Clear turquoise coloured waters, powder-white beaches, swaying palm trees, and almost endless sunshine, the South Pacific is the epitome of a relaxing holiday. Cruising is the best way to take advantage of the countless islands of the South Pacific, enabling you to visit places inaccessible in any other way.
The first two days of our nine-night South Pacific cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice are spent at sea, a perfect way to get into the rhythm of the ocean and take advantage of the ship’s many activities and facilities. Some opt to just pull up a deck chair by one of the pools and kick back with a cocktail; others elect for a game of boules at the Lawn Club, a full half-acre of lush, living grass; some head to the spa and fitness centre; and those eager to fill every minute choose from onboard classes and lectures, or try their luck in the casino. There is one thing we all indulge in - the dizzying range of dining options onboard. The expression 'spoilt for choice' takes on a whole new meaning on board this vessel.
Our first port of call is Noumea, a delicious slice of the French Riviera in the South Pacific. New Caledonia’s capital is a territory of France, and the centre of the country’s epicurean and cultural scene, with restaurants serving French and Asian cuisine, and shops selling top wines and other goods imported from France. With a string of bays and beaches stretching along a peninsula protected by coral reefs, and one of the largest lagoons in the world, it’s perfect for water sports such as wind surfing and snorkelling. The island also boasts many land-based activities, including the Maritime History Museum, the Michel Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park, the Aquarium des Lagons, and museums exhibiting art and Melanesian artefacts. It's a perfect destination for gourmands and cultural connoisseurs alike.
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Who could resist a place called Mystery Island? This tiny, uninhabited island lies off the southernmost tip of the Vanuatu archipelago and was formerly used as a landing strip by the allied forces during WWII. Today only palm trees and sweet seclusion grow from the white sand of Mystery Island. Surrounded by clear blue waters and sheltered by coral reefs, it only takes about 20 minutes to walk around its sandy shore. The locals live across the water on the larger volcanic island of Tanna and visit the island when the ship docks, offering a range of local artefacts for sale and entertaining us with their charming dancing and singing, giving us an insight into the traditions and customs of island life.
Next up, the Isle of Pines, nicknamed the ‘closest island to paradise’, is bursting with friendly smiles, beaches as white and soft as talcum powder, and a kaleidoscope of corals and fish below the crystalline waters. Some of us take a boat tour to Turtle Bay and swim with green turtles.
Our last destination on the cruise is Lifou, the largest island in the Loyalty Islands, known for its dramatic cliff-top views, fascinating caves, some of the finest beaches to be found in the entire Pacific, and as a centre of traditional Melanesian culture. Arriving onshore by tender, we’re greeted by an open-air market selling arts and crafts and the chance to drink pure coconut water direct from the shell. The diverse history and culture of each island is fascinating, and our shore excursions immerse us in both.
Sailing back to Sydney, there are another two sea days and time to relax and reflect on our experiences, sort through our hundreds of photos, and plan our next cruise holiday.
Images courtesy of Celebrity & Getty