Here is a little background on how we arrived in French Polynesia, exploring Tahiti. We have taken several cruises always with the WindStar line. A few years back, we were on a WindStar cruise through the Panama Canal. Arriving on the ship we received the traditional WindStar beach bag. Over the course of the next few days, I noticed many passengers with beautiful white Roots watches. I wondered how many cruises does one have to take to get a watch?
Finally, getting up enough courage, I asked one of the watch wearers how they got their watch. I was told they belonged to an informal group who every three years get together and take a cruise. They have been doing this since the millennium and directed me to the two ladies who coordinate the group. Over the next two weeks these lovely ladies included my husband and I in many of their activities and at the end of the cruise they asked if we wanted to receive a watch in three years. We enthusiastically said yes. We will now be receiving our third watch as we embark on this eleven day French Polynesian cruise.
This area of the world has always been one I wanted to see. Cruising is a great way to see several stops with the luxury of not having to pack and unpack as you move from location to location. WindStar has only small sailing ships that hold between 148 and 220 passengers. This cruise, we are on the Wind Spirit, which is one of the smaller ships. There are sixty-eight of us in our group so we have most of the second floor cabins. We will be anchoring at eight different locations. Because these are smaller ships they can often go to smaller, less “touristy” locations, which in our eyes is a real plus. French Polynesia is the area of the world Paul Gaugin and Marlon Brando escaped to, looking to find a calmer, easier life. Will it live up to all that we have heard about it?
We arrive in Papeete, Tahiti early on Wednesday morning after our long red eye flight from LA, having lost five hours in time as we winged our way west. It is five thirty in the morning and we are met with showers and cloudy skies. As we come down the airplane stairs a group of Polynesian musicians and dancers, welcome us with traditional music and dance. What a wonderful greeting! We quickly pass through customs and grab a cab to the Intercontinental Hotel where we will be staying until we leave on Friday for our cruise. The continuous storms were actually causing a national emergency in Tahiti, with the airport being closed down for a period due to the torrential downpours that were occurring.
Because of the continuous rain and wind the people at the hotel were advising all of us to stay put and not do site seeing. We were okay with that, so our couple of days in Papeete were spent reconnecting with others in our group. We also received our new watch, a Swatch this time! On Friday morning everyone proceeded by bus to the ship to begin our new adventure. If you look up on the WindStar website, we were taking the eleven day Tahiti cruise, Papeete back to Papeete.
Our first visit is to an atoll island (an island formed on a coral reef usually in a ring shape). Again, we are met at the jetty with Polynesian musicians and ladies handing us a tiare Tahiti, a small white fragrant flower. The islands of this area are either atolls or like Hawaiian islands created by volcanic activity.
We take a stroll along the Main Street, just enjoying our first island. There are bright homes, a local grocery store and a beautiful church. We hear the happy voices of the children singing in their primary school.
It is hot and humid, much different temperatures from those we left in Canada, so we head back toward the jetty. We see that some of the local population has set up tables filled with crafts and pearl jewelry. After purchasing a few trinkets to take home to friends, we head back to the ship to cool off.
Each day of the cruise, we repeat these activities. Musicians and ladies meet us, handing us a lovely white flower. The people of each island are beautiful and friendly. French and Tahitian are their main languages, but most speak at least some English which makes it easier for us. They are happy to help you in any way. Tahitians take the time to teach you about their island or about the jewelry and crafts they are selling.
Each island has a beach and or lagoon to swim in with waters that are a beautiful blue like I have not seen before. The ocean is warm, exceptionally clear and filled with all every kind of tropical fish. On many of the islands our only activity is snorkeling and swimming.
We have been looking forward to these laid back eleven days, so we choose not to sign up for many of the ship excursions, but over these next eleven days we learn about Polynesian culture and relax and laugh with our friends. Swimming in the clear water with manta rays and sharks, we are amazed at the varieties of tropical fish. The Wind Spirit crew spoils us with lavish meals and superb service. A full day picnic on a motu (a small round coral island) includes snorkeling and all kinds of water sports. There is time for relaxing on the beach and then an evening meal on another small motu is followed by incredible Polynesian and fire dancing demonstrations. Each day brings new and exciting adventures.
Too soon and the time on the ship is coming to a close, but we can carry home new memories along with some beautiful Tahitian pearls and other souvenirs. We enjoyed every minute and see why Gaugin and Brando called these islands paradise!
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