Moorea - Day 9

Friends and Family,

Moorea is said to be the second most popular destination in French Polynesia and we definitly could see why. Another spectacular day in paradise. As Valerie keeps saying..."It is what it is". Moorea means "yello lizards" and it is thought that this was the name of one of the ruling families of the island. Today it is the pineapple growing centre of French Polynesia with Tourism the island's other major business.

We all spent the day on a Motu (an small island/atoll), hanging on the beach, swimming with sting rays and just enjoying the scenery.
You could definitly do some dream building here, just imagining what life would be like if... We all decided that our dreams were too big for the motu and that more travel had to be done.

We have had just a wonderful time and it has been the best 40th Birthday Celebration I could ever imagine.

Tomorrow we arrive back in Papeete for our journey back home and to reality. I'm still working on staying in the moment and always in the back of my mind will be...

"My Dreams are Too Big for the Motu...-Whatever that Motu happens to be."

See ya back home.

Bora Bora - Day 7 & 8

Family & Friends,

Bora Bora is considered by some to be the most beautiful island in the world. Also known as the "Pearl of the Pacific", it is a small volcanic island almost completely surrounded by a barrier reef, formed from a collapsed volcano. What definitly makes Bora Bora so beautiful is the combinaiton of motus sitting along the outer reef, the numerous colors of turqoise in the lagoon, and the tombstone shaped peak known as Mount Otemanu towering over it all. Bora Bora was used during WWII by the US Navy as a waystation. Bora Bora never saw combat during WWII, but it was a major refuellin base on the American to Austrailia supply line.

I would have to agree that the island and water is absolutely beautiful, but so hasn't every island we have been to so far. Our two days in Bora Bora were spent diving in one form or another. The first day in port, Manny and I went on a 1 tank dive and then on a "Aqua Safari" with Ron and Valerie. The dive was spectacular as we were able to swim with the reef sharks.

We saw a giant eels, sharks...another Finding Nemo moment. Manny and I came back to pick up the kids and took them to Snuba (snorkling/scuba) with these big helmets on.
Ron and Valerie thought it was a hoot and both decided that with that experience that had no more need to see any fish close up. That was close enough. I found it very difficult to move in the damn thing - the current was very strong - and will return to scuba as soon as possible.

That night, Manny and I went on a Night Dive and that was the most nerve racking dive I had ever been on. The dive outfit was SOOOO unorganized and it was a total cluster f--k underwater. We had no idea where the dive master was half the time and just swam around until he mysteriously showed up to check your air. My light was low on batteries and just got dimmer and dimmer until it practically went out before the dive master showed up to give me a new light. Talk about having a hissy fit. It is dark as hell down there without a light...and Manny's mantra of "Just Stand Up"...when all else fails wasn't working. To add insult to injury, we hardly saw any good creatures during the dive either. Guess they decided to not come out that night. I was never so glad to get out of the water and back on the ship.

The next day, Manny and I did a two tank dive and it was AWESOME! We swam with Lemon Sharks and I felt like I was right in the middle of a Jaws movie. I hope the picutres of those monsters comes out and should have them tomorrow. They were so big and I guess it was lunch time, cause one of them just gobbled down this huge fish right in mid-swim. He didn't even see it coming. The food chain at work. Just glad we didn't look appetizing.
After the dive, Ron and Valerie met us as dock where we went to the famouse Bloody Mary's and had lunch. We were not famous enough to get our names burned onto the wall. I just didn't get their hesitation. Don't they know who we are?

Last night was also the last formal night and there was a big party in the dining room with a parade of Baked Alaska by the staff. Delicious. We have set sail for our last port...Moorea.

The party is almost over, but we are trying to stay in the moment.

Raiatea - Day 6

Family & Friends -

Welcome to Raiatea, considered the most sacred of all the Society Islands. Legend has it that Oro, the god of war and fertility was born atop Mount Temahani on the northern end of Raiatea. Raiatea is the second largest island in French Polynesia. Across the lagoon is the island of Tahaa. Several small pearl farms dot the warm, clear waters of Tahaa.

Today, Manny and I started the day off with a morning dive. You'll see later that it looks like Manny and I just rolled right out of bed and onto shore for this dive. The photo staff took pictures of us getting off the ship and DAMN - mornings are just not my thing - even on vacation. The ride out to the dive site was beautiful. We anchored and as we started to put on our equipment, about 6 reef sharks came calling to see if we were going to be breakfast. Not to worry, they turned ot to be just curious and we ended up diving among about 10 reef sharks that came so close you could practically touch them. I really hope the pictures come out. It was awesome. We saw huge moray eels, trumpet fish, angle fish and more. There were times that I felt like I was actually in the movie Finding Nemo. Just incredible. Manny and I have two more dives coming up in Bora Bora.

After the dive, Manny and I made it back to the ship to pick up the sleepy heads for our Pearl Farm Tour and Motu Beach Excursion. At the pearl farm, we had a lecutre on how black pearls are created. Bottom line - it is a long, expensive process - a lot of damn work - for a 8 mm pearl. This one family had 23 pearl farms and are now down to only 3. The owner told us that if you want to be a pearl farmer, you need to be rich. Here are some highlights:
- You need approx. 200,000 black lipped oysters just to start a pearl farm. Mountainous islands have to buy their baby oysters at about $2 each. Cash Only.
- You will lose approx. 20-30% of your baby oysters during transport
- It takes 8 months to nurse your oysters to maturity, with certified divers coming 3x/week to clean the oysters so that parasites don't kill them.
- Once mature, you have to hire a technician (usually from Japan) that will surgically implant the necre (shell irritant) into the oyster. The technician can do about 350 oysters a day at $5/oyster
- Then the oysters go in a mesh bag and back in the water for 2 years - if they make it. There is a 30% rejection rate (the oyster spits out the nucleous). Then you get something called a cachet (sp). Not a pearl but pretty to make other jewelry. It occurs when the oyster rejects the nucleous and the graft folds over on itself and makes a flat pearly like substance. Pretty but not a pearl.

It was very interesting and now I know why pearls are so expensive. Final tip - if you want to know if you significant other is trying to pass off fake pearls or real ones on ya...take your pearls and run them across you front teeth. If it feels smooth - FAKE. If it grates - REAL. A real pearl is never absolutely smooth and is still a living organism - like coral. DON'T put them in jewelry cleaner. Water (clean) your pearls in distilled or salt water at least 4x/year or after about 10 years of wear, acid from your skin and drying - your pearls will crack and leave you with nothing but the shell - worth nothing.

After the Pearl Farm, we were transported to a Motu (atoll) for some beach time. Another paradise.
Back at the ship it was Island Night and we all had our island attire on. There was a show with the children of Raiate, champagne fountain, the conga line dance and just a fun party night. We had a wonderful day.

This morning we have pulled out for our 2 hour journey to Bora Bora.

Tahiti-2nd Day at Sea - Day 5

Friends and Family,

Another day at sea on our way to Raiatea from Rarotonga and it was anything but boring. They keep you pretty busy on the ship. We started the day with breakfast on deck and then went to the Culinary Demonstration and Galley Tour. The galley is amazing and even has an escalator in it to get the waiters and stewards where they need to be quickly. During the tour, they had a bunch of vegetable and fruit carvings. My favorite was Mr. Pinapple Head.

Later, I played some Jackpot Bingo, had a spa treatment and went back to the Art Auction. Manny and Valerie were deciding on another Alexandra Nechita.

Later that evening, dinner was Italian night and we toasted the end of dinner with Lemonchello - a lemon flavored drink and headed to the All Crew Show. The show was absolutely hilarious. A lot of the crew couldn't really sing and dance at all, but it was very brave and hilarious. The cruise director came out for the show's finale- "If We Not at Sea, a ________ is what I'd Be" - in a pink tutu since if he were not at sea, a Ballerina he would be. Anyway, you had to be there. It was a scream.

We are off to Raiatea. Talk to you later.


At Sea & Rarotonga, Cook Islands -Day 3&4

Monday (March 13th) was our first "At Sea" Day. You might think that you would be bored just hanging out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; however, there was plenty to do - like absolutely nothing. Like I said before - I want to become a proficient connoisseur of the Art of Doing Nothing. Valerie and I had a private pass to the spa deck, so we spent the morning laying around there with our mugs of "the purple coolaid". Val brought a bottle of Grey Goose with her on board making it an absolute necessity that we create our own cocktails. Even in the South Pacific at 10 in the morning, we sincerely believed it was happy hour somewhere in the world. A little GG and OJ or Cranberry Juice is the breakfast of champions.

Ron and I both had the Hot Stone Massage and Ron was a sucker for the up sell. He came back with a bag of relaxation/muscle tension stuff. I told the woman that I could share Ron's stuff. No need to try and get me to buy the $300 Detox program. I have my girl Celeste from Celeste's House of Pain (my personal torturer - I mean trainer) to ensure that I am sufficiently detoxed and cleaned out. I've been there and done that (and will ABSOLUTELY need to do again after this cruise) with Celeste - and she will undoubtedly do it for a whole lot less and with glee! The Hot Stone Massage has got to be one of the all time best massages I have every had. Got turned out on it at the Green Valley Spa and was still looking for Moreen (yeah, that's how she spelled her name) and her stones later that night. Private Cabin treatment?

After the Massage, I went to meet Ron at the Champagne Art Auction (Ron's treatment was completed before mine) and it was truly world class. You can get some of the worlds top artists and collectible pieces that you would traditionally find at auction houses at Sotheby's, Christies and fine art galleries. You are able to buy the art on the ship at anywhere between 50-75% off the retail/gallery price because they can only sell the art while at sea, thus not competing with galleries on land. The Art Dealers/Auctioneers on board often go directly to the artists and contract with them for specific pieces. The reason the artists are motivated to sell their pieces this way is because they get considerable more exposure and viewings at cruise galleries vs. a land based gallery. For example, a land based gallery will typically have 75 to 100 people view a piece in a week, whereas on a cruise gallery can have as many as 75,000 people view their work in a week across all the cruise lines. They auctioned off works by Erte, Salvadore Dali, Picasso, Alexandra Nechitia (the petite Picasso), Bill Mack and much more. The even have sports memorabilia. Manny bid on (and he got it at the opening bid since nobody else bid on it) and won an Alexandra Necitia and Ron and I won bids on two of the Bill Macks.

If you ever though of buying/collecting appreciable art as an asset, the Princess Line of Cruise ships has an awesome collection at way below market prices.

The first at sea day was also the first formal night. We took some beautiful portraits which I'll have to show later. In all of the excitement we didn't take any pictures on my own camera. After dinner, we went dancing to the orchestra and watched a performance of a wonderful soprano. Dancing in a full length gown on a moving ship takes SKILL. A girl has to have skills.

Yesterday (Tuesday, March 14th) we arrived in the Cook Islands at Rarotonga - the Kingdom of Tonga and the Samoas to the west and French Polynesia to the east. The Cook Islands lie virtually in the center of the polynesian triangle. Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands and is a protectorate of New Zealand. Thus far we have been to France (French Polynesia - the Islands of Tahiti and Huahine) and New Zealand (Rarotonga). Fast damn ship. Rarotonga or "Raro" as it is called by the locals is a roundish, mountainous island covered in jungle. The island is surrounded by a protective coral reef and the water is an absolutely gorgeous turquoise. We didn't have anything special scheduled today so we caught the tender to the island and walked into town. Town was so small that you could walk from one end to the other is less than 5 minuets. We then caught the shuttle bus to Muri Beach.

Muri Beach was exactly like I imagined the South Pacific to look like. The water was turquoise blue and warm as bath water. At this beach you could actually walk all the way across the lagoon to the 3 other atolls (or Motu's) off the beach. It was breath taking. You can see the three motu's on the picture of the island above. Manny and I tried to walk/swim all the way to the smallest but most lush atoll and got about 30 yards out before we came across a barrier of rocks that without shoes, we just could get past. I started having a small hissy fit about how the rocks were hurting, etc, etc. Unfortunately, Manny did not buy into the hysteria and told me to "Just Stand Up" - the new mantra whenever hysteria started to cast its shadow on an event. Despite the long walk that didn't get us anywhere, we had a blast.

We are "At Sea" again tomorrow (Wednesday - March 15th). Talk to you later.

Huahine - The Garden Island - Day 2

I was up at sunrise to view the sun coming up over this beautiful island. Huahine, pronounced who-a-hee-nee by the locals, is a perfect place to enjoy paradise in peace and solitude. It is virtually untouched by any signs of tourism. Huahine is actually two separate islands and the tow halves are connected by a narrow bridge. It is the only road that connects the two islands and you could see children jumping off the bridge into the bay for fun. Legend has it that Huahine was split when Hiro, the great Polynesian warrior and god of thieves, ploughed through the island with his mighty canoe creating Bourayne Bay on the west and Maroe Bay on the east.
It is also know as "The Garden Island" for the lush foliage and tropical landscapes. I don't think I have seen a great as beautiful. Ron and I spent the day at Avea beach just hanging out. Manny & Valerie went on a sacred sites island tour. Huahine is home to some of the most extensive and earliest know archeological sites in the Society Islands. There are several ruins of stone temples and other finds.

Ron was real popular with the local children. While we were waiting for the outrigger to take us to the beach, the kids kept asking (rather pointing) for Ron to flex his muscles - they wanted to see Ron's fire up his guns. The national sport is canoe racing - from island to island (4-5 hours) so the men have very strong, muscular arms.

Among almost all the islands, the women out number the men and is a very matriarchal society. The women are running things! Here's some food for
thought: Paradise, beauty, no crime, peace & solitude - Women running the place; War, genocide, terrorism, general nastiness - Men running the place. HMMMM. THAT'S WEIRD!
It was a very relaxing day at the beach. Ron just hung out reading his usual Business Week or some such magazine. I worked on my black girl - but had to be careful so as to not end up looking like a cooked lobster. After we got back to the ship we went up on deck to watch the ship pull out of the bay. The sun was setting over the mountains and you could not help but feel the majesty of God. Only His hand could have created such beauty. Breathtaking.
At dinner, they sang Happy Birthday to Valerie and I and sent birthday cake to the room. Ain't that nice. We watched a rather dull cabaret show...Ron seemed to like it - I fell asleep when Peppe Le Pew and a Cat came dancing out on stage. There was just something not quite right with that. Tomorrow is an "AT SEA" day, so I'm spending the day in the spa. Hot Stone Massage here I come.

Welcome Aboard The Tahitian Princess - Hina Tei Po Te Marama (Hina Goddess of Light) - March 10th, 2006

Iaorana (Hello) Family and Friends,

It is so fun going on a cruise with friends that have never cruised before. Ron and I felt like we were hosting our good friends and sharing all of our past joys and experiences. The ship is simply world class elegant. Everything is "just so" and the staff is wonderful. It was awesome to watch Valerie Ooh and Aah over the suite. Our suite is on deck 8 (all suites w/balcony) and are all about 400 sq ft. with balcony. Larger than a lot of hotel rooms I've stayed in. There is enough room to spread out and have guests over. After checking out the room, I immediately hustled Valerie over to the Lotus Spa where we signed up for our spa treatments for the duration before they got all booked up. We toured the ship and had a drink before we decided to head into town for some Tahitian Black Pearl Shopping.

We spent the afternoon going from shop to shop looking at these beautiful pearls. We were so surprised about how the people don't harass you on the street to come into their store (like in St. Thomas) or badger you while in the store. Most merchants were extremely helpful, proud of their pearl selection, and protective of their reputation. One store gave us a chart from the Gem Institute that told us how to choose a pearl, the gimmicks that disreputable stores use and also a measuring tool so we could measure the diameter of the pearl. We were always allowed to take the pearls outside so we could see the rainbow and/or how translucent the pearl was. The rainbow of colors is just beautiful. The Black Pearl is anything but black. Awesome.

After a few hours and a beer, we settled at the Tahitian Pearl Market. Manny spent an hour going thru a box of loose pearls, finally settling on two grey/purple pearls about 9 mm in diameter each that he is planning on setting as cuff links. I picked out a very unique bracelet and matching earrings for myself. Valerie and I were looking in another case at some nice pieces and simultaneously said "Sandy" as we pointed to a piece. I can't give it away, since she is reading this, but this setting has 3 different color pearls and has more than one use. Mom - your gonna love it, so please remove the duck tape off of your granddaughter and let her out of the utility closet. NOW!

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at a "flea market" where a lot of locals had their crafts displayed. Ron (of course) saw this little Tahitian outfit and it was a "Cara Must Have". Valerie insisted that I negotiate this time. I'm really bad about that - just put the stuff in the damn bag. Furthermore, it can be difficult to haggle if the only language the person speaks is French or Reo Mao'hi (Tahitian local language). Using my limited Frenchglish I got her down from $15 to $12 before I was exhausted. Valerie gave me a high five for the effort.

Well, we get back on the ship and they know (cause I put it on my cruise planner) that I'm celebrating my 40th Birthday. .
Jeffrey, our Cabin Steward, delivers a bottle of champagne and some scrimp snacks before dinner. While at dinner, Jeffrey decorated our door with balloons and there was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries in the suite. I definitely can live like this. Jeffrey also wisked off my long dresses to be pressed ("of course, darling") and checked on my laundry needs. Well, slap me silly again. Where will Jeffrey be when I get back to reality.
Tomorrow, we have my birthday Champagne Breakfast in our suite, a official group tour of the Island of Tahiti and the city of Papeete (one of several islands in the French Polynesia), and then Bon Voyage for the island of Huahine.

Till Tomorrow...Nana (Good Bye)

Tahitian Cruise - Topless in Paradise? -DDay-1

Ron and I finally arrived on the Island of Tahiti and YES, my dear, this IS paradise. It is absolutely beautiful and we are just at the Sheraton Hotel Tahiti for the day until the ship embarks tomorrow. But I digress...Let me start at the beginning with the flight.

We flew Air France. A jumbo 747 that has 70 rows of 12 seats just in economy class. That's a lot of damn people. Now, I took a cue out of my girlfriend Karen's Flight Survival Book and picked up some Somenex so I could sleep on the plane and be ready to go when I got of the plane. Knocked me right out. I don't even remember us taking off and I woke up to my tray table being down with a nice plate of food on it. Guess what, travel fans...Air France doesn't make you buy your food and they feed you dinner AND breakfast. Edible even. Anyway, I feed my face and get up to walk around. We were in row 21. I walked all the way back to row 70 and back down the other aisle. Guess what I didn't see...NOT ANOTHER AFRICAN, AFRICAN AMERICAN OR BLACK FACE on the plane. DAMN people, where do "we" vacation at. Ron and I were the token black folk on the plane AND the only people who didn't speak both French and English. Okay, Okay...I got by with a few "bon soir's" and "merci's" but we are pitiful. Just to be sure, when we landed Ron and I surveyed the crowd in the customs line and I was right. NOT ONE on the whole plane. That's the kind of stuff that gets you detained. "Excuse me, sir..maam could you please step out of the line and explain what you are doing on the plane". Mom and Erin - rest assured I was on my BEST airport security behavior...And I have been known to get a little testy with airport security personnel.

At the airport, we were greated with flowers for your hair and music. No adult beverages thougt. Bummer. The flowers here smell absolutely fantastic.
We arrive at the hotel and start off right away insulting the taxi driver...DAMN AMERICANS. Come to find out the tipping is NOT part of the Tahitian culture. Well, slap me silly. That's weird. No matter, I won't get it wrong again. Trust Me.

We get settled in the room and immediately go down to the pool area. They have an infinity pool. When you are in the pool, it looks like the pool falls right into the Ocean. . The big eye opener was that most people are TOPLESS. Let's just say everyone is topless. NOT EVERYONE SHOULD BE TOPLESS. Woaah Nelly...put those things back. I mean ladies were just walking down to the pool with no top on, or just a cover up and then snatch that bad boy off. MY EYES. MY EYES. Ron was real eager for me to join the topless crowd. Just a bit of advice before you attemp this at home...Breasts that have never seen the sun - EVER - probably should not start with a tropical sun. That would probably leave a mark. As you can see from the pictures that I am about as white as the sand here so, let's take it one step at a time. I'm keeping these bad boys covered up. I am proud to say that after viewing at least 20 different pairs (gonna need lasix now), I have the best set. Ron concurs, he viewed them all too.

Right now, we are waiting for Manny & Valerie to arrive and just practicing the Art of Doing Nothing. Must go now, they just delivered a complimentary plate of food to the room and Ron is starting to act silly with so much free time on his hands.