We started our first full day aboard the Marina with a lifeboat drill, far too early on the day after a late arrival. Today we have our first excursions on the island of Moorea. Boris and I usually go together, but today he has a island tour and I am going on a photography excursion. Dressed in long thin white sleeves to protect myself from the sun, I headed out on the makeshift jeep along with 6 other would-be photographers.
Did I mention it was raining? First thing, our guide told us that limited visibility meant that we would not be visiting the interior of the island. Of course this is what made our tour unique and why we paid the big bucks. Then we proceeded to make several unremarkable stops seeing nothing I hadn’t in seen in multiple locations before.
Moorea is only 12 miles from Tahiti and French Polynesia’s second-most popular tourist attraction; Tahiti is the first. Known for its beautiful interiors, Moorea is also unique among the Society Islands for having long white sand and black sand beaches.
Oceania had serious problems with the excursion departures this morning. Mine left 40 minutes late. Others were an hour late. They were calling open tenders for other cruisers while we waited-not the way to make tired guests who have bought your excursion tickets happy. If people failed to show up, they held the entire group, ok for a short time but not 30 minutes or more. The mid cruise questionnaires will be full of this.
After boarding the jeep, we stopped at a beach, vanilla farm, Magic Mountain lookout point, and a hotel with a dolphin center. We had drizzle off and on, but as we headed out on foot to the dolphin center the skies opened up. Not the day to we wearing a white shirt. I flipped my backpack around and wore it in the front in an attempt to be less revealing and not acquire a reputation on the first day of the cruise.
When we got back to the pier, I went straight to the tender skipping all the crafts and vendors. Dry clothes were my mission. Boris got back even later than I did, so lunch was late today. We did a little ship exploring and made our reservations for the specialty restaurants. Neither of us felt like going back ashore. I don’t feel that I got to experience what Moorea really has to offer.
Tonight we tried our first specialty restaurant, The Polo Grill, an on-board steakhouse. With our veranda level room we are guaranteed a visit to each of the four specialty restaurants at no additional charge. Suite guests get to make addition priority bookings. Later in the cruise, you can try to add additional visits if available. With a fully booked ship, this may be unlikely. Polo Grill is also on the other Oceania ships. We really liked it on the Nautica, but neither of us were that impressed with our steaks on this visit.
Still tired, our next day we stopped at the island of Huahine, also part of the Society Islands. Although far less visited than Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, it is one of the most geographically diverse islands of this archipelago. It has beautiful long white sand beaches. The people use the rich soil to harvest vanilla, melons, and banans.
One thing that distinguishes Huahine is the density of the historical sites. We took a tour that allowed us to visit the Village of Maeva that has the largest concentration of pre-European Marae in Polynesia. We were fortunate to have an American archeologist who now lives in Huahine as our guide.
This is the site of the Royal Village. Historically the island was divided like you would cut a pie among the various kings. All of the royal families had their homes in Maeva. The ruins of ancient Polynesian temples, or marae, are now carefully maintained and protected. A chief’s house, Fare Potee, has been reconstructed near the water. On the hillside there are hundreds of additional marae covered in brush that are yet to be made tourist-ready. “Huahine has the oldest recorded date of human occupation among the Society Islands.”
We made an additional stop at a local home where you could see the vanilla drying tables and purchase a sample of the native product. The drying tables haven’t been used in weeks due to the rain and production is behind schedule.
We stopped to see the village stream populated by blue-eyed eels, considered sacred. The village boys played in the stream while our guide went in to feed them. There were dozens of them ranging in size from three to six feet.
Our final stop was to see the ancient stone fish traps built centuries ago. Many are still in use as a “free” way to get your fish. Better stake your claim or someone will come for your fish.