And away we go! Here's the first part of my travelogue with some pictures. However, I'm using another photo share site, because the "revised" photobucket is too confusing to use.
The summarized itinerary of our 26-day cruise from December 19, 2008, until January 14, 2009:
Some stats on the Tahitian Princess:
This is the same ship that Oceania Cruise uses with the same floor plan. It holds about 680 passengers, and moves at about 18 knots (about 20.7 mph). When this cruise went on sale, it sold out, but when the economy started to tank, many people canceled. We had only 618 passengers for this cruise. They have open seating for breakfast and lunch, but fixed seating for dinner at 6:15 and 8:15. We sat at a table for eight. There are two alternative restaurants; a steakhouse that charges a $15 fee (where we had dinner three times), and an Italian restaurant also charges a $15 fee (never tried it), plus the buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snack. They also have an open grill on deck 9 where you can order hamburger, hot dog or sausage. The quality and variety of food offered was excellent, and one can order as many dishes as one pleases. Greg, my roommate, ate seven lobsters for dinner in one sitting. All the kitchen and dining room staff numbers around 150, and the people consumes about four tons of food every day. There is a small swimming pool on the 9th deck with two jacuzzi pools (where I have spent a few hours on several occasions when the weather was hot). I also spent time in the gym to ride the stationary bike a handful of times and was able to reach burning 200 calories in 30 minutes. When we booked this cruise, we were assigned stateroom 6041 which is an outside stateroom, but blocked view from the tenders. However, when we arrived at the ship in Papeete, we got stateroom 6051 with a balcony. There are ten levels on the ship, but passenger staterooms start on the 3rd deck.
The staff on the ship comes from around the globe, but the majority from the Philippines. There are a few from the US, Balkans, India and Europe. Many staff work 14-hour days. The dancers and singers on the ship was medeocre, but most of the professionals were above average to excellent. Duncan Tuck, a guitar player-singer was one of the best. I even purchased one of his CDs. The best show (in my opinion) was the cultural show put on by Peruvians when we were in port of Callao.
All alcoholic and soft drinks have an additional “service” charge of 15% added to the bill. They also charge for special coffees such as cappuccino and espresso. Beers cost about $5, house wine $6.33, and vodka martini $8.91. Most mixed drinks sell for $6.75 to $7.75 plus the 15%.
The cruise line adds $10.50 per day ($273 for 26 days) per passenger for staff tips, but this is “optional.”
This is the first Panama Canal transit for the Tahitian Princess, and the first time cruising the Atlantic Ocean since its inaugural cruise nine years ago. They will be changing the name of the ship to Ocean Princess before they begin their world cruise this year.
Our first travel day wasn't too bad compared to many who came from the mid-west and East Coast of the US. We had about fifty percent British with the other half made up of Americans, Australians, Canadians, Panamanians, and a few others from other countries.
When we landed at the Papeete airport at 7:30PM, and after processing through customs, collecting our luggage, and getting on the bus, we arrived at the ship at 8:30PM. After a quick check into our stateroom on deck 6, we went down to the dining room (on deck 5) for our first meal on the ship.
The places we had port of calls or anchored were Moorea, Bora Bora, 3-days at sea, Pitcairn Island (anchored only), 2-days at sea, Easter Island, 4-days at sea, San Martin, Peru; Callao (Lima), 1-day at sea, Manta, Ecuador; 1-day at sea; Panama Canal and Colon; San Blas Island; Limon, Costa Rica, 3-days at sea, then Ft Lauderdale and our flight home.
Dec 20, Moorea: Greg and I rented an Avis car to drive ourselves around the one-road island for $74 after we tendered in from the boat to the northern village of Papetoai. We invited a lady from York, England (we were seat mates on the flight from Los Angeles to Papeete), to join us, and she did. The language is French and Tahitian, but many speak English " especially in the tourist areas. Although the currency is French Pacific Francs, most business also accept US dollars. The island is shaped like an isosceles triangle with two mountain ranges. The one word that describes Moorea is “beautiful.” It's lush green landscape with the turquoise water surrounding it is this side of paradise, and the clouds added to the beauty.
As we left the port area, we drove clock-wise around the island. Our first stop was Belvedere Mountain to get an excellent view of the harbor, then on the way back to the main road, we stopped at a location where the natives used to make human sacrifice. We stopped at a location where we saw a bus tour, and do we also stopped and saw what they were looking at. A group of bungalows that sits on the water they rent out at $300 to $500 a night. In addition to the beautiful sites, we stopped at a beach front restaurant-bar for drinks where we sat with a young couple from New Zealand on their way to PA for the holidays to visit with the wife's family. We sat at a table under the shade of a tree to enjoy the expanse of turquoise water with a long stretch of white sand beach with mountains in the background. We also stopped at a Catholic church for some picture-taking. A bus tour group also stopped to visit. At $33 each for Greg and I for the car rental and fuel, it was a bargain.
Arriving at Moorea.
Sacred site where they performed human sacrifice.
Bungalows on water.
Rest stop for refreshments.
Nice talking to a couple from New Zealand.
Bye bye to Moorea.