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Ocean Princess
March 24, 2003

by Marianne

[NOTE: This ship's name was Tahitian Princess at the time the review was written]

This was our sixteenth cruise, but I will try to strike a balance of information for not-so-seasoned cruisers and experienced ones. Naturally, reviews, by nature, are opinion driven.

LAX—We did air deviation to fly in two days early and proceeded to Air Tahiti Nui where we got in line behind a couple I had been corresponding with via email who were on our cruise. This made the time go faster. Checked bags were being searched. Asked about upgrading to Business Class $600 pp each way!! Security and LAPD officers in abundance. (We flew out on the Saturday just after the war with Iraq began.) You take a bus out to the ATN 340-300 airbus. I have a fear of flying so other than general anesthesia, nothing can make this pleasant for me, 8 hours. However, in flight “amenities” included: video screen on seat ahead of you, peanuts with wine/champagne, hot lunch, second snack, small bag with earphones, eye mask & booties, tiare flowers for all. Food was airplane food, service efficient.

LE MERIDIEN/PAPEETE: Landed at 7:15PM. Customs took us 1 hour to clear and we were the last to leave airport. Our pre-arranged transportation to Le Meridien had left without us. We grabbed a taxi instead. Le Meridien was beautiful. I had booked hotel based on Frommer’s and a post from another cruiser. We had an over-the-water bungalow. Our time at Le Meridian was somewhat mixed and included: 1. Room rate dispute; 2. Double charges for breakfast; 3. Satellite out; 4. Massage I had arranged not there; 5. Chair collapsing on verandah WHILE MY HUSBAND WAS IN IT; 6. Half inch screw protruding from floor of bungalow WHICH I STEPPED ON (plastic doorstop should have fit over this). Finally received a return call from the manager to discuss all of these and he comped one night’s stay. Some of these things were insignificant and a couple not. But the manager tried to make it right and I’ll leave it at that. Lots more info on hotel & surroundings, email if you want.

03-24-PAPEETE/EMBARKATION: We arrived at 11:15am as we had to check out of hotel. Not boarding yet. Waited maybe 30 minutes. Check in took us about 2 minutes. Rooms not ready, had lunch in buffet. TP was docked at the cargo berth. Shuttles to town. Shuttles are not air conditioned and very modest to say the least. Plan accordingly. Takes shuttle about 10—15 min to get to town, too far to walk in the heat. Marche is near the main passenger ship berth, also a bank on the corner to get francs if you want. Waiting area for return shuttle is shaded but no seating. You can buy a HUGE arrangement of flowers at the marche for $10.

CABIN: Mini suite is huge with a safe, bathtub, fridge, sofa, two chairs & small table, balcony large enough for 2 chairs & small table and lounge chair from deck (ask cabin steward), tons of storage. Robes & fruit on request. Bed was very hard but not too much for us. Get egg crate if it bothers you.

SPA: Didn’t use it, services too expensive.

CASINO: Small but busy.

GIFT SHOPS: Two, one for logo type stuff & one for jewelry, Lladro, fragrances, crystal, etc.

POOL AREA: Two Jacuzzis, one pool, Never used this as we have both at home and it rained, a lot!

PASSENGERS: Easily 50+. Many much older. Some kids & teens but not many.

KIDS & TEENS PROGRAMS: Sorry didn’t use.

Obviously subjective. We liked the production numbers & costumes (!). Comedian Dick Gold, very funny. Magician/comedian Hal Marquardt, very funny. Banjo player, well, ya gotta like the banjo. Orchestra was excellent and played dance music in lounge prior to shows. Other activities included the usual: bingo, pool games, napkin folding (sigh), trivia, cooking demo (comedy really). Movies in the lounge but this is not a theater and chairs are a teensy bit uncomfortable for a two hour movie. Mercifully, there was no “If I Were Not Upon The Sea”, or however that goes.

Overall outstanding. Cruise director, Chris Nichol is tireless in his energy & enthusiasm. Catch his morning tape on the TV reciting the upcoming days’ activities. A hoot. Great voice too. Cabin steward kept room great and brought extra ice, otherwise invisible. Purser’s desk, friendly & helpful.

DINING: Panorama Buffet, Club Dining Room, Pizza, Hamburgers, High Tea, Ice Cream, Sabatini’s, Steak House Grill, room service. Food was overall very good with some excellent. I eat vegetarian but DH said to avoid veal chop & lamb. Delish—bread, chilled soups, desserts. Seafood elicited “mmmmmms” from tablemates. Coffee, not great. Trying to find cream for coffee, NOT MILK, was a challenge. Hint-bring a small container of powdered creamer. It’ll do in a pinch.

MOOREA: Interested in watching sunrise, we were on starboard side and it was gorgeous. Had arranged 4x4 excursion with Moorea Transport inland safari. $4500 francs pp, saw vanilla & pineapple plantations, Mt. Belvedere, local emporium with alcohol samples (!!!), marae, agricultural college. Take bug spray! Some vendors on the pier. Guide took us to local Internet café so we could email home. Cheaper than ship.

RAIATEA: Took ship’s Tahaa vanilla plantation & pearl farm tour. Lovely scenery but I would not recommend this tour as you spend the majority of time on the boat to & from Tahaa and on the bus to the pearl farm. Bus is not AC’d nor does it have any system for the guide to communicate to the passengers—even shouting, he could not be heard over the diesel engine. Thus, we spent ¾ of our time talking to other passengers. Princess takes pains to point out that this is the best there is to offer on the island. However, we did not realize how large a portion of the tour this is.

APIA: Pronounced ah-PEE-ah Samoa. 91 degrees at 8AM!! Took City Highlights (Princess) tour. Guide, Sharon, was excellent, poised, friendly, knew her stuff. Quick shopping at local market. Robert Louis Stevenson museum very interesting. Rain started around 10 and never stopped. Some vendors on the pier

PAGO PAGO AMERICAN SAMOA: Pronounced PON-go PON-go (don’t ask me). Cooler, only 84 at 8AM. Took island and ava ceremony tour (Princess) #A. Guide, was also excellent. She was only 16 but very knowledgeable, friendly, sweet. Saw local dance performance. Upon sailing, several children were on the pier waving and calling “We love you.” Very charming.

Note here about these two ports. Saturday afternoons and all day Sundays shops are closed. In Pago Pago, special performances were held for us as locals are deeply religious and attend services and spend time with family on Sundays. There is also a tuna processing plant at the dock in Pago Pago that we were warned could be, uh, fragrant. Never smelled a thing. Plan accordingly. People were very warm and friendly.

The seas over to Samoa were incredibly calm and I was lulled into a false sense of security. Coming back to French Polynesia, we had “medium to high seas”. Barf bags appeared near the elevators. They went fast. This is a small ship. Take your Dramamine.

BORA BORA: Had arranged a private excursion on Aquascope. This is sort of a glass bottom boat-submersible combo. Very cool. $45pp. Back to pier and went to Bloody Mary’s. Have no idea what the attraction is here but everyone goes. Had a drink $850 francs and bought a t-shirt, $22. Yes, $22. Take Le Truck over there $3pp versus taxi for $15.

PAPEETE: Had arranged an inner island 4x4 tour with Patrick’s Adventure. Key word here “Adventure”. It had been raining for a week and he had to change his normal route a bit. This tour was fabulous, but not for the faint of heart. Bone jarring. All day, 8AM to 4:30. Stops for photo ops, questions, swimming in a cool waterfall/river area, points of interest. At lunch he gives sort of history/cultural lecture. Very cool. $65pp. TAKE YOUR MOSQUITO REPELLENT.

The last day you can come & go on the ship but you must vacate your cabin by 11AM. This makes the public bathrooms a bit of a nightmare towards the end of the day as departing passengers want to at least tidy up. (Spa is closed.) Showers by the pool but, obviously, no soap or shampoo. Faaa airport was a zoo as our Air Tahiti Nui flight and Omni (Princess’ charter) were both departing. This is a tiny airport and there is no AC. Nothing Princess can do about that. However, perhaps day rooms at a local hotel might assist the congestion and ease frazzled passengers on that last day. It worked well on Renaissance.

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