World Cruise Update: Exploring French Polynesia and Papeete, Tahiti

Papeete
Oceania Marina docked next to us at night in Papeete

Our next stop on our world cruise on board Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch is Papeete, Tahiti. Everyone was looking forward to French Polynesia, especially Danielle and myself, but we had no idea we would arrive early. In fact, we were scheduled to arrive the morning of 13 February 2018 and we arrived into port the night before. Don’t you just love little unexpected surprises like that?



Where Is Papeete?

In case you didn’t know, Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia, which is an overseas collective of France in the Pacific Ocean.

TSG Tip: Did you know that Papeete means “water from a basket.”

Ordinarily, we would embrace the extra night in a port, but we had a ship tour planned for the following day. We were super excited to get out and into our Jeep adventure tour so we decided to stay in. Plus we were hoping to say goodbye to one of our cruise friends, Eve, who had taken a spill a few days earlier. She broke her hip and was leaving the ship to to go directly to the hospital in Tahiti.

Tour Or No Tour

The next morning the skies were looking a little angry and we had our fingers crossed that we would be able to join two of our friends, Jackie and Sandy, for the Jeep tour. We made our way down to the Neptune Lounge at the prearranged time with all of our gear and waterproof clothing only to find out the tour had been cancelled. So back to the cabin we went to drop off our gear and make new plans.

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Walking from the port to the market directions

Instead of a Jeep tour, you can pretty much always find Danielle and I shopping. In Papeete, Tahiti, the place to go for shopping is the Papeete Market or Marché Papeete, which is all of a 4 minute walk from the cruise port.

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Our quay side greeting in Papeete, Tahiti

But first, we passed the Tahitian dancers welcoming us to the port and to Tahiti.

Papeete Market

Inside the market there's a cacophony of sounds from vendors selling to music playing to the rain splashing down all around you.Click To Tweet
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Marche de Papeete

We quickly made our way to the market just as the skies opened up and rain poured down all over Papeete.

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Inside the market in Papeete

The market is a two-level marketplace selling not only fruits, vegetables, and fish, but also souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, and much more. Inside the market there’s a cacophony of sounds from vendors selling to music playing to the rain splashing down all around you.

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Inside the Market in Papeete

Between the sights, sounds, and smells, you can easily feel overwhelmed, but in the best of all possible ways.

I loved the variety of fruits and vegetables as they were all laid out on display for passing buyers.

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Fresh fish anyone?

Even me, the vegan and non-meat eater, appreciated the fresh fish for sale. We are talking super, super fresh fish here.

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Inside the Market in Papeete

But we weren’t here to buy fresh fish or fruits and veggies. What were we hoping to buy? We didn’t know, but we suspected it was somewhere here in one of these stores. I knew I wanted to buy some Tahitian vanilla as well as some Tahitian tanning oil among other things.

Papeete
Inside the market in Papeete

After taking the escalator up to the second floor, we discovered a variety of small shops selling traditional Tahitian goods including pareos or wraps, wooden carved figures, clothing, and jewelry. Danielle fell in love with several items in a store and asked for the total in US dollars and was given the amount. After spending probably close to an hour choosing her items, the amount was provided again. Somehow it had increased from just over $100 to over $1000. That’s not exactly the same and yes, she left the store and her items behind.

Lunch in Papeete

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Chips and a beer in Papeete

Let’s just say that we kind of lost the urge to shop after that incident in the market and so we decided to grab a quick lunch. Finding anything vegan was going to be difficult, but I did locate some chips and a beer. Not exactly nutritious, but it worked for me.

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Hinano Tahiti beer in Papeete

Of course, we had to try the local beer, Hinano, even though I’m definitely not much of a beer drinker. It was pretty good considering it was so hot and humid that day in Papeete.

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Hinano Tahiti beer advert

Then when we left, we saw the Hinano Beer ad on a building and I had to have a pic.

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Street art in Papeete

I also then spotted this on a building near the market, which is so cool that I have to share. Don’t you just love her hair?

My Tahitian Tattoo

Papeete
NK Tattoo

From there we walked to another café along the esplanade just to sit and relax over a quick drink. I made an impulsive decision to get a tattoo, something I always advise against and yet, here I was doing it.

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NK Tattoo

We passed this tattoo shop on the way to the café and I noticed that they did “traditional” tattoos, something that has always intrigued me. I thought, “Why not just go in and ask?” and I did.

Papeete
NK Tattoo in Papeete

Unfortunately, they weren’t doing any traditional tattoos, but they could squeeze me in. I asked about one on my foot or on my ribs, thinking about an area I could keep protected  from the sun.

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Bam Bambridge from NK Tattoo in Papeete

When I came back with cash in hand, my tattoo artist, Bam Bambridge (bam_bridge on Instagram) said he had another idea for me and I was definitely interested. He suggested a freehand piece on my chest and I was all for it. We are talking freehand work — no stencil, no guide, no other pieces of art to guide him. It all came from him and he quickly got to work on it.

The line work is precise and it's so delicate and pretty, like a permanent piece of jewelry.Click To Tweet
Papeete
My freehand tattoo from bam_bridge at NK Tattoo in Papeete, Tahiiti

Keeping in my mind my French is limited and his English was also limited, I think it worked out quite well in the end. The line work is precise and it’s so delicate and pretty, like a permanent piece of jewelry. I absolutely and unequivocally love it.

Nighttime in Papeete

After my tattoo, we returned to the ship to eat dinner and get ready for our night out in Papeete. We had learned that we would be staying an extra day in Papeete and leaving on the 14th, but also skipping two of our ports of call. That means there would be no Bora Bora and no Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Danielle was very upset about missing both as she considered these two of her beach days. I’ve always wanted to go to the Cook Islands, so yes — I was disappointed as well.

Papeete
Looks like this is the closest we will get to Bora Bora after all

But don’t be too worried. We did make our way over to Bora Bora. Well, kind of. Bora Bora the bar in Papeete with crazy karaoke going on. Not quite the same, but at least I can say I was there. The nightlife in Papeete is varied from sedate bars inside restaurants to bars like Bora Bora to nightclubs. There’s definitely something for everyone if you’re looking to have a good night out.

Our Last Day in Papeete

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From the ship overlooking Papeete, Tahiiti

On our last morning in Papeete, I went up to deck 8 to get a better view over the area. As the clouds appeared to be lifting, I felt like I was viewing a completely different Papeete.

Danielle had enough of Papeete and couldn’t be bothered walking around the city again. I was determined to find something of interest including my lost FitBit. In the hot days leading up to Tahiti, my FitBit kept popping off my arm and somehow in Papeete, I lost it for good. Hopefully, there’s a Tahitian getting some benefit from my Alta HR.

Papeete
I was so happy to have found an acai bowl in Papeete

While walking around on my own, I discovered a small shopping center opposite McDonald’s of all places. Inside, there was an Açaí Bowl shop and I felt I’d just landed in heaven.

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Super yummy acai bowl

If you don’t know what an açaí bowl is, think of it as a smoothie you eat with a spoon. Mine had all kinds of good things in it including açaí, bananas, coconut, kiwi, almond butter, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and granola. I was soooooooooooooo happy to have something healthy and nutritious to eat like an açaí bowl. Yum!

Back to Black Watch

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Black Watch docked in Papeete, Tahiti

Without my FitBit, but a few purchases for myself and Danielle including a neon yellow bikini top for 1100 CPF (about $11), I made my way back to the ship. The whole time I was dodging the rain on my way back.

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Fish mosaic in the sidewalk in Papeete

That must be why there are so many fish on the sidewalks in Papeete.

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Just before we departed Papeete

I convinced Danielle to walk with me to the tourist center just near the edge of the port gates and she found a little wooden carved figure to take home with her in the end. Then it was time to get on the ship for good and prepare for sailaway.

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Sailaway out of Papeete
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Sailaway out of Papeete
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Sailaway out of Papeete
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Leaving Papeete, Tahiti
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Sailaway out of Papeete
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Sailaway out of Papeete
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The pilot alongside us as we sail out of Papeete
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Our last view of Papeete
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Our last view of Papeete

Even though I was expecting a hot and sunny stay in Tahiti, I definitely enjoyed my time there. I learned that April is probably the best time to visit so if I ever get a chance to return, I’ll schedule it for April.

I loved the Polynesian tattoos that everyone had and it’s one of the few places that I didn’t stick out quite as much with my own tattoos so that was nice. My red hair, of course, was still shockingly obvious. If you’re looking for a laid back kind of port with shopping, food, and nightlife, Papeete is a port you should definitely look into visiting. Stay a day, a week, or a month. It’s all up to you.

Have you visited Papeete? Share your experiences of Tahiti in the comments below. Discover some other great destinations and travel ideas here on the Travel Shop Girl website .

On my new SPONTANEOUS TRAVEL SCALE of 1-5, with 1 being super easy and spontaneous and 5 being you better plan far in advance, Papeete scores a 5 for spontaneous travel since it’s definitely expensive to get to from the US and Europe and expensive upon arrival.

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