Getting to Tahiti for our Aranui cruise I did something I tell everyone not to do. Because flights two days in advance were sold out, the only remaining option was for us to arrive 3 hours before the end of the embarkation deadline. As a result I booked a longer than necessary layover in Los Angeles, just in case there was a flight delay. I wanted to make sure that if a flight was delayed or not operating, that we could still get to LA on another flight.
As it turned out, all of our flights went as scheduled and so we had a long 6.5 hour layover in Los Angeles. Because we had run out of time to get some supplies, we hunted around the airport for bug repellent with Deet in it. In French Polynesia, it is very difficult to get Deet repellent and knowing the area well, we wanted some. Unfortunately, we could not find anything like this at the airport.
After a little bit or research online using the airport WIFI, we decided that Kirsten would wait at the airport with our luggage (the Air Tahiti Nui counter would not open until about 4 hours prior to our flight departure) while I took a shuttle and bus to a nearby shopping mall.
It took me about 20 minutes to take a shuttle to the Lot C parking lot before I could catch bus number 6 that went to the Westland shopping mall. There were tons of options at the mall but I only had two planned stops. Best Buy to get a second battery for my camera and Target to get some snacks, mosquito repellent, and sunscreen. It only cost $1 each way for the city bus but by the time I got back to the airport, my expected 20 minute trip to the mall took about 3 hours. Kirsten was getting a bit worried but we still had about 2 hours before our flight was to leave.
It took us about half of an hour to get through airport security. I had some passes to the airport’s priority pass lounge and so we checked in for the remaining time we had at the airport. We enjoyed some snacks and a good Internet connection to get some work done in a relaxing environment before it was time to board our flight.
Air Tahiti Nui
Our flight with Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti was a full flight. Kirsten and I were originally near the back of the plane where there are a rare three seats by the window. We wanted to sit together where there were two seats by the window but none were available. We opted instead to each have a window seat in hopes that we could have something to lean up against to get some sleep or trade a seat with someone so we could sit together. Fortunately the person next to me offered to exchange her seat with my wife and so we were able to sit together.
I always have a hard time sleeping on flights but Air Tahiti Nui provided a small kit of amenities for the voyage. It included a night mask, headphones, earplugs and some matching blue socks. After watching a movie and enjoying a light dinner, I tried zoning out the sounds of the engines with earplugs before getting an interrupted two to three hours of sleep. The flight was just over eight hours long and following a breakfast of an omelette or pancakes, arrived in Tahiti at 6am.
After disembarking the aircraft I realized I had left my sweater on the airplane and had to go back to retrieve it. This unfortunately put us at the back of the customs lineup and as a result it took us close to an hour before we could collect our luggage and leave the airport.
Upon exiting the customs area of the airport, there were a number of white-boards with names on them. We quickly looked around and found our name written on a board where we presented ourselves. We were greeted with a fresh flower lei and a Tahitian kiss on each cheek. It is the perfect island greeting to start any holiday in Tahiti. The greeter directed us to our driver who then helped us with our luggage and into the shuttle bus.
It only took about 15 minutes to get to the main port of Papeete where the Aranui 5 embarkation takes place. The Quay d’honneur (Pier of Honour) is located next to the Moorea ferry terminal and is unmistakably obvious with the large Aranui 5 ship in the harbour. Our driver dropped us off and we were ready to get started on our Aranui 5 journey.