An Ocean Princess Rainbow
Offshore Bora Bora’s jagged peaks, the frenzy begins. Black tipped reef sharks circle a brave group of snorkelers. Thirty stingrays undulate around our legs, hungry for the fresh sardines our guide tosses them. Overhead, two massive black frigate birds dive for leftovers. Just another exotic morning for Ocean Princess cruise passengers who signed up for the “Snorkel Safari and Ray Ballet.”
“Besides raw sardines, what else is for lunch?” I ask Mati, our copper toned boat captain who sports long curly dreadlocks, shark teeth earrings, and a tiny thong.
“Maybe YOU. See those sharks?” he gestures, to the circling sharks. But nobody can bear to get out of the heavenly turquoise/cobalt/sapphire South Pacific Ocean. We’re too dazzled by schools of yellow butterfly fish swarming over pink and gold corals. Blue-lipped clams smile up at our masks. The iridescence is hypnotic; the moist breeze, languid. A rare wildness. Worth being Shark Bait.
Another glistening day, we explore Muri Lagoon, off the island of Rarotonga. Captain Tama motors our thatched roof glass bottom boat over a shallow whitesea bottom.
“We’re docking at a deserted beach to prepare you for lunch,” he announces. “Only kidding! Although these are called The Cook Islands, we did not eat Captain Cook, as some believe. We only ate the missionaries…and they were rubbery.”
Properly welcomed, he drops us off on a sliver of perfect ivory sand dotted with pink shells, pearly coral, and shaded by tall green coconut palms. Some cruisers work on their tans, others play with pink parrotfish and yellow angelfish. With a blow on his giant conch, Captain Tama calls us to lunch. Laid on braided palm leaves is a feast for famished sun worshippers: grilled swordfish, potato salad, coleslaw, French baguettes, watermelon, star fruit and bananas.
“Manuia!” Captain toasts us, Tahitian for “cheers!” A sublime picnic on a Robinson Crusoe beach is guaranteed to unwind even the most exhausted workaholic.
Back onboard the Ocean Princess, Giuseppe Renda knocks at our Stateroom, #6009.
“Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Lieb,” he says “Please can you give us ten minutes alone with your balcony?” Warren and I depart for a twilight stroll on top deck. Giuseppe and his army of waiters swarm into our room. What are they up to? Upon our return, our balcony is now a four-star restaurant. Fresh flowers. Elegant silver, china, and crystal. Champagne on ice. Seated like royalty, we dine on crab cakes, salad, succulent lobster, chocolate mousse and cappuccino. Sumptuous.
“Did you enjoy your special Balcony Dinner?” Giuseppe returns hours later to ask. Are the twinkling stars bright enough? Is the silver moon shimmering?
There’s so much to do onboard the ship. Computer, photography and gourmet cooking classes. Ping-pong tournaments, line dancing, bridge, fruit carving lessons, golf putting, art auctions, wine tasting, pottery, water volleyball, not to mention fascinating lectures on Tahiti, Huahine, Rarotonga, Raiatea, Moorea and Bora Bora….
But again and again, I’m lured to the Lotus Spa. A beautiful British Masseuse named Jennifer Terris is expert in body smoothing, soul soothing treatments. She promises to rid me of all my Type A Modern Civilization Disorders: obsessive list-making, the urge to be in constant motion, and of course, my addiction to email. My first treatment involves a fragrant ginger and lime concoction. Snaky skin is transformed into newborn baby-soft skin. Jennifer rubs my body with oil from the rare apetahi flower, found only “in the mountains of Raiatea” she tells me. Then she treats me to a deep tissue massage so relaxing, I can barely float back to my cabin. Warren asks, “Why do you smell like a garden, my pretty wife?” Falling into blissful sleep, I say, “Do not wake Cleopatra, darling.”
Like a honeybee on flowers, I flit back days later to Jennifer, the WonderSpa Woman. This time, she brushes me with a thick gooey green paste only Popeye would appreciate—ocean seaweed. Wrapped like a burrito in thin blankets of aluminum foil, I’m left alone to contemplate this hard duty. Although I’m usually claustrophobic about closed-in spaces, after twenty minutes I feel nurtured and renewed. After two treatments at the Lotus Spa, I become a sea nymph. I’m now living in the Pacific Ocean with purple-lipped clams. I’m the one waving happily to silly snorkellers who wish they could be me.
Besides chatting with new friends in the Ocean Princess swimming pool, I laze away my days, sky dreaming. Watching billowy clouds change shape from a chaise lounge is a whole lot more fun than a newscast on CNN. One minute they’re swirls of luscious whipped cream in a cobalt sky. Next, the clouds form into my fluffy white cat Sage, sadly meowing “Mom, when are you coming home? (Guilt is everywhere.) Another afternoon, I’m astonished to see a chorus line of fanciful angel clouds flying overhead on their way to a Heavenly cocktail party.
“Wait for me!” I muse. “Aren’t I invited too?”
“Silly girl,” the Angels murmur. “Don’t you get it? Heaven is all around you, dear one. Especially on this ship.”
Offering voyages to more worldwide cruise destinations than any other major line, Princess Cruises sails to all seven continents and calls at some 280 ports around the world: Tahiti/French Polynesia, Australia/New Zealand, South Pacific, Hawaii, Asia, India, Africa, Canada/New England, Antarctica, Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, Europe, Mexican Riviera, and South America.
Princess’s Adventures Ashore programs range from four-wheel-drive safaris to shopping and culture tours, to hugging dolphins, to high adventures like night diving with giant manta rays. ScholarShip@Sea programs include Culinary Arts, Visual and Creative Arts, Photography, and Computer Technology.
Sharon is author of guidebooks on Santa Fe, Chicago, Florida, Trinidad and Seoul.
She contributes to publications worldwide. Email her: sharonspence @ cs.com