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psyfi

Trip report of 2 weeks in French Polynesia!

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I have been very appreciative of all of the information that everyone has shared from their vacations to French Polynesia. So I am hoping that this trip report will help someone else's planning. Cast for this trip is an early 40's married couple and a small Curious George stuffed animal.

 

We flew Air France LAX to Tahiti. Legroom was ok, seats were like cardboard. Food was good -they served real food! 2 meals and a snack with wine and liquors included! Long line to get thru customs (at least an hour) and the airport is not A/C so be sure to switch into shorts. There was a band and a dancer who entertained us for the whole wait, which was really nice.

 

The weather- was not good. The early part of the trip was really rainy as the spillover from tropical storm Garry hit Tahiti. Then we got about 3 days of partly sunny then about 8 days of mostly or all rainy with high winds (30-40 knots) and 12-15 foot seas. I was told repeatedly this was not typical and that this was the worst rainy season in 15 years.

 

We arranged our 4 night pre-cruise thru Princess, so their shuttle met us at the airport we received leis and the took us to the IC Tahiti where we had 1 night hotel in the hotel part. We had to wait about 3 hours to get into our room (8-11 am) but since check-in at most hotels isn't until 3 or 4, I think they accommodated us ok. It had just been a long flight. We just hung out in the lobby. The hotel room was nicely appointed, overlooking the second infinity pool. The grounds were beautiful. The food was delicious. The Friday night show was excellent and I am glad we stayed awake for it. Although it rained for the whole show, the performers did not miss a beat. If you don't want to order the seafood buffet, you can order off the menu and still see the show. Dinner with desserts but no drinks set us back about $90, but that included the show. Well worth the cost.

 

The next morning we packed up our stuff and got on the shuttle to the ferry to Moorea. Still raining :( ferry ride was pretty rough, not sure if that is typical or a result of the storm. We were picked up by Bryan from Albert's for a shuttle ride to the IC Moorea. What a mess that was. It was a tour bus, with no space for luggage so he piled it up into the seats. While we were waiting for our larger luggage to off load, he took our carryon a and loaded other luggage on top of them. We had no idea this was how he was piling luggage and had a computer, iPad and kindle in the front pocket of the carry on. Luckily none were damaged. He kept up a running commentary for the 45 minute ride, mostly promoting tours with Albert's but we could hardly up understand what he was saying. He also wanted our return trip vouchers now. I don't think so! if he didn't come back, I have no ticket to show I didn't get my transfer. I told him the ticket was in my luggage and kept it until the return. Both bays were completely brown from the rain, which causes mud to pour down off the mountain.

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Check in at IC Moorea was painless. They had mango juice for us and a separate table for check in, a copy of my credit card, one signature and we were in the golf cart on our way to OWB #522. This is at the far Eastern or right hand side of the resort if looking at a map. It was about a 10 minute walk to the main building. But it was quiet. There was no one beside us so it was like we had the place to ourselves. There was nice snorkelling right at our bungalow but a really nice reef about 100 yards in front of it. The room was nice, although the A/C had trouble cooling the front room section, but the bedroom was always fine. I found the paths to be poorly lit at night but it was cloudy and I am sure a little moonlight might have helped. We found the resort to seem deserted. I guess everyone just stays in their bungalow! There is a small store at the road, which was perfect for stocking up on water, juice and pop at reasonable prices (water $1.50-2 ish for 1-1.5 litre bottles, $2.50 for 1.5 litre coke, $2.50-4 for 1 litre juice, $13 for 1 litre Tahiti drink). Our favorite juice was banana vanilla, although they were all good. Be sure to try the banana!

 

We found the food at the resort to be a little hit and miss. We had a pizza with tomato and BBQ sauce, goat cheese, bacon, honey and cream which was delicious. Burger was good, salad was good but hockey was tasteless as was the teriyaki cream pasta. We did 3 meals at the resort, the rest off property. The first day it rained all day so we didn't want to go elsewhere. We walked about 20 minutes each way to Les Tipaniers beach resort and Snack Mahana for lunches on day 2 and 3. Les tip I had lasagna, DH had pasta carbonara, we had a large bottle of water (about $40). Both meals were delicious and we were too full for dessert. Snack Mahana was our only meal on "island time". It took 2 hours. I had a steak and fries, DH had breaded Mahi Mahi in coconut sauce which he said was delicious. We cad coconut ice cream and a really unique ginger sorbet for dessert. The ginger was like icy raw ginger, delicious. We did 2 dinners off resort and Josie at the concierge desk was great for arranging rides. The first we went to sunset at Hibiscus hotel. They started us with the delicious french bread with a dipping sauce of flavoured oil and a bowl of marinated olives. I had hawaiian pizza, which was wood grilled with emmenthal cheese and ham and moorea pineapple. it was delicious and unique. DH had shrimp with coconut curry which he said was fantastic. Again too full for dessert. Dinner with a bottle of water was about $50. We were there just before sunset for dinner. By the time we were done, there were more bugs, so if you go later, you may want to carry some bug spray. Although it was really rainy so I'm not sure if that was typical. When we were done we waited only a few minutes for a ride back. The next night we went to Coco D'isle. They have a huge menu and a chef from Paris. The restaurant is not on the water, open air, sand floor and white patio furniture (don't let that put you off, seems standard in FP). I had grilled duck breast with honey sauce, which was fantastic. DH had scallops in butter and garlic, which was served in a bowl of melted butter, which kept them scalding hot, but was a little too much butter for him. He had the green beans as his side, and they were the best green beans I have ever had. The plating was beautiful with thin slices of pineapple and star fruit as garnish. His came on a wood plank with a branch as a vase filled with tropical flowers! We had Creme brûlée for dessert. The meal cost us about $90 and was delicious and memorable. They have free wifi so if you want to check your email, bring a device. The chef himself drove us back.

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While on Moorea we dove 2 days with TopDive, which is located at the resort. Although it was at the opposite corner from our OWB so a bit of a hike with our gear. But we loved our bungalow location and wouldn't have changed it for convenience. Nice dive boat, good dive masters (Philippe and Manu). Visibility was lousy due to the storms, maybe 30 feet. The coral on Moorea has been devastated by cyclones and the corn of thorns starfish. So don't go thinking its going to be pretty. Don't both with the coral roses garden, the montipora coral was way nicer on Bora Bora. But do go for the sharks, lots of them! We had a dozen black tip sharks keep us company each dive and several huge lemon sharks.

 

We did visit Tahiti Aromes per tikiintahiti's suggestion. I bought some vanilla (2500XPF for 100 grams, around 15 beans, same as on Taha'a, but at the airport in the duty free they wanted 4500, so don't wait!) monoi oil and Tamanu oil. I wish I had bought more oil! I will have to see if there is any way to order some more. The monoi oil is a great moisturizer. It soaks right into my skin and isn't greasy. Have even used it on my face with great results. The Tamanu smells stronger, kind of nutty, but has great healing properties. I used it on some coral cuts and in 2 days they were gone. The vanilla is steeping to make extract, vanilla sugar, vp vanilla coffee and the vanilla syrup is great in my tea or coffee.

 

All too soon, it was time for the next part of the trip. I would have liked 2more nights on Moorea. Bryan showed up to take us back to the ferry. This time with a highway cruiser full size bus. We put our luggage under it and were on our way. But he made 2 more stops and we had luggage piled in the seats and half way down the aisle. Not cool. The bays had returned to blue as we have had less rain over the last 2 days. Ferry ride was less bumpy than the way over. They actually put us on a bus at the ferry dock and drove us all of 400 yards to the Ocean Princess checking tent. There was no line and we were on board in 5 minutes.

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Ocean Princess 10 day cruise

 

2 days in Tahiti - there was a craft tent near the dock but the beat deals were found at the Papeete market. We bought a carved wooden tiki (about 10 inches tall) for 4000 XPF and saw similar ones for 6000-15000. I bought some shell jewellery and a pareo. Te flowers were beautiful but we didn't buy any for our cabin. There are pearl stores everywhere! It was a little overwhelming. I had found a store online http://www.manapearl.com and had picked out some pieces. They are a bit hard to find. Fare Tony is like a mall-stores all the way around the block and a hallway that crosses through the middle with stores inside as well, you need to go upstairs to the second story to find the store and need to make sure they know you are coming so they are open. You can see their blue banner from the ship. I bought 2 bracelets and a pendant. He gave me Keshi ring. (Which was a perfect fit as a bracelet for curious George, be sure to watch for it in the video link that is coming. I received many complements on my jewellery and did not find other pieces that I liked better at similar prices the rest of the trip. I was very pleased with Anapa and his staff who were very helpful.

 

On day 2 we did a 4WD tour with Patrick's Adventures. This was a fantastic tour. Patrick was a wealth of knowledge about Tahiti. We made lots of scenic stops and he never rushed us. Other tour groups would stop at the same spot after we did, snap a few photos and get back into their vehicle and he would still be telling us information about plants and animals, and the formation of the islands or island life. Two thumbs up. Do bring water and bug spray. Do wear a swim suit so you can swim in a mountain stream.

 

We ate at the roulottes instead of the dining room the first night. About a dozen trucks pull up about 6pm with all kinds of food. We went to the truck with the cow on the side (Creperie Kerbrehan) and split a ham and cheese crepe and a chocolate banana one with a bottle of water for less than $20.

 

One thing I did not realize is that all the cars will stop for you at a crosswalk. I was looking at the 6 lanes of traffic on the waterfront thinking how can we get across that? Then all the cars stopped. This was only true on Tahiti.

 

Next stop Huahine...

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I've bought vanilla on both Tahaa and Moorea. I prefer the vanilla from Moorea which is nicknamed 'Moorea Gold'. We bought 2 kilos of Moorea gold a few months ago, sounds like we were buying something else :eek:

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We tendered into Huahine. there is all of one small craft booth at the dock, so don't plan on just getting off the ship and walking around. Princess did offer a transfer to the town of Fare for a small fee that wasn't advertised before the cruise. On Huahine we did Marc's Motu picnic. He had 2 boats doing this tour, although it appeared he had a larger one doing the Princess excursion. Alberto was our guide and he played the ukelel and sang on our way to our first stopp at a pearl farm, went snorkelling (again visibility was still pretty bad) where I saw 3 crown of thorns starfish, which is not a good sign. They eat massive amounts of coral and are very destructive. Then we went to a Motu for a picnic. It was overcast again today and quite windy so they did not have tables set in the water or umbrellas out. They did have a fire to keep the bugs away but didn't need it because of the winds. Our guide Alberto made the poisson cru and showed us how to husk, crack, and grate coconut. Did you know there are 17 different kinds of coconut in FP? He talked a lot about island life, maybe a little too much but it was interesting. He would have kept us out longer but we reminded him that we needed to get back. We were back to the dock about 3:30, with a 4:30 all aboard. They didn't do a pareo tying demo, and I thought we would do more snorkelling. Of the 3 Motu picnic full day tours we did, this would be #3 of 3. It was probably good that it was first. we really enjoyed it but did not know what was coming up. it did have some unique qualities that definitely made it worthwhile. It was also the last partly sunny day of the trip.

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Next up we had a day at sea, with a lot of wind and rain and building seas. By tonight we were up to 30-40 knot winds and 12-15 foot seas. What we were calling Polynesian Potholes, because it literally felt like the ship was hitting something. No gentle rolling. We slept and read and didn't participate in any ship activities.

 

Rangiroa - after a rough night we arrived in Rangiroa, where if you were doing a ship excursion, you were going to be out of luck because they cancelled most if not all of them. We went diving with TopDive and what an experience that was! They piled opus onto a hard bottom large zodiac with about 18 people and took us into the ocean, with its 12-15 foot swells for our dives. This was challenging diving. Lots of current and surge and poor visibility of 20-30 feet. We saw huge schools of barracuda and a pod of 7 dolphins and the only manta ray of our trip. But we didn't see the parade of animals that we expected, coral was in better shape than Moorea. We had lunch near the tender dock as we could not even think about getting back on the rough tender to have lunch on the ship. We did a second dive in the afternoon. I would have liked to go to Gaugins pearl farm but we didn't have time. You can walk all of 300 yards to get from the lagoon side to the ocean side. It rained on and off today.

 

Another rough day at sea to get back to the Society Islands. Poured rain all day. I sat on the pool deck midship, under the underhang and read. I didn't sunscreen, it was totally grey and overcast. But, what little sun there was must have reflected off the soaking wet and slippery pool deck as I burnt my legs between my knees and ankles! Today was also Superbowl Sunday. They had the game on in one of the lounges. The table next to us at dinner was from Baltimore, they were happy.

 

Next stop Raiatea...

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Raiatea was the first port we were docked at since Tahiti. After all the rough water it was nice not to have to get into a tender. There was a town at the dock. There were a number of stores, but unlike other places I have been their hours had nothing to do with a cruise ship being in port. Seems like they were open from about 9:30-3. We were on a tour from 8:30-5:15, and the ship was in port 8am-11pm. So no shopping for me. We had booked a tour with Bruno form L'Excursion Bleue but his boat was full, so he had subcontracted us to Eric from L'Hibiscus hotel http://www.hibiscustahaa.com, hibiscus@tahiti-tahaa.com. He had a power boat without an outrigger, so it was faster but with more spray than an outrigger. Eric drove the boat and went into water with us on the snorkels to help anyone who needed it. Fredo was the tour guide, both were great. We snorkelled with the stingrays, then went to the vanilla plantation, which was very interesting and I bought more vanilla beans (again 2500XPF for 100 grams).then we did a drift snorkel before lunch on a Motu at the fare Ute Ute pension. From Bruno's photos I know this is not where he normally goes but the family that ran the place was friendly and the food was good. The rain stayed away until after lunch, then it just poured on our way to the pearl farm. I mean coming in sideways and everything was soaked. The interesting thing? I still wasn't cold! We maintained our sense of humour though and still had fun. We stopped at the Love Here pearl farm and Fredo helped me get a good price on a Keshi strand I liked. I know they don't usually bargain, but I ended up paying less than half of her starting price. So if you go here, I suggest you negotiate your prices. Then we did another drift snorkel that was so much fun, Eric agreed to take us twice! The current is really moving often these drifts, maybe 6-7 knots and the coral is in MUCH better shape than elsewhere that we saw. Lots of huge colonies of sea urchins. It poured all afternoon but this was my favourite island and where I will return should I go back to FP. We got back to the dock about 5:15. Enough time for a quick shower and to get to dinner. And we were happy to be eating at dock. It was a lot of all sea-all sky alternating in the dining room windows. We had early seating, which was sometimes a rush but we went to bed early every night except for tonite so late seating would not have worked for us between the jet lag, the heat, the anti nausea meds, busy days etc... We were just wiped out. We forced ourselves to stay up tonite to see the local music and dance performance and were glad we did. They put on a great show. We did not see the children perform as we were on our tour.

 

Tomorrow Bora Bora...

Edited by psyfi
Type-o

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We had 2 days on Bora Bora, which we thought meant an overnight but nope, they pulled anchor and sailed in rough water between the 2 days.

 

Day 1 on Bora Bora dawned overcast and rainy. By this point I could np have cried I was so bummed out by the weather. We considered not doing our tour, but ultimately decided to go and were SO glad we did. Today we had booked Maohi Nui, Patrick's 4WD tour plus Motu picnic and snorkelling. While I liked Taha'a best, this was my favourite tour. We were truly off road on in the morning is the mud, slipping and sliding up the mountain. It was great fun, but not for the faint of heart! It managed not to rain at at any of our 3 view points, but we didn't get any postcard pics because of the lack of sunshine. On the upside, I'm not sunburned! Patrick was an awesome guide and this tour could be a commercial for LandRover! One couple did not show up, so there were only 6 of us. He passed us off to Ed who picked us up by outrigger and took us to the Motu. We had a boat to ourselves, which is another nice perk of doing the full day tour. He entertained us by ukelele and singing and was the best of the performers. At the Motu they served us mango mimosas and he was grilling lobster and tuna (that was so good I went and got myself a piece and I don't eat seafood!). They were also the only of the 3 tours that did an Imu, traditional oven in the ground. They served food on plates made of leaves and you ate with your fingers. All too soon, and with my belly too full, it was time to go snorkelling. Ed took us to a coral garden that had deep water (10 feet?) and a moray eel that I thought was going to take off some of his toes! It poured while we were in the water, but hey we were wet anyway! Next stop was to snorkel with the stingrays. Normally they do a third stop outside the reef to swim with the sharks but it was way too rough to go outside the reef. Luckily the sharks joined the stingrays for the first stop so we got both. The water was so wavy Ed had trouble setting the anchor. DH helped, but eventually they had to set it into the coral as the sand wouldn't hold it. Ed got us back to the dock by about 4 pm. Again all the stores were closed. We set sail about 5:30 back into rough water.

 

Day 2 on Bora Bora we went diving with TopDive. Visibility was the worst of the trip, like swimming in milk. We had to stay inside the lagoon on both dives as it was too rough to go outside. We went to see the manta cleaning station but there were no mantas. There were some very nice coral roses (montipora) and 7 eagle rays off in the distance. A quick rinse of our gear and grabbed some lunch and we went back to port to do some shopping. I finally found a tshirt today. I had found others I liked on Tahiti but they never had my size. I also bought another pareo and found a beautiful pair of earrings at Fantasy, across from Bora Home. They are peacock coloured drop pearls. what can I say, they winked at me :) The whole shopping area is about 2 -3 blocks. There was a craft market at the dock np but it closed up about 3 pm, so again, don't think you will be shopping after your tours.

 

Almost done, next stop back to Moorea...

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Moorea, and more overcast with rain. It was so rough that they stopped tenders for about 40 minutes so we were late getting to the shore but so was everyone else! we thought we might miss our tour but he was still waiting. Today we did an ATV tour with Moana from Albert's tours. We had a side by side (SSV), which was a little more money but so worth it to drive with a steering wheel instead of a wrist throttle. Also because it had seatbelts we didn't have to wear helmets, which was nice in 100+ degree heat. This was a lot of fun, and definitely the best way to see the interior of Moorea. We saw lots of people in 4WD trucks or tour buses look at us with envy! We went thru the pineapple plantation, up Belvedere, to a Marie, up magic mountain and to the agricultural school (we bought some awesome pineapple coconut jam). It was again really overcast but didn't rain while we were on the tour. Because of all the rain we had some major rivers to drive thru, which was fun. I would do this tour again. We did a little shopping in the dock area from some tents. I bought myself a pair of pearl studs to use up my XPF and ended up buying pearls on every island! Back to the ship to pack. We sailed for Tahiti at 5 and arrived during dinner. We left early the next morning to fly home.

Edited by psyfi

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The ship

 

The Ocean Princess is a nice ship, with classic theming. The food was good, the best of the 3 Princess shops we have been on. the staff were really nice, and you never walked by anyone, staff or passengers, without a good morning, or how was your day. It was a really nice community for that. But it was a ROUGH cruise due to high winds and rough water. We were busy on the islands (as you just read) and went to bed early and got up early. We didn't partake of any of the ship board activities. We didn't see any ship shows, (except the local show) or take a dance class or play trivia, so we can't comment on that.

 

Getting home - we left the ship for the airport about 5:45 am for a 9 am Air France flight. We took a taxi to the airport and paid $25 for the 2 of us, way less than the Princess transfer cost. There was a long line to check luggage (took us 1 hour and 45 minutes) which is typical. Again, this is an open airport so wear your shorts cuz even at 6 am Tahiti is hot. Getting thru security and customs was no wait.

 

For those of you who would like to see a video of Curious George's trip to French Polynesia, here is a link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aboa4wSyXEg

It is about 10 minutes long.

 

In summary, our trip went off without a hitch in terms of flights and tours. We really enjoyed all of our tours. We had a great trip despite bad weather. I Would be happy to answer any questions that people might have. Thanks for reading along!

Edited by psyfi

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Are you being sarcastic or serious? It rained for about 12 of the 14 days. they said it was the worst rainy season in 15 years and was not typical for this time of year. Sorry if I complained about the weather but it was still better than cold and snow up here or being at work!

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Thanks for the great review. I know you had been planning and looking forward to this trip for quite a while. I appreciate you taking the time to post your thoughts. Shame about the rain and the rough seas (sure don't envy you that experience!) - but hopefully the sun shone enough for you to see some of the picture postcard azure ocean. It's sure a long way from Ontario to French Polynesia but maybe you might get back again one day and enjoy more of the (usually) sun-kissed, idyllic south seas.

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I really didn't mean to complain about the weather that much. It was much better than being at home and I didn't get sunburned! I knew it was rainy season, I guess I just hadn't considered that it would be totally grey and overcast. We actually commented that it looked much like Alaska if you ignored the palm trees! Ok enough talk about the weather. We still had quite an adventure and great tours and had lots of fun.

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Your post was perfect & you did NOT seem to be complaining, no apologies necessary. I am reassured about my plan for a SSV Tour with Albert. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Edited by canuck.qc
correction

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Great review! Thanks..

 

Did you book most of your tours through Princess or direct with the tour companies?

 

We're going next year and other than the actual dives, I'd be interested in all your other tours..

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I appreciate your review and did not think you were complaining at all. Heck, I would've been mentioning it more than you did.

 

Can you tell me what time people were allowed to get off the OP once it was back in Tahiti on your last night there? I really want to fly home that night vs. sitting around on the final day waiting for a midnight flight out. There are no other earlier options.

 

Thanks! :)

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Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. After seeing so many of your posts before the trip, I was so looking forward to your review, and you did a great job - loved George's part! Cute video. I have been in contact with Patrick in Bora Bora in anticipation of our visit there, and even the locals there were complaining about the unusual amount of rain they have had. You seem to have had a wonderful time in spite of the weather. Great attitude really helps! Thank you again for sharing.

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Psyfi I think we saw you in Rangiroa... I waived out. We were invited to a special dolphin viewing from the crew exercise room. They have the metal bridges on either side similar to the bridge so the viewing from that spot was great. I saw the Rangi dolphins for the first time.

 

We didnt have the best weather but not bad at all. BB was lovely both days as was Fakarava. Moorea day 1 was good and Motu Mahana was fabulous.

 

We had one bad day in Moorea but then two excellent days for our precruise.

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I appreciate your review and did not think you were complaining at all. Heck, I would've been mentioning it more than you did.

 

Can you tell me what time people were allowed to get off the OP once it was back in Tahiti on your last night there? I really want to fly home that night vs. sitting around on the final day waiting for a midnight flight out. There are no other earlier options.

 

Thanks! :)

 

We were in dock about 7-7:30, scheduled arrival is 8 pm.

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Psyfi I think we saw you in Rangiroa... I waived out. We were invited to a special dolphin viewing from the crew exercise room. They have the metal bridges on either side similar to the bridge so the viewing from that spot was great. I saw the Rangi dolphins for the first time.

 

We didnt have the best weather but not bad at all. BB was lovely both days as was Fakarava. Moorea day 1 was good and Motu Mahana was fabulous.

 

We had one bad day in Moorea but then two excellent days for our precruise.

 

I didn't see the PG. we were on Rangi on Sat Feb 2. We saw dolphins jumping between our dives and also a pod of 7 on dive 2, very cool!

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Great review! Thanks..

 

Did you book most of your tours through Princess or direct with the tour companies?

 

We're going next year and other than the actual dives, I'd be interested in all your other tours..

 

I booked all of my tours directly with the operators and they all went off without a hitch! Some were quicker at responding to emails than others, but all the tours were wonderful. Absolutely no complaints about any of them. One thing to consider is that they let all the Princess tours tender off first so plan to head to the lounge at least 1/2 hour before you want to be onshore. It was never an issue, except for on Moorea and that was because they suspended tender operation for about 40 minutes due to the waves. Although we were instructed to meet at 8:30, tour start was 9 and we arrived ashore about 8:55. Our tour guide was waiting, but there was another couple late as well. I recall someone complaining on TripAdvisor that a tour left without them, but they were late.

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