The Amsterdam arrived in Papeete, Tahiti around 7 AM. We took advantage of our extended port visiting hours to sleep-in and relax in our cabin. The ship will remain overnight and leave for Moorea at 4:30 AM tomorrow.
It was nice to be tied up to a pier, rather than having to tender. Tendering is always a hassle, but the most frustrating part is the difficulty in predicting when you may be able to get ashore. Not only is the speed of the tendering operation unknown and variable, it’s never clear what time you will need to arrive at the Lido Dome to get a tender ticket if you need to be on one of the first tenders.
This is a major resupply port and we expect to be replenished with fresh fruits and other supplies. This is also a major changeover port for all the guest entertainers who have been with us since Panama and some since Fort Lauderdale. They will be heading back to their homes or other engagements. A new crop of guest entertainers will join us and for the next couple of weeks.
We left the ship around noon when we ventured out to walk around the downtown area.
The gangway connecting the ship to the pier was narrow and two-way traffic was not possible. Consequently, we had to wait about 5 minutes to leave the ship as we waited for a couple dozen people to board the ship who were coming back from a tour. Since we were leaving so late, there were quite a few crew members waiting to go ashore as well. They were there first so we lined up behind the crewmembers, but once the line started to move, the crewmembers insisted that we go first. One thing we have learned after many days sailing with Holland America is that it is impossible to allow a crew member to go in front of you in any type of queue. They will always insist that you go first.
Our first stop was the Tahiti Tourisme’s visitor center which is located right next to the ship. They had some local maps and sold a few different types of souvenirs.
NOTE: Our main source for maps on our travels is MAPS.ME which is available for free from the Apple app store. We still like to pick up a local map since they often have useful advertisements and other local information. MAPS.ME doesn’t require internet service to work and it will always show you current location in addition to providing directions with distances to your next point of interest.
We headed off down the main street that follows the harbor, taking it easy as it was already pretty hot. Crossing the streets in Papeete is easy. Cars will insist on stopping once they see you have any desire to cross the street. If you are standing near the curb, be ready to cross, as the cars will be stopping and don’t try to motion them to continue – it won’t work.
Our first stop was the Centre Vaima which was Papeete’s first shopping mall. It has seen better days and now feels a little run down. There is Apple contract store here – not an official Apple store, but they have many products and accessories that you would find anywhere. Surprisingly, the store doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi.
We continued westerly down the main street, popping in and out of shops that caught our eye. Judy spotted a shirt in one store that looked nice for me – and we were pleased to find it in my size and it fit well.
NOTE: We didn’t come across a single store that wouldn’t accept US dollars and they all used a pretty favorable exchange rate. 100 CFP was exchanged for $1 USD which made converting prices very easy. Simply knock off 2 places and you have your price in dollars. For example, something listed for 1400 CFP Francs would be sold for $14 USD. Many stores offered people using Euros the same exchange rate as Dollars – which by contrast is a very poor exchange rate. Most stores wouldn’t take American Express and those that did often required a minimum purchase.
We passed by Parc Bougainville, named for the person who discovered Tahiti for the French, and continued on until we reached a large traffic circle called Place Jacques Chirac. We turned around after reaching Place Jacques Chira and headed back toward the ship, but now walking down a street a block away from the harbor.
Our first stop on the way back was Place Tarahoi. If you didn’t know that Place Tarahoi was Papeete’s governmental center you could be excused for thinking it may be a school or small college. Place Tarahoi is home to the Territorial Assembly and other governmental offices. The complex is open to the public but we couldn’t see inside the assembly meeting chamber nor were there any types of tours offered.
The heat was getting to us, so we sought refuge at the nearby McDonalds which provided an airconditioned refuge and a chance to get a quick bite to eat.
Cathédrale de l’Immaculée Conception
Feeling a little refreshed we continued our walk passing by Tahiti’s oldest Catholic church, Cathédrale de l’Immaculée Conception. The church was open, and we spent a few minutes looking inside.
Papeete’s local market, Marché Municipale was next on our list of places to visit. Most tour guides list this as a must-see destination and describe a large bustling marketplace as you would find in many other places around the world. By the time we arrived – around 3 PM, the place was almost empty and not very bustling. The lower level sells fresh foods and produce with the second level selling local items of interest and souvenirs. Judy found a few T shirts and a belt made from sea shells.
Nearby was a large building, surrounded by a large lawn and protected by a high fence. This is the Hotel de Ville – which is the Papeete Town Hall. This building is a replica of Queen Pomare’s mansion who was the leader of Tahiti from 1827 to 1877. We walked inside and spotted a wedding chapel which was much larger than I would have expected for a wedding chapel in a City Hall. I was a little surprised to discover a wedding chapel in the City Hall in the first place. Apparently, everyone must be married in a town hall in Tahiti to create a legal marriage and then they may have a religious ceremony later in a church.
The rest of the building held the type of offices you would expect in a city hall. We did spot this beautiful mural in the main lobby.
Very close to the ship we discovered a nice shop selling Hawaiian Print fabric. This area appeared to be a mini garment district as we spotted a few other fabric shops nearby. They had a nice selection of fabric and Judy spent some time browsing before she picked out some blue lace fabric. Judy spotted a few balls of what looked to be acrylic yarn tucked away behind the counter. She was happy with her fabric purchase and did not ask to look at the yarn.
We arrived back on the ship around 3:45 PM.
We have read about the Papeete Food trucks or Roulottes that appear every evening at Place Vaiete which is very close to the cruise ship pier. They start setting up around 5:30 PM and are usually open for business around 6:00 PM.
We left the ship at 8 PM and walked over the Place Vaiete to check out the various trucks that had assembled. There were about a dozen trucks that were selling everything including Hamburgers, Seafood, Chinese and Crepes. Unlike food trucks in the USA, most of these food trucks had dedicated seating areas, menus and table service. You can think of these as more mobile restaurants rather than USA style food trucks where you would likely order and eat standing up. After wandering around the area, we settled on the Roulotte Chez Manava which served primarily Chinese food. Judy ordered the Fouyoun Ha (chunks of fried egg, chopped mixed vegetables and chopped chicken breast) while I ordered grilled Mahi Mahi served with French Fries. The food was served piping hot and the serving sizes were enormous. Keep this in mind as you order as you may want to consider sharing. The price was 1400-1700 CFP with the final total (including drinks) coming in at 3250 CFP or about $32. We paid cash using CFP – a few trucks took credit cards and they would probably take USD, but I would be prepared with some local currency to avoid disappointment.
Mana, the Spirit of Tahiti
At 9 pm we headed back to the ship to catch the special “one time only” Polynesian show. We arrived at the Queen’s Lounge about 9:20 for the 9:30 show and the place was packed. We managed to find a few seats open way in the back on the lower level, but the view from anywhere is still pretty good in this small showroom.
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