I have been very fortunate in my career to travel all over the world and enjoy the many cultures and local traditions of the countries I have visited. I also have had the opportunity to travel aboard some of the most beautiful ships in the world, a travel method that I really enjoy.
I recently took two South Pacific cruises, one 22 days and more recently a 30-day cruise. Both ships were fantastic, but very different.
The first cruise I took was a sailing aboard the Pacific Princess from Papeete to Los Angeles. I like to call this ship my little gem as she is the smallest of all the ships in the Princess fleet. The ship was beautiful with decor that was elegant, but not over the top.
I can tell you from experience 6 reasons you may want to cruise on this ship.
- Size: the ship is boutique in nature and you really get the feeling you're sailing on a large yacht.
- Service: the service is over the top; you are waited on with smiles from the staff and nothing that you ask for seems to phase them. It’s simply done.
- Ease: getting on and off the ship in the ports was simple and easy, with no lines at all.
- Cuisine: the food was awesome and we had no problems getting a reservation at the specialty restaurants.
- Cabin: we had a balcony cabin and the service from our steward was over the top. We enjoyed the 24-hour room service with no waiting and the meals were hot.
- Social: I enjoyed this ship because you really have the chance to meet new friends and I have kept in touch with them still.
The second cruise to the South Pacific just 10 months later was a 30-day cruise on-board the Crown Princess. This was my second time on this ship and I enjoyed similar experiences both times.
This ship is large; 3 times the size of the Pacific Princess and the experience on-board had both pros and cons.
- You definitely have more ship to explore.
- You have many more lounges and shows to choose from.
- This ship had a jumbo-tron that showed movies and football games all day long with popcorn being served.
- If you like big Broadway productions and awesome entertainment this ship had it, and they were very good shows.
- Lines from check in till we got off the ship! We were constantly in lines and the staff was not organized when it came to tendering from the ship into a port.
- Service was very inconsistent in some areas and up by the pool.
- The food was OK, but nothing to write home about and sometimes cold.
- Room service: because it was such a big ship it was at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before you received your order and it was usually cold and/or they would forget something as easy has silverware.
- It was at times concerning as we saw staff not getting along with each other which made you feel uncomfortable to ask for anything.
While we had these unfortunate experiences, I would still do the trip all over again because of the ports.
"WOW!" is all I can say about the ports on this cruise. The water is so blue and calm around the islands of Papeete Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and Pago Pago. It is breath taking. Papeete was magical and the open market was so much fun. You can do plenty of black pearl shopping here as I did! It’s an easy walk from the ship to the market.
Bora Bora takes your breath away, make sure you do one of two things or try and pack both in. We took a jet ski and went around the entire island in the Motu, then stopped and had a bite of lunch of fresh fruit and fresh coconut on the back of our guide's jet ski. This was a highlight of the trip. The beauty and scenery were just amazing and unforgettable. Make sure you have a waterproof camera, sunscreen and a baseball cap as the sun can get you.
The second experience may not be for everyone. I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first, but we took a small canoe/boat with about 12 people and went swimming out in the ocean with black tip sharks and rays. You can actually stand in the water which came up to my chest and the guide would feed the sharks and the rays. These rays would swim between your legs and actually come up to you and almost kiss you.
Pago Pago is a quaint, small city. The ship docks in town so it’s easy to get on and off the ship as you like. While the city is small, it’s very busy with traffic. There are a lot of cabs and motor coaches that you can rent to get to a beach or another part of the island. One note here, is wear light clothing as its very hot and humid. The cab’s and buses are not air conditioned but also very inexpensive. We chose to do a walkabout the city and the people are very friendly and rich in history about the islands of the South Pacific. One unique experience in Pago Pago is every time a ship comes in the locals do an outdoor market with their hand made trinkets, blankets, jewelry and fabrics. A great place to do your souvenir shopping as prices are not expensive.
Then after your visit to the South Pacific it’s time to cross the Equator and visit the Hawaiian Islands. This takes about 5 days at sea so take a good book and relax, watch for whales, and flying fish. I guarantee you will see a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of the ship. We also spent a lot of time by the pool, playing bingo and dropping a few dollars at the Casino.
Upon arrival to the islands, your first stop will be Hilo which is not very exciting and to get anywhere it’s going to cost you some money. I recommend sharing a car rental with friends you may have met on the ship to go see the volcano or to the beach.
Then you’re on your way to Maui where you will tender to Front Street in Lahaina. Shopping is all around, but I recommend renting a jeep to explore the island. I have been to Maui well over 30 times and it never gets old. If you go between December and March you're guaranteed to see humpback whales. This is the time when the whales are giving birth to their calves and it is exciting to see them frolic in the ocean; it’s a highlight of any trip to Maui.
The last stop before another 5-6 day crossing back to Los Angeles is Honolulu. I would rent a car and go to the North Shore and the other side of the island for beaches. In the evening maybe take a stroll or a cab into Waikiki and don’t forget about paying your respects at the Arizona Memorial where the USS Arizona still lies beneath the water in the harbor. This is a somber experience, but highly recommended.
Then as your cruise winds down you have another 5-6 day crossing back to Los Angeles. As you get closer to North America you will find at times rough seas and a little bit more movement on the ship, but not enough to make you feel sea sick. You will also experience each day possibly cooler weather than you have had in the South Pacific, so be prepared and maybe pack 1 pair of jeans and a wind breaker if you’re up and out on the open decks.
Some things to think about when you’re ready to book a long cruise and some myths:
- Make sure you book your shore excursions before you leave home.
- Bring your gym clothes; both ships had beautiful work out areas and spas take advantage of them.
- Pack some books to read; each ship had a library and you can help yourself. Many people leave their books in the library so other passengers can read them as well.
- There were Internet lounges on both ships and the staff are there to assist you with your own devices or you can use one of the many computers to stay in touch with family and friends. There is a charge for Wi-Fi Usage, FYI.
- And finally a myth: If you think (as I did) that only older people are on these long cruises, you're wrong. I love older people and sometimes had the best times with them, but on both ships there were people in their 40’s and 50’s for the most part and some families! So don’t be nervous about booking a long cruise it’s an adventure of a lifetime!
I LOVE CRUISING!!
I would recommend a cruise to anyone. You unpack and pack once and you see the world in the meantime. You have everything at your fingertips as you would at home. And the best part, you don’t make the beds or clean your cabin. You simply get up and shower and head out for the day! The prices on these longer cruises are affordable and are rich with amenities. If you’re thinking of taking any cruise of any length …don’t wait and give me a call. I promise you won’t forget the experience for a lifetime.
Mauru ‘uru - That's thank-you in French Polynesian!
Morris Murdock Travel