Tahiti’s international PPT airport welcomes a pair of daily non-stops from LAX. While Jan and I somehow imagined Tahiti was in the same neighborhood as New Zealand or Australia, it’s actually 2600 miles south yet half a time-zone east of Hawaii. As opposed to flying to Honolulu, the overnight flights between LAX and Pape’ete are 3 hours longer, but come with less jetlag.
Flying to Tahiti
When Jan and I sat down with a management team from Air Tahiti Nui and asked about accommodation of our bikes, the airline’s head of airfreight told us the underfloor capacity of their 4-engine Airbus A-340s is 32 tons. When Jan mentioned a concern about the size of our cases, he winked and told us he’d to strap leftover bikes to the wings. In addition to reduced airfare, Santana’s guests will be able to check their bikes for FREE. Air Tahiti Nui’s twin aisle planes, by the way, are extra comfy. 8-across economy seating (with wider seats thoughtfully arranged in pairs) instead of the 9-across configuration with narrower seats used by other airlines.
Provisional Photo Itinerary
If you choose to arrive in Pape’ete on the morning of embark, you’ll be able to appreciate your special status. The French Government and Governor of Tahiti want to make sure the first organized cycling tour of French Polynesia is a success that will cause your friends to visit in subsequent years. At your flight’s dawn arrival dancers and musicians will be at PPT airport to welcome our group with fresh leis. Members of Tahiti’s bike club, in their jerseys, will be there to help with your bikes and luggage.
While waiting for the Wind Spirit to arrive, we’ll watch your stuff while you spend the morning exploring Tahiti’s quaint colonial capital. The colorful center of old Pape’ete has cafes, stores, galleries and a bustling central market that’s especially lively on Mondays. How far away is the cruise terminal? 200 yards! Around noon a team of local bike mechanics will arrive to host our ship-side bike assembly session.
Tuesday through Saturday
Overnight we’ll sail to the nearby island of Mo’orea. The islands of French Polynesia are strikingly different from the volcanically formed islands of Hawaii, Greece or Iceland. In Tahiti the molten rock was stronger and heavier. Instead of eroding, these steeper islands have, for millions of years, sunk back into the softer seabed. As these jagged spires receded into the sea, the coral reefs that formed along the original shoreline stayed in place and grew upward. Between the reef and today’s shoreline Tahiti’s islands are encircled by lagoons that prevent waves from reaching and eroding the shore. And here’s the cool part for cyclists: unlike wave-eroded islands, these reef-protected islands have an encircling ribbon of shoreline pavement that’s amazingly level. Although advanced fitness is required to ride around most volcanos, the Tahitian islands can be enjoyed by cyclists who aren’t strong climbers.
Better yet, Santana’s designed-for-cycling Tahitian itinerary starts with a particularly easy island. Tuesday’s ride circling Mo’orea is 37 miles. The shoreline highway’s tallest summit is 150 feet. Unless you want to test yourself on the paved spurs into the island’s interior, you should have no problem getting back aboard the ship in time for lunch.
While cycling through the afternoon is always an option (on Moorea you could repeat the morning circuit in the opposite direction), our shortest ride on each island will get you back to the ship in time for lunch. In the afternoons of our cycling-specific charter you’ll be able to choose from the array of optional activities enjoyed by Wind Spirit’s passengers on non-Santana charters.
These choices will include such things as snorkeling, wildlife treks, and guided visits to small villages, pearl farms, or coconut plantations. Scuba? If you’ve always wanted to get a license, let this “bike tour” be your inspiration. Each of the six islands we visit has Pro Scuba Outfitters that specialize in taking care of Wind Spirit’s passengers.
For a small fee most islands have rental outlets for paddle boards, scooters and micro-cars. No cost options (besides cycling) include hiking and beach-combing. Not to be missed is a spirited conversation with local commuters while enjoying a breezy ride on a South Seas “Le Truck”
After five days with rides on six neighboring islands (Mo’orea, Wahine Nui, Wahine Iti, Taha’a, Raiatea and Bora Bora) you’ll return to the main island for Sunday’s big ride. YES, Santana’s premiere version of this totally-unique cycling tour includes your registration fee and a one-day competitors license that allows you to suit up in team colors and ride with real pros in the UCI-sanctioned Le Ronde Tahitienne. Although Jan and I completed the full pro distance of 110km (an out and back course that’s 35 miles each way) most cyclists turn around at the half-way mark to finish in 35 miles. The third official version of Le Ronde turns around at the base of the ride’s only climb to complete 20 flat miles without topping longer rides’ 250-foot summit. No matter if you complete 70, 35 or 20 miles, you’ll keep the team jersey and earn a distinctive finisher’s award.
Unless you catch the late Sunday flight after our farewell dinner aboard Wind Spirit, you’ll debark Monday morning for a day of relaxation and shopping before a Monday night flight. Either way, you’ll clear customs the following morning at LAX, where special helpers will be on hand to guide you to your connecting flight.
MSY Wind Spirit
The MSY Wind Spirit was commissioned by a start-up cruise company named Windstar. Designed and produced in France, this final member of a three vessel fleet was originally designed to be based in French Polynesia. New owners, however, diverted her to other destinations. After decades cruising the rest of the world, Windstar’s newest owner decided to base Wind Spirit where she always belonged. After a complete refit the Wind Spirit arrived in her rightful home port of Pape’ete, on the island of Tahiti, in the middle of French Polynesia. Windstar’s designed-for-the-South Seas sailing yacht with its billowing white sails is THE quintessential way to experience the World’s most romantic archipelago.
From your first moment aboard, the WindStar continues to amaze
In the meantime, however, Santana was able to charter this exact same vessel for our first two cycling cruises of the Mediterranean. Like the newer yacht we now use in the Med, the Wind Spirit’s petite size allowed her to slip in and out of marinas and fishing ports. In Tahiti these yacht-like dimensions allow her to slip in and out of the lagoons that are a South Seas trademark.
During Santana’s 2010 and 2011 charters in Europe the Wind Spirit proved herself as an ideal floating resort for cyclists. Safe and secure parking for our bikes without blocking off access to any of the ship’s amenities.
Did someone say amenities?
Spacious Teak Decks with dozens of lounge chairs
Refreshing pool and relaxing hot tub
A tranquil spa offering restorative massage and rejuvenating treatments
After a morning of cycling there’s an outdoor cafe for alfresco lunches
Speaking of apres-ride dining, on Santana’s charters cycling wear at breakfast and after rides is expected. Formal evenings? Hah! Please don’t pack a tie or heels!
Beautiful morning buffet fit for cyclists
The Wind Spirit’s aft lounge is large enough to allow all to attend our pre-dinner preview of the following day’s rides and activities.
After dinner this same lounge offers entertainment and a small dance floor.
Or retire to the deck to see the stars of the Southern Hemisphere.
During Santana’s earlier charters the Wind Spirit’s culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. The menu choices change daily, and will always include a surprising selection of local fruits and produce, regional specialties, the freshest-possible seafood, vegetarian options, and grilled to order meats. A changing assortment of deserts, pastas and pastries are produced aboard each day.
The ship’s main dining area has enough seats for all. No need for assigned tables or times.
The Wind Spirit’s seasoned staff of 90 is exceptionally loyal to their small yacht. If you joined Santana for our European charters aboard this same vessel, you’ll spot dozens of familiar faces. The Wind Spirit’s crew was overjoyed to hear of our return. They remember the fun they had during Santana’s cycling cruises
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: May 14 to May 21, 2018
Q: Will I get seasick?
A: The MSY Wind Spirit uses its tall sails, hydraulic re-ballisting, gyroscopes and electronic stabilizers to provide a ride than belies it’s yacht-like dimensions. Santana’s previous charters of this same vessel crossed a stormy corner of the Atlantic. During those cruises only a few of our participants popped a pill. Fewer missed a meal. The South Seas are famous for being calm — much smoother than the Caribbean. The Wind Spirit has advanced stabilization and Santana’s itinerary links a string of protected lagoons.
Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to Santana’s long history with WindStar, our per-person first-in pricing for this 8-day Event in Tahiti starts at $3849. Premium stateroom categories cost more. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.
Q: Is this a good deal?
A: Most couples who cruise reserve their staterooms over a year in advance. Those who want to cruise French Polynesia in May 2018 will book this Spring. Those who wait, however, may get “free airfare.” This past winter, for the second year in a row, Windstar cruises came up with a “free air” offer to clear away leftover rooms for this Spring’s Wind Spirit cruises. Those who pay in full on the day they book get free roundtrip air between LAX and Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui. The remaining problem for cyclists is Windstar’s corporate policy that prevents you from bringing your bike on a standard cruise. Even if you could somehow sneak your bike aboard, none of the remaining cruise dates for 2017 line up with this year’s Le Ronde Tahitienne. Still, free air travel from LAX is an nice consolation for those who are willing to settle for a leftover stateroom and cruise date.
Santana’s first-in pricing for our Premiere Cruise of 2018 is similar to Windstar’s current discount to clear out this year’s leftover staterooms. We’ll actually reduce their lowest pricing by $750 per person. Instead of forcing you to pay in full at the time of booking we’ll allow you to set aside an entire double stateroom on a NO RISK basis for only $3,000 per couple. If you change your mind within 14 days, just send us an email to get back every nickel.
But what about the free air? Although Windstar’s arrangement with Air Tahiti Nui is pretty damn good (What could be better than “FREE”?) it is limited to certain blocks of economy seats on certain flights between LAX and Pape’ete. Want to extend your stay or get a better seat? Sorry. How about a ticket from an airport other than LAX? No. A return via Fiji, Hawaii or New Zealand? No. Can you use or collect airpoints? No. How much will Windstar give you if you arrange or buy your own flights? Not a penny. Although there is nothing remotely wrong with Air Tahiti Nui’s service out of LAX, Windstar’s proposition is a take it or leave it deal that requires immediate full payment and has lots of limitations.
Santana’s air proposal is fairer and more flexible. By July 2017 Air Tahiti Nui will confirm 2018 schedules and pricing. If round trip tickets to Tahiti are higher than $1,000 per person, we’ll send you an order form. If you remit full event balance AND $1,000 per person, you can arrive or leave Tahiti on any of the Air Tahiti Nui’s May non-stops. Additionally, the Air Tahiti Nui tickets provided by Santana include an enhanced baggage allowance. With our $1,000 round-trip tickets each couple can check two large carry ons, two daypacks, two fifty-pound suitcases and the bike or bikes you’ll ride at Le Ronde Tahitienne.
Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?
A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $2,000 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.
Q: What about tipping?
A: Shipboard gratuities are $144 per person. Santana’s cruise hosts don’t accept tips. Santana’s comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per person includes cycling-specific extras and support on seven islands, Le Ronde Tahitienne registration, one-day pro license, custom team jersey, and special finisher’s award. Port Fees and taxes $268 (includes $108 extra night in Pape’ete port fees and habitation tax). Fuel surcharges (typically $0) can be imposed after a substantial increase of market prices.
Q: Are some staterooms better than others?
A: Certainly. The Wind Spirit features deluxe bedding and spacious floor plans. The rooms have a private bath with shower, air-conditioning with adjustable thermostat, and are soundproofed. All Wind Spirit staterooms are located on the exterior, and offer South Sea vistas through a pair of large portholes.
A: The MSY Wind Spirit has one suite, which sells out notoriously quickly.
Q: Has anyone done this before?
A: We will be the first group of International cyclists to tour French Polynesia, and the first group of North Americans to enter La Ronde Tahitienne.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. Early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the time stamp of your booking.
Q: What do you mean by RISK-FREE?
A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to Matt@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund.
Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?
A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises (this Tahiti charter will be our 34th!). While preparing for our 2009 Danube event I neglected to include the following proviso. That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned! Here it is (again) in writing:
Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online.
Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?
A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $500 per person—which was waived when a vacating couple found someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $250,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares.
Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get staterooms closest to the front of the ship, which Bill and Jan both prefer. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info by July ’17. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and debark days will receive FREE Pape’ete transfers.
Q: Are rental bikes available?
A: Yes. If you own a nice bike that fits, however, bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. More info on this in Bill’s Travel Tips. Tahiti’s entire supply of racy rental road bikes is zero. If you want to rent a sporty Santana Smooth or brand-new French-made solo bike, your $999 per person rental rate offsets the wholesale purchase price of that bike. The subsidized price you pay includes your donation of that bike to Tahiti’s charity that supports disabled children and athletes.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (remaining on the ship or exploring the island by other means), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy cycling on all seven islands. If you prefer hills or want to spend additional hours in the saddle, we’ve got you covered. At each morning’s breakfast you’ll get a map charting the day’s cycling routes and recommended stops. During a brief route talk you’ll hear about each route’s grades and difficulty. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps unit. Now available for less than $200, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.
Q: What’s the difference between a SAG-wagon and Santana’s SOS/treasure vans?
A: Most tour companies use SAG-wagons that haul luggage and “sweep” the route between overnight stops. The drivers refill water-bottles, fix flat tires, and retrieve riders who can’t manage the easiest route between the widely spaced hotels. The problem, of course, is that the roving vans tend to be annoying until you actually need help. At that point it’s common to wait for two or more hours until one shows up. Although SAG drivers can fix a flat, they don’t have the tools or know-how to handle serious mechanical problems. Instead, they drive you to a bike shop (which explains why SAG-wagons disappear for hours at a time). This tour’s pair of SOS vans are driven pro bike mechanics who bring tools and spares. When you phone them with the coordinates from your GPS, they arrive in a flash to get you back in the saddle. Because Santana expects participants to fill their own bottles, fix their own flats, and choose a ride they can finish, our SOS drivers are underworked, and have time to retrieve your shopping treasures.
Q: Does the Wind Spirit have WiFi?
Will there be menu selections for vegetarians, vegans and picky eaters?
A: Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Q: What if we have more questions?
A: The easiest way to get any further info is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to answer your questions.
|Toll Free number||(800) 334-6136 ext. 111|
|Overseas callers||+1 (949) 677-7896|
|If you get the recording, please leave a phone number. Matt will return calls ASAP.|
Full Cancellation policy appears below. Your deposit signifies an acceptance of those terms.
|* Fares are Pre-Person & Double-Occupancy|
|* Fares are set at time of purchase, and are otherwise subject to change based on availability.|
|* Please note that the number of rooms in each category is limited and unchangeable.|
Stateroom Prices are per person, double occupancy
Deposits listed below are per stateroom, up to two participants
|Our comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per person covers a long list of off-ship activities, admissions, and guides.
Port Fees are $268 per person.
Fuel surcharges (typically $0) can be imposed after a substantial increase of market prices.
Crew Gratuities of $144 per person will be collected at the event.
|Your initial Stateroon-Holding-Fee is an escrow-like payment which remains fully refundable for 14 days. After 14 days, your Stateroom-Holding-Fee will be converted to an Event Deposit. At that point a dated invoice will be issued. To get pre-existing coverage you’ll want to purchase Travel Insurance within 14 days of your invoiced date (or within 28 days of placing your Holding Fee). Unless you cancel in writing within that 14 day period, the following Scary Cancellation Policy applies to Santana’s chartered cruise events:|
|Because cruise ship charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-with-a-deposit commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out, for any reason. This is the same policy that existed on all but 1 of Santana’s 26 previous cruises. While preparing for our 2009 Danube event, I neglected to include the following provision (shown below). That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned!|
|Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on Rallies and Tours, Santana’s Cruises are non-cancelable, non-transferable, and non-refundable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard Trip Insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without a single complaint. An informative application is available upon request; and further information is available online.|