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About JIMinNC

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    Cool Cruiser

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    North Carolina
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    Flying, Photography
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  1. Agree with the recommendation for BRB-1602. It was the best excursion we did back in June. Three great snorkeling spots. Only the first has really deep water. Great BBQ lunch on a private motu - pork, grilled lobster tails, chicken, etc. Here are a few shots from that tour.
  2. Back in June for our first trip to cruise on the Paul Gauguin, we spent one night in LA on the outbound trip. We booked our Charlotte to LAX tickets using American AAdvantage miles, but booked our LAX to PPT on a separate ticket direct with Air Tahiti Nui in Premium Economy. We did not want to risk a flight delay from CLT to LAX impacting our 4:40pm departure connection to Tahiti (especially since we were flying on non-connecting tickets), so we opted for more peace of mind by doing the overnight in LAX. On the return flights, we took the chance and booked it without an overnight in LA, but scheduled it as about a 5 hour time between flights at LAX to allow for inbound delay. Since we were coming home, and there are many flight options to get from LAX to CLT, we opted to roll the rice and skip the overnight, since we would already have one overnight on the PPT-LAX flight.
  3. Totally agree with the sentiment that I hope it doesn't change. Some of the questions in the survey though, lead me to believe that Ponant is at least trying to gauge the strength of the PG brand versus their own. Hopefully, the survey will educate them that PG has a great brand that they shouldn't mess with too much. But sometimes companies have tunnel vision about their own brand and make mistakes. Hopefully they won't make that mistake.
  4. Same here. Given that a couple of questions were worded somewhat awkwardly (like a poor translation), I am assuming this questionnaire may have been initiated by Ponant to gauge how their brand is perceived by Paul Gauguin's customer base. It sounded a lot like some of the questions a company I used to work for would have asked when we were working on an acquisition and trying to consider how their customers viewed our brand. I know they said in the announcement that PG would be operated independently, but companies often say that in the immediate, initial announcement, only to merge operations and eliminate the other brand after a transition period.
  5. My wife and I just received a survey from Paul Gauguin, with lots of questions about perception of Paul Gauguin and also similar questions about perception of Ponant. One series of questions asked how likely and at what price you would be to book a French Polynesia cruise with Ponant and another series of the exact same questions about Paul Gauguin. Seems like they are trying to evaluate the brand reputation of PG vs Ponant.
  6. 1. I went to get snorkeling gear right after the lifeboat drill after embarkation. Highly recommend Le Grill outside dining for Bora Bora overnight. Wonderful. We were in Category B, so our butler made the La Veranda and Le Grill reservations for us. Sooner is better. 2. We went to the ATM for local cash at Papeete airport right before we boarded the PG bus to the Intercontinental. We got about $250 US in XPF currency. We also had about $200 US dollars. That was enough. We used cash for taxis, a few local vendors, and other miscellaneous stuff. Came back with 1000XPF (which is about $10US) and some leftover US $$. We ate all of our meals on site at the Hilton. The off-site dining options seemed limited, but we are used to really nice restaurants in Hawaii and other spots, so some of the more rustic Moorea spots didn't really speak to us when we drove by them in taxis or when we were on the ship's tour of Moorea. 3. We booked a "Panoramic Overwater Bungalow" at the Hilton Moorea, and that is what we got. My wife is Hilton Honors Diamond and I am Gold. The only upgrade from Panoramic is whatever category they use for the ones at the very end of the piers, and we did not get upgraded to that, but there are very few. Our bungalow was almost at the end of the pier, so maybe we just got one of the better Panoramic Bungalows. 4. The key to when you go from Moorea to Papeete is dictated by the ferry schedule. We took the last ferry from Moorea (as I recall it was around 4 or 4:30 departure). We were on Terevau, but there was an Aremiti that left at about the same time. So, I'm not sure you can opt to get there any later. By the time we got off the ferry in Papeete, found a cab, and got to the airport, we got there about 5 minutes before ATN opened their check-in counter. We booked Premium Economy for the return flight, but since ATN changed equipment for our flight back to the A340 which doesn't have PE, we got a free upgrade to Business Class, so we got a free pass to their VIP lounge. That was great and helped pass the time because one of the couples that we met onboard the PG was there also, so we chatted and had snacks/drinks until flight time. It would have seemed like a longer wait if we had to wait in the boarding area. 5. We booked PE, so have no idea on how to upgrade.
  7. The dry season in French Polynesia is roughly May through September. The wetter season is November through March. I believe April and October are somewhat transitional months. We had great weather for our recent seven night Society Islands cruise June 8-15. Nothing more than a passing tropical sprinkle or two on a couple mornings. Most days were sunny to at most party cloudy. Our day on Motu Mahana was maybe closer to partly to mostly cloudy, but we still had a good amounts of sun even that day. Our first day on Moorea had a few clouds/showers around that morning, but sun was out by afternoon.
  8. We were in 805. We had no noise issues at all. Very quiet. We're not super early risers, but were up most mornings in time to grab breakfast before 8:30 or 9 am meetups for ship shore excursions.
  9. We chose that same voyage. My wife's birthday is June 24, so we figured it would be better to do southbound so we could be on board for her birthday rather than doing the immediately preceding northbound cruise and having her birthday being the disembarkation day.
  10. So far we've managed to get pretty lucky with OBC, even with direct bookings. Our only recent TA booking, last fall's Azamara 8 day western Med cruise, came with $1800 of OBC, but only $200 of that came from the TA, the rest came from Azamara. Based on my pre-cruise shopping, that would have been available to us on a direct booking also. That was our first cruise in 11 years, so we opted to go the TA route, but after seeing the limited value provided by that agent/firm, we booked this year's Paul Gauguin cruise direct. We were able to get PG to add two promos to our booking and we came away with $600 OBC for the 7 nt June cruise. For our Greek Isles Cruise in fall 2021, we booked direct with Azamara and have $1100 OBC on that one, all from Azamara, but $500 of that was compensation for a major itinerary change that forced us to move our cruise from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Having OBC on Azamara is important as they are not quite as all-inclusive as Regent and even PG. We don't have any OBC for our June 2020 Regent Alaska cruise, but with Regent being so all-inclusive, that is less of a negative.
  11. Our market is dominated by two large multi-location TA organizations. There are other smaller independents but they have very little visibility in the market, so it's hard to evaluate them and know their expertise. I do know a few of the smaller ones focus on group travel, but obviously not all. Trying to sort out online agents seems even more of a crapshoot, especially when it's so easy to just DIY. In any event, our travel plans are more or less set through 2021 with Regent Alaska in summer 2020 and Azamara Greek Isles in fall 2021 already booked. Our other trips will revolve around our Marriott and Hilton timeshares, Marriott Bonvoy points, Hilton Honors points, and AAdvantage miles. TAs can't help much with that. If we book any cruises for 2022 and beyond, maybe by that time we'll learn of a TA that can provide some value. Open to try if that's the case.
  12. I'm sure our perspective is impacted by the fact we've never had good service when using a TA - frustratingly long waits for email replies and call backs, obvious input/clerical errors, finding better deals ourselves than what they said was the "best" deal, etc. If I have to double check everything they do, why not do it myself from the start...
  13. We just prefer to eliminate the middleman. We picked our suite based on the info in this forum, looking at the ship's deck plans, and avoiding those obvious problematic locations.
  14. We used a local travel agent for an Azamara Mediterranean cruise last fall (that was our first cruise in 11 years), and felt they added very little value - a small additional OBC and a small savings on air fare. We wound up booking our pre/post-cruise hotels ourselves because the prices we got through the TA were no different than what we could get through marriott.com. For our Paul Gauguin cruise earlier this year, we did it all ourselves direct with PG, Air Tahiti Nui, and Hilton and much preferred the direct approach and eliminating the middle-man. It's so easy to just book things online on your own, I see no reason to filter everything through a third-party like a travel agent. We booked our Regent cruise last Friday night and filled out all the forms online in less than 15 minutes. No need to wait for a TA to reply to messages or emails, which was always frustrating when we used the TA for last fall's cruise. Thanks for the clarification on what date the 270-day clock is based on. I'll probably reach out to Regent in the next week or so just to confirm exact dates and best process. We know when the pre-cruise starts, so we know when we'll be flying in to Anchorage, but we still need to decide how many nights we're going to stay post-cruise in Vancouver (one or two) to get our return date. We'll be booking our own post-cruise hotel.
  15. Thanks, I started reading the deviation thread at the top of the page, but it is so long, it is a bit imposing to get through, so that's why I posted the question. Still slowly going through it. We don't use Travel Agents any more, so I booked direct with Regent online. I guess my biggest question is when do I need to reach out to Regent? I read I can't do anything until 270 days out, but is that 270 days from cruise departure or 270 days from the start of our pre-cruise tour (we are doing the Denali tour pre-cruise, so will need to fly in about four days before ship embarkation. I know the flights that I want, so hopefully Regent will have space on those flights. We live at a big American Airlines hub city, so AA seems to offer us the best options with the most direct routings.
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