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Phil Haggerty

Age: 78

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 27

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Royal Princess

Sailing Date: 2010-12-9

Itinerary: French Polynesia

Tahiti Revoir - Royal Princess around French Polynesia - December 9-19 2020

I am Phil Haggerty, a retired city attorney and my wife Edith is a homemaker. This would be our 27th cruise. We first went to French Polynesia on what was then called Tahiti Princess for the same time period in 2008. We were told by Princess that they would not be returning to these beautiful islands, and our review closed with the wish that we would be able to repeat it on a ship costing less than Paul Gaugin; the only other choice at that time. When Princess announced that they were returning with the same cruise, we hastened to book it. To put it succinctly, we were even more delighted with our sojourn in the islands this time around.

Getting there and aboard On our first trip there were two daily flights on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti; our embarkation port.. We had let Princess book it on that occasion, and we flew out of LAX on the second flight at about 4:30, arriving at 11:00 P.M. This time we made sure to book on the 1:00 P.M. flight; and apparently that was the only Air Tahiti Nui flight that day. The flight was fully booked and some of our fellow passengers told us that they were required to fly a day earlier in order to make the cruise. So, forewarned is forearmed. In any event, the flight is slightly more than 8 hours, and with a two hour time difference, we landed at about 7:30 and were on board by 8:00 in time for dinner at the buffet and the boarding show before returning to our cabin and unpacking. This was considerably nicer than our first experience. The embarkation process on all cruise lines has become much faster and easier with the pre-boarding internet process.

The ship Royal Princess is the newest of the Renaissance fleet that was divided up after its bankruptcy following 9/11. It was the last of the virtually identical eight sister ships, and was built in 2001 so it had less than a year sailing for its original owner. By cruise ship standards, it is small, but by more important standards, it is elegant, well designed and passenger friendly. Deck 3 has a few cabins, Deck 4 more cabins, and the medical center forward, with the passenger service desk, excursion deck and an elegant staircase amidships leading up to Deck 5. This deck has the Cabaret Lounge, or showroom forward, the casino, boutiques, casino bar and art gallery amidships, and the club bar and main dining room aft. Decks 6, 7 and 8 are all cabin decks. Deck 9 has the gym and spa forward, pool with outdoor lounge deck amidships and the buffet aft. Deck 10 has the Royal Lounge forward, a walking/running track around the open center area above the pool; and the beautiful library, as well as two specialty restaurants aft. Deck 11 has a small open area with a golf net and a shuffleboard court forward. So, as we were told on our first trip on one of these delightful little ships, Oceania’s Insignia; entertainment is forward and food aft. There are two stair/elevator areas with two elevators each. Since it is quite easy to get around, many people, including Edith and myself, used the stairs much of the time, and the elevators were readily available most of the time. The general theme of the public areas was dark wood, low key brass railings, oriental style carpeting, vases with flowers and art in appropriate places and an overall impression of quiet charm and good taste. In one area however, Princess fell short. On Deck 5, aft of the shops and just forward of the Club Bar leading into the main dining room, there is a small open area surrounding the “elegant” staircase leading down to the passenger services desk. On Oceania’s three ships this area has a number of comfortable sofas and chairs and some open space is used for the string trio/quartet featured on all Oceania vessels. This spot on Royal Princess, and I believe its sister ships in the Princess fleet, is used for the “Art” gallery. We believe that few people are interested in anything beyond the free glass of wine that accompanies one of the art auctions, and that the whole “art auction” idea ought to be dropped by the cruise lines that still support them. On a ship the size of the eight Renaissance vessels, the space can be put to much better use.

Our stateroom We had the standard veranda stateroom on Deck 7, which made it extremely convenient inasmuch as we only had to go up two flights to the buffet and down two flights to the showroom or the main dining room as well as other activity areas. It is a comfortable room, with, as usual, more than enough drawer space and shelves in the bathroom; and adequate closet space. The decor was highlighted by dark brown trim on the furniture and cream colored walls, with a large mirror opposite the bed. The only slight inconvenience was the narrow area between the bed and the wall, and a rather small coffee table in front of the sofa. It might have been better if Princess had provided a chair with a back instead of a stool for the desk, since a chair’s back is handy for hanging clothes. The veranda had utilitarian furniture, but an open railing, which provides clearer viewing than a solid barrier.

Penthouse Suite One couple at our table had the “Moorea” suite, a penthouse suite on Deck 7 looking forward. We were invited for a post dinner gathering with the other couple at our table, and vicariously enjoyed the life of the “upper crust” for an all too short period. The suite had a spacious living room, a powder room, a fairly large bedroom and a number of other special benefits. We managed to restrain our impulse to ask how much this cost our hosts, but a look at the Princess website would place the pricing in the middle $4000.00s per person.

The Cruise Begins. Actually, this cruise begins with a full land day in Tahiti before the ship sails at 5:00 P.M. Since we had done a guided tour two years ago, we decided to rent a car and do a complete circuit (about 65 miles) of the Tahiti Nui portion of the island. The smaller Tahiti Iti peninsula has only a few people, and although connected to the main portion of the island, has a road for only a short distance down the coast. I booked a car with Europcar online. I had used this company in Europe. When we showed up we found out that since I was older than 60, I needed a doctor’s certificate to rent a car. Since I had not told my personal physician in Phoenix to prepare such a document, in French, without knowing what medical information was needed to satisfy this company, we were out of luck and extremely annoyed. On the way back to the ship we ran into a taxi driver, and negotiated a full day tour for 18,000 cpf-(Polynesian francs [about $190.00 U.S]. I had purchased about 40,000 cpf from a Banc d’ Polynesia ATM just across from the pier. Our driver was from the Cook Islands, owned by New Zealand, and he had lived in New Zealand for many years so his English was quite good. We enjoyed the tour and especially the Gaugin Museum, which, while not holding any original paintings, had an excellent layout explaining his life and contacts with Polynesia. The museum was in an attractive series of small, locally designed open buildings near the ocean. We ate lunch at the museum restaurant a few hundred yards away, which had its own fish pens, and served an excellent fresh mahi-mahi, although a tad pricey like all Polynesia. We returned to the ship through rush hour traffic about 4:00, concluding a pleasant if not inexpensive day. Tahiti, with a population of 170,000, mostly in or near Papeete, has about 60% of the entire population of French Polynesia. This “Overseas Country“, which is legally part of France and represented in the French Parliament, but with considerable local autonomy; has four groups of islands or archipelago, and stretches over an area the size of Europe. But most of the population and tourist areas are found in the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Taha’a, Huahine and Bora Bora, which make up the Society Islands.

Our first day was a sea day. The ten couples who formed the core of the Cruise Critic Roll Call Board got together in the Royal Lounge to meet face to face and confirm our shore tour commitments as well as generally socialize. It was very pleasant to establish a connection with a number of people immediately, as we all form a coterie that would greet and chat with each other at times every day. The fact that were only about 680 passengers made this a great deal easier, and provided a far more friendly atmosphere than that which would exist on one of the new mega-ships, where the sheer size and numbers of people would act as a barrier to meeting and even seeing people you knew.

Rangiroa Atoll This huge atoll, so big you cannot see across it or down its whole length, was our first stop. I went snorkeling on one of the ships tours, the only one I took on the entire cruise. The winds and tide made the water slightly cloudy, and I was chased out of a good fish viewing coral area by one of the tour guides, but I had already realized it was getting pretty thick where I was and a retreat was indicated. We then went out into the lagoon entry passage where we saw many dolphins and enjoyed major swells that pushed our small boat along. Edith spent a little time at the very small area for craft shopping on shore but did not visit the pearl farm as she had two years ago. Some made a tour to the Blue Lagoon, and reported a good trip, but rough waters from the wind.

Huahine After our second and last sea day we arrived at Huahine and entered the beautiful bay to tender ashore and meet Marc, our first independent tour. We were 12 people from Cruise Critic, with 4 other people, in two small catamarans with roofs to protect us somewhat from the sun, powered by outboard motors. We went out of the bay, into the lagoon which, typically of all remaining ports of call, surround each island with only a few deep water access inlets. We first did some snorkeling and then went to a pearl farm, which actually was owned by an American who had built his house on pilings in the lagoon to protect him from mosquitoes. They are prevalent on the islands, but none are malaria carriers. The workshop for the farm is on another island structure in the lagoon. We then traveled to another area inside the lagoon for further snorkeling and afterwards proceeded to land on a motu, a small islet in the reef, for lunch. We were met there by Marc, (who had not sailed on the catamarans, but entrusted them to Polynesians) and also by another Polynesian man who not only prepared a special Hawaiian dish, but provided a lecture on local plant life. He prepared his dish by squeezing limes onto cut up fresh raw ahi tuna, adding coconut milk and cut up zucchini and shredded vegetables, letting it marinate for about ten minutes. I though it absolutely delicious, but Edith is not comfortable with raw fish. Marc is of French ancestry, but was born in New Zealand and moved to French Polynesia with his family many years ago. His e-mail address is: reservation@huahine-nautique.com We then returned to the tender dock. The total tour lasted from about 9:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. and the cost was $100.00 US paid in cash at the dock - when Marc asked for our “green tickets”. The snorkeling was pretty good with enough sunlight, and the food excellent.

Raiatea The next day we arrived in Raiatea for a tour with Bruno and his L’Excursion Bleue. This has a website: www.tahaa.net. and e-mail address at: tpt@mail.pc Raiatea is a fairly large island with an actual pier so no tendering is needed. Taha’a is a smaller neighboring island about 2 ½ miles to the north of Raiatea, and both are surrounded by the same reef. This tour started at the pier and first featured another pearl farm which had a very nice showcase home on shore on Taha‘a, with a French lady showing us a truly extensive collection of pearls, both loose and in necklaces and other settings. We also visited a vanilla plantation where the owner provided a detailed explanation with some amusing comments on Polynesian work attitudes. We then did “drift snorkeling” between two motus at the reef. One motu had a Relais d’ Chateaux hotel with over water rooms at more than a thousand euros per day, and the other was a smaller unoccupied motu. It was during this snorkel on a ship’s tour in 2008 that I was cut quite a bit on my legs by coral. This time Bruno led the snorkel himself, taking care to show us which types of coral could be safely touched, which could be gently pushed out of the way as well as where we should go to see the fish. He did so with much more clarity and care for our well being than the guides on the ship’s tour. I could actually enjoy the spectacular coral as well as the fish with less concern. I did suffer a couple of nicks, but they were very minor. One of our party was stung on his hand by a sea urchin when he misjudged a coral formation which he could safely grasp, and his hand slipped under it into a typical sea urchin lair. It was painful, apparently, but not debilitating. We went to a second snorkeling site very close to the reef, close enough that Bruno could actually walk on the reef out of the water. However those of us who went into the water here felt that, even with good water shoes, there was too much danger of slipping on slick coral and falling on sharp coral if we tried this, so we were content with normal snorkeling around the boat. We then had a very good lunch and completed the circuit of Taha’a and returned to the pier at about 4:00 P.M. Again this was a full day’s tour for the cost of 10,000 cpf - about $110.00 US per person.

Bora Bora While all the islands are beautiful, this is my favorite, with its precipitous main peak providing different views as we circumnavigated the main island. Our tour was provided by Patrick’s Tours, which is featured in many tourist guide books and has an excellent, well deserved reputation. He offers full and ¾ day lagoon tours and two 4x4 tours on the main island. His website is: www.maohinui.net, and his e-mail address is: patricia.maohinui@ymail.com. Our Cruise critic group, again with several other people, boarded two catamarans at the tender pier at 9:30 and were on our way. We started at the largest town, Viatape, which is midway up the west coast, and proceeded south past the original tourist hotel, the Bora Bora, now under repair and looking rather sad. We went around Matira Point and its beach and out into the east lagoon for our first of four “water” stops. Our second stop was to feed stingrays. We could stand up in water to our waists on a sandy floor and feed the rays who literally hugged us their appreciation of the food. This was a delightful experience. The next snorkel stop was near the reef with a strong current that caused me a little trouble, but I was hauled back to the boat by two younger and stronger swimmers. Our guide had said simply to relax if we were unable to fight the current, and he would get us, but he actually had left the boat to do some fishing with his spear gun. The final water snorkel stop was in calmer waters, and fairly short. We then headed for a motu for our lunch. This was the best of the tour lunches with grilled lobster and champagne, albeit served in plastic water glasses. The motus around Bora Bora are larger than most, and one holds the airport built by Seabeas in WWII. While Papeete has a small deep water port large enough for a number of full sized ships, the lagoon of Bora Bora is very large and was a place better able to protect our fleet during the war. We could see old gun emplacements protecting the harbor as we cruised around. Our guide was a Polynesian man who wore a very short sarong with the briefest possible swim suit underneath for when he went into the water. His English was not too good, but he was very cheerful with a good visual sense of humor. On the long water stretches he would steer the catamaran (which had a wheel rather than a tiller) with his toes, play a Polynesian version of the ukulele, and singing. Fortunately, one of our companion couples had made a number of visits to various islands, including Bora Bora, and were able to supply a lot of information, pointing out things like the best location for a over-the-water room at the Sofitel Hotel where one could see out over the reef and in towards the main mountain. We returned at about 4:00. Completing a circuit of the main island after spending almost two hours on the motu where we ate, while some of us crossed it to reach the reef and ocean side. Most of us felt that because of the beauty of Bora Bora, the excellent lunch and the extensive water activity, that this was the best of the tours. The cost was $125.00 US per person, collected at the end of the tour as it had been by Marc. As a side note, when we asked where Patrick was, we were told he was in Canada! He was in the cold of December while we basked in the warmth of his island - what irony!!

The Second day in Bora Bora Some people took land tours or water tours where they had not done so the day before. We opted to wander around Viatape, and actually spent most of the day in stores, either looking at local crafts or comparative shopping for pearls. We started out by strolling past the commercial area though, into the residential part of town. While many of the homes are not large or much more than basic, most of the yards showed care and attention to the beautiful plant life so abundant here. We then stopped first at Robert Wan’s pearl store, which we had visited two years earlier. This remarkable man has created a pearl empire, owning several farms in the atolls outside the Society Islands. The store is very attractive and the clerks pleasant and attentive even though we made it clear that we were only shopping at the lower end of their price scale. We saw two necklaces we liked but decided to do some more shopping. The next store was more scientifically arranged, but after looking at some pretty spectacular pieces, were told, condescendingly that they had nothing in our price range. We probably visited about 7 or 8 more jewelers. In one we looked at a beautiful necklace. The price tag was in cpfs. I asked the price in dollars and found out that I had made a “slight” error in my exchange estimate, and it cost $14,000 US, causing us to depart politely but quickly. We also visited some other stores to look at art and other native crafts, avoiding the obviously tourist stuff which was often made in Indonesia or China. I don’t need a $25.00 Bora Bora T-shirt made in Shanghai, thanks.

After lunch on board ship we decided that the necklaces we had seen at the Robert Wan store were actually the best value, so we returned and walked in saying “we’re baaack!”. We were cheerfully greeted by the same French lady clerk and she was again most helpful. It took Edith a while to decide between two, but with the assistance of the clerk and another customer pressed into service for her opinion, we made a choice. Then the paperwork began. As a French country, Polynesia has a 16% VAT, waived for direct exports. The French are master bureaucrats, and had extensive forms to fill out and a distinct process involving visiting customs at the airport to avoid this tax. Fortunately, our clerk did all the form work, and provided us with written as well as verbal instructions on the customs office procedures we were to follow. Part of this process was to provide the store with one credit card imprint for the cost of the necklace and a second imprint for the tax. Then, when the proper form was stamped at the airport, and sent back to the store by the customs office, the tax imprint would be torn up and not submitted for payment. We had absolutely no concern about the store doing this since it is an international company, with stores in the US. We were pleased when an assistant to our clerk told us he had lived in Tucson for 8 years and still had relatives in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix. His English, as well as the lady clerk’s was very good. We think that the lower price from Robert Wan, despite the elegance of their stores and their glitzy catalogue, is due to the fact that Wan owns and controls every aspect of the pearl business from the oyster to the finished piece of jewelry, has no middlemen to pay, and has a volume pricing advantage. We were quite pleased with our decision and the outcome of the day.

Moorea Moorea is a small island quite close to Tahiti; about 9.8 miles by direct route and 13+ miles by ferry from Afareaitu to Papeete. The ferry trips are quite frequent from 6:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. and vary from ½ hour to possibly an hour. The cost per person is 900.00 cpf (about $10.00) per person, but about $25.00 for a car on the one boat (out of four) that can carry autos. A number of Royal Princess passengers took advantage of this proximity to spend a day or more on Moorea either before or after the cruise. We had no planned tour and hoped to rent a car. At the suggestion of some people, we made no effort to confirm our Europcar booking following the Papeete rental debacle, but went directly to the Avis table set up near the tender dock, in front of the round church we remembered from 2008. We had no trouble obtaining a nice, relatively new Ford Fiesta (16,000 kms on the odometer). We chose not to buy insurance since my credit card carries all sorts of car rental coverage, and again went trough the double credit card process, a 8,000 cpf imprint for the 8 hour daily rental, a 8800 cpf imprint to cover damage. We cruised slowly around the island, enjoying the sights and the neat, modest but relatively prosperous appearing homes with again the lovely gardens and yards. “Slowly” is the operative word, since the maximum speed limit anywhere is 60 kph, 40 mph, and this is never reached for any great length of road due to the constant presence of small, and I mean very small towns. Luckily it was Saturday, and school was out, so we did not have to contend with this. At about 11:00 just past the one town with a European name anywhere, Le Petit Village, we came to a hotel called Le Tipaniers, We had been told about this place by our cruise Tahiti experts. It was not easy to find parking, but we did, and walked out to the beach where there was a restaurant with a delightful outside covered ramada and a view of the beach. The hotel has small bungalows. We found out it was fully booked (somewhat rare in Polynesia these days) and its ratings on TripAdvisor.com plus its reasonable rates explain why. We had to wait until noon for the restaurant to open, and as that time neared were joined by our Tahiti experts and another couple from our Cruise Critic group. The restaurant filled quickly and I had a fabulously delicious fresh grilled swordfish, while Edith had a salad, all for a total of 2300cpfs, very reasonable for the best fish I had the entire cruise.

To explain its location. Moorea is heart shaped. The northern coast has a western peninsula, Opunoho Bay, where the ship anchored, a central peninsula, Cook’s bay and an eastern peninsula, with the center dominated by a mountain and the south east, southern and western coasts. As in all the islands, the main road leads around the perimeter with a few roads leading inland, but none actually crossing the island due to the mountain or mountains in the center. Le Petit Village and Les Tipaniers are both close to the northern tip of the westernmost peninsula. After lunch we continued around the island, shortly passing the Intercontinental Hotel on the corner of Opunoho Bay, then went down the western side of the bay, past where our ship was tendered and where we started our rental and on to the base of the central peninsula. There we took a road to the right leading up the main mountain to a view site called Belvedere Outlook. The road is somewhat steep and narrow in spots, but is well paved. It goes past the Agricultural High School where we enjoyed a visit on our first trip, but it apparently was not open to Saturday morning unscheduled visits. At the top we had a great view north, seeing Opunoho Bay to the west, the striking spire mountain at the base of the central peninsula, and Cook’s Bay to the east. Captain Cook never actually sailed into his namesake bay, apparently determining that the passage was narrow and at an angle which would make it hazardous in searching for deeper waters to anchor. 240 years later cruise ship captains acknowledge that this master mariner and incredible sailor was as correct as he could be. We returned to sea level and attempted to visit a fruit juice factory, but it closes at noon on Saturdays. We were required to return our car with a full gas tank as usual, and had been told that there was a station at Le Petit Village, so back we went past the ship and Les Tipaniers to that town, where we filled up. Out nice little car had used only 700 cpf’s worth of gas. We tok advantage of our presence there to visit two shops. One, an upstairs shop, had a very impressive collection of local wood carvings and stone work. The other shop was Woody’s Pearl Store. Woody was there, working on jewelry, and told us he was, as we knew from a tour book, an American who had moved there from Hawaii in the early 80’s, married a Polynesian girl (who was there, acting as the store’s clerk)and started his business to support himself and his avocation as a sculptor. On the way back to the ship and about 500 yards past Les Tipanier, we decided to pull into the Intercontinental Hotel. [The Sofitel Hotel on the northeast coast had a guarded gate which we did not care to challenge.] This is quite a nice hotel, with a very open lobby/bar/store area leading out to what we believe was a salt water pool just inside the lagoon and its beach. We stepped into the Robert Wan store in the lobby for a minute, and then returned to the ship, returning the car and getting our insurance imprint back from Avis.

The last day in Papeete The ship sailed from Moorea at 5:00 P.M. and arrived in Papeete at about 6:00, when we were eating dinner. Since it was the final night, we had to pack. The next day Princess told us we could store our carry on luggage in one of the specialty restaurants and stay on the ship, having lunch and dinner in the buffet, until we boarded our buses to the airport for our 10:00 P.M. Air Tahiti Nui flight back to LAX.. The last time we did this we located a 4x4 tour to the interior through the tourist office at the pier. When we went to that office, it was closed due to a sudden electric failure, so we were unable to book a tour of this type, and, since we had taken a taxi around the island the day after our arrival, we saw no reason to do this again. We had been told that all stores in Papeete were closed on Sunday, but later found out that the main market was open, virtually entirely for local customers, from 5:30 to 8 every Sunday. We learned this well after 8, but decided to walk around town anyway, especially since a young lady at the pier had handed us a pamphlet for a pearl store. In fact many clothing stores and food stores were open, and the central market was just closing down, a scene of some organized confusion and color. The jewelry store was open and had an upstairs with a large collection, all first class pearls. By this time we had become pretty good at judging the quality of the pearls we were seeing. We went back to the ship for lunch and killed some time by seeing the second of three consecutive movies in the Cabaret Lounge, a somewhat mindless shoot’em up; but relaxing. We ate about 5:00 and picked up our hand luggage, retrieved or main suitcases and duffel at the tent set up for that purpose on the pier and loaded ourselves and luggage on the bus for the trip to the airport. Of course there was a long line of passengers at the gates, but it seemed that they opened earlier and had more check-in stations, so it did not take as long as it had in 2008. The customs scene to get our VAT exemption actually proceeded quickly and simply. I even had time to turn in 7000 cpfs for $69.00 after fees. I thought about keeping some for a possible return in 2012, but there is talk of changing over to Euros.

I was annoyed to lose a long time owned and favorite nail file to an overzealous French equivalent of a TSA searcher, and the security line was slow; but we were in the waiting area by about 8:45, which was plenty of time. The return flight was smooth and we took a LAX worker’s advice and rolled our luggage from the Bradley International Terminal to Terminal 1 for Southwest, rather than wait for a shuttle. It was raining heavily in Los Angeles and we were amazed to see the weather reports of over nine inches of rain there in the past week. But we got back home with no trouble.

Ship Dining Edith likes Princess’ vegetarian selection; but I would only rate the main dining room at an 85, (out of a possible 100) compared to 88 for HAL, 91 for Celebrity, 93 for Oceania and 97 for Crystal. The person we all rated very highly was the pastry chef. His range of choices and skill was manifested most remarkably at the buffet lunches, with stunning and imaginative displays. It almost made us regret the fact that four of our excursions took us away from the ship at noon; but we managed to sneak in a late tea with some of the noon time efforts left over on our return.

The most general subject of criticism was the buffet coffee. We never ate breakfast anywhere else and neither Edith or I have coffee after noon. The regularly served coffee was pretty awful. What made it more annoying was that the ship wanted us to buy “coffee cards” which, at $25.00 per card, would provide 15 “premium” cups of regular coffee or specialty coffees such as latte’s or cappuccinos. We strongly believe that this is a rip-off and we all accused Princess of downgrading the “free” coffee to encourage the purchase of and consequent dependence on these coffee cards. For Shame Princess!!

The lunch buffets and breakfast buffets were pretty good and showed some variety and imagination with their theme lunches. Compared to the dining room, I would rate them at 90 for breakfast and 91 for lunch. We met two couples who chose never to eat in the main dining room and ate exclusively in the buffet. Even though they probably ate at least as well as we did; Edith and I would have missed the delightful social conversation and laughter of our table companions. Princess still does tradition two stage seating with assigned tables, even though not only Oceania, but Azamara uses open dining on Royal Princess’ sister ships.

We did not eat in either of the specialty restaurants. One of our tables’ couples did and complained about extremely slow service at Sabatini’s, apparently because a special $75.00 per person table for a party of twelve co-opted several of the servers. This shows bad planning by Princess. Princess offers afternoon tea in the dining room on all its ships, but after attending once we decided that the tea and cake selection was better in the buffet.

Entertainment The Cabaret Lounge is the site for most entertainment. It is on one floor, Deck 5, with no major stage accoutrements. The dance band is one step up from the show floor, which is surrounded on three sides by several rows of chairs, a bench row and another level of chairs and tables one step higher. If you are in the front row you are really next to the performers. The actual entertainment featured the usual song and dance group, four line male and four line female singers plus a lead male and female singer. Their routines were very standard and uninspired, even amateurish. Perhaps we have been spoiled by Ballet Arizona, which has earned top reviews from the New York Times for its performances. But we have seen shows on Celebrity and Crystal which were far more imaginative and polished. There were two male singers who had solo performances. One of them did two shows. He sang in the style of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, did songs that they had featured, and was relaxed and enjoyable. The other singer was just okay. There also was a magician/humorist who engaged the audience well and was quite amusing. On the opening night there was a Tahitian show with local dancers; and in Raiatea another group of local dancers doing a late show, since we remained in that port until 11:00 P.M.

The informative portion was exclusively in the hands of Doug Pearson, who had also done this in 2008. He is British. His father was one of the first pilots to fly in the islands in the 60s, and Doug lives on Moorea. He has unbounded enthusiasm, and distinct opinions, as well as a wealth of information. We could not attend every lecture due to our tour schedules; we were tired and ready to shower and change clothes on our return, with not much time before dinner; but we had enjoyed him before and knew a lot of what he was saying. There were several of the usual shipboard games, bingo etc. which we do not attend. Nor do we use the Casino, and it did not seem to enjoy much action, not surprising on a cruise so vital with delightful destination activity. The internet was somewhat pricey, offering packages instead offering a pricing by minutes only option that we had noted on other Princess cruises. Out table companions with the suite had extensive free usage, but said they needed it because it was so slow. We did not use it at all; but the internet café seemed to enjoy a steady flow of business. There also was a movie every afternoon in the Cabaret Lounge which is fairly well set up for movie showing.

Overall Experience Despite the fact that Princess has some practices and ways of doing business that are moderately annoying at times; we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise because of the destination. We simply love French Polynesia, its beauty, its friendly people (even though we don’t speak French) its marvelous climate, warm waters, relaxed atmosphere and sense of being away from it all in a little piece of (expensive) Paradise. We probably will return, not in 2011 since our cruise itinerary is already set, but very possibly the next year. Royal Princess is leaving the Princess fleet, but we feel sure that one of the line’s other ships will make this delightful cruise in one form or another. We would love to see you aboard.

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