Tahiti, French Polynesia, and our cruise on the Renaissance Cruise Line ship the R3 (now the Ocean Princess) had been on the horizon for months. We were finally going to begin our trip to paradise! Sometimes like many long-anticipated vacations, Tahiti seemed like the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow--an unattainable destination. Fortunately, after months of waiting, the day finally arrived. We were off to the Society Islands and French Polynesia! Exotic-sounding islands awaited our exploration--Tahiti, Huahine, Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Moorea.
My parents and I flew to Los Angeles from Atlanta the day before the charter to Tahiti to break up the trip and to help with the dreaded jet lag. There are many hotels near the Los Angeles airport that provide free shuttles to and from the airport. On Tuesday, we shuttled back to the Hawaiian Airlines counter at Terminal 2, checked our bags, ate lunch and departed at 3:00 pm PST. We had an uneventful 8-hour flight on the DC-10. If you want to start your tropical adventure off right, be sure to try some guava juice on the plane. It is one of my favorites, but just doesn't taste the same at home as it does in the tropics! It is also not usually offered on most airlines as a beverage choice. Be sure to drink lots of water on the plane. You don't want to arrive in Tahiti already dehydrated from the dry airplane air. In addition to a movie, the flight showed a promotional on the Renaissance shore excursions available on all of the islands. It was interesting and useful in planning our time ashore.
Tahiti is in the same time zone as Hawaii, although further south, lying about 18 degrees south of the equator. That means that it is 5 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time, and 6 hours earlier than Eastern Daylight Time. It is about 5500 miles southwest of New York, 2300 south of Honolulu, and about 3200 west of Sydney. In other words, it is in the middle of the Pacific, just south of the equator!
Renaissance did a great job of whisking us all through customs and getting everyone on the buses and off to the ship, which was only a few minutes away. As a bus would fill up, it would leave for the ship, which meant that by the time you arrived, the check in lines (broken out alphabetically) were only about 1 or 2 deep! After the check-in we had our embarkation photo made. You can only imagine how we all looked after having been on a plane for 8 hours! (Some passengers who did not stay overnight in Los Angeles had traveled even more.) The checked baggage was delivered directly from the plane to our cabin. It was great not having to deal with it at the airport. I was unpacked and in bed before midnight--exhausted but excited about starting our adventure.
We were in "D" level cabins on the sixth deck. It didn't take me long to realize that I love having a balcony! The rooms were spacious, with a king-sized bed, a love seat or arm chair, a vanity with a small stool, and 2 chairs and a table on the balcony. There was plenty of closet and drawer space, and the 110-volt plugs allowed me to re-charge my digital camera and computer without an adaptor. The bathroom was equipped with a hair dryer, Renaissance robes (to wear while on board), beach towels, and toiletries (vanilla shampoo, conditioner, and lotion). A television in the room had about 15 channels, showing movies, satellite news, navigation information, and travel documentaries. The same promotional video on shore excursions that was shown on the plane ran on one of the channels, as did a videotaped briefing of each port. I know that my husband would enjoy the GPS (global positioning system) information that showed where the ship was in relation to all of the Society Islands and the rest of the world.
My balcony the first two days overlooked the working Papeete harbor, filled with cranes, cargo, and inter-island ferries. My parents were in an odd-numbered cabin, which meant that they were dock side and got to see all of the action in the city of Papeete. (When we returned to Tahiti, the even-numbered cabins were facing the dock and the city.) Papeete is a bustling city, and Tahiti is by far the most populous of the Society Islands at 150,000 residents. The R3 was docked at a small park near a traffic circle in downtown Papeete. Cars were zooming around the circle almost all of the time, making for an interesting view.
Author's Note: Although Renaissance Cruises stopped operating and filed for bankruptcy in September 2001, you can still cruise Tahiti and French Polynesia either as a stopover on a Transpacific cruise or on the Paul Gauguin.
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