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At sea – New Caledonia to New Zealand

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

New Caledonia to New Zealand route map
New Caledonia to New Zealand route map

Oct 18, 2010 – Monday – Volendam at sea, enroute to Bay of Islands, New Zealand

I go to the Rotterdam Dining Room for breakfast this morning. They serve complimentary cappuccino with breakfast, and I have a nicely-cooked Spanish omelette. The woman beside me is from Sarnia, Ontario, and reveals she was the female “volunteer” from the audience who was chosen to hula while the Polynesian male dancers gyrated around her at yesterday evening’s folkloric performance in Noumea. She seems to be quite pleased with her experience.

Shipbuilding competition - Raftea from Nanaimo succeeds in the payload test
Shipbuilding competition – Raftea from Nanaimo succeeds in the payload test

The shipbuilding competition among the passengers winds up today. This is a contest where passengers scrounge materials to build a model ship, which must pass seaworthiness tests in the pool. A New Zealand teams wins, but a Canadian team is in the running too.

Since this is a day at sea, I attend two presentations. The first one is “Things to See & Do in New Zealand”, presented by the onboard travel guide, Susan. Most of what she had to say is stuff I already know, however her handout will be useful, since it gives us a list to work on while we have the rental car in New Zealand. The second presentation is by Donna Giesler, The Star Lady titled “Constellations of the Zodiac”. Donna does a pretty good job of humouring those in the audience who believe in astrology, while also highlighting the astronomical facts about the constellations, some of which are included in the astrological Zodiac. This is her last lecture for this cruise.

We go for dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room this evening. We are seated at a table for six with an Australian couple. They regale us with their experiences as they toured across Canada by rail & rental car, and we generally get along famously. The ship is rolling the most we have experienced during the whole voyage, despite the winds not being the strongest. The wind is on our bow, and the sea swells are the largest and have a long period so the ship plunges down into the big troughs between the waves. The ship’s clocks turn forward one hour tomorrow morning, so we lose another hour after gaining all those hours as we sailed westward across the Pacific earlier in the cruise.

Oct 19, 2010 – Tuesday – Volendam at sea, enroute to Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Jimmy, the Cruise Director emcees “Time to Say Goodbye” in the show lounge: a show put on for everyone who is departing the ship in Auckland. He gives us lots of useful information, and ends the show with staff from all the departments coming on stage for a group farewell song – a very nice ending to this cruise.

Goodbye Volendam 2010 from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

I have a curry lunch in the Lido and eat on the Sea View pool deck in the shade. It was cool but not cold, and the sky is clear and sunny. I have one last swim in the pool. The ship is rolling quite a bit today, so the water in the pool is sloshing around a great deal, however I have the pool to myself.

It is formal dress tonight. After we have before dinner drinks in my cabin, we go to the Rotterdam Dining Room and are seated with an elderly couple: Celeste and John from California. They are both genuine characters and have lots of stories to tell – we all have a good time. They lived in northern Mexico for twenty years, but moved to California after John’s health deteriorated.

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Noumea, New Caledonia

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 17, 2010 – Sunday – Noumea, Grand Terre, New Caledonia

Welcoming dance troupe on the dock at Noumea
Welcoming dance troupe on the dock at Noumea

We arrive in port on time this morning at 8am and are serenaded by a local dance troupe performing Polynesian dances on the dock. Noumea is a large, and well developed city, however since it is Sunday, most stores are closed. “Casino”, the supermarket across the street from where we are docked is open until noon, which according to my friends who lived in France is “very French”, since Sunday afternoon is reserved for time with family. The prices in the supermarket are as I expected: about three times higher than anywhere else for foreign imported goods, and reasonable prices for local goods and those items imported from France. New Caledonia is a French colony.

I quickly decide during our little excursion to the market this morning that it is too hot to bother with any tours. I return to the ship and have a swim in the Sea View pool. There is lemonade being served poolside, so I soon cool down. I go out on the Promenade deck and sit in a lounge chair in the shade and work on my journal and photos – watching the world go by. There are huge numbers of sailboats moored in the harbour…almost to the point of it being crowded. People in power boats scoot alongside our ship, waving hello before taking off again

A local dance troupe Temonoroa Dance Group put on a terrific show of Polynesian dancing in the show lounge aboard ship this evening. They get some audience participation going, with both the men and women in the audience appearing on stage. The Volendam departs right after the show, once the troupe goes ashore with all their costumes and gear. She creeps out of the harbour dead slow past all the sailboats that are moored for the night.

Please note, the photos below are from two cruises, this one in 2010 aboard the Volendam, and a followup Solar Eclipse cruise in 2012 aboard the Paul Gauguin.

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Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 16, 2010 – Saturday – Kotu, Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

We cruise by the southern tip of La Grande Terre, the largest island in New Caledonia this morning on our way to Ile des Pins. Volendam anchors in the bay by the little town of Kotu at noon. The scenery is strikingly beautiful, with the Araucaria pine trees this island is known for visible all around the bay. The water is a beautiful tropical blue colour; the weather is warm without being too hot – there are a few clouds in the otherwise sunny sky. We are at anchor from noon to 8pm this evening, so we have lots of time to go ashore.

My friends and I choose to stay onboard until later in the day when it is cooler and the crowds have dissipated somewhat. It’s nice to just sit up on the Lido deck, have some lunch while sipping on a Beck’s beer, and watch the beautiful scenery all around us. We take a tender ashore around 4pm and explore the two gorgeous white sand beaches that are on Baie de Kuto and Baie de Kanamera. It is an easy five minute walk between the two beaches under the shade of some lovely trees. Kids and tourists play in the water, and people tell me there is some good snorkelling out by the rocks in Baie de Kanamera.

I’m not swimming today, since I did so much swimming and snorkelling yesterday. I just sit in the shade of the trees drinking in the magic of this beautiful island. Its idyllic reputation is well deserved. We wait on the beach at Baie de Kuto to watch the sun set over the Volendam before taking a late tender back to the ship. We set sail on schedule at 8pm, and slowly cruise until our morning arrival in Noumea.

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Port Vila, Vanuatu

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 15, 2010 – Friday – Port Vila, Vanuatu

It is cloudy again today in Vanuatu as we pull into the dock in Port Vila right on time. I take another shore excursion this morning to Paradise Cove, which is only a short distance on a motor sailboat from the main town. The underwater wildlife in this area is nothing short of amazing. I see more varieties of fish, coral, and other creatures in the hour and a half we have to snorkel than all my other snorkelling adventures combined. Too bad my underwater camera is hooped; however I get a copy of someone else’s underwater photos, so at least I have a record of what I saw.

  • Boarding the Paradise Cove sailboat
    Boarding the Paradise Cove sailboat
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish
    Tropical fish
  • Coral
    Coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Coral
    Coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Captain Nemo type reef fish
    Captain Nemo type reef fish
  • Captain Nemo type reef fish
    Captain Nemo type reef fish
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Tropical fish & coral
    Tropical fish & coral
  • Feeding frenzie
    Feeding frenzie
  • Feeding frenzie
    Feeding frenzie
  • Our two guides
    Our two guides
  • Viewing underwater through windows in the boat's hull
    Viewing underwater through windows in the boat’s hull
  • Clam or sea slug
    Clam or sea slug
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish and coral
    Tropical fish and coral
  • Tropical fish being fed bread
    Tropical fish being fed bread
  • Tropical fish being fed bread
    Tropical fish being fed bread
  • Very colourful sea slug
    Very colourful sea slug
  • Yellow, black & white striped tropical fish
    Yellow, black & white striped tropical fish
  • Yellow, black & white striped tropical fish
    Yellow, black & white striped tropical fish
  • Column of yellow coral
    Column of yellow coral
  • Head of coral
    Head of coral

Port Vila is much more prosperous than Luganville, and is such a pretty location, with the harbour surrounded by a series of small islands. There are lots of upscale resorts and homes built around the harbour, and some very exotic yachts are to be found in this harbour. As with yesterday, it is nice to return to the comforts aboard ship after our shore excursion. Hot showers, good food, air conditioning, clean surroundings, and warm greetings from all the staff make for such a welcoming home-away-from-home.

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Luganville, Vanuatu

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 14, 2010 – Thursday – Luganville, Vanuatu

I go on my first shore excursion this morning. We are driven to a nice private beach, however it is pouring rain. I go snorkelling anyway, as do most of the other people…after all, how wet can you get? I take some photos of a small WW II aircraft that is sitting on the bottom just offshore in a couple of metres of water. The old WW II US airfield is only a short distance away, so obviously the pilot didn’t make it! After taking a few photos, my underwater camera packs it in. I try to get it going again, but no joy.

Our next stop is a Blue Hole, which is an upwelling of fresh water over limestone. This causes dramatically blue coloured water. Several in our group go swimming, however I don’t bother since it is raining again, and the water is not too warm. We drive past the nearby abandoned WWII US airfield, which can still be picked out despite being seriously overgrown.

We drive through Luganville on our way back to the ship. This is not a particularly nice looking place…in fact it is a rather run down little one street town. The ship is docked at an industrial wharf which is covered in oil. The passengers tramp all this gooey stuff throughout the ship. The poor cleaning staff spend days cleaning the carpets aboard the ship!

My friends and I go casual for dinner this evening aboard ship, dining at the Lido buffet restaurant. I have a New Zealand salmon dish that is really nice – tartar sauce, veggies, and rice complete the meal.

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Cruising from Fiji to Vanuatu

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 13, 2010 – Wednesday – Volendam at sea, enroute from Fiji to Luganville, Vanuatu

It looks like the North Pacific outside: grey clouds down to the deck, rough seas, and drizzle. Of course, step outside on the Promenade Deck and the warmth and humidity immediately hit you in the face. The next four days will be interesting, since we have four ports of call starting tomorrow with Luganville, Vanuatu. We then stop in Port Vila, Vanuatu and two stops in New Caledonia.

Fiji to New Caledonia route map
Fiji to New Caledonia route map
JoeTourist: Food &emdash; Flambe Seafood Skewer in Pinnacle Grill

My friends and I go to the Pinnacle Grill this evening to celebrate my birthday. I have the Seafood Skewer and Cherries Jubilee for dessert. Both are flambéed at the table, which is pretty special. It was a nice way to celebrate my birthday – aboard ship and at sea in the South Pacific!

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Dravuni Island, Fiji Islands

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 12, 2010 – Tuesday – Dravuni Island, Fiji Islands

Joe in the shade on the Dravuni Island beach
Joe in the shade on the Dravuni Island beach

I am awoken by the anchor chain being released this morning around 7am. This is a built in alarm clock for our arrival at an anchorage since I have a cabin in the bow! I go for a quick breakfast in the Lido, and they we take a tender ashore to Dravuni Island. This island is really idyllic: the broad sandy beach is several kilometres long, there are palm trees along the shore, and the villagers have their houses just set back from the beach under the palm trees. There is a walking trail between the houses and the beach, which is a common setup I remember from other tropical countries I’ve visited.

I swim out about 50 metres wearing my snorkel gear and find a large brain coral that has grown to within a meter of the surface. There are lots of small fish swimming around it, however the water is a bit cloudy, since there were some ocean swells this morning. I take some underwater photos of the coral. The Dravuni villagers offer all sorts of goods and services, including sweet (green) coconut milk, snacks, cold drinks, massage, boat rides around the island, and of course t-shirts, wraps, and other clothing. The villagers put on a cultural display with some singing and dancing in the afternoon. Holland America operates a tent serving ice water and lemonade, hand wipes and fresh towels.

What a wonderful day!

I call home this afternoon as we depart Dravuni, since this is my last opportunity to use reasonably priced shore-based cellular service until we arrive in New Zealand a week from now.

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Suva, Fiji

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 11, 2010 – Monday – Suva, Fiji Islands

I set the alarm this morning in order to see our arrival in Suva. It brought back memories of sailing the SV Sequoia through the same channel in 2004, when I crewed the open ocean segment from New Zealand to Fiji with the Johnstons. This time my mode of transportation is a bit more luxurious!

Our arrival at King’s Wharf is heralded by the Suva Police Band – they march up and down the wharf playing some very catchy tunes. It is overcast today, so it is not as hot as Pago Pago was (our previous port of call in American Samoa). I call my Fijian friends several times this morning, but there is no answer, so I find my onboard friends and we go ashore together.

Downtown Suva & office buildings
Downtown Suva & office buildings

We walk along the waterfront to catch some views of the harbour. It is Independence Day in Fiji, so most shops and offices are closed. We meet several Fijian families who are enjoying the day off. We walk past the derelict Grand Pacific Hotel and take an obligatory photo of the guard dressed in a ceremonial uniform (including a sulu) who is posted at the Governor General’s mansion.

We then wander through Thurston Gardens and see the Fiji Museum. The last time I toured this museum was in 1975. At that time, cannibalism artifacts were prominently displayed, but there wasn’t a sign of them during this visit. When I pay for the admission to the museum for myself and my friends, the guy at the desk notices my “old” bills. I had saved them from my last trip six years ago, so Fiji have obviously updated their currency since then.

Despite the cloudy weather, we still find the walk to be hot and exhausting. We stop in town to poke around the few shops that are open. A friendly Fijian “sweeper” directs us to the shops that sell t-shirts, jewellery, and other tourist stuff. I buy a Fiji Bitter beer t-shirt for FJ$22 (CD$12). We also walk through Prouds, a high end department store. After returning to the comfort of the ship, I head for the Sea View pool to cool off, and then grab some lunch in the Lido.

Fiji 2010 from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

The Suva Police Band is once again serenades us before our 5pm departure. They have an incredible repertoire…not just marching tunes, but also pop and rock and roll! Their performance has to be one of the highlights of this trip. What a change from the last time I saw the band in 1975, when it was a pretty ordinary marching band. I shoot some high definition video to capture some of their wonderful performance. The ship continues to wait in Suva harbour for the arrival of New Zealand customs and immigration officers, who are delayed about two hours. The band played on (as the old saying goes), giving everyone an amazing show – this is no ordinary marching band!

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Cruising from American Samoa to Fiji

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 10, 2010 – Sunday – At sea, enroute American Samoa to Fiji

We lost Saturday, Oct 9th last night as we crossed the International Date Line.

This morning we pass by Niuafo’ou, an island in Tonga. It is a volcanic island which most recently in 1946 forced evacuation of its inhabitants. We sail quite close to the shore – perhaps within five miles. I take some pretty good photos, thanks to image-stabilized telephoto lenses! (see banner image above)

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; Lunch with The Star Lady & friends

My friends and I have lunch with Donna and Dan in the Rotterdam Dining Room. She passes out “star” glasses, which we all don and then ask the waiter take our photo (much to his chagrin). We think it is funny!

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American Samoa

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 8, 2010 – Friday – Pago Pago, American Samoa

I set my alarm this morning, so I can see and photograph our arrival in Pago Pago. The island of Tutuila is strikingly beautiful, with tall craggy mountains covered in vegetation. The channel into Pago Pago harbour is narrow, and the harbour itself is quite small, however there was a cruise ship docked ahead of us – the Sapphire Princess. She is huge compared with Volendam. Needless to say, it is pure bedlam in the little town with two cruise ships in port at once.

Looking at the Sapphire Princess from Volendam's Sport Deck in American Samoa
Looking at the Sapphire Princess from Volendam’s Sport Deck in American Samoa

I go ashore for an hour in the morning. Once I find the post office and mail some postcards, I wander up to the Governor’s Mansion. The guards chase me out of there, so I return to the ship, since it is so hot and humid. I immediately go for a swim in the pool. There are some tropical downpours while I am swimming.

There are some Samoan visitors to the ship today. They all have cameras and are taking photos of themselves, so I volunteer to take their photos so everyone could get into the shots. As we depart the very pretty harbour of Pago Pago, I take sequential photos in order to build a time lapse video of our departure.

Volendam Departs Pago Pago 2010 – time lapse from JoeTourist on Vimeo.