Monday, 27 February 2012

A Shore Tour on Lifou

Sea Princess at Lifou 
I'm not a great fan of organised excursions but felt I wanted to see more of Lifou than I did last time we were here. So I decided to take the cruise ship's shore tour called a 'Melanesian Experience'.
  It was a beautifully sunny, very hot day and the water in the Bay of Santal where the 'Sea Princess' moored was those glorious turquoise and blue shades like you see on a tourism poster. A five minute tender ride took us to shore, then we boarded a bus for our two hour tour.
  According to the brochure we would 'view traditional houses and cheerful gardens' in two 'enchanting' villages. This, to me, implied a visit but no, we kept right on driving along. The only viewing was done from the bus windows and as there was no commentary, we didn't know where we were or which villages we passed through.
St John the Baptist on Lifou
 Eventually we arrived at an historic church, built by missionaries in 1883. This was the church of St John the Baptist, a tall, solid building with towers and turrets, its ochre coloured plaster contrasting with the bright blue skies. It was so unlike the Melanesian houses we had seen on the drive. These were small structures of corrugated iron or local limestone with no window glass and wooden shutters, or circular thatched 'beehive' houses with conical roofs in the traditional style of Lifou.
Chief's case on Lifou
  Our guide bustled us off the bus and into the church then bustled us straight out again. From there we walked a short distance to the village of Hnathalo. Young girls gave each of us a plaited flax headband, adorned with flowers to wear - a charming touch! After taking off our shoes we went into the chief's 'parliament' house - a circular thatched building supported by enormous mahogany posts. It was dark inside and hot but impressive for its size and height. This photo doesn't do it justice - apparently it is the largest 'case' on the whole of Lifou. Our guide told us some interesting facts about Melanesian society.
  I'll write more about the visit in my next post - including how to cook a meal Lifou-style.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Cruising out of Sydney, Australia

Cruising under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
'Sea Princess' was docked at Barangaroo Wharf, near Darling Harbour. This was new to us, as other times we've cruised in and out of Sydney the ships have tied up by Circular Quay opposite the Opera House.
 From the forward deck I could see down to the National Maritime Museum wharf. Moored there was the 'James Craig', the restored 19th century sailing ship that was once part of my family's fleet of ships. The Craig Line traded between New Zealand and Australia for many years in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
   Sail Away for us was at 4 p.m. It seemed to take ages for the ship to reverse a long way from its berth until it could turn and head off, right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
   I was fascinated by that. Getting closer and closer to the bridge; seeing the steel construction up close; passing underneath with what seemed like only a few metres to spare; waving to the people who were waving to us from their walk on top of the bridge. I took minute-by-minute photos of our progress!
  Then we passed the Opera House and cruised up the length of the harbour, disembarking the pilot at the Heads. We were on our way!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Back From our Sea Princess Cruise

Pacific Island Cruise Itinerary
It's always a bit of a 'back to reality' shock after finishing a cruise. Today I was at the supermarket wishing I was still on board the lovely 'Sea Princess', being treated like a princess! We have just had 14 days of calm seas and mostly blue skies on a Pacific Island cruise which we thoroughly enjoyed.
   Our itinerary began at Sydney then headed northeast across the Coral Sea to Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, part of New Caledonia. Last time we were at Lifou it was cloudy and windy. This time the weather was great so the place looked like a beautiful photo in a tourist brochure.
   Port Vila, Vanuatu was next, then four ports of call in Fiji: Port Denerau on the west coast near Nadi; Suva, the capital; Savusavu on the other big island, Vanua Levu; and the tiny island of Dravuni, south of Suva. Noumea was our last port before returning to Sydney.
   One of the reasons we liked this cruise itinerary was that it had 6 sea days. I really enjoy days at sea - the chance to chill out on a steamer deck chair on the Promenade deck and watch the waves or wander inside to a craft class, cooking demonstration or an interesting lecture. No pressure, no queues. That's when cruising is really relaxing.
   I'll write more about the ports and the 'Sea Princess' over my next few blog posts. So keep cruising along with me!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Observing Sunsets at Sea

You see beautiful sunsets at sea
One of my favourite times of the day onboard ship is sunset, especially in the tropics. I like to go out on deck, on the bow if possible, just before the sun is due to set. I've seen some truly wondrous sights then. The colours of the sky as it flares and reddens into stripes of oranges, pinks and scarlets; the sea as it deepens in colour and reflects the hues in the sky; and the fantastic cloud formations.
   I always take my camera with me to capture the fleeting spectacle.
  One spectacular sunset was when I was on Superstar Virgo, just as we were leaving Port Klang. The sun was an enormous red globe, the red as bright as traffic lights, and it seemed to hang in the same spot for ages before sinking over the horizon.
  This photo I took at sunset somewhere in the South Timor Sea. I'm hoping I'll see lots more beautiful ones as we cruise around the Pacific Islands - not long to go now!