The Road Ahead : August 2014
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU 34 THE ROAD AHEAD AUG/SEP 2014 RACQ TRAVEL CAN HELP MAIN IMAGE: AMADEE ISLAND. (INSET) PORT VILA MARKETS, THE LIGHTHOUSE ON AMADEE ISLAND. islands in the sun STORY I PHOTOS MARC LLEWELLYN TRAVEL | DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL OUR 'MUST DO' LIST WHEN VISITING THE PACIFIC PARADISES OF NEW CALEDONIA AND VANUATU. WATCHING THE OCEAN slip by or chuckling at a belly flop contest have their attractions, but there comes a time when you need to swap the swaying of a cruise ship for the stability of dry land. I've sailed from Australia to the Pacific island chains of New Caledonia and Vanuatu several times, mostly with my wife and children in tow, and shore days have always been a highlight. The most popular ports-of-call in New Caledonia are Noumea, the Isle of Pines, and the Loyalty Islands of Lifou and Maré. I find cosmopolitan Noumea pleasant enough, and adore a chance to eat a real French baguette, but my perfect day involves a day trip to Amedee Island. We spend most of our time here just lazing about on the coral-sand beach and snorkeling among colorful reef fish in the aqua lagoon. For panoramic views, we climb to the top of the atoll's white-painted iron lighthouse, which was first illuminated in 1865. The trip always includes a huge lunch and a dance show beneath the palm trees. The Isle of Pines is always another high point and, yes, there are lots of pine trees. An island tour takes in the ruins of an old convict prison, a handicraft market and some dazzling views, but we always head to Oro Bay for a snorkel in water as clear and enticing as a vodka martini. The Loyalty Islands of Lifou and Maré are also popular anchorages. Lifou is famed for its tropical reefs and steep cliffs made from compressed coral, and a tour of a vanilla plantation is fascinating. As for Maré, the island has only been welcoming cruise ships for a couple of years, but with fish kebabs and giant avocados on the lunch menu, and a lagoon the colour of liquid sapphire, I want to visit again and again. The capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, offers the Ekasup Cultural Village, where Melanesians dance in traditional dress and teach cruisers about their old way of life. Expect exciting options, such as off-road buggy adventures and fast boat safaris, though I prefer a gentle trek through the rainforest to the island's beautiful waterfalls. From here, the next stop is Mystery Island. It's uninhabited, but locals from other islands motor across the lagoon to hawk trinkets and strum their ukuleles. Last time, we walked up the beach and simply blissed out on the sand away from the crowds, until it was time to re-board the ship for a three-course dinner and a sunset out to sea. DID YOU KNOW? The Australian cruise market has now overtaken the North American cruise industry in terms of market growth and penetration. Last year, the number of Australians going cruising rose by a record 20 percent, a larger increase than any other market in the world. In total, 833,348 Australians chose to set sail. This year, a record number of cruise ships are heading for Australia. With such a huge variety to choose from, there will be a cruise that appeals to everyone with some great prices available. RACQ Travel has access to the latest prices and cruises departing to New Zealand and the South Pacific. For the cheapest prices and advice on which cruise ship might be best for your interests, contact the RACQ Travel Team on 1300 188 542.
June July 2014