Papeete Remains a Tropical Treat

Day 19, Grand World Voyage

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023; Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.

Papeete is just as I remember from three years ago – a bustling city harbor with ferries and unusual luxury yachts, crazy traffic, buskers with ukuleles on street corners and fragrant flowers everywhere.

Three years ago, Elaine and I toured the island, so this year I decided to just explore on my own. Both my sisters scheduled afternoon tours so in the morning we could visit le marché, the local market, which closes shortly after noon on Saturdays. I was sure I could remember where it was, but we missed it the first time around. It didn’t really matter. There was much to see, shops to browse and photos to take.

We finally stumbled on the covered market, just a half-block from where I had remembered it. Vendors were eager to show you their handicrafts, coconut oil products, clothes and fabric and flowers. You could buy used books in French. The whole center was decorated for the Chinese lunar new year.

Eloise added to her placemat collection. We’ve found placemats are good souvenirs – they are inexpensive, pack flat and useful back home. I looked in vain for a fun tropical dress, but more just to have some purpose in my browsing. I can already tell that I brought too many clothes.

When we first disembarked the ship, Hotel Manager Henk and other cruise staff presented each of us with a fresh flower lei. Of course, everyone joked about getting laid in Tahiti. (It’s just doesn’t sound as funny when written out with the different spelling.) As we walked around town, I commented that by wearing the lei everyone would know I am a day tourist off the ship. But even without it, I probably am easily identified.

French Polynesia covers an area of the South Pacific equal in size to Europe. It has five major archipelagos, and we are visiting two. Tahiti, the capital, is in the Society Islands, as are our next two ports, Moorea and Raiatea. Nuva Hika, the island we visited earlier, is in the Marquesas. It is an overseas dependency of France. Its relationship with France is reflected by the fact that the surfing competition of the 2024 Olympics, awarded to France, will be in Tahiti.

All aboard time was 4 a.m. – yes, in the wee hours of the next morning – as our next port of Moorea is visible on the horizon. Food trucks were rumored to gather in the port parking lot in the evenings, but I heard they didn’t materialize. We had a quick dinner in the Lido so we could to the Mainstage for seats to the early Tahitian Folkloric Show. It was packed.

About two dozen dancers and musicians entertained us for nearly an hour. The production was similar to others I’ve seen during South Pacific cruises. I only wish that they had provided some commentary or description of the various dances. We made rudimentary guesses – oh, the rain is falling, the wind is blowing, the waves are coming. I surmise many of us really were watching closely to see if any of the buff and scantily clad male dancers suffered a costume failure.

We have a busy few days ahead of us – Moorea and then two days in Raiatea. Our original itinerary included Bora Bora, but during the stop was canceled when the island banned larger cruise ships. It will remain on my bucket list.