ABOARD THE OCEANIA SIRENA – “Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven,” Giuseppe Bagnato said.
He certainly had that right.
General manager of the Oceania Sirena, Giuseppe was welcoming me aboard the beautiful cruise ship docked in the Tahitian capital city of Papeete. I must have looked very bedraggled because I had been flying for two days.
Getting from Indiana to Tahiti is not easy. Flying is no fun anymore. Planes are overcrowded and cramped. Flights are often delayed and cancelled. Airports are noisy – why does LAX insist on playing loud Katy Perry songs over and over and over? And I don’t eat airport food.
But here I am. Arrived!
Oceania has gone out of its way to make sure passengers get a warm welcome once we exit the Tahiti airport arrival gate. Pulling my carry-on bag through the exit, I was greeted with a big sign with my name identifying my shuttle to the ship.
Yes, that was me, I told the lady at the shuttle stand. She promptly draped a fragrant lei around my neck, handed me a bottle of cold water and motioned for an assistant to take my bag and lead me to the shuttle.
A short ride with a few other passengers and we arrived at the ship. A crewmember took my luggage and escorted me aboard the Sirena.
My plane had landed in Tahiti at 5:05 a.m. Really too early for departing passengers to be off the ship. Most of them were probably still sound asleep in their cabins, savoring the last of Oceania pampering.
For many cruise lines, that early arrival would have been my problem. I could either have cooled my heels for hours in an airport or I could have waited for hours in a yucky cruise terminal or I could have paid to have a “day” hotel room.
You know what Oceania did? They welcomed early arrivals aboard, guided us to check in to get our key cards and told us to make ourselves at home in the lovely Horizons lounge. Coffee, tea and juice awaited as well as pastries and muffins. Lunch would be served later in the Terrace Café.
Staterooms would be available starting at 11 a.m. No early arrivals were complaining. We all know that “turnaround” day is tough for crewmembers. Cabins need to be cleaned. Departing passengers need to be bade farewell and their luggage carted off. New passengers need to be greeted and their luggage carried on.
That is why I try to take only carry-on luggage and a shoulder bag for my computer and camera gear. If I can’t take it on and off the plane, on and off the ship by myself, I figure I don’t need it. Most ships do have laundry facilities and cruising attire is not near as fancy as it used to be – thank goodness.
It is always fun to open that stateroom door for the first time and see what my new home looks like. I had seen the Oceania online brochures but they didn’t do justice to my cabin. And I doubt if my photos will either.
As a solo traveler, I have a big double bed and far more storage space than I need. My room has a sofa, coffee table, desk and desk chair. Nightstands on either side of the bed have shelves, desk has drawers, TV cabinet with a flat screen TV has shelves and a safe, one closet has drawers and the big closet has shelves and a hanging rack.
A small lighted clock on the nightstand is a nice touch. Most ships don’t have clocks in cabins but I like to know what time it is when I wake up, especially when the time zone is so different from my home one.
My room has a small fridge. Hallelujah! And it is stocked with soft drinks and water which will be replaced daily. Two large complimentary bottles of water and a filled ice bucket are on the desk. Bottled water, soft drinks and specialty coffees are all complimentary on Sirena.
The bathroom is rather small but functional with a walk-in shower. Toiletries are by Bulgari. Two white bathrobes and two pairs of house slippers are in the closet. That’s nice because I haven’t traveled with a robe for years and do like to wear them.
Most importantly, my stateroom has a balcony with a small round table and two lounge chairs. If I could take two cruises without a balcony or one with a balcony, I would always choose the balcony. My favorite place on the whole ship. A lovely bouquet of flowers from the general manager makes my balcony even more beautiful.
My stateroom cabin attendant Jelena stopped by to say hi. Along with her ship job, Jelena said she is studying to be a journalist and asked my opinion. If you love it, do it, I told her. I have been a journalist since I was in grade school and think it is the best profession in the world. It is not for everyone, however.
So, I am aboard and ready for my great adventure. So much to see and do. Will walk you around the ship tomorrow, meet the crew and passengers, investigate shore excursions, try out ship restaurants and learn more about Tahiti. We’ll see what we discover.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch