This was our 7th WindStar cruise (over the last 14 years) -- the 4th on one of their sailing ships. We'd talked to lots of fellow cruisers over the years and asked what they'd recommend for seeing Tahiti, and WindStar seemed the top pick. We're quite active and enjoyed the sporting options this itinerary and this ship provided.
We found the food to be really good -- better than our second most recent cruise, a crossing on Seabourn. This Windspirit ship a very small ship and you do get to know the staff quite well. All staff did exceptional jobs. Special requests were handled with pleasure. The reception staff were the best I've ever seen on a cruise ship. All staff except for one waiter met or exceeded our high expectations; that one waiter, unfortunately, was consistently disappointing.
Cocktails were also well done. We've sailed at least 3 times with this Bar Manager, Bien. The team is enthusiastic. We asked for several special mix cocktails and all were great.
There is minimum entertainment on the ship -- so if you want dancers and musical shows, look elsewhere.
I struggled ahead of the cruise with logistics -- what nights of the cruise were special items on offer, what time would be be allowed aboard, and what time are we kicked off at the end? I offer the following Day-by-Day rundown in case it's helpful to others. We try to pack minimally, and it would have been useful to know that we could wear shorts/jeans on 3 of the 7 nights.
Tuesday -- arrive Tahiti from San Francisco on United. Overnight on our own Intercontinental.
Wednesday -- Overnight Intercontinental
Thursday -- Embarcation, starting at 1pm. We arrived at the pier at about 1:30 and waited about 30 minutes to board as there was a line. Biggest hold up seemed to be the physical inspection of luggage -- looking for bottles and confiscating bottles of Alcohol. We had 2 bottles of Champagne per cabin, which was allowed through. We booked Candles this night -- dinner on the back deck of the boat; so shorts/jeans allowed this night.
Friday -- Moorea, via Tender.
Saturday -- Raiatea, Docked. Deck Barbecue this evening, so shorts/jeans allowed.
Sunday -- Taha'a -- all day on a private island, including lunch. You really don't go ashore to Taha'a, unless you're on a tour that goes there.
Monday -- Bora Bora, via Tender.
Tuesday -- Bora Bora, via Tender. Evening event is dinner with dancers on private island -- so shorts another night for dinner. This private island is available mid-morning to mid-afternoon for any guests who just want to be on a beautiful quiet beach.
Wednesday -- Huahine, via Tender.
Thursday -- Disembarkation. I believe we had to be off around 9am. Sofitel had a much better day-room option than the Intercontinental, so we arranged day rooms at the Sofitel and used taxis to get to/from the hotel. We flew out this same evening, on United.
More details on what we did by day.
Pre-Cruise -- we arrived in the evening 2 days ahead of the cruise, flying in on United from San Francisco. On arrival it was really hot, still, and very humid; I'd read this would be the case and I was still very surprised. I live on an island off the coast of South Florida -- so I'm used to warm days and nights -- this was downright hot. While we cleared immigration within minutes, others on our flight took about an hour to finally get through. There was a small group of singers/musicians welcoming the passengers to Tahiti.
We'd rented a car from Avis to drive ourselves to the hotel for the night and to take us around the island the next day. The rental worked out well.
Wednesday -- Full day on Tahiti. We'd arranged for a guide to take us on a 1/2 day hike to Fautaua Waterfall. The flora and fauna were spectacular, and the water was very refreshing. It was a pretty moderate to difficult hike given some of the roots and boulders we had to traverse, and we stopped short of the waterfalls given our pace and schedule. We did spend some time swimming in the river before we headed back down the trail. After the hike, we headed off toward some local sights including a great lookout, the Point Venus Lighthouse, and the Three Cascades Waterfall. We were about 1/3 of the way around the island at this point, and we decided to drive back / return the car as we'd only rented the car for one day. While the hotel is walkable to/from the Airport, it's quite a busy journey; we turned in the car and caught a taxi back to the hotel.
Thursday -- We were out of our room by 11am and the hotel held our luggage until our departure at 1pm. Taxi from the hotel to the pier was about $25 USD. That was for 5 people and luggage. Once aboard the ship and after we'd unpacked, several of us went into Papeete to visit the Catholic Church and Market. The Church as interesting but incredibly warm. The market had some breeze blowing through it; none of the goods for sale spoke to us so we walked away having not purchased anything. Sail away was around 6pm. Some of our companions had never experienced a WindStar sailing ship sail away and they marveled at spectacle. We'd arranged for dinner on deck this evening, so we didn't need to change out of our shorts. It was a very short 2.5 hour sail to Moorea, where we anchored off shore for the night. We knew our sailing month, April, was near the end of rainy season, and we had a small shower near the end of dinner. Staff had anticipated this event and arranged all tables under cover. The shower was over quickly.
Friday -- We'd arranged for a rental car on Moorea so that we could do two things -- hike the Three Coconuts Trail and drive around the entire island. Avis picked us up at the dock...but as we were 5 people and their car only fit 4, two of us had to drive to the rental office, get the rental car for 5 people, and drive it back. So we wasted some 45 minutes; this came back to haunt us as we tried to get some local fish (Poison Cru) at the highly rated beachside restaurant Snack Mahana; they had run out of food and closed early this day. Besides our Windstar ship, the Paul Gaugin was also on Moorea. The Three Coconuts Trail was beautiful; as it had rained the night before, some of the path was very muddy slippery. One of our folks abandoned the hike and headed back to wait for the rest of us. We didn't have a guide this day but did have a detailed GPS map that came in handy twice on the return as we somehow lost the trail. The drive around the island was mildly interesting; we were, however, tired and hungry.
Saturday -- Raiatea. In the morning we'd planned to hike to the Mt. Tapioi, where the Communications Tower is located, for a great birds eye view of the island. The afternoon we'd booked a spectacular drift snorkel through the coral gardens -- one of the highlights of the trip.
We were not successful on the hike as the path traverses private property and the property owners close the road to tourists on the weekend; we were in Raiatea on Saturday. I'd emailed the listed address on the sign asking permission to hike the trail on Saturday and the mailbox was no longer valid; some locals asked us to leave. We had a wander along the coast and visited a local market.
The afternoon drift snorkel was arranged through Te Mara Nui Plongée. Cost was 8,000 CPF/person, payable day of, in cash. We were told to bring masks, snorkels, and water shoes; not fins. We had 3 or 4 runs through the coral gardens. It was surreal to see such beauty as you floated by in the current. The boat anchored off a little island and we waded ashore. We then walked the length of the island with the guides (there were 2 guides with us). The guides explained that we entered the current and floated back towards the boat. The float took maybe 20 minutes, where we waded back to the island and repeated. We saw lots of fish, some beautiful soft coral, some blue lipped clams, and even an octopus; the octopus was just as interested in us as we were in it. There were far less snorkelers this day than the ship's organized tour the next day to the same location.
When we returned to the ship, some local ladies were instructing guests how to make outfits from local fabric and how to dance.
The evening's deck barbecue was great -- I especially liked the suckling pig and the lobster. There was lots of line dancing, and then dancing under the stars. The last dancers left around 11pm.
Sunday -- Taha'a. We enjoyed the private island all day. WindStar had all of the water toys at the beach for guests' use; there was a full bar set up, and there were tons of longers, both in the sun and in the shade. We stayed at the beach all day.
Monday -- Bora Bora. We hadn't planned anything for the morning. For the afternoon, we'd arranged an island tour with Natura Discovery. Cost was $70 each, payable day of in cash. The met us at the dock, with an covered but open 4X4 vehicle. We took a trip around the island, stopping at the beach, a plantation, a WWII site, and several lookouts. First stop was at the famous Bloody Mary's restaurant and bar. It was a really nice tour. Once back at the ship, several of us tried wakeboarding with the Watersports crew. All of us got up on the wakeboard -- some of us for a few seconds and others for a few minutes. One other in our group loved lounging on the floating pads behind the ship.
Tuesday -- Bora Bora. In the morning we'd arranged a single dive with Dive 'N Smile. Three of our group were certified divers and two were not. Cost was $100 for the certified folks and $110 for non-certified. Patrick was the Dive Master and he had a great casual way about him that relaxed everyone -- he was superb! The scenery was good, not great. We're very glad we did this as we wanted to say we've been on a dive in Bora Bora.
Patrick brought us directly back to the ship. We grabbed a quick lunch and changed into our swimsuits as we were headed to the island where tonight's dinner was planned. The water toys were on the beach but no other services were provided (towels and drinks had to be brought with you from the ship).
The evening dinner was really good. The food was good, the dancers were good. It was a pretty magical evening under the stars.
Wednesday -- Huahine. We'd planning to rent bicycles and do a self tour around the island. Instead it rained quite hard for a few hours this morning. I understand some tours went as scheduled and some guests had a lovely picnic on a sand bar in the rain. Once the rain stopped, we did have a wander about the town -- drinks in the yacht club, a visit to the beach, a visit to the church, and a visit to the Distillery, where we purchased several local concoctions. Our "rent bicycles" plan seemed very flawed as there were no apparent places to rent bicycles. Huahine is quite a sleepy place, so make sure you plan ahead if you want a car, bike, or driver for wandering around.
Thursday -- We'd booked day rooms at the Sofitel. They offered us day rooms for 18,000 XPF per room. We had the room from 9am - 6pm. I wrote to the concierge email address listed on their website to get his offer. The Intercontinental wanted us to purchase rooms 2 nights in order to use the facilities during the day from 9am-6pm.
Hope this is helpful to others. I'd highly recommend this cruise.