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Altamira

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About Altamira

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    Scuba Diving, snorkeling, cards/games, dancing . . .

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  1. Altamira

    Boarding Allure

    Oh, wow, on Feb 4 around noon we walked right through, just a couple minutes stop at the counter to fill out the health forms. We didn't need pictures taken because we had submitted them on line. They already had our credit card information. And our pass/sail cards were waiting for us at the cabin, one inside and one sealed in envelope and taped to the outside of the door. So easy peasy. We did use the Diamond access line but it didn't look particularly crowded in the other lines. We had read here that the embarkation times were suggested guidelines. And really, they wouldn't make sense otherwise. We landed at FLL at 11:30am, got our luggage, taxied to the port, gave our bags to the porters, and by noon we were sitting outside the Park Cafe eating a sandwich. We were so impressed.
  2. It was a little convertible, with automatic transmission, thank goodness. The day we were in Rarotonga the temperature was very mild so we had the top down and wouldn't have used the AC. We're not sure noticing that the car had an AC or not. I know what you mean about shifting with the left hand. Ir's crazy. To share a funny car related story . . we had parked across the road from Fruits of Rarotonga and we were about to get in our car to go back to Black Rock Beach when we noticed two guys who were trying to climb, monkey-style, some palm trees that were right there in front of both our car and their car, parked right next to ours. We ended up chatting with them and their ladies for a bit when one of them noticed that we had a flat tire. Sure enough, Guy goes and gets the spare out of the trunk, they grab it from him and proceeded to get that tire changed at the speed of a race track pit stop crew. It was an amazing thing to watch. Then they wouldn't even let us buy them a beer. They were two young couples visiting from New Zealand, also on a rented vehicle. You meet so many nice people everywhere you go. The other two rental cars in Tahiti and in Moorea had AC but standard transmissions. We really liked having the cars in all three islands. The cost savings was an additional perk, but driving everywhere we wanted to go, and at our own pace, was what we wanted to do. Maria
  3. Shows - We missed several of the shows unfortunately, because after very full port days of sun and activity and evenings of dining and wining we were usually contentedly full and sleepy by 9:30pm. Luckily we did not miss Brazilian Gustavo Vierini's magic shows, nor his appearance one night at the Piano Bar. He is without a doubt the most entertaining magician we've ever seen. Surprising, we thought, that he's working on a cruise ship and not in Vegas or some other more lucrative venue. He is also super cute and so very engaging and amusing. Don't miss his shows if he is on your cruise. The last show of the cruise, the Polynesian show was very nice as well. I would have been very sorry to have missed that one. Music - A welcome aboard party was held on the pool deck the evening of the second night of the cruise. Members of the crew and the Gauguines and Gauguins were introduced. On that occasion the ship's Celebration Band played music that got a lot of us up and dancing. It was a lot of fun. (How often after all do most of us go out dancing anymore except when cruising?) The rest of the cruise however, when we saw the band playing, it was to practically empty rooms. The selections of music were not at all conducive to audience active participation. I agree with Becky's assessment. We did not go to any of the late night parties but heard that they were not well attended. Clothing - This is what I took and it was plenty. Laundry package we did not need, we washed underwear and swimwear when showering. Underwear would dry overnight hanging on the line over the tub in bathroom, swimwear on chairs in balcony. I brought a few clothes pins for this purpose. Everyday, except on our two sea days, all we wore all day from breakfast until we got back to the ship late afternoon to shower and change for evening activities was swimwear, rash guards and pareos. The rash guards and bottoms were so useful, so nice not to have to reapply sun screen all day long. And a better deal for the coral too. Swimwear (interchangeable quick drying separate tops and shorts) (3 of each) Pareos (3) Rash guards tops (3) Rash guard bottoms (2) Shorts and tops (2 of each) Dinner/evening casual wear (4 sets of mix-and-match separates) Shawl (1) Sandals to wear with evening clothes Hats (2) my Tevas. We also brought our diving/snorkeling gear: masks, fins, regs, computers, skins, BC's, vests, reef shoes. A word about the free bag of sports equipment. The ATN agent in PPT asked us to show the PADI card when we were checking in our bags. It was good that we had it on us and not packed away in the suitcase which might have easily been the case. We weren't asked for it at LAX. We found our little travel cooler, (looks like a smallish quilted beach bag), to be ever so useful when we were exploring on our own in Tahiti, Rarotonga, and Moorea. And it would have been great to have in Aitutaki too! This is all I can think of to add here. I can't get my photos copied from Photobucket, and Becky's pictures will have already given you an eyeful and plenty to dream about. If your planning a PG cruise in the near future, gosh, you’re going to LOVE it. We hope to be back. Those Tuamotus are calling us. Happy cruising! Maria
  4. Moorea - Day 1 - Following Twin's excellent recommendation once again we rented a car from Albert and went everywhere. Not to the place they call Magic Mountain for which we had heard you had to have special vehicles and a stomach for driving them on the edge of precipices. Becky and Ash and their husbands did it and had a blast. They're younger and we're wiser, :D (Of course kidding!) We admired the beautiful view of Cook's and Opunohu Bays from Belvedere. We went to Snack Mahana but found it was closed that day, a Monday. We went to the Hilton and looked around their facilities. We may want to stay there pre-cruise on a future trip instead of in Tahiti. Moorea - Day 2 - The other excursion, besides the dives, that we did with the ship was Dr Poole's whale watch. It was whale season after all, but it was a bust as far as any sightings of whale, dolphin, or any other marine life. Dr Poole is very nice, however, very knowledgeable. We took lots and lots of pictures of Moorea's beautiful coast line and topography from the boat. And the rock 'n' rolly rides through the passes from the lagoon to the open sea and back again were kind of fun on our boat, people whooping and hollering. Cruise - Our cruise experience on the Paul Gauguin met or exceeded all of our expectations and we understand why so many cruisers are such loyal repeaters. Our starboard cabin 707 was quite comfortable and quiet with tons of storage space. The day they had the "block party" we met all our neighbors. It was fun. Not every crew member was equally charming but the vast majority were very pleasant and very good at their jobs. In the interest of brevity I will mention just a couple, our cabin attendant Marian, who was so very nice and professional, and our favorite of our many wonderful servers, Jaypee, who was simply adorable in every way as well as utterly competent. Also Visha, the bartender at the pool bar was super clever and fun. Food - Deliciousness at every meal. On sea days we had breakfasts at La Veranda, at one of the outside tables in the shade. What a delight. The outside tables on the sides were a bit too windy but at the back it was great. The air conditioning made the inside feel much too cold. In August the weather in Polynesia is like heaven, at least it was everyday during our cruise. Perhaps it would be too hot to eat outside in their summer. La Veranda didn't open until 7:30am or we would have had our breakfast at that same spot every single day. On port days we ate breakfast at Le Grill because we always had early morning excursions and it opened earlier at 7:00am. But we liked it at La Veranda much better. We never ordered room service. Their cappuccinos were fine, the only coffee we drank. We're not huge coffee drinkers. I love seafood and had fish every single day for lunch and for dinner. Very, very good. I'm avoiding fish now with belated concerns of mercury poisoning, ha. We did not think that our dinners at Le Etoile were in any way less delicious than at La Veranda or at Le Grill. We thoroughly enjoyed every single one of our meals on the ship. We frequently asked our servers for their recommendations and they were spot-on with their suggestions.We were never disappointed. We had dinner twice at La Veranda and twice at Le Grill. We made reservations to both without any difficulties during the cruise. We also changed them on two occasions to allow unanticipated changes to our plans. On our cruise there was no need to make dinner reservations the first day. At L'Etoile we always requested sitting at large tables because it was a lot of fun sitting with fellow cruisers. A couple of times that didn't work out time-wise at the moment of our arrival and we would then be seated at a table for two. I was always good. Our second dinner at Le Grill was on the first evening in Moorea. It turned out that all three restaurants were featuring the same Polynesian menu that night. We'd made an early (6:30pm) dinner reservation. There were not many people already there when we arrived and we were able to get a table away from the bright deck lights and pool in the center of the deck and sat instead on the outside by the starboard deck railing where the lighting was much dimmer. Loved it there. The stars were not as bright as we would see them from deck 9 above, but it was nonetheless a heavenly spot to enjoy an al fresco dinner on the ship. We watched the Moon Fish presentation on the day we visited Huahine, and we had dinner at L'Etoile that night. L'Etoile was the only restaurant where it was served. It was delicious. Don't miss it. Activities - We attended several lectures. The two given by Leslie of the Oceans Future Society were excellent. All the others were disappointing I'm sorry to say. We played trivia once and made some Polynesian crafts under the tutelage of the Gauguines once. The star gazing one night with the telescopes set up on deck 9 was great. Mostly we listened to (Oceans Future Society naturalists) Leslie and Nicole' s explanations and looked at all the stars and constellations they were showing us using their laser pointers. I finally understood how it was possible for the ancient mariners in the Southern Hemisphere to calculate the south direction using the Southern Cross so they wouldn't get lost in the ocean at night. Another of my favorite activities that we participated in was making the leis with the talented Moorea ladies that had come on board to do this for us. We sat on the floor in front of them with this huge, very long blanket of very pretty and fragrant flowers in between us. Even Guy, not normally at all inclined to crafts and such, made a lovely lei for himself. I plan to use a picture of the two of us wearing the beautiful leis and crowns for our Christmas greetings this year. I hate to make all our friends and relatives so jealous but I just have to share the picture of that moment.
  5. Huahine - we did Marc's Combo Island Tour and Motu Picnic with Becky and Paul and Ash and Rick, another couple we had met online. It was fantastic being in such a small group, instead of with 20 or more people. We were picked up at the tender drop-off spot. The driving in town and the stop at the supermarket I could have done without. Ditto for the feeding of the blue-eyed eels. Also I personally did not like the shark feeding, nor the way it was handled. I just don't even approve of doing any of that. But obviously many people do and I was ok staying on the boat during the event. The rest was all good. The picnic lunch was delicious. Our guides were so nice. The motu was beautiful and we literally had it to ourselves. We were all walking around with these huge grins on our faces, our heads nodding up and down . . yes, yes. Aitutaki - Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous island. My words are useless, my photos puny. Our excursion with Teking, which by the way had to be pre-paid when we booked it, was ultimately excellent but Mr.Teking was a little hard to take. He was easy to ignore however, (even without water all day!) because we were, where we were, with so much beauty surrounding us, wanting to take it all in. In a lesser place we might all have gotten very cranky. Ha, ha. (Bottle water, by the way, was supposed to be included. I went and checked the tour description he had sent to us. I would have known to bring some water from the ship otherwise.) The picnic lunch was delicious. And again, no crowds. Unbelievable. Guy dove with the ship in Aitutaki and said they had fun but from his description of their dive, the visibility, etc. I'm pretty sure we got the better deal. So, so thankful we didn't miss Aitutaki despite the challenging tendering for the crew. Rarotonga - We walked maybe 3 minutes from the tender drop-off location to pick up our car at the Rarocars agency. We were given a little red convertible. Fun! We put our snorkel gear in the trunk, jumped in the car and promptly drove out of their parking lot and on to the wrong side of the road of course. The Cook Islands are a former New Zealand possession and New Zealand is a former British colony, so they all drive on the wrong side. Ha, ha. We lived in England for 5 yeas so we had no difficulty with this. We went around the circular main road of Rarotonga, the ocean on our left when we were driving clockwise and on our right when we were going counter clockwise. We knew from our research that there wasn't anything of interest to us in the interior so we kept to the coastal road. So easy. The Black Rock Beach on the northwest side was our favorite spot. Muri Beach was very nice too, with bars and such but Black Rock Beach was super cool looking with its massive black rocks, and plus we had it all to ourselves. We had planed to snorkel across from Fruits of Rarotonga, south from Muri Beach, but it was a little cool and breezy that day and we just didn't. Walking on the beach and climbing the rocks at Black Rock beach was all we wanted to do. We had brought a small cooler bag with ice, some water bottles and a couple of beers from the ship. Really glad we did because nowhere we stopped would they accept USD or our credit card and we had neglected to get any NZ money. Bora Bora - 1st day - We did Patrick's Maohi Nui Lagoon Tour and Snorkeling with lunch and 4x4 Tour. A fabulous day. If you have a bad back, don't like bumpy car rides, or get car sick, skip the 4x4 part of the tour but definitely do the rest. Phenomenal excursion. Snorkeled and swam with Black Tip and Lemon Sharks, and Sting Rays. Amazing water and sea life. Our guide Arii was a total charmer, even playing the ukulele for us in the boat at one point. Bora Bora - 2nd day - Scuba Anau dive with the gigantic Manta Rays. This was one of those unforgettable experiences of a lifetime for us. We had seen a Manta in the distance once before while diving. But on this dive it was unbelievable. They made slow, circular passes right above us again and again, sometimes very, very close. We were kneeling, crouching down on the sandy bottom, our eye balls practically popping out of our heads, barely breathing. Tahaa - Originally we were planning to do the drift snorkel but decided not to and I'm really glad because we had such a super fun day at the beach, and our time there was not nearly long enough. Even the snorkeling was a lot better than we expected. We and a couple of Three Spot Damsel Fish hovered and watched for 20 minutes or more the antics of a family of Clown Fish cavorting in and out of their Sea Anemone. We also swam around for a long time with a pair of my favorite fish, the Trigger Fish. That was really, really fun. It's so interesting that they do that, hang out with you like that. I also tried paddle boarding and didn't even kill myself. It was pretty fun, actually. Surprisingly easy to do.
  6. The information on this board was so useful to us in anticipation of our cruise of July 30th that I feel I should reciprocate with a report of our own. And our new friend and fellow cruiser Becky inspired me to do so. Since my husband Guy and I were on the same cruise with Becky and Paul I'll contribute only additional or personal experiences. So here it goes. Pre-Cruise - We tried to learn as much as possible about the islands we would visit as well as the best options to get us to them. Deciding on the Paul Gauguin from the other available options proved to be a very rewarding decision. We did our own travel arrangements. We booked the IC in Tahiti for the 28th and 29th pre-cruise and for a day room for the day of our return on Aug 10th. We reserved a rental car from Avis in Tahiti which we picked up without any delay whatsoever at the airport upon our arrival and dropped off in Papeete before embarkation on the 30th. We actually made it to the IC from the airport before the buses. Parking at the IC was always available and convenient. The only car related problem we encountered was when we needed to drop off our bags at the cruise embarkation site because the entrance to it was not at all marked. We should have asked the IC concierge to show us on our map where it was. We just assumed there would be a sign on the road for the entrance to the cruise terminal. We could see the ship, just couldn't find a way get to it from the road. We also reserved rental cars for Rarotonga (Rarocars) and for the first day in Moorea (Alberts) in advance. We enjoyed doing our own touring in both of those places too. We pre-booked the ship diving excursions that were of interest to us, that were available for advance booking. We dove only with the ship. Clement, Marcel and David were great and the ship's diving set-up and marina utterly spoiled us for sure for any future diving. We also booked all of our other excursions online well in advance of the cruise. On our CC thread we met and arranged bookings with Becky for Marc's Combo Tour in Huahine, Teking in Aitutaki, and Patrick's Maohi Nui in Bora Bora. Teking required payment in advance when booking (we used PayPal), the others we paid with cash (USD) at the start of the tours. Getting there - At LAX we boarded our Tahiti bound ATN flight and then sat on the tarmac for one and a half hours waiting for passengers on a delayed connecting flight from Paris. This, we were told, is not an unusual occurrence during the summer holiday season in France. Our long, crowded and cramped flight became longer, more crowded and more cramped. I'm pretty small so multiply the cramped factor accordingly. The food was typical airline fare. The wine helped. And the excellent pilot got us where we wanted to go. I'll jump ahead here to the return PPT to LAX flight and tell you that it was much worse, with hideously uncomfortable seats on their fleet's last remaining plane still to be renovated, with some broken back-rests dropping alarmingly close to the laps of the passengers sitting behind. It happened to both Guy and to Becky's husband, likely to others, I imagine. Neither one of our video screens worked, despite the best efforts of our flight attendant. And if you have any picky-eating tendencies whatsoever just say "no, thank you" when the nice flight attendant offeres you a dinner tray. Tahiti - We enjoyed our stay at the IC both before and after the cruise. We ate our dinners at their pool side restaurant Te Tiare. The food was fine but the location and the views were fantastic with the brilliant setting sun painting one after another gorgeous scene of gold and orange and pink and red and of many blues slowly darkening into smoky purples. I would recommend having dinner there for no other reason. Go right before sunset, choose a table offering the most panoramic views available, order a drink before dinner and enjoy the show for a while. The local Hinano beer is pretty darn good by the way, and it was always served ice cold everywhere we went, in Tahiti and beyond. It tasted heavenly in Polynesia at any rate. Breakfasts and lunches which we purchased at the Carrefour (thank you Twin) we ate on the go while sightseeing in Tahiti. We did not get any meal package with the hotel. We loved having the car to do our own touring of Tahiti, go to Papeete, the Carrefour, anywhere we wanted to go. You do need to do your research in advance for this so you know which attractions you are interested in seeing and get a map to mark their location. We drove all around Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. The interior of the island, which we couldn't access without an ATV or a guide, is supposed to be the most beautiful part. We'll do it next time! Shopping - We did not find the tifaifai quilts In the sizes I was hoping to find. I bought another pareo at Le Marché, the big market in Papeete, even though I need another pareo like I need a hole in my head. I think I have about 10 of them already. But they're so pretty. More coming. . .
  7. Bravo Becky! So glad for your long, detailed report! It was such a lot of fun sharing so many amazing adventures with you and Paul. We had a blast, didn't we? I know we agree that Polynesia and the Paul Gauguin are a perfect match made in heaven. We will definitely go back and do the Tuamotus cruise next. Agree with your assessments of the three excursions we did together in Huahine, Aitutaki, and Patrick's Maohi Nui's in Bora Bora. The last one was our favorite too, fantastic in every way. Wasn't Aitutaki so very, very, beautiful. I'm so grateful that the ship captain allowed the tendering to proceed despite the rough chop and the challenge of getting all of us safely in and out of the tender boats. Thank you so much for that, Paul Gauguin! Inside the boat we were all commenting how well the tender crew handled all of us in and out inb perfect safety, not a single misstep. What pros they are! Amazing. I'd forgotten about the beverage-challenged aspect of our tour with Teking, ha, ha. Seems funny now. What was he thinking? We must have been drunk with all the beauty surrounding us that we didn't notice how thirsty we must have been. And I had no money to buy his beer! And it was still a fantastic, most memorable day! I was last out of the water after snorkeling so I totally missed his unusual first-aid approach to your jellyfish stinging. Remember when I finally saw you I commented how lackadaisical you appeared to be given how painful the red welts looked? You were definitely calm. You've inspired me to try and write a cruise report, Becky. My eye is better from my surgery and I will try to do it soon. But I can't get the photos posted on CC! Help! Maria
  8. Altamira

    How was your ATN flight?

    So looking forward to meeting you Becky! Two weeks! Thank you very much for all the good advice and words of encouragement. Thanks also, Twin and Emdee. Of course you are all right and I know it that it will totally be worth it. (Not proud to be such a wuss about the ATN flight. I think of myself as pretty brave, generally . . well, except with spiders 😳.) That picture of your in-flight meal, Twin, is worth a thousand words. Wow, the presentation alone, my goodness. We'll bring lots of nuts and chocolates. Maria
  9. How was your recent ATN flight, Mommamd? We're doing the same LAX to PPT you did departing at 4:40pm, in two weeks, we're flying economy. What day of the week did you fly and how crowded was your flight? What level of pain from 1 to 10 would you use to describe the comfort level of the ATN flight experience? Anybody please feel free to comment. Almost time to pack and we're very excited. Only wishing we had a tele-porter. Thanks! Maria
  10. Altamira

    Review: Society Island and Tuamotus, Oct 2-12

    Wow. What outstanding review by DesertSkies123. Just phenomenal. I thought I'd comment on it in order to bring it to the first page since it's two and a half years old and it might get missed.
  11. Altamira

    Extra weight allowance

    An additional 50 pounds of weight allowance for "sports equipment" per passenger is available on all flights to Tahiti and connecting code-sharing flights. Good to know if you're bringing your own snorkeling or diving gear, fins, masks, etc. Must be packed in a separate bag. My neighbor, recently returned from a 7-day on the PG, brought over her trip photos for us to look at as well as the daily Ia Oranas, a couple of island maps, etc, that she had saved. She loved the cruise, the ship, the crew, her cabin (812), the food, the islands. They had a fabulous time. Just wanted to add her glowing report to the consensus here 'cause it doesn't seem like we're excited enough already . . . 😛
  12. Altamira

    The Green Flash

    I'm having so much fun reading these posts! Oh my gosh, thank you Motu and diverearl for those great pics of the green flashing setting suns and to Emdee for posing the question. Thanks also to azlew for letting us know that the Oceans Future Society will be hosting night-sky activities during our cruise. So glad to hear that!
  13. Altamira

    Renting a Car in Tahiti

    Mid-size car with unlimited mileage and with additional fee for drop-off at a different site from car pick-up location brings the car rental cost to US$200. That's for 2 days, from Thurs evening to mid afternoon on Sat. The convenience is a factor, but also looks like there would be some modest savings if we did our own sight-seeing tour around the island of Tahiti. Available maps are good with all the primary 'attractions" clearly marked. A little bit worried about the language barrier, asking for directions in French would be a challenge . . (many, many, years since French class), but on the other hand DH has a great sense of direction. We have done a lot of touring on our own, and prefer doing that to going with groups bigger than 8 to 10 people. We're still knocking around the car rental option. Thank you Twin for your input. We are taking your advice on renting a car one of our days in Moorea.
  14. We'd love to hear any comments on the idea of picking up an Avis car at the airport upon arrival in Tahiti on a Thurs evening and returning it to their downtown location near the docks before embarkation on the Sat. The IC, where we're staying, has free parking.
  15. Altamira

    Late flight going directly to ship

    What sleepy Roll Calls, but splendid Message Boards PG has! To Dirtkid's and your group of 11, such a fun and memorable family trip you've got planned. We're on the same sailing as you on July 30th and want to add our whole hearted agreement to the very good advice that has been given here, especially regarding close timing of connections involving flights and cruise ship departure times. DH is a retired airline pilot with lots and lots of experience with the aggravatingly routine occurrences of delayed flights and missed connections for all kinds of different reasons. If you don't have a choice on your travel days we'll certainly be looking out for you with crossed fingers and hoping for nothing but on-time arrivals and departures all the way in 89 days.
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