Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bora Bora - Continued

Our lunch at Bloody Mary's was just as expected (per pre-read reviews on Trip Advisor.) I had done a bit of reading about the restaurant before our trip and unfortunately the reviews were more negative than positive.   While the ambiance is fun (sand on the floor), the food just ok. Brian's burger and fries were just average and my tuna salad sandwich was more mayo than tuna.  All in all, a fun stop and now I can say, "I've been there!" when I see one of the souvenir T-shirts in my travels.  Nonetheless, we came home with our Bloody Mary's t-shirts as souvenirs.

The ship offers a complimentary dinner tender to the restaurant and I did hear this trip was a far better experience than our "nothing to write home" about lunch. Comments of arays of fresh fish laid out for you to choose from (dinner only) and decently tasty meals were heard around the pool the following morning.


Bloody Mary's restaurant


Looking across the street from Bloody Mary's


Our home away from home!


With our tour around the island complete we headed back to home base.  Our car was easily dropped off directly at the pier and we spent about 20 minutes waiting for the tender.  Just before you return to the tender there is a large covered area filled with local artisans selling all kinds of wares, worth taking a peek.

A nice PG touch was the refreshment area where one waits for the tender to return to the ship. At every stop, PG sets up a tent (very welcome after a long day in the strong South Pacific sun!) with a few chairs and tables with chilled water and fruit punch. A hand sanitizer station was also available. A crew member was always waiting to assist if you needed it.




On the returning tender these guys paddled and rode the wake wave all the way back to the ship!


The evening festivities included a "Pool Deck Party" after dinner with Siglo as entertainment. A very enjoyable evening of dancing and fun under the stars. 

Siglo definitely lived up to their reputation. A fantastic group of guys who play just about any sort of music requested. From 40's Big Band Swing to 80's hits to modern day pop they played it all and they played it well.  Nicely done Siglo!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bora Bora

Today Bora Bora!!  Often hearing that Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful places on earth, Brian and I had eagerly awaited our arrival to this island.  Indeed it is gorgeous!  As I am a bit of a photobug, our decision to get a car of our own allowed us to explore the island at our leisure. In addition, a request from a friend at home had been made to please, please stop at Bloody Mary's and get him a t-shirt (he and his wife visited 14 years prior on their honeymoon and his original was worn out!).

The rental car was easy, just across from where the tender lets you off.  The options for rental range from 2, 4, or 8 hours. We chose 8 hours at a rate of about $135 for the full day (1/2 day runs about $110.)  The ladies at the desk were extraordinarily friendly and gave us tips for their favorite places to visit and suggestions for where to stop.   You could feasibly get around the island in about 1 hour, but with our photo stops and our planned Bloody Mary lunch we timed out at about 5 1/2 hours! (Gas ran about $12)


Bugster - we thought about this one...


but opted for the fuddy duddy Kia with a locking doors instead!


Bora Bora is not an island with white sandy beaches.  Matira Beach was recommended by the dive master on the ship as the best, but we actually passed it without realizing we had gone by.  With lovely views and stunning rock formations my camera had a workout!




Magical vistas and stunning rock formations


Paradise Found!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Raiatea... after the tour

Back at the pier after our island tour we had about 45 minutes to walk around the small port town.  That 45 minutes turned out to be about 15 more than we needed to see the small market, shops, restaurants, ever present jewelery/pearl stores and a small tourist area.  A small market with local fruits and wares, very similar to the large market in Papeete, was open in the morning after we left the ship.  Brian had taken the opportunity to take a quick look around and I had been hoping to catch my own visit upon our return, but unfortunately the market was closed in the afternoon.
Market in town... wish I had this to go to every day!


Sure beats Costco!!



The Main Street

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Raiatea


Raiatea... what an absolutely beautiful island that we almost didn't see.  Our new itinerary brought us to this lovely island instead of having a sea day and we couldn't have been happier.  With about 10 hours of sleep in two days we decided to sleep in and when we arose to that we were already docked at the pier.   Still unfamiliar with the whole ship, we decided to give La Veranda a try for breakfast and enjoyed a nice morning meal outside overlooking the sleepy town.  Breakfast in La Veranda was very similar to Le Grill, but with a bit more of a formal atmosphere. Most people chose to dine indoors, but we fully enjoyed sipping our coffee out on the deck watching the town wake up below. 

View of town from La Veranda
 
A stop in the boutique was enjoyed after our meal and we caught our first peek at the lovely black pearls (Tahia Collins).  The shop was filled with PG souvenirs, small toiletrie items ($$$$ for sunscreen - bring it from home!), shirts, beach shoes, etc.  Inquiring with the clerk about what was best to do in town she passionately said that she felt this was one of the most beautiful islands on the itinerary and that the best way to see it was to get out of the port area.  As we had no excursion planned a quick detour to the travel desk was in order.  Today the offerings were fairly limited, but we found room on the coach island tour excursion.   I have to say that I'm not usually one for bus tours, but I also have to admit that this bus tour was a fantastic excursion! Summer (a San Diego transplant) was our extremely informative guide, a lovely, peaceful girl who married a Tahitian man and has made her life in Raiatea for the last 10 years.   Her knowledge of the island was fascinating and she entertained us with stories of island culture and lore along with descriptions of daily island life.   When compared with our San Diego average day, Raiatea life is very different, simpler in some ways and more wholesome, but in other ways not as fulfilling (in my opinion!)

Summer brought us to many lovely vistas and kindly stopped for us photobugs (me!) at extra locations to get those perfect shots. We visited another marae and Summer provided details of what life was like in ancient times. 

Marae

Friday, February 12, 2010

Huahine Island Tour and Evening

Tendering to the island had us a bit concerned.  As this was our first "tender" and  we had heard horror stories from other mass market cruise lines regarding obtaining your tender tickets and/or times the evening before, waiting in long lines to get on the tender, etc we were curious how it would all work out.  So far our experience on the ship led us to believe that this would be a wholly different experience.  However when we arrived on deck 3 we did indeed have to wait in line... for a total of about 45 seconds while the person in front of us went through!  With a furtive "I can't believe how great this is!" smile we handed over our cards and less than a minute later we were sitting on the top deck of the tender;  it was only about half full.  So easy.   

Our tour guide Joelle met us with the lovely Heia as we exited the tender and we joined the other 3 couples on the tour, a fun group and a fun day. Joelle is American and has spent many years living in the islands while raising his family.  He is an expert on local flora and its various medicinal uses, and he entertained us with local legends and lore throughout the trip.  We circled the larger part of the island and took in full flowing waterfalls, beautiful vistas, the Belvedere, blue-eyed eels, tiny villages, a local vanilla "farm" (more later on this), maraes (ancient ceremonial temples) and sandy beaches.  Throughout, Joelle talked about what is like to live in Huahine as a local.  A good amount damage from a recent cyclone was visible in many areas along the tour, not much structural damage, but quite a lot of brown, tattered vegetation.  Joelle explained that spray from the sea water caused many of the plants to turn brown, but that they would soon flourish again.   Numerous downed trees (mostly banana) and a bit of a landslide were seen throughout the island.  About half way through our tour Joelle asked where our ship's Captain was planning divert us due to a little cyclone named Pat.  Apparently she was planning on visiting the Cook Islands on the same day we were.  Joelle was curious about our itinerary deviation, at which point we all looked at him and had no idea what he was talking about!   He just smiled and said, "Wait and see."

 
Joelle teaching us about banana trees

View of the ship from the Belvedere

Feeding the blue eye eels

Coral on the beach

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our morning in Huahine

Spontaneity is not the norm for us... we are planners and like to research our vacations thoroughly so we don't get home and say "Oh!  I wish I'd known about that...".   So this spontaneous trip was out of character and with our only prior cruise experience being a mass market voyage, we were concerned that all of the ship's excursions would already be full.  Imagine our surprise as we arrived at the Travel Desk and not only was there no line, but there was still availability on many of the excursions!  With our jet lag still weighing heavy on our heads we found the afternoon Safari Excursion to perfectly fit the bill and we were in luck that there just happened to be two seats available.

The lack of queues anywhere on this ship was wonderful!   I think the most we ever waited in any line at either the Travel or Reception desk was 3 to 4 minutes.  The restaurants were never over crowded and deck chairs were always easy to find (the only exception being our one sea day).  


As we had secured our afternoon activity, we made our first of 9 visits to Le Grill for breakfast and found that table 33 was in just the perfect position for a gorgeous view, light breeze and easy access to the buffet.  Just about anything you could wish for was available - cooked to order omelets, pancakes, eggs, sausages, fresh fruit (loved the papaya and little bananas), oatmeal, cereals, pastries, bagels, toast, cheese, meats, shrimp, juices, other beverages, etc. all in a buffet style.  Joey took care of us each morning, having our coffee and ice water on the table before we had filled our plates.  We grew to look forward to his welcoming smile each day and he quickly learned our preferences.

Most days after breakfast we would take our coffee to the back of the ship and enjoy the tropical views and peaceful atmosphere of the Paul Gauguin.  On most mornings we enjoyed the aft deck alone or at most with just another couple or two.   Lounging in the morning sun with our coffee quickly came to be one of our favorite times of the day!



Coffee - Aft deck 8

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Huahine Entry

After only a few hours of sleep we both woke up eager to see what was outside of our balcony!  I had heard that the entry into the Huahine bay was gorgeous and worth getting up to see, and with a peek around the corner of the balcony showing land we quickly threw on some clothes and headed up on deck, cameras in hand.  A few other guest had the same idea and we all enjoyed the brilliant blue waters contrasting with the gorgeous green of the island.  Thanks to our brief research on Cruise Critic, Brian and I knew that we could go all the way forward on deck 8 to a small viewing “balcony” on the front of the ship (go through even though the door says “Emergency Exit”).  This view became our private vantage point as the ship entered the gorgeous bay.  Lush green vegetation topped by pillows of white clouds surrounded us as the ship passed through the inlet making it's way to the center of the bay.  This is one entry that is definitely worth setting your alarm for. 

Huahine before entry

Entering the bay
 
Island views!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paul Gauguin - LAX to Papeete, Tahiti

Six days prior to the February 9th, 2010 sailing of the Paul Gauguin my husband surprised me by saying he had found the perfect vacation for us.  As he described the 11-night itinerary visiting the Cook and Society Islands I sat there dreaming of the brilliant, turquoise waters and warm, soft air.  When he said, “Why don’t we go?” I laughed and asked him, "When are we leaving?" 6 days to arrange the kids schedules, care for the two 4-month-old puppies, throw a Super Bowl party for 40 and also pack?  Was he crazy?  Yep... but we did it!  Within 48 hours we had scheduled my mother to watch the kids and puppies,  a village of wonderful girlfriends to take over my kid driving schedule for 12 days, and a tentative itinerary for travel.   A few phone calls had the trip booked, hosting the annual Super Bowl party went off without a hitch (even though our Chargers weren’t there), and before I knew it we were standing at the Air Tahiti Nui counter in LAX along with a dozen other excited Paul Gauguin guests heading to Papeete, Tahiti!! 

LAX... we are really going!

Love the ATN paint scheme!