Vanuatu

MYSTERY ISLAND, VANUATU

Mystery Island from Golden Princess

This tiny, uninhabited inlet, originally named Inyeug, is located at the southernmost end of the Vanuatu archipelago approximately half a mile from the mainland, Aneityum Island. Used during World War II as an airstrip for the allied forces, it was dubbed “Mystery Island” because its location prevented the Japanese from seeing it from the water, making the appearance of allied planes a “mystery”.

Mystery Island

Surrounded by clear blue waters and sheltered by coral reefs, it’s the perfect spot for swimming and snorkelling. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk around the sandy shore.

Mystery Island Airport

We took one of the early tenders ashore after having breakfast with Philip & Cathie.  We walked a short distance across the island to beaches with shade and a breeze.  We swam and circled for awhile, then headed to the top of the island (on the right of our pictures from onboard) across the airport runway and back to the dock area where we wandered the markets for a brief time before taking the tender back to Golden Princess for a relaxed afternoon.

Swimming at Mystery Island

Philip & Cathie hosted drinks before joining us at the Crown Grill for dinner.  The dinner was the best we have experienced at any similar Specialty restaurant on Princess.

VILA, VANUATU

With the suggestion from our Rotary friends, Mark & Lorelle we took a bus/taxi for the day and headed first for Hideaway Island for two hours of snorkelling.

Hideaway Island

Joy wrote a postcard to Lachie & Charlie

The postcards from Hideaway Island

to post in the underwater Post Office

Hideaway Island underwater post office – the post box is the smaller one in the top right corner

Les engaged another swimmer to dive down and post the cards

Postcards posted – Hideaway Island

From there Nemo had to do his work and get the cards to Pyrmont!

Freddy, our driver then took us to a coffee roaster, and then we headed for Eton Beach.

Eton Beach
Eton Beach

After awhile in the water, we headed back to Eden on the River for a snack, back through the city and then onboard.  On the way we passed the Blue Lagoon but did not stop.

Eden on the River

Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, an archipelago of some 83 islands in the Coral Sea.  Vanuatu is a new republic, having achieved independence from France and Britain in 1988.  Before then the archipelago was better known as the New Hebrides, the name given the islands by Captain Cook.

Our drive showed lots of dense vegetation laced with coconut trees, cattle and sheep.

Had a pre-dinner drink in Vines with Philip & Cathie at 1900.

CHAMPAGNE BAY, VANUATU 

What a wonderful place for a birthday!  We tendered ashore after breakfast for a day at the beach.

Champagne Bay
Champagne Bay
Champagne Bay

The name ‘Champagne Bay’ acknowledges a fresh water spring at the top end of the bay which is more visible at low tide.  We swam and snorkelled – but probably needed to go further out to see anything other than a sparkling white sand bottom.

A picturesque setting.

Philip & Cathie caught up with us later, and they took a canoe out but did not report any special sightings except some coral and some small fishes.

Philip & Cathie canoeing at Champagne Bay

Back on board, we had cocktails with Sushi in Skywalkers at 1730 and then champagne in Philip & Cathie’s ‘mini-suite’ where we toasted the birthday boy (to their surprise!).  Had a great dinner with them and celebrated again with a birthday cake and the crew’s serenade.

LUGANVILLE, VANUATU

Our last port was the second largest town in Vanuatu – the former New Hebrides – Luganville is a child of World War II.

When America forces arrived on Espirito Santo in 1942, there were no facilities to unload ships, house troops or land American bombers.  Engineers went to work erecting both the town and the BP Wharf.  The island was soon home to the largest Pacific military base outside of Hawaii.

Today, Luganville remains an important copra shipping port – but more and more seasoned travellers are drawn to Espirito Santo’s promise of unspoiled beauty and relaxed island ways

Divers consider the wreck of the President Coolidge one of the world’s top dive sites.

Les took the Riri River Canoe excursion to a Blue Hole.

The Blue Hole on the Riri River
The Blue Hole on the Riri River

Joy joined Philip & Cathie for a trip into town (markets) and a ferry to Aore – an island resort opposite Golden Princess’ berth.  Good snorkelling/coral.

Aore Resort
Aore Resort
Aore Resort

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Amadee Island, Noumea, New Caledonia

The capital of New Caledonia, Noumea is a little piece of France in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Before World War II, New Caledonia was a little known and seldom-visited French possession known for its penal colony and its natural resources. (Nickel smelting still plays a major role (70%) in the island economy, with tourism a growing second.

In 1774, James Cook thought the island’s rugged hills resembled those of his native Scotland. Hence he christened the island New Caledonia. The island and its outlying groups became a French colony in 1854 and an overseas department of France in 1956.

Today was not only Sunday but the celebration of the colony’s founding, with a twin event run by the locals, and a bus strike.

Amadee Island

We took the day-long excursion to the Amadee Island Marine Reserve and Lighthouse.  The tour was very well organised, and relaxing.  We swam a little, ate a sumptuous lunch and listened to the concert.

Back on board just before sailing, we took in the Motor City Production Show in the Vista Lounge before dinner.  After dinner, there was a ventriloquist with a full house; we managed to see/hear most of it before shuteye.

Surprise

Guess who we ran into?

One of our reasons for taking this cruise was to surprise our good friends, Cathie & Philip.  It took five hours before we spied them in the Princess Theatre awaiting the show start.  What a surprise!

Today, they spent sometime finding us before they arrived for the Port lecture.  So we’ve had a good chat, an excellent lunch and we meet again tonight.

It will be a great cruise!

Golden Princess

We are sailing on the Golden Princess on a return cruise from Sydney to Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The Golden Princess is a very similar ship to the Diamond Princess, on which we sailed around Japan recently. It was built in 2001 (three years before the Diamond) and has a capacity of 2,600 passengers and 1100 crew.

Both ships belong to the Grand Class (Grand, Golden, Star, Sapphire, Diamond & Caribbean).  It is due to drydock next March/April.

In fact, the fit-out in the public areas is quite different to the Diamond; the Grand, Golden & Star all enjoy this more luxurious, roomy fit-out.

We are looking forward to a cruise in the sun, swimming and snorkelling!

Japan 2017 videos – for your viewing pleasure

Our visit to Japan* by video – enjoy*

*The trip included calls to Russia, Taiwan, and South Korea

Tokyo

 Osaka

 Hakodate

Aomori

Otaru

 Korsakov, Russia

Shiretoko Peninsula

Kobe

(Over two days)

Okinawa

Ishigaki

Taipei, Taiwan

Kochi

Kanmon Straits

Busan, South Korea

Nagasaki

If you enjoyed these videos, leave me a comment.

Cruise sailing to a close

Shortly after leaving Nagasaki, we enjoyed some scenic cruising around the island of Gunkanjima or Hashima Island. It is also known as Battleship Island due to the shape of some of the ruins.

The island was previously a Coal mine after coal was discovered there in 1810. In 1890 Mitsubishi became involved until its closure in 1974.

In 2009 the island was re-opened to tourists, and in 2015 it became an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Many passengers assembled on deck with big expectations of the scenic cruising. From our point of view on the Diamond Princess about 6 nautical miles to the west of the island and late in the afternoon/early evening, visibility was poor and it was extremely difficult to even focus a long lens.

This is what we might have been able to glimpse (courtesy of Princess TV).

At sea at noon on Tuesday, the Captain warned us of following SW winds and a 5m swell which might make life on board rocky.

And so our cruise is coming to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed most ports along the way and the sailing has been great. We were surprised by some of the ports, the cleanliness and neatness of Taipei, and the decline in public smoking over the last five years by the Japanese in Tokyo, Osaka and elsewhere.

The cruise obviously catered for the Japanese market where Princess has been operating for five years. The main difficulty has been engaging our fellow Japanese passengers in conversation and the small helpings in the dining room. Some translations took a long time but the dual language crew staff made it easy to overlook that English was secondary.

Return visits to Busan and Nagasaki

This morning, 2 July (Sunday), we woke a trifle earlier than normal to enjoy scenic cruising through the Kanmon Straits – even at this time of the morning, a busy, narrow twisting body of water that goes under the Kanmon Bridge across the narrowest point heading west towards Busan. The two major cities on either side are Moji and Shimomoseki.

We sailed through fog to enter Busan and dock early in the afternoon.

The second largest city in South Korea, Busan is your gateway to a fascinating land whose culture is a unique amalgam of old and new. Modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples. The city’s bustling business district offers a stark contrast to the serene grounds of Yongdusan Park. In short, Busan is a microcosm of South Korea, a nation whose startling economic success often obscures one of Asia’s most sophisticated and venerable cultures.

Busan was the scene of bitter fighting during the Korean War. The United Nations Memorial Cemetery marks the final resting place for the troops from 16 nations who gave their lives during the conflict.

We visited here in 2012 when we visited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the fish markets, and Dongbaekseom Island (APEC House).

It took two hours to go through immigration, and then we took the shuttle to the markets for a relatively short visit before returning to the ship.

Again, the ship sailed through offshore fog on the way to Nagasaki.

Today was our third visit to Nagasaki (previously 2012 & 2008). We have seen the Peace Memorial Park, the Atomic Bomb Museum and many of the other attractions including Glover Gardens, Oura Catholic Church, Shimabara, Arita, Mt Inasa, and the city on foot.

Nagasaki Peace Park – Triumph of Peace over War
Nagasaki Peace Park – Peace Statue

An estimated 75,000 people perished in 1945 when the city became the second target of a nuclear attack so Nagasaki’s Peace Park was our first stop this morning. The massive “Peace Statue,” erected in memory and a symbol of world peace, dominates Peace Park commemorating the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

After immigration formalities (the fourth entering Japan this trip), we took several trams (one planned sector turned out to be on way the other way) to the park and spent some time there. Then a return trip to the Shianbashi area for a walk through the local neighbourhood where there were many shrines. Caught another tram back to the ship with many other passengers.

Kotaji Temple

Nagasaki is celebrated as the setting for Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly – and for building the Diamond Princess (also the Sapphire Princess).

Diamond Princess returns to Nagasaki

What a Wonderful World