April 2 to April 16th, 2004 (Click on pictures to enlarge)
(4/2/04) The long-awaited 20th anniversary special R&R getaway to the South Pacific began at 4:00 AM when we left for BWI airport. Our flight arrangements were made by the Windstar Cruises, so we left BWI at 6:30 – had a 1 ½ hour layover at the beautiful new Cincinnati airport – then continued on Delta to Los Angeles, arriving at 10:30 AM Pacific time. Luckily our bags were checked through, because we had a long hike to the Bradley International Terminal – then more lines to check in with Tahiti Air Nui and go through security before finally meeting our friends Skip and Kathy Dugan from Colorado. We hadn’t seen them since the Greece-Turkey cruise in 2001, but it seemed like only yesterday! We shared many laughs and memories while waiting in the “holding area” – small, crowded, and disappointing.
Finally we boarded a bus after many delays, and drove to the plane – a comfortable new airbus – and were on our way at last! The economy seats were quite comfortable – each with its own monitor and remote for movies, videos, music and games, and a footrest. The dinner was excellent, but the “snack” only fair. After an 8+ hour flight we arrived in Papeete, Tahiti in a heavy rainstorm at ~ 7:30 PM. Customs went smoothly, our bags made it (!), and we were warmly greeted with flower leis and bussed to the waiting Windstar. Departure was delayed because of the late arrival of most of the passengers – including a group of 92 coming from all over the country through LA for a wedding on Bora Bora during the ship’s stopover there on Monday!
When the check-in procedure was over, we went to our stateroom – a comfortable space with plenty of storage. Deciding to forget unpacking until the next morning, we toured the ship (only 70 cabins, maximum passenger capacity 150), which was a pleasant, intimate, smaller version of the “Song of Flower” – with the addition of 4 tall masts and the capacity to SAIL through the deep blue waters – which it did that night with high winds. After a nightcap in the pool bar, we went to sleep (though fitfully), with lots of cradle-rocking due to the high waves from the storm.
(4/3/04) This morning was devoted to unpacking after a delicious breakfast buffet. We learned that our arrival in Raiatea would be delayed from 1:00 to 3:30 due to weather and the late start, so all tour excursions had to be cancelled. (Since we were repeating the cruise the next week, it was a welcome chance to kick back and rest, but we felt sorry for those who had looked forward to the outings.)
Raiatea, “the Sacred Island”(“faraway heaven”) is beautiful. The main town was small, but pleasant, with beautiful flowers. We explored the shops that were open – admiring the crafts, jewelry and beautiful fabrics – then stocked up on bottled water and wine from the local grocery store. After a pleasant drink in the square, we returned to the ship for a shower. At 6:30 the local children, teenagers and adults entertained us with lively Polynesian dances and music in their colorful costumes. It was delightful! The youngest was only one year old, and the oldest was her grandmother. They were able to shimmy their hips so fast it made your head spin – great exercise!!
Our first dinner in the beautiful dining room was truly first class. Appetizers included escargot (without shells) with julienned roasted vegetables (me) and compressed artichoke & tomato torte (Paul), house salad with greens, beetroot and cucumbers (me) and beet soup (Paul) and wonderful entrees. Three of us had the delicious Ahi tuna with Asian vegetables and Skip had a tender steak and a mountain of shoestring fries. Dessert included chocolate crème brulee and lemon sherbet. We ended a wonderful evening on the pool deck with coffee, Cuban cigars for the boys, and the delicious Banyuls aged “cognac” that we brought back from France for this special occasion.
Music for listening and dancing was provided by Colin and Simone – a delightful couple and talented singers and musicians from Australia. It was a special evening under the stars…. Then the tropical rains returned, bringing the outdoor party to an end. Our first full day in Tahiti was a relaxing and pleasant one – wonderful people on ship and ashore – beautiful scenery and delicious food. Can’t wait for the adventure to continue!…
(4/4/04) We awoke as our ship was heading to the next destination – Huahine, a very sparsely populated, but beautiful, lush island. After a light breakfast (we’re gaining weight already!), we took the tender to shore for our first excursion – horseback riding on the beach. The Marquesas horses were small and more content to walk than trot – but it was fun and the scenery, with tropical mountains behind us and the beautiful water lapping against the rocky shoreline, very special. (In the distance we could see the outlines of Raiatea and her sister island Taha’a, and a faint peek at Bora Bora beyond – our port of call tomorrow and Tuesday.) The heat and humidity were stifling – made worse by the long pants needed for the ride. Video
We returned to the ship, recovered in the air conditioning, then devoured a huge Mexican lunch buffet – enchiladas, tacos, chicken fajitas and all the trimmings – with a delicious bowl of chilled pear soup. (Other choices included a bountiful array of salads, breads, meats and cheeses, the ever present fruit platter, and many dessert choices – not to mention of option to order from the lunch menu. One won’t go hungry here!!) Next came a much-needed nap to pay back the sleep debt that always is an issue at the beginning of a trip – wonderful!
At 5:00 we attended a lecture on the famous Tahitian black pearls. The farming process is amazing! First the oyster eggs are netted, then grown for 3 years until big enough for the expert grafting of a “seed” into the gonad of the oyster, along with a piece of the shell lining. If successful, this will grow into a pearl over the next 15-24 months. Out of 100 oysters grafted, only 50 will produce a pearl, and from that 50, only 10 will be of commercial quality (rated A,B,C, or D, depending on color, luster, shape, surface, and size… the larger ones the product of 1 or 2 additional seed implantations in a successful oyster!). That helps to explain the very high pricing on this gem!
After a quick shower and change of clothes (“casual elegance” is the dinner attire), we attended the champagne reception with the Captain and senior crew, enjoyed lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres (little willpower), then went on to another delicious dinner. I had grilled snapper served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.
We ended the evening relaxing in the breeze on the upper deck, then visited the bridge and had a stargazing lesson. The Southern Cross was visible, but many stars couldn’t be easily seen because of the full moon. (Captain Andrew Walsh was a lively conversationalist and was a friend of “Captain Dag” – our skipper from the “Song of Flower” in 2001.) It was a wonderful day in Paradise!
(4/5/04) Awoke early and watched our arrival and anchoring in Bora Bora – a beautiful group of islands with the largest mountain partially covered by clouds. After breakfast (the choices are endless – I had an assortment of fruit, creamy French yogurt, and a delicious omelet made to order) we headed out on a “Snorkeling Safari”, with stops in two locations. The first was at the tip of Toopua Island, where we spotted countless colorful fish, but the coral was less spectacular than we had hoped. However, the second stop was in a shallow “coral garden” at the edge of the barrier reef, where the coral was gorgeous! We were entertained by our lively guide Alex – a real bundle of energy, who kept us smiling with his singing, dancing, and antics that included pulley a large morey eel from it’s hiding place and finding a small octopus and wearing it like a hat! Video
We were then taken to a small private island, Motu Tapu, where we had a delicious barbeque lunch and Mai Tais served in coconuts. It was a beautiful spot and the sight for the afternoon wedding, attended by 95 of the 150 passengers. Those of us who opted to return to the ship had it virtually to ourselves…. A nap was welcome!
Cocktails were enjoyed with live music and a tapas bar (which included tempura, vegetables, tapenade, etc.). Prior to this was the 4 PM afternoon “tea” with other delectable goodies… Oh, the waistlines are growing! We tried to cut the calories at dinner and enjoyed wonderful roasted eggplant and garlic soup, then Paul and I shared a delicious Asian spring roll and low-fat Chicken Provencal Stew. Unfortunately for the chocolate lovers, dessert was a chocolate buffet on the pool deck – so much for willpower! We again enjoyed live music and dancing, with another beautiful sunset.
(4/6/04) The days are flying by! We awoke to rain and overcast skies – a good excuse for a “lazy day”… We had coffee at poolside (the “pool” is only ~ 15 ft x 10 ft – about twice the size of the hot tub! – but the surrounding decks are wonderful, with dozens of lounge chairs, tables, and a bar) – actually in our favorite corner of the upper deck overlooking the “pool” level. Breakfast was served in the restaurant due to the weather. I had a huge plate of fresh fruit and a blueberry blintz. Paul splurged on Eggs Benedict and bacon.
We then took the tender into Bora Bora’s main “town”, poked into shops, changed some $$, bought postcards, stamps, sinus medicine, etc. Apparently the prettiest area of Bora Bora is on the point of the island, which we plan to visit next week on the 2nd round – a nice luxury! We waited dockside for the “Sail-Away” opportunity – to photograph the beautiful Wind Star under sail, then return to the ship by tender to enjoy lunch as we set sail for Moorea. It was fantastic! Lunch consisted of another wonderful array of salads and other dishes from the Indonesian-themed hot buffet, including beef and chicken satay, meatballs, fried bananas, etc.
At 3:00 we attended a cooking class with Executive Chef Erwin (a tall, 30-year-old Dutchman with an ego to match!). Our class of 14 suited up in authentic chef’s jackets and tall paper hats, then observed the preparation of mango-papaya salsa and crab cakes (not Maryland-style, but made from Dungeness crab – previously frozen and squeezed dry). We then split up into three groups and set to work at tables, chopping all the many ingredients required. Our group won 4 out of 5 categories (salsa presentation and taste and crab cake presentation and taste – we came in 2nd on crab cake consistency). We were then able to enjoy the result of our efforts (with the appetizer-sized crab cakes gently pan-browned by Chef Erwin) with a nice glass of white wine. It was fun! We wore our chef’s hats to the pool bar for a celebratory toast and a lot of teasing.
After a nap, it was off to eat again! We all ate a lighter than usual dinner. I had chilled avocado soup, asparagus with dill sauce, and grilled Mahi Mahi over corn salsa with plantains. Delish! We all chose an early bedtime.
(4/7/04) We went on deck early to watch the beautiful approach to our next stop -- Cook’s Bay, Moorea. Unfortunately, the video camera has been misbehaving due to the humidity and we were not able to record it. However, the highlight of our day was Parasailing (the first time for both) over this beautiful spot – spectacular, exciting, and a little scary at times. The take-off and landing from the back of the boat was surprisingly easy, thanks to skilled operators, so all we had to do was relax in the harness and enjoy the view during the 15 minute ride 450 feet up in the sky – quite a thrill! Video
We returned to the ship in time for lunch, then relaxed until 3:00, took the tender to shore, and went to a nearby village to find the internet café. Black pearl stores are everywhere, but I doubt that I will splurge… At 4:30 we were back on the ship for our kitchen tour with Chef Erwin, who turned out to be much more engaging with a small captive audience (the Dugans and us!). The kitchen was impressive – but we were especially interested in the logistics involved in getting the meals out with the needed quality and time controls, and the environmental controls they employ, including closed incineration of all dry trash and grinding up the leftover food and forcing it through giant sieves before it is slowly released as fish food.
The evening entertainment was wonderful – seven Polynesian women (with many beautiful costume changes) doing native dances in the lounge. Some were fast and very sexy – others dreamlike and beautiful. They wore some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve every seen in their hair and as leis – and Paul bought 2 beautiful floral head pieces for Kathy and I to wear during the evening – the fragrance was intoxicating! Video
There was a major downpour at 5:00 PM, drenching the pool deck where the evening barbeque was planned – but luckily the rain stopped in time for the hardworking crew to transform the area in just one hour with extra tables and chairs, table settings (cloths, silverware, glasses and candles!) – and a fantastic buffet with cheeses, fruits, salads, roast suckling pig, flank steak, lamb chops, chicken, lobster, grilled fish, etc. ETC…. plus a dessert buffet that included yummy bananas Foster. After the feast, the buffet was taken away so that the singing and dancing could begin – including entertainment by the crew. One lively party!
(4/8/04) It’s hard to believe that the first week is almost over… but exciting to know that we have another week to go! We woke up this morning as we were dropping anchor in Opunohu Bay – with more beautiful vistas of Moorea’s mountains and lush tropical foliage. After breakfast we took a 3½- hour “Discover Moorea” tour by air-conditioned bus, which included a tour around most of the island with lively commentary by our guide “Rico”. The most spectacular stop was at Point Belvedere, with views of both bays and “Bali” mountain (so named because the photograph of this peak was used as a background for the movie “South Pacific”, which was actually filmed in Hawaii!). During the tour we saw lush tropical valleys, forests of banyan, teak, mahogany and pine (the latter two imported to this area because they grow so fast in this climate), pineapple and banana plantations, gorgeous flowers, and fascinating plants. We also stopped at a fruit distillery, where we sampled countless fruit-based liquors (and, of course, bought some!). The final stop was predictably at a shopping area… then finally we were able to return to the ship for a late, but delicious lunch. I had a cold salad sampler, wonderful chilled banana-orange soup and ratatouille in a puff pastry shell. Dessert was a light raspberry mousse topped with assorted fresh berries. Paul had Hungarian goulash and chicken curry. We were pleasantly stuffed! Because the sun was scorching, Paul sought refuge in the air-conditioned cabin, while yours truly relaxed on the deck in the shade.
We were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful sail-away from Moorea without any worries about packing. The island at sunset was spectacular from the water! An added attraction was Chef Erwin’s “famous Asian pancakes” – cooked and served on deck. It tasted like a savory Peking Duck stir-fry in soft Asian pancakes (He promises to share the recipe…) – delicious! They could have substituted for dinner…. But, of course, we went to the restaurant and ate again shortly afterward!
(4/9/04) Since we were dockside in Papeete and basically had the day to ourselves, we walked to town on foot at ~ 9:00 after breakfast (while the other passengers prepared to disembark). As predicted, almost all the shops were closed because of the Good Friday holiday, so we toured the town and located the market we hope to visit when we return next week. City Hall was very impressive, the plain Catholic church was not. Because Papeete, on the island of Tahiti, is the capital of the Society Islands (Archepelago), it was not as pleasant as the quaint villages on the other islands.
We returned to the ship at 11:30 and had it virtually to ourselves... only four couples are doing the second week. The captain said we failed our first week and had to repeat the course. We relaxed on the pool deck and enjoyed the huge lunch provided by the kitchen... club sandwiches, freedom fries, and plates of deserts. The afternoon was free for reading and napping as we awaited the gradual arrival of the new batch of passengers….. then the daily schedule resumed, with tea time for 4 to 5, music and cocktails from 6:30 – 7:30, then dinner, where we joined Fred and Jen, two of the other “repeaters”. I had delicious butternut squash soup and roasted duck. Paul had saffron gazpacho and spaghetti carbonara. Desserts were a poached pear for me and crème brulee for Paul. We’re both going to look like Porky Pig before this cruise is over!! We hit the hay early with a movie DVD – looking forward to an on-time arrival in Raitea tomorrow.
Click here to continue to week two