The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me:
Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier Islands, Moorea, Bora Bora and Papeete; Cruise#2: Papeete, Moorea, Tuamotu islands, Marquesa Islands, Hilo, Honolulu
This review will cover both cruises.
As it turned out, the itienrary had a lot of expedition-style elements: transportation by zodiac, snorkel eqipt. issued, visiting out of the way places (not even listed in Lonely Planet or much on the web about them), an excellent speaker introducing us to the various Polynesian cultures, film programs, some hiking, and excellent local guides.
The mix on the ship was about 50% French-speaking and the rest English speaking (consisting of US, Australian/New Zelanders, Europeans) and most programs were offered twice, once for the French speaking, and again for the English speaking audience. Ship announcements were bi-lingual.
Food is both restaurants is excellent and I enjoyed the buffet on on the 6th level for most meals as I could "eat and run".
Spa services are excellent
I liked that the ship had a afternoon reception for those of us traveling on our own so we could meet each other.
This is a 5-star ship, with 5-star dining, 5-star services and 5-star amenities (for example, bathroom amenities are from Hermes).
I had cabin 602, a deluxe suite. It has a different configuration than 602 on L'Austral, its sister ship with the ante-room being all closets, making the entrance a bit dark. This category cabin comes with butler service.
There are essentially two rooms. The ante-room is all closets with plenty of hangers. the bedroom is lovely, well designed and with good lighting. There is a sofa and a small round talbe and one side chair. There are also two upolstered side benches. The flat-screen TV has movies, documentaries, music, news stations and view from the bow. Ponant offers free wi-fi to all.
The ship moored in center city and it was easy to walk to the main market (good shopping) and to as many stores as you can handle. My cruise was in March and it was still very hotl. There is a small handicraft center next to the pier, as well as an tourist information office.
This was a bigbus type of tour and the driver was the guide. A ship's personnel provided translation for the French. It had several photo stops, as well as stops at a coffee factory.View All 21 City Tour Reviews
I took a taxi to the Bishop Museum and it took me 4 hours to get thru their 5 buildings. A special interest was their exhibit on Easter Island which was excellent. It was worth the $22 admission. There is a restaurant and a nice gift shop on site.
Though many of us (myself included) did not set foot on the island due to the rain and the large swells, several people braved the rough waters and did. A woman from their tourist center cme aboard and gave us a history of the island, complete with slides; and later in the day vendors from the island came with their beautiful carved wooden items to sell along with stamps, t-shirts and souvenirs. It was a nice experience to talk with them aboard ship.
Moorea, the land of the over-water bungalow, is beautiful. The Island tour took us to the highest point (Belvedere Point) for the view, around the island with a stop at "Tiki Village" to see replicas of island homes as well as photos from Moorea's early days, snacks, bathrooms, Paul Gauguin paintings (replicas) and a peal store. We traveled in 4X4's.View All 11 Circle Island Tour Reviews