Occupation:Engineer / Manager
Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas
Ship: Paul Gauguin (transferred)
Sailing Date: n/a
We left Orlando on Friday afternoon on a United flight to LAX, where we'd opted for the free overnight stay. Upon arrival, we got our luggage, (LAX sucks - arrived concourse 6, pickup luggage concourse 7), and headed for the Hilton bus. No one from Radisson was around, but we really did not need their help. A quick bus ride later and we were in the check in line at the Hilton. Somewhere in the lobby was a Radisson host to answer any questions you may have had, but we never seeked him/her out. We waited about 10 minutes in line and talked to some other couples, most of whom were going on our cruise (we could tell by their luggage tags). Check in was quick once we got to the counter, since they already had our keys waiting. We got to our room and pretty much called it a night.
Saturday morning, we had the complementary full breakfast buffet at the hotel. Then we boarded the bus for the terminal. This bus was specifically for Radisson cruise guests. We got to the Air Tahiti Nui area and had a long wait in line (due to computer problems they were having). But again, we got to meet people who were on the cruise. We met several other couples long before even boarding the ship. A Radisson person came down the line and checked off our names from her list. Everything went smoothly, other than the fact that we needed to be at the airport 3+ hours before the flight.
The flight was great and each seat has its own video screen. They advertised that First class got to choose which movie they wanted to see from about 6 or 7, and that coach class would only get to watch 2 movies the entire flight. But for some reason, even us poor folks in coach got to choose from all the movies.
On a side note, I bought a pair of cheap Maxell noisebuster noise cancelling headphones from buy.com. They cost $20 and have free shipping right now. The BOSE brand are a bit better, but at 15x the price, not that much. Don't let the description "noisecanelling" fool you. They do not block out all sounds. Only really low frequency. They eliminate the low rumbling engine noise in a plane, but do NOT block out the higher wind noise, talking, babies screaming, etc. What they do is allow you to listen to the movies or music at a lower volume, or by themselves, block out some of the noise of the plane engines. For long flights, I think it is well worth $20. Most people do not realize how fatigued they can get from noise.
We landed around 7:10 local time at Faa'a airport. Radisson people were everywhere and showed us exactly where to go and what to do. We took a shuttle bus to the dock. We only got to see a bit of the city by night. Boarding the ship was very easy. Once off the bus, we identified our luggage by pointing it out to a steward - this was for security reasons. Our luggage was grouped by itself and was there before we got off the bus. Then we walked up the gangplank onto the ship. We showed our passports and were directed to level 5. There they gave us champagne, our room key cards and passport receipts (they keep your passports till the last night).
We learned that there were only 196 people on board the ship and 201 crew. Some of us were a bit disappointed since we were outnumbered and could not take over the ship and sail endlessly. Seriously, it was fantastic not having many people on board. Meals were never crowded. We never waited for a table, a good pool chair, a beach chair on the motu, or for a kayak. Once on the ship, there was no more long waits again.
We went to our room, 419, and it was fantastic. We had a very large window which was easy to see out of and let in tons of light. There was over a foot deep of shelf space in front of the window where we stored various stuff.
All cabins have a tiki statue in a little cubby in the entry hall of the room. He was the keeper of our leis, hats and sunglasses. Under the tiki was four pull out drawers.
The stateroom had more than enough closet space and cabinets to hold everything we had brought. In fact, we did not fill all the cabinet spaces. The mini bar consisted of the TV/VCR combo with 2 shelves on each side. Below was the counter space for fruit and anything else (2 liters of alcohol) and 4 small shelves for napkins, stirrers, and drink glasses. On each side were 2 cabinets (4 total), with wood doors. Below the semi-circular counter space was two round wood doors and a drawer. The 2 doors opened to reveal the fridge and small storage on the inside of the doors. Also in the room was a small round glass and wood table, a love seat, a round stool, and a queen size bed. It is not two smaller beds put together, but one single bed, with plenty of space underneath to store luggage. The bed was slightly firm since there was no box spring. There were 3 feather pillows and one foam. On one side of the bed was a thin vertical cabinet with the telephone on top and a pull out drawer which looked perfect for magazines. There was also a telephone jack labeled FAX. The other side of the bed had the same setup sans phone. On the opposite side of the bed from the loveseat table combo, there is a small vanity with 2 small pull out drawers and another round seat. There was also one large desk type pull out drawer beneath the vanity which houses the information booklet for the room - room service menu, phone details, etc. On either side are the closets for hanging clothes. We did not have enough hangers, but just asked and got more. The closets also have small shelves for storing t-shirts or shoes.
There are mirrors all over the room and bath - in fact nearly everywhere there is a mirror. The bath had a marble floor, sink and counter space. It is larger than some hotel bath rooms I've been in. The bathtub is very long and you can stretch out nicely. There is a removable shower head which worked really well. Inside the shower/tub is also a shelf in the back for snorkeling equipment or towels, and a line for hanging bathing suits to dry.
There are 2 tall vertical cabinets on either side of the sink for holding all your toiletries and a shelf behind the sink. Below the sink are 4 cabinets. One tilts outward and is your garbage can. The other 3 open regularly and there is plenty of room in them. You are supplied with large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion and bubble bath. There is face soap and glycerin soap. They also supply oatmeal bath soap, cotton balls, q-tips, and a hair dryer. Maid service is twice a day, or more often if you put out the "Service Please" tag on the door. They replaced everything, including towels, soda and ice in the fridge, etc.
The A/C control in your room has no calibration numbers, just a + and - with a dot representing the middle. So setting it to your liking is trial and error.
There is 110V US standard and 220V European standard outlets in the room, so you do not need a voltage converter or plug adaptor for your razor, video camera charger, curling iron, etc. - save the space and weight. There are two outlets of each type. One is located by the vanity and the other on the side of the mini bar, down near the floor. The bathroom has a special outlet for razors, but no other outlets. My wife had to do her hair drying and curling iron at the vanity.
The TV/VCR combo is NTSC meaning that Americans and Japanese can watch movies they bring from home, but Europeans can not since they use PAL. The TV/VCR combo also has RCA input jacks on the front so that you can plug in your still or video camera for viewing. Again, this will only work for those devices which work on NTSC standard. The unit is capable of recording if you bring a blank tape.
There were 2 channels showing the live bow view, 2 local channels when reception was available, and 2 current movie and 1 classic movie channels, duplicated in French on 3 more channels. There was also a channel which showed ship activity information and played port briefings (alternating between English and French). You can also get videos from the reception desk to watch in your room. There is no charge and they have a pretty large selection.
Telephone and E-mail
Making calls from your room to anywhere outside the ship costs $15 per minute. No, that is not a typo. There are no dime a minute calling plans. If you need to call home, you can purchase a calling card from the Reception Desk for $10 which gets you about 8 minutes when using a pay phone on any of the islands.
In the card room you can send e-mail. There are 2 computer terminals which run a very simple program which allows you to send e-mail. You can also receive e-mail, but not while you are on the computer. People can send you e-mail to the ship and they will print it out and put it in your door mail slot. Costs are $1.00 per 2kb, which is more than adequate unless you write novels. You can not attach photos or anything else. Strictly text.
The mini bar is stocked with drinks only, no snacks. For snacks, just dial up room service. If memory serves, there was one coke, diet coke, sprite, ginger ale, tonic water, a bottle of Budweiser, a can of Heini, and two waters. With the exception of the beer, everything is replenished daily. I asked for extra diet cokes and had 4 in there the next time. There is also a bucket of ice that is replenished daily.
The most motion is on the first night sailing and then on Wednesday night / Thursday morning sailing. Otherwise, we did not feel the ship's movement. From Raiatea to Tahaa is a very short cruise, as well as from Tahaa to Bora Bora. The stabilizing planes did a good job. You can always get motion sickness pills from the reception desk.
In general, you should never be disappointed with the menu selections. There are always plenty of things to choose from. And one thing we learned was that even if it is not on the menu, they will make it for you. We were told we could order anything from past menus, or just tell your waiter what you'd like to have. On several occasions, they substituted dishes for my wife.
This is the main dining room. It is only open for dinner. It is where you will have dinner unless you make reservations for La Veranda or Le Grill. There is a wide selection of choices every night, along with standards or "simple dishes" that are always available.
This restaurant is open for full breakfast and has most anything you can think of. You may order off the menu, or select items from the buffet, or both. This is where we ate every breakfast except for one day in our room.
Lunch here is usually a buffet with a different theme - pacific rim, French, Italian, American,… Again, this is where we chose to eat lunch when on the ship.
For dinner, the restaurant features 2 different French menus which alternate each night. You do not have choices. These are fixed menus prepared especially by Jean-Pierre Vigato. Having said that, they did substitute a salad for the Foie Gras (goose liver) at my wife's request. I doubt the chef would have liked it, but I'm sure she could have made substitutions for the main course had she chosen to do so. Unless you really love the menu, you would not want to dine here more than 2 times - once for each menu. The two menus are displayed outside so that you can see what you'll be served before deciding to make reservations.
Open for Light lunch and "Al Fresco" for dinner. We never got around to making reservations for this restaurant, and on Wednesday when we tried, they were all full for the rest of the week. However, we talked to some people who had eaten there for dinner and did not recommend it, so we were not too disappointed.
La Palette, the lounge, is open early for continental breakfast. Mostly croissants, fruit, tea and coffee. They also are open for about an hour each day for afternoon tea and snacks. Mainly fruit and croissants, and there was coffee served too. A lot like breakfast.
Breakfast is also served buffet style by the pool. It has all the items that La Veranda offers, plus omelets cooked to order. It did not have a menu to order from, so you could not get some dishes, such as pancakes, French toast, etc. I ate here once and was very satisfied.
Light snacks are served by the pool grill after lunch - usually from 2:30 - 5:00pm. This is set up for people who have come back late from tours and missed lunch. My wife and I stopped to eat here once thinking it was finger food and appetizers, or bar type snacks. Don't let the word snack fool you - by this they mean burgers, hot dogs, pizza, fish sandwiches, and all sorts of other stuff that I would consider lunch. We did not order anything, and instead went to La Palette for afternoon tea.
We had room service for breakfast once, dinner once and 3 other times for snacks (for me) and tea (for my wife). I could not get enough of the vegetarian spring rolls. If there is something you want and it is not on the room service menu, just ask. If you've seen it on the menu a few days before, ask. I wanted shrimp cocktail and even though it was not on the menu, they had no problem getting it. Service was quick. The one warning I have is that when you are done, place your tray outside the room, or else a couple hours later they will knock on your door to get it. Woke us up one time during a nap.
If you want breakfast in your room, you fill out a form which is left in your room each night during turn down service. Place the form outside the door before midnight and you'll have breakfast when you requested. The form is not perfect and we had to write in specifications on the side, like the type of tea, (mint), that we wanted, and that I wanted ketchup, etc. I was amazed that they got it perfect, even with all our picky changes.
Upon arrival in your room, there is a form on the mini bar where you are to fill out what type of alcohol you'd like for your room. One liter per person. There is a limited selection - mostly rum, vodka, scotch, etc. No choices for Kalua or Bailys. My stewardess also informed me that I could have asked for many (no number given) cans of beer in place of one liter, but since beer and wine are free at lunch and dinner, I declined. We did not meet anyone who drank all their 2 liters. In fact, many people did not even open their bottles and just took them home. I had 2 drinks and that was plenty.
It is not easy to actually purchase a drink. There were basically 3 types of events where free drinks were served. At the pool side parties there were usually two types of tropical drinks served - pina coladas, mi ties, rum punch, etc.
There were cocktail parties nearly every night where you were always served a glass of champagne as you entered to room. Many people thought only the champagne was free. However, anything you wanted from the bar was no charge during the party.
Then, on the motus, again, anything you wanted was free. Servers ran around getting drink orders, or you could hike over to the bar yourself.
At dinner, there was always a white and red wine served like water. I suppose if you hung out in the casino or the connoisseurs club, you'd probably want a drink and have to pay for it.
As a side note, we never saw anyone drunk. With all the free alcohol, no one took advantage to get drunk.
Dress for breakfast and lunch was very casual. I wore shorts with polo or button down short sleave shirts untucked, or shorts with a T-shirt if we were in a rush to have breakfast and then catch a tender to the island. Some men wore swimsuits and t-shirts. My wife tended to wear shorts and shirt tucked in, or sundresses. A couple times she wore her swim suit, but with a coverup.
For dinner, I wore nice pants with button down short sleave shirts, belt, and even socks with my shoes. Most of my shirts were flowery or Hawaiian style, as were many other men’s. Only wore a jacket for the captains dinner on Sunday night. My wife wore nice dresses or dress pants. I guess I should get her to write this part, but...
Of course, you had people dressed a bit more casual, and some a bit more formal, but overall the trend was toward casual.
It was a bit chilly in the restaurants, (and rest of ship), and my wife wore some type of coverup to keep her shoulders and arms warm.
One of our main concerns was that this being a French ship, and assuming there would be plenty of French people on board, we thought there would be lots of smoking on the ship. In fact, there were only 16 French people on our ship – but most of them did smoke. There were several other Americans who smoked too. However, we only detected the faint smell of smoke once in the hallways of the ship, and again on the beach.
The restaurants have a special section way off to the side for smokers. They are literally in a terrible area and well away from everyone else. So in a nutshell, you should not worry. No meals were ruined by smoke and our room smelled fresh.
People and Crew
We met so many nice people and really got to know them - much more than you could on a ship with 2000 people. Most everyone was a couple. There were a few people who had come alone, including an 80 year old woman who did more than most of the younger people. There were many honeymooners, about 15 couples celebrating anniversaries, (we included). 90% were Americans, with French and Canadians making up the rest.
Everyone was so down to earth. No Thurston Howell the 3rd types. Mostly The Professor and Mary-Ann types. For most people, this was an expensive vacation and not something they could afford to do multiple times a year. I guess all the really super rich have their own yachts, are too busy to take vacations, or would be on the round the world cruises.
The crew were amazing. After just a day or two, most all of them knew our names. We were always greeted by our name when entering the dining room or when passing staff members in the hallway. Everyone went out of their way to do whatever was necessary to make us happy. It was most evident in the stewardess we had for our room and the restaurant staff. Especially in the restaurant, you must be careful when looking up, lest they think you need something. I don't think we can ever eat in a restaurant back home again. I just can't imagine paying and tipping for service that is not even close to what is provided on this ship.
We never saw anyone tip for anything. It was nice not to have to dig into my wallet all the time, or making sure I had plenty of bills. Tipping on the islands is not encouraged. It is just not in their culture. I think the Americans who do tip are slowly changing their minds, but back in 1994, we were told that tipping was offensive since it was considered a bribe. Won't find that attitude in the Caribbean.
Never went in. Usually saw about 3-4 people in there - the same 3-4 the entire cruise.
Again, did not go in for the brandy and cigars.
We did not utilize the spa for anything. However, we did take a peek at the steam room, whose use is complimentary. All you have to do is stop by and sign up for a half hour session and you get the steam room and adjacent shower all to yourself.
Unless you want a shirt or hat with the Radisson or Paul Gauguin ship logo, don't waste your money at this overpriced store.
You will probably visit this place as much as any other except the restaurants. This is where you can have all your questions answered. They also have free postcards - although they are all the same one of the ship. They will mail one postcard for you complimentary. However, if you buy stamps from them, they will mark them up 50%. The reception desk also has the videos and you can get a copy of your billing statement anytime from them.
Our room, 419, was very near the reception desk, the excursion desk, and just one floor above the gangway where you get off the ship. It was also just below and very near the grand ballroom which is where you must meet before leaving the ship for an excursion. We always seemed to be in a rush just before the tours left, so it was convenient to have our room so close to the ballroom.
The excursion desk is right next to the Reception desk. On the first Saturday night, they open at 9:00pm to take reservations for all the tours during the week. If there is any line you must wait in, it will be here at 9:00. I highly recommend that you be there a few minutes before 9:00 and have the tour form all filled out. Some of the popular tours fill up quick, There is a form in your room, or you can pick one up at the excursion desk anytime - even when they are closed. You must select which tours you want and sign your name. If you are a couple, you both must sign this form. When you get your pre cruise packet from Radisson, a list of all the tours will be included so that you can decide even before getting to the ship.
One thing we noticed is that the excursions were being offered on the shore at far cheaper prices. One tour on Bora Bora that we paid $60 per person for was advertised at $25. Now this is with a different tour operator, and since we did not do it, we can not say what you get, but it looked like the same type of tour.
Located on deck 4 (actually 3, but you get to it via deck 4) and just down the hall from our room, is the Marina. We went there on Sunday and got fitted for our snorkeling gear. They put it in a mesh bag for you to carry. You can keep it in your room or return it back to them each time. You can also water ski and kayak off the ship's marina. We did neither off the ship, but too the kayak around one of the motus when we were there.
The entertainment director Michael Collins was great. He did the best he could with so few people. There is not much emphasis placed on nightly entertainment, and I can't blame them since many people were exhausted and went right to sleep after dinner.
There was a British magician / comedy team that was not all that funny. Mostly sexual related British humor, which I usually tend to like. The magic wasn't fantastic either. Most of it was the basic stuff that my 4 year old could figure out. However, there were people who liked their show, so my opinions are strictly mine and since there is nothing else to do, you should see them once, (they have 2 shows, one aptly titled "The world's worst magician.")
Another night the cruise director sang some show tunes and it was really good. The shows only last 30 minutes or so, and of course, I'm sure they change when a new director comes aboard (which is approx every 2 months).
The enrichment talks are fantastic. See them all if you can. These people know what they are talking about and give effective casual presentations where you will learn more than you ever wanted.
Hal Fraser is a great pianist. We got to have dinner with him one night and he is a very interesting fellow to dine and talk with. He loves his work and is in his element playing piano on this cruise ship. Make sure you get to hear him at least once. Unfortunately, not many people stay up till 11:00pm to hear him, but he does play at other times during the day too.
On one deck, can't remember which one, there are tables with games that you can play, such as trivial pursuit or chess. There is also a communal puzzle, which was completed by the end of the cruise. Unfortunately, there were several missing pieces. The library is not really a quiet place to go to read. It consists of bookshelves along a hall where there is a fairly good selection of books. Not many people had the time to read.
What Costs Extra?
I got a lot of questions from people asking what is exactly included in the cruise price, and what costs extra. Here is my list that I am sure is not complete:
Mini bar items.
Sodas, tea, and water.
Any drink during parties or at motus.
Beer and wine during lunch and dinner, unless you ask for special wine. There is one Red and one White selected for each meal which is complementary.
Special reservations at the alternative restaurants.
Marina activities, such as water skiing, kayaking or snorkeling equipment.
All tips - including the room service guy who makes 10 trips a day bringing you food.
Excursions except the Tahiti one on the last day.
$10 one time fee for using the casino.
SPA treatments, except for the complimentary use of the steamroom.
Sending or receiving e-mails and your phone calls.
Medicine and consultation fees if you need to see the doctor.
Photos, stamps, etc. (obviously).
ON SHORE - THE ISLANDS AND EXCURSIONS
We had perfect weather the entire time. We got a small shower for about 10 minutes one day, and it was a bit windy on another day. Other than that, we had clear to partly cloudy days and nights, with the daytime temps around 87-90 F and the nighttime temps around 78 F. Evidently, the week before had seen more rain. The one negative about not much rain is that the waterfalls on the smaller islands are not as impressive, or non-existent.
The Paul Gauguin does not dock except at Papeete, so you must take the tender to each island. She anchors in the harbors fairly close to where the tenders dock which makes for short rides. Some people would prefer to be docked; however, then you do not get as good a view of the surrounding island.
Tenders were prompt and we never had one so full that we had to wait until the next one.
Saturday May 11
Once on board, I walked just down the hall and booked our shore excursions, and then came back to the room and showered. Liz had already done some unpacking and showered. We then went to dinner at L'Etoile and had the lobster. After dinner, we went up to the pool deck and there was a bon voyage party going on. Two kinds of free drinks were being served - one banana, orange rum drink, and another one made with Baileys which tasted like a milkshake. They kept them coming to you or you could pick them up yourself from a table. The cruise director did a little talk, and then a band played pop music and Les Gaugines danced with the crowd.
We left the dock around 10:00 pm. It was a beautiful clear night with temps around 85F and the southern cross was easy to spot. It was actually a bit chilly out on deck near the railings where the bridge did not block the wind.
Sunday May 12
Today was the day of the mandatory lifeboat drill - good thing we did not hit an iceberg or anything in the night. It is nice that they don't keep the life vests in the rooms. They are located in lockers on deck. Don't forget the lock combination - just kidding. Before lunch, there was a show on deck called the "Children of Raiatea" where the local children come and dance. It was really nice and should not be missed. We had lunch quickly and left to catch the tender for our first tour excursion - the Faaroa river and island exploration.
Once at the dock, we boarded a motorized outrigger canoe. We had about a 35 minute ride around the perimeter of the island, which was rough and wet. It was a very windy day and the seas were choppy. With every wave the boat hit, we were showered with a rain of salt spray. Once in the river, it was very calm and tropical. We said it looked like the REAL jungle cruise at Disney. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 10 minutes since the river gets shallow quickly and they must turn around. Also, the woman tour guide in the boat was very loud, and we were right next to her in the front row. She bellowed the entire boat ride, even in the river portion where you just want quiet and to be able to take in the tranquil serenity. She was a nice lady, but most of her screaming had nothing to do about what you were looking at. It was a lot about the plight of the tour guides and shop owners who were suffering now that the Ren ships were not making the trip.
After our brief time in the river, we were back out in the open waters and headed toward another dock. Once back on land, we got some fresh fruit which was served. We listened to a talk, (different guide) on the sacred ruins where the ancient Polynesians performed human sacrifices. Then we got into a jeep (8 of us, 4 to a side) and toured the island. It was a beautiful and very green island. Our tour guide, (not the woman from the boat) was fantastic. He stopped many times to get out and show us the different flowers, fruit, etc. He showed us how to make a big plate from the hibiscus leaves, and how to use the bark as a rope for climbing coconut trees. The guides driving the other jeeps were not as good and did not stop often enough.
We recommend that you talk to some of the tour guide drivers a little before selecting which jeep to take. Some of the drivers speak much better English than the others. The quality of the tour was greatly dependent upon the guide.
Some people will have the jeep tour first, and then take the boat ride. Just depends on what time you take the tour.
Once back, there was only one pearl shop open near the tender dock. Otherwise, we were told all other shops on the island were closed for Sunday and that there was nothing to do.
We made it to the captains cocktail party and then had dinner with the cruise director Michael Collins and the social hostess Claudia Gomez De Souza. We had been randomly selected to dine with them. We had Maine lobster that night and it was excellent. Dinner took 2 hours, but that is how we wanted it. After dinner we say the magic comedian show.
Monday May 13
Tahaa (motu Mahana)
Here you can go to Tahaa and/or the private motu. The island is great for taking a tour and seeing the tropical foliage and views from high above in the mountains. The motu is where you go to be on the nice sandy beach and have lunch.
Woke up this morning just in time to go on deck and watch the sunrise. We had not booked a tour for today, but thought we'd go ashore and rent a car. However, we were told that this was not possible since there were no car rentals on the island. Luckily, there was still room in the 4x4 jeep tour. It was leaving in 10 minutes, so we scrambled to get ready.
We tendered over to the island and took a wonderful 3.5 hour jeep tour. We made sure to be seated last so that we sat in the back of the jeep. They seat 4 to 6 people per side in the back of the jeep, just like all the jeep tours do. Our guide did many of the things the previous guide had done. We stopped at a beautiful overlook and took photos. They also had fresh fruit for us and some of the guides played music and danced. After, we toured a pearl farm and learned how they cultivate the pearls. Next we went to a vanilla bean farm and had a tour of it. We had more fruit and juice. TIP: Buy your gift vanilla beans at the pearl farm - not the vanilla bean farm. The reason is that the prices are the same, but at the pearl farm, they are packaged in bamboo tubes and at the vanilla farm they are in plastic tubes. In the bamboo tubes, they make perfect gifts.
Tahaa was our favorite island since it seemed the most primitive and remote. We called it the anti-Honolulu.
Once the tender got back to the ship, we only had 15-20 minutes to get ready to catch the other tender to the motu. At the motu, we got a drink from the floating bar even before we were off the dock. The glasses had long pointed bottoms for sticking them in the sand. They had a BBQ lunch for everyone buffet style which consisted of burgers, chicken, steak, and plenty of fish, along with salads, desserts, and of course fresh fruit. There were plenty of picnic tables under the shade and lots of shade areas to relax in. We spent the next few hours snorkeling in the lagoon and kayaking around the motu.
Once back on the ship, we had another cocktail party to attend. This one was only for those people who booked through a Virtuoso travel agent. If you did this, then you are automatically a member of the Voyager club. Here we met one of their representatives who happened to be on the cruise and we learned that we were getting a free tour of Moorea, (if we wanted to take it). There were only 15 of us on this cruise. We walked down some spiral stairs to where we had reservations at La Veranda. It was one of two alternating French menu nights. The meal was wonderful and the service even better.
After dinner, we went to the show put on by cruise director Michael Collins where he sang show tunes. This was one of the better nights of entertainment.
Tuesday May 14
Bora Bora is the most touristy island and the people were not as friendly as on the other islands. There were tenders taking people to Bora Bora for shopping and tours, and another tender taking people to a semi-private motu for relaxing on the beach. The entire motu was not owned by Radisson, but the part of it where they dropped you off was still private.
We had a wonderful breakfast in La Veranda out on deck, but under cover and in the shade. One side of the ship is usually in the shade and one in the sun during breakfast. But it was never so crowded that we could not get a shady seat outside.
After breakfast, we took the tender to the island for the Bora Bora off road adventure. The tour was 3.5 hours long and was very bumpy. They warn you extensively about how bumpy it is and they are not kidding. We went up to 3 different peaks with fabulous overlooks. We stopped at a black pearl store and also at Bloody Mary's restaurant, but did not have time to eat there. If you buy a drink, down it fast because you are immediately on another bumpy road after the stop.
We felt the tour was OK. I think we were all jeeped out after having done the other two. If you don't do the jeep tours on Raiatea or Tahaa, then you definitely should do it on Bora Bora since it had the most scenic views.
If you rent a car, you will not be able to take it up to these views. The cars are too small and low to the ground to make it over the rugged terrain. So the only way is to hike up or take the tour. Plus, it is not evident where the roads are that lead to the outlooks.
Lunch back on the ship was Italian buffet. It was very good. But again, if you just want grilled fish, or a burger, you can get that ordered too.
When you book your cruise, there is a form you have to fill out and send in. On that form, they ask if you are celebrating any special event. Our travel agent put on ours that we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary, even though it is not until October. We had no idea what, if anything, would be done. But one of the notices in our cabin mail slot was an invitation to an anniversary party on the back deck. It was great, and I recommend to everyone having an anniversary, to put that on your form. We had cocktails and snacks, and a simple Tahitian ceremony was performed and your photo taken. Also, a special Tahitian love poem was read in Tahitian, French and English. They brought out a big cake, and of course, champagne. We sat out there and just talked to some other couples well past sunset.
We had another wonderful dinner at L'Etoile.
That night there was a special tender for anyone who wanted to have dinner at Bloody Marys. We choose not to go, and only about 20 people did so. After talking with a few of them, the consensus was that it was fun and the food was good, but they all sort of had second thoughts as to why they overpaid for fresh fish when they could have gotten it for no charge on the ship with much better service.
Wednesday May 15
This morning after breakfast, we took the tender to the island and we rented a car for 4 hours. We drove around the island stopping every so often at little shops and to take photos. Even with all the stopping we did, we still had plenty of time left on our 4 hour rental.
We then took the tender back to the ship and had the French buffet lunch. We hopped on another tender to the motu. Rather than the usual tender, this was a landing craft type because there was no dock and they just drove right up onto the beach and dropped the front door. We snorkeled a bit, although it was better on the Motu Mahana. There was no food served on this motu, only drinks. Also, there was some shade, but also more mosquitoes. This was the only place during the entire trip where I was bitten by mosquitoes. We had to move away from the bushes and trees and towards the waters edge to be free of them.
Once back on the ship, we listened to the enrichment talk on the Polynesians and their history, migration and culture.
Tonight we got room service for dinner. We also filled out the form to have breakfast in the room the next morning.
Thursday May 16
Breakfast was delivered right on time and exactly as ordered, even with all our quirky modifications.
This morning, the ship was circumnavigating Marlon Brando's island, and many people were up on deck to view it. We also had a great view from the cabin window. I've read in another review that the cabins on the right side (odd numbers) have the better views, and I would agree.
Around 11:15, as we were sailing into Cook's Bay, we went on deck for the pool party where they were serving Mi Tias, Bloody Marys, and snacks. The ship does not anchor until around noon, so they provide this party to keep the natives from getting restless. The band was playing and Les Gaugines were dancing. There was also some activities, including shell bracelet and necklace making.
Lunch today was American buffet, which was not as good as the French or Italian, but I still found plenty of things that I enjoyed.
After lunch, we took a tender into Moorea. Our biggest complaint or disappointment about the entire trip was the small group, (7-10), of people accosting us just off the pier where the tender lands. They all wanted to drive us to their pearl shop free of charge. The fact that the Ren cruise ships went under, and that the Club Med was closed had driven demand down and now all the shops were hurting for business. However, you don't have much options unless you want to rent a car or take a taxi, which can be more expensive than renting a car. There are no big shops within walking distance. We wound up taking a free ride over to one of the shops, where we actually found very cheap prices. As much as I hated being accosted by the drivers, they are very nice and will let you shop at other pearl stores. They even brought some people to other shops, after visiting their own of course. You'll probably have a short wait before they take you back to the pier, so ask for the ride back about 10 minutes before you are ready.
Tonight we had dinner at La Veranda for the second French menu. This one, as with the first, was fantastic.
If you have any electronic devices that need their batteries recharged, do it tonight.
Friday May 17
Moorea & Papeete, Tahiti
Today we left around 9:00am for our free circle island tour that was being offered to Voyager members. First we stopped at a pearl shop a block down the road where we learned the same stuff we'd heard before. The tour stops at the Sofitel lookout, Belvedere lookout and the liquor plant where you can try samples of the different alcohols they make. Unlike our tour 8 years before, there was no actual tour of the production line. Afterwards, we had a wonderful lunch at the new Sheraton. The food was great, but we'd been so spoiled on the ship that we wondered where the waiter was when he had not shown up 10 seconds after we'd sat down.
Once back on the ship we did a little packing before dinner. This being the last night on the ship, we had to have our luggage packed and outside the rooms by 1:00am. We had dinner with Hal Fraser the pianist, and another couple.
After dinner, we viewed the nights entertainment which was a farewell show including all the performers. Then we had the sad task of finishing our packing.
Saturday May 18
Some people were scheduled to fly out Friday night, but we had chosen to fly out Saturday night. Radisson offers a free "Gauguin Footsteps" tour of Tahiti, lunch, and use of a hotel room for the afternoon, since the flight does not leave until 10:45 pm. Those in the cheaper rooms get to stay at the Intercontinental Beachcomber hotel, and the others stay at the Meridien, which is a newer hotel. You could choose to skip the tour and go directly to t