Tahiti with Windstar

By Nili Olay
This item appears on page 24 of the January 2018 issue.

The Wind Spirit anchored off Huahine. Photo by Jerry Vetowich

My husband, Jerry, and I planned to fly from New York City to California for a Jane Austen conference in early October. We decided to use Los Angeles as a jumping-off point and continue west. I suggested Hawaii and he suggested Tahiti. Why not?!

We chose Windstar Cruises (Seattle, WA; 866/351-0764, www.windstarcruises.com) because we’d had two successful cruises with them previously (Costa Rica/Panama and Athens/Rome). Luckily, a 7-day cruise, Sept. 21-28, 2017, worked with our schedule.

We took the full package, which included round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (LAX), one night in Papeete, Tahiti, before the cruise began and a day room at the hotel after the cruise and before our flight back.

The trip was wonderful. We cruised on the 4-masted sailing yacht Wind Spirit, which holds 148 passengers and 84 crew members. The crew was fantastic, learning our names and food preferences quickly. 

Nili Olay and Jerry Vetowich on Moorea.

The ship was very comfortable, with many quiet areas, such as the library, and it had a relaxed feel. Dinners were casual (no formal nights), requiring only long pants for the men (but no flip-flops).

The ports were a good mix of popular, like Bora Bora, and rarely visited, like Huahine. We docked at two of the ports; the rest of the time we anchored and took tenders to the port. The tenders were very available, and I never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get off or on the ship.

The watersports deck was open whenever we were anchored. Jerry took advantage of it and went small-boat sailing twice. I went snorkeling once and glass-bottom boating once and took two cultural/scenic tours, all included in the price.

All of the excursions had well-conceived itineraries and good guides. The snorkeling/glass-bottom boat guides dove into the water and fed the fish so they would come right up to us. The tours gave me a better understanding of the French Polynesian culture and Tahitian religious rites as well as knowledge about the culturing of black pearls.

Oyster ready for a pearl. Photo by Jerry Vetowich

We had dinner on deck one evening, a beach day on Motu Mahaea (a small island near Taha’a) and an evening barbecue with dancing and fire twirling in Huahine. The performers were fantastic!

We were lucky enough to see whales and dolphins from the side of the ship once, and on our way to snorkeling, one dolphin jumped straight out of the water in a way I had never seen before.

Our pre- and post-Papeete stay was at Le Méridien Tahiti (Tamanu, Tahiti; www.lemeridien tahiti.com), a beautiful hotel on the beach. Its pool had a sand bottom, and there was a poolside restaurant. Wi-Fi was free in the lobby. 

We walked to a small shopping area called Centre Commercial Tamanu Nui and bought pastries and a sandwich from the patisserie for $12 to share. We also indulged in crêpes ($2.50 each) at La Patê à Crêpes, around the corner from the patisserie. The day at the hotel was very pleasant.

I booked the trip through Ceylon Express (Huntington Beach, CA; 800/423-9566, www.ceylonexpress.com). Since I was a Ceylon Express repeat customer, I received a $400 discount. I also received an alumni discount from Windstar of approximately $100 for each of us. For the two of us, the total package price was $8,592. Jerry and I each used miles we had with United to fly to and from LAX.

The trip was expensive, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have snorkeling, diving and beach time and learn a bit about a different culture all in one trip.

New York, NY

Le Méridien Tahiti hotel in Papeete, Tahiti. Photo by Nili Olay

French Polynesian dancing on board the <i>Wind Spirit</i>. Photo by Nili Olay