Tahiti Part 1 | Bora Bora | Tahiti Part 2 | Moorea | Raiatea | Sea Days 1&2 | Samoa | Sea Day 3 | Fiji | Sea Day 4 | New Caledonia | Sea Days 5&6 | Sydney | next



South Pacific Cruise
December 3, 2023 - December 27, 2023


We finally did one of my dream vacations - a South Pacific Cruise. This 15-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Spirit left Tahiti and traveled to Sydney Australia making stops at Moorea, Raiatea, Samoa, Fiji, and New Caledonia along the way. Since this was our first time visiting Tahiti, we arrived there six days before our cruise embarkation so that we could explore the island and fabulous Bora Bora. We stayed in Sydney four days after the cruise to avoid the airports at Christmastime. This trip was an amazing exerience!

Things I Really Enjoyed

Things I Would Do Differently

Trip Report

It had been a long time since I was this excited about a vacation. I spent months reading trip reports and watching YouTube videos about the South Pacific. We started booking this December trip in May when we found out that Traci's job changed to a use-or-lose time-off policy. Suddenly, we needed to come up with a plan to use all the vacation hours that we had accumulated while we were not traveling during the Coronavirus Pandemic. I had given Traci a list of potential vacation itineraries both in the U.S. and international. I was surprised when she chose a South Pacific cruise. I had originally presented to her one of the round-trip South Pacific cruises that leaves from Australia and travels as far as Fiji - an island we had wanted to visit. However, as I was comparing South Pacific itineraries of various cruise lines, I came across this Norwegian cruise itnerary that in addition to Fiji, also visits Tahiti - another bucket list destination of ours. This itinerary excited us and so we booked it. With the addition of our pre- and post- cruise stays on land, this trip would be the longest we have taken to date - 25 days!

Arriving in Tahiti

We had an approximate 6-hour flight from Washington Dulles Airport to San Francisco and then an 8-hour flight from San Francisco to Faa'a International Airport in Tahiti. Neither one of those United Airlines flights were full. In fact, the San Francisco to Tahiti leg of the journey was so empty that everyone could have a row to themselves on this large 787 Dreamliner airplane. It was comfortable flight. I really enjoyed the electronic dimmable windows. When I set it to its darkest setting, I imagined I was flying in outer space.

Flight to Papeete, Tahiti

rather empty 8-hour flight from San Francisco to Papeete


daytime seen through the plane's electronic dimmable windows


Arriving in Tahiti was a joyous and exciting moment for me. I had been wanting to visit this island for such a long time. I could hardly believe I was actually stepping off the plane and onto the tarmac of this exotic location. To add to the joy was the mild nighttime air as we walked towards the small airport from the airplane. As we entered the building, I delighted at the sight of two musicians and a dancer dressed in traditional Tahitian clothing performing music of the island. Because there were so few passengers on our flight to the island, Traci and I were able to collect our two 50-lb suitcases and make it through customs in no time.

Arriving at Faa'a International Airport in Tahiti

welcomed with singing and dancing


I loved the McDonalds advertisements in Tahiti


Tahiti is the main island of the nation of French Polynesia which is a territory of France. French Polynesia consist of 118 islands with a total population of around 280,000 people. About 70% of this population lives on the island of Tahiti. The language of French Polynesia is French. However, eveyone greets each other in Tahitian - "Ia orana" (pronounced yah oranah). I have been a member of a Saturday morning online French conversation group for many years. I was looking forward to using the language on this trip. I decided to give it a try by asking a security guard in French where I could find an ATM. This did not go as well as I had hoped. He spoke fast and softly as he gave me directions. I repeated what I thought I heard but apparently, I was not correct. He hit me with what I call 'the question of shame'; that is, "Do you speak English?"

I gave my lame reply of "Yes, better than I speak French." Unfortunately, most of my attempts to communicate in French that evening and the next day would end in English. As for the security guard in the airport, when I also struggled to understand his English due to his accent, he had me follow him to the ATM where I was able to get the local currency.

The currency of French Polynesia is the Pacific Franc (XPF or CPF). At the time, it was easy to figure out prices in U.S. dollars (USD). We could simply move the decimal place two places to the left to get an approximate conversion from XPF to USD. For example, 1,000 XPF was approximately equal to $10.

Since Traci and I would be flying to Bora Bora the next day, I did not want to book an expensive hotel for the evening we arrived in Tahiti. Therefore, after some online research before our trip, I chose the Fare Suisse (pronouced Fah dah Sweese) Guesthouse for our overnight in Tahiti. The online reviews said it was a clean basic motel with friendly service and an affordable price (approximately $120 USD with breakfast at the time ). Although there were a few other similarly-priced basic hotels with good reviews from which to choose, Fare Suisse stood out because they offer complimentary shuttle service to/from the airport and to/from the ferry port.

I was impressed with Fare Suisse. The staff is professional, friendly, and very organized. After about a 30-minute wait at the Arrivals Hall of the airport, the Fare Suisse complimentary shuttle arrived. The young lady who drove the van, found our names on her sheet and handed me a key to our room. Traci and I along with 3 other passengers were driven through Tahiti's capital city of Papeete (pronounced Poppa ay tay) and up a hill to get to the property.

Our room was indeed basic and clean. It was sparsely populated with tropical artwork. The room had a queen-sized bed, a desk, a bamboo shelf, a bathroom, and, most importantly, air condition. The bathroom had a shower, bath towels, and hand towels but no wash clothes. I went to the front desk to ask for more towels. The receptionist said someone would bring them but when no one came after 30 minutes, I went back to follow-up. The lights were off and it appeared the staff was gone for the evening. Oh well. Our room did not have a television. Wi-Fi is not available from the room but can be accessed in the public spaces of the property.

Our overnight at the Fare Suisse was interesting. The motel is located in a neighborhood in the hills. All night we heard dogs barking and roosters cock-a-doodle dooing. Silly me. I thought roosters only crow at sunrise - not these roosters. It almost seemed like they were in some sort of competition. They were relentless. Around 4 AM, Traci expressed her frustration by exclaming, "Those chickens need to shut up!" They just seemed to get louder. It sounded like one was right outside our door.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Fare Suisse. It reminded me of a light European-style breakfast consisting of bread, jam, cold cuts, and cereal but kept to the tropical theme with tropical fruits and juices. I really liked the bread. Tahiti is a territory of France and the French are serious about their bread. It was delicious! The staff were really friendly and cheerful. I could often hear them humming or singing along with the jazzy Christmas music playing in the background. It felt strange to hear "Let It Snow. Let It Snow. Let It Snow" when it felt like a humid summer day.

Now that it was daylight, I could see just how delightful the location of the Fare Suisse is. It is surrounded by tropical plants and trees. I heard the singing of birds that were unfamiliar to me. I also saw a rooster who was indeed shuffling close to our room. I was wondering if he was the one who serenaded us all night long.

Fare Suisse Guesthouse

Fare Suisse Guesthouse


The Fare Suisse is located in a neighborhood in the hills.


Tetiaroa room at Fare Suisse


enjoying breakfast at Fare Suisse


Being located in the hills, the Fare Suisse offered a nice view of the city below. After breakfast, Traci and I made the short walk through the neighborhood and into downtown Papeete. Papeete is probably not the image of Tahiti that most people have. It is an urban scene with cars and mopeds whizzing by. We had a look in the Champion grocery store where we were greeted with "Ia orana" by smiling security guards. I saw some interesting flavors of potato chips in the snacks aisle but did not buy anything. Traci was eyeing the licorice in the candy aisle but did not buy it because of the large size.

We continued our walk through the city. We walked by banks, fitness centers, beauty salons, churches, office buildings, restuarants, and other types of establishments. We eventually crossed the street after a very long traffic light cycle and found ourselves in a gorgeous waterfront urban park. We saw people relaxing and having picnics under the palm trees. Children played on the playground. Across the water, we got our first glimpse of the mountainous island of Moorea. For a brief few moments, I was enthralled by the image of paradise that I've seen on screen savers and in vacation brochures. That was short-lived when I looked in the other direction and saw the cranes, cargo containers, and rusty ships of Papeete's industrial port. We constantly saw stray dogs no matter where we went on this island and the others we would visit throughout our vacation.

Exploring Papeete






Traci and I decided to cut our wandering short in order to walk back to our motel. The humidity was rising and we did not want to become too sweaty before our ride to the airport. Also we needed to check out of our room before the 10 AM check-out time. Our shuttle ride to the airport was scheduled to depart at 11 AM for our 12:25 flight to Bora Bora. In the meantime, we sat in the dining area taking advantage of the Wi-Fi to check email and social media. Traci was having a hard time detaching from work. She took out her laptop and began going through work emails.

We shared the shuttle with three others - a brother and sister who were dropped off at the ferry terminal for their trip to Moorea and a lady from Switzerland whose destination was the airport like Traci and me. I was fascinated by the Swiss woman. This woman who speaks three languages (German, English, and French) was using her 2.5 months off from work to travel the world. Even more impressive is that she was doing this using a small carry-on suitcase! Continue...

Tahiti Part 1 | Bora Bora | Tahiti Part 2 | Moorea | Raiatea | Sea Days 1&2 | Samoa | Sea Day 3 | Fiji | Sea Day 4 | New Caledonia | Sea Days 5&6 | Sydney | next


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