French Polynesia Dream Destination WeddingWords by Courtney Kellar
As most travel lovers know, there are some places forever stuck in our minds and cemented in our psyches. After a visit in 2011, French Polynesia became one such spot for me. When I was given the opportunity to go back, I was excited to experience the destination in a different capacity – by sea via Windstar Cruises.
If you have cruised on a larger cruise line in the past, Windstar Cruises and the 148-guest, 440-foot sailing yacht, Wind Spirit, will most likely surpass your previous experience and perhaps give you a new definition of “cruising” altogether. For starters, cruising on a smaller vessel with sails could not be more different than larger cruise ships. You’re going to feel the swaying of the boat and splashing of the ocean, so come prepared if you’re prone to seasickness.
The Wind Spirit sets sail out of Papeete, Tahiti. After an eight-hour Air Tahiti Nui flight from L.A. on one of the airline’s recently upgraded planes (think more legroom and your own in-flight entertainment system), it was time to say “bon voyage.”
Windstar quickly sets itself apart. The food is excellent and every member of the crew will call you by name and prophetically memorize your preferences. Every Windstar cruise is adults-only and you’re encouraged to mingle with the captain and crew.
The “Magical Island” is only a stone’s throw away from Tahiti, but is a can’t-miss opportunity to venture off-ship. The Wind Spirit drops anchor in picturesque Cook’s Bay and a guided hike of the Three Coconut Trail offers sweeping views of the ship surrounded by velvety-green valleys. The hike is strenuous, but well worth it. After you’ve surmounted the final stretch, you will be awestruck by the cloud-crested beauty of Mount Moua Roa (otherwise known as “Bali Hai” from the film "South Pacific"). While you might be tired from the day’s adventures, the sunset sail leaving Moorea is truly breathtaking.
There are a variety of optional excursions on each island, but for the “Vanilla Island,” Windstar has you covered. Get up early and hop aboard a charter to your own private motu (a tiny islet within the lagoon). You can snorkel right off the powder-sand beach and the boat’s crew has anything you might need on-island. Sip rum cocktails out of coconuts and enjoy the bliss only these crystalline waters can offer. I was so hesitant to leave this small piece of paradise, I ended up on the very last charter of the day.
At your next pit stop in paradise, look into taking advantage of Raiatea’s amazing drift snorkeling. After you’ve removed your flippers, take a walk into town to visit the island’s “le marché” where you will find gorgeous handmade crafts. As you sail on to Bora Bora, enjoy a deck BBQ in lieu of dinner in the dining room. The massive spread includes local salads, lobster tails, lamb chops, steaks and anything else your decadent heart desires.
Get the most out of your time on this infamous island and book the “Bora Bora Lagoon and Cultural Tour” for unforgettable adventures. The first stop was a sapphire-tinted spot just outside the rim of the lagoon. I, and the other brave souls, hopped in the warm water to discover dozens of tropical fish. Little did we know we had a few surprises swimming just 30-feet below.
Beyond the sunny, crystal clear surface were three 10-foot lemon sharks. These docile, albeit intimidating, creatures were a wonder to behold. While swimming with sharks wasn’t on the top of my to-do list, I was captivated and mystified. With our adrenaline pumping, we were off again with our sarong-clad guide for a delicious, traditional Polynesian lunch on a motu, swimming with stingrays and exploring the area’s vibrant coral reefs.
On the final night in Bora Bora, Windstar will host an epic, sunset “Celebration Festival.” Get whisked away once again to a small, private island where the entire ship is treated to a traditional Polynesian meal, hula dancers and flame-wielding acrobats. These complimentary celebrations are a Windstar speciality and are unique to your chosen destination.
There are a few shops on the small island of Huahine, but this day will provide the perfect opportunity to stay on-ship and enjoy the watersports platform. The Windstar yachts are unique in that you can kayak, paddle board, swim and snorkel right off the back of the ship.
As you set sail for Papeete, you will feel your journey coming to an end. Enjoy one last “magical moment” as the dramatic theme song from “1492: Conquest of Paradise” plays and the sails are raised to greet the evening wind.
In a way, Windstar is the antithesis of larger cruises: intimate excursions, romantic dining under the stars and remarkable service – all the makings of a perfect honeymoon experience. If French Polynesia isn’t your dream, Windstar also sets sail to 50 nations and 150 ports, including the Mediterranean and Asia.
In the days of social media and photo filters, a visit to French Polynesia is like falling through the looking glass into a land where time stands still and colors seem to shift seamlessly with the sun. For honeymooners, it’s hard to imagine a more magical place to start your life together. These islands offer a rare opportunity to see pure wonder in the eyes of your other half.
Insider’s Tip: The city of Papeete is the heart of French Polynesia’s commercial life and for overnight accommodations at the beginning and end of your journey, Windstar has partnered with Le Méridien Tahiti to offer its guests discounted rates.
Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Courtney Cox (1st) and Windstar Cruises (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th)
This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall/Winter 2015 issue. You can order a copy here.
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