After our 7-minute flight back to Papeete which is perhaps the shortest flight in the world, we took a taxi direct to the pier where the Tahitian Princess was docked. This gorgeous vessel, fully booked for this cruise, will be our home for the next ten days.
We had booked an outside cabin and were very happy with it. Many staterooms on the Tahitian Princess are with balconies, but ourself we thought we would be ok with a large window. Conveniently located mid-ship, Our room #4022 was nicely decorated and had enough space for the two of us. There's enough storage to hang all our clothes and stuff, so we could put our suitcases underneath the bed. A very large mirror made the room even feel more spacious then it actually was. We had a sofa and nighttables on either side of the double bed. Further, there is a desk with another large mirror from table to ceiling which came in very useful. It had two ac plug-ins. There's an electronic safe which is big enough to hold two large cameras + wallets and stuff. The bathroom was rather small but we did'nt expected a larger one on a cruise ship in this cabin-category. However, it was very nice installed with enough shells and storage to put away all our sundries and toiletries. The shower had Gröhe temperature controlable cranes.
The multi-channel TV gives permanent activity information plus has different channels where one can watch the latest movies. The only item we missed in our cabin was a small refrigerator. I use medicine which has to be stored cold so I had to send it to the galley's refrigerators, I had to call room service 3 to 4 times a day to get them delivered which they did very promptly each time I called them.
Apart from the missing refrigerator, we felt very comfortable in our well installed cabin. Although the temperature is adjustable, we did'nt touched it as it was always nice and perfectly cool in our stateroom. I had read comments from people who found the bed a bit hard. We did not had any problem with that.
The pooldeck was equipped with a nice swimming pool with a hot jacuzzi attached on either side. For some people, the pool might have been a bit too deep with its 5'7".
The Tahitian Princess had several bars to choose from, nice for predinner drinks and a great way to meet new friends is for example the Casino-bar. Sheila plays the tunes on the piano. Another ideal place for before or after dinner drinks is the Club Bar, located right next to the dining room.
As I'm not a gambler, I did'nt made it to the Casino but it looks like a popular place to American fellow passengers. The ship also houses a fitness area equipped with nice work-out machines and Spa. The librabry is a must-see. Its decoration is very English and you feel like you're back in the 20's.
Until 5 pm the ship remain in Papeete which comes in handy for late arrivals. I had done a pre-booking through the internet from home with Tahiti Safari Explorers for a 4x4 half-day trip. After I confirmed my arrival in Papeete with them, they picked me up right at the pier. I had done 4x4 trips in Rarotonga and in Moorea before and found this one the best. Tahiti's interior is rich in flora with high waterfalls and valleys but also rich in mosquitoes. At one of the waterfalls, we could take a natural shower under the cascading cool water. In my opinion, a half day tour should be enough, it gives time to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon at Le Marche, a popular indoor market, great for souvenirs, black pearls or T-shirts. The market and the city centre is just a two-minute stroll away from the ship.
At 5 pm, Captain Mariano Manfuso, his Officers, Staff and Crew wishes everyone a enjoybale cruise. Minutes later, Papeete dissapears slowly untill it is gone behind the horizon. We will set a northeasterly course towards the Island of Huahine where the Tahitian Princess is expected to arrive at 8.00am tommorow.
Virtually untouched by any signs of tourism until very recently, Huahine, pronounced who-a-hee-nee by locals, remains a perfect refuge for those seeking peace and solitude. The slow-paced life on Huahine provides a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle yesterday in Papeete.
Huahine is actually made up of two separate islands, Huahine Nui or "Great Huahine" to the north and Huahine Iti ot "Little Huahine" to the south. The two halves are connected by a narrow bridge. Known as The Garden island for its lush foliage and verdant tropical landscapes, the island is aldo blessed with an abundance of long, white beaches and palm-fringed motus (little offshire islands). Fishing and agriculture, including vanilla, coffee, taro, breadfruit, mango, papaya, and bananas are the lifeblood of the island's economy.
Also today I had pre-booked a trip by e-mail from the convenience of my chair back in Belgium. Marc's picnic in the water Together with fellow Cruise Critic members we climbed aboard a traditional outrigger canoe which can hold twelve people + our funny Tahitian Captain. From the lagoon you can enjoy a splendid panoramic island view while we circled the island of Huahine Iti. The absolute highlight of the day is the Motu picnic in the water.
While the staff is preparing a barbeque, the Nautical Band plays the ukelele and drums to entertain the guests, enjoying complimentary big bottles of Hinano right in the shallow waters of the lagoon. Absolutely marvelous and unforgetable. Marc and his staff does a great job. Wishing the day never ended, it was finished way too quick. This was fun at its highest grade. 10/10 tour rating ! There were two other canoes from Marc's company which makes it a nice bunch of party people all together.
I have posted several pictures about this trip at the Huahine photogallery.
As the Tahitian Princess will continue today its southwesterly track towards the Island of Rarotonga, we will remaining out of sight of land throughout the day. Being a rather smaller ship with its 670 passengers, a number of people got seasick. Apart from this, the cruise staff seems to be worried about the Norwalk virus, also known as the "24 hour stomach bug". It has caused many outbreaks particularly in North America and Europe. Whilst the majority of these outbreaks occur ashore, a small number of cruise ships have been similarly affected.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed these outbreaks have largely been caused by this virus, now officialy classified as Norovirus.
Princess Cruises had installed sanitation dispensers at restaurant entrances and requested to all passengers to sanitize their hands before entering. Passengers who showed symptoms of being seasick, were called by the ship's doctor himself to held a questionairre. Anyone who reported seasick was kept an eye on as it could be signs of the Norovirus rather then seasickness.
Dramamine, wristbandages and ginger tablets easily founds its way to the sick passengers. Good for the boutique on board, sad for the affected people.
Anyway, tonight was the first formal night. People dressed up and had their formal picture taken by any of the proffesional photographers on board. Although 20 USD for a digital picture is'nt cheap, this business is still popular and runs well.
Not a bad word about the dining room with their attentfull staff and glorious food. However no midnight buffet was available on this ship. To myself, that does'nt bother because the food in the dining room was delicious, plentyfull, and I had late seating anyway.
I had taken only once breakfast inside the dining room which was the first day. There's a lot more variety available at the Panorama Buffet and how often can you enjoy breakfast with a mild seabreeze while overlooking the South Pacific Ocean. It truly has something in it. We enjoyed having our breakfast at the Panorama buffet which has outside tables and plenty space inside. There's a whole range of choice at the buffet which was also a great place to have lunch.
The only problem at breakfast were boiled eggs. All styles are cooked on the spot except from boiled eggs which are normally not available. I said normally because I was lucky to become a close friend with Chris, the Filipino chief-cook at the Panorama buffet of which he made an exception to me each time I requested boiled eggs. I noticed other people requested too but were kindly refused. That was the only service which could have been better. I don't think it is difficult to boil 4-minute eggs in advance and put them at the buffet. In addition to the large lunch buffet with again many food to choose from, a daily themed buffet was served at this time too. Japanese, Polynesian, Italian, .... I'm a Sushi lover but this buffet was the only one which rather dissapointed me. Perhaps because after 3 days I was used to being spoiled already.
A tradition at sea, afternoon tea was served too + the daily icecream bar which opened up in the afternoon. At the bistro, pizzas were available too during lunch which lasts untill 3.30pm !
Happy Easter from Rarotonga - Cook Islands. We were here at the beginning of our vacation (see Cook Islands review) and knew the good places for snorkeling. We had done the main activities such as the Motu picnic and the 4x4 that time, so today we were up for something different and decided to rent a Scootcar. That is a funny small three-wheeler with two smaller balancing wheels at the back. This 2-seater is a nice way to get around the island, specially today when most Cook Islanders are home for Easter and traffic is low.
I had become my Cook Island driver's license with succes in Aitutaki last week and could use it again today. That was if I had'nt lost it somewhere in our cabin. I might have dropped it accidentally in the waste bin as it looks no different to an ordinary note. Normally, I had to go again to the local Police station here in Raro to get myself another driver's license but the owner of Raro Rentals allowed me to hire the scootcar without it. After all it was Easter and the cops would be at one or another mass or with their relatives.
As there is'nt much traffic on the island during regular days, now on Easter Sunday, the island's single circular road seems to be entirely reservated for ourself and few other cruise ship passenger who rented a moped or something too. That was great for those people without a Cook Island license ! (note: I found my Cook Island license back again, once back home in Belgium)
The snorkeling in Rarotonga is at its best at Fruits of Rarotonga so that's where I drove Silly Willy (we named our funcar like that) to this place. Get a free map when you rent a vehicle and you'll fid this place somewhere halfway the circle when you departed somewhere near the wharf (or Avarua). Bunches of fishes can be spotted in the shallow waters of the lagoon. All kinds. About a dozen unidentified (I'm not a specialist in this field) blue sea creatures, 30 to 40 centimeters in length were teasing me all the time.
Each time I got my disposal underwater camera ready, they were gone. Great fun of which I could enjoy myself in this warm water for hours.
A bit further down the road is a long soft-sanded stretch of beach with 4 lovely motus in front of it. You can easily wade to one of it. Not much of snorkeling right here at Muri Beach but with the clear blue lagoon, there is a good range of water sports to suit all ages. You can choose from skimming the lagoon on a windsurfer, kayaking, lagoon boat trips, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, reef watching in a glass 'submarine', or just swimming and sunbathing.
Rarotonga has become a popular location for weddings and honeymoons. Wedding packages designed to suit each couple are available from a number of operators on the island. The golden beach of uninhabited Koromiri islet here in Muri Lagoon is the most popular location for weddings. Young coconuts saplings planted by each newly wed couple line the beach and are testimony to the islet's popularity.
There is a single hut with a bed and most remarkable thing I noticed was a english styled toilet placed in the open air without any form of wall or shield, but just between a few palm trees, facing the lagoon and Rarotonga across. Tell me where else you can sit on the toilet, overlooking a lagoon.
Together with Bob and Kathy we took our lunch at popular and famous Sails restaurant at Muri Beach. The motu is about 200 metres away - it apears to almost float in the lagoon. We could take our shoes off and walk right down eight steps and bury our toes in the powder white sand, or wade in the warm sea. This is Sails, surely one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific to dine ( or lunch in our case ).