Bora Bora Cruises Tia Moana Cruising Review

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Bora Bora, Fench Polynesia

Disembarkation Sunday, January 23, 2005
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Le Taha'a Private Island Resort and Spa (Le Tahaa)
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Morning Packing on Ship - Bora Bora

Last Newsletter

One of the best features of this private yacht cruising experience is that you depart in the afternoon. There are no early morning wake-up calls and hurried departures as in other cruises, as they depart passengers in the morning and receive passengers in the afternoon. This concept allows clients to relax and depart at their convenience, instead of that of the cruise line. The do this by disembarking one day, and embarking on separate days.

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Checkout Procedures

Bora Bora Nui Huts

After a nice breakfast and relaxing lunch, we turned in our cabin key to the reception desk and finalized our on-board bill. My bill, including several spa visits, tours, laundry, drinks, and a bottle of Crystal, totaled about $1,200. By far the least expensive in almost all of my 14 cruises. I asked several people about tipping on this cruise. It is still unclear what is expected. On Radisson ships, the tips are included. On this ship, it is not mentioned, however the crew is mostly non-Polynesian, which indicates to me that some amount of tip is appropriate. I tipped generous, since we were only four passengers, and it was like our own superyacht.

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Disembarkation

Ships Bridge

After accounts were settled, we went to the back of the anchored ship (which anchors in a lagoon not far from the airport outside Bora Bora on a motu) to board a tender to shore. The Captain, Hotel Director and several crew said their goodbyes as the receptionist, gave us flowered arrangements to wear on our heads. The tender ride to dockside at the airport was about 10 minutes.

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Commuter Flight From Bora Bora to Papeete

Aft Deck

At the airport, we checked in, and checked our carry-on luggage. The ATR 72 is a very small commuter turboprop, which has very little room in the cabin (so almost all luggage is checked). After a 30 minute wait, we boarded the aircraft. There is no security in this small motu airports, and it is open seating on the aircraft, with certain seats blocked off to maintain weight and balance of the aircraft. After a brisk takeoff in a small rain shower, we climbed to altitude over the peaks of Bora Bora and continued on the 45 minute flight to Papeete. Once back in Tahiti, the Tahiti Nui Travel agent met us at the airport and shuttled us for a 30 minute ride to the Radisson Resort.

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Day Room at Radisson Plaza Resort - Tahiti

Airport

Check-in at the Radisson resort was a breeze and soon we were in our room, which overlooked the pool and ocean. This resort was completed in July of 2004, so it was still very new. The rooms are beautiful, well-appointed, and have a huge bathroom with shower/tub combo and a beautiful freestanding bowl sink. What impressed me most about the room was an included ethernet jack and high-speed internet service-- the first of which I have seen in French Polynesia. Since we were not there long, I did not get a chance to use it.

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Shopping for Tiki's in a Private Gallery

Airport

Some of the most impressive artwork on the Tia Moana were the numerous large wood carved Tiki's that measure anywhere from 3 feet to about 6 feet in height. I inquired about the origin of these beautiful wood structures and was told they were commissioned by the owner of the cruise line from a wood carver in the Marquesas. After unsuccessfully trying to inquire about ordering one from La Gallery in Viatape at Bora Bora, the receptionist arranged a private showing in downtown Papeete. The proprietor, Christine and her husband picked us up at the Radisson on Sunday afternoon and opened up their art shop so that we could see some of the various art carvings from the local artisans in both Tahiti and the Marquesas. I finally decided on two smaller Tiki's and commissioned a larger 6 foot Tiki made from Rosewood originating from the Marquesas. These take up to six months to complete and are shipped by DHL. The price of the smaller Tiki's are in the $1,500-$2,000 USD price range while the larger Tiki's are more than $13,000 USD (shipping is additional).

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Dinner and Transfer to the Airport

Commuter

We returned just before sunset at the Radisson and had a buffet dinner there (price, without any wine or bar drinks as about $130). Nothing is inexpensive in Polynesia, since almost everything is imported. In Huahine, our tour director Paul told us that the minimum wage was so high in Polynesia that most items were simply just too expensive in labor costs to produce locally. At 8:45 p.m. we checked out and were picked up by the Tahiti Nui Travel bus for a 30 minute ride to the airport.

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Air Tahiti Check-In

Radisson Room

There was a huge line for the Air Tahiti Flight TN022 from Papeete to LAX. Since we were booked in Economy, we waited, and went through the first security check for luggage and finally got to a check-in counter. There is no separate line for non-checked luggage, however there is a separate line for Business or First Class check-in. The main terminal at the FAAA airport is not air-conditioned, so it was very hot (and humid) even at 9:30 p.m. I inquired about upgrades and was told that all Business Class was full, but that two First Class seats were available for a $2,000 each, one-way, upgrade (note that it was only $1,600 each from LAX to PPT).

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Customs

Radisson Bath

Since we had purchased an item with a export tax, we needed to have a receipt stamped, which is done right after the initial luggage screening. We did not know this at the time so we had to double back after check-in to have this two minute procedure taken care of. There are some items in French Polynesia now that require customs tax which is made known to you when you purchase items from the seller. There were none for the pearls I purchased, but there was for the Tiki.

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Exit Customs and Final Security Check

Radisson Pool

After check-in and your seat assignments are made, you show your passport and white visitors card to a customs agent where your passport is stamped. You then must go through another security check before entering the boarding gate area. This seems a bit odd to me since you already have the same security check initially in the front of the terminal.

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Upgrade to Business Class

Tiki's at Galerie

I was a bit disappointed about not getting any upgrade, but was happy to have a window-seat (2-4-2 across seating in the Airbus aircraft). Relegated to Economy, we only had about 15 minutes to boarding when just by chance I went up to the gate counter and inquired one last time about space-available in the front of the aircraft. "Sure, we have two seats available in Business Class..." the agent said with a smile on his face. "I'll take two !" I replied. A agent then escorted me back out to the front of the terminal to exchange tickets and to take my credit card info for the $600 each upgrade fee. I felt pretty lucky. Again, this seats were listed at $4,000-8,000 each when I did my internet search (and travel agent quotes). Quite a substantial deal if you are persistent enough. All in all, my Economy ticket was $1,100 with a LAX-PPT upgrade to Business Class of $600, and another upgrade back for $600. Total airfare: $2,100.

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PPT to LAX

Galerie

Life in Business Class is wonderful. The First Class is only two rows of 2 x 2 x 2 seating, so not a substantial difference from Economy Class. In Business Class, you get huge amounts of room, a fully reclining seat with a multitude of automatically adjustable functions including a power foot rest. For this evening flight from 11:15 p.m. over the 8.5 hours to LAX, you get dinner and breakfast (including any wine or mixed drinks). You also get hot steamed towels as well as a small comfort kit which includes socks, toothpaste/toothbrush, lip balm, lotion, ear (E.A.R.) plugs, and some eye covers. You also get a headset for the personal video/audio monitors that pull out of the armrest. On these flights, dinner is severed, then all the lights are turned out so people can sleep.

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Layover in LAX

Expenses at Radisson

The layover in LAX was a long one. Luckily, I'm a member of the WorldClub Lounge program at NWA, so we got some comforts.

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Northwest Business Class to Minneapolis

Air Tahiti Business Class

The 3.5 hour flight to MSP was a long flight, since we had started traveling the day before.

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Northwest Business Class to Madison

Air Tahiti Meal Selection in Business Class

Around 11:00pm we finally arrived back into Madison. A most incredible vacation. Now I await the Tiki's I purchased at Galerie, and the large Tiki I commission to have carved from the Marquesas.

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Additional Photographs: Disembarkation

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Bora Bora Cruise and Le Taha'a Private Island Resort and Spa (Le Tahaa) Review
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