I took a trip aboard the Aranui 3, Sept. 24-Oct. 9, 2009. This is a passenger/cargo ship that stops among some of the Marquesas and Tuamotu islands dropping off supplies and tourists.
The night before flying out of Los Angeles I stayed at my favorite hotel, Hacienda Hotel (525 N. Sepulveda Blvd., El Segundo, CA; 800/421-5900). It’s about five minutes from LAX and has a shuttle to and from the airport. (The park-and-ride rate of $149 includes 14 days’ parking and one night’s stay. With purchase of a park-and-ride package, additional nights’ stays each cost $85.)
I bought a cruise package from TravLtips (Flushing, NY; 800/872-8584) for $8,344 for a single cabin, including airfare from LAX on Air Tahiti Nui, $625 for insurance, a three-night hotel stay in Papeete, Tahiti, 13 nights aboard Aranui 3 and all transfers in Papeete.
The ship’s crew and staff couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. Every evening at 6 p.m. we had a lecture on the next day’s landing.
There were 156 passengers, mostly French, then Germans, Belgians, Swiss, 18 Americans and a smattering of other nationalities.
This was not a luxury cruise, but it was very comfortable.
Our hotel in Tahiti, the Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach Resort, was far away from everything, and in pouring rain it wasn’t practical to find anywhere else for meals, so I ate in the hotel restaurant. The menus showed no prices.
For my first lunch, I thought I’d treat myself to a glass of wine. The waiter poured the glass an eighth full. I thought that was strange. I also ordered a dessert. When I went to the front desk to change some money, I asked what my lunch had cost. “$56” was the reply. How could it be so much?
I wasn’t hungry at dinner, so I just ordered a salad that came with some sliced meat on the side. That was $36!
The next day at lunch I saw fish-and-chips on the child’s menu and asked if I could order that. The waitress (one of the few who spoke English) said ‘Yes.’ The fish was very nice, but I couldn’t begin to make a dent in the mountain of French fries. This entrée included a dish of ice cream. I had the same for dinner. It cost XPF1,200, about $15 — a better deal.
The prices for handicrafts on the islands were just as bad — shell necklaces for $55 to $100 and bone carvings (not ivory) from $50 to more than $100.
I was horrified and shocked at the prices in Tahiti and the islands.