We chose to cruise because my wife and I have never been to this part of the world (French Polynesia, American Samoa, New Caledonia) and we wanted to see Tahiti & Bora Bora, especially (Tahiti because of its history of the Bounty mutiny).
About NCL: We picked Norwegian Cruise Lines because of our past cruising wonderful experiences with NCL (Alaska & Hawai'i).
Because of the priority escorting and boarding (penthouse suite), both embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly, even on the island excursion trips we were escorted to avoid the long lines.
Our penthouse suite was located on the forward part of the ship under the bridge and from our balcony we had a beautiful view of everything. The suite was quite smaller than our mid-ship penthouse suite in the Pride of Hawai'i, but we had excellent service from our butler and steward and dining staff in Moderno (for penthouse & haven passengers) & most of the specialty restaurants.
The entrance door to our cabin is away from the common hallway/passageway of the other passengers, being located on the forward part of the ship. Very quiet and isolated from the traffic.
There is a wide-enough hallway, a large closet that can be opened on both front and back (quite a witty design for easy access), a mini-bar with a glass-covered cabinet stocked with nice plates, saucers, eating utensils, cloth napkins, drinking and wine glasses, a fridge, an espresso maker with organic tea, coffee, sugar, etc. that is twice-daily serviced by our butler.
There is a comfy king-sized bed with a large mirror (same size as the bed) over the headboard, living and dining areas with comfortable furniture, a wide writing desk with many drawers, a vanity with a large mirror and drawers under and to the side (hidden) and a good-sized dressing area; in the armoire are two separate small safes to store valuables (wow!) and many drawers.
Beautiful Paradise. Very nice and friendly and relaxed native inhabitants.
Only drawback are that prices there are extremely high. For example, a single, small plastic flower hair clip cost $10 American dollars.
Lovely tour of the island. Beautiful sights.
My husband and I decided to do an adventure by ourselves by walking around the town.
A picturesque, tiny island with quaint, little stores, warm, welcoming, and friendly natives and inhabitants.
The ocean is so clean, so clear, so inviting, so beautiful. A perfect vacation place to get away from stressful NYC metro. area.
Because Samoa is an American territory, we felt safe there, so much so that we are planning to go make another trip there (by plane, this time) and purchase a vacation home.
There was a free shuttle bus from the port of call to downtown Lautoka, Fiji, a short distance.
Although the island is tiny and surrounded with astounding views of the mountains all around it with the ocean water so clear and so blue-green-emerald in hue, the small city of Lautoka is a bit sad--old-looking 1940s' style buildings, a bit dirty, there were some beggars and much soliciting from the locals for taxis, excursions, etc. The locals, though, were not aggressive and understood the word "No" and "No, Thank You."
Many of the locals speak French, English, and their native Fijian tongue.
When walking the streets of Lautoka, we saw people smiling at us and at each other, families holding hands, children so well-behaved and walking quietly beside their parents holding their hands. The parents clearly love their children and are protective of them. A wonderful sight to behold, something that is rarely seen in the northeastern US.
Every Fijian that we met was kind, soft-spoken, warm and friendly.
We would like to go and visit Lautoka again.
My husband and I did another walk and explored Suva by ourselves.
We found that Suva, Fiji is a little more developed than Lautoka, Fiji and has newer-looking commercial and apartment/condo buildings.
Upon walking we happened to have turned onto a street that was away from the bustling little city, a street that went uphill. A few hundred meters from the crowded city is an old, tiny but charming Roman Catholic cathedral built perhaps a few centuries ago by Spanish missionaries. Outside is a grotto and a few steps away are the beautiful winding staircases, one on each side of the cathedral that leads to the main church behind a huge balcony. It was beautiful inside, so lovely, so inviting, so cool with the massive arched doors all open on both sides of the church. The day was exceedingly hot, but inside was cool and peaceful. We attended mass that was already in session. The church attendants, mostly native Fijians, sang beautifully and following the mass we met the pastor, an octogenarian who is Scottish and fluent in Fijian, French, Italian, Spanish, English, and Japanese! A gentle and kind man, with a quick wit and sense of humor, greeting my husband as we were exiting through the main back doors with a simple, "Italiano!" (for my husband looks and is Italian, born and lived in Italy).
Everyone that we met in Suva--strangers, store keepers, the church pastor and parishioners--was warm, friendly, and relaxed. We love Suva.
Port Vila, Vanuatu is the BEST port of them all in my opinion.
Beautiful town surrounded by breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and other islands, clean and fresh air, clear blue-green-aquamarine-colored ocean.
When we got off the port my husband and I walked a short distance through a winding path with tents filled with merchandise and souvenirs and their vendors. Very colorful, interesting, lots of beautiful handmade things to buy for souvenirs. Once we exited, we decided to take the water taxi, rather than taking the bus or walking to town. We made the best choice, for the ride on the open water taxi (it was really a medium-sized canoe with a single motor engine) was wonderful and the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. Camera-worthy all the way.
Port Vila is a beautiful, tiny town filled with quaint and colorful little shops overflowing with goods and merchandise. Beautiful souvenirs, reasonable prices. Many places to eat. There is even a Filipino restaurant serving authentic native dishes. Cooked visibly. Cooks and sellers wore gloves. Hygienic. Delicious food.
Port Vila is peopled with wonderful, warm, and friendly natives, so relaxed and so Happy (!), even if they have little possessions. The children talk and play well with other children and are respectful towards adults. Every one of the natives that we met is warm, friendly and wore an easy and sincere smile to us tourists.
When we got back to the ship later that day, we were out in our balcony located in the forward section (10500) of the ship. From the distance, on the dock where the water taxis were and have since left and now empty with people because our ship was soon to depart, I saw a funny but heartwarming scene: a lone male islander (one of the water taxi "drivers", was stretched supinely, asleep on top of the staircase wall that leads down to the water taxis. The wall looked quite uncomfortable for it was made of stone, yet the man was clearly deep in slumber on his back with his hands clasped over his chest and a hat over his face. Then came along two young boys--about 7 or 8 years in age. Clearly with mischief in their minds, one picked up a long stick and gently tapped the sleeping man's hat, while the other was dropping leaves taken from the bushes nearby onto the man's bare lower legs. At first the sleeping man twitched one leg, then the other. Still asleep. The boys continued their mischief for a few minutes. Finally, the man was awakened, took off his hat, and still lying on his back admonished the two boys with his finger. He did not yell, nor did he look angry. He went back and continued his nap. The young boys remained as they were, but were more well-behaved, talking nicely to each other. A few minutes later, the man finally got up and walked along with the two boys who took each of his hand, to a waiting van with a woman (perhaps his wife) in the driver seat. The woman lovingly looked at the man, the man leaned over and kissed her. The boys smiled and got inside the van as well and they drove off, happy.
Port Vila, Vanuatu is an underdeveloped country. However, its people are Happy and content, despite 75% living in rural areas and living off the land and with little possessions. The Vanuatu natives are considered the happiest in the world, according to a TV documentary shown in the ship. We who live in affluence and developed countries can learn from their example of simple style of living.
Noumea, Nouvelle Caledonie looks like a tiny example of the French Riviera with its harbors filled with yachts.
Everything is extremely pricey, more expensive than NYC, perhaps because they're imported, mostly from France. Delicious-looking but very expensive cheeses, chocolates, pastries, etc. fill the store shelves, especially the "Super Marche' ", that was already beautifully decorated with lively Christmas trees and other Holiday decors.
The Noumeans mainly speak French but could speak a little English. They wear a ready and warm smile on their faces and seem quite happy.
My husband and I decided not to take an excursion, for it was a short stay in Lifou. The ship arrived at about 8 a.m. and all aboard time was 3:30 p.m.--a rather tight schedule.
Lifou, Nouvelle Caledonie is mostly beach area. Perfect for sunbathers.
The ship was docked away from the island, away from the reefs, thus, we took a tender boat from the Jewel to Lifou.
Many places to see when you walk up a long winding but slight slope (such as a big open market where in it are individual tables filled with souvenirs; various foods and drinks cooked and made in the premises; hair braiding; even a money exchange table out in the open attended by three elderly female government officials.
There is a bus that runs every half hour that takes you to town (a 45-minute ride).
On top of the hill is the most beautiful and picturesque view of the ocean, palm trees, the beach, the docks and the NCL Jewel in the background. Breathtaking!