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Islands of the South Pacific

Big Giant Heads, Scenic Cruising, early birthday celebrations and an unexpected diversion

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From Peru, we set off across the South Pacific stopping at a number of Islands along the way. Visiting settlements among the most remote on the planet once again the good weather followed us with the sun shining down whenever we were in port.

Easter Island

We sailed nearly 4,000 kilometres from Peru to reach one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. With no harbour and thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean on all sides, there is always a swell running and many cruise ships are unable to tender passengers ashore. So many cruise ships travel a long way just to wave as they go past. For this cruise, there was the additional drama of the Chile Visa. Recently introduced in response to the Visa requirements for Chileans visiting Australia it was a beauracratic nightmare, mostly in Spanish and online. We had managed to apply for, obtain and then print our visas onboard (they could not be issued more than 90 days from the visit and the ship left Sydney 95 days before we were due in Easter Island). I did hear a rumour later that around 100 people either did not have correct visas or they were misplaced by Princess and as we arrived on a Sunday there was no way for it to be clarified with the embassy so they were denied permission to go ashore.

Anyway, on the day the weather was fine with very light winds however there was still a 1.8-2 metre swell running which is pretty much the limit for tender operations. With light winds and little chop the problem was not the shuttle journey but just getting on and off from the Ship. When tied alongside the shuttles were moving up and down well over a meter with the swell and this is a problem with loading guests with an average age of 69.5 Plus years. Everybody's favourite captain announced that it was at the limit but we would be proceeding ashore. There was advice that wheelchairs could not be loaded and guests with walkers or mobility problems should not go ashore. The shuttle crew then did a fantastic job of getting passengers onto (and later off the shuttles) with crew on the ship and the shuttle holding people up when the shuttle dropped away and virtually passing passengers across when the shuttle was level with the ship's deck.

We did a ship's tour on Easter Island mainly to ensure getting on an early tender and getting ashore. It was strange to actually be there. The Island depends a lot on tourism but it is difficult to get to and seems more rustic than some islands with low wooden buildings and roads defined by potholes and thin rings of tarmac or dirt. We visited three sites including a partly reconstructed village where we looked at odd features such as rock walls around vegetable gardens and huge chicken coops made of stone.

There were also the Moai, many still lying where they were knocked down. All of them are a lot more weathered and eroded than 1 expected. There was only one example we saw of a statue with its eyes and hat/topknot in place and looking like a statue of previous PM Malcolm Fraser staring into the distance. There has been a resurgence of the local culture and language since the times when the population was in the hundreds. There is also a sense that not all the locals are happy with being governed from Chile.

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Piney did get ashore and was a little stroppy as on a Sunday there was not much in the way of open bars to be seen.

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We returned to the tiny dock and breakwater and perused the local stalls before joining the queue for the tenders. Boarding the tender was relatively easy then we headed out through the narrow channel between rocks back out to the Ship where the real fund started. Passengers on the top deck of the shuttle struggled to get down the stairs without injury and then we were all assisted back onto the ship by the crew who excellently judged the rhythm of the swell so the ship and shuttle were aligned for each guest transfer.

Back onboard the Coral Princess there was a general agreement that the Captain and crew had done a great job in allowing this landing to go ahead and people who had missed the stop on earlier world cruises were even more appreciative. So cocktails before dinner and the ship set sail for Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn

From Rapa Nui, we set off to travel over 2,000 kilometres to the sparsely inhabited spec in the ocean with the history made famous by Holywood. Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn is tiny, it is also a National Park and has no airport, harbour or breakwater. Landings are not allowed and can only take place on a single unprotected wharf. So we had to make do with scenic cruising around the Island. Once again we brought the great weather with us. For over a week, Pitcairn had been wet and windy but when we arrived the sun shone from a blue sky over a deep blue sea.

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On board the Coral Princess we had a lady who was a direct descendant of the mutineers who settled on Pitcairn and we were able to listen in as she spoke to the local mayor on the radio and discussed visiting relatives next year. This trip will have to be made via the supply ship which comes from Tahiti.

The circumnavigation and visit to Pitcairn took a little over an hour then we sailed off towards Tahiti. Later on, we found out the locals had launched a drone and taken some photos of the ship as we sailed around the island so I have stolen these great images from their Facebook page.

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Tahiti

From Pitcairn, we travelled over 2,000 kilometres across the Pacific to the Islands of Tahiti.

The weather forecast was for rain but none was in sight as we docked at Papeete, the Capital of French Polynesia.

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Kathy and I took a Princess tour in the morning which was billed as a Lagoon sail and snorkel. The weather remained great for our boat trip. We set off in a large modern catamaran, headed outside the reef and travelled for around an hour before entering the reef at another point. During the sail we saw dolphins and lots of camera-shy flying fish. We then sailed back inside the reef looking at the blue water, the hillside and overwater houses. During this time there was fresh fruit and fruit juice available and we were entertained by the ship's crew of 3 with song and dance. The trip was relaxing with the gentle breeze and then we stopped for a quick dip in the azure waters. The water was momentarily cool but was comfortable to swim in over the reefs observing the colourful fish and the islands of Tahiti and Morea on either side.

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Blowing up the last photos gives this image of Kathy in the water with a mask and pool noodle.

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When the Captain blew a Conch it was the signal to return to the boat. At this point, the weather changed with the wind picking up and bringing clouds over us. Some of the passengers then had trouble getting back to the boat against the wind so there was some manoeuvring required.

With everyone onboard, we set off back to the ship. This time the fruit was supplemented with potato chips (which easily caught the wind) and the fruit buch now contained rum so everyone agreed it had been a good day.

I am not saying the single girl dancing on the boat was exactly like the video below but she was very graceful. Anyway, enjoy the video of some Tahitian Dancing.

When we docked we did a quick trip to the shops and markets across from the dock as they were due to close at 1 pm. It seems they don't have 24-hour weekend trading in paradise. We made it back to the ship before the shops closed and before the rain set in for a rest before heading out again in the evening. There was some rain for most of the afternoon but it had all cleared away by 5 pm when we ventured ashore again.

We were staying in Papeete until all aboard at 8:30 pm so we were able to set out later with our Canadian friends Glen and Peggy to find a place for an early celebration of Kathy's birthday with something different from the venues on the Ship.

We found our way to a rooftop bar called Baroof on a balmy tropical evening and enjoyed local beer, cocktails and some different food (see the profiteroles) before waddling back to the ship.

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Once again the weather had arranged itself around our visit and we had a great stop in Tahiti.

As we headed towards New Zealand on a long stretch of sea days we had one more unexpected Pacific Island visit with a diversion to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

Rarotonga

As we followed the South/West course from Tahiti there was an announcement from the Captain that we would be making a diversion to the Cook Islands to medivac a passenger ashore. Overnight there was another incident where a staff member fell down some stairs so when we arrived at Rarotonga in the morning there were two patients to transfer ashore. At this point, the wind and waves had picked up quite a bit and it took some good seamanship on both the this and the tender to make this transfer safely. The still pictures do not quite convey the roughness of the sea and the difficulty of the transfer.

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It took some time for the transfer to be completed on land with the ambulance being later to the dock and then not having the required equipment but with assistance from the Ships medical team the patients were transferred to the hospital and then the tender and crew returned and the Coral Princess set off once more towards New Zealand.

Back onboard we continued the celebration of Kathy's birthday for two more days (one for her birthday in Australia 22 hours before her birthday occurred on the ship) At one point the tracking gizmo we use as a room key and for ordering food and drinks enabled the wait staff to find Kathy at Lunch and sing Happy Birthday and present a cake.

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So an extended birthday celebration helped us make the marathon voyage across the Pacific visiting some well-out-of-the-way places as we did so.

The world cruise is coming to an end with some passengers disembarking at our next stop in Auckland. The conversation now centres on Packing, what to leave behind and bookings for other cruises.

Posted by StephenJBrown 19:37 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged birthday snorkeling tahiti easter_island pitcairn

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