Tahiti

 

The entire South Pacific Cruise to Totality was bookended by several days in Tahiti. The Easter Island add-on to the eclipse cruise required a couple of back-and-forth stays at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, and one long day at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort while waiting for my red eye flight back to Los Angeles.

I used my free days before and after life on the Paul Gauguin to sketch by the pools, shop at the market, and research and purchase a pearl necklace and a Tahitian ukulele.

I twice attempted to buy stamps and first day covers at the OPT (Office des Postes et Télécommunication) but, like Pitcairn and totality, it was another busted goal. (The philatelic window was closed during my first attempt, and soon after all OPT doors were locked due to a worker strike throughout the entire island chain. “The French are always on strike,” said a guide.)

Goodbye Polynesia and the M/S Paul Gauguin—I might be back. Maybe roll the dice again in December, 2020?

A footnote about cruising with the Paul Gauguin: Experienced travelers know that the worst part of the cruise experience is, by far, disembarkation. When that cruise is over, it is OVER. Guests are usually herded into hallways or into holding areas with hard plastic chairs and bare lightbulbs. The staff actively ignores them—a hurtful experience when just the day before everyone called you by name. Gone is the food, and the bar is closed, never to reopen. The deprivation and despair is rivaled only by the feeling of coming down from cocaine.

NOT SO on the M/S Paul Gauguin—or at least on this eclipse-at-sea charter. After checking out of our rooms and stashing our luggage by our stateroom doors, passengers came and went from shopping ashore like we owned the ship, or just lounged wherever we liked as the busy, cheery crew vacuumed the carpets and transitioned jobs. The Gauguines were still hanging around in their revealing island attire. Smiling bartenders were still available, making drinks. I joined some of my favorite people from Easter Island in the La Palette bar on deck 8 to drink mai tais and work crossword puzzles. The lunch buffet—served just before it was time to transfer to our luxurious day hotels and uncomfortable flights home—was as sumptuous as ever.

SLIDESHOW OF THE 2019 EASTER ISLAND/CRUISE TO TOTALITY EXPERIENCE

Photos:

Arrival in Tahiti

InterContinental Tahiti

Marché Papeete

Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort

Flight home

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Moorea and goodbye

Heiva is both a celebration of Polynesian culture and a competitive festival during which thousands of performers and athletes from each inhabited island of the French Territory vie for “best of” status in dancing, singing, drumming, and traditional sports (like rowing).

It was a delight to be cruising with the M/S Paul Gauguin in July during the annual Heiva festival, and each island showcased their best and brightest adults and children. While anchored near Papetoai Pier on Moorea—just a thirty minute sail from our final destination, Papeete, Tahiti—the “Moorea Mamas” boarded the Paul Gauguin with armloads of flowers and island greenery to make flower crowns and leis for a mini-Heiva on the ship.

Later that night, the Paul Gauguin made the short trip to the quai d’honneur at Papeete, and Captain Toni and staff bid the eclipse chasers a formal farewell at the final cocktail party. Later, the outstanding performance by O Tahiti E—Polynesia’s premier folkloric dance troupe—might have been the cultural highlight of the trip.

Controversy: which one is Bali Hai: Bora Bora or Moorea? Both claim to be Michener’s special island, floatin’ in the sunshine, her head stickin’ out from a low-flying cloud. I believe Bora Bora is the island Michener had in mind when he wrote Tales of the South Pacific, but the hokey backdrop used in the movie South Pacific definitely looks like Moorea.