|The island of Tahiti is part of the Society Islands and comprises one-quarter of the total surface of French Polynesia and two-thirds of its population. Tahiti is made up of two islands, Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) and Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti) and is properly known as the peninsula of Taiarapu. We spent the day of December 1 in port awaiting the arrival of more passengers and after being welcomed on board by Captain Carlo Servillo, we departed Papeete at 5:00 p.m. heading northwest approximately 125 nautical miles to our next port of call, Huahine. We arrived in the Baie Maroe off the coast of Huahine at 7:30 a.m. on the morning of December 2 and passengers departed the boat by tender (small transfer boats) to check out the island's highlights or join several of the tours that were scheduled. Huahine, also known as the "Wild Island" or "Garden Island" in the Society Islands for its lush vegetation and fabulous tropical landscapes, is actually two islands, Huahine Nui (Great Island) to the north and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine) to the south. Huahine is surrounded by a deep lagoon which is encircled by a necklace of coral and the two islands are connected by a narrow bridge. Legends say that Huahine was split when Hiro, the great Polynesian Warrior and God of Thieves, ploughed thru the island with his mighty canoe creating Bourayne Bay on the west and Maroe Bay on the east. From the deck of the ship we could see the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa in the distance which we would be visiting later on during our cruise.....we set sail in the afternoon at 4:30 p.m.... carefully making our way thru the narrow passage of Passe Farerea....we would be at sea overnight and all the next day heading to the southwest approximately 570 nautical miles in the South Pacific Ocean towards Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. There was no shortage of things to do as we sailed, including ping pong challenges, trivia challenges, seminars, shows, dance classes, using the library, sitting in the sun/shade by the pool, soaking in the hot tub, enjoying a massage or spa treatment, hitting the casino and of course eating at the never ending buffet. The water surrounding the boat was an incredible shade of blue.....a deep sapphire blue.....and after a while you got used to bobbing and weaving as the boat waddled up and down the small wavelets. We arrived at Rarotonga; the largest of the 15 islands making up the Cook Islands (and also its capital) on December 4 at 7:15 a.m. and after a hearty buffet breakfast jumped on a tender and made our way toward Rarotonga's largest village, Avarua where the girls shopped for black pearls. The island is almost circular in shape and derives its present day name from "raro" which means "down" and "tonga" meaning "south". Legends say that a group of brave explorers sailed from Rarotonga during the 14th century heading in a southwesterly direction and discovered "Aotearoa", or New Zealand as we know it today. After a few hours on the island we returned to the ship to await our departure back to the French Polynesian island of Raiatea. We set sail at 4:30 p.m. and in no time we were once again surrounded by the sapphire blue Pacific Ocean with no land in site.....the Pacific was named in 1520 by the Portuguese explorer, Fernando de Magalhaes, whom we all know from our social studies classes as Ferdinand Magellan. While he crossed the Atlantic, Magellan was subjected to extreme weather, not to mention food shortages and mutiny by his crew.....upon entering this new ocean, he found the water to be very still for many days of sailing and so he named it "El Pacifico" or "the peaceful one". Unbeknownst to Magellan at the time, the Pacific Ocean covered approximately one-third of the earth's surface and was capable of giving rise to terrific storms and gigantic waves, unequaled in any other body of water. For your info the Atlantic derives its name from either the lost city of Atlantis or more likely from the Atlas Mountains in Northwest Africa, which the ancient people believed to look out over the entire ocean. The Mediterranean takes its name from the Latin words "medius" or "middle" and "terra" meaning "earth", therefore, the "sea in the middle of the earth" which the ancients believed it to be......while at sea on the 5th of December we took in a culinary demonstration by the head chef, Claude Palloure and the Maitre D', Lorenzo Tarini, wherein they showcased their skills preparing garlic prawns and fettuccine alfredo respectively in a bit of a comedy show which had everyone laughing.....we then had an opportunity to tour the galley where all the amazing meals on board the ship are crafted.....after spending a day and half at sea covering some 560 nautical miles we arrived at Raiatea on the morning of December 6 at 6:30 a.m. We made our way along the coastline towards the Passe Teavipi entrance and tied up at port in Uturoa, on Raiatea, considered to be French Polynesia's second largest and most sacred of the Society Islands. The island was known as "Sacred Havai'i" to the "Maohi" or ancient Polynesians and was the center of their royalty, religion, culture and history. The allied kingdoms of Polynesia journeyed by canoe, some covering great distances to hold tribal meetings and ceremonies at Marae Taputapuatea in Opoa on the southeast side of the island.....at one time human sacrifices were performed here. Legend has it that Oro, the God of war and fertility (an odd combination) was born here atop Mount Temahani, at the northern end of Raiatea. Sharing the same lagoon as Raiatea and encircled by the same coral reef is the smaller island of Tahaa. After breakfast, we disembarked with most of the rest of our troop and along with a couple of others got on board a small motor boat with Tyrone, our boat driver at the helm and Fifi, our local guide and made our way to an uninhabited island off the coast of Tahaa where everyone except me (since I can't swim) was going to snorkel. We crossed the channel between Raiatea and Tahaa and arrived at an area where the current carries the masked and finned explorers thru a shallow pass where coral and fish of all shapes, sizes and colours were visible. For those who weren't comfortable being whisked along the narrow pass by the swift moving current risking being grazed by the lovely coral, they simply did their thing in the bay that the pass emptied into. Barb told me that the water was a beautiful crystal clear turquoise colour and that the coral and fish were absolutley amazing....I guess I should learn to swim better so that I can enjoy the sights myself on our next trip.....hopefully sooner than later.....after a couple of hours Tyrone called us to the boat and we had a snack of fresh island fruit prepared by Fifi before we headed back to where the cruise ship was docked. A storm was approaching on the horizon and as we prepared to cross the channel between the islands, Tyrone had us rearrange in the boat with the guys up front to have more weight to keep the boat from bouncing too high up in the air. We made our way back across the channel with the waves pounding the bottom of the boat, giving us all an unanticipated massage. Some of us (me), hung on for dear life, since not being able to swim very well, the idea of being bounced out of the boat into the ocean depths was entirely unappealing. We returned safe and sound and after lunch on the cruise ship we headed back into Uturoa to explore the village a little......the girls did a little more shopping while the guys went to have a beer or two. We remained in port overnight...and joined in with the crowd in the Tahitian Lounge to enjoy Chef Claude Palloure and his team's Polynesian Fruit & Dessert Buffet along with Maitre D' Lorenzo Tarini's Grand Champagne Waterfall.... departing the next morning for Bora Bora. We set sail at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of December 7, with a scenic cruise inside the lagoon of Tahaa Island before heading approximately 40 nautical miles to the island of Bora Bora, where we arrived at about noon. "Vau Vau" as it was once known, is considered to be by some as the most beautiful island in the world with majestic mountains sculpted by ancient volcanoes, a shimmering lagoon and a barrier reef dotted with tiny "motu" or islets....the "Pearl of the Pacific". The main island is only 27 square miles in area with a population of about 4,000. The barrier reef was formed from a collapsed volcano and Mount Otemanu towers above it like a tombstone. Once again passengers headed ashore using the ships tenders....to explore the village of Vaitape as well as the rest of the island or to join in on the many excursions available here. In the evening we took in the ships' version of the popular game show "The Newlywed Game" and watched as three couples answered various questions and embarrassed themselves along the way (we were lucky not to have been chosen to participate). We remained anchored off the cost of Bora Bora until 5:00 p.m. on December 8 when we set sail thru the Passe Teavanui Narrows to the island of Moorea, some 145 nautical miles away. We arrived in Opunohu Bay off the coast of Moorea at approximately 7:00 a.m. where we remained at anchor til 5:00 p.m. Moorea, a former haunt of Tahitian royalty, means "yellow lizard" and it is thought that this was perhaps the name of one of the ruling families of the island long, long ago. The island has mountains that seem to leap out of the lagoon along with some fine beaches which make it the second most popular destination in French Polynesia. We tendered ashore and explored a part of the island stopping at the Intercontinental Resort to see the dolphins in the resort's lagoon and to have a drink at the bar. We returned to the ship just before the skies opened up and the rains came down. We sailed away during our final dinner in the Club Restaurant making our way approximately 40 nautical miles back to Papeete on the island of Tahiti, where we arrived and docked in port at approximately 8:00 p.m. Tonight we had to pack up our things (other than a day bag) and have them ready to be removed from the ship by 10:00 p.m. After a somewhat restless nights sleep we gathered to enjoy our last few hours on board together as the rains continued to pour down. In the afternoon we said goodbye to Pat and John and Bill and Nancy as they would be making their way to the airport later in the day.......Peter, Madeline, Ursula and Barb and I got off the boat in the monsoon rains and found a taxi on the pier to return us to LeMeridien where we (Nick and Barb) would spend a couple of more days before we continued on our way back to Australia......Peter, Madeline and Ursula would be returning back to Canada tomorrow night....the rain continued to pour down so we all just sat around and played cards and chatted until it was time to go to bed.......