Ocean Princess Liner Cruise from Tahiti - French Polynesia

By Nigel Waring

Australia is a great place to live but because it is so isolated you soon run out of nearby new places to visit. Our last holiday was to French Polynesia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is also known as Tahiti which is the main island in the Windward Islands, the other islands in this group are Moorea, Maiao, Tetiaroa and Mehetia. The Leeward Islands to the west include Huahine, Raiatea, Tahao, Bora Bora and Maupiti along with some uninhabited islands. Collectively the Windward and Leeward Islands are known as The Society Islands.

We visited six of the islands traveling on the cruise liner Ocean Princess, a small ship of just over 30,000 tonnes that carries about 800 passengers. The ship was originally built for the luxury line Renaissance Cruises but they got into financial difficulties the ship was taken over by The Carnival Group and allocated to The Princess Line. Because of its origin it tends to be rather more luxurious than the average cruise liner with natural wood paneling, quality fittings and a bit more than average passenger space.

Our journey started from Sydney with an early morning flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland. To avoid an early morning rush we arrived at the airport the day before and spent the night in the new Rydges Airport Hotel which was only about 200 metres from the check-in desk. We had the choice of two breakfasts, the one provided by the hotel and a second one in the Air New Zealand lounge, we decided to be greedy and have a bit of each. We did not have very long to wait in Auckland before boarding our Air Tahiti Nui flight to Papeete. The total flying time was a very pleasant eight and a half hours with good service and meals on both airlines. We had a couple of nights in the Tahiti Nui Hotel before joining the Ocean Princess Liner in Papeete Harbour. Princess Cruises and other can be booked via Cruise Direct

The boarding procedure was very quick and we were in our suite with a few minutes. It was a very pleasant surprise to find a few crew members that we had met on other Princess Cruises. Our accommodation was very comfortable with plenty of room for us to move around with lots of space to store our clothes and other belongings. We did not sign up for the Internet service, it is expensive and rather slow, one more cruise with Princess and we will qualify for 250 minutes of free Internet each week, that should be enough to check our emails and a quick glance at a few of our favourite websites. Before we made too much mess we took a few pictures of the room. Plenty of space in this room to store our three suitcases and other belongings, all the facilities of a normal hotel such as room service are available. We enjoy a larger room where we can move around without bumping into each other.

Ocean Princess Bedroom Lounge in Ocean Princess bedroom
There is also a nice lounge with large windows which leads to the balcony, we tend to spend most of our time around the ship or visiting whatever port we are in. The rest of the ship is worth a quick tour, it is very tastefully decorated and quite comfortable.
Luxury Lounge on Ocean Princess Cruise
Each deck has its own décor style, this is just one of them. When you want a bit of peace and quiet there’s always the ship’s library. As well as a good range of books you can find the daily crossword and other puzzles in here along with extra copies of the Ship’s Newspaper, Port Notes and anything else of interest.
 Library in Ocean Princess Cruise
We joined the Ocean Princess in the afternoon, it remained in port overnight and most of the next day to allow refueling and provisions to be taken on board.
Princess Cruises and many others can be booked via Cruise Direct.
Le Jardins de Paofi - Downtown Papeete in Tahiti - French Polynesia
Le Jardins de Paofi  in Downtown Papeete Le Jardins de Paofi in Papeete Le Jardins de Paofi in Tahiti

This park or gardens “Le Jardins de Paofi” seem to have been constructed in recent years and are very welcome. Downtown Papeete can be very busy and noisy, this area is an oasis of peace and quiet, the gardens are very well maintained. There are quite a number of coconut trees but be careful, a coconut full of milk can be quite heavy, two or three kilograms, not a good thing to have landing on your head from a height of three or four metres. Incidentally the coconut is a native of the Malaysian Peninsula, the coconuts or seeds are thought to have drifted to many places over tens of thousands of years.

Here are a few scenes of Papeete taken from the liner as we were beginning our cruise.

Papeete from Ocean Princess Cruise Liner Papeete from Ocean Princess Cruise Ship Papeete from Ocean Princess Liner
The Island of Huahine in French Polynesia
Our next port of call was the island of Huahine, known as the wild island about 160 Kms from Papeete. It is made up of two islands Huahine Nui (Big Island) and Huahini Iti (Little Island) which have a bridge between them. Both islands are surrounded by a deep lagoon with coral around the edges; they both have lovely white sand beaches. Apart from tourism the main industry is vanilla plantations, there is also a small pearl farm. The indigenous peoples of these islands had their own religion, however the missionaries tried to remove all traces of it but on this island a few of their rock altars remain. White flowers are also found throughout this island. Another attraction here is a museum which displays a few local items but there is little in the way of descriptions.
Huahine Island Rock Altars White Flowers on Island of Huahine Museum on Island of Huahine

The main industry on this and other islands is growing vanilla plants. It is labour intensive but provides a return of around $300 per kilo and is regarded as the finest in the world. It is derived from a Mexican Orchid and the word ‘vanilla’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘Vaina’ meaning little pod. The plants were introduced to Tahiti in fairly recent times but they did not include the wasp that they rely on for pollination, as a result the plants have to be hand pollinated by humans, the timing is critical and is only effective for two to three hours which has to be determined by the skill of the farmers. There are many small plantations like these but because of the danger of introducing infections few are open to tourists.

Another small industry on the island is fishing, they use rock fish traps. Simply the tide comes in and covers the traps, when it goes out the fish are caught in the traps, it seems to work well.There is also a small eel industry but we suspect that the following are fed to keep them in the area for the benefit of tourists.

Vanilla Plants on Huahine Tahiti Fish Traps on Huahine Tahiti Eels on Huahine Tahiti
Here’s a few photographs of the Huahine Lagoon and Bay
Lagoon and Huahine Bay Huahine Bay - Tahiti Huahine Bay
Island of Rangiroa in French Polynesia

Our next port was the island of Rangiroa which means ‘huge sky’; it is one of the four largest atolls in the world. There are large coral reefs and gardens which are home to many tropical fish which makes it a great area for snorkeling or for those with licenses scuba diving equipment is available. Like most tourist areas the fish are encouraged to stay with regular feeding, just as we arrived there was a feeding frenzy going on.

Later we had a ride in a glass bottom boat where we saw large number of different species of fish.

Fish Feeding Frenzy Fish from Glass Bottom Boat Glass Bottom Boat - Fish View
As well as the life in the sea Rangiroa has quite a lot of vegetation.
The view from the liner as we left Rangiroa was beautiful.
Rangiroa Flora Leaving Rangiroa View from Ocean Princess Leaving Rangiroa
Raiatea Island in French Polynesia

Apart from Papeete our next port, Raiatea was the only one with a wharf where the liner could tie up, at all the others the liner would anchor and its lifeboats would be used as tenders to take passengers ashore. This is a little inconvenient but it does mean that the crew has plenty of practice in using the lifeboats.Historically, Raiatea was the capital of French Polynesia in terms of royalty, religion and culture. The main town, Uturoa has a population of around 10,000 and in general the island has more infrastructure than any other does. Most South Pacific nations receive foreign aid from nearby countries and these help with development and construction but because technically French Polynesia is part of France they do not qualify for this aid. Raiatea does seem to be quite prosperous with a large contribution from the local Chinese population who have created a medium sized market garden industry. There is also a Black Pearl Farm, most of the output is exported but they did not impress us, they made us think of them as ‘ball-bearings on a string’.

On arrival in Raiatea we a greeted by a traditional thatched roof building. The town centre is very modern with sealed roads together with kerbing and guttering. The Wharf Centre is a European style building and the wharf area has a nice well kept park. As with almost all Pacific Islands the are chickens. Our boat can be seen from the town centre.

Raiatea Wharf Park Wharf Centre in Raiatea Building in Raiatea
Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Ocean Princess Cruise Ship in French Polynesia View from Ocean Princess Cruise Ship
After lunch we visited the countryside where we found a few flowers and the Bread Fruit – Captain William Bligh would have known a bit about this.
Wild Flowers on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Flowers on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Bread Fruit on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia
Rock Altar on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Rock Altar at Raiatea Island in French Polynesia
Some more Rock Altars that survived the missionaries
Later some of the locals gave us a dance demonstration on board our ship.
A good view of a couple of volcanic hills as we leave Raiatea on the ship.
Dancers on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Volcanic Hill on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia Volcanic Hill on Raiatea Island in French Polynesia
Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia
Another Bread Fruit greets us when we arrive at Bora Bora probably one of the better known of the Tahitian Islands because of the American Base which was used between 1942 and 1946. Like the other islands Bora Bora is not over-developed.
Bread Fruit on Bora Bora Bora Bora Shop and Main Street
We traveled around the 22 mile Circle Island Tour in Le Truck which is simply a truck converted to carry passengers.One of our first stops was at Bloody Mary’s. This bar, with sand floors and coconut stumps for seats is quite famous. Many well known people have visited this bar and have their names displayed on the board at the entrance. Bloody Mary’s was being renovated but they did allow us to walk around and of course their souvenir shop was open. This version of Bloody Mary’s was based on the Musical and Movie South Pacific, not the other way around, this one was built around 1948 long after the Americans had closed the naval base.
Inside Tour Bus on Bora Bora Bloody Marys in Bora Bora Bloody Mary’s Notice Board in Bora Bora
Here we have one of the traditional hotels. Of the two rooms shown one was used by Marlon Brando when he made the film “Mutiny on the Bounty” and the other by his fried Jack Nicholson who bought Brando’s Tahitian Estate when he died. There is plenty of Flora on Bora Bora. There are also many contraptions around Bora Bora and some of the other islands, used to lift boats out of the water which is infested with a worm that can easily chew through timber.
Bora Bora HUts Bora Bora Hotel Lifted Boat in Bora Bora
Bora Bora Flora Bora Bora Flowers
Group of Passengers from Ocean Princess in Bora Bora

Left: This is a few people from our tour group, the gentleman at the far end had been on 35 cruises with Princess Line.
Right: Fishermen selling their catch in the main street. Don’t think they were having much luck, none seem to have been sold during the entire day, fishing is quite easy around here, a good catch can be made with just a hand line.

Fish for sale in Bora Bora
Sere are ome pictures of the main street, no kerb and guttering but it is kept clean and tidy. This is part pf the 22 mile road that runs around the island.The Tourist Bureau which has a traditional thatched roof, seems that these stand up to the monsoons really well.
Main Street in Bora Bora Bora Bora Main Street Tourist Bureau in Bora Bora
Island of Moorea in French Polynesia
A brief visit our last island Moorea. One of the oldest buildings on the island, the local church built by the missionaries many years ago. Several buildings in this area are decorated. The locals are very keen to preserve the appearance of their island whilst keeping up with modern facilities. This looks like an average palm tree but if you look close you will see that it is a disguised mobile phone tower.
Moorea Church in Tahiti Decorated House in Tahiti Disguised Mobile Phone Tower in Tahiti
Moorea Harbourside View from Ocean Princess cruise ship Haapiti, Moorea View from Ocean Princess cruise ship
The Moorea Harbourside View from the Ocean Princess Liner Haapiti, Moorea.
Papeete  hotel room

A final look at Papeete from our hotel room before we left at 5:00 am to catch the plane back to Australia via New Zealand.

Tahiti Nui Hotel

View from Papeete from our hotel room