Margo excels at choosing such interesting and exciting trips that always inspire me to want to do them too! Her and Brent’s latest adventure was no different...
After finding a cruise that piqued our interest from Papeete in Tahiti to Los Angeles with Oceania Cruises, we asked for Gillian’s assistance to help organise it.
As always, she was efficient and intuitive with booking airline seats, hotel transfers and rooms. At her suggestion, we split the cruise arrangements, flying independently to LA where we connected to an Air France flight and arrived in Papeete in the early hours.
Live music soundtracked our arrival along with personal garlands of fresh flowers before being taken directly to the Intercontinental Hotel and shown to our rooms. Breakfast was included, so after a quick freshen-up, we enjoyed the first of our lavish South Seas meals at the hotel.
The jet lag had affected us more than we had anticipated, and we spent the next couple of days doing little except enjoying the wonderful hotel, scenery and local market. The hotel has a huge lagoonarium for swimming which contains dozens of tropical fish, all very accepting of our intrusions into their world - it was magical. There is also a large and smaller pool, and at no time were the facilities crowded.
On the third day, we were collected by private transfer earlier than our fellow passengers and taken directly to the cruise ship where there were no queues or crowds.
The cruise on the Regatta vessel was wonderful in all aspects, including the superb staff who were attentive, efficient and great fun. The ship was spotless - however, the bathrooms were tiny, with many passengers commenting on this unless they were in a penthouse suite! Food options were great - it’s difficult not to overeat. However, the wines and spirits are expensive.
The islands were clear blue water paradises, with lots of fish, great swimming and warm welcomes everywhere. We had great weather, although there were monsoon-like conditions at times. Unfortunately, our two days in Hawaii were extremely wet, with poor visibility limiting our touring plans.
We spent five relaxing days at sea - swimming, playing deck games, joining in with talks and crafts, seeing a variety of shows, and eating fabulous food.
On arrival in Los Angeles, we were taken on an excellent city tour and although it again poured with rain, the guide was brilliant, and things had been rearranged so when we did stop it was dry.
Even though large cities are not really our thing, LA was more varied than we had expected. The trip concluded with an airport drop-off for our pleasant flight home.
Catamaran island tour and swim
This was a super four-hour boat trip during which we saw the water bungalows, some upmarket hotels, coves and beaches. The snorkelling was great with lots to see and we had an enjoyable swim before being served fresh fruit, snacks and rum punch.
Black Pearl Farm Tour
This was a splendid tour with an interesting talk about how pearls are seeded, grown and harvested without harming the oyster - some of which live to be nearly 20. The guide was very knowledgeable, and it was fascinating to see the process of seeding the live oyster and then returning it to the lagoon to grow another pearl. The clear waters are ideal and thousands are farmed throughout the islands. Black pearls are beautiful but expensive due to the labour-intensive growth process.
This is a tiny island with diving, swimming and beautiful beaches. There is a spectacular but narrow entrance into the atoll with beaches on both sides of the ship very close by.
We decided to explore this tiny island on foot and try to swim on the beach, which was visible from the ship. With a small dock, we tendered to shore where a wonderful welcome with dancing and music awaited, along with stalls selling local crafts.
We walked around the headland onto the beach but with the water rough, a strong undertow and nobody else swimming, we were apprehensive. I took photos and paddled a while but when a shoal of fish leaped out of the water nearby, I thought “predator” and hastily left the water!
The tiny town was extremely beautiful to stroll around, and we did see a ray on returning to the ship. The other tour option was a quad bike convoy land trip into the mountains.
This was an unexpected port of call, so we took ourselves on an excellent walking tour of the town. There was an authentic Hawaiian feel about this area, and it was lovely to wander around the shops and cafes taking in the colours and sounds. Most buildings have been protected/ restored and with no high-rise development, it retains a 'village' feel though sadly this was written before this summer’s devastating fires and destruction.
Watching the surfers was interesting and we also saw humpback whales popping up in the distance to have a look at the ship.
Honolulu is a huge city, far bigger than we had imagined, with high-rise buildings all around the port area. We did take a panoramic tour, but the weather was so bad that we saw next to nothing, and although knowledgeable, the guide wasn’t particularly inspiring. The whole trip was a bit ponderous with no breaks or opportunities to walk around local areas.
With the second day in port also extremely wet, we decided to hit the shops via the splendid local bus service. The driver helped us with the stops, informed us where to catch the return and it cost only $1.50 each compared to the $30 taxi each way that most of our fellow passengers took.
Unfortunately, due to the weather, we couldn’t get to any beaches but we enjoyed our day at the vast shopping mall.
Our Top Tips
Break your journey in LA if possible or book a hotel room for your arrival in Papeete.
Avoid Air France. Unhelpful, curt crew, grim food, and no offers of drinks through the night. Self-service meant climbing over sleeping passengers. I tried unsuccessfully to swap seats with a solo traveller to get next to Brent.
Virgin was the opposite. Excellent crew, service, food, drinks and snacks. The plane was spotless, and it was a great flight, both ways.
Oceania Cruises. Many cruisers book back-to-back cruises with good deals available as fares reflect the need to only fly once.
If you want a decent bathroom on the smaller Oceania ships, book a Penthouse Suite or above, but be quick as they sell out fast.
Gillian arranged everything, including transfers, seats and hotel accommodation. We were met and taken everywhere on time, and it was a seamless journey, enabling us to leave our worries at home and have a great holiday. Huge thanks to her once again.