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Familygoboston

Review- PG 7 Night Society Islands Oct 2012

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Well, its finally time to get started...after returning on Oct 4th jet lagged with 2000 photos to process, a HS senior who needed assistance with college applications and portfolio photos, and my parents unexpectedly visiting for a week... with their dog... and their cat, I have finally managed to get everything together!;)

 

Now of course we are awaiting the effects of Hurricane Sandy here on the East Coasts, so I will start, but we may find we are interrupted!!

I will begin with lots of planning and packing tips and then go into a day by day travelogue...hope there is something to help out everyone, and keep your fingers crossed that the power and internet holds out!:eek:

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This trip was a 25th anniversary cruise for my DH and I (late 40's). We have traveled quite a bit internationally both for pleasure and business and have taken mass market Caribbean cruises out of Florida at least annually as an inexpensive couples get away in the past. We knew we wanted something a little more special for our 25th anniversary.

 

We ruled out the luxury cruises in the Caribbean for this trip because we wanted to travel on our actual anniversary which coincides with hurricane season in the Caribbean. Originally, I started researching small ship Mediterranean cruising. But as the guide books for Europe starting piling up and the ports appeared to require long days to tour with long transfers, my DH began to see that this would not be the relaxing, romantic vacation he envisioned. Also, when we were young and poor, we stayed at the Polynesian resort in WDW for our honeymoon, so actually going to Polynesia for our anniversary felt like coming full circle!

 

Our TA had sent us a thick brochure with a "collection" of luxury vacations and he saw the page about Paul Gauguin. I was aware of it, but thought it might be too far from our East Coast home for a week. We simply couldn't afford much more time than that due to having 2 teenagers at home; one in the throes of applying to college. But the one week Society Islands cruise with 2 (and it turned out to be 3) overnights, seemed ideal. We are very active and enjoy water sports and the PG seemed to really specialize in that area.

 

Disclaimer

I do like to write very detailed photo travelogue reviews with lots of planning tips. Some people might hate that, but I love reading them when I am planning a trip (or even when I'm not!), so that's what I write. It's the details in a review that allow me to suss out how I would like the cruise. A review of "I liked this and I didn't like that", with out details of why, or understanding who the writer is, or how to make the experience better, doesn't help me, so that's why I include the details.

I'll try to inject some humor...almost always at my own expense, but hopefully it works and no one is offended! These are my opinions and experiences; someone else may have had a completely different experience on the same cruise. I do tend to tell the unvarnished truth and I'm not beholden to anyone or anything, other than my own story. I try not to "slam" anyone or anything, because anyone can have a bad day or bad cruise and be great next week. My only hope is that someone (anyone?:p) reading this will enjoy it the way I enjoy reading detailed photo reviews, to do a little arm chair traveling and get some helpful tips!

 

Photos

The photographs are all my DH who is an avid amateur photographer. For this trip he used the Nikon D 800 with a 28- 300 zoom and a Nikon AW water camera. If you see a "bad" picture it's because I have posted it despite his objections because it helps illustrate the story. He teases me for behaving like a photo editor while on board- "take a picture of this, take a picture of that" , and since I have no regard for lighting and other elements that make great photos, many of my requests don't turn out to be great photos and that's why it pains DH to share them. To assist those of you who like to pick out specific things in reviews- I will post the travelogue in blue, and any "tips" in bold black , and of course you can just scroll though the photos, if that's what interests you. I also plan to post all the Ia Orana daily schedules at the beginning of each day. Menus, and other docs to assist with planning later in the review. For those of you brave enough to try to consume the whole review...I am humbled that you would choose to spend your time doing that...and thanks!

 

Why Take a Cruise?

 

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We usually don't cruise when we are setting out to explore another part of the world, because sometimes cruising can make one feel a little disconnected from the place (since you are not eating or sleeping in the place and only stay a day). PG surprised us in this way- the overnights, and 2 days in port and the excellent entertainment including Les Guaguines really made this a full immersion experience, even more so I think than if we had stayed a week in a bungalow on a single island. For this island "nation" across an area 1/2 the size of the US with a land mass the size of RI (according to the excellent Dr. Michael Poole) cruising is probably the very best way to see this area.

 

 

I had fully expected the Les Gauguine's to be little more than eye candy, my first instinct was to find it maybe even a little offensive to have these young scantily dressed women running around the ship. Well, I could not have been more wrong headed in that assessment! It didn't take long for these beautiful, funny, sassy, talented ladies to win me over. They were everywhere sharing wonderful information, working us hard in Polynesian "zumba" ;) and performing and teaching all kinds of dances, songs, poems, crafts to share their culture on board and on shore. I've heard others say it, and now I experienced it, but these ladies really make this cruise a unique and special experience. You leave feeling like you have learned and experienced so much and that's because they are tireless hostesses of the ship!

 

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You really have the sense that PG is another tiny motu in French Polynesia vs other ships that "visit" French Polynesia, that's the only way I can express it! There have been a few rare instances when I visit a place and look longingly at a place other than where I am staying and think, I wish I could have stayed at "that place". I never felt that way once and now I think of PG is "that place" in French Polynesia!

 

(ok that was a lot of writing...I promise more pictures soon!)

Edited by Familygoboston

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I'm anxiously awaiting your next installment. Glad to see you have on a long dress as I was considering packing one and now I know I will.

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Planning the trip:

 

Of course my very first go to place is Cruise Critic. Fortunately, the PG board, like the ship itself is small and friendly. No question I posed was ever met with scorn and so many were so helpful, particularly, Emdee, Twin, Flight Medic, Tiki, Escriteur, Motuislander and others who shared photo reviews and patiently answered any question. I mentioned the importance of learning from others experiences and on our first day onboard, I was moving through all the little tasks (making reservations, and gathering snorkel equipment) that I had read on CC to get out of the way, and my DH was amazed at how it seemed like I was a veteran of this cruise and knew where to go and what to do. I find it far less overwhelming knowing what to expect and my fellow CC members helped me immensely and I thank them all (even if I forgot your screen name right now!).

 

I also used another "trip advice" site and wouldn't you know but some of the PG experts there are the same helpful folks here on CC;-)

 

We also read a few guide books. I like to read the books so I have a better understanding of the local history and culture and also so I can get some ideas of what to do in a place. These are the ones we got from the library and what I thought of each.

 

Hidden Tahiti by Rob Kay: decent maps and great descriptions, lots of out of the way places.

 

Open Road-Tahiti: maps didn't include things referenced and had locations not elaborated in the book. One general island map too small.

 

Lonely Planet- Tahiti and FP: This is the one we brought with us. I liked that the maps had mile markers on all the "ring roads" (every island has one main road circumnavigating it) and in the text things were referred to by mile marker on the ring road, which helped with finding things

 

It helps to learn some of the " language", there are 2 used interchangeably throughout FP- French and Polynesian, and some things are referred to in French, some in the Polynesian, some in both, or if you speak English, they may be English words, so you hear two or three different words to describe the same thing! Knowing the common things and phrases are before you go will make things far less confusing. A good guide book will help with basic words, not only good day (Ia Ora na) and thank you (Maruuru) and but for learning some of the geological and geographical words so you can tell your atoll from your Motu. When presented at the toilettes with a Vahine and a Tane, and both people on the sign are wearing a pareo, where will you go? These are answers you want to know before you have to "go", if you get my drift!;)

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Booking:

 

We decided to book through our wonderful TA who had provided the catalog with the collection of trips from which we selected this cruise. Certainly you can book direct, but having the advice of a good agent can be invaluable. Booking with an agent who doesn't know the area or refuses to communicate with PG and pass along correct information can make for a much less pleasant trip; refer to my travelogue to hear the tales of woe of two honeymooners who were given bad advice by their TA's and had some pretty lousy experiences! Traveling this far requires a lot of coordination of flights, day rooms, pre and post stays and a good TA can make that all seamless, especially for young people with little travel experience who are already up to their eyeballs in wedding plans!

 

We chose to book the pre stay and post stay day rooms through PG since it was a far better deal than booking them on my own, especially once I added on the cost of transfers. We also found the price of the flight from LA to Tahiti on ATN to be priced better than we could do on our own with the rebate from PG. We used miles to fly AA (DH's preferred airline) from Boston to LA

 

We selected a balcony cabin on 6 as these were the least expensive balcony cabins and for this trip we preferred a balcony. We like to relax on our balcony at sailaway and on this cruise, the ship often sailed for an hour or two between 5 and 7 PM and we would sit out on the balcony privately and enjoy the cruise then get ready for dinner. This was well worth the extra expense for us. Others are happy to have a window and go to the pool deck to feel the wind in their hair. For this romantic trip, we enjoyed the privacy of the balcony.

 

We looked at the itinerary and decided to select a cabin on the starboard side so we would have views of the main islands while cruising, and this proved to be true for us on this 7 day trip. But a cabin on the port side of the ship may be a better option, if you are a late riser or midday napper, because all the tenders go off from the starboard side and while most tendering occurs during normal waking hours (after 8:30 AM and before 10 PM) you could find it troublesome. We did not find it problematic, and other than one fun group who "closed" Taaha, the passengers are quiet, its just boat noise. We found it worth it for the photos DH was able to get from our balcony. Below is an explanation of what we experienced on the starboard side at each port:

 

Choosing a side of the ship for 7 day Society Islands:

Tahiti- Veiws of Papeete and the harbor from either side, but starboard side you can see the market and parks and areas where you are more likely to "visit".

 

(Photo of port in Tahiti)

 

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(map- ship docks near the airport right in Papeete at about 10- 11 o'clock on the island)

 

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Raiatea- docked, port side to the port.

 

(Photo of ship from port)

 

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Taaha- tenders starboard side, we could see the Tahaa side from starboard, The starboard side gets the money shot when leaving Taaha at 5:30 PM, Bora Bora, in the distance, is on the starboard side along with the setting sun. The ship must navigate a channel through the coral ring, and once through, it turns again and Bora Bora and the sunset are still on the starboard side.

 

(photo of ship from the motu)

 

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(BB and Moorea in the next post)

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Bora Bora- tenders starboard side, starboard side view of Motu Toopua, while the port side had views of the mountain Pahia.

 

(photo of our view from starboard side in BB)

 

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(scan of maps)

 

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Moorea-tenders starboard side, anchored in Opunohu bay so both sides are looking at Moorea. When leaving starboard side has the views of Moorea and the sunset to the starboard stern.

 

(photo of ship from Moorea)

 

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(starboard side view in Moorea)

 

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(scan of map-pardon my notes)

 

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In conclusion for this itinerary, port side offers a quieter experience, the starboard side has the tenders, although the tendering doesn't usually begin much before 8:00 AM and runs no later than 10 PM, so affects only late sleepers and nappers. The starboard side offers the most spectacular views of the islands while cruising from one to the next, which is often done at sunset. Both sides offer beautiful views and quiet in our experience...you really can't go wrong unless you miss the ship!

 

While you are looking at maps, note that on Raitea and Bora Bora, the ship docks or tenders to the main commercial area (using that term very lightly- nothing is very commercial!), while Moorea is a small port area located a little distance from the main commercial area. More details on getting around coming in the travelogue.

 

See, there are a few photos, more coming!

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I'm anxiously awaiting your next installment. Glad to see you have on a long dress as I was considering packing one and now I know I will.

 

Thanks for the review.

 

Thanks!! You might both change your minds once you see how long it is:eek:

Cold weather girl- lots of gals in maxis- they are quite popular now and I never felt cold in the dining rooms or too warm on deck!

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Tips for flights/pre/post nights:

Once on board, after talking to people you realize just how much logistics there are for this cruise line getting all their passengers onto and off of the ship and to and from the places where they choose to go. Its amazing how seamless they make it for you, especially if you book their package. But even folks making their own arrangements are included in the embarkation and disembarkation information. It's all made very simple! If you are making your own flight arrangements, you can still make day room arrangements- even through PG, as long as you are willing to make your transfer (cab or car rental) arrangements. We met a lovely young honeymooning couple who thought when they arrived at the pier at 6 AM, they would be able to board, and while they were able to drop their luggage, they had to sit in the park in Papeete until 3 PM when they were able to embark! So plan a day room in any case.

 

your first day can be like this:

 

(photo of IC)

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Or like this:

 

(photo of Graham and Melissa's bench)

 

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luckily they were able to put their luggage on board and now have a funny story to tell at their 50th anniversary party, and because it they weathered that...we know they'll have one!

 

For old folks like us, we prefer the former, even if it costs a few bucks!

 

Some people, especially the honeymooners chose to do pre or post nights for several nights or a week in FP before or after boarding. Couples coming directly from their wedding weekend definitely preferred doing a week in an OWB or resort before boarding, just to decompress. Creaky middle age anniversary folks like ourselves benefitted from at least 2 days prior to the cruise to unwind after the long flights and time zone changes.

 

It's my opinion that the IC Tahiti was wonderful for pre nights; very pretty and comfortable for a couple of pre nights, but also a little frenetic for a longer stay. There is a culture of people coming and going at all hours of day and night, using day rooms, and because Papeete is a populous place, it is also a place for community events and local weddings, which creates another layer of chaos.

 

We were booted out of our lounge chairs one late afternoon because they were setting up a cocktail party. We saw a young couple on a romantic little 10 square foot islet on the infinity pool interrupted by an Olympian who arrived in her dojo with her London silver medal, her stylist, photographer and editor for a photo shoot within inches of the honeymooner's loungers. The Saturday night after we disembarked, the televised (with cables everywhere!) Mr Tahiti contest was being held with screeching single ladies in the audience and booming bass hip hop music blaring.

 

(Photo of Mr Tahiti's)

 

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I found it to be a pleasant and diverting way;) to spend a day, and we only had a day room, but my advice is if you are planning a honeymoon or a more lengthy decompress time, plan to go to Moorea, it's the closest island to Tahiti and will be much more what you probably have in your imagination when you think of chillaxing on a beach in the South Pacific.

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Planning Excursions:

 

We made an effort to spend one of our 2 days on each island (or island area, in the case of Raiatea and Taaha) seeing and experiencing the "land" and one day on or in the "water". I started with looking at the list of excursions offered by PG. Then I read the reviews on CC to see which tours people really liked and recommended. Then I posted specific questions if I had them.

 

For Bora Bora people recommended Patrick's, a private excursion, and so I used CC to organize a group from our roll call (including a honeymooner staying on Bora Bora who found us on CC just to book this excursion with the group.) I usually make a spread sheet with all our itinerary information on it, and then fill out what excursions we want and when.

 

Once I had a good idea of what we wanted to book, I went ahead and pre reserved with PG or the private tour guide about 5-6 months in advance. With PG we were able to use our OBC for excursions because they weren't billed to our account till we got onboard. We had till noon the day before the tour to make changes or cancel.

 

I was glad we booked early, as you'll see in our review, in Moorea we had some bad weather and were told by Michael Poole that if he could not take out the whole group, he would take out the number of people he could safely take starting with those who booked first. Also, some tours did fill and we heard more than a few people say they missed out on booking something they wanted.

 

I'm not saying there won't be other wonderful excursions available; but if you are looking for active excursions (ie. not 40 person buses) with limited "seating" (ie. kayaks, quad bikes, snorkel boat) or tours with the onboard experts- I recommend you book as soon as you know you want those tours. There is no money lost to do so and then change your mind, but waiting till boarding could leave you without your first choice of options.

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Packing:

 

DH and I are both light packers. We prefer to pack as little luggage as possible for easier movement, even in places where they will handle luggage for you. Despite our single roller bag and personal item, we did have to check bags at ATN. They are very strict about the carry on baggage weight (must be 10 K or less). This wasn't too big of a deal for us because we were taking PG transfers anyway, we needed to wait for everyone else to claim luggage and board the transfer bus anyway.

 

Because we travel a lot, we have a lot of specialized light weight clothing and we wear things in related color families, so that one sweater matches all the outfits, one cover up matches all the bathing suits etc, one pair of dressy shoes works with every outfit, etc. This limits the number of multiples we need to bring and we still have lots of wardrobe possibilities.

 

The downside to this is you have to be committed to doing some laundry. PG made that easy when I discovered and unlimited laundry package is available if it is pre booked by calling PG before departure and is pre paid. This was well worth it for us and we used the laundry service every day. We paid $109 for a 7 night cruise. Every day we sent out a few items by 9 AM and they were in our room before dinner. That is not guaranteed, but our experience was things in by 9 AM would be back for you to wear for dinner.

 

(Laundry prices)

 

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Pack a light rain coat or poncho, despite that some had me almost convinced with certainty that rain jackets are not needed in FP, I recommend that you bring a light weight packable raincoat or poncho with you, especially if you are a person who takes active excursions. If you plan to spend all your time on bus tours, you can wait on the bus as a shower passes. For active, hiking, biking, boating excursions, having these can at least protect your photo gear from the rain and at best keep you warmer and drier on a moving boat or bikes as we found. I always travel with a packable raincoat and I stand by that recommendation for anywhere in the world save maybe a desert environment.

I've included my packing list here.

 

PG Packing List-Ladies

 

Tops

sleeveless blouse/tops for daytime (2)

tees (2)

dressy tops for evening (2)

 

Bottoms & Dresses

skort/short (2)

capris

dress slacks

sundresses (3)

 

Lingere and Jewelry

underwear (5)

pjs

lingere

jewelry pouch

 

Accessories

sun hat with clip for active excursions

sun hat staw

day purse

sunglasses sport

reading glasses

 

Water Wear

bathing suits (3) (really can't be laundered and we were in them every day)

surf shirt

water skort/short for active excusrions

long sleeve safari shirt (for sun protection)

cover ups (2) (or bring one and buy a pareo)

snorkel

mask- I brought my own because I have seal and fog issues with borrowed ones.

 

Outerwear

lightweight packable rain coat

light long sweater to match sundresses

lightweight fleece/active wear top

 

Workout

capris

bra top

socks

sneakers (I didn’t bring, worked out in Keens)

 

Shoes

water shoes/reef shoes

dress up sandals

 

Toiletries & stuff

sun screen-lots, it was very expensive and v few options in the islands

bug stuff-for interior tours and beach days

toiletries

first aid/meds bag

ziplock bags- for packing wet suits on transfer days

 

Documents

passports and photo copies of PP

PG docs

credit cards

cash for tips & markets (US and FPF)

guidebooks

e tickets

medical cards

schedules

 

Devices/Recreation

ipad

ipad charger

head phones

magazines

bioculars

phone

phone charger

water bottle- (only needed at IC)

 

Travel Comfort

pashmina (or buy yourself a pareo)

inflatable pillow

eye shades

snacks

 

Travel Wear

tee 2 (for double overnight flights)

pants

slip off shoes (I wore my keens)

lightweight fleece or sweater

wool socks

 

 

Note: this packing list was designed for active excursions and casual evenings, and lightweight travel. You may have a different plan for your cruise, and you may need different items. This is a minimum list, if you check bags you can probably increase the multiples.

 

That's all my "upfront" tips for folks who aren't interested in the photos or travelogue...Day 1 of the travelogue starts next, with embedded tips, loads of photos! I have to take a break...keep your fingers crossed that Hurricane Sandy doesn't foil my plans;)

Edited by Familygoboston

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Pre Day 1 ( or maybe it was 2??) Oct 3-4: Flight to LA, pre night stay in Santa Monica

 

We had an AA 4:50 PM flight from Boston to LAX .

 

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There's my good looking fella, (almost made him enter the Mr Tahiti contest, but thought that wouldn't have been fair to the other guys) the photographer and my DH of 25 years!)

 

We had no trouble carrying on our roller bags on AA. DH has priority status, so we are always able to board early and place our bags in the overhead. he's able to pre book the exit row seats, which makes coach flights more comfortable. Our smaller personal items contain all our flight "comforts" and go under the seat in front. We had used miles to purchase these seats and were able to get the exit row, window and middle seat.

 

We had an uneventful flight to LAX and arrived at 7:40 PM and took a cab to La Merigot ( JW Marriott) in Santa Monica. The cab fare was $40 plus a tip in v light traffic. The hotel is located on Ocean Ave, which is on a road parallel to the beach. The rear of the property has access to a road on which the beach lies, you walk though the pool area, out a room key card accessible door, and across the quiet street and onto the beach.

 

(photo of JW Marriott exterior pool and beach beyond- note "beach access" sign on the wall, that's the stairs to the street)

 

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The lobby area has a low slung Southern California vibe, with modern lighting and furnishings.

 

(photo of JW Lobby)

 

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The staff at the front desk was super friendly, upgrading us to a Junior Suite and sending up champagne and strawberries when we mentioned it was our 25 th wedding anniversary and we were headed to Tahiti to celebrate. The room 449, was large with a full size couch and king size bed with lots of colorful furnishings and blond wood. The best part was the huge private roof deck with 2 chairs, dining table and a lounger. In the morning we could see that there was a twin to our room next to us on 4, and there appeared to be some sort of similar roof deck with 4 tables and chairs and umbrellas above and behind our room. After checking out the roof deck and getting comfortable, we sipped champagne, ate chocolate dipped strawberries and...watched a replay of the presidential debate...I know...romantic huh?

 

(photo of Jr Suite, and roof deck)

 

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(you can see the peek a boo of the beach beyond the roof deck)

 

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I should have noted earlier in the photography section, that some of our photos are i phone 5 photos...this phone has a terrific panoramic feature, which DH loved for room shots...it allows me to post one photo and you can see the whole room! So if you see a room or cabin shot, it's very likely the iphone!

 

Our breakfast in the morning was included, or maybe not. We seem to be having this problem with Marriott. My DH has many nights- but exactly what level that puts him, no one seems clear. When we checked in we were treated like kings; "here's an upgrade and you'll get a voucher for breakfast, late check out and free Internet." Then the next day they start back peddling. The same thing happened in Ecuador a month ago...it's like in one place in their system we are one level and in another place not. Because DH has so many nights and is so close to Gold, we think each time they bestow privileges upon us that he has finally stayed enough nights, but then they make us feel as if we were trying to get away with something...the whole thing is odd and off putting!

 

Anyway, so we use our voucher for breakfast which is ala carte, and served quickly and hot. A variety of eggs and meats are offered all around $15-18 per meal. We eat out on the patio above the pool and its just lovely behind a high wall and when standing offers views of the beach.

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After breakfast we walk down to the beach and pier. We specifically booked this hotel so we could get some exercise between flights. Because its early, it's very quiet with just bikers, walkers and birds. After a long walk and lots of photos and making a crushed penny for DH's collection, we head back to the hotel to relax in our roof deck. We decide to go back to the pier for an early lunch because we need to check out and leave for the airport at 2 PM. We decide on Bubba Gumps, which is right on the pier overlooking the ocean.

 

We've noticed that everyone is very friendly here! Being from New England we are used to a much more cool reception from people, even in places of business, so the laid back friendly vibe here in S. California is really different for us!

 

(photos Santa Monica Pier and Beach)

 

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After another walk back to the hotel, we have showers and check out. We are ready to hail a cab, when the bellman suggests we ride with "Dan" in his town car for a flat rate of $40. This sounds like a good deal to me, because, to be perfectly honest the cab ride from the airport had an annoying tv in the back seat blaring 6 month old celebrity news- "Jessica Simpson is due any day, now! The queen is celebrating her Jubilee!" Am I turning into an impossible crank? I must be, because I find the fact that TV s are everywhere really annoying! Anyway, Dan's town car is lovely, though he is one of these jack rabbit drivers, on and off the gas constantly, and I found myself getting motion sickness with all the lurching through Marina Del Ray on the way to the airport!

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We get to the airport and check in at ATN.

 

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Our carry in bags are weighed and don't make the cut. Luckily, the valuables, meds and docs are in our "personal items" and we will have to wait for others collecting bags in Papeete on the PG transfer bus anyway, so it's easily done. As we leave the check in line we see a rep for PG cruises at the head of the line. She welcomes us and checks if names off a list.

 

We go upstairs to the food court and get a Hagen Daz coffee shake- which didn't have enough ice cream for my tastes! ( see, you will get ALL the details in my reviews;) ) We notice that there are several flights leaving between 3:50 and 4:50, and even though its just 3pm and our flight isn't till 4:30 we decide to hit the security line before the crush and while its still relatively quiet.

 

I've passed through LAX before, but I'm always surprised at how poorly "equipped" it seems to handle the nature of international travel. Most people will have long layovers, and yet, there is very little "walking space" to stretch your legs. There is little in the way of sit down restaurants and the security area is cramped, small and poorly lit. The whole effect does not seem fitting for a major international gateway to and from the US. The billboards tell me a "new international terminal" is in the works, so maybe that will be an improvement. I can see now why there is a such a big "day room" business done by the surrounding hotels. They are serving essentially as the service area for a poorly equipped international terminal.

 

We pass through security with little fan fare and head to our gate. We get our first peek at some fellow PG pax, when we see PG luggage tags, but no one makes introductions yet!

 

ATN has a reputation, so we were curious to see for ourselves how things went. Boarding started out orderly, with a female gate agent calling children, and first class, then started boarding the very rear of the plane. Then almost immediately, a gentlemen came on the intercom and announced boarding for the whole plane before the rear rows had even made their way to the line! So now everyone was standing waiting to board all at the same time, and the woman was sending folks to the back of the line if they weren't in the rear of the plane (Luckily, we were!) The feeling I got was he was not bilingual and just read the wrong "script" over the PA. Luckily, the female gate agent still boarded people by row when they got to the front of the line, but clearly, these folks were not on the same page.

 

We had the Bora Bora plane. It had a 2-4-2 configuration, which works pretty well for a plane largely filled with coupes! There were seat back TVs and a remote for it in the arm rests. As reported before, armrests do not lie flush when you put them up. Coach leg room is cramped, and the seats are quite firm- although I found that to be preferable to too soft and feeling the seat infra structure underneath.

 

The flight attendants change from natty blue suits into cotton PJs decorated with hibiscus after you board...have no idea where they do this, it's all very superman like...your humble server is now...super safety agent!

Dada da da da dada!

Anyway, we found service to be pleasant and efficient, the plane was cramped, but otherwise comfortable, with announcements and interruptions kept to a minimum.

 

Two meals were served, the first within the first 2 hours of the flight ( beef stew or fish) and another in the last 2 hours of the flight ( I didn't have it but it appeared to be pasta, and yogurt or pudding possibly?) Between meal services, the lights were low and many of the Europeans sacked out, being that they had traveled an overnight the night before and from a jet lag point of view it was the middle of the night! Most Americans from the west coast read or watched movies.

 

We landed in PPT at 9:40 PM, a little ahead of time and were all off the plane quickly. A Polynesian group played and a woman danced as we waited for immigration. There was a fairly long line through passport control, but it moved pretty quickly. While in line, a woman in front heard me mention we were from Boston, and asked if I was " Familygoboston" and it turns out it was Nikki from Houston, one of 6 other folks we had arranged Patrick's tour with in Bora Bora. It was fun to start putting names to faces!! Once through immigration, luggage was coming off the plane quickly, so we collected our bags and headed out. There is a sign for PG and a woman from Tahiti Nui Travel met us, gave us leis and directed us to the bus.

 

(Us on a Bus...not nearly as scary as "Snakes on a Plane"...but close, after 8 hours of flying!)

 

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We put luggage in a trailer and then waited on the bus. The bus trailer is used a lot for PG transfers, it follows the bus, so they take your bags off and you collect them before the trailer and bus leave again, so there is little chance of "losing" luggage at this step, unless you miscount, or forget one! It was about 10:30 PM and we said we hoped to be in our rooms by 11:30- in fact the IC is very close to the airport and check in was very efficient with a special table staffed by a TN rep and mango juice offered. Since our bags were light, we chose to roll them down to panoramic room 196 ourselves rather than load them on the luggage cart and wait. 196 is a long way from the lobby, but beautifully located!

 

(photos of panoramic room and bath at IC)

 

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TIPS for Pre Nights:

 

-We did upgrade to a panoramic room on the advice of CC folks, and found it beautiful ,but to be a bit of a walk to the other areas of the resort, (main lobby, main pool, Tiare restaurant) We enjoyed the location and view by the infinity pool. We like to walk, but if mobility is an issue, request a regular room.

 

-Plan at least one pre night if you can, 2 is better! It definitely took us a day to decompress and shake off the travel stress!

 

-the OWB's At IC Tahiti did look lovely, but because of the way the resort is laid out and the activity level there, it is not quite the remote, private experience you may be looking for, though the views are stunning- consider adding Moorea or Bora Bora OWB instead, if an OWB is in your plans.

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Day 2 Oct 5 Tahiti

The next morning, we stepped out on the porch for our first "look", this is when I thought 2 things,

 

"I'm so glad that Emdee recommended upgrading to the panoramic room" and

 

"this could not be more perfect!"

 

I could hear the waves crashing on the reef, and see the ocean beyond the infinity pool, and beyond the tiki hut bars and restaurant, the mountains of Moorea were rising in the blue sea, birds were serenading and other than the far too loud couple in the room above us (why are you talking loudly at one another? Its paradise, people!) everything is perfect.

 

Except that I was wrong, at about 6:45 AM, a gardener came down the path took one look at the grounds right in front of our room and began raking the fallen bougainvillea blooms off the grass (which I thought looked kinda pretty on the ground!)- ok, I guess now it was perfect! Honestly, it is as breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful as advertised.

 

(the perfect view from our IC room- well worth the 14 hours it took to get there!)

 

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DH wandered a bit to get some pictures and then we head for breakfast.

 

(photos of IC property)

 

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At this point DH makes the joke that "it looks just like Disney World" :rolleyes: without missing a beat I comment that, "yes, they sent the Polynesians to WDW to figure out the proper theme for the IC":p . So already we are having fun with the connection between our honeymoon and our second honeymoon!

 

Breakfast is included in our pre days with PG. It is a large buffet the Tiare restaurant, with everything you can imagine to please you from whatever corner of the globe you hail. Need sushi?- they've got it! want vegamite?-they've got it! PB? ketchup? what do you want?... they've got it!

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After breakfast our plan is to get some business done in the lobby, and then work out, hit the pool, and then maybe take an afternoon tour.

 

We go to the front desk to ask if someone can go to our room and check our safe- it had a low battery message and would not lock. We also request an extra pillow- any kind really, but we are referred to the pillow menu in our room and told to call back. We never do see a pillow, so I think I wish they'd just dispense with the pillow "menu" and just provide a pillow when you ask.

 

We reserve the dinner show for that evening. We also stop at the tour desk, there appear to be 2 different companies, Tahiti Nui (who did our transfers) and Marama. But we choose Marama simply because the lady is sitting there. She has a little dog in a bejeweled sweater sitting on a special tuffet on one of the two chairs intended for clients- so we stand awkwardly over the chairs while we transact our business, so as not to disturb the princess... err, dog! She tells us about the tour options... A bus tour of the island or a 4x4 safari to the interior volcano and waterfall area. These are offered as either full or 1/2 day tours. Having forsworn bus tours after the Guadeloupe pepper sauce tour debacle (Don't ask- the story is more boring than the actual tour was)

 

So we choose the 1/2 day 4x4 jeep tour, preferring the afternoon, but the tour guide says to go in the morning, there is a far less chance of showers.

 

Being flexible, we decide to go for it ...plan B, since have an hour till the 9 am departure to get ready. We go back to our room- way at the end of the second panoramic building and change into swim suits and coat ourselves in sun screen, grab towels and water and dash back to the lobby. When we get back to the tour desk the "princess" is awake and accepting pats, though she still doesn't relinquish her seat. We learn the AM tour is cancelled because the jeep is broken and needs to be fixed- never what you want to hear, but she (the tour representative, not the princess) assures us it's "just a tire" and our tour will leave at 2.

 

(price list of IC tours offered)

 

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So we go back to the room and our plan A - work out and hit the beach pool.

 

Right outside our panoramic room is an infinity pool, with the Pacific and the hills of Moorea in view beyond. Its pretty spectacular. There are several loungers and a swim up pool bar as well as a towel cabana, where we had to sign out towels with a 200 FPF (about $3) deposit on our room number and then return them, to get the deposit slip torn up. This was only required by one attendant, every other time we needed towels the attendant just asked we return them to the pool area return before 6 PM. We enjoyed the pool and loungers in the shade for a few hours and then returned to our room to order room service for lunch.

 

(photos of pool area)

 

 

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(in this one you can see the little "island" attached by the bridge...thats where the honeymooners were when the 4 person photo shoot group showed up; as you can see that would be quite cozy:rolleyes:!)

 

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(Also notice the OWB in the background; these are the ones near the fish lagoon and main pool, there are another set near the infinity pool on the other side- those appear more private. There are not too many of them, which is nice...in BB they looked like condo complexes over the water, rows and rows of them facing each other!)

 

We investigated both restaurants for lunch and found they were both smart casual and it appears you cannot order food on the beach. There was also no walk around bar service on this day. To get a drink you needed to go to the bar. However on our last day, when we had a day room, there was a waiter who circulated the pool area frequently to bring drinks from the bar.

 

Another couple we met did order lunch at the restaurant and was able to eat in their bathing suits at outdoor tables near it, but were not permitted to carry their plates to their lounge chairs on the beach. We decided since we didn't feel like changing out of our bathing suits and because our porch had the same view as the restaurant about 200 feet away, we'd just have lunch on the porch of our first floor room with the birds watching!

 

Room service isn't any cheaper than the restaurant, about $75 for 2 soups, a burger, a salad and 2 large bottles of water. The maid comes to make up our room and the safe has been fixed, but still no pillows!

 

(photos of birds)

 

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TIPS: Money Talk

Since the cruise is AI, you are likely to only need to use your money during your pre or post time and on shore. Here is some advice I gleaned from experience!

 

-Things are priced in French Polynesian Francs (FPF), the local currency, with some listed in USD (more rarely in Euros) in tourist areas. We found most places (including street craft vendors and Papeete market) will take USD, but the exchange rate will not favor the consumer for sure, and they may not have change for you in USD. The local folks are not looking to rip anyone off, but they aren't going to spend a lot of time figuring out the exact conversion; they will guesstimate something close to the price they want for the item. So if having an exact conversion is an issue for you, just get some local currency.

 

-We got our FPF from one of those change bureaus at the mall before we left. Some larger banks may be able to get them for you if you notify them ahead of time, and many say the airport is not a bad place, but if you are on the PG transfers, using the airport may hold things up for the transfer, so we preferred to have what we needed before we left.

 

-Just to give you an idea: large bottle of water is about $3-4, craft vendors inexpensive pearls on rope or sterling silver $10-80, pareos $12-20, 6 small bottles of tiare oil $10, candy bar $3. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how much of local currency you'd need.

 

-I looked up the conversion rate before leaving, but mental math is not my biggest skill and I realized the easiest way for me to quickly gauge prices was to develop a little system. My system works like this...take the price in FPFs and lop off the last two digits, add a few US dollars and this is approximately the US price. Add more dollars for the bigger ticket items (it's a percentage, right!) So 1100 FPF is about 12-13 dollars. You can look up the exact conversion on google...so you can see how this gives you a good quick guesstimate. I use these guesstimates for US dollars in my review to give you an idea without you having to run to the google money converter after every paragraph.

 

-We also use a CC with no foreign transaction fees. You'll need one for booking and paying off PG also, if you are from North America, as they use a foreign bank even though they are based in Washington state, so your bank will asses those fees if you don't use a card that doesn't charge them. Ours is Capitol one, others use American Express. I understand that AMEX also provides a large OBC when booking PG, so that's worth looking into! Even paying one year of annual fees, the OBC might offset those costs.

 

-Tips on Tipping: there are some threads on CC about tipping in FP and they can get contentious! Officially, it's not necessary, and if you read guidebooks, it's even possibly offensive (though this may be changing). Recently, some people on CC have said they tip for private shore excursions.

 

On PG, no tipping is ever needed, and I only saw one instance of it at the end of the trip in the dining room. It could have been for some over the top service I didn't witness. For private shore excursions, I did see some Americans tipping. We did not and at no time did I have the feeling anyone was expecting it or that we were treated any differently after we said our thank yous and goodbyes with out doing so. I'm no expert on this- this was just our experience. One fellow traveler tried to tip someone (fuzzy on the dets about who and where, here) and had it handed back to him!

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After lunch, we have a short nap and then pack our day bag for our "jeep safari" of Tahiti. We are met by the tour guide in the lobby and get into the back of a safari jeep with just one other couple, who happen to be going on PG with us also. It turns out they are quite active and we share a few of our excursions! Later we pick up another lady visiting from a French Caribbean Island, and the guide runs the tour in both French and English.

 

The 4 Wheel Drive Mountain Safari and Waterfalls tour is run by Marama tours, costs 5,500 FPF ( about 60 dollars each) our guide Richard has pretty good English, but the other couple we are with spent 5 years living in Switzerland, so anything we ask that proves tricky is easily translated by our travel companions! I know enough French to understand the answer in French, but not enough to ask the question! Our trip took us through Papeete first, then up into the mountains, on mostly dirt roads. It is rough, remote and the view is spectacular.

 

(photos of 4x4 tour)

 

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(our guide stops to talk to this guide in another jeep)

 

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We make several stops to see waterfalls, as well as several Polynesian temples called marae. One we see is called temple Mari, these temples are still used by some local people today, and while we don't see anyone worshiping, we do see ample evidence of offerings of flower leis and bead and fruits left by people there to do so earlier. At the maraes we do encounter some small biting bugs and others that swarm our heads but appear not to land and bite. Luckily, we have brought a small bug spray and use this on our legs and have no problems after that.

 

(Photos of marae)

 

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(offerings left in a tree near the temple)

 

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(up next- waterfalls...we will have a few of those here in NE soon, Sandy is dumping loads of water and high winds right now, fingers crossed, we still have power-we push on!!)

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We end up in the center of Tahiti surrounded by several beautiful volcanic mountains, essentially in the middle of the "crater" of the volcano that is Tahiti. It's lush and uninhabited, and seems as though the road was built exclusively for a hydro electric operation that uses the river there for 20% of the islands power. We see several waterfalls coming straight out of the rocks with Petee birds soaring above. At the very center, there is a location where we have the opportunity to swim in a water fall. There is a natural stone slide covered in moss that both our guide and our very adventurous travel mate, Jim, try. We decide to save our backs since we haven't even boarded PG yet and doing so in a body cast might be a drag! It's is not for the faint of heart, with slippery rocks and knotted ropes to access the natural pool, but it is amazing to swim in such a pristine place so remote and wild!

 

(photos of waterfalls)

 

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(If you look behind us- I know its hard to tear your eyes away!:rolleyes:, you can see the knotted rope you use to climb up and the left hand falls is the base of the natural rock slide.)

 

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(sunset over the Pacific and Moorea on the road back to the IC)

 

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We return covered with a fine dust from the dirt road. It is the dry season and we notice this in the mountains, despite the lush greenery everywhere, the river is very low in its bed and we can see both the high water marks and the many places where waterfalls will flow during the rainy season. If you have a December trip planned and the area is accessible, (many roads appeared as though they could be easily washed out) this would be a spectacular sight.

 

The ride back is a wild fast tear back over the same rough roads and through Papeete during rush hour. We are able to see the gorgeous sunset over Moorea through the buildings in Papeete.

 

(sunset photos)

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Fortunately, there appears to only be stop and go traffic once we pass the airport, and the IC was only a few miles beyond that.

 

 

 

TIPS for this excursion:

-My packing recommendations for this excursion: water, sun screen, bug spray, bathing suit, reef or water shoes and quick dry clothing over your suit, towel (from the hotel) and a warmer cover for the ride home if you are taking an afternoon tour, the sun was setting as we returned and in the open air jeep it can get cool.

 

-Bring intestinal fortitude if you plan to try the rock slide!

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We have a quick shower and dress for dinner. I get in the Polynesian spirit and tuck a gardenia (called tiare) behind my ear and put on a long sun dress to protect against any bugs during the outdoor dinner and show. (there weren't any)

 

The Tiare restaurant is the scene for the Polynesian dinner and show. The cost was 11010 FPF per person, or using my handy dandy lop off the decimals method of conversion, about $120 pp. We reserved the show that morning and were seated at a table for two right in front on the pool deck, which was phenomenal! There appeared to be plenty of tables and I imagine you could book the day of the show or just show up.

 

The tables in the regular part of the restaurant are all graduated, so no matter where you sit you will have a great view, but my DH enjoyed the access for taking photos that being right in front offered. If you really wanted to pinch pennies and just see the show, there is nothing keeping you (or a young couple we saw) from standing near the pool or sitting in the pool area behind the dancers to get a taste of the sound and color of the show. We prefer to pay, as this supports the artists, and supporting local artists for their work is something we value.

 

The show on Friday night is a seafood buffet, which was mainly shellfish, although there were several large fish placed on the buffet for effect- there was no white fish fillets to be had on the buffet. There were jumbo shrimp, lobster pieces in a vegetable dish, beef and pork being carved. There were chafing dishes with rice and grilled vegetables. The starters included several interesting chopped salads incorporating chopped fish, meats and vegetables . The dessert table was extensive, with every imaginable pastry. We filled a plate with one of every dessert that looked tasty to us and shared a pastry tasting just before the show started.

 

The food here was hit or miss for me. I feel like its French so the it's a notch up to start, but while some things were very flavorful and well executed, a few dishes surprised me by being quite bland. I'm no foodie, and there was plenty to choose from, so overall I'd say the buffet and show is worth it, given that you would not save much ordering a al carte here.

 

At 8:30 the show starts. It is set up right on the pool ledge and the band is set up in the hut in front of the pool. The dancers use the pool deck and the shallow section of the pool. There is a huge cast of at least 9 men and 9 women plus two singers, and the emcee dressed up as a tribal chief. The whole show was spectacular. The dancers and musicians are all excellent and very energetic with colorful costumes and props. The show was delightful and we found the experience worth every penny we paid.

 

(photos of Polynesian Show)

(our waiter- I loved the thing he made for his hair- it's all completely natural, and so creative!!)

 

 

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Its really starting to blow here now...I'm giving good odds that any minute now everything will go dark! I'll keep editing and posting my review, but if you don't see more tonight... you will know why!

 

More to Come...Embarkation Day!

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Boston - really enjoying your review and to think you haven't even gotten on board yet :)

 

Lets pray that New York stays lights on with no life lost.

 

Time for me to make a Mai Tai and get ready for the next few post ...

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