I am going native with a trip to Tahiti and a cruise of French Polynesia. This is the place of your romantic dreams of blue sky, beautiful clear waters, flowers, and thatched bungalows (with every convenience in my dreams). Bet you can almost picture the outrigger canoes, black pearls, gardenia blossoms, and tiki figures.
The air connections to Tahiti are limited and outrageous in price. We usually get our own air, but this time we are going with Oceania’s schedule that is about half the price. We flew to LAX and then had to walk to the international terminal that is close, but a little tough for Boris who is still using a cane. Fortunately, we were able to check our bags all the way through to Papeete, Tahiti or we would be lugging them too. I have had to do this multiple times on dive trips to the South Pacific when we had to change airlines.
We had a really early flight out of Houston, a long layover in LAX, and then a 9-hour flight to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui. We arrived after dark and were exhausted. (There is a four-hour time difference for us.) After clearing customs we were taken directly to the ship with no bag collection. Fingers crossed. It’s a charter flight so all the bags are going to the ship. We were greeted with beautiful leis that will make the room smell wonderful for days.
It was raining when we reached the ship (a sign of things to come) so we were taken directly onboard where the check-in in the lounge was quick. After dropping off our carry-on bags off in the room and checking out the bathroom-which has a single sink vanity, a toilet wedged into a corner, a free-standing rainhead shower and a full size tub with a second shower connection-it was time for a very late dinner.
With guests arriving until late into the evening, the Grand Dining Room was still open. While part of me just wanted to go to bed, we opted for a nice dinner. What a change from the offered airplane food that I usually don’t eat. The Grand Dining Room does not photograph well with its two-toned neutral color scheme, but the decor is spectacular and the food was very good. When we got back to our room, our bags had already arrived so I unpacked a little since we have an early tour tomorrow.
I absolutely hate the late arrival. We didn’t have it the worst though. The flight after ours on Atlas Air left 2 hours late after some people had to stand in the check in lines at LAX for over 3 hours. I met a woman who was on the flight who didn’t get to bed until 2 am. Her bags didn’t make it to the room until after 12:30 am and she wanted to unpack since, like Boris and I, she had an early excursion in the morning.
We are on the Oceania Marina, one of their two newer ships. We sailed on one of their smaller and older ships, the Nautica, about a year and a half ago. The Marina is still relatively mid-sized with space for 1,250 guests, but adds a culinary school, artist’s loft, and more specialty restaurants to the typical Oceania offerings. This is the upgrade to a premium and luxury cruising experience that Boris and I have been toying with the last two years. He is firmly in this camp. I still see the value and place for cruising with one of our more wallet-friendly favorites like Celebrity Cruise Lines.
French Polynesia is made up of 5 archipelagoes (island groups); we are visiting three. Our first 5 ports are all part of the Society Islands; we’ll visit two islands in the Marquesas Islands. Our final port before returning to Papette, Rangiroa, is in the Tuamotu Islands. All the archipelagoes are under the administration of the French Government which sends a great deal of financial support to French Polynesia.
The traditional Polynesian schedule means shops close at noon on Saturday, not to reopen until Monday morning. “Reciprocity, generosity and hospitality are central values.” Tahitians greet by shaking hands and exchanging kisses on the cheek. Unless the group is very large, it is considered rude not to individually greet each person in the room. It is also impolite to keep one’s shoes on when entering another’s home.
French Polynesia is romantic. In 2009, a new law made it possible for foreigners to legally marry in French Polynesia without living in the territory before the wedding. You can go through a traditional Tahitian wedding ceremony and be legally married by informing the consulate of your country prior to the ceremony, having a sworn interpreter present, and submitting a request to the town where the ceremony will take place one month in advance.
Let the adventure begin…