Why Cruising is a Great Way to Explore the South Pacific

The scattered, impossibly scenic islands of the South Pacific make for the perfect cruise destination but, beyond the scenery, there are many reasons why cruising is a great way to experience this beautiful, balmy destination.

The South Pacific is almost unimaginably huge. Polynesia alone covers a fifth of the planet’s surface, the Solomons are made up of more than 900 islands, and Australia’s Pacific coastline runs 2,800 miles from Cape York to Cape Howe. Most of the South Pacific is made up of small and very isolated islands flung like confetti across a vast ocean.

What makes sailing a great way to connect these islands is that cruise ships can travel overnight, leaving daytimes free for port visits. If you want to pack in multiple destinations within a relatively short period, only those with the budget for a private jet could do better.

Some places just don’t have the land infrastructure that makes travel easy, either. That particularly applies to Papua New Guinea and the nearby archipelagos of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, but even the most developed of South Pacific nations has its remote crannies that are hard to get to, yet well worth visiting.

For example, it takes a major effort to reach Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound in New Zealand in any way other than by ship. From the ship’s deck, though, their passing sea cliffs, drifting waterfalls and distant snow peaks can be admired without effort.

Some South Pacific highlights have no infrastructure at all. Expedition cruises might take you to lagoon edges, atolls, coral reefs and sand-bank islands known as motus that you can only reach by water, but which fulfill your every fantasy of a tropical getaway.

Among the loveliest of all South Pacific experiences is snorkeling straight off your cruise ship’s marina deck above another world of multi-colored parrotfish, bold blue damselfish and giant clams, open to reveal their startling beauty. It’s an entirely different experience from a land-based excursion that takes you out from a busy port to a reef where thousands of day trippers paddle and splash.

Crowded reefs are seldom a South Pacific problem. You’ll certainly find most destinations here far less crowded than their Caribbean counterparts. Even in many places in French Polynesia, famous as one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations, you’ll almost certainly to find your ship is the only one anchored off islands such as such as Nuku Hiva, Huahine or Rangiroa – or even Bora Bora. It’s the same in Fiji, where some of the Mananuca Islands have barely a footprint on the sand.

Another benefit of cruising is that many South Pacific destinations – from big cities such as Auckland to famous islands such as Tahiti – simply look their best from a ship. Sailing into the bay of the lovely island of Huahine in French Polynesia, where old volcanic peaks rear above lush forest and the lagoon shimmers kingfisher blue, is simply magical. So is navigating Sydney Harbor, with its scattered islands and beach-fringed, villa-crowned shoreline, before getting your first view of the Sydney Opera House.

What I also enjoy about cruising here is that, although some South Pacific cruises focus on a single destination – for example New Zealand, Papua New Guinea or French Polynesia – others take in multiple destinations, and bring you to places where you might never otherwise venture.

One of my personal favorite ‘finds’ was New Caledonia, a French territory where locals greet each other with a kiss-kiss and buy Brie in supermarkets smelling of fresh baguettes. The capital, Nouméa, has smart colonial buildings lined up behind flame trees, and great seafood restaurants.

Similarly, shore excursions in South Pacific ports offer interesting choices, tempting you into new experiences. Near Lautoka in Fiji, for example, you can visit the wonderfully named Garden of the Sleeping Giants, which has tremendous orchid displays, ponds afloat in lilies and landscaped lawns to gladden the heart of any garden lover.

At Port Vila in Vanuatu, you can swim in a jungle rock pool where waterfalls tumble, find Nemo on a snorkeling excursion, or discover Melanesian tradition at the indigenous Ekasup Cultural Village. You’ll find adventure, variety and the unexpected, and surely there are no better reasons to cruise than that.

Advertisements

Best Sunny Places To Cruise In The South Pacific

With so many stunning islands littered all over the South Pacific, it’s hard to know which ones you should visit on an ocean cruise. We look at the best locations you can get to, with the most striking landscapes and lagoons, that are guaranteed to please every kind of cruiser.

The Society Islands, French Polynesia

These are simply some of the most picturesque islands on Earth. There are two main cruise companies (contact your travel agent for more info!)  that operate an itinerary which takes in most of Tahiti’s Society Islands. Fly to Tahiti and your first stop will be the island of Moorea, just 28-miles west, where much of the Mutiny On The Bounty movies were filmed. Here, you can swim with dolphins and rays in a sheltered lagoon.

While Moorea is world-famous, the other islands of the Society Group are virtually a secret (except Bora Bora). Huahine and the twin islands of Ra’atea and Ta’haa receive few visitors – yet their lagoons are as stunning as Bora Bora’s. Ta’haa, in particular, is right off the grid, with mile-high peaks dropping into the lagoon, and locals living in tiny, basic villages. Every cruise here culminates with a visit to Bora Bora – where you’ll spend time in the world’s most famous lagoon, using uninhabited islets for barbeques and sun-downer drinks.

Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia

How New Caledonia doesn’t receive much more fanfare is anyone’s guess. It’s barely 2,000-miles east of Australia (the closest of all the South Pacific island groups) so getting there is easy aboard a cruise ship from Sydney (it’s one of the most popular destinations in the South Pacific from Australia).

The reason why New Caledonia is so perfect for cruising is that it’s protected inside the world’s largest lagoon, surrounded by one of the world’s largest barrier reefs. You can spend time in the French-style capital of Noumea with its European cafes, restaurants and clubs, then venture south-east to the Loyalty Islands. The Isle Of Pines is the most popular of these islands – it’s encircled in a lagoon with white sand bays, and a natural swimming pool separated from the ocean (called Oro). There are caves to explore all over the island.

Though equally beautiful, but less visited, is its neighbor, Mare. Here locals live in tiny villages with little tourism infrastructure. Visiting cruisers get to see right inside the simple communities of the island – as well as spending time exploring caves and snorkeling over World-Heritage-Listed coral.

The Marquesas, French Polynesia

If these islands aren’t on your bucket list, revise your list! Take a two-week journey aboard one of the last passenger/cargo combined vessels left on the planet to the world’s most isolated island archipelago, The Marquesas. You’ll need to fly to Tahiti, where a boat will ply its way north-east for 870-miles. It visits six of the 12 islands of the Marquesas (the rest are uninhabited), stopping at tiny villages where locals still live subsistence lifestyles.

You’ll get to hike across remote mountain passes, swim in front of villages with local children and attend boisterous church sessions with locals dressed up to the nines. Aside from infrequent and expensive domestic flights, this is the only way to visit these islands – so don’t expect to see other tourists.

Efate, Tanna and Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Many travelers won’t get past the main island of Efate – with its bustling capital, Port Vila – but it’s worth remembering that there’s 83 islands that make up Vanuatu. These are some of the wildest islands left in the Pacific – on some islands you’ll spend time with cargo cult tribes who still live in the rainforests in simple grass huts. While on one island – Pentecost – should you time it right, you’ll see locals jump from platforms with vines around their ankles to bless their yam harvest (this is where the concept for bungy jumping came from).

Keen divers should consider Espiritu Santo – it’s home to the sunken WWII troop carrier, SS Coolridge, considered the world’s best wreck dive site. While on Tanna you can visit an active volcano, Mt Yasur – standing right on the crater’s edge as dry lava is ejected. You’ll also find one of the world’s top-rated beaches – Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo; while Tales Of The South Pacific author James A Michener got his inspiration for his novel (and the musical) South Pacificfrom time spent on Espiritu Santo during WWII.

Destination Weddings: What Questions Should You Ask

As a destination wedding travel agent, and a certified wedding planner, I have a list of questions that I always make sure my clients ask. If you are looking at having a destination wedding, you need to be asking these questions. You can hand the list to your travel agent and/or you wedding planner. They will be able to help you get all of the answers that you need.

Start asking these questions when you have narrowed down your choices to about 3 or 4. The first set of questions should be able to help you decide your exact venue.

 

  • Do you hold destination weddings at your resort?
  • Is there a dedicated wedding planner on site? Can she be reached by email?
  • What services does your wedding planner provide? Is there a fee?
  • How much time would we need to reserve our wedding in advance?

 

All about the ceremony and reception.

 

  • What private indoor and outdoor areas of the resort are available for a wedding? Are indoor spaces air-conditioned?
  • How many people can each of them accommodate?
  • Can you email me a layout and images of these places?
  • Can you supply pictures of other destination weddings that have taken place at your property?
  • What do you offer in the way of decorations?
  • What time of day do most destination weddings occur? Why?
  • Will there be other weddings taking place during the same time as ours?
  • If we want our wedding on the beach, what is the set-up?

 

Estimating the cost of a destination wedding:

 

  • What is the cost of a destination wedding at your resort, or is it included in the price of our stay?
  • Do you offer a set destination wedding package, or do we choose the elements individually?
  • Can you email a price list to me? Do you expect those prices to change by the date of my wedding?
  • If I want to bring friends and family members, do you offer a discount on the price of rooms?
  • Do you offer any group deals? For example, one person free for every so many booked.
  • How many guests are permitted at your standard destination wedding? What do you charge if we exceed that number?
         Do you require a down payment? How much? When is the balance due?

 

Questions regarding some services:

 

  • Who performs the ceremony at the destination weddings at your resort?
  • What if we want a ceremony that honors a particular religion; can someone of that faith be provided?
  • On the other hand, what if we want a non-religious ceremony?
  • What do brides and grooms typically wear at your resort for destination weddings?
  • Will someone be available to iron my wedding dress?
  • Can I have my hair and makeup done on site?
  • What do you do if I schedule an outside ceremony and reception — and it rains?
  • What type of flowers are available locally? Is there a florist on site?
  • Is live music available? Can you email an mp3 file of your house musicians?
  • Can we supply our own music on CD?
  • Can you email me suggested menus for the reception?
  • What can you supply in the way of a wedding cake?
  • Do you provide photography/videography services? What is the cost and what do we get for that amount?

 

Every country has different marriage laws. It’s important to ask about the specifics of legality for your destination wedding.

  • What are the requirements to get a marriage license in your destination?
  • Do we need proof of any medical tests?
  • Is there someone who can handle the details for us and will guide us through the process?
  • Are witnesses required?

 

There will be folks who can’t attend the destination wedding. Help them to be there in more than spirit.

  • Can you make a webcam available during the ceremony?
  • How long will it take to get our pictures back, and can they be quickly posted on an online album?
  • What type of Internet access is available on your property?

 

It’s your wedding. Ask away.

  • Do you have a dedicated honeymoon suite? Can you show me what it looks like?
  • Is there a private terrace or outdoor area where we can hold a rehearsal dinner?
  • Is there a charge for guests to participate in sports at the resort?
  • Can you arrange a special tour or activity for our guests?
  • Do you mind me asking all these questions?

 

Your travel agent or planner will be more than happy to help you ask these questions, and should be able to answer some, if not quite a few, themselves.

 

Destination Wedding:A Must Do?

Alright, having a destination wedding or vow renewal may not be an actual must do, but it is something to consider seriously. Why? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why a destination wedding or vow renewal should be taken seriously.

1. It’s a 3-in-1!

As mentioned in my previous post, a destination wedding or vow renewal is a 3-in-1. A vacation, wedding, and honeymoon in one beautiful trip. A couple of days of rest and relaxation, maybe even some spa time with your friends ans family. Then your gorgeous wedding ceremony and then it is all about you and your significant other.

2. You can get married anywhere!

Seriously, where do you picture your dream wedding? Mine, either France or Scotland, although a Caribbean wedding would work too! Honestly though, picture your dream wedding, where are you? Chances are, with the right professional your dream wedding could come true. It really may be more in reach than you think.

I will say, there are some restrictions for getting married in certain places around the world. Your destination wedding specialist travel agent or wedding planner will be able to tell you a little more about the restrictions, and help you find out exactly what applies in what country.

3. Save money on decor.

You do not have to worry about decorating three different places (ceremony and reception venues, and where your photos are to be taken). Most venues have packages that include decorating services and decorations. And, well, let’s be honest, decorations may not be needed. Your venue could say it all.

4. It’s cost-effective.

Did you know that the average Caribbean destination wedding can actually cost $19,000 less than your wedding at home.

There are so many factors that can help with the cost of a destination wedding. For example, you could sign up for a honeymoon registry ( we will get into further detail about this in another post). Some service providers offer special group fares. A great example is every 16 passenger travel free (if available, restrictions may apply). This could translate into a completely free all-inclusive package for the Bride and Groom.

Your specialist will know more about options available to you.

5. Casual attire.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for the big, fancy dress, but I am not really all for the tuxedo or suit and tie. And, let’s be honest, we all know there aren’t very many people who really like to dress up for weddings.

A nice pair of sandals, a sun dress, a nice pair of shorts and shirt, perfect casual attire for a beach wedding.

6. Intimate guest list.

You don’t have to worry about your Grandmother’s cousin, twice removed. Sorry Grandma! This list will only be your closest family and friends.

7. Hands down the best reunion ever!

How excited and delighted would your families be to be able to get to know or reconnect with each other in such a beautiful setting. And your friends? A little spa time for a relaxing hangout. Seriously, the best reunion ever!

8. Picturesque

You won’t have to worry about finding the perfect setting for any of your photos. Every photo taken will have breath taking back grounds.

Don’t forget about the perfect, picturesque setting for your ceremony. Picture your altar on a white sand beach, with the beautiful blue water right behind. Or, think of a castle courtyard, a fairy garden, one of these could be your setting.

wedding-decorations-outdoor-outdoor-wedding-decorations-evening-country-ideas

9. Flexibility.

This point will be touched on in a later post. Just remember, you have all week, you could get married on any day.

10. Your wedding will be the wedding of the year!!

I will just leave it at that…

There are certainly many more reasons for a destination wedding or vow renewal, but these reasons certainly are convincing!

 

 

Wedding Season

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope everyone’s celebrations were wonderful. Any New Year’s resolutions? I did set a couple this year, but we shall see what happens…

best-destination-weddings-2

With wedding season fast approaching, and most engagements behind us (think Christmas and New Years, with some to come on Valentines), it is time to start wedding planning.

Before becoming a travel agent, I had a very successful wedding and event planning business, with a true focus on weddings, and I still hold the designation of Certified Sandals Wedding Specialist. I have decided that combining my 15+ years of wedding and event planning experience with my experience and skills as a travel agent will give me an advantage like no other. This will allow me to deliver the perfect destination wedding every time.

I am currently working hard on a destination wedding and romance travel course. This will give me a specialty designation, and a membership in an organization dedicated to destination weddings and romance travel.

Over the next couple of months, there is going to be a slight shift in focus across my Social Media platforms. You will see a little more dedication to destination weddings, vow renewals and honeymoons. I am shifting this focus to, hopefully, be able to help those couples, families and friends who are deep in or are about to be deep in wedding planning. There is so much information out there and I hope to be able to help with a little of it. Just think, a destination wedding or vow renewal is the perfect 3-in-1!

One piece of advice for any couple that is planning on a destination wedding, vow renewal, or honeymoon, talk to a specially trained travel agent. You can either find an agent that is trained in destination weddings or you can pair your specially trained wedding planner with your travel agent. Either way, I highly recommend, for so many reasons to have a trained professional help you every step of the way!

 

Happy New Year

Getting ready for the New Year celebrations. I came across the lyrics and thought it would be a great idea to put them here for everyone.

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’
lltak‘ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 

English translation

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

Why Visit the Caribbean?

It is super chilly here in Southwestern Ontario. Although we are post-Christmas, there is still no snow on the ground (thank goodness). I am really hoping that it stays that way. With the cold that we are getting, it is winter after all, I have really been dreaming of a warm, tropical vacation. Emphasize the warm.. I say it all the time, and will keep on saying it, I LOVE being Canadian, I HATE the cold and the snow that being Canadian comes with.

So, we are contemplating a warm vacation and debating on where we want to go. I found a list on the internet, detailing the why’s of a Bahamas vacation and thought one that was for the Caribbean would be perfect! This could really help us decide on where we are going.

 

Caribbean_general_map

1. Short distance to Travel from North America.

With an approximate travel time of 4 hours from Toronto to Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean is quite close.

2. Great Shopping

Rum or seashell trinkets, custom jewelry or resort wear, the Caribbean offers ample retail opportunity for any shopper in paradise.

images
Sea snail in Caribbean waters

3. Beautiful Waters and Beaches

Kilometers of white and pink sand beaches, crystal clear waters, a stunning myriad of underwater life. The pink sand beaches are my number one reason for a vacation in the Caribbean.

4. Warm and Pleasant Weather

All year round with temperatures averaging approximately 27 degrees Celsius, a beautiful reason to visit. Just thinking of 27 degrees while it is -2 degrees Celsius outside right now… Mmmmm time for a vacation!

5. Variety of Activities

Examples of activities include: fishing, diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, catamaran sailing, and more… A little bit of something for everyone!

6. Perfect Destination for Families

There really is something to do for all ages. Picture a little family down time on the beach, building white sand castles, or driving across that beautiful sand on 4×4 ATV’s.

6e3a473b4a3cf03248e347238e12dfac

7. It’s Romantic

A romantic dinner for two on the beach, a nice fire, some candles, overlooking the water… Purely perfection. True romance at it’s finest.

8. Language

English is spoken widely across the Caribbean. Yes, there is French, Dutch, Spanish, even a Caribbean patois, but English is a largely spoken language.

9. Variety of Cultural Experiences

The islands of the Caribbean are a melting pot of culture. The cultures found in the Caribbean include Dutch, French, British, Spanish, African and more.

10. Nightlife and Gaming

Although this is something that I am not looking for, there are many out there that are. Some of the islands include a vibrant nightlife and even offer types of gaming (think Casino).

Saint-Lucia-980x613

A Caribbean vacation seems like the perfect way to quell those winter time blues. I think taking the family down and visiting a couple of the islands will be a wonderful time. A Caribbean cruise may be in order…