Immerse yourself in nature while paddling at your own pace. When you need a break from kayaking, enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool waters.
I'm covering all four of our destinations here as only Noumea was an option.
Kayaking was ok. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have done it. I guess you need to experience these things for yourself to know. I didn't see any independent operators offering this.
Tchou Tchou train - there is and independent operator doing the same thing for half the price. This covers both the train and city tour.
Hop on/hop off bus tour - don't bother. Use the local public transport to get around. It's cheaper and a better way to see the city.
The only tours that I would take would be to Amedee Island, Duck Island or deep sea fishing.
Lemon Bay - overrated. It's nice because it's sheltered from the wind, but the sand is very shelly and gritty, with a nice sprinkling of glass through it. The restaurants are overpriced, and the bars are too. $12 for a pint of Heineken and $6 for a can of Pepsi was over the top.
If I ever go back there on a cruise, I will get on a local bus out to Anse Vata beach and get either a windsurfing or kite surfing lesson. They are so much cheaper than in Australia. Unfortunately, that would be the only thing that is cheaper than Australia. Do not buy food or drink there unless you're very well off for money. Eat and drink on the boat.
Isle Of Pines
We didn't book any shore tours here, we just winged it. Met a nice family on the tender boat who asked us to join them for a tour to make it cheaper. That family talked a tour operator down from $150 to $80. I just about fell over when she asked that, but he had no hesitations in saying yes. The tour was well worth it as we got to see the whole island. The old prison was the highlight for me.
We lounged around on the beach for the next couple of hours. There were people selling grilled half lobster with rice and papaya salad for $30. We thought that was a great deal until somebody told us that they got a whole lobster for the same price from somebody else. There were other selling French pastries for about $3 each they were really nice.
We were going to do a shore excursion to the natural aquarium but it was cancelled because the new mayor said no more. This was understandable because they would sometimes have 5 cruise ships a week going through there, so they want to preserve it. You can still go there, but you have to pay a good price for it. We snorkelled close to the jetty and found it to be pretty decent, without being spectacular. Others said that they found some great snorkelling near the big rock.
Beautiful Island that had some fantastic swimming and snorkelling. On the same side of the island as the boat, we were able to see turtles and snorkel around some reefs which was nice. On the other side of the island was a natural aquarium that cost $15 to enter. I would pay $30 to enter because it was that good. It is also limited to 100 people in the morning, and 100 people in the afternoon.
There was a cave that we were recommended to see because you could go swimming in there. I thought this was a bit overrated (maybe that's because of my expectations).
There were local curries, avocadoes and coconuts on offer which were at a decent price. The best part, IMO, was that at every attraction on the island were drinks. $3 for a soft drink and $4 for a beer.
A small island that takes no time at all to walk around. on the opposite side to the boat is a reef that had some great snorkelling. We found the trick was to not fight the current and let it take you from one end to the other (where you end up on the beach) and do it all over again.
We took a snorkelling tour where we were able to see turtles. They say to keep up with your guide, but they're like Olympic swimmers. We saw turtles and it was well worth it. I think that was about $25 each.
Reef shoes definitely required
The only food on offer here was fresh coconuts. The ship sent drinks out for purchase.
Provider: Royal Caribbean International