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Back from Royal Princess Tahiti/FP Cruise 11/28 – 12/10/2010

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We have had the most wonderful vacation of a lifetime. Although the beginning and end of our cruise was rough, I assure you all that everything in between was more than just memorable. We will remember this trip as one we could only dream of, not just because of the islands’ beauty, but also the new friends who are embedded into our memories, our old friends who joined us, and all the experiences we will forever hold in our hearts.

I am inviting you to a blog that was created before we started our journey. It begins at the preparation stages including packing tips and pre-cruise planning and our excitement. The journal ends in Rangiroa, the second port. As you might see, I am usually very organized, methodical and must finish something I obsessively begin. Hence, this attempt at reeling in what is left of the memories of our cruise in this thread. If you would like to read our blog, please visit http://kendalltraveljournal.shutterfly.com. Click on the Blog tab to read our journals (The most recent entry is first - scroll to the bottom if you want to read the beginning), click on the Pictures/Video tab for visuals. I will attempt to post sections of our review in this thread beginning with our pre-cruise stay at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Arue, Tahiti. Please feel free to comment and ask questions. I'm happy to help out anyone planning ahead!

We arrived at Faa'a International Airport, Papeete after an 8 ½ hour flight from Los Angeles. Air Tahiti Nui would have been a better experience if I hadn’t gotten air sick six hours into the flight. Don’t be afraid of the food, though. Our choices were curried chicken or fish and my husband and I both had chicken. He was fine. Might have something to do with a little turbulence combined with a couple Bloody Marys – my typical liquid courage to fly. I would learn on the return trip that something was wrong with the air flow in our section of the plane which would have made the lack of air vents above our seats much more tolerable. My story is “air sick” and I’m sticking to it! We found the service and friendliness of the crew to be top notch. Getting through customs was quite a challenge. LAN airlines from Chile arrived at the same time. Two airbuses trying to get through customs in over 80 degree weather and 250% humidity (ok I’m exaggerating, but only about the humidity) with only 4 customs officers equals “OMG”! It took about an hour and a half.

Moving on to the hotel: We met a newlywed couple at LAX, Mike and Elisa. We referred to them as “our kids” for the rest of the cruise. We decided to share a cab since we were all staying at the Radisson Plaza at Lafayette Beach in Arue. After a bit of a scare getting our last piece of luggage from the turnstile, we all crammed into a cab to the hotel. If it hadn’t been for that delay, we might have beaten the bus with all the passengers from LAN. But no. Another line to get through at the front desk. In my opinion, the Radisson had really friendly, helpful, accommodating staff members from the front desk to the pool and in the spa. Some knew English as well which made it easier for us. I would stay there again, but I do have to mention that the actual check-in process could use some change. It is a bit inefficient, but everyone was so nice we kind of forgot about it when it was our turn! We had been “upgraded” and got a townhouse style room with upstairs/downstairs, two decks – very nice. At almost 2 a.m., though, all we wanted was air-conditioning, a shower and a bed. There is a secret about the air…stay tuned and I’ll let you know what it is...

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Hi Laura...Merry Christmas to you and John! It's great that you are writing this trip report for the benefit of others. ...and I love the reminiscing! We did have an absolutely wonderful time and it was so great to plan ahead of time with you through our roll call. We sure ended up with the most perfect tours. I do wish we had joined you on Moorea for your experience with Albert although it was a nice leisurely drive around the island with our rental car. I keep looking back at my photos and video clips almost in disbelief that we had such experiences. I will also put my nomination in for the Radisson as it was a lovely setting and the staff so sweet. I will check out the updates to your shutterfly site. For those that wish to look at my shutterfly site, the link is in my signature (includes photos, video, slide show, links, itinerary, blog etc.). Once you are on my site, select the Tahiti tab near the top as I have other trips included too. So fun to be building the pages during planning and then adding during and after the trip! Thanks Laura for letting me know about the shutterfly site possibility!

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Hi Laura...Merry Christmas to you and John! It's great that you are writing this trip report for the benefit of others. ...and I love the reminiscing! We did have an absolutely wonderful time and it was so great to plan ahead of time with you through our roll call. We sure ended up with the most perfect tours. I do wish we had joined you on Moorea for your experience with Albert although it was a nice leisurely drive around the island with our rental car. I keep looking back at my photos and video clips almost in disbelief that we had such experiences. I will also put my nomination in for the Radisson as it was a lovely setting and the staff so sweet. I will check out the updates to your shutterfly site. For those that wish to look at my shutterfly site, the link is in my signature (includes photos, video, slide show, links, itinerary, blog etc.). Once you are on my site, select the Tahiti tab near the top as I have other trips included too. So fun to be building the pages during planning and then adding during and after the trip! Thanks Laura for letting me know about the shutterfly site possibility!

 

Hi Betty! I hope you and Harold had a wonderful holiday as well. And speaking of organized...YOU are all over it! If any of you ever end up on a roll call with Betty, you won't have to worry about who is doing what excursion, what it costs, when it leaves or what you'll be doing - that is for sure! So glad we met you.

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Hi Betty! I hope you and Harold had a wonderful holiday as well. And speaking of organized...YOU are all over it! If any of you ever end up on a roll call with Betty, you won't have to worry about who is doing what excursion, what it costs, when it leaves or what you'll be doing - that is for sure! So glad we met you.

My OCD tendencies can come in handy now and again!

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We woke up to waves crashing loudly on the Radisson's black sand beach the next morning. My husband, John, said they were so loud they kept him awake. Everyone should only have problems like that! We went down to the buffet breakfast. Cost: $78 for two people. Then we took a long walk on the beach. This hotel is quite nice, clean and the surroundings are just beautiful. Nonetheless, it was time to check out and start our cruise – the real vacation. Again, checking out was a slow process, but the staff was very friendly and hailed a cab for us.

The cab ride was about 20 minutes to the pier. From Arue to Papeete…let’s just say the scenery isn’t that great. Very run down, lots of graffiti and industrialized. Embarkation was lightening fast. There was no line, we showed our passports, supplied our online check-in form, received our Seapass cards and were onboard at 11:30.

The Ship: Royal Princess is beautiful and small compared to other ships we have been on. We found her to be smartly decorated in blues, golds and a lot of dark wood with an Old World feel. As usual, we dropped our carryon off in the stateroom that was all ready for us. Then we got acquainted with the Royal. I usually take a lot more pictures of the ship. There are a few on my website at http://kendalltraveljournal.shutterfly.com/pictures. The public areas, although clean and inviting, were small and the ship took no time at all to get to know. We really liked the intimate feel of a small ship. The strangest thing is that passengers returning from a previous cruise are permitted to stay on board until 3 p.m. (at least), but it never felt crowded anywhere including the Panorama Buffet. After exploring the Royal, we went to the buffet to check out the spread there. Another two firsts was not only finding the buffet’s food above average, but the ease of actually getting a plate without feeling rushed or crowded was a great welcome. The food was fresh, there was always a carving station with different meats daily, fresh seafood, a variety of cooked entrees and sides, vegetables, fruit and staples like yogurt and cereals. We had much better luck in the buffet than the dining room. More on that fiasco later…

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We were anxiously waiting for our friends to arrive from the UK, David and Karen, but knew it wouldn’t be until after dinner because of their late flight. Our luggage arrived before dinner making us very happy to get unpacked and organized in our cabin – the last chore required before all the relaxation can commence! The first night was open seating and any time dining. We were seated at a table of 6. We got to know our tablemates and would miss Dan, Amber, Stefan and Jackie as well as our waiter for almost the rest of the cruise. The first meal onboard was nothing to write home about. Although my dinner was edible, I can only remember three things. My first of three limp, brown Caesar salads was served, the shrimp cocktail was good and Jackie’s steak medallions looked as bad as she said they tasted. They appeared to have been frozen, thawed, re-frozen and then cooked, or freezer burned at best. All I know is I couldn’t get a fresh salad in the dining room at all even after I explained why they weren't eaten. The salads in the buffet were crispy, fresh and toppings were plentiful, however. David and Karen arrived after dinner and we chit-chatted for an hour and hit the hay early. We were told we would have to see if we were linked for dinner the next day. And that’s where the trouble started…

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Sassy ~ I'm reading every word & enjoying your shutterfly blog very much. It's very inspiring for those of us who will travel to FP after you. I've also bookmarked Banditoo's site which is full of great stuff. Thanks for sharing such wonderful info.

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Sassy ~ I'm reading every word & enjoying your shutterfly blog very much. It's very inspiring for those of us who will travel to FP after you. I've also bookmarked Banditoo's site which is full of great stuff. Thanks for sharing such wonderful info.

 

Thanks so much for reading...it gives me inspiration as well. Please call me Laura.

 

And now...on with the show! ;)

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We awoke the next morning after another first for me. We were upgraded to a balcony cabin in a different category on Deck 8. We usually pick our cabins, but booked the cruise with a Guarantee stateroom with a balcony. We didn’t know it was directly under the buffet and the drink/food carts traveled from the kitchen to the buffet area right across our ceiling. A pair of earplugs and I was GOOD TO GO! There’s always a solution, isn’t there? We headed up to the buffet for breakfast. Lots of healthy (or not) options were available, but I took a liking to the little ham, egg mcmuffin-like thingees and the fresh fruit. We never tried the dining room for breakfast.

We went to the Club Restaurant to check on our seating arrangements. Our friends were not assigned to the same table of 10 as we requested. I believe the link was lost when all of us were upgraded to different cabins. After a very smooth and timely process, we got a table of four together.

The rest of the day was spent with our new and old friends. We missed the first Cruise Critic Roll Call Group meeting the first day on the ship, but we did make the second scheduled one before sail away. We met so many NICE people. We would go on many excursions together in the next ten days and spend time with people we only knew in black and white print before this meeting. We feel very fortunate to have had such a great group.

Again, dinner was somewhat of a disappointment. Food is very subjective and I am not complaining because it certainly did not make or break this cruise. I only express my opinion to completely share my take on everything. We found our table of four in the center of the dining room. We were completely surrounded by a large family who occupied a half dozen small to large tables and did not speak the language of our waiter. We felt very sympathetic to our new waiter and his assistant, as these people were demanding and rude – snapping their fingers and being very ill-mannered. What I did find amusing were the winks and smiles by our waiter from the night before as I was longingly gazing at him and our old table. LOL! Oh how I missed that table and the company just 24 hours before. We told Sebastian, the head waiter, not to be too hard on our waiters when he found us in the Sterling Steakhouse the last two nights. We were sure the stress and language barrier were two key factors in the substandard service – we were on time or first for dinner every night and always the last to leave our area. So the dining wasn’t a highlight of our trip…big deal…we certainly didn’t starve.

Up next: The ports and excursions. That night we left for Huahine…

Edited by sassystyxfan

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Huahine (pronounced who- a- heenee) was our first port. We got our tender tickets and got off the ship around 8:15. We boarded the tender boat and took our ride to the dock to meet our tour guide.

Huahine does not seem to be affected by tourism. It is absolutely beautiful, peaceful and serene – completely opposite from Papeete. It is known as “The Garden Island” and definitely is with its lush foliage and tropical feel. We finally got to see white sand beaches, instead of black sand, as well.

We chose Marc’s Pacific Island Tour on an outrigger. In ten cruises, this was one of the best tours we have ever been on. We did enjoy swimming with stingrays in the Caymen Islands, but this was almost all day and SO worth the money ($100 per person).

All of us (about 16 people – 14 of us were from Cruise Critic) boarded the outrigger to venture to our snorkel site. The sign in the boat said it would hold 30, but I don’t see how. It was just perfect with all of us. We went to a small village and walked a short distance to a river that was full of Blue-eyed Eels. Most everyone watched and listened to our guide speak about them. I had to get in there (only one man got in with me) to touch one. They came right up to me to see if I also had food for them. So I got to touch their slithery bodies as they swam by. Very friendly creatures…some were about 5 to 6 feet long. You can see video at http://kendalltraveljournal.shutterfly.com/pictures/186.

Then we were off to a pearl farm that was a little hut on the lagoon. We listened to a guide tell about how they were processed and I looked around in the shop, but didn’t buy anything. I was more interested in the colorful fish swimming around the hut. The water was so clear!

Then it was off to our snorkeling site. Beautiful coral and fish. We jumped off the outrigger and drift snorkeled for about an hour. After drifting along, we got back on the outrigger and went to our motu for lunch. There were covered picnic tables in the water off a white sand beach. We watched one of our captains make a raw fish salad with salt and fresh coconut squeezed through a towel. OMG! I saw non-sushi eaters wolf this stuff down. I would have been happy with just that, but there was island chicken, bbq’d fish and fresh fruit from the island. They also had an open bar with rum punch, Tahitian Hinano beer (best beer I have ever tasted), sodas, local juices and bottled water. I am happy to report that I found Hinano at Bev-Mo here in California!

The captains played live music Tahitian guitars – very festive and beautiful. One gave a coconut demonstration which sounds absolutely boring, but it wasn’t. Coconuts taste totally different depending on their age. One had the texture of a sponge cake. We also tasted male and female ones…the females were definitely better. The male one was bitter…hmmmm. We figured. LOL

Then it was back to the ship. We spotted some whales by water coming from their blow holes, but didn’t really see them. Next: It’s off to Rangiroa!

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After our wonderful day in Huahini, we spent our first sea day traveling to Rangiroa. I am sharing what happened to maybe help others in this situation. Have you ever been sea sick? In ten cruises I have never experienced what would happen next. After our formal night dinner, I got violently ill. After an hour, I finally let my husband call the infirmary. Visit, an injection and medication was $110 and within 30 minutes all was well. TOTALLY worth it in my opinion. Yes, the Royal is a small ship, but I’ve endured 30 foot swells from Hawaii to California and a rough Zodiac ride on the Napoli Coast. I read reviews that said you can feel the Royal rock while anchored or docked – nothing major in my opinion, but now you know what to do if it happens to you when you forget to take meclazine “just in case”. LOL!

Rangiroa is an atoll – the second largest in the world. It looks like a big circle of islands with an ocean in the middle (the Aquarium), or a lagoon that could contain the whole island of Tahiti. From the edge of the lagoon, you can’t see the opposite bank. ENORMOUS (75 by 25 km)!

We pre-booked another independent snorkeling company called Raia Manta Tour. This excursion was a 1.5 hour Tiputa Pass/Aquarium snorkel. I was recovering so the boys went.

Here’s what John says:

“David and I tendered out to the pier at 8:30 a.m. to meet Freddie (a lady and her little pug faced dog) and her 25 ft. boat. We traveled about 5 minutes out to the reef/sand bar. When we first pulled up there were two or three black reef sharks. The locals were feeding the fish around the eight boats and singing Tahitian songs. Nearby was a coral reef with the best snorkeling I have ever done. We saw Mooray Eels, sharks and varieties of fish. Depending on where you were snorkeling and by what coral, the varieties seemed endless. THE BEST SNORKELING EVER!”

Some were disappointed that there wasn’t a ladder to get back into the boat. David didn’t want to risk blowing out his bad knee, but said he could see everything from the boat because the water was so clear.

After the boys got back, the four of us tendered to the shore, took a left at the pier, and walked along the rocky shore until we found a shaded area. We found a little grassy area off the beach in front of one of several houses and played in the ocean and relaxed on the beach for awhile. If you are looking for a nice beach to hang out on, this is not the island to do that. The beach is quite rocky and water shoes are a must here. We had fun anyway, though and at least it got me off that thing that moves in the water taking us from island to island for awhile. It helped to be on land for a couple hours!

See you in Raiatea!

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Laura,

 

I have to agree with you 110% regarding Marc's tour. We went with him the first time in 2007 and just went again in Oct. 2010. The very very best tour for your money. We did the 4X4 tour and then met up with the snorkeling tour for the picnic and loved the raw fish dish as well. I eat Sushi and absolutely loved that dish. Nothing compares to Huahine, this criuise, the other islands and the tours. Thanks for sharing your experiences.:)

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Laura' date='

 

I have to agree with you 110% regarding Marc's tour. We went with him the first time in 2007 and just went again in Oct. 2010. The very very best tour for your money. We did the 4X4 tour and then met up with the snorkeling tour for the picnic and loved the raw fish dish as well. I eat Sushi and absolutely loved that dish. Nothing compares to Huahine, this cruise, the other islands and the tours. Thanks for sharing your experiences.:)[/quote']

I too really enjoyed the lunch put on by Marc's guys. They were also the most informative and entertaining of all our excursion guides (which were all great!). Marc's tour in Huahine really started the cruise off with success.

Laura, it is great to read along and relive our cruise....miss you neighbour!;)

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Fabulous installments Laura. And bonus points for the pronunciation lesson on Huahine! I was always saying who-ah-hi-nee to myself - and didn't know enough to be embarrassed! Marc's Pacific Island Tour sounds wonderful, especially you getting in with those sacred blue-eyed eels. We're considering doing this tour but wonder if it would be too similar to other snorkeling/lagoon picnics such as Bruno on Raiatea or Patrick on Bora Bora. I'll wait to hear your future comments. Thanks again.

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Fabulous installments Laura. And bonus points for the pronunciation lesson on Huahine! I was always saying who-ah-hi-nee to myself - and didn't know enough to be embarrassed! Marc's Pacific Island Tour sounds wonderful, especially you getting in with those sacred blue-eyed eels. We're considering doing this tour but wonder if it would be too similar to other snorkeling/lagoon picnics such as Bruno on Raiatea or Patrick on Bora Bora. I'll wait to hear your future comments. Thanks again.

I'm high jacking Laura's review of our cruise with a response to your question. Though all the various island snorkeling excursions had similarities, they were also all unique and a terrific way to experience that particular island or motu vicinity. Our Nov. 28 roll call did Marc's tour in Huahine, Bruno's tour in Raiatea/Tahaa, Patrick's in Bora Bora, and some did Raie Manta's Aquarium snorkel in Rangiroa while others did Tereva's Blue Lagoon in Rangiroa. A small group of us did the Aqua Safari Helmet dive in Bora Bora as well. I did not hear anyone complain about any of the tours or say they wish they had not done them. In fact, those that didn't do some of them, later expressed regret at not doing so. Would I do each and every one of them again.....absolutely! Some of the tours had similar experiences such as a Polynesian lunch, however each lunch was slightly different and in a different setting. All of the scenery was spectacular. Each of the snorkel experiences was also different; different coral configurations, different fish, sharks, rays etc. If I could go back again right now, I would do all those same tours again even though they would likely be doing the same thing we did earlier this month.

Over to you now Laura for your comments....

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Betty, I couldn't agree with you more - well said! As I said before (to you), if I could go back, I wouldn't miss Tahaa after your report and seeing your pics of the coral gardens. With Raiatea coming up next...more on that and how I wish we could have done both.

 

Thanks for taking care of questions while I'm gone...I'll be back with Raiatea when it's finished :)

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Raiatea, the second largest Tahitian isle, is the only stop that the Royal was docked (other than Papeete). We arrived to find a pier lined with quaint hut-like shops, but everything was closed because it was Sunday. We didn’t mind, as we aren’t big shoppers. The only souvenir I wanted to buy was a pareo. There’s a story about that. I’ll tell you when we get to Moorea.

We didn’t have an excursion pre-booked. You may notice that many of the excursions on this itinerary are quite similar with snorkeling, pearl farms, vanilla plantations, etc., but all had their own "bests" and were slightly different. Our Cruise Critic group chose Bruno’s L’excursion Bleue tour. We heard the coral garden snorkeling on Tahaa was fabulous. Wish we could have done both, but we decided to go by the seat of our pants. As we got off the ship we shuffled into a terminal-like building. There was a booth directly to the left offering boat tours. A 3.5 hour tour for $40 per person turned into over five hours and we saw everything except food! I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the tour or the guide. If I find out, I'll let you know. I believe there were a couple of tours and he combined the two for us. We went to a vanilla farm – an excellent presentation and beautiful place. Bought some lotions and sampled a nice spread of local fruits and juices. None of the pareos blew my skirt up, though. We went to another black pearl farm that was better than the first one. Still, I had no interest in bringing one home. Then we took the boat to a small motu where we could snorkel, swim or get some more beach time in. After a brief stay there, we were surprised with a slow boat cruise down a beautiful, tropical river. It reminded me of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland (without the corny jokes) with lush vegetation and calm water. We saw more eels there and another boat at the turnaround spot with a young couple scrambling to put their clothes back on. Ah to be young again, huh? LOL! We also took a cruise around the different motus and had a lovely day, but we were starting to get hungry despite the fresh bananas, pineapple and coconut the tour provided. Low and behold…to our rescue…a couple from our ship had a backpack with cereal, oranges and other little snacks and began sharing them with all of us. Now – I’m not saying to pack a lunch from the buffet before disembarking at port because that is a no-no, BUT…my diabetic husband was the most grateful I’m sure. What a great day, we saw a lot and definitely got more than we bargained for at a great price.

Next up…two days in Bora Bora. I can’t wait to tell you about two things I never thought I’d do…stay tuned!

Edited by sassystyxfan

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Still – not a pareo in site, but our first day in Bora Bora was a full one. We tendered to the dock to meet our next pre-booked excursion with Patrick's Maohi Nui 3/4 day tour. We had three boats of 12 people in each – I’m tellin’ ya…we had a great Cruise Critic roll call. We weren’t able to meet Patrick, as he was welcoming a baby into his family. Our guide was Mark, for short, a Polynesian name that began like that, but he gave us all a break and allowed us to call him something easy. All of us boarded our outriggers at 9:30 a.m. and headed out to swim with Black-tipped Reef Sharks. Let’s see…Item #1, swimming with something scary…CHECK! What beautiful creatures and what a wonderful experience. They swam around us and never once gave us the feeling we were food. And then I looked down…big Lemon Sharks were swimming around below us. They still looked pretty large, although they were at least 20 feet down. I was pretty glad I never saw one surface after learning they may be a bit more aggressive.

Then it was off to a shallow sandbar to swim with Stingrays. I remember doing this in the Cayman Islands, how it was such a highlight in my life and if it would be as exciting the second time. It was. I love them. I think everyone should try it. They are so friendly and soft – very fun to watch swimming by and letting us touch them. I could have stayed there all day, but it was time to go snorkeling and see the coral gardens. I thought there was a lot of fish, but nothing compared to our second day in Bora Bora. It was still beautiful!

Next we were off to the private motu. Lunch was prepared in a traditional earth oven made with volcanic rocks covered with banana leaves. I loved the pig! Barbequed lobster and chicken, as well as raw fish salad were also prepared for us and drinks (alcohic and nonalcoholic) were provided. The tables were set in the lagoon. Lunch was great, although I thought Marc’s in Huahine was better. Both were similar, but definitely had their own flair. We hung out on the beach and played in the lagoon until 2:00 p.m. Another great day!

Next up – Checking Item #2 off my list of “not do’s” on Day Two in Bora Bora….

Edited by sassystyxfan

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review. I have so enjoyed reading it, especially as we are going on this cruise in just two weeks. We are very much looking forward to it as we have not been to the South Pacific before. Your photographs are wonderful thank you for sharing them with us.

I am a little anxious about your comments regarding sea sickness, most of our previous cruise experiences have been on mid to large ships so I am a little concerned that I might

feel every wave!

I understand that there are two formal nights on this cruise, can you tell me if they are very formal. I get the feeling from other posts that this is quite an informal cruise. We quite like the dressing up but do not want to be the only ones.

We are also staying at the Radisson Plaza for one night so it was good to read of your experiences.

Regards.

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review. I have so enjoyed reading it, especially as we are going on this cruise in just two weeks. We are very much looking forward to it as we have not been to the South Pacific before. Your photographs are wonderful thank you for sharing them with us.

I am a little anxious about your comments regarding sea sickness, most of our previous cruise experiences have been on mid to large ships so I am a little concerned that I might

feel every wave!

I understand that there are two formal nights on this cruise, can you tell me if they are very formal. I get the feeling from other posts that this is quite an informal cruise. We quite like the dressing up but do not want to be the only ones.

We are also staying at the Radisson Plaza for one night so it was good to read of your experiences.

Regards.

 

Thanks for you kind comments. Enjoy your cruise! Don't be anxious about "feeling" the waves. I don't remember feeling anything extraordinarily rough. Rocking never bothers me anyway - I really don't get it this time. My suggestion is Bonine (Meclazine is the generic which is much cheaper) and taking it before, while and one day after. Or get the patch from your doctor. My aunt said it didn't make her drowsy or feel any differently at all, but most importantly it worked. As far as formal nights - DRESS UP! I did because we like it too. But I saw very formal and not so formal. I did see some tuxedos but not a lot - mostly suits and sportcoats and ties. The women were in everything from gowns to pantsuits. Wear what you are comfortable with and feel fabulous in!

 

There's more coming on the Radisson...please stay with me :-)

Edited by sassystyxfan
I forgot something LOL

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review. I have so enjoyed reading it, especially as we are going on this cruise in just two weeks. We are very much looking forward to it as we have not been to the South Pacific before. Your photographs are wonderful thank you for sharing them with us.

I am a little anxious about your comments regarding sea sickness, most of our previous cruise experiences have been on mid to large ships so I am a little concerned that I might

feel every wave!

I understand that there are two formal nights on this cruise, can you tell me if they are very formal. I get the feeling from other posts that this is quite an informal cruise. We quite like the dressing up but do not want to be the only ones.

We are also staying at the Radisson Plaza for one night so it was good to read of your experiences.

Regards.

Though Laura had some sea sickness, she was one of the few. I am very sensitive to motion but did not experience any motion sickness (we were in the stateroom next to Laura and did many shared activities so were pretty much in the same locations for experiencing motion). Don't worry yourself about the potential, just take some motion sickness medicine along...or you can get it on board if needed.

I hope you love the Radisson as we did...waking up to the view of the cloud cover moving off of Moorea, watching the ocean waves washing over the black sand beach ...ahhh Tahiti!

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There are certain things that I have no interest in doing; primarily because of fear. Flying is one of them, but I’m getting better with take-offs and landings. I have always wished airplanes could just taxi the whole way. There is no way I would jump out of one, but have parasailed – it was attached to a boat! I’m not crazy about heights or enclosed, confined spaces. I love speed and roller coasters, though. My husband has always wanted to take a helicopter ride and I have previously said, “see ya when you get back”. So I thought it would be nice to walk through some fear and do something scary for him.

We pre-booked the Aqua Safari Helmet Dive excursion with six others from our Cruise Critic group on our second day in Bora Bora. We tendered to the dock again and met our boat that took us to the dive boat only five minutes away. There were eight helmets so all of us could go at the same time. We were told that others could snorkel instead or if there were more people than helmets. We were given detailed instructions of what it would feel like, hand signals to use because no one can hear what you say in there, and how to ring the bell attached to the helmet if you needed help. I figured I would take the plunge first – better to get in there, pretend to be the brave one and not have a chance to change my mind. I began ascending down the ladder, got halfway into the water and a helmet with a metal, weighted breast plate was hoisted over my head and rested on my shoulders. Then the guide, already in the water, helped me and my huge, heavy helmet 12 feet down to the sandy bottom of the ocean. My thoughts: “Wow – this thing is heavy. How can I be breathing underwater? All I can hear is air flowing around my helmet. Maybe I should get back in the boat.” My first instinct was to panic, but the guide still had his hands on my waist, keeping me from bumping into any coral and he stayed with me until I got steady. Then I looked around. OMG! There were fish everywhere! Of course the little net bag filled with bread tied to my helmet helped. I said…”oooooooooo prettttttttyyyyyy!”which sounded really strange – like someone else said it in my head. John came in right behind me and we spent 30 minutes exploring coral and seeing so many fish that it was hard to get a distance shot with my camera. They were all close-ups! I must say 30 minutes was just perfect. Just perfect for me to decide to take diving lessons one day. I just might get on a helicopter with John too. Who knows?

Our last stop is Moorea…you don’t wanna miss it….

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All that we saw of Bora Bora was from a tour boat, or a private motu with beautiful views of the island. We were glad that we happened upon a land tour on our last stop - Moorea. We tendered to the shore in the morning with the Korenics and Lewis’ to see what tours were available at the pier. We were considering renting little, open-aired cars called Bugsters. A festive greeting awaited us with Polynesian music and dancers. The pier was lined with little booths of trinkets and souvenirs. We quickly walked through it still half-heartedly looking for the perfect pareo. Albert, of “Albert Tours” found the six of us and plugged his land tour. Someone asked, “How much is it?” Others asked, “How long is the tour?” I asked, “Will there be air-conditioning in your van?” Did I mention the humidity? After gathering all the right answers, the six of us piled into the cool van and took an all day tour of Moorea. Albert told us all about the churches, the population, schools, employment and culture. He also told us about his three wives, three houses (we saw one of them) and told jokes along the way. He was a pretty entertaining guy and took us EVERYWHERE! We drove into the center of the crater to Belvedere Lookout – the view of Cooks and Opunohu (Royal was docked here) Bays and a sacred temple. Then we drove all but a couple of miles around the entire island stopping for pictures and any place with a story. We pulled up to the Pineapple Distillery at the end of our journey. I remember thinking, “oh no – we aren’t going to have to take a tour of a factory in the heat, are we?” Albert opened his door and said, “I’ll meet you at the bar”. What? What bar? What kind of bar? We got out of the van to find a cute little building with a gift shop. Albert was in the back, behind the bar, putting out plastic cups and grabbing the first of many cartons of tropical juices to sample. The girls bellied up to bar and tasted each cup with a swallow of different rum juice – oh yes, there was rum in them there cartons. After tasting each one, we – the girls – placed our cups back on the bar…”NEXT!” The boys watched us in amusement and took pictures. The girls were having the most fun, though. The liqueurs came next. Claudia, Karen and I all agreed…”a whole day…all of this and more for 40 bucks!” We all went our separate ways in the gift shop afterward. As I turned around I saw a rack with pareos tied to it. I looked through them and noticed none of them had prices. It’s ok…I’m not really seeing anything…WAIT! What is this? OOOOOOOO…..Prettttttyyyyy! Finally…something that blows my skirt up. Just then John walked up and offered to take it to the cashier. I walked outside and saw his face while he was paying for it. I mouthed to Claudia, “How much?” I read her lips that said, “$70!!”. “You better reaaaaaallly like this pareo”, John said. We all hopped back into the cool van for our ride back to the pier. Albert had one more stop to make, though, at his daughter’s black pearl jewelry shop. Very nice store…looked like a high-end jewely store at the mall, but all by itself right off the road. Albert told John, “Don’t go in there – it’ll cost you money”. “But honey, it’s cool in there…I’m just going to take a peek”. So we went in. I heard Claudia say, “Hey Laura! Look – these are cheaper than your pareo!” Guess who came home with a black pearl too?

If you go to Moorea, you have to see the island. The island is stunning, clean and absolutely a site to behold. It was definitely my favorite port on this cruise. I’m grateful we got to see all of it in a day. We really got a good taste of it…literally I suppose.

I’ll be writing about our last day on the ship and final stay at the Radisson next. We had a brush with celebrity while we were there and topped off a fabulous trip….see you there!

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The ship headed back to Papeete after a full day in Moorea. We decided to end the cruise properly with the friends we missed as our dinner companions after the first night’s open seating. The Lewis’ were with us this time and we got a table for 8 in Sterling Steak House. I thought the specialty dining was worth the cover charge. Steaks and family style sides were excellent and the service was great. The company was the best, though. Too bad we had to finish packing.

We had a teary breakfast the next morning after checking our carry-ons into the steakhouse for safekeeping. It’s odd that passengers are permitted to remain onboard until later in the afternoon since flights depart later at night. I remember fantasizing about getting to the hotel earlier to hang out on the beach and relax. Then we met all of our new friends from different parts of the world, along with meeting our buds from the UK, and we didn’t want to leave. So we hung out at the Royal pool as long as we could knowing that leaving all of them would be sad – especially for the criers…me and Karen.

BUT – our vacation wasn’t over yet. Donned in my new pareo (no I didn’t sleep in it) we headed to the Radisson Plaza. Check-in was a little less chaotic, but we did not get the “upgrade” like our first night. We hauled our luggage into the room and something caught my eye in this one-story version in the same building we were in previously. A reflection of a large Jacuzzi tub…sure enough…behind a curtain was another little room with a tub and windows with shutters offering a beautiful view of the beach below. Radisson…don’t ever upgrade me again, ok? We liked the standard room much better.

We couldn’t figure out why the room wasn’t staying cool. We got it that you have to put your room key in the slot by the door…an energy-saving feature. We just couldn’t figure out why the unit’s green light kept going out. It turns out you can’t open the balcony door without the unit shutting off. SO – we started taking the remote with us and turning the air-conditioner back on from outside! Ahhhhhhh….

The next morning we re-organized our luggage to prepare for the flight home. I said, “they can’t make me leave this room”. So we went downstairs and asked for a day room, as our flight wasn’t until 10:00 p.m. They didn’t have any vacancies. So we kept a bag each with clean clothes and toiletries for use in their spa later (all free of charge) and checked our luggage into their storage room. We wore our swimsuits so we could hang out at the infinity pool all day.

We went to the little boutique to look around. There was a lady with beautiful white hair sitting in front of the cashier purchasing what looked like gifts. She looked at me and said, “nice pareo”. I can’t make this stuff up. Seriously, she said she had never seen one like it. We got acquainted and she said she was from “there”. I asked, “If you are from here, why are you HERE?” She said she had just gotten her hair done. Then she asked, “Have you ever heard of John Norman Hall who wrote Mutiny on the Bounty? He is my dad. Have you been to the museum? You must see it…Do you have a car?” After answering no, she said, “What are you doing right now? We’ll drop you off”. We met her husband and daughter-in-law who introduced herself as such and followed them to their niece picking them up in front of the hotel.

Mrs. Nancy Hall Rutgers, the daughter of John Norman Hall, dropped us off in front of her dad’s house, the museum, we kissed her goodbye and went to the door. As instructed, we told the hostess of the museum that we were sent by Mrs. Rutgers. We still didn’t know if this lady was real. The hostess explained that Nancy is the kindest person and she does stuff like this all the time. Nancy was driven around the back, up the hill that she owns (her parents are buried there as well), to her beautiful home. She comes to the island every other year and stays for 3 or so months at a time. The hostess asked, “Did you meet her at the Radisson? She was getting her hair done for the trip back to the States to spend the holidays with her children.” We took a tour of the house, read the timeline of Mr. Hall’s life, saw the library and typewriter that he wrote Mutiny on the Bounty on and killed some time in a great way! The man was very interesting and he had a very kind, warm and beautiful daughter!

Mrs. Rutgers also told us it was a short walk back to the hotel – 10 minutes. Well, maybe if you are a distance runner that also happens to be used to the HUMIDITY! The only thing I would change is taking a cab back to the Radisson. The sidewalks are very narrow, the Mercedes garbage trucks and other cars are zooming by and did I mention the humidity? Take a cab. If you fall off the sidewalk, you will be just a memory instead of your trip!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Lovely day, great service at the pool and a perfect way to end our trip. Then we took our bags up to the spa, showered and changed and went to the airport. We got to see our friends for the last time there and I had my last Hinano beer – I thought. We even saw a slide show of our trip that one of our friends had already put together on an iPad. Mrs. Rutgers and her husband were there and waved John over to thank us for going to the museum and writing in the guestbook. All because of a $70 pareo…

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Laura, what a delightful ending to a wonderful story.

 

Your vivid description of your excursions has reinforced our plans for many of the same choices. I must say that I kinda wish that we had been on that cruise with you & Banditoo. I’m also an OCD planner but I’m virtually alone on my Roll Call, so we may not get to do some of these great private tours unless others join us!

 

How lucky for you to end your visit in paradise by meeting a local “celebrity” and for her to be taken with your pareo! I was very interested in your account of the John Norman Hall Museum, since it’s included as part of our post-cruise transfer to the Radisson. Now I’ll be more eager to visit it. Loved seeing the Shutterfly pic of you on the steps of the Museum wearing your magic pareo. It looks great. Is it hand-painted & signed? It must be a work of art.

 

Thanks again for your captivating travelogue.

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