Exhausted from the previous evening, we woke to find ourselves already securely pierside in Papeete. It was almost surprising to be this close to land after tendering for the last few ports.
We continue to enjoy remarkable weather for this time of year, usually muggy, hot and rainy. Now after watching the news from the USA east coast, we could hardly complain about the weather under any circumstances. We used to live in Washington DC and North Carolina, so those snow scenes were familiar to us and there is a certain joy about an unexpected “holiday” when snow closes everything down, but that quickly vanishes once you realize you must try and venture outside the following day.
We would be leaving the ship today for our first independent overnight to Moorea, about a 45 minute ferry ride from Papeete. The Amsterdam leaves Papeete at 5AM and arrives Moorea at 8AM. We are planning to stay overnight at the Hilton Overwater Bungalows on Moorea. I got this idea when I saw this offered as a ships tour – but the HAL price was easily 3-4 times more expensive. If you think the normal ship tour is marked up, the overland’s are even more so, but then they are fully escorted and are capable of dealing with mobility issues etc.
Our plans had originally called for us to visit Papeete’s markets promptly at 8am for a few hours, return around 11am, gather our bags and then walk the quarter mile to catch the Armenti Ferry to Moorea at 12:45. This plan landed in the graveyard of great expectations and good intentions as sleeping in and lazily packing suddenly seemed much more enjoyable than strolling thru the market.
After another wonderful room service breakfast, the packing began, with everything we would need ending up in two small carry ons. I had earlier visited the front desk to retrieve our passports and verify we were on the list of passengers who would not be sailing with the ship. Whenever you leave the ship to rejoin later, you have to request what is called a “Deviation” from Holland America. Their concern is that you don’t violate the many cabotage laws around the world that restrict who can carry what type of passengers between ports.
- NOTE: Most in the USA are familiar with the “Jones Act” which prohibits non USA flag vessels from carrying passengers between two USA ports. So If I was on a west coast cruise and wanted to get off in San Diego, skip Ensenada, and rejoin the ship in Catalina, they would likely not approve this deviation since I would only be on the ship for USA ports.
- There are other potential issues with immigration and customs e.g. does the port where you rejoin the ship have the capability to process new arrivals? It can be very complicated and is complicated, which is why you must let HAL know far enough in advance so they can make sure everything is going to be conform with local laws.
- The deviation letters also reminds you of the dark consequences if the schedule changes and the port you had planned to meet the ship was cancelled. This is why you should always plan your independent overland carefully and be thinking of your options for Plan B. Planning to meet the ship in Sydney – a pretty safe bet – Planning to meet the ship in a smaller port, especially tender ports, you must consider options carefully. This is why the good weather was important for me on this trip. Even though Moorera is very close to Papeete, it is a tender port and if the weather whipped up, they could easily cancel. However, since I was mimicking a HAL overnight tour, I knew that there would be a greater effort to retrieve passengers than otherwise may be the case.
At 11:45 we headed off the ship to walk to the ferry. Greeting us at the bottom of the pier was a van from a local Mortuary company. There had been a death onboard the ship a few days back. From discussions with those in the know, it is typical for about 3-5 passenger to die from natural causes during a world cruise. There is never an announcement or public memorial service. And while word generally filters around from those with cabins nearby, these tragic events are understandably kept low key.
The ferry ticket cost 1500 CPF – about $15 USD – for our one way trip. They accepted all credit cards and cash. You bought your tickets from a small window underneath the main waiting area upstairs, not well marked, but we were quickly steered in the correct direction when we asked a passerby. We would have quickly found it on our own anyway as it was obvious once you saw the windows. No lines. No security. Click on pictures to enlarge
Our carry-on luggage, which would easily fit into an overhead bin, was deemed too large to take on the ferry so we had to give it to the baggage handlers who checked it in, giving us a receipt.
The ferry would hold at least 300 people and was empty – plenty of seats and no need to make a reservation. A small snack bar is available selling premade sandwiches, soda, beer, water, chips and pastries.
The ferry has a lounge area with padded seats in the forward area, more casual seats in the café area and an observation deck with some chairs topside.
Leaving Papeete exactly on time, we enjoyed some chips and drinks as we watched Papeete fade and Moorea grow larger as we crossed the channel. Both islands were always visible. At 1:30 we arrived and were met by our prearranged driver from the Hilton for the 30 minute transfer to the Hotel.
As we left the van, we were greeted warmly by staff bearing leis for us to wear. Check in was quick and efficient and we elected to walk to our overwater bungalow. (Maps will be available once I get back to my scanner.) They almost insist on driving you the 200 yards or so to your bungalow in a golf cart and handling your own bags is simply out the question.
Our bungalow was gorgeous, with a complimentary bottle of iced Champange waiting on the coffee table. The bathroom alone was half the size of our cabin, with a huge shower and freestanding tub. There is a very nice sized deck with steps leading down to your dock which haa a ladder to the lagoon. The water was about chest deep. We had picked up towels and snorkeling equipment from the Hotel pool – no extra charge.
Wifi was included and was fast until the evening when everyone was logging on. The service is back to full speed early in the morning as I write this.
There were a surprisingly large number of fish swimming under, near and around the bungalows. The water temperature was perfect and clear. Perfect conditions and I managed to get a few pictures with my Go Pro. The floor to the bungalow has glass under the coffee table so I was able to wave at Judy as she looked down from inside.
This was Saturday night so the restaurant was only serving a seafood buffet at 7pm followed by a Polynesian show. The food was just OK, not up to what we became used to on the LIDO deck. Service was horrible – after waiting for 15 minutes I finally went to the bar to order drinks, and realized that the single bar tender was not able to keep up with close to 200 guests. While waiting at the bar, a waitress took my order and our drinks appeared 15 minutes after that.
Earlier we had ordered room service which arrived in 10 minutes, so the slow service for the buffet was surprising.
The Polynesian show was RIGHT NEXT to the tables. A pretty small area, but 3 dancers squeezed in and were entertaining. There were a series of 2-3 dancers who would move from area to area inside the restaurant so everyone would be up close for them at some point. The musicians were playing and beating drums in a central area.
On the way back to our bungalow, we passed a crepe bar making desserts and guests gathered nearby chatting, drinking and enjoying the full moon and spectacular weather.This entry was posted in Uncategorized