mid afternoon by this time. Our drive back to the ship luckily took the shorter route around the island this time, but then we still had to take the tender... we had thought we might be back on board in time for a nice long nap, but it didn't turn out that way.
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#52
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Dinner in main dining room, L'Etoile. We were seated immediately. We never had a wait to be seated in L'etoile, altough as already mentioned we sometimes could not get a table with others. The dining room got a little busy but was never full. We went around 7pm. Mango soup was very sweet, just tasted like pureed mango but nothing special. Chicken cordon bleu very good. Portion sizes are just about perfect. Not too big, but enough to satisfy. In the US, we have gotten used to restaurants providing larger and larger portion sizes -- sometimes enough to feed two or even three people! You aren't going to get those kinds of portions here, but you will certainly have enough food to be satisfied and you will never go hungry!

For dessert, I had sorbet with fruit because I wanted something light. The sorbet was very good, but I should have gotten the macadamia chocolate tart that Paul had. It was decadent.

Here is tonight's menu in L'Etoile







I'm sorry I almost always forgot to take a photo of the dessert menu, but here is the one from tonight:

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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#53
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
For those of you who like to see the food, here are a bunch of pictures from tonight's dinner in L'Etoile


Calamari



Rustic Garden Salad



Classic vitello tonnato



Red snapper with almond crust

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#54
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Chicken cordon bleu



Macadamia tart



Petit fours

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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#55
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
We never ordered the pasta course. I guess I just felt that it was too heavy with all the other courses that were available. On second thought, maybe I did get ravioli one time. I noticed that occasionally someone would order the pasta as a main course and would be served a larger portion size.

We also just discovered that they have peanuts and potato chips available at the pool bar. A fellow cruiser tipped us off to this. I'm not sure if these snacks are at all the bars. But you can get a bowl from the pool bar if you are having a snack craving.

I don't remember what day, but we did once order room service lunch. We also ordered drinks from room service several times, usually a late night glass
of wine to enjoy on our balcony before bed. Room service was always very fast. Here is the menu:

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Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#56
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
There was no show tonight, only a movie in the Grand Salon. They were showing Bounty with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. We weren't into that, so after dinner we went to the casino for awhile. We never once saw the roulette table in use. Usually no more than a couple of people playing slots. The blackjack table is often in use. We see one person we met at dinner early in the cruise, Ferddie, playing blackjack almost every time we go by there. I'm pretty sure this was the only night when there was no live show of some kind in the Grand Salon.

(By the way, if anyone who was on the cruise with us knows how to contact Ferddie, let me know. I have some great photos of him and his wife Beverly up on stage during Polynesian night. They were a nice couple from Fort Lauderdale.)

We went upstairs to La Palette and danced for a few minutes, they were playing ABBA tunes. Then we called it a night. We asked the bartender in La Palette if it ever was busy with people partying late at night. He said no, almost never. I think that like us, most people were just worn out after a full day of sightseeing and eating multi-course meals. And the unlimited drinks probably contribute to people fading early, too!
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#57
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
We slept late as it was a sea day. Breakfast is available until 10 in La Veranda, we made it down there by 930. As usual everything was very good. Wide selection. The buffet included some kind of rice noodle with vegetables dish, unusual to see at breakfast, very good. They also have a menu which you can order from if you want a breakfast steak, lamb chop, eggs benedict, etc. Paul really liked the eggs benedict.

After that, we went to La Palette and made rings, bracelets and fan with Les Gauguines. Went to Eddowes lecture for a little while but didn't stay for all of it.

Lunch: Italian day in La Veranda. It was too windy today to sit outside. As at breakfast, there is a set menu that you can order from at lunch if you don't want the buffet. Here it is:



(I hope I'm keeping all these menus straight. I think I am, but I have a lot of photos of menus!!)


------------------------------------

Slow afternoon. We napped, and played a little in the casino. Paul joined a blackjack tournament. The way it works is each player pays $50, gets $100 in chips. Fifteen hands are played. The player with most chips at the end wins all, minus 10% house cut. They had said 5 are needed to make the tournament, but only 3 showed up. They went ahead and did the tournament anyway, so winner got $135. Paul came in second. Obviously the more players who sign up, the bigger the pot. But the casino was just not busy on this cruise. Another blackjack and a roulette tournament sign-up later in the cruise failed to garner enough takers.

Supper: we ate with 3 other couples in L'Etoile, one of whom was on the Teking excursion with us. Salad with grapes and cashews was exceptionally good. Also the onion tart and tangerine chicken were delicious. Cold soup was again just OK. That's just me. No matter how many times I try them, I just have never been able to become a fan of cold soups. But everything else was excellent.

Here is the menu for L'Etoile tonight:





Our waiter tonight, everyone agreed, was a just a bit surly. The only time this has ever been the case anywhere on the ship. It took awhile for dirty plates to be removed after entrees were done. But still not a problem. Everything was nice.
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#58
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
One of the bar waiters earlier had told me that La Veranda and Le Grill both switched to new menus tonight. Only L'Etoile has a new menu every night.

Here is the new menu for Le Grill






And for La Veranda:




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Carnival Triumph Jan. 2013 -- 4 day Western Caribbean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1773312
Carnival Breeze June 2012-- 12 day Mediterranean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1683745
Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#59
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
Tonight's show was OK. The band played beforehand, but nothing we wanted to dance to. The show was the cruise director singing Rodgers and Hart show tunes. He is good but the music is dated. It wasn't bad at all, but I talked to a few other folks who agreed with us that some more contemporary music would be a good change. The show lasted about 30-45 minutes. Around 45 minutes seemed to be the norm for almost all of the evening shows.

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Laundry service

We have sent out 2 bags of laundry. It is picked up in the morning and back by that afternoon. Everything pressed very nicely. My clothes look better than they ever do at home! It cost $189 for our 11 day cruise. You just fill out the form and put it in the provided laundry bag with your clothes. Hang the bag from your doorknob early in the morning or before you go to bed at night. Here's the price list in case you want to just do it per piece, instead of buying the package. For a shorter cruise I would have probably not bought the package, but we were away from home for a total of 14 days. That's a lot of dirty laundry! So the package deal was convenient for us.




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Almost always there is paperwork in our door. There is always the next day schedule, breakfast room service menus, excursion info, reminders about reservations, etc. I'm saving everything to help me write this trip report, and I'm accumulating quite a stack of papers!

Two days ago, it was a request for disembarkation info -- seemed awfully early for that! They wanted to know flight info and how many suitcases we will have. I was surprised to have this coming so early. I filled it in quickly without much thought as we were on our way to other activites. My mistake.

Pay attention to this disembarkation form when you recieve it. I don't remember it, but apparently it must have asked about what we wanted to do on the day we had to leave the ship. I'll come back to this topic later.

But today, the info in our door is info about passport control as we re-enter French Polynesia tomorrow. It says all passengers must present themselves in the morning to immigration in the Grand Salon starting at 0745. It says no one can get off the ship until all passengers have completed this process. Our passports will be returned to us at this time.

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Celebrity Millennium June 2017-- 7 day Alaska review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2524587
Paul Gauguin July 2016-- 11 day French Polynesia review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2394603
Carnival Triumph Jan. 2013 -- 4 day Western Caribbean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1773312
Carnival Breeze June 2012-- 12 day Mediterranean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1683745
Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean



#60
San Antonio TX
1,042 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
I don't know how paradise can just keep getting better, but today in Bora Bora was unbelievable. We took a full day tour using the tour company Maohi Nui which included 4x4 land tour, lunch, lagoon tour, and more. It was amazing!!


http://www.maohinui.net/en/


First, we were picked up by our guide, Arii, immediately upon disembarking the tender. There were six of us (my husband and I, plus the two couples we knew from our roll call and with whom we have done other tours). We piled into a 4 wheel drive vehicle and Arii took us on an unbelievable drive up the mountain over impossibly rough, deeply rutted roads. We would never have been able to do this on our own! The drive was thrilling-- but it is rough so if you aren't up to a bouncy ride, this probably isn't for you.

I'm not sure how well you can see the road or if you can tell how rough it was, and this wasn't even the worst of it! I'm glad Arii was driving and not me!



Arii took us to see some WWII cannons and some beautiful scenic overlooks, each one more beautiful than the last. He allowed us plenty of time for photo ops, and pointed out all kinds of plants and native fruits.





You can climb on the cannon and even scoot out to the end for a photo if you dare!





Here's our ship in the background






Here are some local people selling fish on the roadside. Arii told us what kind of fish they were but now I've forgotten.







We even stopped to feed some crabs! Arii had pulled over to pull some leaves from a tree, and then we stopped near a beach where there were lots of crab holes. After we pulled in, we waited quietly for just a few moments, and then many crabs started coming out of their holes to retrieve the leaves which Arii had tossed to them. It was cool to watch! Here's a video of them. Click the photo.





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Celebrity Millennium June 2017-- 7 day Alaska review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2524587
Paul Gauguin July 2016-- 11 day French Polynesia review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2394603
Carnival Triumph Jan. 2013 -- 4 day Western Caribbean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1773312
Carnival Breeze June 2012-- 12 day Mediterranean review here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1683745
Carnival Ecstasy January 2011 -- 4 day Western Caribbean