March 22 through 1 April 2018
This is a cruise for you if you ever wondered what it would be like to sail aboard a private sailing yacht through the South Pacific paradise.
- Sailing on a four mast ship through the South Pacific Islands just sailing on your own private Motoring Yacht at a fraction of the cost.
- The two special events on private motu (reef islands) were absolutely awesome.
- Service on the Wind Spirit was exceptional throughout our cruise. Our room attendant (Dedi) was very efficient as well as being very friendly. The Serving Staff in the Amapour Dining Room was also exceptional.
- All meals were also excellent throughout our trip. It is amazing that the chef could get such a wide variety of high quality fresh food in such a remote location.
- Embarkation and Disembarkation were both very quick & easy. This is not surprising given that there were only 116 passengers to process.
- The description of the excursions in the My Windstar website was very accurate and informative. We found that Windstar’s excursions were high quality experiences.
GETTING THERE: It is not easy any or cheap flying to Papeete, Tahiti. Only Tahiti Niu and Air France fly nonstop from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti (Airport Code PPT). Air New Zealand (United Code Share) has an insanely long 30+ hour flights (via Auckland) or Hawaiian Airlines with 18+ hour layovers in Honolulu.
We choose the Air France flight (Code Share with Delta) LAS > LAX > PPT. We splurged for Premium Economy because it was only about ~$500 more than Coach when we booked. I checked air fares a few months later and found that they had been raised much higher. We flew a Delta flight to LAX and our Checked Luggage was booked through to PPT. Our Delta Flight arrived in LAX Terminal 2 and our Air France Flight departed from the Bradley Terminal. Fortunately, Delta has a shuttle from Terminal 3 to the Bradley Terminal so we DID NOT have to go through TSA again.
The service on Air France was very good. It was an overnight flight so we slept for most of the 8 hour flight. Premium Economy was a worthwhile splurge. Thankfully our luggage arrived without any problem
Papeete is a small airport and getting through Tahitian Customs and Immigration was quick & easy. We took a taxi to our hotel 2,400 Polynesian Francs (~$US24)
PreCruise Hotel: We chose Hotel Tahiti Nui (3 Star) because it was close to the ship (just 4 blocks/400 yards). We chose a Jr Suite (another splurge) with an Early Check In for (~$US240). The Le Meridien (recommended by Windstar) and the InterContinental are both 5 Star Resort Hotel alternatives which may be better for longer stays.
The location of the Hotel Tahiti Nui is in the downtown area. The area looks rough but we never felt unsafe. We found it very convenient for our needs. Traffic in Papeete was much more busy than I expected. For example, the traffic was stop and go all the way from the airport to the hotel. It seemed just busy and congested as Honolulu.
Both my wife My wife and I experienced serious Jet Lag from our flight. Our afternoon was spent exploring the downtown and harbor area. The weather channel predicted 80% chance of rain but thankfully they were wrong. Very humid through. We walked back to our hotel after a nice lunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbor. We stopped into a convenience store and bought cereal and milk for breakfast. 1,100 CFP. (~$US11) which was more reasonable than the Continental Breakfast offered by the hotel for $US33 (a full “American Breakfast” was $US45). We both needed showers after our walks and we were content spending the rest of the day recovering from our flight.
The Hotel Tahiti Nui is just fine for a day or two before a cruise but it is not a Resort Hotel of the same caliber as the Intercontinental or Le Meridian. It is also much less expensive as a result. Having a couple hundred in CFP came in handy as we saved a lot of money by avoiding the expensive hotel restaurant.
EMBARKATION: Hotel Check out was 11:30 and ship embarkation starts at 1:30. Although it is only an 8 minute walk to the Fingers Pier where the ship was docked, it would have been very difficult to transit because there are many poor sidewalks, high curbs and cross streets so we took a taxi for 2,000 CFP (~$US20).
We arrived at 1:30 when embarkation started along with some of the other 116 other passengers. Unfortunately, it was not raining. There were there porters available who quickly took baggage and put on the luggage tags. Check in went quickly though and efficiently taking about 15 minutes once it was our turn. Once onboard a nice Buffet lunch was available.
We departed Papeete at 18:00 sailing off into a beautiful sunset. Our first dinner was excellent!
Day 2 - AT SEA:
DAY 3 - FAKARAVA, TUAMOTU (Anchor) We did not book any excursions as I wanted to get the feel of the ship and take advantage of the Windstar's water sports platform where you can swim off the back of the ship. Weather was mostly sunny but there was a stiff breeze which made the water quite choppy. Spent the rest of the morning reading and napping.
DAY 4 - TIPUTA, RANGIROA (Anchor) Rangiroa, the second largest coral atoll in the world and a premier dive destination. I took a snorkeling excursion to “The Aquarium” a small motu (island) inside the lagoon. I have snorkeled many places all over the world and have never seen as many fish as this location!!! It was incredible!!
My wife went to the Paul Gauguin Museum and Pearl Farm where she learned about the island as well as how pearls are “farmed”
The "Special Event" Dinner was Bbq on the pool deck under the stars. Great food and wonderful service.
DAY 5 - AT SEA Much needed rest after BBQ on the pool deck the evening before. Sailing between Rangiria and Taha. The Captain shut the engine down and used sails for most of the day. Another very good dinner. Nice entertainment in the lounge 9 to 10. Spent about 20 minutes Star Gazing fro forward deck of ship. Lots of stars in Southern Hemisphere that we rarely get to see.
DAY 6 - TAHA'A (Anchor) The quiet sister island to Raiatea (they share the same lagoon) offers similar enchanting scenes, from paradise-white sand beaches to an ancient volcano and deep valleys redolent with the scent of vanilla.
I booked the Coral Garden Drift Snorkel Excursion to a Coral Garden channel. We took a small boat to the other side of Tahaa Island where a 100 yard wide channel runs between two small islands. The current runs over a beautiful coral reef. We walked to the inlet side of the channel and drift snorkeled about 400 yards downstream which was a truly unique snorkeling experience. We snorkeled down this beautiful coral filled channel three times which was enough time in the water.
My wife was very happy with the Scenic Exploration of Taha'a excursion that she booked.
The second “Special Event” was a BBQ lunch on Motu Mahaea off the island of Taha'a. The ship dining staff set up a great lunch for everyone. The ship’s staff also brought over kayaks and paddle boards for use in the motu. It was a great day!!
DAY 7 – HUAHINE (anchor) Huahine is a more isolated and "savage" island (actually two sister islands linked together), known for its lush forests and deep lagoon.
We both took the Sacred Sites & Cultural Walk excursion. Our guide was incredibly interesting and informative. He explained the history of the Island of Huahine as well as the history of French Polynesia in fascinating detail. This was a great excursion.
It was very warm (90 degrees) so we really looked forward to getting back to the ship.
DAY 8 - BORA BORA (anchor) is justly famous for its magnificent lagoon and magical water I booked a snorkeling excursion through Trip Advisor. It had the same 3 snorkeling spots as the ship's excursion but was about $40 cheaper. Swimming with Black Tip Sharks is completely safe but takes some getting used to. The Sting Rays were also a unique and interesting encounter.
My wife enjoyed her Glass Bottom Boat excursion. Her guide was excellent. Described the history of Bora Bora. She thought it was a fascinating excursion.
DAY 9 - BORA BORA (anchor) We needed a rest day onboard after several day’s of fantastic excursion experiences. The evening’s Destination Discovery event where everyone on the ship was taken by large Polynesian Catamarans to our own private island off Bora Bora for a spectacular Tahitian luau, complete with Tahitian dancers and fire dancers.
DAY 10 – Morea (anchor) I walked around the port area for about a half hour, stopped at a cafe for a cup of tea before returning to the ship.
DAY 11 – Papeete > DISEMBARKATION
The ship arranged a taxi to take us to the airport. Our Air France flight (07:30 departure) was a long but uneventful back to LAX. We had 3 hours to clear Customs & Immigration and get over to Terminal 2 where we caught our Delta flight back to Las Vegas (arrived 23:00).
FINAL THOUGHTS: I believe that this was the best cruise that we had ever taken. I cannot recommend Windstar any higher than that.
Our Cabin (Number 110, category BX) was an Ocean View with 188 sq’ which is about the same size as one on a River Cruise ship which was the same layout as all others (except the owner’s Suite 220 sq’)
Unfortunately, room 110 was located near the ship’s turbine powered generator so the noise was quite loud. The next morning we asked the Reception Desk if it were possible to change rooms. Fortunately there were other rooms available that were much quieter so we moved to room 204. I later checked the noise levels at the rest of the ship and found that the rooms forward of rooms 120 and 220 were very quiet.
The layout of both rooms was very well designed with plenty of storage. It had a large closet, a four drawer dresser, and storage bins overhead. There's also open shelving on either side of the queen size bed. Our room also had table with two seats that converted into a small bed for a child if needed. There were also reading lights above the bed and five 110-volt electrical outlets located in useful places. There was a clock in the room so we easily knew the time.
The bathroom was good size and very well designed. The shower was the best of any cruise ship or hotel that I have ever experienced.
Amenities included a 30-inch flat-screen TV (with a DVD player), a small fridge with complimentary sodas, robes and slippers, toiletries from L'Occitane, a hairdryer, safe. The TV channels included BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, US Prime, Sky News and Sky Sports News in addition three movie channels.