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caneable

10 days in October - very long review coming up

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We joined the Royal Princess after spending 5 weeks around South California. We're a 60 something couple for whom cruising is the destination rather than the ship, although obviously the ship plays a fairly big part. I've reviewed the ship in the member review section and won't post that again here, although you'll pick up a flavour of the reasons for our views along the way. We were celebrating our 35th Wedding Anniversary on the cruise and were determined to do it style. I reckon we did that thanks to 6 magnificent islands and about 40 brilliant people on the Cruise Critic Roll Call for 16 Oct. If you're new to this cruising business you could do a lot worse than sign up for your roll call right now and get involved. There are some great people there!

OK here we go!

Day one

Up early, breakfast, tidy and away. Fairly straightforward drive down the highway to La from Palm Springs took us about 2 hrs 20 mins. Dollar well organised for the car rental return and we were on the shuttle bus in no time and into the airport.

LAX check in fine and nice seating area with tables so we could sit and eat lunch. Didn’t realise rules for Duty Free so screwed up. Basically you buy in the shop before security , then the shop transfer it up to the gate and distribute it there as you depart. We’ll know next time but that’s probably stomped on the G&Ts!

Air Tahiti Nui turned out to be a mixed bag. Food was very good although service was weak. No pre dinner drinks and very thin plastic containers. Could have been the spicy food but the Chardonnay was poor (and I mean by airline standards). The spicy salad was quite hot but the bbq tilapia was quite mild so balanced each other out and both were very enjoyable as was the chocolate mousse dessert. The entertainment was also poor but then again, when isn’t it if we’re not on Emirates! As a consequence it didn’t matter that the remote was dodgy, though it proved a problem for others experiencing similar problems nearby. The cabin staff were obliging enough but you did need to seek them out. Seat pitch wasn’t great and once people in front leaned back eating became a challenge.

Papeete airport was very good. Plenty of staff around and we were through the terminal and into a taxi inside 30 mins. The exchange booth was manned by a cheerless individual. The guy just thrust some forms at me and pointed at a pen. So I just refused to sign anything until he took the trouble to speak. You make your own mind up who the surly so and so was! After all that only got 12760 for £100 when I’d expected over 13000, it was only later that i realised that wasn’t such a big deal!

From that point on our contact with the Tahitians changed considerably. Taxi drivers, front of house and bell boys were all very friendly and helpful. Perhaps the change guy has only just got here from France!! We were staying at the Radisson Plaza both before and after the cruise so I’ll reserve comment on the hotel until then. However, suffice to say we were very pleased with our well appointed room which incorporates a large a balcony to the seafront. Hopefully we’ll fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping on the nearby shore.

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Thanks for starting your review. Looking forward to the next chapter. We love reading about the SP islands.

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Well we certainly heard the waves in the night! Admittedly not as loud as me colliding with the furniture on the midnight hike! Awake just before 6 and light already flooding in. There were groups of youngsters on the beach engaged in football and dancing practice. I sat on the balcony for a while admiring the view of a very lush valley and headland enclosing a black sand beach. Several birds with eye catching flashes of colour were in the nearby trees.

Breakfast was very pleasant; bacon, sausage, hash browns, mushrooms and fried eggs+ English breakfast tea came out at 2200XFp between us, so at about £10 a head that’s reasonable. We sat at an open veranda with good views across the bay which included outrigger rowing crews hard at practice and tourist boats following whales! Lovely breakfast cabaret!

Went up to explore the hotel facilities for our return visit after the cruise and spent some time with one of the boutique assistants who explained the intricacies of pearl purchase. Also visited the artisans corner with a good range of souvenirs especially jewellery and pareos ranging in price from 500 – 3500 XFP. At least it gives us a ball park figure to start. Found out that the hotel runs a free shuttle into town which will be useful.

Got a taxi to the cruise port at around 11:30 and boarded very straightforwardly. We were told that the cabin might not be ready and the cases could be a while but that we could go ahead anyway. As it happened the cabin was ready and the cases arrived just after 1:30. Spent some time wandering around the ship to get our bearings and was immediately struck by the smallness of everything. It’s not only that there’s no feature atrium or other large internal space, but all areas apart from the main dining room seem smaller. The stairwells seem extremely narrow.

Over lunch spent some time chatting with people who were leaving from the previous cruise. They had obviously enjoyed themselves very much. Having eaten we took a short stroll over to town. We gathered various bits and pieces of information from the Visitors Centre on the dock side, although a lot was only available in French. Oh no, homework again! By the time we moved on the town was beginning to close down. Many market stalls had already tidied away although the tourist craft stalls in the upper area were still open. That gave us a further chance to check souvenir prices. On the way back to the ship we popped into a pearl shop and again the male assistant was more than happy to appraise us of the key points to remember when purchasing pearls. These pretty much duplicated the points heard earlier in the day, but he also gave us a good insight into the present day nature of pearl farming in French Polynesia and what we might expect to see in the islands. He warned us off the markets as there are many fake pearls about.

By the time that we got back to the Royal Princess it was just about time to get a drink at the buffet before meeting up with the Cruise Critic Roll Call members. As it happened about half turned up and a lively, friendly session ensued with a lot of good practical information exchanged.

The evening meal was an open ended affair, so you got the chance to turn up as suited. We shared a table for 8 with American, Aussie and Canadian passengers. As anticipated the food was good. Joan had asparagus spears in a cream sauce followed by clam chowder. Her main was roast lamb loin followed by pineapple dessert. I set off with a fiery beef chilli salad followed by a chilled pineapple soup. For the main course I chose baked scallops and finished off with tempura fried bananas in a sake and Riesling sauce.. We shared a bottle of Twin Oaks red which was probably more than we needed and we’ll have to watch out for over enthusiastic service tomorrow! Company was good and an enjoyable couple of hours passed. Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come.

Entertainment for the evening was a Tahitian dance troupe presented on the poolside stage. Whether it was because few chairs were put out, but attendance was very thin which was a shame as it was an excellent spectacle. The energy of the dancers was quite amazing! As a result a considerable amount of video and memory space was used!

To round the evening off we went up to the buffet only to discover that it was the chocolate buffet! Big mistake! I certainly had more than was good for me but what the heck – I’m cruising!

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Really looking forward to your continued review post. We did the 10 day cruise just abour 2 years ago (on the Tahitian Princess) and had such a wonderful time, I hope to relive some of it through your review.

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Day 3

Before breakfast we rushed off ship and headed to the local market. We’d admired the splendid local flower bouquets the day before and decided to get one in for the cabin. We found a young florist just finishing off an arrangement and setting it on the shelf, so we swooped in, happy that it was 1500XFP well spent. As we were in the market I took the chance to skate round with the video and fired off some footage, especially down by the fish stalls!

Back at the ship we made our way to the main restaurant I had grapefruit followed by Alaskan Scrambler. Joan settled for a similar start followed by a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel judged as OK. Once again we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast sharing our table with 2 fellow Brits and 4 Americans.

I’d unearthed a Frommer’s walking guide to Papeete from the web so we set off along the waterfront to explore. Essentially it takes you out along the waterfront, back in behind the Anglican church along town streets to the Cathedral, market hall and town hall. The waterfront has a wooden boardwalk which leads past yacht and tourboat moorings to a lovely well utilised park. There are several small enclosed play areas for children, two sunshade pavilions, several rest room areas with space for changing and a series of weaving walkways through the park. The actual seashore features storage for numerous colourful competition outrigger canoes although unfortunately none were at sea this morning.

A service was commencing as we approached the Anglican church and a parade of young men and women proceeded to march to the entrance to the church singing beautifully. Three young men at the front of the parade approached the church flag poles and hoisted flags. After a prayer there was further singing of a song in that delightful tone and rhythm that you always associate with the South Pacific and it was quite stirring to stand right by. The marchers looked splendid in white shirts or blouses and blue trousers or skirts. The girls and women wore straw hats. At the conclusion of the brief ceremony one of the participants came over to us and struck up a conversation. Once she grasped that my French was extremely limited she slowed down and simplified her sentences and I gathered that she wished to invite us up to the church gallery so that we might photograph the congregation. At first we were quite reticent but she insisted that we would cause no offence, and nobody appeared to object as we took up the opportunity. It was the kind of generous opportunity that helps to set a holiday apart and we left with very grateful thanks to her.

Bougainville Park, commemorating the arrival of the first French explorer in Tahiti, was our next stop. A tidy park, with a statue and information board about Bougainville, it is a well shaded area with flowers set out in informal displays with a running stream linking a series of lily ponds stocked with fish. Some local anglers were taking the opportunity to hone their skills nobody seemed to mind. Mind you, I didn’t ask the fish!

By contrast with the Anglican Church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception seemed a little understated with little of architectural interest. The stained glass seemed to convey passages from the bible related in a Tahitian context.

At the town hall I wandered in and discovered the marriage suite, a quite simple yet attractive chapel room with banks of benches all inscribed with Tahitian motifs inlaid black and white. The celebrants table was decked in flowers. In a room next door several people were collecting and trying on clothes. Someone approached me to enquire who I was, to which I replied that I was simply a tourist looking around. They explained that they were preparing to shoot a movie scene and asked me to leave. I enquired as to whether they were in need of a tall, handsome English extra but no joy. I’m sure the reply included some kind of reference to a problem with Tahitian trades description acts. Anyway , on leaving the compound I remarked to the policeman on duty “je ne suis pas un movie star.” Well, at least he found it funny!

Back at the ship we grabbed a drink before heading back to our cabin. Joan decided to attack the remnants of jet lag while I settled down on the balcony to sketch the waterfront and the valleys beyond. It was a good chance to take in the character of Papeete. It appears to be an extended ribbon of coastline development with strands of building heading up into the surrounding hills along the ridges, which are separated by deeply, scarred valleys. The hills are densely wooded and the tree line goes quite high. Clouds seem to build up over the main peaks and spurs through the day. The valley sides are quite steep with signs of rivulets plunging into the bottom. Not sure the sketch did it justice!

During the afternoon we spent some time catching sunrays before participating in the emergency procedures meeting.

Then the fun began.

On previous cruises we had been used to Sailaway at the end of the first day, so carrying over to a second day was quite novel for us and was much anticipated. As our early dining sitting required our attendance at 6pm we decided that we would be best not attending the sailaway party but to witness the event from our balcony.

In the normal style moorings were released and finally the ship drifted backwards a little as the last line was released and the engines were engaged to push us away from the dockside. And that was all that happened... we drifted backwards. First 10 ft, then 15, 30, 50 and by now folks on shore were getting a little agitated. With some fury the engines kicked in sending a heavy wash against the end wall of the dock behind us, but no change in direction. Suddenly the backward drift came to an abrupt halt , accompanied by a rousing clang and much hilarity on the dockside by casual viewers as we crashed into the dock wall! I sensed a strain of “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” and in no time an army of dockyard workers were running about to re-attach the mooring lines and make the ship fast. Not long after the captain came on the intercom to explain that the ship had experienced a technical hitch which they were looking into!

By now we were ready for our first experience of traditional dining and we were introduced to our table partners for the next ten days, two elderly American couples. A prolonged session of bitty conversation ensued as we sought to find some common ground, but by the end of the meal we were no closer together. For the record I had melon, mushroom soup, prime rib and hazelnut ice cream. I requested my prime rib medium rare and have to say that I couldn’t see anybody who ordered it rare as no animals were led in on a leash. Talk about nowhere near the mark. Of course it was returned, but even then it was barely seared when I finally got it. I decided that I’d better learn fast from that experience and hope for better preparation on coming nights. Joan had spring rolls, prawn cocktail, barramundi and ice cream with caramel sauce, all of which gained fairly muted response.

We had a half hearted wander around the shops before retiring to the cabin to read for quite some time before switching lights out with the alarm set for an early start... if we’d moved

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Have taken this cruise several times and will be on the Royal next February/March for b2b--enjoying your review--would love to hear what you did for your stop at Rangiora--not too sure what we're going to do--looking forward to your input.

 

Nancy:D:D

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We are enjoying your review of the cruise. We also look forward to the next installment.

Don't forget the sun blockout creme.

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Rangiroa up in a few days but in the meantime try getting onto the roll call for this cruise on 16 Oct. Several of the guys got themselves onto independent tours beforehand. I know Princess don't offer much. If you are looking to set something up there may be something for you there. We got a great freebie and a beach afternoon. Re slip, slap slop, would you believe worst case of sunburn i came across happened to a couple of Aussies snorkelling?

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Day 4

We have!

Just after 6 and the low conical hills of Huahine greet us as we sail towards land. The same hill shapes are echoed by the builds up of cloud over the island although the bright greenery of the wooded hillsides suggests another sunny day.

With an excursion to meet at 8 there’s no time for sit down service at Club Restaurant so we make it to the buffet, arriving in the lounge in plenty of time to board our tender ashore. Some discomfort arises as the tender boat reverses into the staging reprising memories of the previous evening’s events.

Safely ashore we meet our guide, Paul, and board our bus or truc. It’s a simple vehicle with two rows of padded seats running down each side and a wooden bench down the centre. A notice tells us that there’s capacity for 37 adultes, 63 enfants and an ass. Perhaps that explains why it’s a little hard on the tender spots and not best placed for photographing the scenery as we pass by. As a consequence there’s lots of twisting , fidgeting and excuse me’s as the bus sets on its way, but hey this is Huahine, so when in Huahine, do as the Huahinians do!

Paul is great. He tells us he’s going to talk fast and he certainly delivers, but it’s good stuff. Our destination is Maeva for the marae site and we need to do a near full circle of Huahine Nui. This means a 25 minute drive which Paul uses to acquaint us with Huahine society today and the relationship between the islands and France and the ways in which the old ways and current popular culture reflect our homelands in Huahine. His anthropological background allows him to feed us with considerable information about Pacific Island colonisation and the relationship of the island populations with explorers through the centuries. He explains the nature and purpose of the marae and links it to archaeological and scientific study. We learn of his studies and contributions to excavations and we get a list of distinctions between fact and myth in the Pacific. It’s an excellent introduction and we learn a good deal about Polynesian culture. The sight is attractive in itself with the marae walls set against the lagoon, and an uphill walk takes us to a terraced area where we get some insight into the nature of ancient settlement on the island.

It’s a great starting point for the whole cruise. There is depth and detail in his presentation. If you prefer to look and see rather than listen and learn this may not be for you, but the bulk of our party seems very satisfied with the tour.

On the way back to the tenders we stop in a small village where Paul jumps off the bus and into the stream to feed the blue eyed eels. They are around 5 feet long, built like a catfish and enthusiastically hungry. So mush so that they have taken nibbles at Paul in the past! One more stop atop the Belvedere Hill give us a view over Maroe Bay and the Royal Princess and then it’s back to the ship.

We board the tender in time to avoid the worst of a midday shower and get back to the lunch buffet. I have determined that I will show good discipline this trip and keep to salads and small desserts, but it’s the Fisherman’s Buffet today so I load up with prawns, kalamari salad, assorted smoked fish and stuffed halibut. Delicious but deadly, especially when backed up by sacher torte, raspberry torte and a chocolate cake! What?

The Huahine landscape is fascinating with high cliffs atop the mountains which are covered in rich vegetation. Beneath these, further rounded hills are covered in broadleaved trees interspersed by ghostly drifts of acacia trees with their candy floss canopy and pale skeletal trunks and limbs. Low brush and palms fringe the water front where the water is a bright turquoise along the narrow shore and deeper blue over the expanse of the bay. I settle down on the balcony for a couple of hours to attempt a couple of sketches. The slow spinning of the ship at anchor creates quite a challenge and frequently I’m observing and sketching the wrong slope so the pictures become more of an impression than a record, but it keeps me happy.

By the time those are finished my lunch has settled and so I nip down to the gym for a quick jog (is that an oxymoron?) which the machine tells me burns off 233 calories. Well, that’s good, only another 5000 to go – a cruiser’s life for me! After a shower and reviving cup of tea I meet up with Joan and we go off to see Anne, the ship’s Future Cruise consultant. We discuss the South American and Panama itineraries and sign up for the future cruise offer sheet.

Evening meal is better tonight. I head into a roast chicken breast appetizer, followed by pumpkin soup before a main course of duck a l’orange. To finish off I down the hazelnut warm chocolate sponge and realise that it’s now 7500 calories to deal with tomorrow. Joan has veal escalop with cheese and a crème brulee to finish. There’s a French theme to the menu and one of our table mates chooses escargots, onion soup and then has frogs’ legs as a main. (see no Francophone jokes)

So we hop it to Cabaret Lounge to listen to Duncan Pick, tonight’s entertainer. It’s a really perplexing show. He’s an excellent guitarist, an OK singer and a banal comedian with a flair for trite. His best jokes (which are really lame) are about three years out of date back home. But it passes an hour before retreating to the cabin to put an end to an enjoyable day.

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Day 5

Sea day today, but still up early and down to the Club Restaurant for breakfast. We didn’t overface ourselves but frankly there was little to get enthusiastic about. At our last cruise in the Caribbean the sit down service was superb, but I don’t see it this time. We head to the pool where Joan settles out in the sun and I delve into my book, or at least I do for thirty minutes. That’s when the line dancing class started. 30 minutes of electronic hell for 6 people – why? Around 11 I make my way to the gym for a good run, although the rolling motion of the ship makes foot placement interesting!

The Cruise Critic Roll call had agreed to meet for lunch so we duly joined in. Three lively tables were formed and a very enjoyable chat was enjoyed by all. We’re meeting new members by the day and bumping into one another repeatedly. It makes for a very pleasant atmosphere to the cruise. When it comes to time to leave the restaurant we agree to repeat the exercise on Thursday, our next sea day.

The weather seemed cloudy after lunch so we returned to our cabin where Joan crashed out and I went to the balcony and read. At 5:15 we went along to the Captain’s Cocktail party before heading into the Club restaurant for evening meal. We both chose to start with a grapefruit and kiwi starter. I had chicken wanton soup while Joan selected asparagus soup. I went with roast pork for main while Joan took halibut, and we both finished with Pear in a puff Pastry dessert. To be frank, we’re not being impressed by the food either in presentation or style, and our service has been pretty ordinary too. It seems that the waiter has struck a better relationship with a neighbouring table and spends a lot of time with them and then stands there tutting when we’re finishing long after they’ve gone.

Tonight’s entertainment was better. A London boy, Luke Sabatino, gave us a 50 minute show of tunes from the musicals. I enjoyed the courage of his selection as he often chose the unexpected: no Les Mis but some Miss Saigon; no “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” but “Oh What a Circus”; and no “Maria” but “Something’s Coming” often gave a potted intro to each musical and gave us his reasons for enjoying the show. He’s got a voice and good sound with a sense of theatrical and so was many times better than the previous evening’s fare.

For the record, this was the first formal night and it made a great change to see so much formal wear. I’ve never seen so many Americans in suits!

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Day 6

It rained at lunchtime. OK that’s the bad stuff out of the way. Neither of us went to Rangiroa with much expectation but left offering only the highest praise. What a great day!

After a brief stroll up and down the main road to the tender dock, and that was very brief, we saw the shuttle to the Paul Gauguin Pearl Farm and jumped aboard. The journey is free and gives you a chance to see elements of the strip of land that makes up one of the two main population centres for this widely dispersed atoll. So we passed the school, a supermarket, the airport and a couple of hotels as well as various local homes.

Once at the farm we met our guide, a different Paul, who proceeded to tell us about the culture of pearls at the farm. It was a most interesting and informative talk with good opportunity to watch the craftsmen at work and to take photographs. As ever they were employing skills beyond our experience and we were amazed at the dexterity of the artisans as they assessed the quality of the oyster before inserting the bead to encourage culture. Paul told us that they have 70% success with their pearls, which ranges from ill-formed pearls to beautiful even coloured round 13mm “A” class pearls highly valued on the international market. As it takes at least 4 years to develop each pearl it’s an expensive process in time, labour and skill it’s a delicate balance between selling cheap ill-formed pearls and just rejecting them, but the highest quality pearls fetch excellent prices.

The shop attached to the farm is able to supply loose pearls of varying quality and can also mount in yellow or white gold or silver. If you are looking to buy top quality or a number of pearls then you can expect to make a good price, something we were pleased to achieve! The shop also has a good range of goods including postcards with stamps and the shop arranged for our driver to post them at the airport on our return journey.

Back at the ship we made our way to the buffet and after a late morning cuppa decided to take lunch whilst we watched a squall pass over. By the time we had eaten we were ready to make our way down to the tenders to return to shore.

At this point I must put on record the excellent tender service we were receiving on this cruise. Princess were only running two boats but they kept them moving so wait time was limited and this certainly added to the feelgood for the day.

Back on the island we wandered along the shore to a narrow strip white sand behind the Kia Ora hotel with its row of bungalows. I started off with a brief sketch back along the shore while Joan waded into the sea. She couldn’t see any fish but she was in a fairly sandy area. By contrast, once the drawing was done I headed over towards the coral clustered boulders and was soon accompanied by an array of fish varying in size, colour and curiosity. I returned to collect the video and then did the return trip for the camera. As neither are waterproof the results weren’t that spectacular, but neither were they disappointing. At one point I felt a strange sensation on my shin and looked down to see a small fish nibbling at me! Back on shore Joan was taking another opportunity to catch a little more sun before we headed back to the pier.

Once there we took the decision to take advantage of the bonhomie of the local bar. It’s little more than a shack, but as several of the stall holders were shutting up shop and afternoon tours were coming to an end, a few locals wandered in for a swift Hinaro before home. Now these may be small islands but they’ve got a great beer with its own pleasant, distinctive taste and it’s a very welcome drink. It’s certainly a long way ahead of the average French brew and better than the bland taste of most national American beers. It also gives our stuff a run for its money too!

This evening’s meal was probably the best to date, although that’s no recommendation. A scallop starter was followed by chilled apple and celery soup. I had crawfish as my main and concluded with Grand Marnier Orange Souffle. Joan had Barley and Mutton soup, a main of Turkey Pot Pie and the soufflé. She wasn’t especially impressed.

Tonight’s entertainment was a typical Princess Company song and dance show with a great deal of energy, a good range of songs and lively performances. While Luke Sabatino stood out vocally, the female lead was probably the weak link.

Looking back at Rangiroa I went thinking that this was simply a cheap way of extending a 7 day cruise to 10 but have to concede that I was wrong. We’re so pleased we went there and if it turns out to be the highlight of the cruise then it won’t be a bad thing. We’ll see.

Edited by caneable

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Day 7

Back to the sea again for another lazy day. The sea seemed somewhat ruffled and got livelier as the day passed. We spent the early part of the morning on the sun deck before I made my way to the Fitness Room and pounded out a precarious run on the treadmill as the waves rolled the ship. Showered and changed I joined Joan and we made our way to the club restaurant for our second lunch date with the Cruise Critic lunch. It was general consensus that we should try to sit with different people and consequently made the acquaintance of another two couples in the group. Whilst there it was arranged that the ship photographer should come and take a photo of the party and later in the day we were delighted to buy a copy as a reminder of our great colleagues.

After lunch we went to Sabatini’s for wine tasting! This included the chance to sample six wines from the Princess bins which tend to live at the expensive end of the wine list. Most were very pleasant though one was too sharp for this member of the party. We’d done a similar session on the Grand Princess and the presentation was considerably slicker. Then we felt that the presenters were well acquainted with their glass, while here you couldn’t get away from the sense that the presenters were just reading from somebody else’s notes.

Our meal was probably an improvement but still no great shakes. We both chose a crab salad starter which I followed with a chilled tropical soup. We both chose Surf and Turf as a main and while Joan tucked into Cherry Jubilee for dessert and I enjoyed Sacher Torte.

As the evening entertainer was a conjuror (and America, what is your pre-occupation with kids’ party entertainers), we went to one of the bars seeking music. Sad to say it was quiet as the grave. As the barman asked, where can 750 people go? We drank up slowly and took our leave for the cabin.

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Day 8

What a spectacular arrival! As ever we awoke before 6 in time to take in our arrival at the shores of Raiatea. The southern end of the island was under a mantle of moody cloud but the slopes and hills were generally visible. As ever the vegetation is thick and exotic with the now familiar presence of palm tree and acacia. Moving northward the sun was breaking through and the panoramic swoop north to south became increasingly spectacular as deep valleys, high crags and mountain peaks were more evident and visible in detail.

What was also becoming more apparent was the comparative development of the island with many small settlements, churches, light industrial concerns and a wider variety in housing. As we neared the main port the ship began to turn giving us a good view across the lagoon towards Raiatea’s sister island Tahaa. The area around the port appears quite sophisticated. Apparently the cruise terminal and shopping mall was completed by another cruise line just before it went bankrupt!

Once fully round we had a view out to sea along the reef past two small islands to Tahaa. Because there are fewer islands along the reef the view of the waves breaking is quite broad and very attractive. The sun streamed onto the balcony and into the cabin raising hopes of a spectacular day.

Following breakfast we made our way down to the quayside where we found a huge visitors centre occupied by a number of people offering tours. You could choose from circle island tours, 4 wheel drive safaris, kayak tours, motu tours and others. We wanted to do a circle tour but still found them to be expensive so we asked a lady at the information desk if there were any other operators. After a phone call she told us that a blue bus would be along shortly, and they would offer an island tour.

By the time we got out to the street the bus had already arrived and we found that the driver, Dominic, would do a drive to the marae and a Vanilla farm, together with photo stops. For this he would charge us $10. The only snag was that wanted more than the 7 of us that were waiting. That snag enlarged when 3 jumped ship! However, we decided to stick with it and to take a proactive stance. We sensed a problem as the driver clearly had little English and so Joan and I hit the street and began to tout the tour. After a little bit of canvassing we had 11 and the driver, sensing that we’d just about run out of pitches, decided to set off.

At $10 this was a steal! We got 20 mins at the marae, which got bent to nearer 30: 20 mins at the Vanilla farm, which was longer still again; and Dominic stopped or slowed for photos at several points including a 5 minute stop on a ridge above the river estuary. Here we got tremendous views of the river and surrounding mountains. Being on the drive was worth the money in itself, but we were getting to see a lot! We passed through a number of communities and saw churches, schools as well as the local houses and communal buildings. We got great views of the mountains inland and some fabulous sea views towards Bora Bora. We also passed roadside stalls selling local produce. I was flabbergasted by the beautiful hedgerows of bougainvillea, variegated plants and other shrubs which we would be delighted to cultivate to two feet back home. Here they grow to 10 feet and are set alternately in a gorgeous array of colour!

The two main stopping points were very good. We got an excellent description of the vanilla manufacturing process and most of the party bought some of the various products available. The marae was excellent. The main meeting place is huge, at least 50m long and wide and there are other smaller platforms backing out to the sea. Our trip at Huahine had been a great help in making sense of it all, although there is a very good information board at the entrance. Dominic was always very patient with us and co-operative with suggestions of places to stop for photographs. Although it was a drive without commentary the price was so cheap that it would be churlish to complain and nobody did.

In our early walk round the tour booths we’d checked that the motu tour would be running in the afternoon and so returned to the ticket booth to book our places. Once again we had chosen well. We were taken across the bay from Raiatea to a Mahaea motu off the neighbouring island of Tahaa. It’s a private island belonging to the family operating the tour. At the island they provide fruit, drinks, water chairs, toilets and snorkelling equipment. The water is beautifully clear with a wide range of inviting blues, while the island trees provide welcome shade. It’s an easy walk round the island with good views of Raiatea and Tahaa plus the opportunity to hunt the local crabs should you be inclined to do so! A current flows across the head of the island so you can drift snorkel over the rocks and view many species of fish. We saw so many that we didn’t recognise with all manner of shapes and sizes. After we had snorkelled for the best part of an hour I settled back to sketch the view from the motu back to Raiatea whilst sat in chair perched in the shallow shore water.

On our return to the ship we were treated to the first of two folklore and dance performances by the Raiatea Nui troupe. This early performance was by the young children ranging from teenagers down to a small boy just 22 months old, who dances when he wants to! Today that was usually just outside the changing room! The children performed with great skill and enthusiasm and a narrator explained the dances and their meaning. In addition, during the show the Mamas offered a demonstration of how to wear the pareo, including a two piece much admired by Joan. I didn’t fancy the style recommended for men. Hey look, I’m happy with my voice the way it is!

At the end of the show we had a matter of minutes before the evening meal. An Italian theme was given to the meal and it was OK. I had seafood and minestrone soup while Joan started with parma ham and pineapple. We both chose veal escalope in a marsala sauce as a main course and finished with Tiramisu. It sounds great and prepared by an Italian head Chef it should have been, but no. It was OK.

As we were still docked we decided to take a brief stroll on the quayside. However, apart from two or three roulottes and a gazebo with music it was all closed up. Nevertheless we enjoyed our stroll before returning to the ship.

The reason for our late departure was so that we could be entertained by the front line troupe of Raiatea Nui and entertain us they did. We were treated to an energetic and pulsating, yet graceful, dance show over 45 minutes. The troupe ranged from young adults, who presented the main dances, to three of the children who had stayed up to strut their stuff! This was the fourth such show on board and, while I have often found that local folk dance shows can take on a sameness very quickly, this was not the case here. Along the cruise I caught up with a visitor centre leaflet explaining elements of Tahitian dance and it helped a lot. I would recommend that others try to seek it out if interested.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered today was a very full day with many exciting twists and turns. We were originally booked onto a trip including the Botanical gardens organised by Princess. However, as the gardens were closed they substituted a Pearl Farm. Having visited one on Rangiroa we chose to cancel and ended up with 4 tours for the price of one! It’s not just that we’re tight fisted which makes us recognise Raiatea as our favourite island to date. We left feeling that we’d been given a very strong taste of the island which will stay in our memories for a long time but knowing that there’s so much more to find out. Maybe one day...

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You always post exactly what I would want to know and we share a sense of humour - have we met before?? Would love to see your sketches one day.

 

Keep them coming friend!

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Day 8

What a spectacular arrival!

 

In our early walk round the tour booths we’d checked that the motu tour would be running in the afternoon and so returned to the ticket booth to book our places. Once again we had chosen well. We were taken across the bay from Raiatea to a Mahaea motu off the neighbouring island of Tahaa. It’s a private island belonging to the family operating the tour. At the island they provide fruit, drinks, water chairs, toilets and snorkelling equipment. The water is beautifully clear with a wide range of inviting blues, while the island trees provide welcome shade. It’s an easy walk round the island with good views of Raiatea and Tahaa plus the opportunity to hunt the local crabs should you be inclined to do so! A current flows across the head of the island so you can drift snorkel over the rocks and view many species of fish. We saw so many that we didn’t recognise with all manner of shapes and sizes. After we had snorkelled for the best part of an hour I settled back to sketch the view from the motu back to Raiatea whilst sat in chair perched in the shallow shore water.

On our return to the ship we were treated to the first of two folklore and dance performances by the Raiatea Nui troupe. This early performance was by the young children ranging from teenagers down to a small boy just 22 months old, who dances when he wants to! Today that was usually just outside the changing room! The children performed with great skill and enthusiasm and a narrator explained the dances and their meaning. In addition, during the show the Mamas offered a demonstration of how to wear the pareo, including a two piece much admired by Joan. I didn’t fancy the style recommended for men. Hey look, I’m happy with my voice the way it is!

 

The reason for our late departure was so that we could be entertained by the front line troupe of Raiatea Nui and entertain us they did. We were treated to an energetic and pulsating, yet graceful, dance show over 45 minutes. The troupe ranged from young adults, who presented the main dances, to three of the children who had stayed up to strut their stuff! This was the fourth such show on board and, while I have often found that local folk dance shows can take on a sameness very quickly, this was not the case here. Along the cruise I caught up with a visitor centre leaflet explaining elements of Tahitian dance and it helped a lot. I would recommend that others try to seek it out if interested.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered today was a very full day with many exciting twists and turns. We were originally booked onto a trip including the Botanical gardens organised by Princess. However, as the gardens were closed they substituted a Pearl Farm. Having visited one on Rangiroa we chose to cancel and ended up with 4 tours for the price of one! It’s not just that we’re tight fisted which makes us recognise Raiatea as our favourite island to date. We left feeling that we’d been given a very strong taste of the island which will stay in our memories for a long time but knowing that there’s so much more to find out. Maybe one day...

 

Hi caneable

Thanks for your detailed reviews!

Do you happen to remember the name of the motu tour you took? Any chance it was Mata Tours run by a gentleman named Stephan?

Also, you mentioned two other onboard shows before Raiaitea. Where and when did these take place?

Thanks again!

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Hi Karen and MsYukon

Glad to see that I've got somebody reading along! Thank you both for your kind comments. With regards to your queries Karen, the previous two dance shows were the first night at Papeete and just before Sailaway from Huahine. Neither were really well attended, but for my money the Papeete show was the best of all that we saw.

The motu tour is a bit of a struggle. The young woman at the tour did give me an e-mail address which hasn't come to light yet, and I don't recall the names. However, I got the idea that the independent tour operators on Raiatea have individual booths in the visitors centre beside the cruise dock. If you go in through the door facing the ship and turn to the first booth on your left you should meet two ladies, one young and her grandmother, who take bookings. I hope that's enough to point you in the right direction!

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Day 8

The towering mountains of Bora Bora are most impressive and with cloud enveloping the summits they looked quite brooding as we approached the island this morning. The wake up weather forecast foretold of intermittent showers and, as if on request, a slanting squall rushed across the town of Vaitape. This was repeated two or three times through the morning although it had little effect on our activities.

We took the tender across to Vaitape, a longer journey than anticipated as the mountain backdrop made the land seem much closer than it was. We checked out potential trips for the next day and wandered around the craft market and local shops. They are the usual array of jewellery and pareos at various levels. There are pearl boutiques and stalls selling shell and plant jewellery in the craft market and, next to Papeete’s huge market complex, it may be the best place to pick up souvenirs. There’s an art gallery above an attractive home decor store with good quality items, where they exhibit work produced by local artists. The standard varies but there’s some very interesting stuff in there. A tobacconist newsagent is on the main street there’s a supermarket nearby. The streets are rather agricultural compared to Raiatea and the morning’s rain had left a border of muddy puddles.

After another enjoyable buffet lunch of fish salad we set off on a pre-booked circle island tour booked through Princess. Riding in a local truc bus we took a clockwise tour of the island passing through Faanui and Anau before making our way round Matira Bay back to Vaitape. There were several photo stops which allowed us to capture the photogenic splendour of the island and its shores. Once again our guide was a good blend of information, opinion and assistance and gave us a worthwhile insight into the island.

There were three main stopping points if you include the prolonged stop at the Te Anau lookout which affords excellent views of the lagoon and the mountains. Bloody Mary’s seemed an odd spot to choose to step to our English eyes. It’s a restaurant, they’ve served many people who are apparently well known and they sell their own t-shirts. End of.

Our other stop was at a family pareo studio. One of the girls showed us how they fold and dye the cloth and then apply stencils to allow the sun to fade the colour. They also showed how drying the cloth on corrugated sheeting or chicken wire could add an extra decorative element. Following this we had a demonstration of different ways of tying a pareo, together with an explanation of the range of purposes to which you could put a pareo. It was most interesting and a lot of the party purchased at least one pareo.

The tour lasted about two and a half hours and was good. Whether it gives the best value for money would be hard to say as a number of local tours easily undercut the cost charged by Princess. If you are looking to organise your own island tours there are plenty of alternatives.

Before returning to Royal Princess we took a look at the local tours offered at the dock and decided to try to get on a boat trip with snorkelling the following day. By the time that we were back on board there was just about time for me to attempt a sketch of Bora Bora before we headed to our evening meal. Chef’s menu tonight with a quail appetizer for me and a three cheese soufflé for Joan. We both followed with mushroom soup and a strawberry sorbet before Joan took lamb for her main with me selecting sea bass. Dessert was a ménage a trios, three small servings of blancmange, tiramisu and a hazelnut mousse. It was better than the average meal and the last few days have seen an improvement in quality even if it isn’t that shattering.

Having no wish to watch Duncan Pick again we had a chat with some fellow cruisers before making our way back to the cabin for a balcony drink whilst watching the moon over the mountains and bay.

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Thanks, Caneable for a most interesting review of your cruise and the islands. We leave next Saturday and can hardly wait. Waiting to hear what you did in Bora Bora and Moorea.

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Thanks, Caneable for a most interesting review of your cruise and the islands. We leave next Saturday and can hardly wait. Waiting to hear what you did in Bora Bora and Moorea.

 

Sorry to hijack the review :o

Bridgemates - please remember to come on here and write a review like caneable so we future Tahiti cruisers can learn from your experiences just as you have learned from caneable's.

Thanks!

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Thanks for your comments Bridgemates. It could be a close run thing here as I'm away for the weekend and won't be posting anything until I get back apart from the first day at Bora Bora coming up shortly. On the other hand we did an extra few days after the cruise from Papeete, including a circle tour of a very wet Moorea, which I am going to include in my review even though technically it isn't part of the cruise.

Well said Chamima, you're not hi-jacking at all. I was moved to write a review of an Alaska cruise after following one especially good one which gave me so much info. I do the same with land trips too. If it raises awareness in one person of what is possible then it's worthwhile. It's also interesting how your view of your cruise shifts as you revisit the experience.

I bet that raises questions too!

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The towering mountains of Bora Bora are most impressive and with cloud enveloping the summits they looked quite brooding as we approached the island this morning. The wake up weather forecast foretold of intermittent showers and, as if on request, a slanting squall rushed across the town of Vaitape. This was repeated two or three times through the morning although it had little effect on our activities.

We took the tender across to Vaitape, a longer journey than anticipated as the mountain backdrop made the land seem much closer than it was. We checked out potential trips for the next day and wandered around the craft market and local shops. They are the usual array of jewellery and pareos at various levels. There are pearl boutiques and stalls selling shell and plant jewellery in the craft market, and next to Papeete’s huge market complex it may be the best place to pick up souvenirs. There’s an art gallery above an attractive home decor store with good quality items, where they exhibit work produced by local artists. The standard varies but there’s some very interesting stuff in there. A tobacconist newsagent is on the main street there’s a supermarket nearby. The streets are rather agricultural compared to Raiatea and the morning’s rain had left a border of muddy puddles.

After another enjoyable buffet lunch of fish salad we set off on a pre-booked circle island tour booked through Princess. Riding in a local truc bus we took a clockwise tour of the island passing through Faanui and Anau before making our way round Matira Bay back to Vaitape. There were several photo stops which allowed us to capture the photogenic splendour of the island and its shores. Once again our guide was a good blend of information, opinion and assistance and gave us a worthwhile insight into the island.

There were three main stopping points if you include the prolonged stop at the Te Anau lookout which affords excellent views of the lagoon and the mountains. Bloody Mary’s seemed an odd spot to choose to step to our English eyes. It’s a restaurant, they’ve served many people who are apparently well known and they sell their own t-shirts. End of.

Our other stop was at a family pareo studio. One of the girls showed us how they fold and dye the cloth and then apply stencils to allow the sun to fade the colour. They also showed how drying the cloth on corrugated sheeting or chicken wire could add an extra decorative element. Following this we had a demonstration of different ways of tying a pareo, together with an explanation of the range of purposes to which you could put a pareo. It was most interesting and a lot of the party purchased at least one pareo. The tour lasted about two and a half hours and was good. Whether it gives the best value for money would be hard to say as a number of local tours easily undercut the cost charged by Princess. If you are looking to organise your own island tours there are plenty of alternatives.

Before returning to Royal Princess we took a look at the local tours offered at the dock and decided to try to get on a boat trip with snorkelling the following day. By the time that we were back on board there was just about time for me to attempt a sketch of Bora Bora before we headed to our evening meal. Chef’s menu tonight with a quail appetizer for me and a three cheese soufflé for Joan. We both followed with mushroom soup and a strawberry sorbet before Joan took lamb for her main with me selecting sea bass. Dessert was a ménage a trios, three small servings of blancmange, tiramisu and a hazelnut mousse. It was better than the average meal and the last few days have seen an improvement in quality even if it isn’t that shattering.

Having no wish to watch Duncan Pick again we had a chat with some fellow cruisers before making our way back to the cabin for a balcony drink whilst watching the moon over the mountains and bay.

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Sorry to hijack the review :o

Bridgemates - please remember to come on here and write a review like caneable so we future Tahiti cruisers can learn from your experiences just as you have learned from caneable's.

Thanks!

 

I plan to do that for you and I'm sure others will too.

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Hi

 

We did Patrick's tour in Bora Bora the first day and it was excellent and the second day we went jet skiing (if you like to do that) with Moana Jet Skiis - and it was fabulous. Depends on what you like - 2 very memorable days

 

 

 

Thanks, Caneable for a most interesting review of your cruise and the islands. We leave next Saturday and can hardly wait. Waiting to hear what you did in Bora Bora and Moorea.

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Hi

 

We did Patrick's tour in Bora Bora the first day and it was excellent and the second day we went jet skiing (if you like to do that) with Moana Jet Skiis - and it was fabulous. Depends on what you like - 2 very memorable days

 

We're going with Patrick the first day and Moana's Snorkel tour the next day. May be about the same thing. We are just looking forward to getting into that beautiful water.

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