Any Port in a Tropical Paradise

Day 22, Grand World Voyage

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023; Uturoa, Raiatea, French Polynesia.

As anyone who cruises much knows, the itinerary can change. Bad weather or unfavorable seas can prevent the ship from docking safely, as happened to us in Samoa a few years ago. Political unrest can make it unwise to visit some countries, as recently occurred in Peru. In the past year some ports have been hit or miss as the cruise lines try to predict when countries will once again open to cruises.

One of the highlights of this cruise was a stop in Bora Bora, one of the most fabled and beautiful islands of French Polynesia. Patrick’s famous tours instantly filled two years ago, and the waitlist was long. It is one of a few “bucket list” ports on this long cruise of 60 stops.

Unfortunately, Holland America’s decision a couple of years ago to move the world cruise from the smaller Zaandam to the larger Zuiderdam doomed our intentions to stop here. The French Polynesian government has instituted tighter regulations on the passenger capacity of ships that visit various islands, and we have too many people to go to Bora Bora.

So instead of spending today at Bora Bora, we had an overnight and a second day in Raiatea. From the ship, we could see the mountain peak of Bora Bora rising from the sea, as if to tease us.

Bora Bora on the horizon

Raiatea is beautiful, too, and we had many options to choose from today. In addition to the ship’s excursions, the visitor center on the pier was full of entrepreneurs offering boat trips, island tours and car rentals, both on Raiatea and on nearby Taha’a. And of course you could shop at the pierside stores.

I set off on foot along the waterfront drive, reaching a food truck lot, a marina and a picturesque church. My intention was to sketch, and I even had prepared for possible rain (never came) by putting my sketchbook in a zipper bag. I hadn’t counted on forgetting sunblock, and there was a lack of shade opportunities. So I settled for photos and will sketch later. I did notice that Superman would have found it a challenge to make a quick change in the local phone booths.

Between blogging and painting, I am having a hard time keeping up. I’m not sure what I will do when we are in Europe with a port just about every day.

It wasn’t exactly easy to get back on the ship. Our gangway is short, and when the tide is high it’s a steep climb. I didn’t realize I need to strengthen my toes to keep from sliding out of my sandals. Back on the ship, I settled at a table in the Crow’s Nest, with its 270-degree view of the green island and aqua-teal waters of the lagoon, and caught up on blogs.

By the midafternoon sailaway, the Crow’s Nest was packed. For those who slept through yesterday’s spectacular dawn sail through the lagoon, we retraced our route through the narrow passage along the coast of Taha’a and out through the miniscule break in the reef.

My sisters and I had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, the first of several meals there we plan for this voyage. There is a $39 surcharge for eating in the specialty restaurant, although as a 5-star Mariner I get the perk of one free dinner per cruise, and we all get half-price discounts thereafter as four-star or higher Mariners.

The restaurant was fairly quiet and we enjoyed our shared appetizers of crab cakes and clothesline candied bacon.

Our entrees included filet Mignon, beef tenderloin with lobster dumplings and Alaskan halibut.

Again, we shared our desserts of crème brûlée, baked Alaska and chocolate soufflé.

We dare not eat breakfast tomorrow, as we’ve booked brunch, been invited to a reception and have a special birthday dinner. It will be the first of four sea days, during which we will cross the International Date Line and skip entirely Jan. 28. Stay tuned for details!