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Princess - Hawaii, Tahiti & Samoa

Princess

28 Day Hawaii, Tahiti & Samoa Adventure

 

For any cruise lover who wants to get away from the rat race for twenty-eight days, Princess cruise line’s Hawaii, Tahiti & Samoa Adventure cruise is the perfect choice. The amazing sights, sounds and tastes of Pacific Island culture are some of the most unique and interesting you will find anywhere on the planet.

Our cruise sailed from the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. We highly recommend that you add a few days to your trip and enjoy these cities. Don’t be surprised if you look at the car beside you at a red light and recognize a television, music or movie star. It happened to us. Be sure to check local notices for the filming of television shows, movies, music videos, or commercials. They happen here all the time and are both entertaining and educational to watch. We watched one from the window of our Crowne Plaza hotel room in San Pedro right around the corner from the cruise terminal!

Our cruise was on the beautiful Sapphire Princess which features four swimming pools, eight hot tubs, a fitness Center, a spa, a salon, separate men’s and women’s sauna and steam rooms and much more. A ship refurbishment is scheduled for early 2012 with the addition of a Movies Under The Stars screen and several other upgrades. For those with Suites, we highly recommend breakfast at Sabatini’s – available only to Suite level guests and VIP’s. The cooked-to-order food, personal service, entertaining waiters, complimentary mimosas, juice, and cappuccinos made breakfast a daily highlight.


SAILAWAY

We arrived at the port and were on the ship and in our cabin in less than forty-five minutes. Compared to some cruises where we have spent as much as four hours waiting in line to board, this embarkation was nearly perfect. Lunch was immediately available on the Lido Deck. Sailaway provided cruisers with many photo opportunities as we left one of the largest commercial ports in the U.S., cruised along the beautiful California coastline and even watched sea lions sunning on rocks and buoys.


LAHAINA, MAUI

After four relaxing days at sea, the Sapphire Princess dropped anchor off the coast of Maui. Passengers were tendered in to a town named Lahaina where there are a variety of shops and restaurants just steps from where you come ashore. If you haven’t booked an excursion already with Princess, don’t worry - independent tour operators line the shore. Just across the street, the third largest banyan tree in the world provides shade in the local park.

Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, was formed by two massive volcanoes which are joined by a rich valley. The most popular attraction is the Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcano which towers more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

We chose the tour to Haleakala Crater. This 10,000 foot high volcano has a massive, multi-colored crater that is 3000 feet deep, seven miles long and two miles wide. We passed through the clouds at 7000 feet! The crater is a stunning site, especially with the clouds below. Several people had difficulty breathing at this altitude so those with breathing difficulties should be careful.

Other Maui points of interest include –

  • Iao Valley with its sacred Hawaiian monoliths.
  • Ka-Anapali a premier beach resort area and the playground of Hawaiian royalty.
  • Whalers Village a multi level 8 acre complex of shops and restaurants.

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Haleakala Crater
  • Maui Ocean Center
  • Lavender Farm
  • Iao Valley
  • Maui Tropical Plantation
  • Kahakoloa Village
  • Lahaina’s Walking Tour
  • Hiking Ho’olawa Valley
  • Atlantis Submarine Adventure
  • Maui Snorkel Cruise
  • Helicopter and Hana Road
  • West Maui and Moloka’l Helpcopter Tour

 

HILO, HAWAII        

On the morning after Maui, the ship docked at the Hilo pier in a very industrial area but there are some free buses to local shopping sites. Hilo is the largest of the Hawaiian islands at 4000 square miles. It is often referred to as The Big Island.

The island is filled with natural wonders including black sand beaches, lava flows, snow capped mountain peaks, tropical jungles, and volcanic craters. Mauna Loa is the most massive mountain on earth. It rises more than 30,000 feet from the sea bed to its summit. It is more than 100 times the mass of Mount Everest. As we stood admiring it from across the bay, a local resident told us that the peak is often covered in snow!

We walked off the ship and walked about one mile to the Haluokaleana Japanese Gardens and Mokuola Park. Both of these parks are free. Local youths climb a stone platform and dive into the water from two different levels offering a free show to anyone watching. Mauna Loa is visible across the bay from the parks. With Mauna Loa, the Japanese Gardens and acrobatic, high-divers this area is an excellent place to shoot photos.  

Other Hilo points of interest include –

  • The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  • The Volcano Country Club golf course (4280 feet above sea level)
  • The Mauna Loa Volcano
  • The Akaka Falls
  • Rainbow Falls
  • The Nani Mau Gardens
  • Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Volcanoes National Park
  • Macadamia Nut Farm and Gardens
  • City Drive
  • The Summit of Mauna Kea
  • Akaka Falls and the Nani Mau Gardens
  • The Pacific Sunami Museum
  • Lava Tree State and Hilo’s Volcanic Heritage
  • Hawaiian Culinary Tour
  • Hilo Coffee and Winery
  • Hawaii Botanical Gardens
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Wailuku River and Kaumana Caves
  • Kayaking Adventure
  • Snorkeling
  • Volcanic Landscapes by Helicopter

 

HONOLULU, OAHU

On the morning after Hilo, the ship docked in the heart of Honolulu near the Aloha Tower which features multiple shops, street vendors and restaurants. Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is called “the gathering place.” Oahu is home to Waikiki - the most famous beach in the world, Sea Life Park - with the world’s only wholphin (a cross between a killer whale and a dolphin), and Pearl Harbor - one of the United States’ most meaningful military and memorial sites.

Looking for something unique, we chose Oahu Nature Tours for our tour of Oahu. Our guide, Mee-na explained the difference between Oahu Nature Tours and the more touristy companies, “Oahu Nature Tours is different from most tours because we focus on nature and history. This information makes all the difference. Another difference is that we focus on small group tours which allows us to go to places large buses cannot go and we can load and unload our passengers much more quickly and then spend more time sightseeing.” Our Oahu Nature Tours small-group-tour was excellent. Mee-na was very knowledgeable, outgoing and fun. Our group of Americans, Australians and Fins spent a lot of time laughing and learning.   www.OahuNatureTours.com

Other Oahu points of interest include –

  • Waikiki Beach – the “spiritual home to surfing”
  • Shopping – Chanel, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren
  • The USS Arizona Memorial – dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor
  • The USS Missouri Memorial – where WWII ended with Japan signing its surrender
  • The Punchbowl – a national cemetery for the fallen of WWII, Korean War and Vietnam
  • The Iolani Palace – the last residence of Hawaii’s monarchs and the only royal palace on American soil.
  • The Pali Lookout – incredible views of Oahu’s windward coast

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • The USS Arizona Memorial and City Drive
  • The USS Arizona Memorial and Mighty Mo
  • Pearl Harbor and WWII Exclusive Military Bases
  • Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Oahu North Shore
  • Hanauama Bay and Island Drive
  • Scenic Drive of the Pali Coast
  • Hawaiian Luau and Polynesian Center
  • Iolani Palace and Queen Emma’s Summer Palace
  • Diamond Head Crater and Summit Hike
  • Atlantis Submarine Adventure
  • Dolphin Encounter
  • Ali’i Kai Dinner Cruise

 

KAUAI 

As the ship docked in Kauai, we could immediately see why it is known as the Garden Isle. Not only is Kauai the only one of the Hawaiian islands that cannot be seen from any of the other islands, it is the most natural and undeveloped.  

Waealeale, at the center of Kauai is the remnant of the extinct volcano that formed the island. The Waimea Canyon was described by Mark Twain as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and the Spouting Horn blowhole was once believed to be “the angry roar of the lizard goddess Kaikapu.” Several prominent rock formations on Kauai were used in King Kong and Jurassic Park films.

We took the Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour. Though it was not one we especially enjoyed, it did seem to please the guests over the age of 75. The tour began with a bus ride to the Ahukini Pier and to the Opaekaa Falls for photo opportunities followed by a slow cruise up a small river on a flat bottom boat that seats nearly 100. During the cruise, guests are entertained by a singing guitarist and a hula dancer. Once the boat docked, the Fern Grotto was reached by a five minute walk up a slight incline on a paved walkway. Guests who stand on a raised platform to view a cave and a small waterfall in the cliff side’s natural amphitheater are encouraged to marry or renew their wedding vows at this “site of more than 10,000 weddings.”

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Waimea Canyon
  • Wailua River and Fern Grotto
  • Wailua River Luau and Romantic Ceremony
  • Hollywood In Hawaii Movies and Waterfalls
  • Grove Farm and the Kauai Plantation Railway.
  • Kauai Canopy Zip Line
  • Kipu Ranch with a Jungle Mountain Trek, Swim and Zip Line
  • Kilohana Crater and Maha’ulepu Coast By 4 Wheel Drive
  • Tubing the Hanamalu Ditch System
  • NaPali Cruise and Snorkel
  • Beach Snorkel
  • Kaua’i by Helicpoter
  • The Kilauea Lighthouse and the Hanaeli Pier and Helicpoter Tour

 

PAGO PAGO, AMERICAN SAMOA

(pronounced pango pango)

The Samoan Island chain lies about 2300 miles southwest of Honolulu. It was a four day cruise from Hawaii. Samoans are considered the purest Polynesian heritage with ancestors thought to go back twenty-five centuries. American Samoa is a U.S. territory where Samoans are U.S. nationals but not citizens. It is the only U.S. territory in the South Pacific.

One of the most charming holidays is called white Sunday – on the second Sunday in October as children leave church services they receive special foods and clothing. Dress is important to Samoan culture. Women wear traditional puletasi – tunic and long skirt, fresh flowers and leis. Men wear bright knee length wrap around skirts called lava lavas.

Our tour was provided by David at the American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau. David arranged for us to have a private tour led by local guide Rory West (RoryWest@yahoo.com). Rory has extensive knowledge of Samoan culture, plant life, fishing, and island hiking trails. Not only does he offer tours to cruise passengers, he also leads multi-day hiking tours through the rainforest. As Rory took us to incredible scenic points both at sea level and high into the mountains, he explained Samoan culture and the medicinal properties of the numerous plants we encountered. His easy-going manner and vast knowledge made for a great tour. www.AmericanSamoa.travel

According to Rory, Samoan culture is still very tribal. It is also very hospitable. If a relative shows up at a Samoan home near mealtime, it is customary for the homeowner to feed that person a meal - even if they were not expected and even if it is a large group of unexpected visitors. Rory also explained that marriage or producing children creates an unbreakable bond with that family’s tribe. Once a person is married or born into a tribe, they are accepted, supported and protected forever.

Many of the American Samoan beaches are covered with sun-bleached, white coral in an amazing diversity of shapes and sizes. Large bats reside in seaside caves and in trees just a short walk from the cruise ship pier. They can clearly be seen hanging upside down from tree branches during the day. They are so big they are sometimes called flying foxes.

Brightly colored, open air buses (Le Trucks) with wooden seats shuttle tourists and locals around the island.

Other American Samoa points of interest include –

  • Fagatogo - Pago Pago’s downtown, home of the territorial government and only business district
  • The Government House - home to the American Samoa Governor
  • The Jean P. Haydon Museum - history of Samoa, Samoan art and artifacts
  • The National Park of Samoa
  • Cock’s Comb
  • Pola Island

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • The West Island Drive and Ava Ceremony
  • Island Drive Village and Home Beach
  • The Jean P. Haydon Museum and Tauese’s Museum

 

APIA, WESTERN SAMOA

Western Samoa is approximately eighty miles from Pago Pago, American Samoa. The ship docked at a pier in a rural bay. The pier was filled with the vans, buses and taxis of tour operators.

Samoa has an independent government and Samoans have been described as “a proud people who are known for their politeness and hospitality but expect visitors to respect their local customs.”

There is still a very strong tribal / familial culture in local communities. Head chiefs and talking chiefs oversee almost all local matters and decisions. The communities revolve around Aiga – families related by blood, marriage or adoption. As we drove around the island, we witnessed several village councils where the head chiefs and talking chiefs gathered in open-air pavilions to decide important community matters.

We chose Polynesian Xplorer for our tour of Samoa. Zita Tago Martel, Managing Director of Polynesian Xplorer and Honorary Consul of France, spoke passionately about her heritage, “We have so much to offer in Western Samoa. We have a unique culture, heritage, connection to nature, and community relationship.” Zita even joined us for lunch at one of the scenic tour stops. Her friendly personality and adventurous spirit was contagious as she shared her passion for Samoa and her adventures as a trophy winning longboat captain!

Fa’ atupu, a chief in a local tribe, was our tour guide. His knowledge of Samoa and Samoan culture was immense. He shared this in-depth and educational knowledge in a very friendly, conversational manner. At one point, he ran up a coconut tree effortlessly, tossed coconuts and fronds to us and then wove a basket from the fronds in minutes! He also demonstrated how to start a fire using only local materials and how to open a coconut and drink coconut milk. His easy-going manner, laughter and ever-present smile made for a very pleasant day. We highly recommend Polynesian Xplorer tours. www.polynesianxplorer.com

Other Western Samoa points of interest include –

  • John Williams Memorial
  • Letava Sliding Rock
  • National Museum Of Samoa
  • Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
  • Papaseea Sliding Rock
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
  • Vailima Botanical Gardens

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Island Drive and Vailima
  • Island Drive and Tafa Tafa Beach
  • Piula Cave Pool and Vailele

 

BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

Bora Bora is surrounded by a ribbon of reef. Cruise ship passengers must be tendered in to the shore. You will want to be on deck as the ship arrives. The view is simply stunning!

If you haven’t already scheduled an excursion, you will find dozens of tour operators waiting on shore, holding signs advertising their tour and price. We chose a local tour company from the many waiting at the shore. Five of us were loaded into a 4-wheel drive vehicle and circled the island. The entire island is just 15 square miles.  Just about every tour makes an obligatory at the world famous Bloody Mary’s bar with its sand floors and $10 to $20 drinks. You will want to have your camera ready – the view across the street from Bloody Mary’s is fantastic. Be warned, dogs are left to run free on the island and it is easy to accidentally step in dog droppings as you are snapping photos for your vacation scrapbook.

Our favorite excursion was the helmet dive in which we were fitted with a seventy pound metal helmet connected to an air line that ran back to the boat. We were lowered to the lagoon bottom where we were able to hand feed the fish from a bag of bread tied to our helmets. We took amazingly clear, unusual and beautiful photos of this unique experience using an underwater camera.

Other Bora Bora  points of interest include –

  • Paopoa Point
  • Matira Point and Matira Beach
  • Bloody Mary’s Restaurant and Bar
  • Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu
  • Ancient Marae Temples
  • The Lagoonarium
  • Motu Tapu
  • Shark and Ray Feeding

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Circle Island Tour
  • The Lagoon Excursion
  • Aquatic Adventures (Aqua Helmet Dive)
  • 4-Wheel Drive Excursion
  • Matira Beach
  • Bloody Mary’s Restaurant and Bar

 

MOOREA, TAHITI

Moorea, less than twenty miles off the coast of Papeete, Tahiti, has a totally different look and feel than the modernized Papeete. The butterfly-shaped island of Moorea is a tropical paradise of jagged mountains, lush forests, turquoise lagoons and white sand beaches. Parts of the movie South Pacific were filmed here. Moorea is everything a tropical paradise should be!

Our island tour included the Belvedere viewpoint, a vanilla farm, a pineapple plantation, Polynesian temple ruins and a scream-inducing drive to the top of Magic Mountain. One woman in our truck screamed in fear the entire way up and back down the mountain. The road was extremely steep and barely wide enough for our vehicle. Any mistake could have sent us plummeting down 1000 feet or more. Once we reached the upper parking area, we were able to walk up a steep pathway to two lookouts that provided stunning views of the bay and our ship. The hike to the viewpoints is very steep and there are no guard rails – just a 1200 foot drop to the valley below.

LGBT visitors should be sure to visit  www.Tahiti-Tourisme.com/Discover/GayTahiti a website designed by Tahiti Tourism specifically for LGBT travelers. According to their site, “Tahiti is not necessarily a gay destination, but it is definitely a gay-friendly destination. In fact, as it is one of the most romantic places on earth whether you are gay or straight, the islands of Tahiti are a couple’s paradise."

Other Moorea points of interest include –

  • Cook’s Bay
  • Opunohu Bay
  • Polynesian Temple Ruins
  • Belvedere Lookout
  • Pineapple Plantation
  • Vanilla Farm
  • Magic Mountain

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Island Tours
  • Tiki Theater Village
  • Dolphin and Whale watching Expedition
  • Lagoon and Coral Motu Snorkeling
  • Catamaran Sail and Snorkel

 

PAPPEETE, TAHITI

Tahiti is the sister island of Moorea and Papeete is its capital. As soon as the ship docks, you’ll notice a big difference between the two - Papeete is a very modern city. Because it is a big city, traffic jams can cost you a large amount of time. If you book a private tour or rent a car on your own, make sure you allow ample time to return to the ship before sailaway. (We were stuck in city traffic for over thirty minutes even though we were just a mile from the pier.)

Venture outside the city and you will be rewarded with an amazing array of high cliffs, cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and unique flora.

Because we prefer a small group experience, we chose a private tour by William Leeteg of Adventure Eagle Tours. William is a native Tahitian with a cheerful personality and an incredible amount of information to share. William explained Tahitian culture and local plants in detail but in a very entertaining manner. He also knew the best ways to avoid the times the large tour buses were at the attractions. We always arrived before they arrived or after they left. This is a huge advantage.

William took us on a relaxed drive to visit the Gauguin Museum, Venus Point , Fern Grotto, Blow Hole, Lookout Panoramic view  and the Great Waterfall. Because it was a small group, we always had more than enough time to explore each site. William’s four hour tour took us 72 miles around the island in a comfortable air-conditioned mini bus. We highly recommend Adventure Eagle Tours! www.adv-eagletour.com

Other Moorea points of interest include –

  • Fern Grotto
  • Point Venus – 100 year old lighthouse and black sand beach
  • Gaugin Museum
  • Arahoho Blowhole
  • Aruhurahu Marae – open air Polynesian Temple
  • Faarumai Waterfalls
  • James Norman Hall Home – coauthor of Mutiny on the Bounty
  • One Tree Hill
  • Papenoo Surfing Beach

Princess offers a variety of excursions including –

  • Island Drive and Gaugin Museum
  • Highlights of Tahiti
  • James Norman Hall Home
  • Point Venus
  • Museum of Tahiti
  • The Tomb of Pomare V
  • Faarumai Waterfalls

 

RETURNING TO LOS ANGELES

The return sailing to Los Angeles from Tahiti takes eight days. On our trip, the temperature in Tahiti was in the high 80’s. It grew steadily colder as we sailed north.until our daily high temperatures were only in the 50’s.

The eight days at sea offered a lot of time for attending shows, reading, basking in the pools or hot tubs or participating in one of the many scheduled activities. Zumba was a favorite with our fellow passengers. As many as one-hundred cruisers met every morning on the two floors surrounding the main pool to dance themselves to fitness.

Once we arrived in the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro, we found debarkation to be just as efficient as embarkation was at the start of our adventure.  Captain Jermann had his crew very well-trained.

Rather than getting off the ship and heading straight to the airport, we decided to add a post-cruise stay at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes just up the coast. The 582 room, Mediterranean designed, luxury resort is located on more than one hundred acres on a majestic seaside cliff.

One of our favorite things about Terranea is the Discovery Trail, a bluff-top trail that connects miles of coastal trails and runs along the seaside edge of the resort property. The views are incredible whether you hike the trail down to the ocean and seaside cove or hike up to the top of the cliffs for a look at Catalina Island and Pointe Vincente Lighthouse. If you are looking for a luxury accommodation in the Los Angeles area, we highly recommend the Terranea!
www.terranea.com

If you can get away for twenty-eight days, Princess cruise line’s Hawaii, Tahiti & Samoa Adventure cruise is the perfect choice for experiencing the amazing sights, sounds and tastes of Pacific Island culture. The cruise is only offered once a year, so we recommend that you plan ahead.

Watch a video of our cruise -



We were the guests of Princess Cruise Line & Terranea Resort in 2011.

Senior Cruise And Travelers Magazine
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