It’s clear that the popularity of small ship cruising is a fast growing trend in travel and cruising, as we just had a record booking week for cruises to Tahiti and the Tuamotu Islands. Windstar Cruises’ romantic and unique style of cruising is unmatched when it comes to enjoying Tahiti’s sun-soaked beaches, crystal-clear waters, incredible sea and wildlife, and exotic tropical island ports in casually elegant style. Blogger Matt Long has recently sailed islands of French Polynesia on Wind Spirit and wrote six things everyone should know about Windstar’s Tahiti cruise.
For me, and millions like me, a cruise to Tahiti was the stuff of dreams. For as long as I can remember, traveling to these fabled islands has been number one on my travel wish list and finally getting the chance to explore the South Pacific was a dream come true. I learned a lot though on my Tahiti cruise with Windstar, and more than anything I found myself surprised by the journey again and again. Today I want to share my experiences because if you’re like me, there’s a lot about cruising around French Polynesia that I bet you may not know.
1. Tahiti is very accessible
I’m not great at geography, which is probably why I didn’t properly understand where Tahiti and the 117 other islands of French Polynesia are located exactly. In brief, they are smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean close to absolutely nothing at all. They are remote and alone, which is what makes them so attractive in the first place. Luckily, we don’t have to sail the vast oceans to reach the islands and I found the flights to be incredibly manageable. Flying from LA to Papeete takes about 8-8.5 hours, which honestly isn’t that bad. It’s not the 13 hours it takes to reach Australia from the West Coast or the 15 hours to reach Asia from the East Coast. Yes, it’s a long-haul flight but I place it in the mid-tier of flights in terms of duration. If you live on the West Coast of the US, it takes you far longer to reach Europe than Tahiti, so the distance is fine I think. I don’t live on the West Coast though, so I had to first fly the nearly 6 hours to reach Los Angeles before hopping on the Air Tahiti Nui flight to Papeete. Admittedly, this makes it a longer trip. But, you can either split that time up by spending a day or two in LA or, do as I did, and just plan a slightly longer layover to go outside, stretch your legs, get some fresh air and grab a bite to eat before flying to Papeete. No matter how you approach it though, I don’t personally consider distance to be an impediment to visiting French Polynesia.
2. Cruising is the best way to experience Tahiti
The Society Islands have a lot of names. The South Pacific, French Polynesia and here in the US we tend just to say Tahiti to encompass all of them. In truth though, Tahiti is just one of 118 different islands comprising the chain, each one with its own unique look, feel and experiences to enjoy. Getting to these islands isn’t always easy; even the most popular of the islands take some planning if you want to visit. Moorea and Bora Bora are the easiest to visit from the capital city of Papeete on Tahiti, but even then you’re talking about either ferries or short flights. For my first experience in French Polynesia though I knew I didn’t want to be stuck on just one or two islands, that I wanted to see and do as much as possible. A cruise really is the only way to accomplish this and is, I think, the perfect introduction to this beautiful part of the world. A small yacht experience in French Polynesia was pure perfection and provided intimate access to some of the most remote spots on the planet, a feat few others can achieve.
“Our Tahiti cruises are more popular than ever,” said Windstar President John Delaney. “Just last week we had a record week for Tahiti cruise bookings, our best yet. The South Pacific region continues to grow as a trending travel destination and there’s no better way to experience this gorgeous part of the world than on the deck of a Windstar ship under sail.”
3. French Polynesia is what you make it
Sure, we all love those iconic images of bungalows over water and scenes so beautiful they make a grown man cry. And yes, those postcards and calendars we’ve all been admiring all our lives do actually exist in real life. However, Tahiti is about much more than those beaches, all you have to do is want to learn more. Talking with locals and the authentic experiences Windstar provides is the perfect way to really get to know and understand this very unique part of the world. I’m also an active traveler though and I was a little concerned there wouldn’t be enough to keep me occupied, but thankfully I was very wrong. Every day was a new port, a new island and new experiences to enjoy. The cruise offered a wide variety of excursions from snorkeling and diving to photographic tours and 4X4 drives. There was never an opportunity to be bored no matter where we were. Plus, the onboard amenities and activities meant that even while at sea I had a lot to do; more than enough to keep someone like me entertained. Of course, if you do want to spend time on those tranquil beaches, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. It’s really a matter of preference, but I loved having the option to choose to be active or not, depending on my mood.
4. It’s Too Expensive
I hear this a lot, and it’s not entirely true. Like most destinations we visit, if you want to spend a lot of money on vacation in French Polynesia, you certainly can. Although, you can also visit as a budget traveler and while it’s not my style of travel, I know many people who have done just that. From hostels to pensions and B&Bs, there are many lodging alternatives that make the South Pacific affordable. I have to say though, that while my cruise was a boutique luxury experience it’s a reasonably priced one. I sailed with many people who normally spend a week in Mexico or travel to Europe on vacation and they shared with me that their French Polynesia cruise was either the same price or just slightly more expensive than those more common getaways. I think the key is working with a travel advisor who knows the region well and who can help you navigate any potential financial pitfalls. Personally, I had wanted to visit French Polynesia for so long that nothing was going to keep me away.
5. New friends
One of the best parts of the trip was meeting all of my fellow passengers. I get asked a lot of questions about cruising, mostly because I tend to sail only on small vessels, whether it’s a river cruise or ocean going vessel. Mostly it’s about the demographics, my fellow Gen-Xers don’t want to be the youngest people onboard. I have a few answers to this. First, I am very rarely the youngest person onboard and I certainly was not the youngest when I sailed around French Polynesia with Windstar. Second, age doesn’t really matter when you travel. If you are on the same journey as someone else, that means the two of you have a very similar outlook on life. You seek the same things from a travel experience and in my case that means exploration and adventure. Those traveling with you feel the same as you do, and you will have so much more in common than you could ever imagine. That has always been the case for me, and it held true during the week I spent with Windstar. Regardless of age, we all got along very well and some of the discussions I had onboard were amongst the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Plus, I just loved meeting new people and learning about them and their lives. I wanted to know what brought them to Tahiti and experiencing it with them for the first time made my own journey all the more richer. It was a symbiotic relationship of everyone helping each other in creating a more fun and robust travel experience.
6. Tahiti is worth the hype
Tahiti is one of those places most of us want to visit because it looks like paradise incarnate. Every travel calendar features it and for millions it fuels our travel dreams. Many times when this happens though, the destination rarely lives up to all of the hype. Tahiti is not one of those places. Not only does it live up to the hype, it exceeds every expectation. I wanted a tropical paradise and I found it, from those dreamy overwater bungalows on Bora Bora to swimming with sharks through perfectly clear waters. But French Polynesia is about so much more than those postcard images. It’s full of people who are amongst the nicest and most welcoming that I’ve ever met. It’s full of jungles and rivers and other beautiful scenes most people don’t know exist. It has a complicated history, a fascinating culture and endless stories to share, if people are curious enough to ask. Tahiti is a special place and even though I had just one short week there, I know it’s not my last experience on those islands.
About Matt Long
Matt is a typical Gen-Xer and former cubicle-dweller who has a passion for all things travel. He runs www.landlopers.com travel blog. He is not a backpacker, nor did he leave everything behind to see the world. He is just a normal person who has learned how to get the most out of the travel experience. Matt is like many people; he has a house, lives in the ‘burbs and is even owned by three beautiful dogs, but he has also made travel his profession. If you love adventurous experiences along with the pampering that only great luxury can provide, then his site is the place for you.
If You Go
Windstar makes a Tahiti dream trip attainable for those seeking the perfect celebration destination. Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea Islands are top of search when it comes to luxury and romance, but costly airfare, expensive lodging and food costs can deter travelers. Windstar has curated a value-laden Tahiti “Cruise+Air+Hotel” cruise package starting at $3,999 per guest that adds extraordinary appeal to the romance of the South Pacific.