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  • Small Ship Cruising In Paradise

Small Ship Cruising In Paradise

by Joni Stone last updated on 07/25/2008 Disclaimer

Bora Bora Cruises and the “Tu Moana.”

French Polynesia – just saying the words conjures up visions of Gauguin, colours so bright you can taste them, scents of frangipangi wafting across the gentle breeze, and the soft lilt of French – spoken hushed, in an accent that feels like silk to the ears.

However you journey to Tahiti and her islands, you will land at the Faaa International Airport on the main island of Tahiti, near her capital city of Papeete. “International” is used loosely here. Bring your sense of humor and patience with you, and all will be well. Once through Customs, your greeter will adorn you with a fresh flower lei and assist you with your transfer; be it to the domestic air terminal or your hotel – you will be on your way to your adventure before you know it.

My husband, John and I spent our first night (really only a place to lay our head for a few hours) at the InterContinental Beachcomber Resort Tahiti. From what little we saw of it at 2am, it was lovely. Better than any view, were the crisp, cool sheets and inviting bed! Balm to the weary travelers. Up and at it early the next day, we hustled to the domestic airport to catch our flight from Papeete to Bora Bora aboard Air Tahiti. Very nice planes, a capable crew, our 45 minute flight included a quick stop on the lovely island of Huahine. Then back into the air for a 10 minute flight to Bora Bora. The airport lies on its own motu (islet) and all the major resorts have permanent greeting areas there. You easily locate each other, then the lovely leis and songs break out to welcome, welcome, welcome you!

We were spending our one night prior to the cruise, at the Hotel Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa.

Once all the guests were accounted for, we were whisked away in the resort’s own speed boat, and 25 minutes later tethered up to the Bora Bora Nui. Greeted with cool, refreshing tropical punch, we settled into the lobby, sipping our drinks while the quietly professional staff gathered discreetly and individually our registration details. When the time is appropriate, a staff member takes each guest couple to their bungalow – no shuttle mentality here! The hotel’s grounds were lovely, the bungalows richly appointed and more than adequate in size. It was a wonderful place to begin our adventure. Though limited in dining options, (only one restaurant on property was open), it was a peaceful, enjoyable setting.

Monday morning came early, with a “personalized” wake up call, not the canned voices we have all become too accustomed to. Spirited off in the speed boat back to the airport motu, we arrived to meet our “Tu Moana” greeter, François. Yet another boat ride, this time to Vaitape, the capital town of Bora Bora, where our lovely cruise yacht was awaiting our arrival. The “Tu Moana” allows guests to begin arriving as early as 7:30am, with all guests required to be on board by 9:00am. The crew was enthusiastic, and warmly greeted us in multiple languages. After a very quick check in, we were shown our “guest room” (they do not care to refer to them as cabins). It was a really lovely room, and I was amazed at what they were able to do with such a compact space. We had a double bed that was shaped wider in the shoulder area & narrower at the feet – it allowed the room to feel more spacious as you negotiated around the bed. A very fashionable bath, a wall hung flat screen TV/DVD/CD combination, and individually controlled air conditioning rounded out our room. Fresh fruit was delivered each day, a well stocked and well priced mini-bar, and twice daily maid service added a nice touch.

We received the “BBC News” (Bora Bora Cruises) daily; it out-lined the day’s events, meal times, and special shore excursions. One of the highlights was the daily “quest” for the most amazing sunsets seen from the beautiful lagoons we were sailing in. Every evening a die-hard group of us would assemble on the top deck to gaze as the Polynesian sun slowly sank behind whichever island we happened to be languidly cruising by at that time. It was wondrous. Dinner was served nightly in the Raa Here restaurant at a very civilized 7:30pm – 9:30pm. It was individual seating, but, there was plenty of opportunity to dine with new found friends, or focus only on your true love. Dress was always casual, comfortable with a twist of tropical elegance. The food was wonderful, everything was French or Tahitian; breakfast had the option of cold buffet and/or cooked food; lunch was a set menu, with always a choice of vegetarian, beef, chicken or very, very freshly caught fish. Dinner was the same with the addition of a selection of wines to pair with the evening’s offerings, and always at least three choices of a dessert to tempt you! Always enough, but, never too much – mostly…..

For a small cruising yacht, there were plenty of spaces to find solitude if you so desired. There are spacious lounges, a library area that has DVD’s for your pleasure, books (mostly written in French though), a sun-deck with incredible lounges, and a very nicely shaded area as well. On the top deck as well are two wonderful Jacuzzi tubs that are kept cool during the day, and warm for those late night star-gazing soaks.

Many of the activities were included, and we spent quite a bit of time kayaking in the warm (80˚F from surface to 150’ ft!), benign waters. If you are not a “water-baby” as I am not, then it is pure joy to be in the water and feel so very safe! The island of Raiatea (the Sacred Island) has the only navigable river in all of French Polynesia, and a great many of us enjoyed the guided kayak discovery trip up the Faaroa river. Our excursion also included a guided walk through the Tropical Garden – it was inspirational!

There were so many wonderful highlights, the breakfast IN the lagoon, the traditional Tahitian feast on a private motu, the discovery of the lovely little towns, the visit to an actual pearl farm, or just relaxing and lazing on the ship. The choice was yours.

Before we knew it our time was over. An experience not to be missed and one that will last in your memory forever. Vivre la Poynésie!

This review appears on South Pacific and Cruising.