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Oregonian

Sept. 11 '05 Tahitian Princess Cruise Review

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Following is a LONG review of our September 11 cruise on the Tahitian Princess (Rarotonga itinerary). I've broken it up into 6 separate posts on this thread, each of which is pretty long in itself. Hope the info is useful.

 

Ira

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The bottom-line summary is easy: this was easily the best of the 9 cruises we’ve taken and one of our best 2 or 3 vacations ever. It’s the first time we’ve rebooked a cruise before leaving the ship. Both we and our friends from Massachusetts signed up for the same ship and itinerary in 2007.

 

Why? Here are the highlights from our point of view (not necessarily in any order):

 

o Itinerary. Each island (with the exception of Tahiti itself) was incredibly lush and beautiful, lowly populated, and unspoiled. The lagoons were awesome shades of blue, with incredible coral and fish life (very important to us water babies). In our opinion, the islands and lagoons far outshone Hawaii and the Caribbean which we are very familiar with and love. And the people were all very, very friendly.

 

o Getting to spend a week and a half with our close friends from the other coast who we haven’t seen in two years.

 

o We really splurged on this trip by booking an owner’s suite (a first for us). This was much more affordable than on any other ship we’re aware of. The suite was awesome with two large rooms, lots of closet space, two bathrooms, and a wrap-around deck at the stern of the ship. We really enjoyed this suite and took frequent advantage of the included laundry and internet access.

 

o We loved the small ship (600-plus passengers). No waiting for tenders or just about anything. Nothing seemed very crowded. Fewer bars and activities than on larger ships, but we tend not to go to the shows or bars anyway so we didn’t care about anything that might be lacking. The ship did rock on the open ocean, but fortunately my wife (who is very prone to seasickness due to an inner-ear disorder) took precautions and had no problems whatsoever.

 

o We had a great cruise critic party in our suite the second night (upon leaving Tahiti). After this, we kept running into our new friends everywhere on and off the ship (another plus of the smaller size ship).

 

o We really lucked out in the weather department. We had occasional rain showers only in Raiatea/Taha’a and overnight and in the morning when we left this island. We just missed a rogue set of waves which hit several of the islands just before our cruise. We didn’t see any of the effects although we heard about it on several excursions (and perhaps our rapid drift snorkel on Huahine was an aftermath). Most importantly, we got to go ashore for the whole day in Rarotonga unlike the previous two cruises; this island was one of our favorites.

 

o Some awesome excursions. Our favorite was Marc’s Motu Picnic in Huahine (seems like this is the favorite of a lot of people).

 

o A wonderful 3-day post-cruise stay at the Moorea Pearl. Here again we splurged with a deluxe OWB; staying in one of these has been a dream for at least 20 years. Snorkeling here was awesome (I keep using superlative adjectives!).

 

Food and service were not major highlights on the ship (they were average or even slightly below average for cruise ships of this class in our experience).

 

Also, our TA was a disaster. We went with her because we knew her from a previous cruise as well as frequent dialogue on Cruise Critic. I fully expected lots of helpful info and help with post-cruise stay, air, etc. Instead she totally disappeared from sight once we had paid, never even answering emails. Somebody else from her company picked up the slack at the end, even arranging on-board credit which should have been there in the first place. Fortunately, none of this affected our thorough enjoyment of the cruise.

 

In the following posts, I’ll go through details. As an aside, I have full copies of the Patters and dining room menus for lunch and dinner (except for the first day) which I will pass on to somebody to post.

 

Ira

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We left PDX (Portland) mid-morning on September 10. Much to our surprise, Alaska Airlines checked our bags straight through to Tahiti so we didn’t have to deal with them at LAX. Air Tahiti Nui gave us hassles with our carry-on bags at check-in (which have never been an issue before). They insisted Fran’s bag was too large and had to go through X-Ray to check in, then finally relented when she was visibly upset about having to check her camera and housing. Their final comment was they’d leave it to the flight crew who would probably force the bag to be checked (but they didn’t care). Other than this, Air Tahiti Nui was excellent.

 

We decided not to change money at LAX whose rate was 85 CFP/$1 plus commission, truly usurious given the official 96-to-1 rate.

 

Since we were flying business class, we got to wait in the lounge which had pretty good food to eat while we waited (better than the restaurants). The 4:20 PM flight was as good as sitting for 8 hours in an airplane can be for a white knuckle flier. We felt that ATN was one of the better carriers we’ve been on. Lots of choices on our personal movie/game screens, and they served a good lunch and dinner (eat lightly at LAX). There was lots of overhead luggage space, which was fortunate since there was only about 7” of clearance under the seats in front of us … not nearly high enough for our standard carry-on bags.

 

One advantage of business class is that we were one of the first off the plane and through immigration in Papeete. We were out of the airport and in a taxi within 20 minutes of landing, and at our hotel, Le Meridien, 10 minutes later. The taxi driver took dollars (45 of them). There is a premium for nighttime as well as baggage (and we had plenty thanks to our snorkel gear, underwater camera housings and clothes for the week in LA following the cruise), not to mention that the hotel is further from the airport than others. Also, her effective exchange rate was probably not good but it was better than changing money at LAX.

 

We were pleased with Le Meridien as an overnight stop. The room was good, the bed seemed like king+, the grounds were nice as was the oceanside setting, and we were able to order breakfast a la carte which was a lot cheaper than the buffet. We were going to have breakfast at the nearby bakery, but this was closed on Sunday. We did notice that Le Meridien’s OWBs didn’t have stairs into the lagoon and there were signs posted warning about swimming (but maybe this was due to the heavy waves), so I wouldn’t recommend them for people who want to stay in an OWB and swim or snorkel from their bungalow. Having said this, we liked the hotel and it was certainly great to hook up with our friends in the morning.

 

We took a cab to the ship around noon for only 3000 CFP (about $30) for the four of us including bags. Check-in went pretty smoothly. Turned out our room was ready, so we got to drop off our carry-on bags right away. We had booked an owner’s suite and were thrilled with the room. Huge living room (with a separate bathroom), large bedroom with tons of closet space, nice main bathroom with jacuzzi tub, and a wraparound deck with table, chairs and lounges on it. We got to use the A/V connections on the stereo and TV to play music from my iPOD and video from Fran’s camcorder. Our friends had a mini-suite on the 8th floor mid-ship which they were also thrilled with; they said it was larger than any other mini-suite they’ve ever had.

 

There were more people on the ship this afternoon and evening than normal as both new and departing passengers were aboard. Dinner was open seating (the only time), and we had to wait for the departing passengers to finish. We went to the Tahiti Folklore review in the showroom in the evening. A great dance show, very enjoyable. We arrived early to get seats right up front.

 

I’ll cover food and the ship itself in the next part of the review.

 

Ira

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The ship capacity was 600+, 1/3 of the size we’re used to. This meant fewer bars and lounges and a smaller casino, but we don’t spend much time in the bars and lounges and the casino was adequate (it had blackjack and very stingy slot machines, which is all we use). We really liked the smaller ship size … things didn’t seem crowded and there was no wait for tenders. There was often a wait for elevators, but we rarely had to walk up more than two flights of stairs anyway. Side note: despite what had been reported, the carpet trim was the same for both the port and starboard hallways (apparently unlike that of other Princess ships).

 

We thought service on the ship was ok … better than our Holland America experience two years ago, but not as good as Celebrity earlier this year. Our cabin steward, Edmund, was very good. Our head waiter, Jose (Portuguese, not Spanish pronunciation), was excellent. Our waiter, while he clearly was trying hard, was not very good, and the assistant waiter only showed up for coffee and dessert it seemed. Other than these key staff, everyone else was friendly and helpful.

 

Food on the ship was also ok. We usually ate breakfast and occasionally lunch at the buffet which was good but felt more limited than larger ships. The omelet bar near the pool was good. Never had the pizza. The buffet opened at 4:30 AM for pastries and was closed by 6 PM. We never had trouble getting tables inside or outside.

 

The food in the main dining room was very good. We were at a table for six at the late seating (8:15). We were disappointed the first couple of days, but felt the menus and food got much better after this. Maybe the first day with two sets of passengers causes them to be more restrictive in their choices but it does set a poor first impression. We also made reservations for the two specialty restaurants when we first embarked (although I’m not 100% sure this is really necessary; neither seemed at all full when we were there). One of the two restaurants is open on each day after the first day. We though the Sterling steak house was a good change of pace, equivalent to an excellent steak restaurant but not as good as Ruth’s Chris. Sabatini’s, on the other hand, was extraordinary with a wide range of appetizers that they gave you a taste of plus excellent main courses (at least the lobster, sea bass and scallops were). We’d consider this a must do … and come hungry!!

 

As a side note, each couple brought 3 bottles of wine to share at dinner. Corkage was $20 a bottle although I think we only got charged the 2 times we brought a bottle to the specialty restaurants.

 

Afternoon teas were nice in the main dining room the couple of times we went there. The internet room always had free PCs, and connection was usually easy. Access was included with our suite, along with laundry, so we used both liberally. Oh, and for those of you who have owner’s suites, there is no internet access from within your suite. You have to use the ship’s PCs in the internet lounge for the internet, so don’t bring a laptop just to access the internet from the ship.

 

Outside the casino, we did not encounter anyone smoking on the ship. The casino ranged from nearly smokeless to smoky depending on who was there.

 

There were only two shops on the ship. I thought the selection was fine, but heck I’m a guy. Fran thought it was rather limited.

 

The library on the 10th floor is beautiful. Stop in, even if you have no need of it. It is opposite Sabatini’s and Sterling’s.

 

I gifted myself $1,000 in casino credits a week before we left, knowing that I would need this much just for our excursions. The 10 $100 credits were waiting in our cabin the first day, and I generally exchanged about $100 a day. No problem whatsoever. I changed dollars into CFP at the purser’s office on the fourth deck. Again, no problem exchanging at least as much as $300 at a time. The exchange rate was outstanding: 98 CFP/dollar with no commission … this was actually above the official rate of 96 to one! The only negative was that they only had small bills (500 and 1000 CFP notes, roughly $5 and $10). As an aside, don’t use a wallet that is only as high as American dollars since the CFP notes are larger.

 

Finally, as to the legendary rockiness of the ship on the open sea, it did noticeably rock. Not sure whether this was due to rough seas on the Pacific or the ship itself, but I know some people did get seasick. The four of us had no problem whatsoever. This was especially key for Fran who has an inner-ear disorder and is usually one of the first to be sick. She carefully titrated herself with meclizine in advance of the cruise and used a Relief Band which obviously worked well.

 

Ira

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The first full day on the ship was in Tahiti, the only island which did not wow us as it felt too citified. We had pre-booked a morning 4x4 excursion with Tahiti Safari Expeditions. We enjoyed the excursion thanks to the pretty scenery, although it was quite tame. The best part of the drive was a swim in a mountain pool under a waterfall. Given our focus on water-based activities, we’re glad we did the interior exploration on Tahiti which just doesn’t have the water activities.

 

In the afternoon, we walked around Papeete and in particular went to the Marche. Shopping was very close to the ship. We felt the Marche was more of a locals shopping center (although we now know we could have taken fruit back to the ship with us). Buying flowers there and taking them back to the room was great. $15 or $20 for an enormous arrangement that lasted just about the entire cruise. We didn’t buy much else in Papeete, although in retrospect it was the best shopping on all the islands (good selection and price, although still expensive by American standards). And don’t be afraid to cross the street in Papeete – cars absolutely come to a halt for you. (But don’t expect this courtesy on other islands!)

 

Muster (aka lifejacket drill) was at 4:30, a half hour before we left Tahiti. This was our first muster where you only had to meet at your muster station and they didn’t march you out to your lifeboat.

 

At 5:15, we held a party in our suite for the thirteen of us who had been communicating on our Cruise Critic roll call. We personally thought this worked really well (the wrap-around deck was perfect for it) as we constantly ran into our new friends on the ship, on excursions and on shore. Another plus for the smaller ship as we knew proportionally a lot of fellow passengers already.

 

The next day was Huahine. Sailing into the bay between the two islands in the quiet morning was lovely and gave us our first view of what paradise was like: pristine, green islands surrounded by a multi-hued blue lagoon. It was almost a religious experience. After tendering to the small dock (next to a restaurant but certainly without a town nearby), we were met by the folks from Marc’s Motu Picnic. After sailing under the bridge connecting the two islands of Huahine, we stopped at a motu for excellent snorkeling. This was followed by a drift snorkel (very fast current with fortunately no coral seemingly near the surface although one person did get a minor coral cut). Then we met the folks who had taken Marc’s land tour (which our friends rated very highly for Marc’s knowledge and helpfulness) for the piece de resistance: the picnic with our tables and chairs in the warm lagoon water. I had seen pictures of this, or course, so knew what to expect, but I never imagined the actual experience. I honestly don’t think this type A person has been so relaxed in many years. The food was excellent, and we got a lesson in making poisson cru (fish cured in lime and coconut milk). After the picnic, we made a stop at a pearl farm on the way back to the ship. What an awesome excursion (best we’ve ever taken)!

 

After a day at sea, we were lucky to be able to tender in to Rarotonga. Apparently this is 50-50 and the cruise before us could not disembark passengers here; the cruise before that had to round up their disembarked passengers early. We rented a car from Budget and drove around the island (note: left side driving). Budget advised us not to go through the legal formality of getting a local driver’s license as it would be at least a 4 hour process. This was a lovely drive! Picturesque church followed by beautiful Muri Lagoon. Then we stopped at Fruits of Rarotonga for snorkeling. This area is very shallow, so the teeming fish are all very close – great for photos. Our friends are nervous in the water, hence not into snorkeling … but they waded quite a ways out and were only in water to their waste. They loved seeing all the colorful fish around them and spent most of the rest of the cruise with us in the water (or in the boat when we were snorkeling in deep water). We then snorkeled at the Rarotongan Beach Resort, also a shallow lagoon with lots of fish where we saw our first giant clam. Finally we shopped in town. We knew prices would be lower here than in Tahiti, but were disappointed at selection. Our friend actually bought a snorkel and mask, however! We were so lucky to be able to visit Rarotonga … this was one of our favorite stops. The tender back to the ship in the afternoon was a lot of fun … or terrifying depending on your inclination.

 

Ira

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On the second day at sea, we went to a wine tasting in the afternoon. It was nice, but not sure that it was worth $25 per person. Our wine was better (but of course that’s why we brought it). Also, that day we went through mandatory Tahitian immigration on the ship (since we had just been in the Cook Islands). Took a while, but saved the time of doing it in Raiatea later.

 

Morning arrival at Raiatea again was beautiful. On Raiatea (the only port besides Tahiti that the ship docks rather than tenders), we hooked up with Bruno’s Mata Tours to Taha’a. This was a mixed bag. The shark feeding and stingray parts of the tour (the first two parts) were great. We really liked petting the stingrays and, given how they kept rubbing against us, they liked it too. Bruno’s island was picturesque with good snorkeling in the channel next to it. However, Bruno’s daredevil ride was brutal to your tailbone if you sat in the front of his boat (warning: sit to the rear!). And Bruno basically took us to his island and abandoned us for three hours without a word, while he went and picked up passengers for a second tour. Apparently he grows vanilla on the island, but we didn’t find this out until we left, and we never did go to the promised pearl farm (which frankly was ok with us anyway). Finally, his price seems to have gone up to $50 from $40. Despite the problems, we did enjoy the day. I later talked to people who had gone with Bruno, who raved about this tour and said the current through the coral gardens was in fact not that strong so it was a really good snorkel. Next time, Bruno.

 

The Children of Raiatea show at 5:15 was awesome, best of the four local dance shows we went to. The fact that I took part in the show was besides the point. The evening show, held in the lounge rather than poolside due to showers, was also good, just not as charming as the children.

 

Raitea/Taha’a was the only day we experienced occasional showers (which are generally common in the tropics even during the dry season). It also rained that night and early in the AM. Our friends joined us in our cabin for a Taha’a sail-by breakfast which we did indoors rather than outdoors as everything outside was wet. No big loss.

 

We arrived in Bora Bora a little after noon. Another beautiful island and lagoon (although not quite as “religious” a feeling since it was missing the morning stillness). We had booked a Boston Whaler for private snorkeling. The first two stops (especially the first) were awesome with great coral and good fish life. The third stop, by request, was to see manta rays. Turns out that manta rays are almost never seen there in the afternoon, and with all the development are now rare in the morning too. So we didn’t see manta rays, but the coral at the drop-off (where you go to see mantas) was phenomenal in variety and profusion. We wound up totally circling Bora Bora in the lagoon, which was nice. The next day, we hooked up with Dino for the morning: $50 for a good snorkeling stop (though not as good as the previous day), stingray petting (maybe better than on Taha’a, and motu beach snorkeling (definitely not as good snorkeling … too much sand, too little coral). The highlight of this excursion was Fran catching a spotted eagle ray gliding by on video.

 

We sailed to Moorea overnight, where we anchored in Oponohu Bay, a beautiful anchorage (so what else is new?). We had rented a car from Albert’s, which was waiting for us on the dock. The only negatives about the car is that it was manual and A/C (we had rented automatic), and we needed first to get gas at a station a few km to the west. Fortunately, the shift was not an issue (and the cost was accordingly reduced). The drive around the island was again lovely, with the part up to the Belvedere spectacular. Great views from the Belvedere, and an awesome set of marae (ruins) on the way down --- but bring repellent for the latter. The best ruin is at the end of the trail going to the left. We stopped at the Sofitel Ia Ora for snorkeling, which was poor despite its reputation. Lots of sand, little reef or fish (although maybe I just needed to go out much further). Found a great pearl shop (Black Pearl) near where we got gas (west of where the tender docks) … too great as this was an expensive find when we stayed on Moorea post-cruise. I should have remembered the subtitle of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. PS, the Black Pearl seems to be the most reputable or well-known of the pearl shops on Moorea.

 

The ship left Moorea and arrived in Tahiti that evening as we were at dinner. There was a final Tahitian dance show on the ship that night, again a good show.

 

Ira

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There was no pressure to leave the ship the final morning, and we had plenty of time to browse the shops in Tahiti before we caught our noon ferry to Moorea for our post-cruise stay. The Princess porters were happy to take our bags the short distance to the ferry (for which we tipped them, although tipping is definitely a rarity in Tahiti). The bags get put in big metal carts and picked up at the other end. We had no trouble buying round-trip passage (with the return date and time open). The Aremiti V is huge, comfortable, fairly empty (even with lots of passengers, there was lots of empty space) and fast … 25 or 30 minutes to make the crossing. We ran into the same couple we had met on the cruise both directions. The catamaran’s ride was also pretty smooth.

 

We had pre-arranged pick-up to and from the ferry on Moorea through Albert’s – 10 CFP each way for the two of us. They had a small bus which picked up a lot of people and took us all to our respective hotels. It was a little hectic since the bus was overloaded with luggage, but it worked. Fortunately, the Pearl was the closest hotel (other than the Sofitel which had not passengers).

 

We absolutely loved the Moorea Pearl. We had deluxe OWB 422 and saw lots of fish through our glass table/floor, and snorkeling along the line of bungalows and into the sandy shallows was outstanding. Lots of different fish. My hobby is taking u/w pictures and identifying fish, while Fran takes u/w video. We saw lots of new (to us) fish here and throughout the trip, so I am definitely going to be busy exercising my Tropical Pacific Reef Fish Identification book. Fish highlights here were a stonefish viewed through our glass floor, and a whitemouth moray eel ¾ of the way out of his hole, getting a dental cleaning by small blue cleaner wrasses. We had requested OWB 426 which is reputed to be the best for fish viewing, but in our opinion all of the OWB’s (at least from 421 through 426) have good views through the floor and when you snorkel, you snorkel along the outside of the whole bank of OWBs so it doesn’t matter where you start.

 

Lunch at the hotel was pretty good … very good cheeseburgers and salads. There were shops, restaurants, banks and a market within easy walking distance to the right as you exit the hotel (which doesn’t seem to be the case for other deluxe hotels on Moorea). We went shopping for bread/rolls, cheese and fruit the first day and breakfasted on these the following three days. We walked to dinner at Le Sur the first night (awesome paella, also they have pizza for takeout). The second night we crashed about 7 so never even had dinner). The third day we stopped at a roulette (Tahitian roach coach) and picked up a whole rotisserie chicken for 1000 CFP ($10) and had this for dinner in our room. This was a great find as costs in French Polynesia are HIGH.

 

The last day, our Massachusetts friends (who had been on Tahiti) came to stay for a night at the Pearl in an OWB so we spend the day with them. Fran helped Rulian snorkel, and both of them enjoyed this. We were picked up at 4, on the last ferry at 4:45, and back on Tahiti at 5:15. We ate at one of the Roulottes between the ferry and the cruise ship (there are a lot of them!), then caught a taxi to the airport and checked in to our flight (although we had to wait until the line for our 11:15 PM flight opened). Note that this was not a particularly fun evening as we had to lug our luggage from the ferry to the roulettes to the taxi and then to the check-in line. Fran’s conclusion is it would be better to do a pre-stay although I thought this worked out pretty well. As at LAX, we got to wait in the A/C (CHILLY) Air Tahiti Nui lounge for the flight. The flight back was good, and we arrived on time Sunday morning at 10:25 AM. To our surprise this flight (TN 22) pulled right up to the jetway so we just walked into the terminal rather than being bused in. One funny coincidence: we stayed in LA for a week visiting family and old HS friends. Sunday evening, 8 hours after we arrived from Tahiti, we had dinner at our friend’s condo in Marina Del Way on Tahiti Way.

 

Ira

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thanks for the great review; we go in june, and I really can't wait after having read your reviews!!! great info and insights-thanks!!!:)

tahitisweetie

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I very much enjoyed your review - thanks for taking the time to post and share your experiences.

 

Can't wait for March to get here so I can have my turn!!!

 

Laura

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Great review...really enjoyed it. Oregonian, do you remember the name of company you used with the Boston Whaler, and how much it cost (and do they have a web page)? Thanks!

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Great review...really enjoyed it. Oregonian, do you remember the name of company you used with the Boston Whaler, and how much it cost (and do they have a web page)? Thanks!

 

We rented the Boston Whaler from Moana Adventure Tours, whose website (for the private tours) is http://www.moanatours.com/private.html. Cost for the pilot and boat for the afternoon was 29,700 CFP (approximately $300) using the coupon linked from their web page. The boat holds up to 4 people and the price is the same regardless of how many people you actually have.

 

Ira

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Oregonian, Thanks for your quick response. This looks great! Was 4 or 5 hours enough or would you recommend more time for this?

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Thank you very much for your review. We went this past July and I love reading reviews-it takes me right back to tahiti!

 

Nancy

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In looking at my bill, I see I was wrong about the corkage fee. It was only $10, not $20. And we only got charged once (in Sabatini's) for the six bottles of wine we brought and had with dinner during the cruise.

 

Also, I forgot that we went whale and dolphin watching with Dr. Poole the first day in Moorea after the cruise. Unfortunately, we got skunked which Dr. Poole says happens less than 5% of the time. Dr. Poole offered us a free trip next time we are in Moorea.

 

Stranger1, I can say that the afternoon was sufficient for us since we did get to snorkel at 3 spots. Any longer and you should probably bring food for yourselves (although they did provide some fruit after the first stop).

 

Ira

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Ira, Great review can you tell me what os cabin you had ? we are booked in 6088 for our 2nd Tahitian Princess trip on March 6.

 

Tom

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Great Review!! We are going in April. Question for you? I just bought my first video camera, Sony DCR-HC32, AND I would like to get an underwater housing unit for it, but I know nothing about them. Would you have any suggestions??

 

Thanks Julie

 

04/09/06 Tahitian Princess

02/00 Grand Princess

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I just bought my first video camera, Sony DCR-HC32, AND I would like to get an underwater housing unit for it, but I know nothing about them. Would you have any suggestions??

 

Thanks Julie

We have Ikelite housings for my digital SLR and Fran's digital video. The good news about these housings is that they are totally reliable and you can work all the controls. The bad news is that they are big, heavy (above water ... weightless in water) and expensive (I think the housing for your camera is about $800). If you are interested, you can check out their website at http://www.ikelite.com (although you have to purchase the housing from one of their distributors which includes the major internet photography suppliers). I'm not familiar with other options, perhaps somebody else can help you with alternatives. You can also check out digideep (http://www.digideep.com/) which reviews underwater housings.

 

Ira

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Oregonian,

Please be aware that Mata Tours and Bruno's Le Excursion Blu (which costs $130/pp) are two different tour. Bruno's tour is fantastic and he definitely takes you through the coral gardens and you have a nice lunch on a motu. He would never leave you alone for 3 hours as he takes his tour guide position very seriously. So, for those of you booking Bruno's tour, make sure you are getting the real tour.

 

Assume you booked your tour at the dock, and it may have been a coincidence that someone named "Bruno" was guiding you. The real tour starts at the Shell Station to the right of the dock and about 200 ft. away. Hopefully when you go back you can enjoy the "real thing".

 

Thanks for the great review. We've been twice before and are going back March, 06 for the third (and probably not last) time. It is actually addictive!

 

Jackie

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Excellent review! Can't wait for our 2 cruises there next year. You made me feel like I was almost there, which was good.

 

Can you tell me what it was about your wife's carry-on bag that ATN didn't like and why they thought she should check it. I had read they want smaller carry-on's, but the ones we have are standard size.

 

We are flying Alaska Air from Seattle to LAX also for our flight to Tahiti. This past August my TA also found that we could check our luggage all the way through. She was happy to tell me they had an agreement for this. One less thing to mess with.

 

Thanks for all your information. It is great. Just curious on the carry-on.

 

Susan

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Jackie, thanks for the correction. In fact, I know the difference and we were with Stephane, not Bruno. I must have had Bruno on my mind for our next trip when I wrote the trip review. So, for the benefit of everyone else, in my discussion of Raiatea, the paragraph should read:

 

Morning arrival at Raiatea again was beautiful. On Raiatea (the only port besides Tahiti that the ship docks rather than tenders), we hooked up with Stephane’s Mata Tours to Taha’a. This was a mixed bag. The shark feeding and stingray parts of the tour (the first two parts) were great. We really liked petting the stingrays and, given how they kept rubbing against us, they liked it too. Stephane’s island was picturesque with good snorkeling in the channel next to it. However, Stephane’s daredevil ride was brutal to your tailbone if you sat in the front of his boat (warning: sit to the rear!). And Stephane basically took us to his island and abandoned us for three hours without a word, while he went and picked up passengers for a second tour. Apparently he grows vanilla on the island, but we didn’t find this out until we left, and we never did go to the promised pearl farm (which frankly was ok with us anyway). Finally, his price seems to have gone up to $50 from $40. Despite the problems, we did enjoy the day. I later talked to people who had gone with Bruno, who raved about this tour and said the current through the coral gardens was in fact not that strong so it was a really good snorkel. Next time, Bruno.

 

Sorry about my mistake and thanks again for catching it, Jackie.

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Can you tell me what it was about your wife's carry-on bag that ATN didn't like and why they thought she should check it. I had read they want smaller carry-on's, but the ones we have are standard size.

Susan, they actually had two issues with our bags. The first is that my wife's bag looks pretty large, although it meets the carry-on dimension requirements and is soft and squishable. The second is that we each had two carry-ons, one being a personal item (for cameras) nearly as large as the official carry-on. This kind of stretches the definition of the personal item perhaps but has never been an issue domestically or internationally before. I think in the future we're going to come down to one carry-on each by checking our underwater housings, being careful to surround them with soft clothes (and removing their metal bases and packing these in our carry-ons since they are heavy). That of course means no overnight clothes in our carry-ons.

 

Ira

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Thanks for the information regarding the video camera's !!! I will take a look at those websites.

 

Thanks Julie

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Ira, hope you get to book Bruno the next time you go to Tahiti. You will enjoy the coral gardens, a beautiful snorkeling area. The lunch is fun too and talk about "fresh" fish....they were actually catching our lunch while we relaxed on the motu. My husband who doesn't eat fish actually enjoyed them as they were lightly floured and fried over an open fire...only problem is he didn't realize there were two sides to the fish (guess he was thinking of flounder which is sort of a flat one sided fish. He really took a good "ribbing" from our CC buddies over that one.

 

Stephane's Mata Tours has also gotten good reviews and it is cheaper than Brunos, but again as they get busy with the cruise clientele things change, even in Paradise.

 

Jackie

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