RSSC Paul Gauguin Cruising Review

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Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and French Polynesia

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Papeete, USA

Departure Tuesday, January 06, 2004
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Departing From Madison

Travel Light - Pack One carryon

At 7:00 am it was -3 deg. F and wind-chill -20 from a brisk wsw wind at 18 mph. Booked into Economy, I decided to avoid the lines and try to upgrade to First Class. Unfortunately, all my flights were booked so I was stuck in back. Luckily, Carlson got me a upgrade into Business Class for my 8.5 hour flight from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti. Last year I upgraded one way for $600. But on the way back they were full, so this year I decided to plan ahead. Radisson charges $1,800 for the two way upgrade to business class, which I think is worth it since a cramped overseas flight can start you off on your vacation not relaxing. The Madison to Minneapolis portion of the journey was ontime. Even with gusty winds the DC-9 took off and landed smoothly.

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Minneapolis-St. Paul to LAX - Boeing 757-300

Tropical Flower At Le Meridien

After a brief stop at the Northwest WorldClub to see if I could upgrade, I was told the flight was full and no upgrades were available. I proceeded to the gate just to be told to wait, and wait, and wait. Apparently the inbound flight from Milwaukee had a medical emergency and even though the flight landed on time, it took them well over an hour to clean up. The flight finally departed a full two hours after its original departure time. Stuck in back, I lucked out and got sandwiched between three packs of screaming kids. It could not have been more surround sound, and even a guy with the noise-canceling headphones was shaking his head. This was the classic of the flight from hell. The 757 takes forever to load, has 2 x 2 in Business Class and 3 x 3 in Economy Class. The Northwest seating is cramped. Four hours later we touched down to a overcast but warm (warmer than subzero) LAX. I proceeded to Air Tahiti Nui and got checked in Business Class and continued on to the security screening. I planned ahead and reserved a Business Class seat, which was a good thing after my last Economy Class flight. Plus, this flight is a full 8.5 hours. Security was beefed up, they even swabbed byRollaboard and examined the contents. Having a box of batteries raised a few eyebrows until I told him the demand of the GPS and digital cameras.

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Air Tahiti Nui First Class Lounge - Quantas Fifth Floor

Air Tahiti Nui First Class Menu Enroute

I breezed up to the lounge trying to break the headache from the flight before. I plugged in the PowerBook to make sure it had a full charge and was pleasantly surprised to find a open WiFi network in the lounge. Using my MacStumber, I ciphered the signal to be coming from the non-WEP encrypted Boingo_Hot_Spot. It had a moderate 38-42 signal strength (100 being the best) and asked reception if it was alright to connect. Of course, reception had no clue what WiFi even was. Upon connection, I was directed to a sign-up site, I guess you have to pay $7.95 for a two day trial service (BoingoAsYouGo), which was fine for me. I guess they have hotspots all over the airport. The dslreports.com speed test showed a 457 kbs and 304 kbs upload. Not the best, but useable.

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LAX to Papeete, Tahiti

Airbus 340

The Airbus 340-300 departed ontime just after 6:00 p.m. (local) for the just over eight hour flight to French Polynesia. This Air Tahiti Nui flight was configured with 2 x 2 x 2 First Class (with huge amounts of legroom and in a separate compartment), then Business Class with 2 x 2 x 2 seating then Economy Class in back. This is a relatively new Airbus, and the seats have five motorized seat adjustments, including a pop-out foot rest. The food was quite good, definite French influence. Most of the flight was bumpy, with very short periods of complete calm. Having a portable computer on these long flights really shortens the time. On my Mac PowerBook, I have iTunes which is wonderful. An iPod work equally as well. I like to spend some of the time writing, and doing any unfinished business. Flights become long stretches of sheer boredom the more you travel. Seasoned travelers learn to ignore the bad movies, food and liquor on these flights. The real reason people choose anything but Economy Class is to escape the cramped quarters. What really separates the professionals is how to compress the time, so that it passes quickly (computers are great for that).

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Air Tahiti Nui Website

Arrival

Lobby Le Meridien

We touched down and were immediately at the gate, time: 12:15 a.m. The flight was 8 hours and 15 minutes. Enroute, the Airbus was doing a steady 533 mph at around 37,000 feet. Stepping off the plane was like stepping into a tropical dream. Even at midnight, it was 80 deg. F. and humid. With no luggage, I breezed through customs. I met my Tahiti Nui Travel contact to collect tickets for my Bora Bora flight, then waited on the bus for everyone else. As it turns out there was a large group going to the Beachcomer, and had I known, I would have paid an extra $10 for a cab to save an hour. As it was, I did not get checked in until 1:45 a.m.

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Le Meridien

Over the Water Huts

Le Meridien is great during the check-in process. I had a nice orange-juice cocktail awaiting me. The entire process was about two minutes. It's now 2:00 a.m. The Moon is slowing dropping closer to the horizon over the ocean and I'm looking forward to my trip to Bora Bora tomorrow. I have to say with the fresh tropical air, the Moon silhouetting the palm tree's, and the gentle surf of the ocean, the tropics hold a true magic that you cannot find anywhere else.

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Le Meridien

Restaurant Hours

The Le Meridien resort offers a number or restaurant and bar options. Sunsets can be best seen at the beachside bar which gives you a commanding view of the Pacific Ocean and Moorea which silhouettes the horizon.

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Additional Photographs: Departure

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Related Information

General Info
Seven Seas Paul Gauguin Information
Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and French Polynesia
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