Friday, 28 April 2017

Cruise Ship Destination: Noumea, New Caledonia

Day 10: In Noumea we docked at a container wharf and a free shuttle bus was provided to take passengers into the city. There is no walking around the container terminal. I don't like Noumea, so I never get off the ship when we dock here.
I enjoy the ship life!

Many tours are offered by the cruise ship and on a previous occasion we did do a city tour, which was interesting, and I would recommend it to those visiting for the first time. As I do not get off the ship in Noumea, most of this information is from those who did get off the ship. Local operators offer tours, including the Tcou Tcou hop on hop off tour. Lemon Beach is good for swimming and a $15AUS return boat ride to Duck Island is good for snorkeling. Be aware that everything, I mean really everything cost money. Don't throw your towel on a chair, it will cost you money. There is no shade there, but you can hire an umbrella.
 Noumea is expensive. Coffee and cake cost about $20AUS. 
$20AUS=1600Pacific Francs when we visited in March 2017. There is a free wifi spot at the end of the park in the centre of the city, close to where the free shuttle bus drops passengers off.
In my opinion, Noumea is not tourist friendly. The free shuttle drops one off near the tourist information centre, in which little English is spoken, so it is difficult to get information. I know it is a French port, but one would think that at the information centre there would be at least person who spoke English, especially when an English speaking ship comes in.
 Also be aware of pick-pockets, especially around the information centre, cafes and park. Noumea is not tourist friendly, it is expensive, the French there are unfriendly, bordering on rude, they are unhelpful. The French Polynesians, on the other hand, are the opposite.
Much better staying on board.
My drinking view, while other passengers were lining up to disembark and queue for the shuttle bus. Lovely to sit in peace and quiet.
My drinking view later in the afternoon as passengers are beginning to come aboard, and we hear stories of pick-pockets and over priced goods.
The last few days were spent at sea enjoying the activities of the Voyager of the Seas.
Here are the boys 'dabbing' while Marg and I visit the Next Cruise office.
We found one does not get any special deals if booking the next cruise on the ship, other than low or no deposit - not a biggy for us, so we didn't book on board. We keep an eye out for specials and book when the deal is good.

Cruise Ship Destination: Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

We have been busy since our cruise, and already have the next one booked to look forward too. We enjoy traveling and also being at home with family. Since we like to go away, it means that a lot of things need doing at home, so we have been concentrating of that the past few weeks, but.... we will be off again soon.

Day 9 of the cruise saw us visiting ISLE OF PINES. The island was named by Captain Cook, and although he never came ashore, he obviously noted the number of Norfolk Pine trees growing on island and the many smaller islands in the area. Isle of Pines only has one village and many beautiful swimming areas. So after breakfast we made our way to the tenders to explore.
The ship has three tours operating, ranging from $35.75US to $125.75US. If not doing a tour from the ship, the locals are situated along the beach selling 90min and 2 hour tours for $25AUS. Australian, American and French Pacific Francs are welcome at all the stalls. One can also purchase cooked lobsters, crabs, or fresh coconuts – if one is hungry! A beach dress here costs about $25-$35 AUS, depending on the stall.
 The island became a French penal colony in 1872, not of convicts, but French political refugees. The refugees were not forced to work, but worked for wages. It was the refugees who built most of the roads and buildings on the island. Prior to being declared a penal colony in 1872, the island was known as an island for exiles. In 1871 about 1000 Roman Catholics, fleeing from Mare, lived there, and in 1878 over 700 Kanak insurgents from La Foa were settled there. From 1887 it became a place of punishment with repeat offenders from France being banished there for life.
Walking up the first road from the jetty and following the boutique signs along a dirt road one comes to a colonial building which is now the Gendarmerie (Police Station). The boutique is a local souvenir shop, a little overpriced (compared with Mystery Island). The markets along the beach were a little cheaper – not much, just a little. We followed the dirt track back to the beach that was beside the jetty. 
There is a lot of evidence of the former penal colony with stone walls and barred windows still remaining.
We didn't do any tours, maybe next time. We did spend time on the beach. 
There is lovely beach to the left of the jetty, that most passengers set up and swam at, but there is another more beautiful beach further along on the calmer side. 
Both sides were calm, but the beach area further along was great for snorkeling. 
I did not stay for the snorkeling, instead opting to go back to the ship to enjoy the peace and quiet, while others were enjoying the island.
So this was day 9 of our cruise.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Cruise Ship Destination: Mystery Island, Vanuatu

The thing (or things) I like about cruising is the way one is treated so special. No need to make a bed or cook or clean up after, just do as one pleases. So, after another day at sea, relaxing around the pool, reading, trivia, and practicing our new 'dabbing' move (Peter is still working on it) we arrived at Mystery Island.

We have been to Mystery Island before and absolutely love it.
It is a tiny, tiny island on the southern most tip of Vanuatu. It is a tendering port and the island consists an air strip, and some makeshift huts used on cruise ship days as markets and massage areas. Mystery Island is really named Inyeug Island and the first time we were to go there, way back in 2009, there was nothing but pristine white beaches, and the ship offered beach cricket. 
Today there are many local snorkelling tours and visits to the villages on the bigger island nearby. Tours can be booked on board ship, or with the locals at a cheaper price. We just go to enjoy the cool waters and to have a walk around the markets and along the beautiful beach.
Mystery Island is uninhabited, and comes alive on cruise ship days.
There are local markets, and if one is wanting to buy 'island' type souvenirs, this is the best place to get them. They are not only cheaper than the other islands (including Vila), it also helps the local population who are very poor. In the centre of the market stalls there are hair braiding stalls and local dances. Last time we were here it was a Sunday and the school children were singing. Donation boxes are set up.
There are also a few photo opportunities and for $5 one can take as many photos as one wants.
The water is warm and the snorkelling, even close to the shore, is good. The snorkelling was great, lots of fish of different sizes and colours. I would recommend reef shoes as the sand along the beach is mostly broken shells.The island is small and can easily be walked around. When walking from the jetty, it is a short two minute walk across sand to the other side of the island. There is plenty of room to snorkel or lie on the beach, even plenty of shade. We now take a beach mat, which has been great for relaxing and keeps a lot of the sand out of the towels.
The last time we were here the ship provided a bar near the tendering jetty, but this trip the locals have taken over with limited drinks available for sale. 
Apparently the ship provides the ice to keep the drinks cold.
My lovely sister and her wonderful husband.
Mystery Island is one place I would not get tired of visiting. Remember to take water, snorkel gear, and sun screen - and what ever you want to make it comfortable. Maybe next time I will pack a fold up chair 😊