Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Another stop on some cruises, is the Isle of Pines. When you first see this island, the number of pine trees spread across the island, does make it seem appropriately named. Pine trees give the impression of a very spiky hairdo, as their tops pierce the sky above,

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Tenders are used to transport passengers to the island where locals greet you with twisted plant headgear for each passenger. Here you may find a few available taxis, if you would like a look around the island.

Water surrounding the island, is beautifully clear, providing ideal snorkelling areas.

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For the best snorkelling, closest to the wharf, take a stroll down the road, past the markets, to the rock. Here, you have a relatively sheltered area, with some fantastic fish to see, especially up close to the Rock. Keep in mind it is taboo to climb onto the Rock. As always it is important to respect other cultures and beliefs when in their country.

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There are a few market stalls, enough to purchase your trinkets without having to much choice. They certainly help to give you a leisurely stroll back to the wharf. AUD are accepted here as well as local currency.

Enjoy the snorkelling- you never know who may be watching !

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Lifou -New Caledonia

As your ship cruises into the bay, you will spot the lonely white church atop the point of the island. Shortly you will hear the anchor drop as the ship starts the process of disembarking passengers to head over to this uplifted limestone island.

Pretty. This is the word I have most often heard people use to describe Lifou. (Lifu). Tenders transport passengers across to the island. The wharf is over a beautiful beach area where snorkelling is popular. Here there are some colourful fish, and if you are in the right place at the right time, you could swim with large turtles who inhabit the bay.

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The village directly off the wharf, contains a cluster of thatched native huts. Vibrant markets full of locally made and other trinkets, take up a large partially enclosed area. Hair braiding, local foods and other activities are also on offer.

From the dock area you can walk to different areas close by. Keep in mind that although you will see mini buses etc as you land, these are pre booked for tours and your chance of finding a driver to take you around the island would be slim, if at all. The church and snorkelling bay on the other side of the point are a relatively close walk, not flat however with some uphill walking involved.

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As with any of the island stops, there are a variety of tours which can be prebooked. This is the only stop where we have prebooked a tour, to the Vanilla Farm. This one was definitely worth booking and hence a post with write up on the tour will be published in the next couple of days.

We did speak with a family at the wharf, prior to boarding the ship, who were very disappointed after having booked a swim with the turtles, which was not cheap. Unfortunately on this day, they never saw a turtle on their tour. However three large turtles appeared close to the wharf, casually feeding as they cruised around the bay. Somewhat bitter sweet for this family who did get to see turtles, without needing to pay.

Keep an eye out for this whale like point topped with a church, on your cruise, it means you are about to drop anchor at Lifou.

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Cruising Insights

Time to share a few more onboard cruising insights.

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Absolutely adore the sense of humour our cabin stewards have had. Treat the staff with respect and they will brighten your day, every day! These beautiful people generally work the first three months on board of 12 hour shifts, seven days per week at sea, for board and lodgings only. Yes they are unpaid. After the trial three months, they are paid a salary- usually not a big salary. For most of the cabin/hospitality crew, their earnings are sent home to their families. Depending on contracts, crew can be on board for 3, 6, 8 or more months at a time. That’s why you become their family.

On the Christmas cruise last year all the different staff were excited about finishing work on Christmas Eve and heading back to the crew deck for secret santas and a Christmas party for each crew area, except the cabin stewards. We were told by our steward it was left to the manager of each crew area to organise the party for their staff. Unfortunately cabin crew missed out.

Spare some time for your crew. Most of these people, especially cabin & hospitality, think and treat the cruisers like royalty, no matter which cabin you are staying in. They generally love to interact, and will do anything to make your cruise memorable. We have never had bad service on three cruises. We have however observed some people treat staff with disrespect , there are some amazingly ignorant people in this world.

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Atrium Christmas Markets on board Pacific Dawn. Look carefully and you can see the fake snow. There is duty free shopping and a variety of shops onboard. No doubt you are looking for a bargain. After a few days on board there will probably be a sea day with markets. These are popular, and you can find some good buys here. Keep in mind though, there will be more, and sometimes better specials later in the cruise. Often the last few sea days before you return home, is the opportunity to pick up a bargain, as they roll more sales to tempt as many cruisers as they can.

Most South Pacific cruises will include a stop at Port Vila. Onboard, they will tell you the duty free alcohol is cheaper than Vila. It’s not. They will also tell you that if you buy onboard then find it cheaper in Vila, take a photo and bring if back to ship then they will match the price. Well good luck taking a photo- you are not allowed to take a photo in Vila’s duty free. I can assure you though the alcohol etc is much cheaper there than the ship. Much cheaper!

Yes you pay for your alcohol on board, however, you can still come across some palate soaking freebies! Art auctions, normally held over a few days, attend these, enjoy the free bubbles…..as you view the artworks, always a fantastic selection of memorabilia and art. The champagne waterfall…more free bubbles! Attend a whiskey tasting or cocktail making class or a wine tasting. It might cost you the price of a couple of drinks but for that you’ll get to taste or make at least double that. Keep an eye out in the daily newsletter, check all the listings for the next day, you can have a great time on board for quite cheap. Enjoy!

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Whiskey tasting, yes water supplied but you also have the opportunity to taste some very expensive whiskey. Well worth it!

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