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Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 16-17

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This is entry #5 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 16-17.
The previous journal entry is here.
The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

May 3 (Wednesday, Day 16)

We anchored off of Moorea (population 12,000) and the tenders were supposed to start running at 8 AM. However, the tenders were delayed 30 minutes since the ship was waiting out a tsunami warning issued because of the Richter Scale 8 earthquake that hit near Tonga a few hours earlier. Since the waves at Tonga got only 2 feet high, the all clear was given so the ship started its tendering service.

At breakfast this morning the maitre d’ from Signatures (Le Cordon Bleu restaurant) came up to us and invited us back to his restaurant. We figured that since he went out of his way to find us, we would grace him with our presence again so we made reservations for May 10 (and by then there will be a new menu for us to try).

The Belvedere, Moorea
The American Express Mariner Club offered a free tour of Moorea, so we tendered ashore and climbed on a bus. Moorea has no high schools so the kids take the 30-minute ferry to Papeete, Tahiti. The bus took us to the Belvedere, which is in the middle of the island, 720 feet high, and provides a great view of the entire island. Moorea is very mountainous and very beautiful. We stopped at a marae, or ancient temple, but it was just a rock foundation. Then we drove around the entire island, which took about 1 hour. There is basically just one road in Moorea and it’s the one that circles the island. The bus stopped at Moorea Pearl Beach Resort and we had a nice buffet lunch. Everyone else got back on the bus to go to the ship, but we knew that it had great snorkeling so we stayed. This was another resort that has overwater bungalows.

The Moorea snorkeling was awesome! First of all, the water was literally the temperature of bath water (but I still wore my wetsuit!). There was a steep drop off right past the bungalows so we got to see a whole bunch of different fish at different depths. The neatest thing was seeing a huge octopus. Filbert thinks it was 3 feet from head to tentacle tip, but I think it was more like 6 feet. It was very far from us and still looked huge which is why I’m thinking it was 6 feet. We watched it for at least 10 minutes. It would settle on brown rock/coral, fan itself out so that it was encompassing the rock, make itself white and then finally make itself the same color as the brown rock/coral. Then it would scurry over to another rock a few minutes later and repeat the process. We’re not sure why it made itself white (and therefore very visible to everything), but we guess it needed to reset its camouflage mechanism, because when it blended into the coral/rock, it was the perfect color. After awhile I got kind of creeped out and went back to looking at the cute colorful fish! We also noticed that a very long skinny fish (kind of a like a needle fish) and a large bright yellow fish seemed to tag along with the octopus. Seeing the yellow fish was one way we could quickly find the octopus after looking away from it.

Another couple, Barbara and Arnie, had rented a car and joined the tour group at the resort for lunch and offered to take us back since they wanted to stay and swim, too. They had to get gas for the rental car and the rental car agent told Arnie that morning that there was a gas shortage so we gave ourselves plenty of time. Sure enough, there was a line at the gas station, but it only added about 10 minutes to the trip. We passed several gas stations that were closed due to the gas shortage.

We limited our “shopping” to the eight tents by the tender dock and found a great painting of Moorea for our travel wall. It’s just the size we want and the $5 price was right, too. There were lots of paraeos, tikis (wood carvings), leis, jewelry and black pearls for sale, but we didn’t bother looking at any of that stuff.

We heard of another passenger injury today. While getting off the tender, there was a swell and the tender slammed into a lady’s leg and broke it. She is going to have surgery in Papeete tomorrow and then she and her husband will fly home from there. We talked with them several times earlier in the cruise and although she is in her early 70s, she is in dance troupe of older women that performs 70+ times a year around the San Diego area. I’ve read about them in Reader’s Digest and I hope her dancing career isn’t finished.

We got back to the ship in time to shower and get ready for our Polynesian wedding vow renewal ceremony. Only five couples signed up for this (probably since you had to sign up by 8 AM today and there was only a small announcement about it in last night’s daily newspaper). Among the couples who did sign up was Larry and Nancy, the couple that got married on Maui seven days ago! On our heads we each wore a tiara made out of gardenias and then we were wrapped in a Polynesian quilt (a tifaifai) while the vows were read to us. The significance is that the quilt is given to the newlyweds by the mother of the bride and it’s put on their bed and they make love while wrapped in it to signify that they’ll never come apart. We got our picture taken by the ship’s photographer.

Smooching in the tifaifai

Here are the traditional Polynesian wedding vows that were read while we were wrapped in the tifaifai:

My love, my love, my island, the spark that wakes me every morning, because my first thought is for you. It brings heat to my heart and a smile to my lips…I know you are there.

My love, my universe, the tender presence that accompanies my days. Even when you are far away from my eyes my mind remains full of you…I know you are there.

My Love, My Eden, this sweet light that invades my nights, watches silently over my sleep and chases the shades of my sorrows…I know that you are there and I love you more than ever.

To you, my love.

We sailed to Papeete, Tahiti during sunset and docked two hours later. We went upstairs and were very impressed by all the city lights and the amount of neon. It’s a big city!
Cloud over Moorea
May 4 (Thursday, Day 17)

Since there doesn’t seem to be any snorkeling in Papeete, Tahiti (per the Internet), we did a 4-wheel drive tour of the interior of Tahiti. Our guide drove us out of Papeete (population 130,000), which took about one hour and then spent two hours driving through the interior. The tour was called “Off the Beaten Path” and it sure was (or was it ON the beaten path). We saw cascading waterfalls, luxuriant tropical vegetation and exotic flowers and had fun in the back of the Land Rover while sitting next to Ted and Kathie. It wasn’t anything special, but other than going to some small museums, it doesn’t seem like there is much to do in Papeete so it was a good four-hour investment of time.
Snookums and Kathie, on Tahiti
4-wheelin’ on Tahiti
When we got back to the ship, we decided to eat lunch out by the pool which meant eating from the grill (burgers and hot dogs and sandwiches). Before we got to the grill, I looked at the menu posted on the wall for the buffet and commented that the chicken curry sounded good but that I would go to the grill with Filbert. Mark the maitre d’, overheard and brought me a serving of the chicken curry! We ate with Bill on the pool deck. He hated Papeete since it was a city. We told him we were going to the open air (i.e. hot and muggy) Papeete market and he asked us to buy him a shot glass. Now we had a mission!

We went to the market and it was where the locals shop – fresh fish, vegetables, flowers, etc. Of course, there was some tourist stuff to buy, too. Filbert bought a six pack of the local Tahitian beer (Hinano) and we got Bill his shot glass. Filbert was soaking wet with sweat when we got back to the ship about an hour after we left it. I wasn’t sweating at all.