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deladane

Detailed Photo Review of Paul Gauguin 10-Night Cruise 9/6/17 Plus Moorea Pre-Cruise

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Ia Orana! Hi Everyone! My name is Dana and my husband and I just returned from our honeymoon in French Polynesia. We spent an incredible 6 days in Moorea before boarding a 10-night cruise on the Paul Gauguin to the Society Islands and Tuamotus (September 6-16, 2017 sailing). As you can see from my cruise history listed below, I have taken several Carnival and Celebrity cruises in the last few years, so sailing on a ship as small as the PG was a totally new experience for me. The one thing this cruise did have in common with my prior cruises was that it was an extremely port-intensive itinerary... we only had 1 sea day on the 10 day cruise! I love the process of planning for a cruise,and I am obsessed with reading everything I can on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor that will prepare me for my upcoming vacation. After sailing with the larger cruise lines, I was used to finding tons of reviews about my ship, itinerary, what to do in ports, and information about pre- and post-cruise stays. Unfortunately, my resources were much more limited when planning for this PG cruise. With only one ship in their fleet, and that ship only holds about 300 passengers per cruise, it is no surprise that the PG forum on Cruise Critic only has a handful of active participants. Luckily, these active participants were EXTREMELY helpful in answering all of my questions! Many thanks toEmdee, FlightMedic555, Twin123185, Tahitianbigkahuna, and WendyTheWanderer in helping immensely with my cruise-planning process!

 

As you can see in my signature below, I always write a detailed photo review when I return home from my cruises, with a journal-style day-by-day format. This cruise will be no different! If you are looking for a short and sweet review, you might want to look elsewhere... I tend to write like I talk, and I can be a bit long-winded, so my reviews closely resemble novels. On the other hand, if you like reading about lots of details, and if you want to see TONS of photos, this is the review for you! Given the limited number of detailed reviews written about PG and specifically the Tuamotus itinerary, I hope my review will help some of you to plan for your upcoming cruises! Please feel free to ask questions and post comments along the way... I welcome your feedback :)

 

I took over 3500 photos on this vacation, and we were awayfor 17 days, so I have a lot of work to do to get this review posted. Please be patient with me as it will likelytake a while to get everything written up and all of my photos sorted andloaded onto my computer.

 

The first few posts will be very text-heavy as I explain ourpre-cruise planning process, so here are some of my favorite photos from thetrip as a little something to hold you over until it's time to post the rest ofthe photos!

 

 

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Edited by deladane

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Before I start writing about our time in French Polynesia, I wanted to give a little background information. Back in September of 2015, DH proposed to me on a romantic sunrise hot air balloon ride. We immediately began planning our wedding for September of 2016, and talking about where we wanted to take our honeymoon. We already had our Celebrity Equinox cruise booked for 2 weeks in March 2016, so that used up most of our 2016 vacation days (Many people suggested we just call that cruise our honeymoon, but we definitely did not want to take our honeymoon 6 months before we were married!). We knew we wanted to take a fairly substantial vacation for our honeymoon, so we decided to delay it until 2017 when we would have more vacation days available. We both love cruising, so I looked into some itineraries in Europe, Asia, and Australia,but DH said he wanted a more romantic, low key, beachy honeymoon as opposed to the city-based touring that those cruises offered. My next thought was to go to Hawaii as many of my friends from the East Coast have done for their honeymoons. While I have never been there and definitelywant to go sometime soon, it is a very easy flight from where we live in California, so it just didn't seem honeymoon-worthy (unlike my friends on the East Coast who can get to Europe faster than Hawaii! haha)

 

That's when I started to investigate French Polynesia. My friends on the East Coast would never even consider this, being that the flight would take up half of their vacation time lol Living in the Bay Area meant DH and I could get to LAX in a quick one-hour flight to connect to our flight to Tahiti. This seemed doable so I started to look into our options. At first, I assumed we would fly out there for about 2 weeks for a land-trip and spend a few days on the 3 main islands: Tahiti, Bora Bora,and Moorea. I started to look into hotel options and some logistics when I stumbled upon something I never knew existed... a cruise line that sails year-round around French Polynesia! This was so perfect for us as it combined our love for cruising with our desire to visit some of the most unique tropical islands in the world! It didn't take much convincing before DH agreed that we should book this as our honeymoon!! By now, it was December of 2015 and PG had not yet released their itineraries for 2017. My research told me that September was a great month to visit French Polynesia as it tends to be less rainy and humid, and there would be fewer children on board as they had just started their school year, so when PG finally released their 2017 dates in January 2016, we booked this 10-night cruise for early September. An added bonus was that we would be away over Labor Day weekend and could use one less vacation day.

 

With our honeymoon cruise booked a year and 9 months in advance, we had plenty of time to iron out the rest of the details. Luckily, it was too far in advance to do too much planning for the honeymoon, so that gave us plenty of time to focus on the details of planning our wedding. Our year-long engagement flew by, and before we knew it, it was September of 2016 and time for our wedding! I know this is a cruising forum so I won't talk too much about our wedding, but I just wanted to post a few of my favorite photos (if for no other reason than to break up all this text! haha)

 

 

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With our wedding being nearly a year before our realhoneymoon, and since our wedding was on Long Island (where I grew up), we spenta few days out east in the Hamptons as a minimoon to hold us over. It was a great way to relax after the bigwedding, and it was exciting to spend our first few days together as husbandand wife!

 

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Hi Dana, My husband and I are so looking forward to review. We followed your Celebrity review, and really enjoyed it with your great sense of humor. Di:D

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Hi Dana - this is Brian from Kansas. My wife and I met you and your husband at Snack Mahana on Moorea the day before you got on the PG. Glad to hear you had a great honeymoon! I'm looking forward to your review.

 

Sent from my SM-G930P using Forums mobile app

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Nice to meet you both! Can't wait to read and see all your pictures. Thanks again for roll call and managing Fakarava (insert inside joke)

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following. have read your previous threads before so I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

 

Thanks for reading!

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Hi Dana, My husband and I are so looking forward to review. We followed your Celebrity review, and really enjoyed it with your great sense of humor. Di:D

 

Thank you! I try to keep these reviews entertaining but also informative ;p Glad you enjoy them!

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Fun pictures :cool:

 

Great beginning...

 

Thanks! And thank you both again for all of your help in the planning process!! :D

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Hi Dana - this is Brian from Kansas. My wife and I met you and your husband at Snack Mahana on Moorea the day before you got on the PG. Glad to hear you had a great honeymoon! I'm looking forward to your review.

 

Sent from my SM-G930P using Forums mobile app

 

Hi Brian! It was so great meeting you before our cruise and getting some last minute insider info about the ship! I hope you had a great rest of your vacation. Glad you found my review and are reading along :)

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Nice to meet you both! Can't wait to read and see all your pictures. Thanks again for roll call and managing Fakarava (insert inside joke)

 

Hiii!! It was so great meeting you two too! I hope you got home safely and that all is well after the hurricane(s)!

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Once we returned to California after the wedding week, I could really devote my time to planning this French Polynesia vacation. Around this time, the hotels and airlines opened up booking for our dates. We knew we wanted to fly out a few days before the cruise to have some time to get over the jet lag and to spend a few days enjoying one of the islands. Thanks to those on this forum, I knew that we should spend as little time as possible in over-commercialized Tahiti, and that while Bora Bora is beautiful, it is also very expensive and requires approximately a $450 flight to get there, so that left us with Moorea. Moorea was said to be a beautiful island with plenty to offer for both land- and sea-based activities, and we could get there via an easy, inexpensive, and fast ferry ride from Tahiti. Sounds good to me! I looked into our hotel options with everything from AirBNB rentals to small boutique hotels to major high-end resorts.

 

In the end, I found a little hotel called Moorea Fare Miti on the west coast of Moorea where we could reserve a private bungalow on the beach for less than $150 per night. That sounded like a fantastic option, offering us the romance and intrigue of a private beach-front unit but on a budget that left us money to spend on daily activities. The one downside to staying out there was that it was a bit remote from many of the things we would want to do during our stay, including accessing the ferry terminal. We decided to rent a car for the duration of our time in Moorea. By the time we paid for a taxi to and from the ferry terminal, and with needing to travel around the island for excursions and meals, and knowing we would want to go to a store to buy groceries to make use of the kitchen in our hotel room, it just made more sense to get a rental car. There are two main places to rent a car in Moorea: Avis and Albert Transport. Both have helpful websites where you can price out the cost of renting a car. While I have read that Avis cars tend to be newer, Albert's prices were over $100 cheaper for the 5 days we needed the car. I sent them an email about renting a car with an automatic transmission and they replied within 20 minutes!! The whole process was very easy- they did not require any deposit or credit card information until we pick up the car once in Moorea, and they wanted to know what time ferry we are taking so they can pick us up at the terminal. Their rates include unlimited mileage (not that we can really rack up that many miles on an island so small haha), liability insurance, and all taxes/fees.

 

Up next was booking our flights. There are two main airlines that fly direct from LAX to PPT in Tahiti: Air France and Air Tahiti Nui (ATN). There are other airlines that will get you there with a layover in Hawaii or New Zealand, but we only wanted a direct flight. Paul Gauguin does include airfare on ATN in their cruise pricing, but since we did not book our Moorea hotel through PG, we would be charged a deviation fee and we would be on our own for transfers. We decided it made more sense to take the $1700 per person flight credit and book our own airfare. At first, we planned to fly with Air France as they get much better reviews on the flight experience as compared to ATN, and they tend to have cheaper pricing. The problem with Air France was that they only have return flights to LAX on Friday and Sunday mornings. We couldn't take the Friday morning flight because the cruise didn't dock back in Tahiti until Friday night, and if we took the Sunday morning flight (which would have involved a 4am wake up time- yuck!), it didn't land at LAX until 6:30pm Sunday night, and it was unlikely we could catch a flight back home to San Jose that night. We would probably have to book a hotel in LA for Sunday night, and fly home on Monday morning, possibly involving another day off of work. Another down side to Air France is that the seats on their plane are in a 3-4-3 configuration, meaning one of us would need to be in the dreaded middle seatfor the 8 hour flight.

 

That lead us to flying with ATN. We found a redeye outbound flight on Thursday night which would land in Tahiti at 5am on Friday morning, and we planned to fly back on the Saturday redeye the night the cruise ended, so we could easily catch a flight back to San Jose on Sunday afternoon. Plus, ATN's seats are configured as 2-4-2 and we loved the idea of having the window/aisle for just the 2 of us. But then we realized some bad news.... ATN was charging $500 more per person than Air France! We actually started to second guess our decision to fly with ATN, but if we needed to pay for a hotel in Tahiti onSaturday night and in LA on Sunday night, and if we each needed to use an extra vacation day to fly home on Monday, ATN would still be less money than Air France. Thanks to some recommendations from Cruise Critic, I priced out our flights with ATN's partner airlines, and lucky us! American Airlines co-listed our flights for about $250 less per person than ATN! I was a little bit nervous about booking our flight through a partner airline and not direct with ATN, but it was actually completely seamless. We booked our flights on the American Airlines website and almost immediately received an email with our e-tickets. We then called ATN the next morning and they found our reservations and assigned us our choice of window/aisle seats. Easy peasy!

 

Insert gratuitous palm tree photos to break up all the text…

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Looking forward to your PG cruise review. We are going on same itinerary October 18, 2017.

 

Lucky you!! I hope you find lots of helpful information in my review. Please let me know if you have any questions along the way!

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As a rule, I never book excursions through the cruise line. In my experience and based on the comments of other cruisers, they tend to cost more money to see fewer attractions with more people on the tour, and in a shorter time frame than private excursions. With one exception(see the Panama section of my Celebrity Equinox review!), I have had nothing but wonderful experiences working with private tour companies on all of my cruises. The problem was that I was used to planning cruises in the Caribbean and Mediterranean where far more cruise ships and tourists visit on a regular basis, so there were always plenty of options from which to pick and lots of variety to find a tour that suited our specific needs. This time around, I hoped to have the same experience, but I was worried that I would have trouble finding tour companies on such small islands (especially the less touristy atolls). I spent a lot of time reading through reviews on Cruise Critic and on Trip Advisor, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could find at least one highly-recommended private tour company on each island. Of course,I had more options in Bora Bora and Moorea than in Rangiroa and Fakarava, but that wasn't a surprise.

 

Sometime soon after we booked the cruise, PG had a sale where they offered $500 onboard credit per cabin. I called them and they immediately applied that OBC to our account. We are not spa people, and with all the alcohol, specialty restaurants, and tips already included in our cruise fare, we considered breaking my rule and using our $500 towards PG's excursions. We would only be in Rangiroa for 5 hours, so perhaps it would be safer to just go with a PG excursion and not have to worry about missing the ship? We kept our options open, but knew we could fall back on this option if we didn't think of anywhere else to spend that OBC.

 

Then, about a year later, PG offered another promotion for Valentine’s Day 2017 where your cabin could get a box of chocolates, a bottle of sparkling wine, and $200 OBC (probably meant to spend on a couple’s massage at the spa, but it was just a normal OBC that could be used any way we wished!). The fine print on the promotion specified that it could be combined with one other promotion! Sweet!! So I called up PG and once again, they quickly applied this promotion to our cabin! As luck would have it, DH’s birthday was that same week and my parents got him a $100 OBC to spend on the cruise as his birthday present haha They did not know we already had $700 OBC, but no worries, by then I knew we would take a few of PG’s shore excursions. With $800 to spend, we could book 4 exciting tours that we probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise. Although the thought still lingered on my mind that cruise ship excursions should be avoided whenever possible, I decided that with the PG being a small ship, it was not likely to have large groups on the tours, so it would likely be a good experience.

 

I have made countdown candy jars for our last two cruises from the day we booked the cruise. The idea is that we eat one piece of candy each night and gradually watch the jar become empty as we get closer to the start of the cruise. DH said I wasn't allowed to do that this time because we booked it over 600 days in advance! I thought I waited long enough, so I started up our countdown once we were home and settled after the wedding. It's fun to have a daily reminder of such an exciting vacation coming up!

 

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So now all that’s left to do is wait… and wait… and wait some more! 20 months is a LOOONG time to wait for a cruise! One of the nicethings about PG is that if they have a drop in price for your cabin category before final payment is made, they will honor that lower price. I found it really interesting that over the 18 months between booking and final payment due date, there were no changes in price for our cabin category. The price didn’t go up or go down- it stayed exactly the same the entire time! I have never had that happen before, and I am not sure if that is typical of PG cruises? If so, I guess I didn’t need to be as diligent with checking for price drops as I do with other cruise lines haha

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As promised, at exactly 60 days prior to embarkation, PG posted the shore excursions on their website. The process to pre-register for excursions was surprisingly easy! They listed all the excursions offered on each port day, and all you needed to do to sign up was click the check box next to your name. That was it! Since you don’t pay for the excursion until you are on the ship, there was no need to enter payment info at this time. I wasn’t even sure that I did it correctly since there is no “submit” or “done” or “okay” button. After I signed DH and I up for our choice of excursions, I noticed that the overview page for our account listed all of our tours at the bottom of the page, so I took that as a confirmation that we were all set.

 

I will go into more details about each of our tours later in the review, but here is an overview of our itinerary and the names of each of our excursions:

 

Wednesday, 9/6 Tahiti- Embarkation Day

Thursday, 9/7 Huahine- Huahine Iti by 4x4 with PG

Friday, 9/8 Bora Bora- Raanui half day Lagoon Safari Excursion, PG’s sunset catamaran sail

Saturday, 9/9 Bora Bora- PG's private beach

Sunday, 9/10 Rangiroa- Aquarium Snorkel Excursion with PG

Monday, 9/11 Fakarava- Ato's Blue Lagoon Tour

Tuesday, 9/12 Sea Day

Wednesday, 9/13 Taha'a- Motu Mahana (PG’s private beach)

Thursday, 9/14 Moorea- Aquablue Underwater Walk with PG

Friday, 9/15 Moorea- Nothing specific- just relaxing on the ship for our last day

Saturday, 9/16 Tahiti- Downtown Papeete before flying home

 

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Seeing as how I am an obsessive planner, I also created a calendar listing our activity for each day of the cruise. We hung this in our hotel room and cruise cabin, which made it easier to remember what was on the agenda each day.

 

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I also created a map with the locations of a bunch of the restaurants in Moorea, tour operators offices, the major hotels, and a few other key locations. We wouldn’t have access to a GPS and we were renting a car for 6 days so this map would be handy so we didn’t get lost (not that you can get lost on an island with only one main road haha)

 

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About one month before the cruise, we got a package in the mail with our cruise documents and luggage tags. It comes in a nice leather folder, and includes a few brochures about shore excursions, bon voyage gifts, and other ship information. Most of this was information we had already seen on the PG website, but it still makes for a nice keepsake.

 

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Three weeks before we were flying out, I bought some XPF from Wells Fargo Bank. We do not have a bank account there, but they were happy to sell us as much foreign currency as we wanted, with a $7.50 flat rate fee. The exchange rate wasn’t as good as it will be when we get to Tahiti, but I didn’t want to arrive without any local currency in my wallet. We knew we needed some cash to pay for the taxi from the airport to the Moorea ferry, and if the airport’s ATM machine was broken/out of money/any other problem, we didn’t want to end up stranded after our plane landed so early in the morning. It was worth the peace of mind to have some local currency on hand, so I ordered $100 worth and it arrived at the bank 4 business days later. When I went back to pick it up, they told me I can also sell back any unused XPF bills (not coins) when I return from my trip.

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Great read so far! Thank you for the shout out. Glad you had a great time!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

Thanks, and thanks again for all of your help! Your insider knowledge really helped to make this a wonderful vacation!!

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Looking forward to hearing about the Fare Iti. We'll be at Les Tipaniers in less than two weeks, and yes we're renting a car from Albert's for the second time. Hopefully you used your car to try some interesting restaurants and perhaps excursions! I always make maps too--in fact you've reminded me, I have to make a new one for Moorea!

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Looking forward to hearing about the Fare Iti. We'll be at Les Tipaniers in less than two weeks, and yes we're renting a car from Albert's for the second time. Hopefully you used your car to try some interesting restaurants and perhaps excursions! I always make maps too--in fact you've reminded me, I have to make a new one for Moorea!

 

Thanks Wendy! We drove passed Les Tipaniers many times but never got a chance to eat at their restaurant. I did notice that there were always a bunch of cars parked out front so it must be a pretty popular place! Feel free to borrow my map if it helps :) I hope to get a few more posts about our time in Moorea finished in the next few days, so hopefully you can read it before you leave for your trip!

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Thursday, August 31 ~ Flying from San Jose to Tahiti by way of Los Angeles

 

Ok, enough with the pre-planning phase… let’s get this honeymoon started!! After 20 months of planning and anticipation, it was finally time to go to the airport.

 

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We flew out on a Thursday evening, so that made for a painfully long day at work! Once we were both home and got changed, DH requested an Uber to pick us up and drive us the 10 miles up to the San Jose airport. When a 15-year old Hyundai Elantra pulled up in front of our house, we were a bit nervous about how all of our luggage would fit in the car, but our driver made it work and the 3 of us pulled up to the Southwest terminal in no time at all (gotta love having enough people in the car to make use of the HOV lane!)

 

It took about 30 minutes to check our bags at the counter, thanks to a constant flow of A-list passengers who walked up well after we did but who get priority status for checking in. Amazingly, both of our big bags weighed in just under the limit at 49 pounds each!

 

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We got through security quickly and got to our gate in time to learn that our flight was delayed by one hour. The inbound plane actually only had a 30 minute delay, but we lost our window for landing at LAX so they were holding us in San Jose until they found us a new window.

 

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How rude is this plane to sit at the gate taunting us, but we’re not allowed to board yet!!

 

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The one hour delay ended up being a 90 minute delay, but we did eventually take off over a beautiful sunset.

 

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We needed to take the edge off a bit and wanted to celebrate the start of our honeymoon, so we ordered some sparkling wine with our free drink coupons (Southwest won’t acknowledge our loyalty with priority at the check in counter, but at least they show us some love where it really counts…free drink coupons!!)

 

36533812193_1afb564b30_z.jpg0013 by deladane, on Flickr"][/url]36533812193_1afb564b30_z.jpg

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Fifty minutes later, we landed in LAX, but now we had another problem… there was no gate for us! Every Southwest gate was occupied and they held us for 30 minutes before we finally taxied to a gate. It was now 2 hours before boarding time for our ATN flight so we started to get nervous. Our fellow plane-mates were kind enough to let us get off the plane quickly, but the bottle neck was waiting for our baggage at baggage claim. Luckily, our bags both came down the belt quickly. We debated if we should wait for the shuttle from Terminal 1 to Tom Bradley International Terminal in Terminal 4, but decided that we could speed walk and would likely get there faster. Ten sweaty minutes later, we walked up to the ATN ticket counter at 9pm.

 

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There was no line at all (likely because everyone was already checked in from when they opened the counter one hour earlier), and we were thrilled to hear that the seats we requested were officially assigned to us. ATN does not have online check in, so we didn’t know our seats until we arrived at the airport. We had called in the day after we booked our flights and we made requests for a window/aisle seat (as opposed to seats in the middle of the plane), but they made it clear that it was merely a seat request and we were not guaranteed those seats. Luckily, our requests were granted, so after we checked in our bags, we could proceed to security.

 

One other side note about ATN’s luggage policy: Their website states that they allow passengers to bring 3 bags free of charge. One larger checked bag can weigh up to 50 pounds (the same as most other airlines). One carry on bag can weigh up to 22 pounds (or 10kg) and one small personal item can weigh up to 6.6 pounds (or 3kg). Here is where we ran into a problem as we usually cram a lot of electronics and overflow from our bigger luggage in our carry on bags so they get quite heavy. We have never had to weigh our carry on bags before so we spent a lot of time shuffling things around to meet ATN’s regulations. We even opted to use a duffle bag and a large backpack instead of our usually rolling carry on bags because the rolling bags weighed 8-9 pounds empty! Well, all of that effort was unnecessary because ATN did not weigh our carry on bags on either leg of our vacation. It is possible that they looked at our small bags and assumed they must be light enough to comply with their rules? I asked around and no one said they had their carry on bags weighed in LAX or in Tahiti at the end ofthe trip. YMMV, and personally, I wouldn’t take the risk, but just mentioning this because I know it’s the source of much aggravation when packing.

 

The lines at security were amazingly short, and we were even selected to go through the pre-check line (perhaps a perk of wearing our Just Married t-shirts???). Once we got through security, we had about an hour before we needed to be at our gate, so we did some duty free shopping and bought a bottle of rum for our time in Moorea. We also picked up a few sandwiches and bottles of water for the plane. We were very impressed with the shopping and restaurants available in the terminal. It has been a long time since either of us has flown internationally, so it was quite a different scene than the domestic terminals we usually use.

 

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Another pleasant surprise occurred when we arrived at our gate. I had read some posts about needing to take a bus to the airplane because ATN does not have a bridge connecting their planes to the terminal, and instead they bus passengers to a remote location and you board the plane from the tarmac. Apparently, ATN does have access to one gate which we were lucky enough to use and boarding was a quick and painless process.

 

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Another pleasant surprise was that our plane would be one of the four refurbished planes. ATN has five planes in their fleet and they renovated 4 of the 5 before announcing that they would start replacing entire planes in a few years. They opted to leave one plane without renovations and that was the one plane we most wanted to avoid. Some quick research revealed that the renovated planes are named Moorea, Rangiroa, Mangareva, and Nuku Hiva, and the dreaded old plane is the Bora Bora (quite ironic considering that is thought of as one of the most beautiful islands in FP!) The planes can be identified by their flag and name on the outside beside the cockpit, and lookie what we have here…

 

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We are on the Nuku Hiva! After the bad luck we had with Southwest, it looked like ATN was going to help us kick off our honeymoon in style!

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Keep it coming!

 

Our bags were weighed by air tahiti...so better to be within the allowance.

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