Why do you want to move?

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Papeete, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Monday 24 March and Sunday 23 March, again

A Statesman limo was waiting for us as we walked out the door of the hotel . Nice! Not sure that either of us needed the lesson in Australian and New Zealand economics delivered to us. Ah well, he was a nice enough guy, maybe wasted as a cab driver though.

We'd bid to upgrade our seats from economy to business for the flight to Papeete (Pape’ete) and the bid was accepted so instead of the chaos of the main check-in area you go into a completely different space. The e-tickets for The World needed to be checked to make sure the ship was 'approved’, whatever that meant, but once that was sorted we were pointed up to the Koru Club. Soon enough the flight was called and we went down to our flight to Tahiti.

Air NZ’s long haul business on their 777s has won all sorts of awards. Their medium haul Pacific flights on 767s don’t compare from a cabin perspective but everything else is the same – food and service. And both were tops. Fantastic service and the best meal that I’ve ever had on a plane.

I think we both would have been happy to spend another hour or so in the air but soon enough we started our decent into Papeete . And it was Sunday again!

A rain squall passed through just as we got into the terminal. Some reports have said cab drivers don’t know where Hotel Sarah Nui (www.hotelsarahnui.com/) is but ours was fine. We drove past the harbour and Pacific Princess was docked. Tomorrow The World will arrive. The hotel is a bit further from the pier where the ship will dock than I’d hoped. With five bags, even though it’s a kilometre at most, we’ll need to get a cab back tomorrow morning. In hindsight Hotel Tiare Tahiti (www.hoteltiaretahiti.com/) would have been a better choice for a night or two.

The view from our room was, interesting. Check out the picture and you’ll see what I mean. It wasn’t the view that was the main problem, it was the room. It was actually pretty nice, pretty big, airy, aircon was cold. But it wasn’t the room that I booked. Back to reception and I asked is that a standard room or a deluxe. "Standard" replies the disinterested guy on reception .

“But I booked a deluxe” says I.

“Um, yes, you did. How long are you staying? Only one night? Why do you want to move?”

“I paid for a deluxe so I’d like what I paid for please.”

“Ok, I can move you.”

Considering the place looked pretty empty I couldn’t see any move being an issue.

Be careful for what you ask for though. Our new ‘deluxe’ room was like a Lego set that that had put together wrong. Everything was in the wrong place – bed, sofa, tables, chairs. Even the kitchenette bench tops, or possibly it was the small granite splashback, were in the wrong places. The rain shower head fell off, the shower ‘doors’ were only a ‘door’ because the shower itself was very obviously too narrow for two of the doors, but best of all was the new view . From an open plot of land and a miniature Eiffel Tower we’d been upgraded to the local beer distribution warehouse. Hahahahahaha. Like he said, it was only for one night!

Once we’d experienced the exploding shower head, its hand held alternative (at least there was one) and the ensuing flood due to there only being one door on the shower, we wandered out into Papeete. It really wasn’t as bad as it reads and it’s certainly way nicer than Noumea. WAY NICER.

Away from the harbour front it’s a town for the locals (even the harbour front is really), so unlike too many places nowadays. Us tourists are there, but there’s not that many of us, so they just get on with it.

Talking about tourists, we were amazed to find out how few actually visit Tahiti. We were given a figure of a low in 2008 or 2009 of under 100,000!! Movieworld on the Gold Coast most likely gets that in a month. They are thrilled that numbers are increasing . I think 160 or 180 last year maybe.

Although statistics say the highest number are from the US, the vast majority that we encountered were French, and it is a bloody long way from France to the middle of the Pacific. It’s a direct fight to LA, Auckland, Tokyo, I think Honolulu and most terrifyingly just in the last month China. We travel a lot and the Chinese are the most invasive and unpleasant tourists we have ever encountered. The Tahitians may well rue February 2014 as the month the Chinese invasion started…

Back to us, because after all, that’s what this is about.

Beer o’clock had chimed so we plonked ourselves at Les 3 Brasseurs (www.les3brasseurs.com/) and a good choice it was. A great microbrewery with great staff. Then we wandered across the road to Place Vaiete to sample the fare from Papeete’s famous roulettes – mobile food vans – that sold everything from burgers, through Chinese, pizzas, sashimi, crepes, spit roasts, steak and chips etc etc . A mahi mahi burger yum, and a curry burger not so yum. The little lemon and chocolate tarts that followed were to die for. It was a great experience.

Monday March 24 (again)

We would have liked to have been down by the dock for the arrival of The World but she was a bit early and we were a bit late so she was tied up by the time we got down there. There was no point hanging around so we went to the tourism office and booked a 4wd tour for the following day then went back to the hotel, had a pretty decent continental breakfast, and late in the morning got a cab the maybe kilometre and a half to the ship. We were checked at the gates then allowed to drive right down the pier to the ship.

Instead of the throngs crowded into arrival halls that get called by groups we were met at the gangway by name and pointed up and through to the reception desk, just like at a five star hotel. It was a surreal experience .

As usual with us, we caused a problem straight away. The lifeboat drill was the next afternoon at 4.45 but the tour I booked wouldn’t get us back until closer to 5.30. “Not a problem” we’re told, “Here’s a letter with detail of another one on the 27th so come to that one.”

Once we’d got that sorted ad signed everything we needed to we were escorted upstairs and through the door of the gorgeous studio residence (no cabins or staterooms on this ship!) that would be our home for the next three and a half weeks. A ship’s tour was organised for late in the afternoon, so instead of our usual wander around the ship we headed back off to see a bit more of Papeete. Lots of people say don’t bother with Papeete but I reckon it would be a pretty pleasant base from which to explore the island of Tahiti. Heaps of places to eat and drink, and shop if that’s your thing (it’s not ours).

At 5 .30 we went to reception for our ship’s tour. There was some confusion about who was taking us and then the gorgeous Jennifer volunteered to show us around.

We started on the same deck as reception where there is a cinema, a salon and spa, an amazingly equipped gym, steams rooms and saunas then around to a nightclub then a lobby bar. Through an arcade of a couple of shops/boutiques. Next was the deli where you could buy pretty much anything for your residence, a café was here as well, then past the fine dining restaurant. At the stern of the ship was a beautiful restaurant (steak and seafood) with a small pool in the centre that could be covered by a dance floor. The whole stern of the ship can be folded down and turned into either another dining area at night or a water sports platform by day. Wow.

Up the lift to the top of the ship and pool area – the most beautiful pool that would not be out of place at any luxury hotel, a pool bar and an outdoor restaurant . Inside and we were shown an Asian restaurant, another bar and finally at the stern an Italian restaurant with a terrace that would be beautiful to sit out on when the ship was underway.

Up a set of stairs to deck 12 – full size tennis court, golf simulator with apparently dozens of courses to play, a billiard room with a self-levelling table (!!!) and then the piece-de-resistance – the Bali beds. Right at the stern of the ship are four huge day beds where you can plonk yourself and watch the world slip away behind you. They can also be booked and made up at night to watch the stars and maybe even sleep in. They are of course separated by screens to give each one some privacy. And that was it. Wow, wow, wow.     

I was worried about the safety demo so before dinner we called at reception to reconfirm that we could not attend the safety demo and that we would attend it on the 27th as we’d been advised we could . “There is nothing on the 27th. You must attend.”

“We can’t, we won’t be here. We have the letters in our room for both dates.” was my reply. We fully understand the seriousness and I explained this. One of the other receptionists stepped in and told us to watch it channel 2 of our tv and we would be covered.

Dinner was at the pool bar. Delicious Thai beef salad for each of us.

Tuesday March 25

Cereal and coffee in our room, a quick call at reception to see if there was any way to reschedule the safety demonstration – “Of course, attend it on the 27th.” What the? Too ridiculous.

Eric from Tahiti Safari Expedition (http://www.tahiti-safari.com/) met us outside the tourist information centre and we were off to explore the interior of Tahiti (CFP6300 each). We had two other couples with us, one from Chicago and another Toronto, both lovely couples and both boarding Oceania Marina for a 10 or 11 day French Polynesia cruise . They were due to depart day after us after a night on board in Papeete.

We headed along the north coast of the island before turning inland and driving up the Vallee de Papenoo. Eric was very clearly in love with his island. He was very concerned about invasive plant species that were taking over both this valley and Tahiti in general – mimosa sensitiva from New Caledonia was everywhere as was lazy daisy. African Tulip trees amongst many more he pointed out were the same. He gave us a taste of a noni fruit - a ghastly cheesy taste that some love. We saw some elephant ear plants that the locals apparently boil for eight hours to make a marmalade/jam. We stopped at a causeway above a small dam into which a pretty decent waterfall was dropping that was full of huge eels.

One of the issues that Eric and every other tour operator in Tahiti has is that if they are just a driver with a 4wd truck/van (without a guide) they are not allowed to talk to us while they drive, even using a headset . So they have to stop every time they want to point something out. So he did, often, and it was a bit odd.

We’d started in bright sunshine in Papeete but as we drove up the valley the clouds descended. What might have been absolutely spectacular was shrouded in rain and low lying cloud.

Lunch was up at a resort half way up the valley. I was the only one of our group of six who went and watched the welcome performance by the rae rae or mahu who had met us as we came in. In Samoa they are known as fa'afafine. He was really sweet. Lunch itself was not included for us so we bought the same meal the others were having. It was, like everything in Tahiti, ridiculously expensive. A single plate of food with a bit of salad, a small amount of an ordinary chicken dish and another equally small amount of a variation of what we know as ika mata. Luckily this too small portion was served with beautiful red tuna instead of white fish like we’re used to . Delicious!

We continued up the valley and into the mountains and the cloud got lower and the rain heavier. To be honest I think we were both glad when we got to the top and started the trip back.

It was a pretty interesting day that was hampered by pretty ordinary weather.

Instead of getting back on the ship we returned to Les 3 Brasseurs for more beers and dinner. Bill and Cindy who we had spent the day with came by and joined us. We had a great night.
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