Tahitian Princess (Part 4) - March 14, 2003

4–Second Day in Bora Bora; Cameras and Film, Final Day, Baggage Handling, Day Room at the Sheraton, The Debacle at the Airport, Final Thoughts

The weather in Bora Bora was much better the second morning than the first. We looked out our window to see another ship in port for the first time during our trip, which turned out to be an older German ship called the Astor. Her lines looked familiar, but we couldn’t really place if we had actually seen her before or not. We had a somewhat leisurely breakfast, then headed over to try to scope out a 4 X 4 excursion. As we pulled up in the tender around 9 AM, we saw many of our CC group just heading out with Johnny for their shark feeding, etc., excursion. They reported having a wonderful time upon their return, around 2:30. We wished that we had been able to do his tour, as I’m certain it was much better than the one we did the day before. It is also fairly possible that one of the reasons why the excursion the day before wasn’t so great was because of the weather.

We walked around trying to meet up with someone to do a 4 X 4 excursion and there appeared to be only one other couple that was interested in it at that point. All of the guys wanted at least six people, and we were not having any luck getting another couple to join in. Eventually, after waiting around for about a half hour and a couple of tenders, in which we tried to snag people off the tender who wanted to go, we persuaded the guy to go with just the four of us. The cost was $40 per person.

WOW! I tell you, this 4 X 4 was SOMETHING! I didn’t read any reports from other cruisers prior to our trip that talked about the 4 X 4 excursions as being anything more than a little ROUGH. Talking with some other Cruise Critic folks regarding their 4 X 4 in Moorea, apparently it was rough and bouncy, but nothing like our trip in Bora Bora. Bora Bora was certainly rough, all right! It was a “hang on for dear life” kind of a ride to keep yourself from being bounced either out of the truck or all over your companions! I can’t imagine doing that trip with more than 6 people at the VERY most, as you would be absolutely SMUSHED in there!! It was also a little scary to a chicken like me! The road was straight UP or straight down, and for our trip, mostly MUD. Now, it had rained heavily the day before our trip, but it rains a LOT here, so I think our experience wasn’t that unusual. There were several places where the road –if one could call it that–was much more of a mud bog than anything else. Other places there were places where beside the side of the road it just fell away down a fairly steep hill. You couldn’t see huge vistas where you could have fallen off a hill or anything like that, it just was very steep beside the road, with the sides of the road being filled with very lush vegetation. The road was rarely flat, even from side to side. As I said, I was kind of scared, but my husband and the other couple thought the whole thing was GREAT! The vehicle was a Jeep which had a huge amount of power to get it up these steep grades, with mud all over. At one point, we made three separate stabs at getting up a really steep incline, at which point, the driver said in his very broken English that he wasn’t going to be able to make it. We weren’t at all sure what that meant. He backed down the mountain about 20 feet, took a little path off to the right for about 100 feet and rejoined the “regular road” again. Men!! Guess it was some kind of macho thing!!!!

We basically did a kind of “circle island” tour, with a trip up two separate really steep mountain roads to view vistas which were absolutely AMAZING. We viewed the lagoon and our ship, amazing colors of the waters, and the cannons placed on the mountain by US soldiers in WW II. We had seen many pictures from past visitors to Bora Bora of the same views. We just didn’t realize what a trip it was to get there!!!! We took many pictures up there, all of which were not good at all, because of problems with the film and x-rays. Please see the important note regarding film and cameras below. BTW, as we were leaving port that night, we happened to look up on the mountain and see where we had been, as we saw the two cannons there. We were extremely disappointed to see that it looked like a PIDDLY little hill, as compared to the others around!! We felt like we had climbed Mt. Everest!!!!

The trip took about 2 ½ hours, including a stop by a pareo shop by the side of the road. The ladies there were making pareos, which was very interesting. They took tie died fabrics, and placed various patterns (fish, butterflies, etc.) on the material and laid it dry out in the sun, creating lovely designs. I did purchase (yet another) pareo there, but it was not one of those, but an extremely beautiful one that had pictures of dolphins and Bora Bora on it...

Since we had yet to actually go to the beach during the whole 10 days, we wanted to go to the beach that afternoon, so both couples asked the driver to drop us off at a restaurant at Matira Beach, which is basically the only public white sand beach in Bora Bora, and where Princess shuttles all their passengers to. He dropped us further up toward the Hotel Bora Bora Resort, at a very comfortable little beach restaurant, fairly close to the dive shop. He asked us what time he should come back and get us and we just didn’t want to be tied down to what time we wanted to leave. He did come back a couple of hours later and picked up the other couple though. This was a great little restaurant with a patio, and tables and chairs looking out over the beach. Lunch was a cheeseburger for $4 for each of us and another $4 for a large order of french fries, which we split. They had Hinano but no liquor, as I wanted a rum and coke. I have no idea if they had wine or not. The burgers were good but pretty rare. I didn’t finish mine, as it made me slightly nervous to eat a rare burger there. Eric finished all his burger and suffered no ill effects.

The beach there is lovely, all white sand beach and lots of natural shade. There are no chairs or umbrellas for rent there, though. I don’t have any idea whether there are chairs further down where they normally let the Princess folks off or not. After a lovely lunch under the umbrella, we headed out to do some snorkeling right out from the restaurant. It was a wonderful afternoon, snorkeling and swimming, then lying down under a palm tree to soak in the day. BTW, as I was looking up at this HUGE palm tree over my head, I noted the 30 some coconuts hanging up there and moved my towel about 10 feet further down the sand, so that when the coconut fell down and hit me in the head, it would at least have to bounce and hit the sand first, instead of coming straight down to crease my noggin!!

After a couple of hours hanging out on the beach, we decided to head back to the ship, and were starting to walk down the beach a while. We were walking on the sand and in the water in front of the Hotel Bora Bora, when the security guard came and chased us off. I thought all beaches were public??? Anyway, we ended up having to walk out on the road instead, which was a lot hotter, as there was no shade there. As it would happen, our 4 X 4 guide from that morning came by and stopped and dropped us off at the tender pier. He told us that we didn’t need to pay him, since we had tipped him well that morning, but we did give him a few more dollars.

After we got back to the ship, we took showers, got some drinks and started the very disagreeable process of packing to go home. We ate dinner in the dining room for once, said goodbye to our table-mates, did a little gambling and went to bed fairly early around 11 P.M.

We took my regular good Minolta SLR camera, an underwater camera (NOT disposable), a video camera, and a digital camera. Of all of that equipment, the only one that took any really good pictures was the digital. Be advised that I generally take EXCELLENT pictures, and I expect nothing less from my Minolta. Considering the subject of the pictures, we were EXTREMELY disappointed in the results. First, the video camera–we didn’t check it out before we left home and found out after we got to Tahiti that the battery wouldn’t hold a charge. DUH, stupid. So, the first rule is, make sure you check out your equipment before you leave home!! Make sure the batteries work, you have fresh new batteries in your digital, etc., make sure the flash works, etc. Next, and this is MOST IMPORTANT– IF YOU EXPECT TO GET EXCELLENT PICTURES, CONSIDER EITHER TAKING MOSTLY ALL DIGITAL PICTURES OR HAVING YOUR PICTURES DEVELOPED ON THE SHIP OR SOMEWHERE IN POLYNESIA, OR GETTING A LEAD LINED BAG TO PUT THE FILM IN, AS THE XRAY MACHINES ARE KILLER ON FILM!!! Other than putting film only in carry on bags, we did not take any special precautions with the film at all. This problem with the film we found out the hard way, as I had been reading just about everything that had been posted on several bulletin boards about this ship. NO ONE mentioned getting bad pictures. I suspect that there have been a whole lot of folks that did get bad pictures and thought it was just them and thus didn’t mention it. However, after I got home and got my terrible pictures back from the store, I posted a note on Cruise Critic regarding my bad pictures. Many people responded that their pictures were bad after they got them back, like ours, which are cloudy, foggy, sometimes distorted, bad colors, dark, anything bad you can describe. Other than the digital pic's, I would estimate of the 14 rolls of film that I took with the Minolta SLR and the underwater camera (total), that there were about 10 pictures that were really good, about another 30 that were good, and the rest were mediocre or bad.

Apparently, this is the deal with the film–most everyone knows that the x-rays that they use to scan checked bags have a very high dose of radiation, enough to destroy most any film. However, I had thought that the carry-on x-rays were somewhat harmless to film. That is apparently incorrect, especially when you consider the cumulative effect of those x-rays over several flights. Also, there is an x-ray that you must go through with your bag, any time you get back on the ship (although I will tell you they were somewhat lax about that, as there were several times they didn’t make me stick the snorkel equipment bag through). However, if, for example, you are carrying a bag with a couple extra rolls of film in it, and those rolls in the bag or in your camera go through the x-ray several times, the cumulative effect could be severe. AND, the worst thing of all, is that at the Papeete airport, they have ONE x-ray for both checked and carry-on bags, and then ANOTHER screening just for carry-on bags, and it is apparently set WAY up on high.

So, what can you do??? Darned if I know.... According to the TSA, FOR ANY FLIGHT IN THE US, allegedly, you are entitled to have all film hand inspected, and if you they refuse to do that, you can have them call a supervisor and they are supposed to allow you to do that. I would suggest that you print out the info on the following site, and take it with you, if you want to insist on that. (www.tsa.gov/public/display?content=334) However, TSA rules do not apply for flights outside the US, especially for the flight leaving PPT, which is where you stand the greatest risk of getting your film screwed up. Some folks leaving PPT reported begging the screeners to hand inspect the film, without success. I do not know whether a lead lined bag would be successful or not, but I’m guessing would guarantee a hand check of either your checked or hand carry luggage, as they wouldn’t be able to see through it. And, as I said, the very best suggestion I would have is to get mostly digital pictures and/or have your film developed onboard. I did not personally check the prices for either film or developing on board, but another Cruise Critic member reported buying film onboard for around $3 a roll and developing for $9.99 for a 24 exposure roll. I am not being a shill for Princess here, just trying to save someone else the disappointment that we felt, with spending all that money on film and developing and having it all wasted.

It was a lot more relaxing than the normal cruise to just get up at whatever time you liked on the last morning, and not worry about them kicking you out of your cabin by 8:30 A.M. The last day, the dining room was open the regular hours, the same as the whole rest of the cruise. We slept until around 8:30 and then headed down to the dining room for breakfast. Frankly, I did not see anything on the menu for breakfast that wasn’t available on the buffet, with the single exception of hard boiled eggs, which I ended up ordering, along with some bacon and THE hardest toast I have ever had. It was so hard that you virtually had to break it to eat it. Cie le vie. After breakfast, we headed back over to the Marche and did a little bit more shopping, and headed back to the ship in a hurry, as it was HOT!! We got back to the cabin around 10:30 AM, tried our key in the door and it didn’t work!!! The information we had was that they wanted us out of the cabins by 11 AM, but this was a little excessive!! We found Gil down the hallway, and had him let us in to the cabin to get our carry-on’s. BTW, if you’re going to stay on the ship especially, you probably should keep your bathing suit in your carry-on, so that when you go on deck to take a shower (cause that’s the only place you can on the last day!!!!), that you won’t be flashing the whole ship taking that shower!!!

We vacated our cabin around 10:45, let Gil know we were leaving finally, and proceeded to go nib in some other cabins, to see how the rest of the ship had been living for the past 10 days. Wow, check out the description of the owner’s suite in Section 1! Absolutely beautiful! Thereafter, we went to check our carry-on’s at Sabatini’s. They give you a regular little claim check for all your stuff there. It’s a nice service, although, again, keep that bathing suit, and anything else you will need that last day! (Me being obsessive compulsive, I kept our passports, money, plane tickets, also, with us. ) We stopped by the Club Bar to say goodbye to our friend and bartender Sandra, then headed up on the Pool Deck to hang out for a while.

EVEN ON THE LAST DAY, when you have no access to your cabin, there are no pool towels available up on deck. Come on, Princess, don’t be so freaking cheap!!. The percentage of folks hanging out on the pool deck early on that last day was not that large, as most folks seemed to hang out in the public rooms, at least until we left around 1:00. It wouldn’t kill Princess to provide pool towels on the pool deck that last day, especially since most folks didn’t have anywhere to take a shower prior to heading home except on the pool deck. Well, duh, how were they supposed to wipe off afterward?????? They could provide the standard white room towels that day, even if they don’t have pool towels. We resolved the problem of no towels on deck by asking our friend and bar waiter Chris for some. He wasn’t able to get us pool towels, but he got us some standard issue white stateroom towels, which served our purpose.

By the way, if you hang out on the ship that last day, you CAN get drinks onboard, even though you can’t charge them to your shipboard charge. They have it set up so they can accept cash for drinks that last day, which is nice. And the casino is open in the afternoon, something like 12 noon to 6 PM. We didn’t go through there on that day, so I have no idea whether very many people were there that day or not.

Schedule for meals on the last day was as follows-
Breakfast buffet–6:30 to 11 am
Dining room breakfast–open seating 7 to 9 am
Lunch buffet–11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Dining room lunch–open seating noon to 2
Hamburger grill–11:30 am to 6 pm
Buffet dinner–5 to 8:30 pm
(Be advised some folks did eat in the dining room the last night, by just asking.)

SO–if you do decide to stay on the ship the last day until you go to the airport, you can get all your meals with no problem, as well as have drinks and gamble.. You just don’t have a room to lie down in, or take a shower, or change clothes before you head to the airport. Other people reported that, by that evening, the public restrooms were in pretty bad shape, from the heavy use from everyone. On some of the early cruises, they allowed people to use the spa the last day to take showers, etc., and apparently that overwhelmed the spa, so they don’t allow that any more.

They asked us to have our bags outside our room the last night by 9 PM. We put them out before we went to dinner and they disappeared maybe around 10:30 or so. Obviously, you need to keep with you anything you will need for that last day, and your tickets, etc., and probably including a swimming suit, if you intend to hang out by the pool at all that day. Bags of course go off the ship en masse.

IF YOU HAVE PRINCESS TRANSFERS, PRINCESS WILL TRANSFER YOUR BAGS TO THE AIRPORT, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU ARE ON ATN OR OMNI, SO YOU WILL NOT NEED TO CLAIM THEM TILL YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT. If you do NOT have Princess transfers, they don’t do ANYTHING with your bags except put them out on the pier under a tent for you to claim. When we left the ship around 1 PM it was very easy to just find our bags, and grab one of a couple of waiting taxis and head off to the Sheraton. The taxi fare to the Sheraton was $17.

We had read all the early reports of people coming off the TP and determined that we really didn’t want to just hang around the ship all that last day, with nothing much to do, and no room to go to or place to take a shower, and just feel like we were waiting to go home all day. We thought we would be more comfortable and would feel like it was one more day of our vacation, to get a day room at the Sheraton that last day. We paid 17,000 CFP for the room, which they said was supposed to be for 6 hours. We arrived around 1 PM and they said that we needed to be out at 7, which was about when we planned to eat dinner anyway, so I didn’t ask to stay longer. BTW, as we were leaving finally (around 8:30), we saw some other folks actually checking out and leaving to go to the airport, so it is very possible if we had whined and asked to stay in the room longer, they would have said yes. In retrospect, we should have at least asked.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the Sheraton. I did not consider it particularly PLUSH, as the hotel seemed somewhat understated to me. The Sheraton is the Princess hotel for pre and post cruise stays, and we saw several people there that had been on the cruise with us. We had ordered the cheapest possible room and we ended up with a partial ocean view, so we were certainly satisfied with that. There were nice bottles of toiletries in the bathroom, several towels, and the room had a mini-bar. It was very pleasantly cool when we arrived, a nice touch, considering hotel rooms are often warm when you arrive. Our room had a french balcony, if you know what that is (sliding glass door that opens, but there is no place to walk out onto). The pool was nice, and had one of those walk into the shallow water sections at each end, and had an infinity edge. There was one section where a waterfall type deal flowed into the pool, and that provided some shade in the pool itself. The only thing that was disappointing to me was that there really didn't seem to be that many chairs around the pool, and very few were in the shade. You kind of had to scope them out for the day, I believe, in order to get a chair in the shade. They did have a gal who walked around delivering drinks and food there to the chairs around the pool, so that was nice. There is NO beach there at the Sheraton. The Intercontinental is the nicest hotel in Papeete, and I'm not sure they have a beach there either.

We hung out by the pool for a few hours, had a couple of drinks, then went back to the room and laid down for a little bit and had a shower, dressed in clean clothes and went to get some dinner. There are two restaurants, that I saw anyway. One (the more expensive one, of course!!!), is in an extremely beautiful location, out on a point of land. However, be advised that, like most everywhere else in Fr. Polynesia, the restaurants are NOT air conditioned! Be advised that this is not a problem with just the Sheraton. Our table mates on the TP were staying someplace in Bora Bora--can't remember where--at $1000 per night. They said the ONLY place in BB where they could go to get out of the heat to eat was their room. So, they had room service a couple of times...

We ate at the cheaper restaurant there at the Sheraton and it was OK, but at 7:30 at night, it was so hot and humid, that I really couldn't eat very much because of the heat. By the same token though, we ate at Bloody Mary's in Bora Bora and we were very comfortable. So guess it just kind of depends on the night... Eric had the spaghetti and I had the curry chicken. Eric said his meal was very good. My curry was very bland–not spicy at all, which is what I had expected it to be–and thus not that enjoyable. As I said, the heat contributed to my malaise in that respect also. Once, again, we found that a bottle of wine is a much more economical drink than mixed drinks, as we got a very drinkable bottle of French red wine for something like $18. Our meal, including a bottle of water, was about $55 total. BTW, we didn’t really ever consider it, but they DO have room service there, full meals, and they were about the same prices, it appeared, as at the restaurant that we went to.

We had determined that we wanted to leave for the airport for our 11:45 flight, at 8:30, figuring that the last load of Princess pax on ATN were supposed to arrive at the airport around 8:30 to 8:45, so we figured that Princess would certainly allow enough time to get there, and maybe we would get lucky and be behind the big crush of people. As we were ready to leave, after some difficulty in finding the bell captain, we asked him to summon a cab. He asked us if we had ordered one at the front desk. Strange, we thought. We had to go stand in line at the front desk to have them call a cab, and there were about a dozen people in line, which didn’t set terribly well with me. As it turned out, after about 10 minutes in line, a cab pulled up to drop someone off and we hopped in. The cab to the airport was $17.

We arrived at the airport around 9 PM, which is when the fun began!!

I do not know whether our experience at the airport was the norm or unusual, but I sincerely hope for future Tahitian Princess cruisers, that it was unusual, as it was extremely uncomfortable. As I have said elsewhere a couple of times, the Omni folks went to the airport in the morning to check in and check their bags. ATN folks just go to the airport in the evening, to check in and claim their bags, etc., if you have Princess transfers. If you don’t have Princess transfers, you are responsible for bringing your own bags to the airport, regardless of what airline you are on. IF YOU ARE ON OMNI COMING HOME, IT IS WORTH YOUR WHILE TO PAY FOR PRINCESS TRANSFERS FOR THE TRIP HOME, SO THAT YOU CAN GO BACK AND FORTH TO THE AIRPORT IN THE MORNING AND IN THE EVENING AND SO THAT PRINCESS WILL TRANSPORT YOUR LUGGAGE ALSO. Cost for Princess transfers for two people JUST for the return home, is $50. If you did your own transfers on the way home, you have to go to the airport and back, and then to the airport again. This would cost $90 altogether, thus, more than Princess transfers. Otherwise, don’t bother with paying for their transfers.

The evening that we left PPT, there were FIVE large planes leaving PPT between 9 PM and 12 midnight. There was an Air France around 9 PM, Omni at 10:15 (supposedly, although they were late); another ATN at 10:30, our ATN at 11:45 and an Air New Zealand plane at Midnight. This is too many planes for that airport to handle. Apparently Air France gets priority as, at the time we arrived at the airport, they were stopping all ATN pax and letting all Air France pax go through the luggage screening machine. Also, apparently they were having some type of a work stoppage the night we left, and posts were being manned by supervisory personnel, and they were probably undermanned. The security screening was definitely undermanned as there were 4 lines and only two were open.

Many of the ATN folks arrived at the airport around 7 PM for the 11:45 flight. It took them until after 11 PM to go through check-in and security. Be advised that the PPT airport is extremely HOT, even at 11 PM. MAKE SURE THAT YOU BRING WATER WITH YOU TO THE AIRPORT. Two people were ill in line, waiting for the ATN check-in that night. We arrived at around 9 PM. At that time, the line for check-in was down the sidewalk all that way round the front of the building. Seeing the huge line, Eric went and bought us two more bottles of COLD water, for $2.50 a bottle for a large bottle. This was a good price and a good idea. There were several stores open before 9:30 OUTSIDE security, that had water for sale. Even if you have water, do yourself a favor and get more..

BTW, almost as good an idea as bringing water with you and getting some more at the airport, is getting one of the luggage carts across the road. The cost is $100 Tahitian coin (About $1 U.S.) and you get it back when you bring the cart back. Especially if you have a huge long wait, like you probably will, this is an absolute necessity!

When you get to the x-ray screening of baggage, be aware that there is ONE x-ray screening ALL baggage, checked and carry-on. Therefore, your carry-on luggage, INCLUDING YOUR FILM, is going to be exposed to large x-ray dosages. They will NOT hand check film in PPT. See the note above regarding film and cameras for suggestions.

I was concerned, arriving at the airport in PPT, over the fact that we were very much at the end of the end of the ATN line, which seemed to go on FOREVER, knowing that ATN had over-booked the flight from LAX to PPT. We checked in and they gave us our assigned seats, so I relaxed then. (BTW, we were able to check our bags all the way through to Washington National from PPT. We did have to claim them in LA, of course, but then just put them to be re-checked right away, as soon as we left immigration and customs.) It turned out that there were around 20 empty seats on our flight.

BTW, there is ONE place at the airport in PPT that is air conditioned. That is the ATN office upstairs! The bathrooms are upstairs by the ATN office, and, I guess from leaking a/c from that or something, the bathrooms are somewhat air conditioned, so if you’re really hot, have your mate hold your place in line and go hang out in the bathroom upstairs for 15 minutes or so!!

We got through into the departure lounge around 11:30, for a total of 2 ½ hours waiting in line. We felt somewhat lucky, as compared to the other folks who had waited 4 hours in line.. They started boarding about 11:30, and we actually took off right around midnight, only about 15 minutes late, somewhat of a miracle, considering the mess there in PPT.

We had seats in the 2 seat section the airplane, the preferred seats, but I was nonetheless, extremely uncomfortable for the flight. I would have paid $50 for a sleeping pill, as I could not sleep on the flight at all. The fellow in front of me had his seat reclined all the way, which contributed to my discomfort, but I switched seats with Eric and still was extremely uncomfortable, so I don’t think I could really blame it on that.

1) Seat comfort--size is about the same, foot room is about the same. HOWEVER, Omni is more comfortable because the arm rests actually go all the way up out of the way, both within the row and even on the aisle seat, as opposed to ATN, where the arm rest only goes up to about a 75 degree angle and is always between you and the next person.

2) There is apparently no viable way to make assigned seat assignments ahead of time on Omni. Seats are apparently assigned by when you arrive for check-in, which means, I suppose, if you arrive really late, you could get stuck with seats not with the rest of your party. On our flight out to PPT, there were about 20 empty seats, so that probably would not have been a problem with our flight. The seats on Omni are a 3-4-3 configuration. ATN has advanced seat assignments, supposedly, although some people did report having a problem getting seat assignments. We got seat assignments without any problem–3 separate times, in fact! Our seats were assigned once and changed twice before the flight, but we actually received the seats that were printed on our tickets, although several other Cruise Critic folks said that their seat assignments were changed at the airport. ATN has a 2-4-2 seating arrangement, in allegedly the same physical plane body, thus supposedly two less seats across than on Omni, in the same size hole. This does not make sense to me, as the seats on ATN were not appreciably bigger at all. In fact, they felt smaller than Omni to me, because of the problem with the arm rests. The aisles were definitely bigger on ATN, but otherwise, I can’t figure out where all that extra room from two less seats across went.

3) ATN does have more bathrooms

4) ATN has the individual video screens on all of their planes now. Several people reported theirs weren't working. Mine worked except I could only get the movies, unless I just couldn't figure out how to get to the games. The actual movies, I thought were better on Omni, but there are no choices on Omni. The thing I enjoyed most on the ATN screen was the thing that said how far it was to the destination, etc. AND, BTW, if the person in front of you is reclining their seat, it's very difficult to watch the video screen.
5) Food on Omni was MUCH better than ATN. The food on Omni was actually palatable, although I didn't take any notes and thus don't remember what it was. The food on ATN was some kind of mystery meat beef cubes for the dinner (can't remember what the other choices were) and crepes for breakfast. The crepes were inedible. Can't remember what the other choice was for breakfast, but whatever it is, TAKE IT! After they served that horrid breakfast, the stewardi took some type of a break, I guess, as they sat down after serving and it took FOREVER for them to come get the dirty trays.

6) Drink service was better on Omni, as they seemed to come more often.

7) The physical plane was clean on both, no problems.

8) ATN gives you a little comfort pack--socks, ear plugs, eye masks. I did use the socks, as I always take my shoes off on a long flight, but otherwise didn't use it. There were NOT pillows and blankets on all seats on ATN. Omni provides pillows and blankets for all seats, but no other 'goodies'.

9) Our Omni flight was on time leaving LAX, the ATN flight virtually on time leaving PPT (actually, kind of a miracle, considering the mess in PPT that night). The Omni flight was late leaving PPT that night, but that was due to the huge mess at the airport that night, for which I don't blame Omni.

10) Bags--If you are on Omni on the way to PPT, you do NOT have to claim your luggage in PPT at all. If you are on ATN on the way to PPT, you do have to claim your luggage at the airport.

11) On the way home, if you are on Omni, you have to go to the airport in the morning to claim your bags and check in. This procedure takes about an hour. This does prevent you from taking any all day tours in Tahiti. If you are on ATN on the way home, you do NOT have to go to the airport in the morning, but you will likely be at the airport longer at night. We had a problem with our flights out because there were an unusually high number of planes going out that evening--5 large planes leaving between 9 PM and 11:45, and the airport could not handle that number of people. AND they had some type of a work stoppage going on. MANY people who were going on ATN that night waited in line 4 hours (!!!!) to check in. We did our own transfers and (only) waited in line for 2 1/2 hours. The Omni people still had to wait in a long line for security when they came back that evening, maybe an hour or so, not sure.

We arrived at LAX around 10 AM, bags were very fast coming off the belt, and the immigration was also extremely fast. We were all done with those formalities in about 20 minutes, which was record time. Since we had about 2 hours before our flight out to the East Coast, we went and had some food and drinks and I bought some Sominex in the airport shop.

When the time came to board our US Airways flight to Pittsburgh, then on to DC, I noted with extreme displeasure that the center seat was once again taken, so we could not spread out. It turned out that all seats were full on that flight. I took a Sominex and thankfully was asleep before the plane left the ground. I felt much better when we arrived at Pittsburgh, having about 5 hours sleep. From there, it was about a 30 minute flight home. We arrived at our house about midnight, about 24 hours after leaving PPT.

WOW...... Is that a good enough description?? I would change some things about how Princess does stuff about dining arrangements and some other small stuff, and I have no idea how you make flying for 8 hours be any kind of comfortable, but God, French Polynesia is beautiful. So often, I just found myself looking around and thinking “My god, you just couldn’t make this up. I can’t believe that I am standing in this place. The water, the mountains, the valleys, the sky, such a beautiful ship as the Tahitian Princess. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks.....”

Carol & Eric in Virginia

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