Ingrid and I decided that we wanted to celebrate our retirement by taking a trip to Australia. And instead of flying the 25 plus hours one way we decided to take a slow boat down. We also decided that we would like to take one of the re-positioning ships from the Alaska cruises. This meant a late September departure. We really only had 2 ships to choose from and both were from the Holland America Line. We were happy with that because we thoroughly enjoyed our previous Holland America trip. The decision now was which ship. We decided on the Oosterdam over the Veendam because it was going to more exotic islands and because their balconies offered us plexiglass instead of a solid wall...this might have changed but I couldn't find out that it had. Our trip started a little rough as we had to spend an extra night in Seattle to wait out the remnants of a Pacific storm. Fortunately we did because once we entered into the Pacific Ocean the next night we got into some rough seas. We then head down the coast to Los Angeles. This port was a necessary evil because we had to pick up roughly 700 additional passengers there who now have been waiting for an additional day. We ended up hiking around the port (San Pedro) on a beautiful sunny day. It was alright but the initial port was suppose to be Long Beach and we had arranged to do some biking there. Not sure why the location was changed but it happened several months prior so it wasn't as if we didn't get lots of notification. After LA we spent 5 days sailing to Hawaii...Pacific Ocean is a deep (5000 + metres average) and a very lonely place (not a ship or a whale or a dolphin to see just some flying fish).
We arrived in Hawaii to a new port of call Lahaina, Maui. The other port (Hilo) had to be cancelled because we were running a day late. We ended up tendering into Lahaina. This was a very pretty port. The only complaint we had here was that a group that was with a private tour company got to tender in before the rest of us. This made for a long wait until we got into port. We spent the balance of morning walking around until our tour (through Holland America) was ready to go. This was a wonderful tour across the island to a walk in the rain forest and up to a couple of small waterfalls. We got to go for a couple of refreshing swims. Definitely high on my approval list.
The next day we arrived in Honolulu. Our visit there was cut in half (down from 2 days originally) because of the late start. Honolulu is a pretty city if you like big cities. We don't but because of the missed day we missed our private tour into the countryside. (still trying to get my money back) Ingrid and I hiked to Waikiki Beach and the to Diamond Head. Both were very pretty and must see but both were extremely busy. The swim at Waikiki was refreshing but it took us forever to find a spot for our towels. Also, too many homeless people in Honolulu which made us extra cautious when we walked. They didn't bother us but just made us very aware of our surroundings.
We then sailed for Samoa. This took us 5 days including crossing the equator and the international dateline. Pacific Ocean is a deep (5000 + metres average) and a very lonely place (not a ship or a whale or a dolphin to see just some flying fish). Samoa was a wonderful country. We set up our own private tour only to be forgotten about and left on the pier by our tour operator (lesson learned here is to contact them a couple of days before to ensure your not forgotten). Fortunately there were lots of operators to choose from. We managed to get one to do the exact same route around the island as I had initially planned. We circled the island and saw several beautiful waterfalls, lovely villages and friendly people. We snorkeled on the south side of the island. The snorkeling was okay but you could see that it suffered from a storm that hit the area in 2010.
After Samoa we sailed for the Fijian Island of Dravuni. When we arrived the winds were high and I give kudos to the ships crew for still tendering us in. This was a small island beautiful island. Once we found the spot the snorkeling was fantastic. (if you are facing shore from the tender dock go right as far as you can - till the end of the beach). The hike up the hill is worth the view as well and is an easy hike.
Next up was Suva, Fiji. This was an okay stop. Suva is a very busy city. We went on a Holland America organized hike into a nearby national park. Very much worth it. Saw a number of waterfalls and interesting vegetation. Fijians are very friendly. Watch out for some of the aggressive vendors near the port.
Next up was Vanuatu. Beautiful island, wonderful people. We organized a private tour with Evergreen Tours to take us on an Around the Island tour. What a wonderful tour company and a wonderful trip. Ingrid suggested to them that we do the trip backwards. This was because the 1st stop was going to be at a beach for snorkeling. They agreed and thought it was a great idea because the rest of the organized tours were going that way. Off we went. We visited Melee Falls, a neat little World War 2 museum, had a great lunch, did some wonderful snorkeling and saw a it of the city. We even got back in time to shop at the market set up at the port. Just one word of caution. When landing be prepared to walk through a gallant of taxi drivers willing to take you anywhere.
We then went to New Caledonia where we visited 3 islands. The 1st up was Lifou. This island had the best snorkeling of all. You go for a short walk across a little peninsula to the snorkeling location. There is no beach only a staircase to go down to the water. The locals recently fixed up the staircase and charge $10.00 American per person for the day to snorkel. This was very recent and caught us by surprise. Having said this the location was excellent, the money worth it and everything about it was well organized. To my disappointment there was a passenger that refused to pay and just walked past the locals and went down the staircase and went snorkeling. After snorkeling we hiked up to a pretty little church (must see) over looking the bay. The locals had a market set up at the tender port with food and lots of items for sail.
Onto Noumea, New Caledonia. Here I arranged another private tour with Gateaway Tours to take us to the Blue River National Park. Again, what a wonderful tour. Alfred, the tour guide and owner did an excellent job. Blue River Park is a must see. It is as modern as any of our national parks. Alfred also put on an excellent spread for lunch including a couple of bottles of red and white wine. New Caledonia is as modern as you can get. France has spent a lot of money on this territory.
Our last stop was Isle des Pins. Great snorkeling, great hiking (go for the hill just a couple of kilometres from the tender port. The climb is worth the view. This climb is not for everyone. You need relatively good shoes and a strong heart. The couple of Holland America tours offered was worth the money. One toured the island and another went to a small lagoon to snorkel.
27 days in these few words does not do the trip justice. Great trip, great ship, great crew, and met many wonderful people