Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Souvenirs From a South Pacific Cruise

Beach Bags for sale at Port Vila markets, Vanuatu
I think part of the fun of travelling is picking up souvenirs of things you might not get in your own country. An island-style memento to take home as a reminder of your Pacific Island cruise will bring back fond memories of sunshine and sandy beaches when you are in the middle of a cold and frosty winter!
  The laid-back lifestyles of the tropics are reflected in the souvenirs on offer to tourists. When cruise ships visit some of the Pacific Island ports, the local people sell their wares from little stalls set up beside the roads or on the beaches. It is a great chance to chat and laugh with the islanders as you look at what they have for sale.

Souvenirs at a roadside stall in Savusavu, Fiji
Here are some of the things you might choose to buy on your South Pacific cruise.
The doll wears a tapa cloth top

  • Pacific Island clothing: casual clothes are the order of the day. Brightly coloured fabric, often patterned with hibiscus flowers, is used to make shirts, skirts and sarongs as well as beach bags.
  • Jewellery: delicate mother of pearl and other shells, such as the colourful conch and cowrie, are made into bracelets, necklaces, pendants and earrings. In Fiji, I bought an unusual pendant made of strips of shells. In Savusavu, Fiji, and in Tahiti, black pearls which are locally farmed are used to make striking jewellery. 
  • Wood carvings: artisans use locally sourced wood to create a range of wood carvings as souvenirs. Sometimes you'll be able to watch the woodcarvers at work. Their pieces range from tiny to life size, and include paddles, spears, decorated masks and carved turtles. I suppose what you choose will depend on how much space you have in your suitcase!
  • Souvenirs made from leaves: in villages all around the Pacific, pandanus leaves are woven to make a wide range of useful items such as floor mats for houses, and baskets to store and carry provisions. You might like to buy placemats and coasters for the dining table, baskets and bags or even a sun hat made from pandanus leaves.
  • Tapa cloth: something that is unique to the South Pacific is tapa cloth. The inner bark of the paper mulberry tree is harvested, soaked in water and pounded to compress the fibres. This results in a strong, thin, paper-like substance used to make floor mats, placemats, even clothing. The patterns in brown and black on the cream coloured tapa cloth are made from natural dyes. I bought a set of four round placemats in Fiji that are perfect for when we have barbecues.
A word of warning. If your cruise ends in Australia or New Zealand be aware that those countries have very strict bio security laws about importing items made of wood and other plant materials. You must declare them on your customs arrival cards otherwise you'll risk getting an instant fine and the goods will be confiscated.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A Day in Noumea, Port of Call

Looking Down Over Noumea
So you are in Noumea on a cruise ship and wondering what to do for the day. If you want to explore independently there are several options. 

  • You could go on a one hour bus trip (get your ticket from a local operator at the cruise terminal) that is a good way of getting to the best vantage points up in the hills for spectacular wide views. From the lookout of Ouen Toro, the 360° view over the lagoon and islands and out to the Barrier Reef is stunning.
  • Ride on the bright yellow Le Petit Train. This train leaves from the dock and trundles on a sightseeing tour of the city that takes about one and a half hours.
  • Hire a pushbike from outside the cruise terminal and ride along the flat coastal road to one of the safe sandy beaches (Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata) for a few hours swimming and sunbathing. If riding a bike is not your thing, a shuttle bus runs to the beaches from the cruise ship terminal at regular intervals.
  • Visit the aquarium at Anse Vata Beach. All sorts of weird and wonderful examples of tropical marine life, including glow-in-the-dark corals, from the seas around New Caledonia are on display.
Reef Fish at the Noumea Aquarium

  • Catch a local bus out to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre for an understanding of the indigenous Kanak people. The visitor experience starts with an easy 45 minute guided walk, learning about stories of Kanak folklore. Three traditional huts from three regions of Melanesia can be visited, along with displays of masks, sculptures and ritual costumes.
  • Swim and Sunbathe at Sandy Beaches in Noumea
  • And if all the swimming, sightseeing and sunbathing is not enough, you can always go shopping in the stores in the central city, near the cruise terminal, that are stocked with beautiful goods imported from France.
Enjoy your day ashore in Noumea!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Noumea Cruise Port Information

Arriving in Noumea on a Cruise Ship
Before I arrive in a port when we're cruising, I like to find out as much as I can about what to expect on arrival. Here is another post in a series about cruise port information for the Pacific.
   Noumea in New Caledonia is an easy port of call for cruise ship passengers. Ships dock right on the edge of town at the cruise ship terminal. Passengers are serenaded with songs of welcome by a local band as they disembark. That is always a lovely way to start a visit!
  The cruise terminal is well set out for tourists. It has an information centre with free maps; a small post office selling postcards, stamps and exchanging money; tour operators offering sightseeing trips around the city and countryside; a cafe and a handcraft market. Shore tours organised by the cruise company leave from the terminal car park.
  If there are two cruise ships calling at Noumea on the same day, one will dock at the container terminal. Free buses are provided from there to take passengers to the cruise terminal building.   When we were in Noumea the second time on a cruise, our ship docked at the container wharf and I took this photo from there of another ship arriving minutes after us.
   We didn't miss out on a musical welcome though. Musicians gathered on the wharf to greet us with traditional Kanak music.
  From the cruise terminal it is a flat, five-minute, two block walk to the heart of the city - Coconut Square (place des Cocotiers).
Looking Down over Coconut Square and a Cruise Ship Docked at the Cruise Terminal in Noumea

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Cruise Port Information for Fiji - Savusavu and Dravuni Island

Picturesque Savusavu Town, Fiji
Here is some port of call information for two more places in Fiji that cruise ships visit.

Savusavu is the main settlement on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island. The colourful buildings of the little town, dwarfed by the steep volcanic hills behind, are situated on the shores of the deep, semi enclosed bay. International yachtsmen come here to shelter during the Pacific cyclone season, as did the United States Navy during World War II.
Sea Princess in Savusavu Bay, Fiji
Cruise ships anchor in the bay, a short distance from the township, and passengers go by tender to the Marina. Here you'll be serenaded by a local band as you enter the building which is a restored copra shed. From there it is a short wander up the main street, the only street, to the shops. On the days cruise ships visit, locals set up little stalls along both sides of the street to sell their souvenirs.
  Savusavu was interesting to me because it is a service centre for the surrounding district, rather than a tourist town. It was an opportunity to 'people watch' in an authentic setting. I loved the place and would like to go back one day.

Dravuni Island, Fiji
Dravuni Island looks like everyone's dream of a South Pacific paradise. It is a very small, only about a mile long, and you can walk from one side of the island to the other in 5 minutes. From the top of the one hill on the island there is a panoramic view over the other islands in the Kadavu Group, south of Suva.
   You can really chill out on the long sandy beach here. You won't be able to use your cellphone - there is no reception. You won't be able to drive anywhere - there are no roads or cars. There are no shops either, but on cruise ship visit days, the locals have little thatched huts along the edge of the beach and offer massages, hair braiding, souvenirs, cold drinks, and island style clothing for sale.
In the village on Dravuni Island, Fiji
  Please, respect local customs. Cover up your swimsuit and take off your hat when in the village. If you are lucky enough to be invited into someone's home or into the meeting place, take off your shoes, and sit rather than stand when inside a house.
  Oh, one final caution. The beach is lined with coconut palms. Don't sit directly under one. You don't want to be brained by a falling coconut!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Two Cruise Ports of Call in Fiji - Port Denerau and Suva

A cruise around Fiji is an ever-changing vista of beautiful islands clothed in native rainforest, white sand beaches lined with coconut palm trees, and blue seas fringed with the white of waves breaking on the coral reefs. It is a photographer's dream location.
  On Pacific Island cruises that visit Fiji, one or more of these ports of call will be on the itinerary.
Each of them is very different from the other.
A View From Port Denerau

Port Denerau, on the West Coast of Fiji's largest island, Viti Levuis a resort island on reclaimed land. Cruise ships anchor off the coast and tender passengers ashore to the Denerau Marina. There is a modern shopping centre here and shuttle buses operate between the large resorts and spas and the 18 hole golf course.

   The nearest town is Nadi, known for its duty-free shopping. Buses and taxis regularly run between Port Denerau and Nadi. Shops in Nadi are closed on Sundays.

Suva, as Fiji's capital, has most of the facilities you would expect in a modern city. Colonial era buildings and recently constructed department stores, a large movie theatre complex and tiny shops are a colourful mix in the downtown area.
   The food market, always busy and bustling, is worth a visit to see the tropical fruits and flowers and local vegetables. There is also a handicrafts market if you're looking for local souvenirs.
   As a welcome respite from the heat and humidity, visit an air conditioned department store or rest under the shady trees in the parks along the foreshore, cooled by the sea breezes.

A river cuts through the middle of downtown Suva, Fiji

   Cruise ships dock at the wharf on the edge of Suva's CBD. A free shuttle bus takes passengers into the heart of the city's shopping district. It delivers you to the door of a department store where you will be greeted by smiles, singers and traditionally dressed warriors! It is only a flat, 5 minute walk for those not wanting to take the bus.
Warriors Greet Cruise Ship Passengers
But if you walk, you might miss a welcome like this!