Today was day three of our four consecutive port days, and this will be another tender port, which requires us to get a tender ticket. I had arranged for a rental car from Albert Transport Tours. They would meet us at 9 AM at the tender landing. When I made the reservation we had no idea where our tender pier would be located. Most cruise ships tender to either Cooks Bay, or Opahuna Bay. It’s not terribly important to know the exact tender location in advance, because all tour operators will know where your ship is located and will meet you at your correct spot. If you had planned to walk to a location, for example the Intercontinental Hotel, then knowing your tender location would be more important.
When they published the “When and Where”, the location of our tender pier was listed as Cook’s Bay. At some point they made an announcement that our location had changed to Opahuna but I paid little attention because I knew that Albert transport would find me regardless of our final location.
I arrived at the Lido Dome at 6:50 AM to get in line for a tender ticket. Even though I arrived 20 minutes earlier than I had for the previous tender port, I was further back in line, almost to the door to the Lido, the head of the line was near the Dive Inn. Once the line started to move I ended up getting a ticket in Blue Group 6.
Tendering started around 8 AM. Our group was called at 8:30 AM. We arrived at the tender pier ashore a few minutes after 9 AM.
We are greeted by women passing out flowers and then proceeded through the gauntlet of tables were local residents had set up a variety of pop up shops. There were numerous people offering a variety of private tours, so if you don’t have anything scheduled already, I am fairly confident that you’d be able to find something available once you arrived. We quickly found our driver from Albert transport. There was another couple who did not have a reservation for a rental car and Albert transport was able to accommodate them.
I had originally scheduled the car for eight hours, but when we were checking out the car, the attendant only charged us for the four hour rate since we would be back within six hours regardless. The cost for a four passenger automatic transmission car with air conditioning was $80 for four hours. Even if we had to pay the 8 hour rate it was only an additional $15.
Circle Island Tour
We headed off planning to drive around the island counterclockwise, stopping whenever we saw something of interest. The only two spots we were specifically planning on stopping was at the Belvedere Lookout and an agricultural school that sold juice and jams.
We were on our way at 9:30 AM. The total time from boarding our tender to departing in our rental car was about 45 minutes. Driving was very easy, the roads were well-maintained and wide. The cars are left hand steer and driven on the right side of the road. The speed limit was 60 km/h and traffic was very light.
As we drove around the first half of the island, we stopped about three times to take photographs of the beautiful scenery which was ever present. After about three quarters of the way around the island, we came across a large local grocery store called Champions. We stopped there for about 30 minutes and picked up some snacks and a few souvenirs.
Continuing our drive we stopped at a local golf course called the Green Pearl Golf course. We were surprised to find that the Pro shop was closed, the parking lot empty and no one was playing. We asked around later and people told us that the course should have been open, so we never did understand why it was closed when we visited.
Juice Store and Factory
Next up was a rum and juice factory and store called Manutea. We saw a sign that indicated that tours might be available but we didn’t inquire. Tours may have been for larger pre-arranged groups. We went into the store consisting of one large room selling a variety of rum based juice drinks and souvenirs. The bar offered free samples. We tried all the different varieties and found them to be quite delicious, but we didn’t buy any, partially because we didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty of bringing them backboard ship. We did hear later that some people managed to bring the alcoholic juice back on board because the juice is packaged in a milk carton type container that at first glance does not appear to be an alcoholic beverage.
Hilton Overwater Bungalows
The Hilton water over-water bungalows was our next stop. We walked around the spectacular hotel grounds. We walked out on the pier where the bungalows are located and managed to peek inside one that was vacant. Judy and I spent one night here on our 2016 cruise, and we enjoyed it immensely. I highly recommend spending a night in one the bungalows if your situation permits.
The only time we left the main road circling the island was when we drove up to the Belvedere Lookout. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the top. It took us longer than it would have otherwise since we were following a very slow tour bus for the last half of the drive. The Lookout is definitely worth the trip. Once you arrive, plan on spending about 10 minutes to fully soak in the view. We saw some signs for some hiking trails but we didn’t investigate further.
On the way back down the mountain we stopped at the agricultural school were they sell jams and juices along with some smoothie type drinks. The jams were small sets and were about $20 for seven jars. We didn’t buy any.
Shopping and back to the ship
After we refueled our rental car we dropped it off back at Albert’s transport and spent about 25 minutes shopping for Tahitian pearls and other items at the adjacent store (also run by Albert’s), which has free Wi-Fi. To summarize, we left the rental car place at 9:30 AM and returned the car about 2 PM. A four hour rental would be sufficient and you can manage your time at the various photo stops to stay within the four hours.
The Albert’s transport van took us back to the tender pier where he spent a few minutes browsing the various temporary shops, before heading back to the ship. We were back in our room at 3 PM and I went up to the Dive Inn and brought back hamburgers for a late lunch.
Even though we didn’t spend that much time in the sun, we were still hot and sweaty and it was good to get cleaned up, relax and take a nap.
We enjoyed another wonderful dinner where I ordered a New England chicken pot pie which was outstanding.
Hyperion Knight was the featured performer this evening in the Queens lounge. We had enjoyed his performance on our Canada and New England cruise back in October 2016 were we also have a chance to get to know him better when he joined us for dinner. Hyperion puts on a wonderful show combining his amazing skills as a pianist, a good sense of humor, and a dash of music history. It’s a great combination and this is a show you don’t want to miss. During the course of the show he mentioned that he will be practicing daily in the Explorers lounge around 9 AM and is open to taking requests.
His parents raised him near Berkeley, California, and named him after the Greek God, Hyperion. He joked that he grew up at a time when other children were being named Moonbeam and felt lucky to end up with Hyperion.
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