March 6, 2014 – Thursday – Moorea, French Polynesia
I wake up at about 5:30AM this morning to the ship rolling quite a bit. When I peek out my cabin window, the seas are high and the skies are grey. I leave the curtains open as I snooze for another hour before getting up. I go a deck up to the Promenade Deck with my camera to capture the scene. Moorea is barely visible through the mist – not a good sign!
The captain makes an announcement at 7AM that the seas are too rough and the winds too strong to go through the channel into Cook’s Bay, where we were to anchor. He indicates he will continue to cruise along the coast of Moorea for a while longer, with hopes the weather will break for us, so he can decide to enter the bay and give us our day in Moorea.
At 7:45AM the captain announces today’s stop in Moorea is scrubbed since the winds are too strong for us to safely enter the channel through the reef. We are headed for scenic cruising around the southern shores of Moorea and Tahiti (Tahiti Iti), which isn’t a bad replacement for what would otherwise be a wet day ashore. Despite the bad news, we have been very lucky with the weather on this cruise, since this time of year is when French Polynesia typically gets wet weather and storms.
I have breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room, since there is no longer anywhere I have to be this morning. After breakfast I retreat to the Crow’s Nest Lounge to take full advantage of the view from the highest deck on the ship.
Once the entertainment staff revises the schedule to include normal sea day activities for the passengers, they issue an updated list for us to peruse. I decide to see the documentary Paniolo – The Hawaiian Cowboy with Kainoa offering an introduction to the film and hosting a Q&A after. I’m unsure if the video I have included here is the same as the one shown aboard the ship, but it covers the same material and is 14 minutes long.
This afternoon I decide to walk the Promenade Deck, but have to retreat inside after encountering winds so strong, I could barely keep my footing. When I return to my cabin and check the information channel, the winds are gusting to 49 knots, which we are taking on the nose on our heading of 012 (North). The ship’s speed is below 10 knots. Remarkably, the ship isn’t pitching or rolling much, so the ride is comfortable despite the high winds. The outside decks are closed later on for safety reasons. It looks like the North Atlantic outside, except the temperature is 29°C. I guess our luck with the weather just ran out! So much for the scenic cruising, since all we can see outside is grey mist and huge waves.
March 5, 2014 – Wednesday – Tahiti, French Polynesia
My excursion this morning is called Off the Beaten Track: Tahiti by 4-Wheel Drive, which is another tour using 4X4 trucks, but this time to explore the interior of Tahiti. We drive along the north coast of Tahiti from Papeete to the Papenoo Valley, and then head inland up to the base of one of the volcano calderas, now covered in lush tropical vegetation, with a river and waterfalls. The river is used for hydropower generation, although the dams, reservoirs and power stations are very small by British Columbia standards. We return using the same route, marvelling at the huge rough surf crashing on the rocks and shoreline. Our final stop is at an outlook over Mataval Bay and its black beach, with the capital of Papeete and island of Moorea behind.
After lunch, I venture out to walk around Papeete for a few blocks. Everything is closed today, since it is Ash Wednesday (and Missionary Day), both a civic and religious holiday. There are a few restaurants open and a few tourist shops, but otherwise the city is closed for the day. The Vaima Shopping Center was newly opened when I was here in 1978, but it is closed for the holiday like most other retail. The afternoon heat is a killer, so I return to the air-conditioned ship.
This evening there is a special folkloric Tahitian dance troupe the Showroom aboard ship: Tahiti Ora. They are top-notch, high-energy performers, and the room is packed for their single performance. After the show, the rain is pouring down outside. We have been incredibly lucky during out time in French Polynesia, since this is their rainy season. We seem to have been perpetually a day ahead of serious-looking rainstorms. See my photos of our scenic cruise along Raiatea and Taha’a for some major clouds and even a funnel cloud!
March 4, 2014 – Tuesday – Raiatea & Taha’a, French Polynesia
My excursion this morning is called Land and Sea of Taha’a, which involves a boat ride from Raiatea where we are docked in Uturoa harbour, to Taha’a where we are picked up by 4X4 trucks and taken on a tour of a black pearl farm, and then a vanilla plantation.
Then we return to the boat and go to a motu for a swim and snorkel. I’m very impressed with the island of Taha’a. The roads are paved, the houses are neat and tidy, and the infrastructure is all there. This contrasts with Bora Bora, where they have dirt roads and everything is done in a haphazard way. The swimming and snorkelling is in shallow water, and I spot several Puffer fish – a first on this trip.
Our departure from Raiatea this afternoon is most interesting! Instead of leaving through the opening in the reef adjacent to the harbour that we entered through, the captain and pilot opt to take us on a scenic cruise between Raiatea and Taha’a, heading towards Bora Bora, but along the shoreline of Taha’a. A spectacular sunset occurs just south of Bora Bora as we sail away, and there are rain storms and huge cumulo-nimbus clouds to the west of us. We even see a funnel cloud appear out the bottom of a particularly large, dark cloud!
I had hoped to see a Green Flash as the Sun set this evening, but it was not to be. Despite this, I take some wonderful sunset photos, some including Bora Bora in the distance. The shoreline along Taha’a is absolutely stunning as we sail along in the early evening hours. It is a beautiful ending to a wonderful day, as I go back inside to get dressed for dinner.
March 3, 2014 – Monday – Bora Bora, French Polynesia
I have some breakfast in the Lido early, since I have to be ashore for my excursion by 9AM. Another cruise ship has anchored beside us, replacing the one I saw yesterday. Bora Bora is obviously a popular port-of-call! After breakfast, I take the 10 minute tender ride ashore, and eventually we are collected and board our catamaran. We actually depart a bit early since everyone is present from the ship. Moana Adventure Tours runs this excursion with four Tahitian guys. They are well-rated on TripAdvisor and I can see why – I had a great day, as did the others from the ship on this excursion!
First stop on the tour is just around the seaward side of the closest motu (islet) to Vaitape harbour, so we arrive there in only 15 minutes. We see Stingrays and Black-tipped sharks in the shallow water. Most of the people get into the water with them, however I stay aboard and get some great photos and video from the deck.
Next stop is about 20 minutes away: a small, private motu where there are coral reefs and a nice sandy beach. It is a wet landing, so everyone gets in the water here. I have a wonderful hour poking around, taking photos and video of the fish and the coral formations in the shallow lagoon. The excursion guys serve snacks and drinks under the shade of the palm trees before we return to the catamaran for the trip back to Vaitape harbour. This 3.5 hour excursion couldn’t be much better, but I’m very glad to head back to the ship’s air conditioning, since the oppressive heat hits us once we are back in the town of Vaitape.