We woke up late, and still felt like we were moving; we hoped that feeling would go away. We also were definitely feeling the drinking from the night before. That is actually a potential detriment of the cruise being all inclusive. There's no financial reason to cut yourself off, and since you aren't driving, there's not that reason either. The only reason to stop is, you know, your health and well being. ;-) We'll be eating and drinking much healthier when back home. At breakfast we said some goodbyes, to Ricardo and Ryan and Henry among others. After breakfast we finished packing up our carry-on bags, and then put those in the Salon.

We had to be out of our room by 9:30, but weren't heading over to our hotel until 12:30, so we had several hours to kill. Since we hadn't seen any of Papeete, having arrived late at night and having gone straight to the ship from the airport, we figured we'd walk around some. So we walked off of the ship - which is perfectly fine once the ship is in port - and walked a couple of blocks to the main marketplace. After two weeks in very sparsely populated, idyllic islands, Papeete was a bit of a culture shock, with traffic, people living on the street, lots of noise, etc. It reminded us of a bigger Hilo, but without the charm. The market was interesting, but not interesting enough to keep us occupied for three hours. Every shop seemed to have the exact same stuff - carved tikis, calendars, postcards, monoi oil, pareos- just arranged slightly differently. And the prices were obscene, particularly the carved tikis, which were literally 5x the prices we saw in the Marquesas. For those prices, it would have been cheaper to get a flight to either Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa and fill up a suitcase with stuff. We did get an inexpensive turquoise pareo and a map of French Polynesia, but that was it. The most interesting thing at the market, at least to us, were the seafood kiosks that had incredibly bright fish from the ocean (which we'd seen snorkeling and diving, so that was odd) and some live crabs.

We walked around town a bit more, but were back on the ship before 11am. So we, along with pretty much everyone else, hung out in the one area of the ship that was still operational, the pool bar. There wasn't really enough seating, so everyone was crammed in, but it was better than walking around town. At 11 they opened La Verandah for one last lunch, so we all shuffled down there, scarfed down our last free meal, and said some more goodbyes. Starting around noon they began offloading everyone who was still on the ship. Many people had left the night before, which we didn't know was an option, but logistically worked since the ship arrived in port around 7:30 and the flight wasn't until 11:40. Having now been through the extra day in Papeete, we'd definitely recommend that, as there isn't much to see and you can't plan any sort of full day excursion since you don't get off of the ship until after lunch. The system for offloading people was down to a science, with color-coded tags for people depending on which hotel they were going to for the day and whether or not they were taking a short tour on the way to the hotel.

We had opted to go straight to our hotel, since the tour didn't look that interesting, and we figured - incorrectly - there'd be stuff to do around our hotel. Our bus was half full of people who got off at the Intercontinenal, and half who continued with us to the Le Meridien. Our half had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, as they were all bitching and moaning about how far it was from the airport, nevermind that we had - at this point - eleven hours until our plane took off. There was some traffic, and that wasn't helping either. We got to the hotel around 1, and were set to head to the airport at 8:30 (for an 11:40 flight), so basically you have the entire afternoon and early evening to do something - assuming there was anything nearby to do. Sadly, there didn't seem to be anything too close to the Le Meridien.

Also sadly, the room was a mess, and it is surprising that Starwood even lets its name be associated with it. We had the room for just a few hours so it was no big deal, but we'd have been livid had we traveled around the world to go to Tahiti and ended up in a room like this. There was no soundproofing, so we could hear people (and luggage) coming from at least 50 feet away, even with the door closed. We could also hear all of the cars and the motorbikes in the parking lot that was just out the front door. All of the kids playing right outside the back of the room could be easily heard screaming and yelling - if we knew French we could give you a verbatim conversation. The sink was not held in place, i.e. it was sliding around on the counter. The handles for the sink went past "closed," so you couldn't tell how much you needed to turn the handle. Perhaps on a related topic, the toilet had a small leak, so there was some water on the floor in the water closet. One of the magazines on the table had some sort of jelly or jam on its cover. The television did not work, so we had to call maintenance, who replaced some parts. Once fixed, we realized the TV had less than 10 channels, none in English, so we should have just left it broken.

But the bed was quite comfy, so we both took naps. After waking up, we did some minor rearranging of the bags. We put away the stuff we bought at the market this morning, and also moved some stuff from the carry-on to the checked luggage, namely the toiletries and other items we needed the night before after our checked bags had to be placed outside the room. There still wasn't anything to do, so we wandered down towards the beach to see if we could grab dinner at the restaurant. As it turns out, the restaurant doesn't open until 7pm, because why would you want your restaurant right on the ocean to actually be open at sunset? They did have some happy hour cocktails for the low low price of 1600 francs (a little more than $16), but we turned down that opportunity.

The sunset was very nice, and went a long ways towards salvaging out all of the other flaws of the hotel. The overwater bungalows made a nice backlit feature, and it was ironic to note that those actually staying in the bungalows wouldn't actually ever get that sort of view. After the sunset, we grabbed a panini and a soursop margarita each, only the margaritas never came so we had to re-order them once our meal was already done. There was a wedding going on, and it definitely seemed to have a purple theme, with many of the female guests wearing lovely shades of lilac and deep purple. Oddly, there was one lady guest wearing an all white dress, which even Justin thought was probably some sort of no-no to wear at someone else's wedding. We never got our check either, so we finally asked for it around 7:30, since we had to be checked out by 8:00 (even though the bus wasn't until 8:30).

The bus ride over to the airport was much faster than the ride to the hotel in the afternoon, and there was no complaining this time around. At the airport, we got checked in quickly, as the masses hadn't quite showed up yet. We found a quiet spot in the corner of the waiting area, and read until boarding time. The only item of note during our wait was some lady (not from the ship) who was violently ill about 20 feet away; we hoped she just had a bad hangover or food poisoning, and not anything communicable. As it turned out, she was on our flight (there are three flights all in short order around midnight, so you don't really know who's on what flight), but they placed her right near the restroom. We were wondering if they'd actually let her on.

We slept almost all the way back to Los Angeles, landing around 10:30. Somehow we didn't get on the road to Vista until 12:30, though, mainly because of waiting for our luggage and also waiting for the Hilton bus to arrive at LAX. Immigration/customs were a breeze, and our car was waiting for us once we actually got to the Hilton. At home, the dogs were excited to see us, albeit very hot from the high temperatures. So, once again - knock on wood - we had a great trip with few if any issues. And, for the first time in forever, we don't actually have next year's trip booked yet, so we're "free agents" if you will. We're sure we'll find something nice somewhere out there.