So Darren and I are on a trip that we’ve been dreaming about for 25 years. The girls are happily in university and we’re officially “empty nesters” trying to reconnect with each other and adapt to life without the titles of “mommy and daddy”.
It’s a bit weird!
Step one of planning our trip was figuring out how to get from Calgary, Canada to Sydney, Australia. There are a few direct flights from Vancouver but gosh they’re really long!
What we ended up doing was using WestJet Airmiles points to get us from Calgary to LAX. LAX is a huge hub and flights out of that airport were far more plentiful, varied and reasonably priced than anything we managed to find at home.
We still struggled with the potential length of the flight and thought maybe we’d stop in Hawaii for a few days until we sort of accidentally stumbled into the airline Air Tahiti Nui (“ATN”).
ATN was offering a (somewhat unbelievable) deal for $1,000 per passenger economy flights from LAX to Sydney that let you stopover in Tahiti for as long as you liked. Included in this price were three free nights in Papeete and free breakfast each morning … a value of about $800.
Friends of ours had been to Tahiti and raved about it.
Should we? Dare we trust a deal with an airline we’d never used before? A deal that seemed too good to be true.
We researched a bit… the airline received mixed reviews regarding comfort and service, but they seemed legit.
So we took a leap of faith and signed up!
Of course, the first thing we ended up doing was paying $400 to upgrade our free nights from a simple hotel to a resort. Lol. The second thing we did was cut out our planned time to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to spend 10 nights in Tahiti instead … 4 nights in overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, 2 nights in Moorea and the rest in Papeete.
We’re both accountants so budgeting and reallocating funds is super, awesome fun for us. Lol. We reshuffled some of our plans and ended up “saving” $1,500 despite the high cost of the overwater bungalows. We aren’t comfortable in the ocean so for us, the decision to skip the Great Barrier Reef was pretty easy. I’m sure many of you would just shake your heads in dismay at us for skipping such a natural wonder, heh.
In Tahiti we saw a wild shark. We FREAKED out. Nope! Definitely, NOT ocean people. I’ll just turn that snorkel gear back in now and sit on the dock with my cup of French press coffee, thank you very much. The water is crystal clear and I can see the little fishies just fine from here. Lol.
Anyways, our flight was great. I’m six feet tall with long legs and the seats were comfortable. Though sleeping might have been a struggle, it always is for us on planes. The flight was just under 9 hours and left in the early afternoon so we didn’t try to sleep … just watched a couple movies on our iPads, played candy crush and read magazines. Not bad at all.
Two meals were served by fairly friendly staff. The airline offers free alcohol which I felt was a mistake. While I did enjoy my glass of wine there were a few guests who got carried away. The plane is big and the mix of families, people trying to sleep and adults overindulging started to become a problem toward the end. Beers were spilled. Children were startled awake. Staff started to get grumpy. If I were the airline, I’d charge for alcohol *shrug*.
Arriving at the airport at about 10:30pm was shocking. The heat and humidity after dark surprised us (it takes some getting used to!) and such a large plane landing meant that it took time to get everyone through customs. There were fans but no air conditioning.
There was also a long line for nearly non existent taxis. The biggest splurge I wish I’d made in Tahiti was for a private airport transfer through the hotel. Note to self, islands don’t have a whole lot of taxis.
Once we finally got a taxi and got to the hotel, everything was great. We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti. It was an awesome “basic” resort about 10 minutes from the airport. There’s no beach, but the pools and lagoonarium were terrific as was our free breakfast buffet every morning. Our room was incredibly comfortable but not fancy — the air conditioning worked well and was much appreciated. Prices for meals were high but we ate lots for our free breakfast each morning at 9:30, skipped lunch and had dinner at their Valentine’s Day buffet/show one night and their Polynesian buffet/show the next night.
The Valentine’s show was a disaster. They oversold tables, didn’t have enough staff (we had no one offer us drinks all night) and then were rained out. And good grief, the food was inedible!! We aren’t fussy eaters but it was really, laughably terrible!
The Polynesian buffet (which we were sort of dreading after the previous night’s disaster) was amazing! Food, entertainment, ambience… all just spectacular.
How weird!! The only explanation I have is that the Polynesian show is a weekly event so they’re good at putting it on, but it still seems strange that the quality was so different. I suspect it had something to do with how MANY tickets they sold for Valentine’s Day. Guests were jammed in every nook and cranny (our table was a couple inches from the pool… my feet got wet getting into the seat. Lol.) Kitchen and wait staff couldn’t possibly keep up with the swell of guests.
Overall, despite a few uncomfortable moments, we really do feel like Air Tahiti Nui gave us a great deal and are thrilled that we got to spend 10 nights in French Polynesia!
Disclaimer: As always, my opinions are my own. Airlines, hotels or resorts don’t provide me with free upgrades for my articles. No one involved is ever even aware I’m doing it.
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Wife, mom and the woman behind the scenes of the DLTK's Crafts for Kids websites. The websites are a terrific hobby -- run by (me) Leanne, a mom with two girls as my official craft testers and my husband as my technical support. DLTK are the first initials of each of the people in my family (I'm the L!). Whenever we send out little cards or whatnot, we sign 'love DLTK' ... when I started the website I used the initials. Had I known the website would get actual strangers visiting it, I would have picked a less mysterious name but we're all stuck with it now!
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