Pacific Treasures on the Volendam: Volendam Cruise Review by 1travelfan
Overall Member Rating
Pacific Treasures on the Volendam
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Sydney (Australia)
Noumea, New Caledonia: This is a real city. There are buses and taxis and lots of things to see and do. We skipped the ship's shore excursion, because there wasn't one that included the two things we wanted to do: see the Aquarium and visit the Tjibaou Cultural Center (designed by Renzo Piano). This was a short port stop (from 11-6), but we had time to go to both places. Took the city bus from city center to the aquarium (about $2 per person in local currency only); visited the aquarium, which is small, but has a nice selection of local exotic species; took the bus back to the city center (because there is not bus that goes from there to the Cultural Center); then, because of time constraints, took a cab from the city center to the Cultural Center (about $20). We had arranged to join a 2:30 English speaking tour of the Cultural Center (please see my reviews on TripAdvisor under Travelfan). Took the last bus (at 4p.m.) from the Cultural Center back to the city center and made it in plenty of time. Think the Cultural Center is a must-see.Contact G.KAOUA@adck.nc to find out about times and dates of English language tours.
Port Vila, Vanuatu: Did the 7 hour around-the-island safari. Interesting local village ceremonies presented, including actual fire-walking. Don't expect air conditioning in the vans. Some were, some weren't. Luck of the draw. But village visits were very good, and the villagers offer the ceremonies as ways to help protect their heritage. Also good introduction to the role some of these islands played during WWII.
Luganville, Vanuata: Did the "Canoe the RiRi River" excursion. Actual dugout. Tree trunk that had been scooped out (and not artistically, but efficiently). Planks put on top and locals paddle. Must have good balance to even sit on the planks properly. A lot of fun. The water is extraordinary. Crystal clear and blue, blue, blue. Our paddler took us to the Blue Hole, where we got to jump (or climb down stairs) to get into the water and swim. Like out of a movie gorgeous. Not terribly well organized in that we had about 30 minutes in the water, and then were told to get ready to leave. Unfortunately, after paddling back to the put-in, we had to wait another 45 minutes for the vans to return. Either they will work on this or not. Getting impatient in the islands is non-productive.
Lautoka, Fiji: Took the tour that went to a kava ceremony (involving liquid that in its true form can be inebriating, but not in the form they offer to the tourists), please dancing by men and women. Then the visit to the orchid garden, which was beautiful, and only slightly marred by the fact that it was raining a lot. (Keeps everything green and gorgeous).
The beach ports were also very special. Strongly recommend that if you have "water shoes", you wear them, so you can walk around without worrying about getting your feet wet. They also make it much easier to march into the surf to go exploring. Some of the beaches were more for swimming and some for snorkeling. Some you could walk in and see the fish swimming around your feet (Ile des Pins). Dravuni was also extraordinary. If you like beaches at all, you will not want to get out of the water. Just bring your sunscreen (the sun is really strong down here) and some insect repellent for the no-seeums.Don't be surprised if local children and dogs come to sit with you. No one asks for anything, they are just curious. By the way, this is the first trip we have been on in a long time where there were no beggars. Even the beach vendors don't bother you. They have booths near the beach. You want to look at their stuff, fine. If not, just keep going. No pressure. Nothing uncomfortable. Less