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More Beautiful than Hawaii?

Theiggy

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We heard a lot about the upcoming Heiva Festival and would love to go back some time in July for that. Sounds exciting.

The sharks look imposing, but they don't seem to bother people. During the snorkeling with sharks, I felt more threatened by the other snorkelers not paying attention to where they were going!

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Yes I think I got in long enough to see they were pretty deep down- at least where we were. I did get very up close and personal with the stingrays though. It was terrifying and thrilling at the same time. They completely surrounded us.


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JIMinNC

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The stingrays on Moorea would swim up to my chest, come up to the surface of the water, and flex their flippers. It reminded me of when a dog jumps up, putting their paws on you wanting you to rub them. The rays were wanting us to interact with them.

The sharks did get very close, but basically ignored us.

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LisaH

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Great review! Did you get the full breakfast or just the Continental at Hilton Moorea? Staying there in Oct after our Tradewinds Cruise. Looking forward to our first FP trip (and hope not be the last:)).
I know that many of us on the Marriott TUG board love Maui Ocean Club, Waiohai, and the other MVC Hawaii resorts. My wife and I have long considered Hawaii our "Happy Place" and consider it one of the most amazing spots we have ever visited on the planet. Well, after our just-completed visit to French Polynesia, with a seven-night cruise on the m/s Paul Gauguin and a post-cruise stay at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort, Hawaii has some competition.

We still think Hawaii wins out on the variety of activities, the great restaurants, the golf, and the great resorts, but nothing we've ever seen compares to French Polynesia for sheer beauty. Bora Bora's lagoon is the most incredible place I've ever seen - I snorkeled alongside blacktip reef sharks and lemon sharks, interacted one-on-one with affectionate stingrays, and snorkeled with so many fish it felt like I was inside an aquarium - and that lagoon water has such an incredible variety of colors of blue.

I post this because I know so many Marriott owners love Hawaii, and I think you all would also love French Polynesia. Below is a link to a review I posted in CruiseCritic (the TUG for cruising).

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2673306-our-june-8-paul-gauguin-cruise/

A lot of people call French Polynesia "Hawaii Unplugged" and that title fits. It's sort of what people who have never been to Hawaii probably picture Hawaii to be, and what Hawaii probably was like 80-100 years ago.

We'll continue to go to Hawaii at least every other year, but we're probably going to have to figure out how to work Tahiti and Bora Bora into our rotation at least once more as well. Maybe a week or two in Hawaii followed by another Paul Gauguin cruise.

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JIMinNC

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Great review! I wanted to include pictures in my Cruise Critic review as well, but I have over 3000 shots to go through from my TG-5, Canon 5D MkIII, and even a few iPhone pics. I'll probably add a few selects once I have time to go through all the pics.

When we do another PG cruise. we'll probably do either the Cook Islands itinerary you did or one of the cruises that hit the Tuamotus and/or Marquesas.
 

JIMinNC

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Great review! Did you get the full breakfast or just the Continental at Hilton Moorea? Staying there in Oct after our Tradewinds Cruise. Looking forward to our first FP trip (and hope not be the last:)).
We got the full breakfast buffet. The Hilton is superb. The overwater bungalow was such a cool experience. The lagoon was our pool!
 

JIMinNC

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Jim, given the three cruises you mention, would you still do yours first? I assume you considered the others when deciding last year?
The other itineraries range from 10-14 nights, and we had decided to limit ourselves to the 7-night cruises for this trip since we were doing 3.5 weeks in Hawaii earlier this year. With a couple travel days, a 2-night pre-cruise hotel to get time-adjusted, and then our bucket-list three nights post-cruise in the overwater bungalow, the 7-night cruise got stretched to a total trip of 14 nights, and that was the longest we could justify being away from things. So, under the same circumstances, we would still do the one we did. But when we first started thinking about a Paul Gauguin cruise, we had leaned toward one of the longer itineraries, since when you look at pricing, they wind up being less expensive per night, since for some reason PG doesn't charge a heck of a lot more for the longer cruises. But this time, the longer ones didn't work for us. When we may consider doing French Polynesia again in 2-3 years, we'll both be retired, or at least semi-retired, so we can plan for the longer trip.

The Cook Islands and Tuamotus cruises typically just tack on a sea day or two plus a couple islands in those other island chains to the core 7-night Tahiti/Huahine/Taha'a/Bora Bora/Moorea itinerary, so you get the core 7-night cruise plus the additional nights/islands for not much more money. They do have a couple other cruises that do the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, and the Marquesas, so they have to shorten the Bora Bora and Moorea stops on the core itinerary to one day each instead of two.
 

bazzap

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Bavaria in the summer is my paradise here on earth. I can't get enough of it!! It haunts my dreams and when the plane is heading there for my summer heaven trip I feel like the mountains are singing "She's on her way, Willkommen, Maria". We have been waiting for you. :)
That is good news, as we will be visiting friends in Bavaria in mid August this year.
Having said that and having travelled all around the World, I have to say that French Polynesia is the most spectacular place we have ever visited (and that was just to Tahiti and Moorea, we never made it to Bora Bora on that trip)
 

Steve Fatula

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I will be very interested to see what you think of Fiji. We were there only once (in 2005) while on a 2-month Pacific cruise, but we did not find it all appealing. It was OK, but not especially beautiful and also very hot when we were there (late November). Perhaps other parts of Fiji are better and perhaps we hit a day when the trade winds were not blowing, but it also was not nearly as green and lush as we expected.

The French Polynesia cruise has been on our bucket list for years.
Fiji is like Hawaii in that one side gets gobs of rain, and, the other side can be, well, dry even. So, it does depend where you go.

It can never be hot enough for my taste. Maybe Venus.
 
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turkel

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We are going to FP in late August on a Tradewinds cruise then to an over the water bungalow on Moorea at the Hilton for 6 nights. It was wonderful to hear your glowing report.

We are so excited!!
 

JIMinNC

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We are going to FP in late August on a Tradewinds cruise then to an over the water bungalow on Moorea at the Hilton for 6 nights. It was wonderful to hear your glowing report.

We are so excited!!
You'll love the Hilton. Which category of bungalow did you book? The Panoramic Overwater Bungalows are farther out on the pier/pontoon and have a much more expansive view of the lagoon. The ones not listed as "Panoramic" can be much closer-in to the land and might have a view obstructed by other bungalows. As I recall the price difference wasn't huge, so if you don't have the Panoramic version and they still have availability or you can get upgraded, I would recommend it. We were in unit 84, which is out near the tip of the middle pier in the image below.

The weather in August should be really nice as well, and it is the start of their whale season, so you may be able to see humpbacks.

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skifast

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Agree with your thoughts of French Polynesia. I tell people that I used to think Hawaii was paradise until we went to Bora Bora. As was mentioned earlier, the different colors of blue in the lagoon is incredible.
To get an idea, go to Google Maps, enter Bora Bora, and then zoom out. The colors you see are real! First learned this from the naturalist on our cruise. The light blue is due to the mostly sand bottom inside the barrier reef.
As you can see from the pictures posted, when you are snorkeling/diving, the water is incredibly clear and blue.
As an aside, it is also legal to swim with the humpback whales here, which was probably the most adventure we have ever experienced.
 

Steve Fatula

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Here's was our over the water bungalow / Bure in Marriott Fiji. Definitely the best "hotel" "room" we've ever had. The stairs you can sort of see go right into the water, which was warm, clean, and nice. What made Fiji a great place was different than other places, nicest people we've ever met in any country. They can teach us a lot about how to treat people. That for me is more important than any scenery per se. The breakfast buffet was a feast. They had literally everything for any meal. Fish, Sushi, American breakfast foods, Italian foods, Mexican foods, local foods, dozens and dozens of breads, pastries, you name it, pizza even. We ate all week and never ate the same thing twice, and that was merely breakfast.

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mav

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Hello Bazzap,

I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I do. I have been to well over 40 countries, and can't get enough of Bavaria. I first saw it for the first time in 1989, and it haunts me ever since.:) We will be heading over in July for my summer trip.
 

chemteach

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Just saw this thread. I had an AMAZING time in French Polynesia this past summer, so much so, that we added on a week to our Hawaii summer 2020 to to go to the Tuamotu Islands of FP. Staying on Rangiroa for a week. (Hawaiian airlines has flights from Oaho to Papeete, Tahiti, so it makes the overall trip reasonable.). I love Hawaii and have gone almost every other year for the past 20 years, but French Polynesia has won me over. For anyone planning a trip there, visit Maupiti if you can. Moorea is Kauai on steroids, and Maupiti is Moorea on steroids! Whenever we told anyone we were visiting Maupiti (especially any French Polynesians) they got a glazed look over their eyes, and would say, "Maupiti, wow! You are very lucky to go there." And the manta ray dives were spectacular! The photo below is from the mountain top at Maupiti. The blue colors of the water were spectacular and the most impressive of all the islands we visited (we visited Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine (stayed in an overwater bungalow there - the most reasonably priced of any), Taha'a, Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Maupiti.) Bora Bora was beautiful, but several of the other islands were even more impressive to us. Maupiti was the best of all. We stayed on the little atoll shown at the left in the picture below. Quite amazing. Took a boat several days to hike or bike around the main island (about 1 hour to bike a complete circle around the island, with people waving at us whenever we saw anyone.). The people are the friendliest I have met on any trip. About the manta ray dive - there is a manta ray cleaning station in Maupiti. The mantas come every morning to the same spot to have fish clean their underside. If you look closely at the second picture, you can see two pretty large fish cleaning the gills of the manta. The trip all started with an RCI exchange for a French Polynesia Tradewinds cruise. We are now hooked, and plan to go the South Pacific every few years. Well that was the plan, but now we have trips planned already for summer 2020 and summer 2021 to the South Pacific.

By the way - if you haven't read Michener's books Tales of the South Pacific and/or Hawaii, they are great reads while in the South Pacific! Made my trip even more enjoyable. If you have an RCI account, I highly recommend putting in an ongoing search for Tradewinds French Poiynesia for summer 2021. There is nothing available now, but perhaps they will deposit them again one day. There was a huge banking of weeks in 2018 for 2019.

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hangloose

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Our next overseas is likely Kenya.
While we love Hawaii and haven't been to Bora Bora (on the list), Kenya is just as fantastic! Not beach beauty, but the safaris via the Masai Mara are something you will never forget. Highly recommend a luxury tented camp in the middle of the reserve!
 

NboroGirl

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While we love Hawaii and haven't been to Bora Bora (on the list), Kenya is just as fantastic! Not beach beauty, but the safaris via the Masai Mara are something you will never forget. Highly recommend a luxury tented camp in the middle of the reserve!
Just curious...why is that so great? DH has been wanting to do a safari for a couple of years but I keep resisting. Yes, it would be luxury tents in the reserve (via the World Wildlife Federation) but it doesn't appeal to me. I think I would get bored going on 2 safaris every day for a week. I'd be interested in hearing what the appeal is from someone who did it.
 

hangloose

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Just curious...why is that so great? DH has been wanting to do a safari for a couple of years but I keep resisting. Yes, it would be luxury tents in the reserve (via the World Wildlife Federation) but it doesn't appeal to me. I think I would get bored going on 2 safaris every day for a week. I'd be interested in hearing what the appeal is from someone who did it.
To each their own. Some may really enjoy a safari, thinking about it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some may not.

For me, we had Nairobi as a home base and spent time in the Masai Mara reserve (Big5, tented camps), at Lake Nakuru (boat trips, lodge stay), Lake Navaisha (famous for flamingos), traveling through the Great Rift Valley, etc. Some others in our party traveled into the Serengeti in Tanzania or to trek up Kilimanjaro as well.

For me, experiencing the culture, seeing the natural beauty of the safari (morning, day, evening), seeing the Big5 live in their habitat, eating a picnic in the reserve, etc. Nothing like waking up, hopping on the safari jeep...and seeing two dozen+ giraffes right outside your lodging. Or seeing a lion chase the wildebeasts during the great migration. Or seeing an elephant within a few feet that is bigger than the entire jeep you are in. Or seeing your first zebra in the wild. Or seeing a rhino walk in front of your jeep at night in pitch black while trying to get back to your lodging. Or gazing at the stars which are very bright there. Our having a baboon swing out the bushes to grab your dinner while you aren't watching. The list goes on.

Tons of great memories. I'll never give up my beach Hawaii memories. But my Kenya safari memories are unique in their own spot and the sunsets in the reserve are just as good as any in Hawaii overlooking the ocean.
 

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Clavilux

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I think you had a great time in Tahiti and Bora Bora and your experience sound really great.
 
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