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Trip report 7/30/16 Cook & Society Islands 11 day Cruise

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Ia Orana!


I'm going to give a detailed trip report for the Paul Gauguin 11 day Cook and Society Islands cruise departing July 30, 2016. I'm going to have lots of pictures, info about our shore excursions, menus, and more. This is going to have a lot of detail which may be old hat for some of you. Please just skip on ahead if I'm droning on too much.


First let's get all the boring planning out of the way.


By way of introduction, we are Paul and Becky from San Antonio Texas. We are a couple in our mid 50s who love to travel, and now that our two children are grown we are trying to tick off some bucket list items. Paul is a teacher so our travel is mostly limited to summer when he is off work.


We are not seasoned cruisers. We have done two 4 day cruises out of Galveston, and a Mediterranean cruise in 2012. That was one of the most amazing vacations I've ever had. All of those cruises were with Carnival.


I know that Carnival is a long way from a luxury cruise line like Paul Gauguin. Nevertheless, we appreciated the great value and had a wonderful time on each of those trips. I have no problem recommending Carnival and will certainly cruise with them again. But as we were planning our Paul Gauguin cruise, we enjoyed anticipating all the amenities, such as the low crew-to-passenger ratio, personal service, and the upscale dining and drinks included.


Tahiti has long been a bucket list item. We started thinking about this trip almost a year in advance. We knew we wanted to go with one of the longer itineraries. Half the effort is getting there, and if we are going to spend this kind of money on a vacation, we wanted to make the most of it. So we selected the 11 day July 30, 2016 Cook and Society Islands cruise. We called PG in September 2015 and booked our cruise.


This was a big deal for us. It is certainly the most expensive vacation we have ever taken, and is a lot of money on our budget as a teacher and a respiratory therapist, but we put a priority on travel as we plan our budget.


We reserved a cabin on deck 4. I loved, loved, loved our balcony during our Mediterranean cruise, but there was just no way we could justify the extra expense to book a balcony cabin on the PG. The price difference between our window stateroom and a balcony stateroom was $3200. We reasoned that the $3200 difference in price could go towards another whole vacation, easily paying for a week long cruise in the Caribbean. So we reserved the window stateroom.


Once our trip was reserved, we needed to purchase trip insurance. I would not consider an international trip without it, primarily for medical coverage and evacuation if needed. Some years ago, my father-in-law suffered a heart attack while vacationing in Morocco. The trip insurance services were amazing and I was sold on the value of purchasing this insurance.


I compared plans and prices, and for our Tahitian cruise I decided that the John Hancock insurance company provided the best value. It was far less expensive than the insurance offered by Paul Gauguin. You have to purchase insurance within a couple of weeks of booking your trip, so you need to be ready to take care of that once you book your cruise. I use http://insuremytrip.com to find and compare different plans.

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Next I started looking at all the extras. I began looking at all of our ports and investigating different excursions and activities. I started reading every post here on the Cruise Critic Paul Gauguin forum, and taking notes on tips I saw here and wanted to remember. I also use TripAdvisor a lot when planning any trip.


In January, I started a roll call on Cruise Critic. The roll call was a lonely place for a long time, but eventually another cruiser joined us. She was a fellow Texan who lived just an hour or so away from us. We started talking about some of the excursions that interested us. I knew from previous cruises that you can find private tour operators who offer comparable tours at far lower cost than ship tours.


So my new friend and I planned several excursions (Huahine, Aitutaki, Bora Bora) with tour operators whom we had learned about on the Cruise Critic website and also were highly rated on TripAdvisor. Later, a handful of other cruisers joined our roll call, including some others who joined us on excursions, but it remained a sleepy little board.


We had a $750 onboard credit included as a promotion when we booked our cruise, so we selected a couple of PG excursions which could be paid for with that credit. In particular, I wanted to do the dolphin/whale watching tour in Moorea. I had heard that this is a very popular tour which sells out quickly, so I called PG to reserve it immediately when PG opened up bookings for our cruise (60 days prior to sailing). By June, I had reserved excursions for every port day of our cruise except for Taha'a, where we planned to just enjoy the day on Motu Mahana. I'll tell you more about each of these as we go.


A few months before sailing we also took care of buying plane tickets to and from Los Angeles. So now all our plans were laid and we just had to wait for the trip.

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We made a few purchases during this time. We bought some snorkel vests on Amazon. I got some new water shoes, and a new waterproof camera to capture all the amazing memories I was planning to make! I also recommend you get a floating strap for your camera in case you drop it in the water!



Several weeks before leaving, I started working on a tan. I have fair skin that burns very easily, and I was paranoid about getting a severe burn which could ruin my vacation. So I started laying out in the sun 2 or 3 times a week -- something I absolutely never do, but I thought a little advance exposure to the sun would be prudent, especially after reading a trip report on cruise critic that stressed how brutal the sun can be and mentioned that several passengers were very badly burned. Of course we packed plenty of sunscreen too! With this planning we did manage to avoid any severe burns and ultimately I came home with a bit of a tan!

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We wanted to exchange a little money so we would have some local currency when we landed in Papeete. We have used Capital One Bank for this service when we needed Euros, but we discovered they don't deal in Tahitian currency. They referred us to a currency exchange business in downtown San Antonio, but this business also told us that they didn't carry this currency. Finally we tried Wells Fargo Bank. They were able to offer the currency we needed, so we ordered a couple hundred dollars' worth. We didn't think we would need a lot of cash, but wanted at least a little for incidentals.


If you think you want to exchange some money ahead of time, make sure to allow plenty of time to find a bank that will provide the currency you need. It will take at least several business days to complete the transaction so don't wait until the last minute.


As it turned out, we could have gotten by just fine without exchanging anything. We didn't need money for taxis or meals upon arrival, or anything like that because absolutely every detail was taken care of by PG. At the end of the trip, we did buy one mealbefore going to the airport, but we were able to pay for that with our Capital One Visa card, which we carry specifically because they don't charge a foreigntransaction fee.


We ended up spending the cash on souvernirs, but almost every vendor we saw would take US dollars. In fact, at the end of the trip we went to the market in Papeete specifically looking for a few trinkets to use up the rest of the CFP money we had.


Bear with me, I promise I have tons of pictures coming. But during this stage of planning I have nothing to show you.

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About 8 or 10 days before sailing, one of our roll call members mentioned that there were still more than 30 unsold cabins on our sailing, and we all started wondering about potential upgrades. I called and as it turned out, PG was offering a discount and we did upgrade to a balcony cabin. I was really thrilled about this. On our Mediterranean cruise, some of my favorite memories are enjoying breakfast or a late night glass of wine on the balcony and I was excited about making similar memories on the PG.


Later, on board, we met a single traveller who was upgraded at the time of embarkation. My understanding was that this was free to her. She said she had just been escorted to her deck 3 room when there was a knock on the door, and they offered to take her up to deck 6. Maybe they do this as a goodwill perk when they have empty cabins? Or perhaps I misunderstood the price? But she made it sound as if this was a free perk that was a total surprise to her.


Finally, after all these months of planning, it was time to go!! We packed several days ahead of time. Packing was quite a project! I'll tell you more about that later.

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We did not want to try to arrive on embarkation day. I don't ever feel comforable cutting travel conections close at all, and there was no way I wanted to try to fly from San Antonio to Tahiti in one day. I know there are people who travel even much further, but that is not for us. I don't want to arrive exhausted at the beginning of my vacation.


We have a cousin who lives near Los Angeles, so we visited her on our way to Tahiti. She kindly picked us up at the airport on Thursday. We had a wonderful afternoon, driving up the coast and dining in Malibu. We slept over at her home, then she took us back to the airport on Friday for ourflight to Tahiti. Here's Paul taking in the beautiful view in Malibu.




I highly recommend you try to take some time on the way to Tahiti. We met people who flew over and boarded the boat near midnight on the first day of the cruise. They arrived exhausted. Who wants to start vacation tired and stressed? Instead, travel a day or two early. Fly to LA, get a hotel near the airport or on the beach. Enjoy a nice dinner somewhere. Rest. Then continue your travel.


And then, finally, we were off to Tahiti!!



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Our flight to Tahiti was on Friday July 29. The flight was about an hour late, for no apparent reason. But finally we boarded and found our seats. Each seat had a little package containing ear buds for the TV, ear plugs for sleeping, an eye mask, and a pair of thin socks. Also there was a pillow and blanket on each seat. The seats (coach) felt relatively roomy. We had a 10 hour flight from Rome last year on American Airlines, on an old, dirty aircraft. The seats were the worst I ever had, tightest fit possible. So these seats were relatively comfy in comparison. Here are the items that were in our little goodie bag. I thought they were a nice touch.




The food on the plane was surprisingly good. We had a choice of a beef stirfry dish or chicken curry, both with rice and veggies. Both came with a green salad with grilled chicken, a roll, a little cheese with a package of crackers, and a little cake. Wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages were complimentary. We had champagne!









Then, lights out. We watched movies on the seatback device. Near the end of the flight, we were served a second meal. This time it was pasta salad, a roll with butter and a small wedge of cheese, a mixed fruit cup, and a piece of red velvet cake. Again, it wasn't bad for airline food.




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We arrived in Tahiti around 11pm. Passport control, or immigration or whatever they call it was quite fast and easy. Then we headed over to baggage claim.


Oh my goodness! What a zoo!! This area is under construction. It was very crowded and hot. There was only one narrow passageway in and out. So you had passengers flowing into the area in a constant stream, milling around in the very tight, non-air-conditioned space picking up luggage, and then tryng to haul huge suitcases and luggage carts out against the flow of more passengers still entering the area. It was a mess!


As luck would have it, out suitcases were among the last to come out, so we got to spend a good half hour or more immersed in this chaotic scene. After finally retrieving out suitcases, there was a long line to exit. They were checking some passports and waving others through. I'm not sure what that was all about but when we finally reached the head of the line they just waved us on.


At last we emerged from the airport. Just outside, we saw a large sign with several names written on it, including ours. We approached a lady there, and were welcomed with a beautiful, fragrant lei, and a nice cold bottle of water. She told us to wait there for a few minutes, then led us to a waiting bus.


Here we are with our leis.



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We were driven to the Intercontinental. Check in here was quick and easy. Very fast and efficient porters greeted us. We were offered a glass of mango juice at the reception desk, then escorted to our room and settled in sometime after midnight.


By the way, our pre- and post- cruise rooms were selected by PG. I was not familiar with any of the resorts so I just went with the ones that were offered when we called to book our cruise. I'm sure if you have a preference, you could work that out easily when you call to book, or with your travel agent.


At checkin, the receptionist asked if we want to join their club. If we do, we get free wifi, and late checkout at 2pm (normally 11am). Plus they gave us 2 coupons for free virgin cocktails, beer, tea or coffee at the bar. So of course we joined the club. The late check-out was a really nice perk!


Our room at the Intercontinental was lovely. A bit small, but very comfortable. We had packed some wine for just this moment. It was late, but we sat on our balcony to unwind and relish this moment while enjoying the sound of the ocean and celebrating the start of our vacation. Here's the room:










Here is the check-in information we were given when we arrived at the IC





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Next morning, we awoke refreshed. I just cannot recommend strongly enough how much better it is to space out your travel as we did. Don't rush it!


Here is our balcony, and the view that we awoke to in the morning. Our "lagoon view" room had a partial ocean view.








We were pleasantly surprised that breakfast and lunch were included with our package. Breakfast was a delicious and extensive buffet available until 1030am so you could sleep in a bit if you are tired from your flight. Then we walked around the resort having a look at all the facilities, the over water bungalows, pool. It all looked marvelous. IC was beautiful and seemed very uncrowded.






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Local shopping


We still had quite a bit of time to kill after breakfast, so we walked to the local grocery. I love to visit local markets when I travel. There is a Carrefour supermarket about a 15 minute walk from the Intercontinental. This is a great place to get an inexpensive lunch if meals are not included in your plan. A huge baguette was 59 CFP (about 59 cents). You can add some meat and cheese from the deli, and couple of inexpensive pieces of fruit, and have a lovely meal for only a few dollars. If you have to pay for meals at the IC, expect very high prices.


Carrefour was like a Wal-Mart in the sense that it sold a wide variety of goods. A full grocery store, plus electronics, household goods, clothes, etc. If you forgot anything for your trip, you can probably get it here. There are also several attached stores, like a small shopping mall, selling clothes and toys, and a little restaurant. I love to see what kinds of products are sold at local stores and the Carrefour was fun to visit.


If you prefer, you could of course just lounge by the pool, which would be a lovely way to start your vacation. All the resort facilities are available as part of your deal with PG.


We walked back to the resort and went to lunch, which was included with our package. Your choice of unlimited salad bar or wok. I had the wok which was fabulous. Paul had the salad bar, which was very extensive. Dessert was included.


Then before long it was time to go to the ship! Again, the porters and other services were very efficient at the Intercontinental. I really don't know how they could improve on the service here. Everything was perfect. We had been told what time to have our luggage ready, I think it was 11am. We called a porter before that time, he arrived immediately and took our luggage for transfer to the ship.


Here we are enjoying our free beverages at the IC bar before our transfer.



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Finally, it's time to begin our long-awaited cruise! Around 2:45 pm we boarded a bus which took us to the ship.


Getting off bus, the line to get onboard took about 20 minutes. We had to fill out a health form. Cruise director David was there greeting people. Gauguines were playing music. Sometime along this process they offered us a cool, scented washcloth which was lovely because the weather was so hot.


We walked up the gangplank to enter the ship on deck 3 and were directed to the Grand Salon on deck 5. There, they gave us small glass of champagne and guided us through the check in process. We had to sit and wait for just a short time. Then they took our picture and issued our ship cards. They collected our passport, saying we will get it back in Bora Bora.



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Next we were escorted to our cabin, number 617.


Our cabin was comfortable with lots of storage space. But only one US and one European outlet, or so we thought. So it takes some planning to keep cameras, phones, laptops, etc all charged. Much later, we discoverd a second plug on the side of the cabinet that houses the refrigerator. It is sort of out of sight and we didn't see it until we had been on board for days!


Plus there was one european outlet in BR labeled for shavers only. There needs to be a way to turn on a nightlight in the bathroom. If you have to get up during the night, you either have to turn on the very bright bathroom light which wakes you up at 3 am, or you fumble in the dark. There is no night light anywhere.


I will mention that this cabin was quite a bit smaller than the one we had on the Carnival Breeze, but it did have a bathtub if that is important to you. The Carnival ships we have been on have only a shower. I don't care if there is a tub. I never take baths so just a shower is fine.


The bed had no top sheet. Strange. I've never stayed at any hotel anywhere that did not provide a top sheet. Here, there was just a bottom sheet and duvet. Next day we asked for a sheet because the duvet was too warm for us.


The refrigerator was stocked with sodas and beer. I don't drink beer, wish they included some wine, maybe one or two of the single serve size bottles. Also there was a full ice bucket in frig. Plenty of bottled water.












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Fresh fruit was replenished daily. Embarkation day happened to be my birthday, and there was a pretty piece of chocolate cake with "Happy

Birthday" written in icing.








There was also a memo offering a deal in the spa in honor of my birthday, valid only on port days, not on sea days. I wonder if everyone gets these kinds of "special offers" , birthday or not.





Here's our balcony:



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Our first couple of hours on board were a little confusing.


First minor snafu: the woman taking us to our room told us to be ready for the safety drill at 5:00. We said we had wanted to disembark to go to the market, and asked what happens if we weren't back by 5. she said we MUST be back. She was very explicit about the time and I am sure we did not misunderstand her. Perhaps she just misspoke.


This really didn't allow us enough time to go to the market. So we just unpacked and stayed on board. It turned out she was wrong, the safety drill wasn't until 5:30. The extra half hour would probably have given us the time we neededand I was a little disappointed not to see the market.


While waiting for the drill, I decided to take care of a couple of things on our to-do list: dining reservations, and snorkel gear.


When we called PG a week or so ago to upgrade our cabin, the lady we spoke to gave me some very explicit suggestions about reservations. I had also read more than one comment here on CC that you have to move quickly to get your dinner reservations. So that was top on my list of things to do once on board.


I went to Le Grill to make a reservation but it was closed. So, plan B:


The PG lady had said to be sure to get reservations to La Veranda for the "Captain's Welcome Dinner." So I went to La Veranda to do that. They said there is no captains welcome dinner. Hmm? The PG lady had been very specific about this so I was a little confused. She even explicitly talked about how the captain and other senior crew would be present in their dress uniforms.


But the person at the door of La Veranda said there was no such dinner. I was confused by these mixed messages so decided not to make a reservation at that moment and would come back later.

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We had also read on CC that you should go to the marina ASAP to get snorkel gear. So we headed there next. There were a few workmen in coveralls, I don't think they spoke much English, and they certainly weren't issuing any gear. One of them told me to go to the excursion desk. Uh, OK. Off we went.


There, we were told we had to wait until after the safety drill to go to the marina. The marina hours were listed in the Ia Orana, which was in our room when we arrived, but we had just boarded, and had not sat down to read the Ia Orana front to back.


So our first few hours on board were confusing, with being told the incorrect drill time, and most services closed. The takeaway is that although you can board at 3pm, there are few services available until after the safety drill, which took place at 5:30. There was really very little going on (including the pool, which was closed) until later. So other than having time to unpack, there is not much benefit to boarding early.


However, you can book excursions and dives. We planned all of that ahead of time so there was nothing we needed to do here. But definitely take advantage of this time to get a head start if you haven't already booked your tours. Personally, I strongly recommend that you select your tours ahead of time. You can also visit the spa during these first few hours on board and make reservations.


We spent the time walking around and getting familiar with the layout of the ship. There seemed to be very few people on board. We stopped by La Palette where we met Elmo, the bar manager.


The safety drill was quick and easy. Took place outside on deck 5, took about 15 minutes. We started chatting with some people standing around us while we waited for it to start and were pleased to finally meet in person the Texas couple we had met on our roll call and been doing much planning with.


Here are some ship photos taken during this time:



Grand Salon




Bar in the Grand Salon





Piano Bar





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La Palette inside




La Palette outside




Pool bar




Sun Deck:





Somehow I managed to miss getting a photo of the pool. I think that because it was closed (empty), I figured I'd take a photo later and then I just

never did.


So that completes our tour of the ship. I'll come back later and tell you about our first dinner on board. The food was a highlight of the trip!

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Wow, what detail, thanks!


Sounds like most of your snafus would not have happened if you'd read the Ia Orana? Interesting to find out if there was in fact a Captain's Welcome--I certainly remember them from the past.

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Wow, what detail, thanks!


Sounds like most of your snafus would not have happened if you'd read the Ia Orana? Interesting to find out if there was in fact a Captain's Welcome--I certainly remember them from the past.


Yes, you are right. I had scanned most of the Ia Orana, but had not paid close attention to the service hours posted on the back. Lesson learned!


There was not a Captain's Welcome *Dinner* which the PG rep had told me would occur in La Veranda and had encouraged us to try to attend. However there was a Captain's Welcome *Party* where they served drinks and you could have your picture made with the Captain.


But for now, we are off to dinner!

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I had read a lot about the restaurants on board, and wanted to go to Le Grill for the al fresco dining, but it was not open this night. So we went to La Veranda at 630 to ask if any reservations still available for tonight. He said yes, just one. We asked what time, he said "now." So we were immediately seated. First ones there but more people arrived within minutes. But it was far from full, not busy at all.


Everything was marvelous. Everyone (all male -- I never saw any female wait staff in any dining room) was very friendly, asking our names. The service was impeccable.


We were told that La Veranda would have the same menu all week for the first week, then a new menu second weeek. The same is true in Le Grill. So go once early and once later in the cruise.You can order any entree from either side of menu, which gives you five choices. You are not required to follow the degustation menu.



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It was just the two of us at our table. The mushroom soup was very good. Paul had mahi mahi which seemed to use the same mushroom base as the soup. I don't eat seafood so I ate a lot of steak on this trip. Tonight I had beef tenderloin, pretty good but not the best I ever had. It came with potatoes that were just basic french fries, nothing special. I didn't expect more. I know I'm in the middle of the South Pacific, not cattle country. Everything else was delicious.


Everything was presented very attractively. For dessert I had a fruit cup with white chocolate sauce, very good. No matter what dessert you ordered, it always was served with a little plate of petit fours, different ones every night. The wine never stopped flowing.


I loved the ambiance in La Veranda. We would eat breakfast and lunch here often. Tables were set very attractively, soft music. From what I had read here on CC, I had thought Le Grill might be my favorite, but we really liked La Veranda. The location was also very convenient for us, just down the hall from our cabin.


My food photos aren't the greatest. My camera didn't like the lighting in the dining rooms and I'm not a good enough photographer to know how to fix it. But here's some of what we ate the first night.


Asparagus appetizer




Chilled tomato soup




Mahi Mahi




Beef tenderloin




Desserts: fruit with white chocolate cream and ice cream in the foreground, lemon tart in the background






Some dessert wine and a surprise for my birthday!!



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After dinner we went to pool deck for the welcome aboard party. Some crew introductions were made, the Gaugines danced, then the Celebration Band played dance music and got everyone joined in. It was not a large group because many passengers were still not here. We had fun dancing and enjoyed the Kahlua drink they were serving.


We finally retired to our room and put out room service breakfast tag since we had an early excursion planned.


I sat on the balcony watching at around 11:00 or so when busloads of passengers arrived from the airport. The gangway was pulled immediately after they boarded and off we went.





This is the Celebration Band








This movie schedule was in our cabin. Seriously, who goes to Tahiti and then sits in their cabin watching movies?? But here it is:



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We had asked for room service breakfast between 7:30 and 8:00 It arrived at 7:25. We got room service breakfast every day that we had a morning excursion. The menu asks you to check off a 30 minute time frame for delivery. (7:00 - 7:30, or 7:30 - 8:00, etc). Every time it arrived at the very beginning of the timewindow we selected, sometimes even 5-10 minutes before. So make sure you are up and ready. It was lovely to eat on our balcony. Sorry my picture of the breakfast menu is so poor.








Ready to start our day in Huahine!



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We went downstairs

to get on the first tender at 8:30. We had booked a private tour with two couples from our roll call. We met them in the tender boarding area. Every port except

Papeete used a tender.


Our guide for Marc's Motu picnic/Combo Tour was right on the pier. The tour was scheduled from

915 am to 3:00 pm and cost $140 per person. It included 4 x 4 land tour, private motu picnic, snorkeling, outrigger canoe, and a shark encounter. Here is the link:





We began with a drive around the island. Our guide dropped us off in the small town of Fare for about 15-20 minutes. We looked around the grocery store. Whole pigs for sale! Which is why I like to go to the local grocery store wherever I am. You see things that you would never see at home.






We noticed lots of dogs everywhere, but very tame. We soon discovered this to be true on all the islands. Many loose dogs everywhere we went, but they were almost always very quiet and not bothersome.



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Next we went to see the marae, a vanilla "plantation" which was really just somebody's house who had a few vanilla plants in a small garden, along with a small shop. Our guide told us how the vanilla grows which was interesting.

Then we saw blue eyed eels. Our guide got in with them and fed them so we could get a good look.











Vanilla "plantation"





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Blue eyed eels









I hope this works: this small picture should be a clickable link to a video of the eels being fed.




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We also stopped at a little "boutique," a small shop with shell jewelry and a few other island items. Nobody in our little group was buying anything at any of our stops.


Then our guide took us to get on our boat, which took the 6 of us to the pearl farm, a hut in the middle of a lagoon. The lady there gave a good explanation of how the pearls are made. Prices seemed high, but I don't know what they are anywhere else. Exchange rate 10000 cfp = $100. This is the rate we found everywere. Just move the decimal point over two spaces to convert 1000 CFP = $10.00.


Next we got back on the boat where a bunch more people joined us so it got pretty crowded. There were about 20 of us I guess. We motored out to do a drift snorkel which was lovely.


Maria, our roll call friend who is a much more experienced snorkeler/diver, said the variety of fish was limited and the coral dead, but for us not having snorkeled much, it was wonderful. And easy. The current gently carried us along so was not strenuous at all. Our boat went on ahead so we just floated along until we caught up with it.








This is the pearl farm





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Then back on the boat, we headed to our next stop to feed the sharks. Our guide stopped often to point out features on the island. Too often. It took a long time to get to our next destination. Most of the things he pointed out were just this and that resort or whatever. There was one interesting feature, a cliff or rock formation that looked like a face.




Anyway, finally we made it to sharks. Amazing!!! Tons of sharks and fish. I was SOOO disappointed though because my camera died! I couldn't believe it! Not one shot, and this was the most insane part of the entire day! An experience not to be missed. You get off the boat onto a floating dock, from there into the water where ropes were tied. We were strictly instructed to grab the rope and not let go. Then one of the guides fed the sharks which completely ignored us and swam all around, along with large variety of other fish. Marvelous!


However, later in our trip we would have another opportunity to swim with sharks which was much less structured and seemed more natural. I liked that later experience even better. I'll tell you about it when we get there.


So as you can see there was a LOT packed into this one tour. Can you believe we did all that in one day? It cost $140 per person.


For purposes of price comparison, I could not find a comparable tour through PG. I don't see anything that offers the land tour plus the snorkeling and sharks. They have a 3 hour lagoon cruise that costs $105, plus a 3.5 hour 4 x 4 tour that costs $89. If it is possible to combine these two tours then you might get a similar experience to what we had, but without the motu picnic, which was a highlight of the day (lunch, alcholic and nonalchoholic beverages, poisson cru demonstration, swimming).

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Oops, I got a little out of order. Before the shark encounter, we had a picnic...


Back on the boat, we were taken to a secluded little motu for lunch. We were the only ones there. Our group was about 20 people. Picnic tables set in the water. All the beer and rum punch you wanted. They made fresh poisson cru, showing us how it is made. There was also salad, bread, saffron rice, chicken, fish, and fruit. A delicious meal. There was time to swim here. Very nice, since it was just our small group with no one else around.


Making poisson cru:




Learning how to open a coconut








One of the things I quickly discovered and loved about our trip: everywhere we went was so uncrowded. A typical beach in Florida or California is just teeming with people. Not so here. The most beautiful places seemed to belong to us alone.


Here is the secluded spot where we had lunch:





Edited by luckybecky

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We got back to the ship late. Our tour was scheduled to last until 3:00, but it was about an hour late returning to the pier. So we got our money's worth, but I wanted to see the Children of Huahine show at 3:30 and we were much too late back on board for that.


I also wanted to see the Moonfish presentation but missed most of that too! Back onboard, I showered as quickly as possible and then ran up to the pool deck just in time to see the chef thanking the people who came to see the presentation, and saying goodbye.


It is of note that EVERY private excursion we took returned later than scheculed. Sometimes as much as 1-2 hours late. So if you want to participate in on-board activities, this is something to be aware of when scheduling your tours. We were never in danger of missing the ship, none of our tours was ever that late, but they did run later than scheduled.


So we missed the afternoon activities but did have time to go to the Captain's Welcome Party at 6:30. They were serving drinks and canapes. We had our photo taken with the Captain, but we never purchased any photos on board. I thought the pricing was just outrageous. The quality of the pictures was good, so whether or not they are worth the price is up to you. There was a special if you purchased early.



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Dinner in L'Etoile


Chateaubriand was excellent. Much better than my steak last night. Good salad. Easy conversation. When we arrived at the restaurant, the maitre'd asked if we wanted to sit with others or not. I liked being given the choice, unlike lunch on Carnival some years ago where we were not asked and were seated with some duds.


In this case the company was fun and friendly. Two other couples from the US and one couple from Australia. To my mortification, I spilled my neighbor's drink.


We are a bit out of our league, as I feared we would be, when it comes to travel. Others talking about their multiple trips on PG, Windstar, European travels, river cruises etc. We have travelled some, but not at the level of many others on board. But all were kind and my Australian tablemate whose drink I spilled was very gracious about the mishap. Service was superb as always.


I'm afraid I forgot to get a snapshot of the menu tonight. I think I got it almost every night so I'll have more menus for you as we go along, but I can't seem to find the one for tonight.


We went to the show after dinner. The Gauguines did the show where they pose in imitation of Gauguin's art. Then some traditional dances. After this they pulled several men out of the audience for some on-stage fun, but we left. We were tired after a very full day, but also because I figured if they were pulling men up on stage, the women might be next and I just wasn't up to it!


Tomorrow we have a sea day.

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We breakfasted at Le Grill. Excellent buffet. Try the locally produced jams. Wonderful. I think this was the last time we ate breakfast at Le Grill, however. I believe the food selection for breakfast and lunch is the same at all the restaurants, and I confess we like the air conditioning in La Veranda. As mentioned before, it was my favorite restaurant. I liked the big windows and ambiance.






I was very interested in the Galley tour, but when we went to Reception to sign up, it was full. They said there would be another tour later in the cruise so I signed up for that, but we had to cancel because it turned out to be at the same time as an excursion we had scheduled.


We had the same problem with the Bridge tour. My advice is do not wait until you see these events appear in the Ia Orana schedule! Go to Reception at the earliest opportunity, ask when these tours are scheduled, and get yourself signed up as far in advance as possible. We missed both of these tours because we didn't act quickly enough.







We went to the Mark Eddowes talk, which I was really looking forward to, having heard good things about him on CC. But I found his talk a little hard to follow, and he talked nonstop for 90 minutes. Really went on too long. He stopped only because another event was scheduled to begin in that location. I wanted to leave after an hour or so but we were sitting right up front and I didn't want to appear rude.


Eddowes is very knowledgable and definitely enthusiastic about his subject, but his talk seemed to wander all over the place and was just disjointed. Paul really liked him. Paul agrees with my assessment that Eddowes tends to go off on tangents, but wants me to stress the Eddowes was extrememly knowledgable and imparted a lot of very interesting information.


Later in the day Ghislain Houzel, an expert on French Polynesia, gave a talk about the mutiny on the Bounty. I stayed only for about 10 minutes. English is his second language and he spoke slowly. I just wasn't engaged so I went back to our room for a brief nap. Paul stayed for the whole talk, said it was rough. The speaker is very elderly, had trouble with the audiovisuals, and his English was strained. The talk was a struggle.

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We had lunch in La Veranda. Buffet was very good. Salad bar was very fresh, not huge but enough selection. Roasted meat I think was duck. It was supposed to be seafood day but seemed more asian food. Sushi, egg rolls & vegetable dumplings (both excellent), cantonese fried rice. Also every day there was a cheese selection and several bread choices.


Paul went back to the room for a nap and I went to La Palette for the Polynesian Legends talk. Awkward. Only 11 people there so you can't sneak out if not interested. The talk was just OK.


My intent was to go to the bar and get a drink, sit in the back to hear the talk, then slip out early so I could go watch the blackjack tournament. As it turned out the bar was not open, and with such small attendance it was awkward to join in and then leave. This was not a formal presentation. It was a very informal talk with everyone sitting in a circle and each of the Gauguines telling a short tale.


There is a simple printed newspaper available for free every day at the reception desk. You can get USA news, Interntional news, or several other options of different countries. It's just a few pages. Here's a scan of the front page of the USA news from later in our cruise. If you really must stay plugged in during your vacation, there was also an option to pay for newspaper delivery to your cabin.






I never used the spa. But a sea day is probably a good time, if you want to use it. Here are some scans of the spa brochure.









Edited by luckybecky

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Block Party


At 6pm we attended the welcome aboard block party. This was fun and I recommend you make a point to do it. We enjoyed meeting some of our neighbors. We had already met some of them. Some roll call friends, Ashley and Rick, were just 2 doors down. We had spent the day in Huahine with them yesterday. Our room attendant Rona was there pouring wine. This is when we met the lady who said she had been upgraded upion embarkation.


By the way, Rona did a beautiful job maintaining our cabin. She always had a smile on her face. She said she was responsible for 13 cabins. I don't know how she did it. Our room was always impeccable with twice daily service. There was Diet Coke in our frig which Paul liked. But he discovered that they have Coke Zero at the bar and he likes that better. So he asked Rona if she could get Coke Zero for our frig, and she did. She kept us stocked with Coke Zero, Diet Coke, and ice for the remainder of the cruise. This was the kind of service we had throughout the cruise. Ask and you will receive.






I signed up for internet access. I really had no idea how much I would need. I selected the medium package of 250 minutes.


I wanted to be able to post a few photos on facebook from time to time and check in with the kids occasionally. But we really were very unplugged for this trip. I put my phone in airplane mode when we left LAX, and I didn't turn it back on until we arrived back there after our cruise ended. I didn't want any international roaming charges or any other surprises on my cell phone bill.


The internet service was very slow but adequate for uploading a few photos now and then. It took some time but it worked. I uploaded one 30 second video. That took at least 20 minutes, so I never tried to upload any more videos. But the service did allow me to Skype the kids several times. We got disconnected on a couple of occasions but were able to reconnect and just check in with them a few times during the cruise.


The internet package we purchased turned out to be just right. By using it judiciously, it lasted just until the end of the trip. Once every day or two, I would select several photos to upload. It would take several minutes to upload. Maybe 15-20 minutes, depending on how many photos (not many -- I was not uploading dozens). Then I would spend several minutes Skyping (or attempting to Skype) with the kids. I might have had 5 minutes left by the time we ended our cruise.








The casino had set out sign-up sheets for roulette and blackjack tournaments at 4:00 and 4:30pm on this sea day, but neither tournament had enough people sign up. So that was a bust.


Casino: We played often. Usually for just a few minutes at a time, between other activities. We like to play video poker. Make sure to check pay tables. Some better than others. Also cash out to round up, not down. They do not have Ticket In - Ticket Out like in Vegas. The machines accept only cash, not tickets. So when you cash out your machine, you must exchange your ticket with the casino attendant to receive cash. They only pay even dollar amounts, so your ticket will be rounded up or down to the nearest dollar.


Here are the video poker 25 cent pay tables (double bonus poker) if you are interested. These two machines were right next to each other, so it is worth it to pay attention when you choose a machine.




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We had dinner in L'Etoile with 2 or 3 other couples. Nice conversation. I really enjoyed eating with other cruisers. On 3 separate occasions during the cruise, we arrived at L'Etoile (almost always around 7-7:30pm) and asked to be seated with others, only to be told that no communal tables were available, so we had a table for two. But at other times, we ate with others and it was a pleasure on this cruise to have the opportunity to meet other people, several of whom we would become friendly with for the remainder of the trip. Paul noticed that whenever we were seated with others, it was always with couples who were roughly in our age group, and of course English speakers. I don't know how the maître 'd keeps up with it all.


At 9:30 we went to show briefly but we were just too tired to stay. The performer was singer Carly Woods and she was great. We really missed out on seeing her shows during this cruise. It just happened that between all our activities and the never ending drinks, we were wiped out on the nights she

performed and I don't think we ever made it through an entire show with her. Our fault, not a problem with the singer.

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Wow! Thank you so much for writing this review!! I always write very detailed photo reviews of my cruises, and I love reading them when preparing for my upcoming cruises, but there are so few reviews like this in the PG forums. I can't wait to read the rest of your review!


I have a few questions... did you notice if there is any shade or umbrellas for the lounge chairs near the pool? I also have very pale skin and can't sit out in the sun too long, so it would be great if they had a shade option out there!


Also, do you happen to have any photos of the closets with the doors open? Or perhaps you can just tell me... are the two tall closets identical (like a his and hers closet) or are they different (I've been on ships where one closet has the bar and one has shelves so we have to share one closet bar)? And do they have a hanging bar or shelves (or both)? Just wondering so I can plan accordingly :) Thanks!

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I have a few questions... did you notice if there is any shade or umbrellas for the lounge chairs near the pool? I also have very pale skin and can't sit out in the sun too long, so it would be great if they had a shade option out there!


There was very little shade on the upper decks. I don't think there were any umbrellas anywhere. I have a photo of the pool bar in post #20. You can see a few tables with chairs, and one or two sofas there which are in the shade -- no lounge chairs though. This, I think, is the only place anywhere that had shade. I agree with you that it would be great if they had more shade options!




Also, do you happen to have any photos of the closets with the doors open? Or perhaps you can just tell me... are the two tall closets identical (like a his and hers closet) or are they different (I've been on ships where one closet has the bar and one has shelves so we have to share one closet bar)? And do they have a hanging bar or shelves (or both)? Just wondering so I can plan accordingly :) Thanks!


The closets were not identical. One of them had a hang bar the width of the closet -- I guess about 24 inches? It had a couple of shelves at eye level and above, with the hang bar just below that. The safe was on the top shelf in this closet.


The other closet had a narrow hang bar, maybe half the width of the closet. The other half of the closet had stacked shelves. Neither hang bar was high enough for very long dresses. But certainly adequate for almost anything else.


Each closet had a few hangers. We asked our room attendant to give us more hangers. But within a few days, after using the laundry service, we had hangers coming out our ears.

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