A Travellerspoint blog

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Fakarava

Fakarava is basically a giant beach since the thin atoll shelters an expansive lagoon on one side from the Pacific Ocean on the other. Measuring 37 miles long, it is one of the largest atolls in the Tuamotu Archipelago and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

This would be our last day in French Polynesia and as the sun rose we could see through our floor-to-ceiling window the ribbon of tropical islands that make up Fakarava.

Having agreed with Jerry last night that we would all start the day on our own and meet up later, the two of us showered and went to the Terrace for a light breakfast. Afterward, we went to our cabin to collect our masks and snorkels. We also called room service and ordered two sandwiches; these we packed away with some baggies of ice for a picnic later in the day.

The lines for the tenders were short this morning, so we were able to board immediately. We docked at Rotoava village. Local ladies were already lined up to give us a fresh flower to place behind our ear...and to sell black pearls and shell jewelry.
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Fakarava has a total population of only a few hundred. Although some of the locals own cars or trucks, there are no taxis and only bicycles or a few scooters for rent. Fortunately, nearly everywhere you look, you will see beaches.

We began our exploration by walking south on the main road. Along the way, we came upon two general stores, a primary school, a pearl shop, and a beautiful little Catholic church and its cemetery. The only aspect of the day so far that was less than ideal was the oppressive heat—at least 87 degrees and very humid. No worries, though...when you got too warm, it was easy to walk a few steps to your right and take a dip in the clear, calm waters of the lagoon.
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In one spot, we found some benches under the palm trees and sat for a rest. A local lady was selling green coconuts for $1. She drilled a tiny hole with the point of a sharp knife and inserted a straw. Just like that, we had a fresh and refreshing drink. In front of us were multiple sections of coral. Snorkeling around them was cool, but we saw very few fishes swimming about. One fellow shouted a warning to everyone there that he saw a shark; he later excitedly old us that it was about three feet long. (Hmmm, I guessed he hadn’t been swimming with us and the dozen six and seven foot sharks on Bora Bora a few days ago…)
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At the point where the main road veered to the left (and the pounding surf of the Pacific), we set our bags down under some palm trees, snorkeled some more, and ate our mini-picnic lunch. Ham and cheese or turkey and vegetables sandwiches, potato chips, bite-sized chocolates, and a little port wine made for a fine lunch.
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The noon day sun was now directly above, pounding down on us (and John’s already sunburned head), so we decided to wander back to the dock and return to the ship. On the way, we did some shopping...who would have guessed that a 6-pack of Hinano beer would cost about $18? Ouch! At the dock, we met up with Jerry and Michelle (who was feeling quite better). Having made plans with them to meet in the Horizon Lounge for happy hour, we took the next tender back to the ship.
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The rest of the day was relaxing. We watched some TV, did a load of laundry, and rested. Around 5:30, the four of us met for happy hour and then meandered our way down to the Grand Dining Room for dinner. Everything was delicious as always. Susie noted as we were leaving to retire for the evening that we had spent over two hours eating our meal! As they say, never rush a good thing…

It was close enough to bedtime to bid each other good night. Tomorrow? Another day at sea...

Posted by jeburns55 15:37 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

First Full Day At Sea

Besides the Terrace dining room, the Waves Café, and the Grand Dining Room, the shop has four specialty restaurants: Polo Steak House, Red Ginger (Asian), Toscana (Italian), and Jacques (French).

Today was our first full day at sea. The ship sailed a full day and night to transport us east from Bora Bora through an island dotted sea to our next stop, Fakarava.

We opted for breakfast in our room—room service is available 24 hours a day. After eating and freshening up for the day, Susie headed out for a 9:30 needle craft class and John found a nice shady spot on deck to write the Bora Bora newsletters. The ship has plenty of activities to keep folks busy if they choose to be.

Later in the morning, the two of us met back in our room and then headed poolside. Susie opted to find a air conditioned spot inside while John chose to stay outdoors; Susie would find him at 12:30 for lunch. Needless to say, once you get 120 old, white, gray and balding men stretched out on deck loungers and snoring around a pool, they all start to look alike...so despite two or three laps around the pool at lunch time, Susie couldn’t find John. Assuming that he was off exploring, she ate lunch alone and went back to the stateroom. In the meantime, John (who had fallen asleep in a shady back corner on the pool deck) woke up an hour and 45 minutes later. He trekked back down to the stateroom just in time to hook up once again with Susie so they could head to the auditorium for a lecture on the adventures of Captain Cook. The rest of the afternoon was low key and relaxing.
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Around 5:30, we met Jerry in one of the lounge areas for happy hour. Michelle was feeling a bit under the weather, so she chose to rest in their stateroom. This evening was the “Captain’s Welcome”, so cocktails and appetizers were free for an hour. The three of us had a drink or two, visited with some other passengers, and listened to a string quartet playing nearby.

We decided to eat dinner in the Terrace dining room, where the meals are always served buffet style. Tonight, the menu was Polynesian fare (along with other more domestic dishes). Everything was tasty and filling (very filling, because no one can say “no thank you” to desserts…).
After dinner, with a promise to meet up tomorrow, Jerry returned to Michelle in their room and we headed to the Marina auditorium to dance to some big band tunes. At 9:30, the band switched gears to play sixties tunes for a musical dance show called “Grooving”. We stayed for a few songs and then retired for the evening.

Posted by jeburns55 15:28 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Another Day At Sea

The day was mostly cloudy, though the temperatures were still in the 80s. It is interesting to watch the color of the sea change from turquoise to royal blue to steel gray, depending on the depth of the water and the clear or cloudy sky.

Today is the first of a two-day stint at sea. We left Fakarava last night and we won’t arrive off of Pitcairn Island until the day after tomorrow.
The sea today was a bit more active than it has been previously. According to the weather information posted by the ship’s crew, the waves were running a little over 8 feet—not enough to cause dinner ware to slide off of the table, but enough to throw us a little off-balance from time to time. The water in the swimming pool on Deck 12 was sloshing out as the ship bobs up and down.
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We began the day with breakfast and then went about to follow our own interests. Susie returned to the 9:30 a.m. needle work group while John found a quiet table above the pool to write some more newsletters.

We met back at the Grand Dining Room for lunch. Susie had a salad and John ordered the lamb patty in pita bread. Although we planned to eat light in order to save ourselves room for dinner in one of the specialty restaurants, we couldn’t resist ordering desserts!

At 2:00, we went to the Marina auditorium for a lecture on Captain Bligh presented by “Paula”, a very nice lady from England who is talking about various topics during the cruise. Her talks are quite interesting. The first one we attended was on Captain Cook, who sailed and explored the Pacific Ocean several times in the 1700’s. Today, she spoke about Captain Bligh, who sailed the HMS Bounty to Tahiti and was eventually cast off the ship by mutineers protesting his cruel behavior toward them. Jerry humorously referred to both lectures as “canonizations”, since Paula’s viewpoint is basically that both men were extraordinary sea captains, despite what we have heard about their shortcomings and cruelty.

After the lecture, we returned to our stateroom for a nice nap. As we sail back eastward, we have lost an hour a day for two days in a row. Between the time changes and the anti-sea sick patches stuck behind our ears and the constant rocking of the ship, we seem to be sleepy as often as not!
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Dinner reservations were for 6:30 p.m. in Jacques French restaurant. Once again, the four of us settled in for a long meal. Everything (and there were a lot to choose from) was delicious. Although we ordered too many things to remember, some of the dishes were crispy ravioli, French onion soup, frog legs, salads, whole lobster in cream sauce, steak, sole, lavender crème brule, puff pastry with vanilla cream, and crepes.

After our long, leisurely dinner, we returned to our state rooms to be rocked to sleep by the constantly rolling ship.

Posted by jeburns55 15:48 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

One More Day At Sea

Mostly cloudy again today with the waves increasing to 11-12 feet high. Temperatures are still around 80 degrees.

Day 8 was another relaxing day cruising through the rolling sea.

We tried breakfast in a little corner of the Horizon Lounge on the forward 15th deck. Limited to coffee, juice, pastries and a little fruit, it seemed to be a popular breakfast stop for the professional crew members.

The two of us headed to the Marina auditorium at 9:30 a.m. for the second lecture on Captain Bligh, the mutiny on the Bounty, and Pitcairn Island. Afterwards, Susie retired to the library while John walked around the track a few times and then found a quiet spot on deck to work on yesterday’s newsletter.

Our lunch rendezvous was at the Waves Café on the pool deck. Susie tried a Swedish hot dog and John opted for a Panini sandwich. Of course, we could not leave without having a little ice cream.

A presentation entitled “30,000 Years of Art History in 60 Minutes” took place back in the Marina auditorium after lunch, which we took in just for something to do. Later in the afternoon, we met Jerry and Michelle in “The Boardroom” for a game of Scrabble. There is quite a selection of games available to play here, from board games to Rummy Cubes to cards. Plenty of activities to keep us busy.
At 4:00 p.m., the four of us moved into the Horizon Lounge for afternoon tea. Tea is served every day at this time, accompanied by finger sandwiches, cookies and sweets. Today was special, however, because it was “Chocoholic Tea Time”. Yes, indeed, more chocolate cakes, pastries, pies, and bars than you could imagine were set out on tables...and were brought to our tableside on big serving carts. Needless to say, we shamelessly spoiled our dinners by over-indulging in chocolate!
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The two of us headed back to our stateroom to let the chocolate treats settle and digest. We sat back and watched a little television. Later in the evening, we ordered a salad from room service just so we had something healthy before bedtime. Finally we spent a little time reading and then drifted off to sleep.

Tomorrow we were scheduled to visit Pitcairn Island, where the Mr. Christian and the rest of the HMS Bounty’s mutinous crew found refuge in the 1700’s. However, it was announced to all of us that due to a medical emergency on board our ship, we will bypass Pitcairn and sail directly to Easter Island. Pitcairn is very small and has no airport, so we will sail at full speed to Easter Island where there is an air strip available for medical evacuation. We are sad that Pitcairn will be missed, but the options in this remote area of the globe are limited. So tomorrow we will have one more unplanned day at sea.

Posted by jeburns55 15:50 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

An Unplanned Day At Sea

Partly cloudy—with some sun today and a bit cooler with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s. Waves are still running around 11 feet.

Today was the day that we were scheduled to visit Pitcairn Island. However, due to a medical emergency, it was necessary for the ship to bypass Pitcairn and head straight on to Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, as the natives call it). The rumor about the ship is that one of the passengers fell and either broke or dislocated her hip. Dr. Paula Smith, our historical lecturer, had told us yesterday that landing on Pitcairn is an “iffy” thing because the island lacks any sheltered harbor or docking facilities. She stated that of the seven times she has tried to visit Pitcairn Island, she has been able to actually get ashore only twice. With that in mind, we resigned ourselves to the fact that even had we reached Pitcairn, we may not have been able to visit it...so perhaps it is for the best. The ship’s captain did announce that our revised itinerary will have us reaching Easter Island a day earlier so we will have additional time to explore there.

So what did we do on this “extra” day at sea?

We began with breakfast in The Terrace Restaurant; the French toast was excellent! Then we toddled off to the Marina auditorium where Madame Paula hosted a “light-hearted look” at all the kings and queens of England from 1066 to the present. It seems that over the centuries, skirt chasing and other scandals have been rampant in the royal families. We were quite entertained. Afterwards, we went our separate ways to walk or read or cross-stitch.

Lunch was in the Grand Dining Room. We had promised ourselves that we would eat lightly, because Jerry made reservations for another dinner tonight in the French restaurant, Jacques. But, honestly, how can you stop yourself from eating when there is so much good food all around?
More reading and relaxing in the afternoon until 5 p.m. when the four of us met in the Horizon Lounge for happy hour. Jerry and Michelle were already there enjoying the afternoon tea. We had a good time playing UNO for an hour or so. Great company and good fun!
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Returning to our rooms, we freshened up for our 8:00 p.m. dinner reservation. Although we had just eaten at Jacques a couple of evenings past, the menu is extensive enough to try something different at several sittings. Needless to say, we enjoyed everything. Although we ate at a leisurely pace once again (we weren’t finished until after 10:00 p.m.), we were stuffed by the time we finished the last dessert and bid each other good night. Before sliding into bed, we had to reset our clocks one hour ahead; we will lose another hour as we cruise to the east.
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Tomorrow promises to be more of the same, but none of us are complaining…!

Posted by jeburns55 15:52 Comments (0)

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