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MARINA/French Polynesia Mar 4-19,2018 REVIEW w/lots of photos


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In dedication of visiting Marquesas on this sailing and as per Jeff Probst opening montage of the reality TV show "Survivor"...

Venturing away from Royal Caribbean for the first time in years we "Outwitted, Outplayed, Outlasted!":


"12 days ... 1252 cruisers .... 2 survivors!!"


I have a bucket list of world wide travel destinations and so far RCL has done a great job of taking me where I wanted to go while satisfying my cruise fix. I had looked at this itinerary for a few years now, formulating ideas and trying to figure out how I wish to visit Moorea and Bora Bora as bucket list destinations... it was obvious Royal was not going to take me there other than for a mere 3 days as they passed through re-positioning from Syndey to Hawaii... not good enough for me.


I had heard many others who praised Oceania in the past and I have been curious for a while. The kick in the pants I needed, funny enough, was on RCL's Harmony of the Seas sitting beside a very nice couple in one of their specialty restaurants called "Wonderland". They told me all about Oceania as their preferred line... not in a condescending way at all, nor to put down Royal at all... just explained a few things to me that re-enforced what I was already learning. It was then that I decided to start lurking here on this Oceania forum to learn more. Finally last spring I booked.


There always seem to be many French Polynesia questions here on this board, however not any reviews here on the Oceania forum so I hope that this can help those who are looking at this itinerary in the future. I believe that pictures are worth a thousand words so I'll have plenty of photos to share with you. Hopefully along the way I can provide a little entertainment and some of you can also live vicariously through the posts and pictures to come.


By the way, I am very grateful for the info I've gleaned from this board from so many of you regulars. By all means, if you see something general that I've posted regarding Oceania that is incorrect let me know. I'll do my best to be accurate with my personal experiences for this specific sailing. Note that I still have a 24/7 very active business to run... doing these reviews is a hobby and escape so keep in mind that it will take time (lots of time... ie a couple of weeks at least) to get through it all.


Here's a couple of teaser pics for you to get you warmed up.... stay tuned :D







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Hey there-

So happy you decided to publish the review!!! It will be super helpful for those exploring Oceania's FP itineraries. And, the pictures never hurt sway someone to a booking.

Looking forward to reading it!

PS - I want that shark photo! Is that Fakarava or Bora Bora?


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Looking forward to your review and photos! We've been to FP 4 times on Marina and will be there again in May on Insignia. It's a truly lovely part of the world and reminds me of my home, Hawaii, as it was many years ago. Thanks!

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I'm looking forward to your review. And photos! We will be on the Marina next January from Chile to Papeete and then staying to visit Moorea and enjoy hearing about other people's experiences.

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Great teaser pics.. Obviously you spent time documenting your trip.. Hope you got restaurant/Entree pics.


Keep the pics coming.


If you can document your pics with one link would be great.


We were on the Feb 25th-March 7th Marina cruise. 1st cruise with Oceania...Had a wonderful time..


We signed up for 2 more cruises while on board.

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Hoopster, we are looking forward to your review and pictures. We did this cruise in 2017 on the Sirena and booked it for 2019 on the Marina. We are a bit concerned about the size of the ship, getting off etc. Will be interested to know if you docked or tendered in Raiatea. We are scheduled to tender but we docked while on the Sirena. Following with interest and so glad that you had a wonderful time.

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Aquidneck1... We have been on Raiatea several times on Marina and once on Sirena and always docked. It is my favorite island..very lush and beautiful. You dock right at the town and interesting to walk around. Trip around the island is great.

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PS - I want that shark photo! Is that Fakarava or Bora Bora?



Hey Denise!! That was Fakarava :D




We did this cruise in 2017 on the Sirena and booked it for 2019 on the Marina. We are a bit concerned about the size of the ship, getting off etc. Will be interested to know if you docked or tendered in Raiatea. We are scheduled to tender but we docked while on the Sirena. Following with interest and so glad that you had a wonderful time.


Raiatea was the only port out of the 7 that we docked... all the rest were tender. Here is Marina in Raiatea



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I'd like to give a shout out to the many knowledgeable regulars on this forum like HawaiiDan, Paulchili, Orv, etc (please forgive me for forgetting everyone)... if you have ever posted info on Marina, air deviation, specialty restaurants, drink packages, Tahiti, then I likely have read your posts. I'm savvy with the search function here on CC so I went back quite a bit to look for advice.


A Heartfelt thanks to all of you.... this is a superb forum with a ton of great info to find, I hope to contribute with this review and with future sailings.


The first thing I'm asked by friends/colleagues/clients prior to the cruise, and now as I've returned, is "where is French Polynesia"? Everyone knows this area as "Tahiti", but they normally don't understand the different islands. To be clear, French Polynesia, the Tuamotu Islands and Marquesas Islands are south of the equator and much closer to New Zealand than to North & South America (Tahiti is 12 degrees latitude below, Marquesas is 8 latitude degrees below). It's also pretty much the first stop after the International Date line. Today, with North America's Daylight Savings time in place, it's 3 hours earlier time zone difference.






I chose the 12 day itinerary (vs. the 10) because of the stop in Marquesas which intrigued me. Our route took is from Tahiti to Moorea, Raiatea, Bora Bora (overnight), Marquesas (overnight), Fakarava, Rangiroa and lastly Huahine with only 2 seas days (to/from Marquesas).







So.... how the heck do you get there? Just hop on a plane like any other world destination and go, no problem, right?


Wrong. After much research on this forum,which I will explain in the next post, there's only a handful of gateways with flights to/from Tahiti. The only 2 options from North America are 8 1/2 hour non-stop overnight red-eyes from LAX on Air Tahiti Nui or Air France. United will begin flights (from San Fran I believe) this coming November. It is a real issue getting to Tahiti and the timing is very specific. You must also truly consider any flight delays, cancelled flights, etc I think more so than any other world destination I have been to as the options are very limited. (Honolulu doesn't count in my books as Hawaiian Airlines only fly to/from Tahiti once per week and therefore do not match cruise dates and a very inconvenient)





Not only does the actual cruise itinerary need quite a bit of pre-planning and attention months in advance, getting there also does. I will explain what I learned about the Oceania charters in the next post, as well as what I ended up choosing and why.

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There's 3 major things I learned regarding flights very quickly while researching here on this forum. These recommendations were repeated over and over again, and I feel are totally true. I will put them down here in point form for anyone to find at a later date:



  1. The Oceania air charters are a great value for price for only Tahiti. Everywhere else in the world likely better to do your own air (ie. points, etc)
  2. It's absolutely recommended to fly into (and even out of) Tahiti minimum... MINIMUM ... 1 day before and/or after the cruise. You can use Oceania deviation fee ($175 per person).
  3. Air Tahiti Nui have super hard "plywood" seats, totally uncomfortable. Air France economy has decent seats, albeit only 17" wide, that actually recline not bad for economy.


2 cruises ago, The Air France charter out of LAX was delayed from 11:50pm to 2:55pm the next day! Instead of arriving in Tahiti at 6am the morning of their cruise, those cruisers arrived to the Marina at midnight the day of embarkation... not my idea of how to start a vacation. Likewise, upon disembarkation many of my fellow cruisers booked tours or hotel rooms (at full charge) before getting on the midnight charter on the way home. Intercontinental did not have a reduced "day room" price as the resort had an entire wing closed off under construction and the rest of the place was 100% occupancy with a company event that evening... plus Crystal Serenity was in town which likely added to the backlog.


Have I mentioned how outrageously expensive flights are? Go ahead and do a mock booking yourself (ie. Expedia or Travelocity) and let us know what you find. On top of that, if you wish to possibly "upgrade" to premium economy or business, look up those prices as well and get back to us. Ugh. :(


When I booked flights, I tracked them for about two months looking at both Vancouver and Seattle departures, 1/2/3/4 days before and after cruise using various options and dates.... There was only one... ONE... combination of return flight out of about 20 options that was slightly less than the Oceania Air price, everything else was hundreds of dollars (if not over a thousand) more per person.


It just so happens that one rare less expensive return flight suited us perfectly as we wished to visit Moorea at least 3 days before the cruise and stay at least 1 day after without dealing with the horrible logistics of what to do after being kicked off the ship at 9am disembarkation and waiting for the midnight flight charter back to LAX. I also did not want to "donate" to Oceania $175 per person to customize our flights when that money can go towards a post stay hotel, so we opted to take the Oceania air rebate off of our booking and reserved on Delta/Air France out of Seattle on our own.


Our flights 3 days before the cruise went off without a hitch, leaving Seattle at 5:45pm Saturday March 3, we arrived on the tarmac at Fa'a'a International Airport, Tahiti just before 6am on Sunday March 4. I'll give the Air France flight the thumbs up for economy as the food served was actually very decent, entertainment was good, and the recline of the seat was one of the best in economy I've experienced. The pitch, like most economy planes, is tight when the seat in front reclines however when you're sleeping it really doesn't matter. Be aware the seat is only 17" wide, super narrow.





The Air Nui plane had arrived about an hour before us, however the line-up to immigration was not long nor an issue figuring out.... super simple.... euro and local passports on the left, US/CAD/"other" on the right. The line-up was pretty much even on both sides. We were through in about 20 minutes.





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I'll mention now as I forgot in the previous post regarding flights, one of our best friends on the cruise took one of the O air charters home the morning of disembarkation.... not only did O have seats booked on Air Nui at 11:55pm that night, I believe they also fully chartered another entire Air Nui 747 for an 8:15am departure as well. I am 100% positive that this flight was not available to the public pre final payment as I looked at flights daily several times per day, and there's no way this flight had showed up in any of my searches. They had breakfast open at the Terrace at 4am with those booked on this early flight to disembark immediately very early in the morning.... I was having breakfast up on the back deck of the Terrace at about 8:10am as I watched this 747 throttle up and take off in the distance. I wonder if any cruiser was given an option of which charter they would receive?


Back to the Fa'a'a International Airport.... once through customs, it is extremely easy to figure out where you are and what you need to find. Immediately out of the arrivals area you are confronted smack dab in the middle of a very busy concourse area with several shops and the hustle and bustle of other travellers. Also right in front of you, you can't miss it, is the currency exchange booth... another recommendation by many on this board to simply exchange money before leaving the airport.




Note the transaction fee (per transaction). They are open at least two hours before/after all international flights. At 6am I already had a few people in front of me (either from our Air France flight, or others)




I apologize for the blurriness below, but I wish to point out the exchange rate. Of course these figures will change daily, however specifically note the US$ conversion compared to Euro. I was advised during pre cruise planning by a fellow cruiser on our roll call who had sailed French Polynesia 5 times on O already that preferred payment is always xpf, then Euro, then US$ in that order. This is perfectly shown here.... note that the US$ is highly discounted compared to Euro. If you have any spare Euro hanging around then bring some with you to exchange to xpf.




Maybe more interestingly, I've read a few posts regarding what to do with luggage and where to store it while waiting for your midnight flight to leave Tahiti? Several recommendations were to hire a tour where they store your luggage for you, and of course a hotel room. Note right beside the exchange office is a luggage storage facility. I did not enter to get a photo of the price list, however the sign at the window showed six categories of luggage priced from 2200 xpf (about $25) to 450 xpf (about $6). I would see this as an easy solution to store luggage for the day and head out to explore as they are open until the evening hours for retrieval. Here are the hours of operation




Luggage collected & money exchanged, we headed out to get a taxi for the Ferry over to Moorea.... again, another super easy venture. Once exiting the main concourse and outside, there is a clearly labelled taxi area over to the right, with a long line provided specifically for taxi's to que. There was also a kid gentleman there directly those first in line and keeping order. Note the picture below... just a short walk from the Airport exit (see the pedestrian white stripes center right)




Taxi rates are set ($20US), and there is a surcharge per luggage bag ($1 US per bag).



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There are two ferry companies that offer service between Papeete, Tahiti and Moorea.

Arameti http://www.aremiti.net/


Terevau https://www.terevau.pf/en/home/


We had planned to get the 8:10am Arameti or the 8:30am Terevau Ferry, however getting into the taxi at exactly 7am she said "oh, ferry? There's one leaving at 7:30am... hold on, we'll try to make it". Wow, did she drive fast!! It was the Terevau she was driving us to and we did in fact make it. Both ferry terminals are right next to each other, and also right next door to the cruise ship piers as well. We quickly purchased return tickets at the booth, placed our luggage into their storage containers, and walked onto the ferry...


Note: from landing, immigration, baggage, exchange (in line about 15min), taxi, arriving to ferry was a very manageable 1:15 and relatively easy.


Note, the Terevau is not a typical ferry... it's a higher speed catamaran. Time to Moorea is about 30minutes. On the Arameti ferry it's about 50 minutes. We made our way to top deck to enjoy the view while we sailed out of port.





It's beautiful to watch Moorea in the distance get closer and closer, what a gorgeous sailing to get over there, albeit extremely windy as the catamaran throttled up in the open water




Finally we arrived... here's the immediate dock area at the Moorea ferry terminal at Vaiare (I'll have more photos upon returning)





We were told that there would be many taxis available at the Moorea ferry terminal but that is just not the case unless you have something pre-arranged. There were several tour buses waiting, as well as "Le Truck" which is the local bus which goes around the island in a loop. I am glad I didn't opt for that with luggage in tow, just not convenient at all. In the end I had to be a little aggressive and immediately find the taxi area before the masses. There were two others there looking around at a couple of unmarked private looking vehicle with taxi stickers on them... no one inside. Instead of just waiting, I ventured just inside the terminal and asking for a driver and found one, she said she would take us right away and off we went. Everything on the islands are very expensive (food, fuel, etc).... everything has to be shipped of course. Taxi from Ferry to hotel = $3500 xpf (around $40 US).


I'll try to keep the next few posts short (and less photos) as they are all about the first 3 days at the Hilton Moorea, but I feel they are important enough to show here on this review even though they are not about the Marina in that so many people do a pre-cruise hotel stay.... The Hilton was a good 30-35 minute gorgeous scenic drive around about 1/4 of the island from the ferry terminal. Of course arriving so early in the morning our cabana was not yet ready, so we were offered to store our luggage and valuables while we enjoyed the resort until the early afternoon. We put on our beach attire, parked ourselves on the beach, dipped in the crystal clear turquoise water, and enjoyed walking around the resort talking a ton of photos and familiarizing ourselves with our first looks of this fabulous place. We also had a great lunch.





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Ever since reading about and seeing over water bungalows in Bora Bora & Moorea, I've had a life long dream as part of a bucket list vacation to actually stay in one. Like flights, like the currency exchange, like food/fuel/everything else.... it's very expensive in French Polynesia. I did not want to go on this trip with any kind of budget in mind to limit myself with anything, but I did not want to be frivolous either. The panoramic overwater bungalows at the time I booked were almost $1000 CA per night... we ended up booking one of three beach front bungalows (I didn't know there were only 3 when I booked so I feel fortunate) for $550 CA per night for our 3 night stay and we couldn't have been more pleased for value.


We were assigned bungalow #54... note the red arrow on the map below





This bungalow was 100% exactly the same as any overwater bungalow other than the front door was a private walk-way from land. And we still had the see through glass floor under the living room table and deck access for direct swimming and snorkelling. We were thrilled. We thoroughly enjoyed our view of the other bungalows and also had an unobstructed ocean view to the north & east as we were at the farthest corner of the resort. Here are some photos of the room.







Yep, simply horrible... I didn't know if I could take this!




Direct access into the ocean, plenty of fish immediately right there with corals only 15-20 feet away with still a ton of room to simply float around and lose yourself in bliss!





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With a heavy duty almost daily busy schedule planned for our upcoming cruise, we fully planned to simply chill out here at the resort for the 3 days and take full advantage of our bungalow and the hotel amenities. We settled in for the evening with the plan of heading up to the Hilton's Happy Hour (4pm-7pm) for 1/2 price cocktails. At 1700 xpf ($20 US each) Happy Hour was the way to go, plus the atmosphere at their great bar is excellent with great service and especially outstanding one of a kind drinks.... this one was my fave: "Frozen Mana-Arii" - Vodka, Malibu, mango puree, mint, lemon, grenadine syrup.... so delcious!





All three nights we went up for Happy Hour before dinner, and then dinner after 7pm before retiring to our bungalow. There was no entertainment at the resort other than ourselves and meeting people. Besides that, the ultimate show nightly was the sunset.


Folks... if you've never seen a sunset in the South Pacific, let me tell you.... like no other.

The photo below is with my very average iphone6, not edited, and one of my very favorite photos of this vacation.... sitting with a drink watching the sun disappear below the horizon and then the colours change in the sky, drink in hand chilling on a beach front rooftop deck, is a priceless memory for me





Sunrises from my bungalow deck weren't too shabby either!




We enjoyed our mornings getting into the water for a swim and snorkel







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There's a good variety of fish everywhere you snorkel.... very small/very big/colorful... and several species you don't see often (or at all) in the Caribbean




I believe this is a parrot fish. There were so many others with weird snouts, interesting fins.... another that many have laid eggs close by as I have video of it (him? her?) taking direct runs at me within about o foot of my camera and then retreating. Each bungalow has a coral set up underneath the glass with a family of super small fish that live within coral so there's always something to view under the cabanas, and especially in and around the pillars.





So done with our ..... {.....YAWN....} "strenuous" day of snorkeling, napping, chilling, tanning, we begrudgingly got up off of our behinds to get ready for nightly happy hour. Was the sunset the night before a total fluke? Nope





Besides colourful quaint innocent parrot fish, do you like SHARKS? I do!


Backtrack to the first night... we ate at the Hilton's main restaurant for dinner.... the Arii Vahine (they also serve the excellent daily breakfast buffet there.... absolutely recommended). As a side note, there is nothing close by regarding food to this resort outside of the front gate, so you are somewhat trapped within the resort for dinner. The Arii Vahine dinner was just alright... no complaints but also nothing special even though it is served and presented as in a very high end establishment. On the second night we planned to try their other dinner venue, the Toatea Creperie & Bar. It is located and suspended out in the center of all the over water bungalows, and they only serve crepes (with fries or a salad). The crepes are very large dinner size so no worries there.





However, the draw is watching the sharks as they swim below you during dinner! This is a must do if you stay at the Hilton. In fact, the dinner here was much better than at their flagship venue, it it was a hoot watching the sharks all night.





Edited by Hoopster95
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We ventured throughout the resort, including down the catwalks through all the overwater bungalows. Note here is what our bungalow missed out on... an amazing view inland... simply spectacular. Friends of ours on the trip had a bungalow facing this direction and also were able to witness sunset as well, a perfect combination.




We took the kayaks out yesterday and today. We're relatively experienced and fit, however they did warn all guests not to venture too far eastward as the winds had blown in that direction all 3 days and they were worried people would get trapped too far away and unable to make their way back on their own. Kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling... all non motorized sports all free at the Hilton.





From the ocean, we can see the Paul Gauguin moored within Opunohu Bay in the distance




So what more is there to do when you're chilling and relaxing on your over-water bungalow?

Absolutely nothing!!! ... except raid the mini-bar perhaps --- free and restocked every day without asking. Great touch. Cheers!







Last thoughts regarding the Hilton.... I have to say this resort is a 5 star for French Polynesia, quality of bedding, amenities and access to water, drinks/Happy Hour, cleanliness, service was spot on.... expect for the food as it was good, just not great. Nothing like the food on the Marina. Having said that, I would definitely go again.


Hopefully I'll be able to start on embarkation day and the Marina tomorrow. G'nite everyone.



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I am reliving my trip last year and so looking forward to repeating it next year. Cannot wait for all of the installments.
Thanks so much for your efforts! The pictures and the information are much appreciated!


You're welcome :D

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