Doug & Heather's Voyages

Join us as we travel the world...or at least that which can be reached by cruise ship.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

French Polynesia aboard Tahitian Princess - March 2008

We arrived at Tom Bradley International Terminal at 9:00 having read that the security lines before 10:00 would be much shorter. As we walked in, an information guide asked which airline. "Air Tahiti Nui," we responded. "No wonder you're smiling!" Check-in went smoothly although there was a short line. We couldn't figure out the terminal because you would normally go up the stairs to the gates. We went upstairs and there were just a bunch of restaurants there. When we came down the other side we still couldn't find the gates. It turned out that they were just to the side of where we had taken our check baggage for screening.

We met Catherine and Kate, two ladies who were going to be on our cruise in the terminal. I helped Catherine figure out her new digital camera and she got comfortable taking and reviewing the pictures.

Boarding time was supposed to be 11:00, but that came and went and the terminal seemed very empty for our flight at 12:00 (which would hold 300+ passengers) and the one at the gate next store which was a 747 for Cathay Pacific at 12:20. Finally, as 11:30 came, we heard an announcement about a security problem at the gate. It turned out that the north side of the terminal had been closed and dogs were brought through. Eventually a very large and boisterous crowd joined us. We were on the plane and pulling away from the gate right around 12:30, only a half hour late.

The flight was long and a little boring. The seats were fairly comfortable with enough leg room (even for us near six footers), especially compared to Delta or some of the other airlines. They served two meals during the 8 and a half hours. First was a Teriyaki Chicken which Heather said tasted like L&L Hawaiian Barbeque which was good. Second was an excellent Chicken Pot Pie with Mashed Potatoes. This was pretty much a sheppard's pie with chicken instead of beef or lamb. Heather didn't eat hers, so I got a double helping. There were movies on the plane. Heather watched Bee Movie (terrible apparently) and I watched The Magnificent Seven (magnificent of course). We also watched some of Alvin and the Chipmunks because nothing else was very interesting (it was okay). Boredome set in when we were about an hour away from landing. The individual video screens had a nice flight log where you could get information in French (the primary language of the flight crew) and Japanese or English.

The whole flight was worthwhile as the pilot made a turn to the East tilting our wing up so that we couldn't see anything. As we straightened out, suddenly we could see Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti) in the distance and the isthmus between Iti and Nui. We flew right around the height of the mountains on the island and with some clouds and peaks coming through it was stunning. Unfortunately, we didn't have the camera out of the bag at the time. I definitely recommend sitting in the AB window seats. I had guessed that the other side had a great view of Mo'orea as we came in, so I was a little jealous. Then the pilot took us well past Tahiti without a landing and we made another big turn. Oh my gosh, there is Mo'orea with it's jagged peaks. It was even more beautiful than Tahiti had been. We had a wonderful view of both and as we got lower, you could see the reefs surrounding the light green lagoons on both islands. The landing looked like it was right on the water.

When you reached the end of the runway, there were no taxiways, so the plane just turned around and we rode back down the way we came. Off to the side in Papeete there was a man frantically riding a dirt bike along a trail 100 yards from us. He was pulling wheelies to show off for the passengers. We walked down the stairs onto the tarmac and into the airport building through a sort of outdoor, roofed hut where there was a three piece Tahitian band playing. Sounded great to me! We waited for a long time with the immigration line (even with only one plane, it took some time...this isn't LAX). Once through we quickly grabbed our bags from the carousel and headed out of the airport.

There is a small mall with an ATM...the bank was closed as I had suspected on a Sunday evening at about 7:00 (we had the time difference of 3 hours due to it being daylight savings time in the U.S.). No line at the ATM and we got out 10,000 CFP, unfortunately in a single bill. With an exchange of about 75 CFP to the dollar, this was a pretty big bill, so we were worried about getting change from the cab driver. I recommend doing multiple transactions at a smaller amount.

We went out to the cab and found the next one in line, a really cool, tall, but small mini-van from Puogeot. It had tons of storage, better than the small SUV's in the U.S. Our cab driver was a Polynesian woman. We asked how much to the Tahitian Princess and she studied our luggage and the fact that we wanted to pay in CFP and said it would be 1,800...sounded good to us, everyone had said 2,000. We got in and in about 5 minutes we were at the ship. "This doesn't look small, I thought it was going to be tiny," was Heather's reaction.

We quickly got on the ship through the checkin and found our stateroom. It is so much nicer than the standard Princess Balcony stateroom. A love seat and desk, unlike the small chair. Our champagne and flowers were waiting. It was late (especially to us with the time change) so we decided to skip the 8:15 fixed seating dinner and just ate in the buffet. The food was okay, I had a couple of bowls of the Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup which was excellent. We turned in around 10:00 (1:00 our time), before we could make it to the Tahitian Dance Show which I really wanted to see, but I couldn't have made it.

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