Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Noumea Port of Call

Kanak welcome for Sea Princess
After our stop at Dravuni Island, we left Fiji behind and made a south-westerly course to Noumea. A day at sea, then we docked on a clear, blue sky morning at Noumea's shipping port. We had a good view of P&O's 'Pacific Jewel' as she docked also, at the cruise terminal.
   A troupe of musicians, local Kanak people in traditional costume, was on the quayside to welcome us to New Caledonia.
Coconut Square, Noumea
   Free shuttle buses took us to the cruise terminal and from there it was only a two block, flat walk into the centre of town, Coconut Square. I was interested in seeing the shops this time, especially ones that sold imported fashion clothing and accessories from France. But I'm afraid it was look but don't buy - the prices were too high for my budget!
   We cast off at 5.30 p.m. and headed out of the harbour for our final two days - across the Coral Sea, then the Tasman Sea to end the cruise where we began - Sydney, Australia.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

At Dravuni Island, Fiji

Dravuni Island is tiny in Fiji
The village on Dravuni Island
To the 150 or so natives of Dravuni Island, it must seem like an alien invasion every time a cruise ship calls - 2000 passengers descending on their village! But they put out the welcome banner and welcome us to the tiny island, south of Suva.
   The village looks very colourful. Sarongs that are for sale are strung on lines between the coconut palms that line the sandy beach.  Villagers have erected little thatched roof huts along the edge of the sand and from these they offer cold drinks, souvenirs, massages and hair braiding.
   It takes only 5 minutes or so to walk to the other side of the island where the snorkelling is good. Or you can take a bit longer and climb the one and only hill for a panoramic view out to the other islands in the Kadavu Group.
   Dravuni Island is visited by Princess and P&O cruise ships. It is a place with no cellphone coverage, no cars, no shops, no organised shore tours. Beautiful and peaceful, it is a place to chill out on the golden sands, swim in the warm tropical seas and enjoy this quintessential South Pacific island experience!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cruise to Savusavu in Fiji

Savusavu town in Fiji
Savusavu is a little town on the edge of a beautiful harbour on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. 'Sea Princess' anchored just offshore and we tendered in to the port building, an historic copra shed that has been refurbished and now houses a cafe and shops. A local band serenaded us with ukuleles and beaming smiles.
   The township hugs the shoreline of the bay with steep hills covered in rainforest behind it. You can see  steam rising from the volcanic hot springs behind some of the buildings. Apparently some of the local people boil their food in the hot pools.
   Savusavu Bay is well known to the yachting fraternity as a safe place to stay during the South Pacific cyclone season. The waters are deep and very sheltered, and with the colourful buildings in the township, - it certainly is a picturesque spot.
The Copra Shed Marina, Savusavu
   Souvenir sellers were out in force with the arrival of cruise ship passengers. They had erected little tented shelters along both sides of the main road ( the only road!) and laid out their souvenirs for us to browse.
   I really enjoyed our day there. It was very low key, absorbing the friendly, laid-back atmosphere and people watching. I did buy a mother-of-pearl shell necklace but the grass skirts and coconut shell bras on offer just weren't quite me!!!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Suva, Another Fiji Port of Call

Local band in Suva
Wherever we went in Fiji we were welcomed with music. These happy chappies sang for us in Suva.
  'Sea Princess' docked at the waterfront and a free shuttle bus took us into the heart of the town. It was really only a five-minute walk but there was an extremely busy bus station between the ship and the shops so it was more convenient to take the shuttle. And a little cooler; the temperature was in the early 30s and it was very humid.
   I hadn't been to Suva for many years. Now there is a big movie theatre complex and modern department stores as well as an interesting variety of little shops. I have never seen, in one place, so many stores selling mobile phones as I did in Suva!
  Walking along the main street, Victoria Parade, we saw the beautiful colonial building of the Grand Pacific Hotel. This is where the Queen stays when she comes to Fiji as do visiting prime ministers and presidents of other countries.
Suva as seen from the cruise ship
   We found the people very friendly. Many would call out 'Bula, hello', to us as they passed us on the street. That attitude plus the beautiful weather made us appreciate Suva as a cruise port of call.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Port Denarau, Fiji, Cruise Port of Call

Port Denarau, Fiji, seen from the cruise ship
Our first stop in Fiji on this cruise was at Port Denarau. As you can see from the photo, the weather was against us. It made the tender ride ashore to the Denarau Marina even longer than usual; 45 minutes of rocking and rolling, bucking and twisting on a little boat. Seasick-inducing! We decided not to go ashore.
   Port Denarau is a large area of reclaimed land. Six huge resorts, a golf course and a shopping complex have been built there. A shuttle bus goes between the resorts.
  A couple from our dinner table took a shore tour to the Shangri-La Resort and Spa. A Fijian cultural show and traditional lovo, meal cooked in the ground, were the drawcards for them. Because it was Sunday, the advertised fire-walking ceremony did not go ahead for religious reasons. Instead, a thrilling performance of war dances and fire dances was held. Men holding long batons, flaming at each end, danced and did acrobatics while twirling the fiery poles. The authentic, pounding rhythms of the drums added to the spectacle.
  Once all passengers were safely back on board, 'Sea Princess' headed towards Suva, the capital of Fiji. More on that next time!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Vibrant Port Vila

The handicraft market at Port Vila, Vanuatu
After the peace of Lifou, it was a bit of a shock to encounter a traffic jam on a Pacific island. Lini Highway, the main road of Port Vila, was chock a block with cars, utes and minivans. But there was no road rage. Everyone seemed to be good natured and smiling, courteously stopping to let bewildered cruise ship passengers cross the road.
  You can walk the main street of Port Vila in about 5 minutes, but why would you want to? Take your time to stroll - there is so much to observe in this colourful town.
   According to the tourist brochures, the people of Vanuatu are among the friendliest in the world. I enjoyed chatting to the stallholders at the markets, the shop assistants in the duty-free stores went out of their ways to be helpful and the staff at the cafe we went to were very friendly.
  After the hustle and bustle of the main street, we walked along the waterfront and browsed around the market there in the thatched roof huts. If you like colourful beachwear, sarongs, and bags, this is the place to get them. 
   It was a little cooler and quieter on the shore of the harbour. The water was calm and there was a faint breeze that was pleasant. In the distance we could see our ship at dock, a sightseeing helicopter was taking off and landing from a pontoon, and a little ferryboat was transporting people to the resort island of Iririki that lies just offshore.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fruit Carving - Fantastic!

Carved fruit with a Japanese theme
I love this! It is the most exquisite example of fruit carving I've seen. One lunchtime on 'Sea Princess' there was a Japanese themed meal. This carving graced the sushi display. Fantastic!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

More on the Lifou Shore Tour: How to Cook Bounga

Drinking coconuts on Lifou
While in the village of Hnathalo on Lifou we were given refreshments by several young women who cut the tops off small coconuts and handed us each one. The coconut milk was a cool, refreshing drink.

Cooking bounga under hot stones
Then we were treated to a cooking lesson in how to cook bounga, a Melanesian meal. Older women prepared the food while our guide explained the method to us. Small yams, taro, chicken pieces, and slices of papaya were doused in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves. This bundle was then tied with a fiber string, made from the leaves of a nearby tree.
Wet leaves piled on top to cook bounga
   They put the bounga 'parcel' in the pit, an area of cleared ground where a fire had been burning. The women used bent lengths of sticks as tongs to pile hot stones on top. Then they covered it with wet green leaves, and a sack. One lucky lady had the hardest task - shovelling dirt over this pile so it was completely covered and no smoke could escape. The bounga  would take one hour to cook.
   Meanwhile, they had pre-cooked another meal and handed round plates of the chicken and vegetables for us to try. It tasted slightly smoky, like food cooked in a Maori hangi, but with a coconut flavoured twist.