Stern's Guide to the Greatest Resorts of the World, Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation, Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges, and The Indispensable Guide to Foreign Words and Phrases--by Steven B. Stern (Sponsored by Stern's Travel Guides, Ltd.)
TOGETHER WITH VISITS
TO FOUR SEASONS RESORT IN BORA BORA, INTERCONTINENTAL MOOREA RESORTAND INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
Wind Spirit Under Sail
Dining on Deck
Searching for a different kind of cruise for a
honeymoon, special anniversary or romantic adventure-- something intimate, laid
back, non-regimented with exotic itineraries? Windstar Cruises 148-passenger Wind Spirit
has filled this niche in the
cruise market since 2015 offering seven-, ten- and eleven night cruises
throughout French Polynesia.
Polynesia is an overseas territory of France
consisting of 118 islands, divided into five scattered archipelagos, the most
well known being the Society
Islands which include Tahiti,
Huahine, Bora Bora and Moorea, four of the eight islands visited on the Wind Spirit.
Located in the Pacific, these
archipelagos are approximately 4,200 miles southwest of San Francisco,2,600 miles south of Hawaii, and about midway between South America and Australia.
Whether you are traveling from North America, Europe, Australia or the Far
East, you are faced with
long and expensive air flights. Therefore, if you choose to explore this idyllic
paradise, why not pull out all the stops and explore it in style! For us this
involved an eleven night cruise on Wind
Spirit, one of the two ships dedicated to travel in this area (the other
being the Paul Gauguin), plus
sojourns to three unbelievably beautiful island resorts-- Four Seasons in Bora
Bora, InterContinental in Moorea and InterContinental in Tahiti.
Our Air Tahiti flight originating in Los Angeles arrived in Papeete, on the island of Tahiti at
in the evening. We checked in to the Tahiti InterContinental Resort and Spa for
two nights prior to the departure of our cruise. In a lavish 25 acre garden
setting with a lovely turquoise lagoon, with volcanic peaks rising in the
distance, the Tahiti InterContinental was a perfect launch point for our
vacation. (Being only two miles from the airport, it also was the most
convenient first class property on the island).
This 4-star resort and spa boasts two superb infinity pools
set amid colorful indigenous plants and towering palms. The 258 guest units
include 16 over water motu bungalows and 14 over water lagoon junior suite
bungalows. The resort's bar and two restaurants offer French, international and
Polynesian cuisines with theme evenings and Polynesian dinner dance shows.
Breakfast feature a lavish buffet for $40 a person. However
dinners were disappointing, as well as very expensive.
include a diving center, various water sports, a Lagoonarium, a large spa and tennis courts.
Recalling from prior visits that there was not much of interest in the town,
we did not go into Papeete until the morning before we boarded ship.
Check-in to the ship was quick, pleasant and easy. After
boarding, we were directed to the main lounge, provided various forms to fill
out while being treated to finger sandwiches and rum punch. After completing
this procedure, we were escorted to our cabins. No waiting in ugly terminals
and no long lines, one of the perks of a smaller vessel.
We were now ready to enjoy a relaxing eleven days aboard ship
sailing the beautiful islands of French
Our cabin, one of the 74 identical, 188 square-foot, outside
cabins was designed in a modern interpretation of the nautical tradition, with
mixed woods and rich fabrics. Although we found storage and closet space a bit
sparse, the cabin did include a remote color TV with C/D and DVD player, a private lock box, a desk/make-up bureau, two chairs, a fully
stocked refrigerator/mini-bar, a telephone, an ice bucket, two twin beds that
had been converted to a queen, and an attractive bathroom with a vanity,
separate toilet compartment and a shower. The cabin design and features, though
somewhat unique, reflect the style of ships built in the 1980s and lack some of the innovations
of those of more recent vintage. All cabins have port holes and none have
As a departure from more formal cruises, casual dress is de
rigueur at all times, jackets never being required for men. This simplifies
packing and sets the general relaxed tone.
In the early evening many guests migrated to the main lounge for
cocktails and hors d'oeuvres before partaking in the multi-course dinner served
and . We felt that the elegant, wood-paneled main dining
room was one of the most tastefully decorated restaurants afloat. Each evening,
we were given the choice of dining alone or with other passengers since tables
accommodate from two to ten persons.
After dinner, a couple entertained in the main lounge each evening,
playing music for listening and dancing. There were no variety shows or
additional entertainments other than a folkloric performance on Motu Tapua the
evening the ship served dinner on that islet. A small casino offered a
blackjack and a Caribbean poker table plus several slots. The library on the ship boasts an extensive
C/D and DVD collection.
Many of guests opted to take movies back to their cabins and turn in
early to be ready for the following day's tours, many of which commenced at
Breakfast and lunch were offered buffet style on the Veranda,
a glass-walled room located on the top deck of the ship. Passengers also could elect to dine on deck
outside the Veranda under huge umbrellas. The selections were numerous and
items could be ordered off the menu and served at your table. In addition, an
extensive room service menu was available.
Candles was the alternative dining experience. Each evening
tables were set up around the pool and dinner was served al fresco by candle
light. Grilled steaks and chops were featured. Guests could opt to dine here,
free of charge twice during the cruise.
The ship has a fitness room, small but well fitted with two
treadmills and two exercise cycles, as well as weight lifting equipment. A sport platform that extends off the ship's
stern offers many sports activities when the ship is at anchor. Equipment and
instructions for water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, diving, snorkeling and
deep sea fishing were available. The Wind Spirit bridge is always open so
guests can chat with the officers on duty. Forward of the bridge is the open
During the day, when not on tour, passengers congregate
around the swimming pool which adjoins a bar and shaded area where drinks and
light lunches are available.
The Wind Spirit has seven sails which can be unfurled by
hydraulic motors. Depending upon wind conditions and sailing schedules, the
ship can be navigated by its motors or by its sails.
Most excursions were designed to take advantage of the beaches,
sea life and natural beauty of the islands. The majority of the passengers were
interested in the snorkeling and diving expeditions. Due to the many steep stairways throughout the ship and the very steep, open
gangway, those with ambulatory problems may have difficulty when taking this
Following a relaxing day at sea, we arrived at Fakarava,
our first port of call. Excursions were offered for snorkeling, diving or for a
beach day and sight seeing.
Rangiroa was our next stop. Passengers could choose from
snorkeling at a coral garden, a two tank certified dive, a glass bottom boat
ride and a visit to a pearl farm for a demonstration on how oysters are
cultivated to produce pearls.
After another sea day we anchored off of Motu Mahaea, TahaaIsland from
until , at which time we sailed
on to Raiatea for a 6:30p.m arrival. In the morning at Tahaa we
could choose a Jet Ski adventure, snorkeling in a coral garden, sightseeing
around the island with a visit to a black pearl farm, or a visit to a vanilla
plantation followed by snorkeling.
We remained in Raiatea overnight and until the following day. Numerous excursions were offered
including an outrigger canoe tour down the FaaroaRiver with a beach stop at a small motu (islet), a guided
kayak tour on that river, jet skiing and snorkeling, and a heritage tour with a
visit to a pearl farm.
However, the highlight of the visit was the barbeque lunch on
a private motu. Surrounded by warm, crystal clear waters, and a white sand beach
covered with coconut palms, this little bit of paradise was the setting for a
glorious afternoon. The crew had set up numerous comfortable lounges, umbrellas,
a full service bar, dining tables and water sport equipment. Access to the motu
was by zodiacs.
The following two days, the ship anchored in Bora Bora, for most the high
point of the
cruise. This ideal tropical island with its haunting mountains and exquisite
palm tree-lined snow-white beaches afforded a plethora of possibilities. The
waters surrounding the main island
(which is only 17 miles in circumference) are protected by a coral reef that creates miles of beautiful aqua-colored
lagoon containing tiny pristine motus
where you can sun on virgin beaches and swim in crystal-clear waters.
The plethora of excursions included sunset cruises on a motor
boat or jet boat, a wave runner jet ski adventure, a glass bottom boat ride, a
4-wheel drive excursion around the island, or a similar tour on an open-air
truck, a snorkel safari with a stingray encounter, scuba dives, a beach picnic
on a private motu, and an overnight stay at one of the island's resorts.
Four Seasons Resort
We opted to take off on our own having booked an overnight at
the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. One of the resorts private launches met us
in the main town of Vaitape and transferred us to the property.
Set on its own motu in Bora Bora's surrounding coral atoll, this
54 acre property is a vast tropical grove replete with coconut palms, pandanus
trees and meandering channels of pure turquoise streams. One hundred over-water
bungalow suites, seven beachfront villa estates, four restaurants, and the full
service spa are all designed with thatched roofs and decorated with indigenous
art work to capture the beauty and culture of the island. Although the
structures had Polynesian exteriors, the interiors were up-scale and modern and
conformed to Four Seasons' high standards.
Each of the 100 air-conditioned, over-water bungalows,
located on branching piers extending into the lagoon, measures over 1,100
square feet (twice the size of most of the other resorts in Bora Bora) and features unobstructed sunrise views over the Pacific and sunset
vistas over the lagoon and the towering iconic MountOtemanu. These luxury accommodations include a very large, spacious
living room with a flat screen TV and video on demand, a DVD/CD player, a stocked refrigerator, writing desk and large sitting
area, a bedroom with a king-size bed, a second flat screen TV, several
dressers, ceiling fans made of coconut
palms, a bathroom with a soaking tub overlooking panoramic views of the lagoon,
his and her sink vanities, separate shower and toilet compartments, a
hairdryer, a walk-in closet/storage area, a large sundeck with chaise lounges,
a covered dining area, and a lower deck
with a ladder extending to the water
below with a rinsing shower. Pull-out sofas in the living areas can accommodate
families. There also were 2,228 square-foot, 2 bedroom overwater bungalows,
some with plunge pools.
The ultra-luxury beach
villas range in size from 2,772 square feet for a one bedroom, 3,228 square
feet for a two bedroom to 5,380 square feet for a three bedroom. The beach
villas each have a private pool, access to a private beach, and too many
amenities to cover here.
Transportation throughout the property was available at all time by staff driven
We had lunch at the Fare Hoa Beach Bar and Grill by the pool, dinner
on the porch of the fine dining Arii Moana Restaurant and a large buffet
breakfast at the semi open- air Terre Nui, also the location for the
once-a-week Polynesian dinner show. Drinks and an Asian/sushi menu were
available at the Sunset Restaurant and Bar. Prices at all of the restaurants
were quite, high even by Tahitian standards. Guests could schedule "The Romantic
Beachfront Dinner", as well as a special breakfast brought by canoe to the
outdoor porch of their bungalow. If you have to ask the price, you can't afford
The next day we started out at the well-equipped fitness
center, followed by a visit to the resort's outstanding spa. Our Thai massage took
place in one of the seven air-conditioned treatment rooms which featured an open-air deck. We also took advantage of
the water therapy pool, the steam room,
sensory shower and relaxation room, all of which are available to guests free
of charge. Yoga and pilates classes were offered daily
During the afternoon, we sunned ourselves at the resort's 131square-foot
infinity swimming pool embedded with a large heated whirlpool. Attendants
provided ice water, chilled towels and an Evian spritz. Thatched roof cabanas
lined the area. Next to the pool was a sprawling private beach on Bora Bora's inner lagoon where we swam in warm, protected waters. A wide range of water sports was available
such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaks, standing paddleboats, Hobie Cats,
windsurfing, fishing charters, and guided tours in wave runners and in a
motorized canoe for diving, ray and shark feeding. A professional tennis program was available,
as well as beach volleyball and beach badminton.
We were impressed with
the "Kids for all Seasons" supervised program designed for children
ages 5-12. This makes the resort a good choice for families.
Alas, we had to leave this paradise and rejoin our ship
before it set sail. We thoroughly enjoyed this idyllic resort and especially
were enamored by Four Seasons pampering
and world-renowned comfort, style and service. Having traveled all my adult life to exotic
resorts all over the globe in order to write my book Stern's Guide to the Greatest Resorts of the World, I feel
qualified to express my opinion that
Four Seasons Bora Bora, is one of
the â€œbest resorts in the world".
We arrived back to Wind Spirit in time to take part in the
sunset dinner and Polynesian show on
Motu Tapua prior to her sailing away to Huahine.
Tuesday morning, the ship docked in Huahine and offered a variety of tours that included snorkeling
and safari expeditions, a cultural walk, and a 4-wheel drive nature adventure . We chose the motu picnic
where we were transported by outrigger canoe to a small beach for lunch,
swimming, and snorkeling.
final day was spent at the scenic island of Moorea, one of the most spectacular islands in the
world with a vibrant cultural history. The island itself is about two million
years old. People have lived on Moorea
for almost 2,000 years, and its rich history of traditional knowledge has been
passed down through the generations.. With two major research institutions
here, including UC Berkeley's Gump Research Station, it is also now likely the
most studied island in the world.
shallow lagoon surrounds the island, flanked by peaceful meadows and vertical
mountains where threads of waterfalls tumble down fern covered cliffs. Numerous needle mountain spires (including the fabled Bali Hai), small villages and white sand beaches border a
We opted for the full island tour where all of
the available information generated by researchers and local elders had
been woven into an educational and exotic afternoon. We explored beaches, forests, and an
ancient village where archaeologists are piecing together the pre-history of the
Polynesians. Along the way we learned about the geology, plants and animals, settlement
by the Polynesians, European explorations, and modern environmental issues.
possibilities we could have chosen were a dolphin eco tour, a guided bike tour,
a snorkel safari, a two tank certified dive, a scuba dive for beginners,
and a sting ray encounter by waive
runner jet ski.
The ship departed Moorea at to arrive back in Papeete early in the evening. Most passengers remained
on board overnight and disembarked the next morning for their flight home.
Since we were headed for the Intercontinental Resort Moorea the next day, we
made the mistake of not disembarking prior to the ship leaving for Papeete, but did enjoy the final
Passengers agreed that the Wind
Spirit's itinerary in French Polynesia was one of the more pleasant, exotic cruises
they had experienced. Watching the sun set over the verdant mountain peaks of Bora Bora and Moorea while the ship's sails carried you
away over the crystal clear waters of the islands' blue lagoons would have to
ignite sparks in any loving couple.
For fine dining, concerned service in
an intimate, unique, congenial cruise experience "180 degrees from
ordinary" as advertised, you cannot find anything more rewarding than a
cruise in French Polynesia on the Wind Sprit.
Upon disembarking, we took a taxi to
the Papeete ferry terminal for
a 30-minute ride back to Moorea. Upon
arrival at ferry station in Moorea, we took a taxi to the InterContinental
Resort Moorea for a two night visit. The resort is located on a 27-acre
mini-peninsula on the northwest tip of the island. The property boasts the most
expansive gardens, lagoons and topical vegetation of any resort in all of Polynesia.
Our reservation was for one of the
fifty 452 square-foot, over water bungalows which are connected by bridges that
meander over the lagoon. Alternate choices would have been one of the
forty-five 409 square-foot, beach and garden bungalows with private plunge
pools, or one of the 323 square-foot lanai suites located in a two-story
building. All of the accommodations were air conditioned. Our bungalow contained similar facilities and amenities as
the one we enjoyed at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, but was half the size,
somewhat dated and less deluxe.
We spent most of the day alternating
between the beach, the two heated swimming pools and the lagoon below our
bungalow. We were able to snorkel off of the terrace of our bungalow, and If we
threw bread crumbs off the terrace, the fish would come right up to greet us.
Wishing to take advantage of the
numerous water sports available, we took out one of the kayaks. Other options
would have included outrigger canoes, catamarans, jet skis, or water
skiing. The facilities included two
tennis courts and a small fitness center,
and a disappointing Polynesian spa. One of the most popular attractions
was the Dolphin operation where guests could join a group and pet, feed and
play with trained dolphins in the lagoon.
Dinner al fresco by candlelight at the
Fare Hana Restaurant was quite romantic. For a more gourmet repast, reservations
could be booked at the Shell Restaurant
located in a section of the second floor Fare Nui breakfast venue. Like the
Tahiti InterContinental, breakfast was served buffet style for $40 per person,
however, was not up to the caliber of the Tahiti property..
We returned late the second afternoon
to the ferry dock for our ride back to Papeete
in order to catch our overnight flight on Air Tahitnui back to the
In retrospect, as much as we were enamored
with the three resorts we visited, the prices for accommodations and dining
were extremely high by U.S. standards. Certainly the most reasonable way
to visit French
Polynesia was on the Wind Spirit.
I have visited many lovely places all
over the globe that I hope to return to; however, I must say that French Polynesia is one of the most exotic, peaceful and
hedonistic locals I have experienced. I
hope those that read this rambling diary of our Polynesian adventure have the
opportunity to explore this unbelievably beautiful part of the world.
of "Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation"; "Stern's Guide to
European Riverboats and Hotel Barges", "Stern's Guide to the Greatest
Resorts of the World" and "The Indispensable Guide to Foreign Words
and Phrases". All can be seen on his
web site at www.stevensterntravel.com or
on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.