To Paradise And Back – Part 4

Bora Bora – Tahiti in Air Tahiti Economy

The boat took us right to the airport, and as we went into the terminal we grabbed a few last minute presents for family from the small selection of shops. We then checked in our bags, collected our boarding passes, and went to the bar opposite the check in desks for a few beers.

Boarding was again about 10 minutes before departure, and this time the flight was pretty full. We took seats at the front on the left, but shortly after take off we realised the right hand side offered by far the best views of the islands on the flight back to Tahiti.

As we came in to land the left hand side had a good view off Tahiti which, for the record, is pretty unspectacular from the air. We could however see our hotel. The waters around Tahiti are nothing like the amazing blues of Bora Bora’s lagoon, but then it’s a completely different type of island.

The flight again landed on time, and following a short taxi to the terminal, we disembarked down steps to the rear and walked in to collect our bags. 5 minutes later we’d loaded our 4 pieces of luggage onto a trolley, and walked out into the arrivals area.

InterContinental Tahiti Resort

I’d pre-booked a car transfer to the hotel by emailing the Guest Relations Manager, Teiva Milz. I knew it was a very short trip to the hotel, but for about £6 it was one less thing to bother with when we arrived.

Our driver was waiting for us as we came through into the arrivals hall, and he took our trolley and led us to his car, which fortunately had the air conditioning blowing a gale.

The journey took just 10 minutes, and as we turned into the entrance our driver placed a quick call on his mobile to say we were here. As the car slowed to a halt at the reception, our car door was opened by a member of staff. I said hello to him in my best French accent, and he replied in his own American accent!

As he led us from the car, I saw quite a large number of people checking in and out in the reception lobby. He turned to me and said “Don’t worry Mr Schofield, we’ve got a private desk set aside for you”.

And he wasn’t wrong. With people and check in desks all around me, he led us to a single table right in the middle of the room. On the table were two fruit cocktails and some papers with my reservation details. No queues, no need to introduce myself, no need to show my status card. He knew exactly who we were, and in full view of everyone he made us feel like royalty.

“I’ve taken the liberty of upgrading you to one of our over-water bungalows Mr and Mrs Schofield, I’m sure you’ll like them. Here are your room keys, and if you need anything at all, here is my card. Congratulations on your wedding anniversary.”

Now what was really interesting was that I hadn’t mentioned to Teiva, over email or on arrival, that it was our anniversary. Whether he found out because I’d told Thalasso Spa in advance, I don’t know. But somehow he knew.

This, this, was service. Here was a guy who put customer satisfaction right at the top of his list – way above the “we’re a great hotel and we know it” attitude that so many high end hotel staff display. A quick glance at the card revealed that it was Teiva Milz, the Guest Relations Manager that I had booked the car transfer through by email.

In light of the mini bar situation at our Bora Bora hotel, I asked Teiva if mini bar refreshments here would be complimentary on our reward stay. “Normally they’re not included for points stays, but if we’re just talking a couple of drinks, I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”

We were then taken to a small buggy and driven to our bungalow. Unlike the Bora Bora Thalasso Spa, the InterContinental Tahiti had many rooms, a large number of which were normal hotel rooms which overlooked the gardens. When booking with points, these basic garden view rooms are all that are offered, so the upgrade to an over-water bungalow was a significant jump.

We were led into bungalow 507, and our bags were then brought in too. While the bungalow was smaller than the one in Bora Bora, it had much more personality. There were flowers everywhere, music playing on the television, and a welcome card on the pillow from the General Manager.

As it was lunch time, we grabbed a few things and made our way back to the main hotel for a quick bite. There are two restaurants at the hotel – a posh one called “The Lotus” which was quite near our bungalow, and a larger more casual one by the hotel reception which catered for the masses. On our way to the latter, we made a reservation for that evening at The Lotus.

The casual restaurant, Le Tiare, had quite a wide ranging menu, and one that we’d have liked to have had back on Bora Bora. The food however didn’t do the menu justice, and nor did the service. We had to order drinks twice as the lady who took our order the first time seemed to feel it necessary to keep it to herself. Not only that, but they forgot to offer us the option of a buffet which actually looked pretty good.

The whole resort was much busier than anywhere we’d seen on Bora Bora, but it was quite obvious it was appealing to a different market – it was the Butlins of French Polynesia. As we went out to the pool area to sunbathe it seemed that tits were the order of the day – it seemed that the pool of this hotel was a central point of gathering for women who’d forgotten to pack their bikini tops. Not wanting to be rude, I thought it best to pull up a deck chair rather than show my disgust and find somewhere else to relax!

The hotel also had a lagoonarium, which had we not already been to Bora Bora would have seemed amazing. Unfortunately it wasn’t as big, had just sting ray and some fish, and the water wasn’t nearly so clear. It’s a great feature for a hotel to have, but with Bora Bora so fresh in our minds we’d been spoilt.

We went to try the mojitos in the bar for happy hour, but I had to send my first one back because it just tasted of Rum and nothing else. I love mojitos and the ones in Bubbles at Thalasso Spa had been some of the best I’d ever had. I only made it half way through the second attempt, and decided to head back to the bungalow.

It was on the way back that we found where we should have spent the afternoon. Just by the Lotus restaurant was a purpose built beach with fresh water pool, the far edge of which blended seamlessly with the edge of the lagoon. It felt less like a holiday camp, and more like a private hotel beach. Unfortunately we were only staying for one night at the hotel, so we’d missed our opportunity.

I popped into the Business Centre for 15 minutes to catch up on a few emails to the family. All Ambassadors get 15 minutes free access for their stay, which was a nice surprise given the normal charges over there.

In the evening we went for our meal at The Lotus restaurant. The dining area is effectively two circular terraces which are built over the water’s edge. About 6 tables are placed around the edges of each terrace, so everyone has a waterside view.

There wasn’t a lot to choose from on the menu, but it was all good – far better than lunch had been. It was a lovely evening meal, and the Butlins feel was but a distant memory. The service was good, and it was no more expensive than I’d come to expect from French Polynesia.

Our flight back to Tokyo was early the next morning, so we didn’t have a late one. We booked a buggy to collect us and our bags the next morning at 5:45am and take us to reception to check out.

It wasn’t an easy night’s sleep; for some reason there was a light that kept on shining randomly by the window. In a daze I told Emma it was probably just the sun rising, until she pointed out it was 3am and the curtains were closed. Closer inspection revealed it was in fact a ceiling light, but I couldn’t find the switch anywhere, although the more I looked for the switch, the more it turned off and on. In the end I gave up. When morning came I had another look and found the switch. For some reason, known only to the people that designed the bungalow, they’d placed the switch on the wall behind the sofa’s back cushion. Grrrr‚

At 6am I rang reception to find out where our buggy was, as our flight was scheduled for 7:30. They said someone would be straight there‚ and they were. When we reached reception, I checked the bill, and for some very odd reason (that the staff couldn’t explain) there was a charge of about £40 for “Accommodation”. With that removed, all was well, and I wasn’t charged for the 2 beers we’d had from the mini bar.

Our driver for the return journey was the same as the one that collected us, and he was very chatty for 6 in the morning!

The InterContinental Tahiti is meant to be the most luxurious hotel on Tahiti. Without doubt the service we experienced on check in was some of the best I’ve ever experienced – it was a welcome I really would have liked to see at the Thalasso Spa given the £750 a night room rate. As for the rest of the hotel? It wasn’t necessary to my tastes, but it’s clearly catering for a different market. For a one nighter to let me catch my flight, I could have done a lot worse.