Oct. 25, 2022

Moorea - French Polynesia

Travel First S02E08
Moorea French Polynesia
Join Chris Coleman as he and his wife head back into the world of cruising.
In this episode, The Ovation of the Seas arrives in French Polynesia. Chris chooses to make the island of Moorea his first stop,...

Travel First S02E08
Moorea French Polynesia
Join Chris Coleman as he and his wife head back into the world of cruising.
In this episode, The Ovation of the Seas arrives in French Polynesia. Chris chooses to make the island of Moorea his first stop, one of the three islands that makes up the group (Don’t worry, he’ll be visiting the other two in upcoming episodes). Sit back, close your eyes and dream of island life. Some good travel tips in this episode also.
For more about Royal Caribbean and their cruises visit https://www.royalcaribbean.com/
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Travel First S02E08 Moorea French Polynesia AI Transcript

Alex: Well, you're welcome again to travel first. And when I say welcome, we got Chris Coleman in the background. But behind Chris, I, uh, think he's reverted to childhood, maybe baby years. Why have we got all these nappies behind you, Chris? I mean, this is ridiculous. You're on a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean somewhere, and you've got at the store of nappies that would do Kmart or Target proud.

Chris: This is where we can now see that you're not a cruise person, Alex, because what we have behind me is what they do. They do tell art for you in your room. And every couple of days on a long cruise like this, you come back in and every couple of days, uh, you'll have towels folded up into, for instance, a chicken or a cat or a mouse, uh, or a hippopotamus, or in that case, it's an unidentified sea creature. I think it's a lobster, but I'm not 100% sure on that one. I'm not a great expert.

Alex: They've got far too much time on their hands. That's what it says. It's a nice touch. That goes very nice. Yeah, it goes very nicely with the shirt you were wearing in the last episode of Travelthirst. I like it. Now, you have been you've stopped off at Maraya, and I'm aware I was aware prior to you mentioning it to me of Maria, but I know nothing about it, having not been there. So perhaps you can give us a little bit of a pen for trip.

Chris: We can talk about Maria today. Uh, and on a few traditional talk about Papa, ETI, and Tahiti. They're two of the three destination islands in French Polynesia. Now, uh, French polynesia. It's a collectivity of France. They took over the 121 islands in 1842. There's a population spread across 75 of those islands of about 300,000 people. And, uh, like I said, you've got three popular destination islands. So there's more. There's Bora Bora and there's Papa. Uh uh, with the city on the island of Tahiti.

Alex: How far apart from the other?

Chris: Moripore is quite away, 30 or 40K away, uh, but, uh, Tahiti and, uh, Maria, uh, you can actually see from one to the other. So it's about 30 KS to travel by sea. It, uh, was an overnight trip for us from Maria to Tahiti, um, at a very, very slow rate. And I suspect we'd actually docked several hours in Tahiti before anyone was allowed off the ship. But I was sleeping because it was dark. So there you go. But today we're going to focus on today I'm going to focus on Maria. And as I said, it was one of the three popular destination islands in French Polynesia, and it is pronounced by the locals as Moria. But it's a lot easier for those of us not of Polynesian, uh, descent to say Maria, and that's what we're going to go with. Now, it's not a large island about 16,000 people on an island that, say, 65 km around, uh, and at its widest point, say, 10 miles, 16 km across. But it is dominated by steep peaks. Mount uh, to Haya is the tallest at 1207 meters. There are several others above 800 metres. Mount Ratui at 899. Mount Maura at Ah, 880. Mount Maukuta at uh, 830. And yes, I've been practicing. And the other thing about the island is it is absolutely stunning.

Alex: Okay. How many hours did you have on Maraya Mariah?

Chris: We actually arrived, uh, early one morning. We stayed, uh, we moored early in the morning. We stayed overnight and left late in the afternoon, the very first day.

Alex: Okay, plenty of time. So, plenty of time. 400 meters or 200ft, did you say the tallest of these mountains?

Chris: No, 1200 meters is the tallest of the mountain meters.

Alex: Okay, Chris, come on, you had all day. Uh, you're not going to tell me you climbed to the top of the mountain with your wife, aren't you? That's the very least you could tell.

Chris: No, one does not climb the mountains in Moraya.

Alex: One does not. And is there a reason one does not? Because I tell you, while you've been away, there's been a remarkable seat by a young Aussie. I'm not sure whether you've heard this or not, but he has done. 47 days in a row he ran 100 km. So he ran more than two marathons a day. Steve Montgomery was in awe of what this guy has done. He's been touted as a future, uh, Australian of the year. So for you to climb some 1200 meters up and back, piece of cake. Why didn't you do it?

Chris: No, it wasn't going to happen. Was never going to happen. They don't even offer that to you as a tourist option.

Alex: I want a story out of this trip. Is that what I'm seeing? That 1200 meters mountain or not in the background here?

Chris: No, that is one of the smaller ones. In fact, what you're looking at there to the left of, uh, that peak is upon, uh, Ojo Bay. That's where we were moored. You can't see our ship because it's behind, uh, the very prominent peak. And then on the right of the screen is Cooks Bay. So, uh, they run parallel to each other coming in from the island's north coast. Cooks Bay Two was used as one of the filming locations for both Marlon Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty in the 1960s, which I'm sure you've seen, and Mel Gibson's The Bounty in the 1980.

Alex: Sight.

Chris: Ah, little side story. After Marlin Brando came out to film Mute on the Bounty, he fell in love with the area, signed a 99 year lease on uh, two other islands in the group. And after he died, his estate established a resort there. It is insanely expensive. I had a look at the prices and they were between in US dollars three and $5,000 a night. For one of the smaller ones you can afford.

Alex: Take a ten day little sugar and a side trip.

Chris: Chris yeah. Uh, but the problem is the only way to get there is by the resort's private airline and the air tickets extra on top. That was the deal breaker. Uh, that was the deal breaker.

Alex: We tried. Yeah, fair enough.

Chris: We tried. And I wrote to them to see, um, if they were able to do anything, and all I got was, Are you talking to me? Anyway, um, the cruise ships have been absent from morrow, as with much of the world, for a couple of years, and we were told that ovation of the seas, which is the trip the boat we're sailing on, was the second ship to arrive since the cruise industry restarted. We moored in the western of those two bays in Oppanahube Bay, and as we came aboard, it's just an M assault to the senses in a nice way. The scenery is stunning everywhere you look. And the locals were delighted to see the cruise ships back because it's a regular stopping off point for trans Pacific cruise ships as they make their way from Hawaii to the southern Pacific, and also vice versa. So they were delighted to have the cruise ship back.

Alex: Chris, when you wandered around, I mean, you've got a, ah, really ugly shirt from Hawaii. So what did you get here? Were there grass skirts or something? I've got no idea. But, uh, I need to know what's the delicacy, uh, or not even in food, but in terms of clothing or retail outlets, what did you do?

Chris: We, uh, went to the distillery, the, uh, amount of distillery, which makes a very nice rum, a very nice rum, and a couple of very nice liqueurs as well. Now, I must stress something here for people who aren't aware. When you're on a cruise ship, if you go ashore and you pick up alcohol off the cruise ship, when you come back on board, they will take it off to you. You can't bring the alcohol on board to drink on the ship, they'll take it off you, and then you'll get it back on your last night before you go ashore at the end of your cruise. And you have to factor that into your duty free allowance as well.

Alex: Yeah, the allowance isn't all that grain, is it? I'm a non drinker, so it doesn't worry me at all. And I know when I've gone overseas, I bought my limits to give to other people. But what is the limit now? Do you know?

Chris: The limit these days is 2.25 liters per person. And it doesn't matter whether that is liters of beer. Liters of wine. Liters of spirits. That they do tend to let you pull that allowance if you've got two people. If you're a couple to four and a half liters.

Alex: Uh.

Chris: Which.

Alex: Uh.

Chris: Is respectable compared to New Zealand. Though in new Zealand. I believe it is.

Alex: Uh.

Chris: Three liters and 30 cans of beer or something along those lines. It is considerably larger. It varies.

Alex: You said one of the things that you mentioned to me when we're preparing for this trip is that, uh, it's no longer for example, if you're going to buy duty free in Australia, it's not much different to buying it, say, Dan Murphys or any of the other outlets. I mean, if that's the case, Chris, then surely you're better off doing what you've done and buying something on an island that you won't be able to get here in Australia. So at least you've got some sense of the exotic.

Chris: Also depends where you're shopping, Alex, because on board the ship, funnily enough, they also have duty, uh, free stores, and the goods they sell there range from your regulation. I'm a bourbon picker. They have Jim Beam, White Label, bourbon. You can get two one liter bottles of that for $50 American, which is about 75 Australian. At the current exchange rate, which is probably about half the price you would wind up paying maybe, uh, a bit less, uh, so maybe a bit more than half. But it's a considerable saving on what you'll pay at an Australian bottle shop. The savings aren't as great on the high end liquor items on the top shelf, like the very top shelf, uh, scotch, whiskies and bourbons and tequila, they sell.

Alex: But you need to know your savings.

Chris: On many of them.

Alex: What you're saying to me, you need to know your prices before you go. I mean, it's interesting because the Aussie dollar as we're speaking today, it's below $0.63 against us. So, in fact, it's probably even more of a saving. Right. It's 62 point something. So this is the lowest it's been for a long, long time.

Chris: Yeah. Before we left, it was down below $60. So you, um, turned around.

Alex: Okay. Mhm. All right, so talk to me a little bit more about Mariah. What else did you want to say to the viewers and the listeners?

Chris: Well, if you're looking to head around the island, the easiest way to see the island is to take a guided tour around the coast road. Now, again, when cruise ships pull in and cruise ships, one of the easiest ways, the most likely way you're going to turn up at Maria. Your, uh, cruise ship company and Royal Caribbean did have plenty of tours, uh, around the coast there, uh, are also the locals offer tours in small air conditioned buses and vehicles. They cost, roughly speaking, $50 US. Uh, and they will divert to a couple of places.

Alex: Everything's US. You quoted everything in US. Dollars. I understand when you're traveling, that's quite common, but they're not quoting you aussie dollars, is that right?

Chris: The cruise ship currency is the US. Dollar. So it's a lot easier for us to deal in the US. Dollar. And even though we were told by several people before we went to Maria and before we went to Tahiti that the locals would accept Australian dollars. They didn't. And that meant that the credit card got a little bit more of a workout in some places because I didn't have a lot of US dollar cash. I had a bit of Australian currency. Funnily enough, I still have a bit of Australian currency, but I have um hang on. I can tell you exactly how much US currency I've got left.

Alex: No.

Chris: It's about $0.25.

Alex: Right. What I was going to say to you I'm not sure whether you're familiar with this, but there's been quite some controversy over the last few days here in Australia about the fact that if you use this is in the United States, if you use ATMs, you're up for a lot of money in terms of taking US dollars out. So you're far better off getting I'm not sure what it's called, but a travel card, sticking the US dollars on there and gradually letting that go down. Uh, so did you make the wrong choices? I mean, are you saying to me that you were obviously informed one way and it turned out to be another? Should you put more money onto a credit card or travel card or what would you recommend people do?

Chris: It would have been more handy to have a little bit more cash, uh, in terms of American dollars. Uh, again, could have loaded some of that up onto as a contest, frequent flyer. Uh, you can get a Qantas money card and they will load that up for you. You can get money cards at your post office as well. The credit card has been very well accepted. There are surcharges. There's a couple of percent surcharge. Uh, I know that with one of the banks, or let me rephrase that I'm fairly certain that there is at least one of the banks, not necessarily one of the big falls, but one of the banks that if you have several accounts with them and you go to an overseas ATM, they will cover the fees. The best advice I would give is say to your bank, I'm going overseas. I would like you to actually tell me what I'm going to be up for. And they will give you the best advice because it will vary widely from bank to bank and even from time to time, I would suspect.

Alex: Mhm I want to ask you another question. These are a couple of issues to do with travel that have come up in Australia over the last few days. The other one is tipping. Okay? So I know we've talked about that in the past, but in the United States there's an expectation, right? In fact, they put it onto the bill. You don't have a choice. That started happening in Australia. I'm not sure whether you're aware of that. If you go to a restaurant, and some restaurants are now, putting ten or 15% onto the bill, you don't have a choice. And being aussies, we're not used to it, and there's been a bit of pushback. So when you have a meal on board the ship because you bought a package and you've upgraded, you said that to me at some point, you have better meals and so forth. Now, I presume there's only an expectation at the end of the cruise that you give the kitchen and everybody associated with it a tip. Surely you're not going to be tipping every single dime, otherwise you're up for a lot of money. Tell me whether I'm right or wrong.

Chris: I'll tell you what I would do, and I will do this on the next segment because I'll need to dive into the safe to pull out some receipts. Many, uh, things on board the cruise ship actually have an 18% gratuity built into the price tag automatically. So it's not added on top, it's built into the price. So that is assumed. Having said that, if you go but the thing is, say something. Costs a meal at the steakhouse, cost you $65 US. That is 65, including the 18% gratuity. Now, that then gets shared amongst all the staff in that area of the ship. If you particularly wish to tip your server, if they've gone above and beyond, you can then add another amount on top as a tip. And yes, on some occasions on board the ship, we have certainly experienced service that has been above and beyond. And so, as a result, we have tipped, uh, an additional amount.

Alex: But Chris, I'm still unclear on this then. So if, um, state is $65, it includes the 18%. If you see a menu, does it say $65, or does it give you the figure, uh, less? It does. Okay.

Chris: So, you know, up $65 on board the ship, they're upfront about. That the price. It's the same with the drinks. If you have a cocktail by the pool, it is, say, $13 inclusive of the 18% gratuity. But if you wish to tip over that amount, again, you can tip over that amount.

Alex: I'm wrong in saying that at the end of the cruise, if you add some figures, I suppose if you added something at the end of the cruise that would be split amongst the kitchen hands, is that right?

Chris: Or the people who serve, uh, if you wish to. Now, every room on a cruise ship has a stateroom attendant who comes in and cleans your room on a daily basis and tidy things up and gives you the new towels, et cetera. And there is somewhat of a tradition to pop some money in an envelope and leave it for, uh, your cabin room attendant at the end of the cruise. That, uh, amount of that will vary depending on how much you wish to give them. Again, on Royal Caribbean, they say gratuities are included. But again, if you wish to tip for exceptional service, then you can do. So something I would say.

Alex: Uh, I asked this quite seriously. Is there an expectation? Because it's almost like, OK, you're loading something by 18%, let's make it easy. Let's say 20%. So everything's loaded by 20% anyway. And yet I get the impression that most people would expect, like the room attendant or whatever, that you would give above that. Is that true or not?

Chris: Bear in mind, many of the people who work on board cruise ships are young. Especially those people who work in the room service area. They are young. They may have families, uh, at home in less well to do countries, and they are away from home for a very long time. I'm talking some of these people to be away from home for 6810 months at a time, traveling the world on cruise ships, seeing, uh, to the beck and call of everybody. Uh, I think they probably deserve a little bit extra over and above that you determine, uh, on their level of service.

Alex: Having said that, yeah, you don't have to I understand, but I mean, the point I'm making here is that you've got to allow for that in terms of the cost of a cruise, right? Or whether it's the cost of a cruise or if you go to America or going to these places, that there's an expectation and you need to build that into your budget. That's all I'm saying. Uh, I don't say there's anything wrong with it, but if you go along expecting the figure that you originally thought to be all you're paying that's not true for the vast majority of us.

Chris: Look, you need to factor it into your spending money. Ah, and I think Australia, uh, is one of the few countries in the world where tipping isn't a regular occurrence. New Zealand is similar, but in many other countries around the world, tipping is deregured. Um, I don't think Australia necessarily needs to go into tipping as a regular thing because, uh, we pay our hospitality staff a living wage. But again, if service is particularly good, I'll, uh, tip, and I'll do that in Australia. If service is particularly good, whether in the United States or other places, I will tip more.

Alex: Well, it's interesting, the only other conversation point that for now that I'd like to raise with you is what's been going on. And Qantas has been singled out here. But I don't think they're Robinson crusade, the cost of airfares and look, they've lost billions, let's be honest, during govik, but it's seen as price gouging at the moment. And if you at short notice want to go business class to London and places like that, you can be paying upwards of and there have been radio reports in the last few days. $20,000. Chris. Wow. Uh, I'm staggered when I hear some of these figures and I understand they're trying to recoup a lot of these lost earnings and so on. I mean, Qantas has really been battered, but they're also, in terms of customer service and what's gone wrong and baggage handlers and so forth, uh, I think it's been a PR disaster over the last six months. I think it's been shocking. So this isn't going to win them friends or influence people by charging these amounts of money, but that's been hugely talked about in Australia.

Chris: So what's your view when we get back to Sydney? I've got to get back to Canberra, and I can tell you that, uh, we had a number of things that were, pardon the pun, up in the air about what was going to happen after we arrived in Sydney, before we had to return to Canberra. When it all finally settled in place, we thought, okay, we'll fly back from Sydney to Canberra. Very little change out of $450. Economy class ticket buy tickets, about $100. So to get 400 plus dollars for a ticket was, uh, a little shocked to the system.

Alex: Do you think that's fair given what they've gone through, or do you think it's price fair? I mean, it's a serious question because we want Pontus to exist. So please don't get me wrong. Uh, I've loved the airline and I've used the airline a lot. We've both got Qantas cards. I think it's great. But boy, oh boy, for people who have done it tough, it's not just Qantas has done it tough. A lot of other people have done it tough, too. I reckon they're stretching friendships and also really not, uh it's almost like when customers complain, they push back on the complaints or say, well, customers should be more this, more that. That's not the way that I would have handled the situation. Going back over the past few months, I don't think there were a lot of friends and influence people. I think the status of the airline has taken a tumble and I understand why I'm not out to condemn them. I hope that things improve as time goes on again, because I was really proud. I vividly remember I've spoken to you about this on a number of occasions when I've been this is going back years now, but when I step back onto a Qantas jet and hear the Aussie accent, I love it. I absolutely love it. And I greeted beautifully and the attendants are fantastic, etc. And I took great pride and pleasure in getting back on a Qantas jet. That's what I want to get back to where we are proud of our airline.

Chris: Chris yeah, I think you summed it all up nicely. Alex the only other thing I'll throw in is that there has been a lot of talk about executive pay levels at Qantas and in some media reporting, and I'm sure it's largely correct. The suggestions have been that it's that the executives have not really suffered much in terms of pay and indeed have even received, uh, pay rises. Shareholders, I understand there are shareholders. Shareholders have also still received dividends and the share price has been protected. Um, but the employees, uh, at the coalface have really copped a beating. There are many of them who've lost their jobs. There's been.

Alex: Restructuring, uh.

Chris: Uh, the corporate structure to actually reduce, uh, the amount of money that's being paid out in wages. And I think you're right, it has been handled very badly in many ways. And I think Qantas is not as highly regarded an airline globally as it was even five years ago.

Alex: Yeah, I'm genuinely hoping we can turn that around as a country and as an airline. And I think it takes both sides because if there's improvement, I'm, uh, sure that people are going to sort of stroke them rather than hit them. And at the moment, uh, and the baggage was a huge issue, getting rid of baggage handlers and then hiring outside contractors. And then there was a lot of backlash there. And then you heard the cases of people who never got their bags at all or waiting weeks and weeks. On top of that, you had the Pet passport fiasco, which you spoke about. So there's been all sorts of reasons. Now, I understand when you're restarting something is going to be teething problems, but don't blame us. I mean, that's the thing that, to me, is wrong. You know, we're trying to do our very best. And I mean, what more can we, as mere, uh, mortals, as mere travelers, do, other than pay our money and have an expectation of a good experience? And when the experience isn't good, well, guess what? You're going to get. You're going to get slapped. And that's what's happened. So anyway, uh, let's hope, for their sake and for us as a country that we can get back to seeing them as one of the great airlines of the world because it will be good for everybody. Let's talk a little bit more and finish off now with Maria because I know we've deviated, but that's the nature of our conversation in terms of would you have liked to have spent more time there or was the sort of several hours that you had there enough to get a bit of a sneak peek? And would you go back.

Chris: There is accommodation there. And what I'll say is, it's a place to get away from it all. Uh, there are sites to see. For instance, uh, uh, uh, one of the places we saw the remains of an ancient Tahitian temple, which had candlenut, uh, trees growing in a candle nuts, by the way they grow. They're the fruits, the green fruits. And you can pick them, you can stick a wick in it and you can light it and it'll burn for hours like a candle. Hence the name, uh, candle Nut. There are candle nut, and that is actually the ancient Asian temple or the remains thereof, with the uh candle nut trees growing in and around it, which is uh.

Alex: You can't eat those.

Chris: I'm told they're mildly toxic. So just back to the view, that view that I showed earlier. This one here, this is from the Belvedere. That's a lookout. Uh, and that is one of the best views on the island. But there is also um now that is the Softatel resort. So Softatel is a resort there. And those are overwater bungalows. I'm told they're very popular with honeymooners. I don't know why, but they're very popular with honeymooners. Uh, I ah, looked at prices for those. Depending on which island, you can pay 1000 to 500, uh, per night. And that was in Australian dollars. Uh, but um uh there are resorts with similar facilities on several islands around uh, French Polynesia. I would recommend it.

Alex: I just expect to see Dwayne Johnson somewhere because he makes movies in places like this. So I reckon somehow expecting to duck around that uh, tree, that beautiful tree. That uh, I reckon be fair. Okay, hang on, um, what do we got here? We got a very nice looking tree and who's this float looking decidedly, um, concerned looking at these faces.

Chris: Okay, he's a tour guide. Have you been to Spain? Have you been to Valencia in Spain, where they have the Valencia orange trees growing down the street?

Alex: No, I haven't been. No, I haven't.

Chris: Okay. Well in Maria they have almond trees that are growing almonds, um, in the street. And our uh, tour guide actually picked a few up off the ground, smashed it open, m, with a rock and lo and behold, fresh almond spread out the tree. Absolutely delicious.

Alex: You can take the difference from the ones that you buy in packets in supermarkets.

Chris: Oh yeah, these things, absolutely. The freshness is just so much stronger flavor. And just to see them growing by the going wild on the roadsides in various places around the island.

Alex: Is that one of the trees where they grow? Is that right?

Chris: That is an armor tree. Wow. With the orange plumage. That's an almond tree. And they fall off. And when they fall off, they're ripe when they're ready to leave. So there you go.

Alex: Fantastic.

Chris: Um, um, as I said, you can look across and rather foolishly, uh, I didn't actually uh, put in the photo of this, but uh just off to the left of that, you can see on uh the uh photo of the resort where the water changes color. Just off to the left of that picture is where the island of Tahiti actually starts to come into view. So you can see it across there. Um, and to get backwards and forwards while um a major sports event with the region. They used to show this on channel Nine's wildwater Sports back in the day. The canoe race between Maria and Tahiti. It's a decent old uh, canoe race, uh, for the locals. It's much. More comfortable. There are fast ferries which go backwards and forwards. If you're in the area in a rental car, you can take the car on the ferry, depending on which one. They have ferries that take between 30 and 50 minutes. They also have flights, little island type of flights, they take about ten minutes, uh, that run every hour or so during daylight. So, uh, you can fly backwards and forwards as well. I would recommend more if you want to get away from it all and you're quite content to just sit there in a resort looking at magnificent scenery. You can spend a week here, no problem. If you're more like me, you probably spend a couple of days here. You then want to go across to Papa ITI and then maybe go to Bora Boura for a few nights and make it a real experience. And next, uh, time we talk, Alex, we will talk about Papaiti, the city and Tahiti Island as well.

Alex: Oh, that's terrific, Chris. It's been a pleasure speaking to you about all sorts of things and continue to enjoy your 19 days at sea. And we'll hear more from Chris Coleman and Co on the next edition of Travel First. You'll be listening to travel first, available at Apple podcasts. Google Podcasts. Spotify. iHeart Radio or your favorite podcast player. You can also stream on demand at bitesz.com

Chris: This has been another quality podcast production from bitesz.com.

Chris ColemanProfile Photo

Chris Coleman

Storyteller, sports fan, traveller, foodie!

Chris is a storyteller who spent more than 35 years on radio, and increasingly in the online world, with occasional excursions into TV and print. Outside of his family, Chris’s two biggest loves are sport and travel - and he can’t get enough of either of them.

After a few years away from travelogues, Chris will periodically join Alex First to share his travel adventures and experiences both within Australia and overseas.