Rangiora for beautiful pearls, Bora Bora for beautiful beaches and Papeete the capital of Tahiti! French Polynesia is the largest exporter of cultured pearls in the world, and it's amazing to watch the freedivers swim to the bottom of the ocean to harvest them.
From Fakarava it was another 2 days at sea before we got to Rangiora. Compared to our last two stops, Rangiora is huge! With about 2500 people and an economy based on tourism and pearl harvesting, we thought this would be a great stop. However, it was very hot and there were no excursions available so we shopped around and headed back to the ship. Rangiora is also an atoll, much different than a Volcanic island; more like a sandbar with a reef around it, so again as the water rises this and other atoll's are in danger of disapearing. Check out the YouTube video below and check out the guy with the tattoos. Our boat attendant, a local fellow, is tattooed from head to foot including his big toes.
Off to Bora Bora. We have two days in Bora Bora. The first day we arrived around noon went ashore and found a bus to take us around the Island. The tour was great except it sounded like the bus had a bearing going, so says Cyril our mechanic friend! Oceania tenders passengers off the ship in Bora Bora, and on the second day, we waited in the lounge for about 20 minutes. All I could think about was the three-hour delay we had on Easter Island and started feeling annoyed at 8.00 a.m. when we were expected ashore by our tour, but we managed to get off by 8.20.
We booked an excursion for a three lagoon snorkelling trip a beach stop and lunch with Maohi Nui Bora Bora owned and operated by Patrick Tairua. Our guide, Aea was amazing and the day was spectacular. We had the best snorkelling adventure we have had so far, including Hawaii, The Caribbean, and The Great Barrier Reef; the camera worked perfectly. The camera didn’t work well earlier in the trip and it was because I hadn’t pushed the memory card full in. Another good tip is to remember to bring another battery for your camera.
We boarded the ship about 2.00 p.m. on the afternoon of the second day and headed to our final port of call Papeete, Tahiti, where we arrived early, about 6 a.m. We would need to figure out how to spend the day here as Oceania had not laid on any sightseeing excursions. We were told that we could store our hand luggage at City Hall which was a hotel too. We asked for directions at the front desk on board however nobody including the cruise director seemed to know where the City Hall was. We finally found the hotel went in and were told we could not leave our stuff there, and later on, we discovered that other people had been able to. I was very disappointed in Oceania for this mix-up. I also was disappointed that they had nothing planned for their passengers in Tahiti while they waited 10 to 12 hours for their flights. Most of the other cruise lines we have been on have activities arranged if you are waiting around that long. Anyway, we had made arrangements with a company to take us around the island for a couple of hours; they even dropped us off at the airport. BTW, Oceania wanted $129.00 to transport us to the airport when you could get a taxi for less than $50.00. I guess it pays to check into a few things before you accept what the cruise lines offer you. We flew home Tahiti Air; very little leg room and typical airline food to Los Angeles then WestJet to Vancouver.
Because of Oceania's global reputation as a high-end cruise line as well as the itinerary for this trip, we had high expectations that this was going to be an amazing vacation. We had heard about how good the food on board was and we were told by many how good the service and entertainment was. The list of excursions offered by Oceania looked great and we planned to book while on board ship.
Turns out we were rather disappointed in the overall cruise. We have travelled with a number of different cruise lines over the years, and Oceania didn't stand-out like their reputation would suggest from other cruise lines, in fact, we would say that there are other cruise lines that cost less and deliver more. In addition, and to no fault of Oceania, there was way too much time at sea. This 18-day cruise saw us at sea for 11 days.
The food at the regular restaurants on board was comparable to some of the cruise lines we have traveled with in the past but again, didn't stand out as anything spectacular. The specialty restaurants were very nice but somehow we didn’t realise that although you needed a reservation at the specialty restaurants, you could eat at them every day without any extra charge if you wanted to. Our friend Johanne had booked us for four dinners, one in each specialty restaurant but once we were on board we realized that we could have booked the specialty restaurants more often. The service in all of the restaurants and rooms was really good; pretty much the same as the other cruise ships we have been on. We had room service almost every afternoon with a pot of coffee and cookies while we either sat on the balcony or watched a movie.
Our room was really nice, a bit bigger than some of the rooms we have had before and the balcony was to die for. The washroom was exceptional and complete with a tub and a shower. Housekeeping staff were very attentive and had a great sense of humour. Didn’t think much of the front desk and destination desk staff either and two of the speakers Oceania provided did not present engaging information and left a lot to be desired unless you really needed a nap.
In conclusion, Ray and I would have a hard time recommending Oceania and this itinerary unless the list price for this cruise was heavily discounted.