Tom Mullen, our longtime Cruise Specialists Voyage Host, is checking in from his travels on the 2022 Viking Cruises Grand Polynesia Voyage! Tom is accompanying a group of Cruise Specialists clients on this delightful 32-day vacation—a true paradise on the ship and ashore.
In this update Tom brings us up to date on Viking Orion’s visit to Papeete, Tahiti; leisurely days at sea in the turquoise waters off French Polynesia; and their port call in Bora Bora.
Ahoy from the Viking Orion!
As our ship approached Papeete, Tahiti, I stood on deck and watched the view sailing in. The island of Tahiti was beckoning from the distance and we could see lovely Moorea on the starboard side.
Viking Orion is the first major cruise ship to call on Tahiti since early 2020 and it was quite a celebration. The local press with their cameras were on the dockside to commemorate the moment. As other passengers and I left the gangway, we were honored by Tahitian musicians in their floral Tahitian attire and nicely arranged flowers in their hair.
Each passenger was given a flower to place behind their ear. If placed behind the left ear, it means you are in a relationship. If placed behind the right ear, you are available. We were thrilled that local guidelines allowed all passengers to go ashore whether they had booked a shore excursion or wanted to explore independently. We know that this can change in any destination at any time, and our guests continue to be most understanding and flexible.
With it being January, this time of year it is not a bad idea to bring an umbrella on a tour through the islands. I had registered for a tour of Tahiti’s West Coast, focusing on Tropical Flora and Historic Sights. It was on board a motorcoach with plenty of open seats. To my pleasant surprise, I recognized the tour guide from previous tours to Tahiti. That is one thing that is wonderful about travel—you do come across other people from past travels and it is lovely to catch up.
I enjoyed stopping at ancient sites and learning more about the culture of the islands. This particular site is called Arahurahu Marae, a site for sacred rituals, which you can see is in a picturesque valley.
And we saw the lush Water Gardens of Vaipahi and admired rare species of tropical flowers.
I asked a local gentleman if I could photograph the highly intricate body art on his back and he obliged. One of the lectures we enjoyed on board actually focuses on Polynesian body art so I found this to be very interesting.
He also created the artistic floral arrangment on this art-bicycle.
We spent the night on board in Papeete, which allowed for a second day of touring. I enjoyed a complimentary two-hour walking tour of Papeete. Remember that this is one of the benefits of cruising with Viking: they provide a complimentary shore tour in each port as part of your cruise fare. They also offer a menu of optional tours for a fee to add to your choices. The guide, Lydia, was very knowledgeable. I only wish I had done the tour years ago! For future reference, I would recommend this type of tour especially for someone coming for the first time, because it provides great insight on the island and offers ideas for where you might visit after the tour is finished.
Highlights of the tour included a visit to some local gardens and a church. The French Polynesian stained-glass windows are nicely done and the local market was everyone’s favorite stop. It was also very useful since it had started to rain and it provided some temporary shelter, being covered. We enjoyed shopping for local Tahitian arts and crafts, from inexpensive to expensive tastes. Popular items include an abundance of floral arrangements and local fruits, plus a wide range of pareos (wrap around skirts) in many colors.
Ongoing Safety Checks
As I mentioned in my previous post, safety of the guests, crew and the places we are visiting remains the top priority for Viking. The first thing we do each morning is a PCR test (very easy saliva test). And we fill out a form declaring we are symptom free before going ashore. Whenever someone leaves their stateroom they bring their cabin key, a contact tracing necklace provided by Viking, and dons their mask. To go ashore we also take a copy of our vaccination card. I am very impressed with Viking’s safety measures and it provides a sense of reassurance to guests.
Sensational Sea Days
As Viking Orion was preparing to depart Papeete, the ship captain announced that we were going to postpone our call on Bora Bora to wait for some more favorable weather. It was a bit overcast, and we are in paradise after all. One of the benefits of cruising is that there are times when the captain can use his or her discretion to make changes that will increase the enjoyment of guests on the cruise. For the next two days, we took in some scenic cruising around the islands. This decision was well-received by passengers and provided ample rest after the tours in Papeete.
During these two sea days, guests also took part in many activities on board, such as arts and crafts, mahjong or bridge, and simply resting on their balconies taking in the amazing views. Another option is to catch up on any lectures that have taken place on board, right from the comfort of your stateroom or suite. Viking records its lectures and makes them available on your in-room TV. The lectures are given by guest speakers or Viking’s Resident Historian.
I referenced a few of our lectures in the previous post, but additional lectures on offer covered topics including:
- The Marquesas’ History, Culture, Myths and Taboo Practices
- Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia Up Close
- The Art of Polynesia
- French in French Polynesia
- Paul Gauguin in Tahiti
- Body Art of Polynesia and The World
- Pacific War Heroes: Ordinary People Who Did the Extraordinary
And these are only a few of the ones I have attended or watched—there are so many more! I have found all of the subjects so interesting.
On to Bora Bora
On arrival in Bora Bora, we were again greeted by local musicians, such a treat for us. Options for tours included a glass-bottom boat ride or a sail-around the island of Bora Bora. A third option, which I chose, is on board Le Truck. This is the name of the open-air public transport system on the Tahitian islands. This tour uses a charming, decorated Le Truck vehicle to carry guests to many sites around the island.
The local guide provided narration and we stopped several times to soak in the views of gorgeous motus (small islands). We also came across more local artisans with pareos and other goods.
Another popular stop on this tour is Bloody Mary’s Bar & Restaurant, which includes a souvenir shop. At the entrance of Bloody Mary’s is the list of well-known people from stage, film, sport and other personalities. I am still not able to locate my name on it!
The second day on Bora Bora I had another wonderful surprise. I opted to explore the town, being unsure how businesses had fared after having few visitors in the past two years. One of my local favorites was still there—belonging to my favorite Tahitian artist. I was happy to stop there again because I still have enough space on the walls at home for more art (I have a high ceiling). As we cruised away from Bora Bora, we could hear Tahitian drums in the distance. Such a fitting departure, I do hope to return again soon.
Enjoying Life On Board
Speaking to guests here, they find Viking Cruises is “ticking all the boxes” for them. It’s very comfortable, or a “home to home” atmosphere, as I like to say. Everyone is relaxed and I am looking forward to hosting a small group of guests at the Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. The menu changes every few days so there is always something new to anticipate.
I hope to share more as I am able!