Travel Story: French Polynesia On Oceania Cruises Ship, Marina
Updated: Feb 17, 2021
French Polynesia is one of the few remaining untouched natural beauties of the world and whilst its not the easiest or the cheapest of places to visit it's certainly well worth it. We booked this cruise with Oceania Cruises primarily due to the itinerary and whilst we had not travelled with Oceania Cruises prior to this trip we have certainly fallen in love with their ship Marina and their onboard service. Oceania prides itself on offering the best cuisine at sea and we have to agree, where else can you eat lobster every night included in your fare not to mention that they have more specialty restaurants than most of their competitors and its all included in the fare.
Day 1: Papeete, French Polynesia - Embarkation
After a great economy flight with Air New Zealand from Australia via New Zealand to Papeete we arrived at the ship. We were greeted by the friendly cruise staff in the marquees set up by the ship on the dock as there is no terminal in Papeete for cruise ships, after dropping off our bags and receiving our room cards we boarded the ship. One of the benefits of cruising with Oceania is that on most of their cruises the ship does not leave port until late in the evening or the following night after embarkation, this means people arrive in dribs and drabs over 12-24 hours so you never have large queues when checking in. We were very pleased with our accomodation which was an A1 Concierge Level Verandah where we found a welcome bottle of champagne and a letter from the concierge explaining the benefits of concierge level accomodation. As the ship was not leaving until late we decided to try out the local food at Les 3 Brasseurs the local craft brewery, we tried a paddle of local craft beer along with American diner style food. It was nothing amazing but it filled the gap, we re-boarded the ship and around midnight we departed.
Day 2: Moorea, French Polynesia - Snorkelling & Beach BBQ
We anchored off shore at the beautiful island of Moorea and travelled by local boat to a nearby snorkelling spot where we swam with black tip reef sharks and stingrays, after re-boarding the boat we were taken to a nearby motu (local language for small island) where a beach BBQ had been set up. There was lots of locally caught seafood cooking on the open fire along with Tahitian chicken and pork dishes, the food was excellent as was the local Hinano beer that washed it down. After lunch we wandered the motu exploring the beaches and snorkelling in the shallows before being taken back to the ship. As you can see from the photos the water is a colour here not seen elsewhere and is unbelievably clear, truly an incredible location.
Day 3: Sea Day - Day Spa & Dinner At Jaques Bistro
Sea days are always great for kicking back and relaxing and as this was the only sea day on the itinerary we booked in to the onboard Canyon Ranch Spa for a couples Swedish massage, the spa is beautiful, well equipped, spacious and the staff were excellent. In the evening we booked in to Jaques Bistro the on board French restaurant. French chef Jaques Pepin is the executive chef for Oceania Cruises so their flagship specialty restaurant of course bears his name, the lobster was excellent as was the escargot and dessert.
Day 4: Raroia, French Polynesia - Cancelled Port Call
Our scheduled stop was Raroia which is not actually an island but rather an atoll, nobody lives here so it's like a desert island. The plan was for the ship to set up a beach bar and BBQ so everyone could spend a day at the beach but unfortunately the winds were so strong the ship could not anchor without fear of drifting on to the reef. These things happen from time to time so the captain made the call that we would have another sea day and proceed slowly to our next port of call. We spent the day with a good book and many cocktails on the pool deck. We booked in to Polo Grill for dinner the on board specialty steak house where we enjoyed their version of surf and turf (steak topped with lobster tail).
Day 5: Fakarava, French Polynesia - Cycling & Snorkelling
After our ship anchored off of Fakarava we tendered ashore to explore the atoll, there are less than a thousand people living here. At the pier there are locals that rent out bicycles so you can ride around the atoll so we hired two bikes and went for a ride. There is only one road on this strip of atoll so we rode from the village in the middle to the old lighthouse at one end and then all the way to lagoon beach at the other end. Since we'd worked up a sweat we jumped in the water and went snorkelling in the shallows with the coral and the reef sharks to cool off, this stop is truly heaven on earth. In the evening we booked in to the ships Asian specialty restaurant Red Ginger and had the lobster pad Thai which was amazing.
Day 6: Rangiroa, French Polynesia - Snorkelling
Today we anchored in Rangiroa which is an enclosed atoll within which is located the Aquarium Garden, a protected marine reserve. We arrived by tender and then boarded a local snorkelling boat for our guided snorkelling adventure. The local guide lead us through the amazing coral reefs meanwhile his assistants threw breadcrumbs on the surface of the water so the fish would swarm around us. We've never seen so many fish in the wild before and the elusive moray eels, it was an incredible experience, one we will remember forever. In the evening we booked in to the ships on board Italian specialty restaurant Toscana and had some amazing fresh made pasta.
Day 7: Bora Bora, French Polynesia - Island Tour & Jet Ski Safari
We anchored late morning for our first day in Bora Bora. We tendered ashore and wandered the local village which was lovely, here in Bora Bora there are very few restaurants outside of the resorts, instead the locals set up tabes and chairs in their front yards where all paying diners are welcome to sit down and eat family style food. We then boarded our Jetski for a tour around the entire island, halfway around near the overwater bungalow resorts we were treated to a coconut cracking demonstration followed by some refreshing coconut water. We travelled back in the twilight and got back to the ship just before sunset.
Day 8: Bora Bora, French Polynesia - Underwater Scooter & Helmet Dive
Today we tendered ashore and boarded a local boat to go on an underwater scooter ride, these bright yellow machines seat two people one behind the other and have a perspex dome which has oxygen constantly bubbling in so your head is in air and you can breath but your body is underwater. The machines are driven forward by a compressed air engine and we had a scuba diver guide who led us through the reefs. They are not the easiest things to drive but it was lots of fun, they had nets of bread crumbs attached to the scooter so there was always fish swarming around your head. Afterward we did a helmet dive which is a similar principle where your helmet is filled with air but the rest of you is in the water and you walk along the sea floor shaking a bread net to attract the fish. The marine life was incredible and the tour staff amazing, it will, be hard to top this place.
Day 9: Raiatea, French Polynesia - Snorkelling
Just when you thought the snorkelling couldn't get better we docked at Raiatea and boarded a local boat to be taken on a snorkel float which involved jumping in to an inlet between two motus and the incoming tide floats you through a narrow channel of coral so very little effort is required unless you need to swim back the other way. This is truly an amazing location, the nearby over water bungalow resorts are the most exclusive in French Polynesia not only charging the highest price but only accepting bookings from those with celebrity status. In the evening we saw the local vendors setting up their food truck stalls (called La Roulettes in this part of the world or The Wagons in English) there would have been 20 or more food trucks and they all set up their own tables, chairs and umbrellas on the pier. As the sun set we saw lots of local families sitting down to a meal, as mentioned above there are not a lot of restaurants in French Polynesia as the locals prefer the food trucks because the food is so much cheaper. If your in this part of the world of an evening be sure to try the local food! By far this location is our favourite of all of them so far.
Day 10: Huahine, French Polynesia - Lagoon Lunch
Today we anchored at Huahine where we boarded a local boat and travelled to a nearby motu where the locals welcomed us in to their homes. They then fed us a lunch of local family specialties, pork, chicken and coconut fish along with local beer served at tables and chairs set up in the lagoon. It was certainly a unique experience, similar to a swim up bar at a resort. As we were heading back to the ship we were escorted by local dolphins as the sun was about to set.
Day 11: Papeete, French Polynesia - Disembarkation & Intercontinental Tahiti
Today we farewelled our ship Marina which is truly one of the most beautiful ships we've sailed on and also the many friends we made from all over the globe. On thing we find with cruising is that even if you don't dine with others you always make worldwide friends whether that be on tours, at bars or waiting to get on and off tenders etc. you will always increase your social media friends by the time you disembark. We then travelled down the coast to the Intercontinental Resort where we had an overwater bungalow reserved for us. The views, location and facilities were fantastic, we even snorkelled straight off our own deck and there was coral and tropical fish around the stilts of the bungalow. Unfortunately we did have some issues with the resort, you can get more information about the hotel and the room in our review. In the evening we visited the in house French/polynesian fusion restaurant, the food was ok and may be to some peoples taste but it wasn't to ours. The next day we spent the day snorkelling in the salt water lagoon and the infinity edge pool until it was time to board our Air New Zealand flight home. So that ends this travel story, if you have any questions about this trip feel free to comment on the blog. Until next time!
Want More Information?
If you would like more information about Oceania Cruises destinations, staterooms, dining options and fares you can visit their website www.oceaniacruises.com
For more information about Air New Zealand's services you can visit their website www.airnewzealand.com.au
About The Author
Rob has been passionate about cruise ship holidays and exploring the world since the first cruise he went on when he was only seven years old. Since then Rob who is a Photographer and his partner Mike of 18 years have travelled the world on over 25 cruises with over 10 different cruise lines visiting every continent across the globe as well as many remote tropical islands along the way. In addition to cruise holidays they enjoy relaxing at beach side holiday resorts and first/business class air travel as well as transcontinental rail journeys. Between them both Robert and Michael have worked out the best way to maximise frequent flyer reward points allowing them to travel first/business class at economy class prices or in some cases travelling first/business class for free.