Hawai’i, Fanning Island & French Polynesia Cruise aboard ms Statendam – 30 days – Feb 14 – Mar 16, 2014
This cruise departed from San Diego and returned to the same port 30 days later. Both the first leg from San Diego to Hawaii and the last leg from the Marquesas to San Diego involved many days at sea. It was great to revisit the Hawaiian Islands again – there is always so much to see and experience, and the weather was perfect.
Fanning Island is midway between Hawai’i and French Polynesia – a stop that not many cruise ships make. The Islanders were friendly and welcoming, and the day there was sublime. Visiting French Polynesia again after a decades gap was personally very rewarding. I spent lots of time snorkelling and exploring these tropical islands most people only dream about visiting.
If you just want to see photo albums, the 2014 Hawaii-French Polynesia Cruise collection of photos covers everything I encountered during the 30 day voyage both onboard and ashore.
My full itinerary is listed below. Feel free to click on what interests you, however if you click on the top-most item, there are links at the bottom of each page (just above the Comments section) to take you to the next destination – from beginning to end. This is the best way to explore the whole trip as it happened.
- Victoria to San Diego & departure – Flight from home to San Diego, California, USA, and ship’s departure
- Cruising San Diego to Hawai’i – 5 days at sea
- Oahu, Hawai’i – Honolulu and the North Shore
- Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i – snorkelling and whale watching
- Hilo & Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawai’i – driving the roads, visitor center, the observatories on the summit
- Kona, Big Island of Hawai’i – Place of Refuge, coffee farm, Painted Church
- Hawai’i to Fanning Island – 2 days at sea
- Fanning Island, Kiribati – a few hours visit to this tropical outpost
- Fanning Island to French Polynesia – 2 days at sea
- Bora Bora, French Polynesia – overnight & snorkelling
- Raiatea & Taha’a, French Polynesia – vanilla & pearl farming, snorkelling
- Tahiti, French Polynesia – 4X4 into the mountainous interior
- Moorea, French Polynesia – no landing due to bad weather
- Rangiroa, French Polynesia – best snorkelling!
- Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia – idyllic high island
- Cruising French Polynesia to San Diego – 6 days at sea
- San Diego to Victoria – disembark and flight home
How it started
My last three major vacations were cruises, so I was looking elsewhere for travel options in 2014. I had almost decided on a trip to India escorted by a famous movie director, but after going to the pre-trip presentation, decided against it. Time was getting short to book a trip in the early part of 2014, so I browsed the Holland America website for cruises in a couple of areas – either the Mediterranean or longer duration cruises from Europe to Southeast Asia. Booking back-to-back cruises in the Mediterranean would allow me to experience most of what I wanted in the Mediterranean, and also allow me to experience the Black Sea, all within a 30 day cruise.
The cruises from Amsterdam or London through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and then to Oman, India and Southeast Asian ports was also appealing, since this would give me a taste of a wide variety of countries I had not experienced before. It was also around the world, in the sense half the trip was by aircraft and half was by ship, and I would literally be traveling continuously eastward from my home, back home. The downside was I would be away for over 40 days, depending on the itinerary.
In the end, time caught up with me, since the longer cruises to Asia required Visas for countries which I didn’t have time left to take care of before the departure dates. The countries visited by the Mediterranean cruises didn’t require Visas ahead of time, but dovetailing two cruises proved difficult because some of the departure dates were just over a month away. So I decided to book a less complicated cruise itinerary.
I had visited French Polynesia way back in 1978 when I was still a young man. I promised myself that I would return some day to these beautiful tropical islands, so why not cruise there? Traveling to French Polynesia is very expensive – both the flights and the accommodation. With this cruise, I embarked in San Diego, California, stopped in 11 ports of call, experienced Fanning Island, and disembarked again in San Diego. Fanning Island is part of Kiribati, a new country for me. Flying up and down the west coast between my home in Victoria, BC, Canada and San Diego is easy and fairly predictable…a big plus when compared with the more ambitious cruises requiring me to fly to Europe and/or Singapore.
How it evolved
Revisiting French Polynesia was the main reason for taking this trip, but stopping in Fanning Island added some variety, and revisiting Hawaii (which I have traveled to many times) also offered something new. Holland America’s itinerary included six ports-of-call in French Polynesia to three groups of islands (Society, Tuamotus, and Marquesas), so my experience would be much broader than my trip in 1978, where I only visited three islands (all in the Society Group). I booked this cruise directly with Holland America since they offered a better deal than the consolidators.
I booked shore excursions through Holland America for the ports-of-call in French Polynesia within a couple of weeks of booking the cruise. My rationale was to ensure I would see the sights and experience the lagoons which I was traveling so far to see. Cruise ship shore excursions are more expensive than arrangements you might make ashore on your own, however they are guaranteed to please, or your money back. Also, if a ship’s shore excursion runs late, the ship will wait. If you make your own arrangements, you had better be back on board the ship in time, because it will sail without you.
This particular cruise was not nearly as reasonably priced as my previous cruises with Holland America. Since the destinations included French Polynesia, this cruise booked faster and earlier than others, so the prices were never deeply discounted. That said, I probably saved about $50/day by waiting until early November 2013 to book the cruise which departed February 2014. I ended up paying about US$300/day, including the Single Supplement for a modest outside cabin on Main Deck. I budgeted $400/day for the whole trip, including airfares, shore excursions, and a generous allowance for shipboard spending.
- All the major costs of this trip were priced in US$. The US Dollar was weak as compared with the Canadian Dollar when I booked in November 2013, so I gained modestly when I paid for the trip.
- I booked through Holland America and received their Flash Rate. This reduced the fare by several hundred dollars, and the Single Supplement went from 200% (earlier) to 150% (when I booked).
- I arranged my own excursion to the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii by reserving a rental vehicle in Hilo, and drove myself. I saved about half the cost of the equivalent excursion offed by Holland America, and my arrangements allowed me to stay on the summit much longer than the group tour. So I received twice the value.
So was it worth it?
This was a wonderful trip. Holland America is a cruise line which continues to provide the personal touches for its passengers, despite the major cutbacks in service being implemented across the cruise ship industry. I was spoiled while aboard the Statendam. The highlights of the trip for me have to be getting to the top of Mauna Kea and seeing all those telescopes, and finally returning to the spectacularly beautiful islands and people of French Polynesia.