Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Caledonia, Fiji

Noumea, New Caledonia
Justin and I had wanted to visit the South Pacific, but when we did the research it seemed out of reach, budget wise.  Then doing research for something else Justin came upon a cruise deal for 12 nights in and out of Sydney to New Caledonia and Fiji.  So we decided to book this since it was probably the only opportunity we had to visit someplace in the South Pacific.  We boarded the ship and all went to Justin’s cabin to watch our exit from Sydney Harbor.  Justin and I had to book separate cabins to accommodate all of us.  Justin got a veranda cabin and had Caleb, Joel and Danielle.  I had an interior cabin a few doors down and had Eden with me.  From the veranda we had a wonderful view of the Opera House.  It was so stunning to see it from this vantage point.  Also, Justin and I really enjoyed the route out to the Pacific Ocean.  Right where the harbour channel ends and the sea begins, either side of the land ends in these huge cliffs down to the ocean, very impressive and beautiful.  I had not realized that Sydney itself was not directly on the Pacific Ocean, but somewhat inland.  Once on the ocean Danielle noticed dolphins jumping from wave to wave not far off of the side of the ship.  We also noticed tons of flying fish.  It was impressive to see just how far they could “fly”, flapping their fins throughout the flight!  

Good view of the Sydney Opera house on our way out of port
Leaving Sydney Harbour on the cruise ship with the pilot boat guiding us
The first two days were sea days and we had a great time exploring the ship.  Some favorite activities were playing chess in the Explorers lounge, hanging out at the pool or hot tub, the kids loved the kids club (btw, so did Justin and I), and getting ice cream just because.  Within 48 hours Eden was a rock star on board, everyone knew her name from the staff to the passengers, and she was given special snacks and treats.  The waffle man recognized her by the third morning and had her order ready, one fresh waffle with chocolate sauce and sprinkles, very healthy.  While on the pool deck one of the nice waitresses, named Ann Marie, brought Eden cheesy fries and a drink as a nice little swimming break.  Needless to say, Eden was in heaven, she ate up all of the attention, even blowing kisses to people when she walked by and called her by name.  I watched thinking, “Oh my goodness, we have a diva on our hands.”   Danielle, being such a social and outgoing kid, made friends with all the kids onboard.  Once a little girl on her way to kids club asked me if Danielle was there, when I told her no, that she was playing a game in the Explorers lounge but would be there in about an hour, the little girl looked at her mom and said, “can you drop me off in an hour instead?”  I just chuckled to myself.  The boys had tons of fun playing with other boys and since they were the oldest ones in their group, really enjoyed the younger boy’s infatuation with them.  Eden went to kids club twice but would have preferred not to, unless she could stay with Danielle, which the staff accommodated the 2 times she went.  

Formal night on the Cruise

We had three stops in New Caledonia and by far our favorite one was Easo.  From the cruise ship veranda we spotted a sea turtle and watched him for a few minutes until we lost sight when he dove down into the water.  It was a beautiful beach that we reached via tender.  Once on the beach we went swimming and gathered tons of shells. Justin and I got a quick snorkel in and we saw some pretty amazing fish.  I even spotted a sea turtle in the distance but once we got closer it dove down and we lost sight of it.  Our 2 other stops in New Caledonia were Tadine, a small village, and Noumea, the capital city.  It has a large French influence and everyone speaks French.  Apparently they have croissants as good as France, but unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to try them.  When the ship was departing that evening Caleb, Joel and I spotted 3 manta rays swimming near the surface just off of our side of the ship which I learned is called starboard.  

Easo, New Caledonia
Tadine, New Caledonia
On the Pier in Noumea, New Caledonia
In Fiji, we stopped twice.  The first stop was Lautoka, a port town, it was a little bit of a dud, and the second was Dravuni Island, which was amazing.  At Dravuni, we had a beach day and had a great time swimming and walking along the beach collecting shell and taking in the scenery.  In fact, Caleb found a huge shell that weighed about 30lbs and carried it back to our spot on the beach.  Along the way, people stopped him and asked to take a picture of him with it.  When he brought it back and announced that he wanted to bring it home, I unfortunately told him that we could not because, A) It weighed about 30lbs and B) It weighed about 30 LBS!!  Disappointed he put it down, but we did get tons of pictures of it.  We did gather lots of appropriately sized shells to bring home.  The water is a magnificent blue going from a light turquoise to a deep navy, and the sand is soft, and a nice light beige color.  It was not the sunniest day, but it was still warm and the water was easy to get into, so my favorite.  Along the beach front we came across a large rock formation at the edge of the water and Caleb, Joel and Danielle quickly climbed to the top, we got few great pictures of that.  

Dravuni, Fiji
Caleb found a big seashell in Fiji
On the beach in Dravuni, Fiji
Eden getting thrown into the air in Fiji
Back on the ship we enjoyed wonderful meals in the dining room, some fun nights of entertainment, and fantastic blues music from a group of musicians from Tennessee!  Eden learned how to swim in deeper water in the ship pool.  She could swim underwater as long as she would be able to touch the bottom whenever she wanted.  So one day Justin and I stood a few feet from each other and started to send her back and forth, getting further apart very slowly, in the pool that was about 4 feet deep.  Eventually, she would need to actually swim to reach one of us and once she realized it, she was over the moon and so proud.  She also had lots of compliments and support from her adoring “fans”.  Justin and I went to one of the many cooking classes and got tons of recipes to try of the food that we had been served during dinner.  I even got to ask a bunch of questions to their head chef.  The boys and Danielle entered a ship building competition, where they had to build a boat using materials from around the ship.  Before they started they had a lesson on buoyancy and then Justin and I let them loose on the design and fabrication, WITHOUT our help.  I decided this was a great way to slip in a science lesson without them even realizing it, they thought it was just a little contest.  Hehehe.  One of the rules to the competition was that it could not be tested beforehand and that it needed to hold 6 cans of soda.  They came up with a concept using empty milk boxes as the hull.  One morning the 3 of the set off to drink enough milk boxes for the hull, 12 in all.  I told them that they needed to make sure that they did not waste any food, I had no idea that they had planned on collecting all 12 boxes in one sitting.  We had a ton of comments about how they must really love their milk and that their bones must be so strong.  They had a great boat that floated and held all 6 cans, unfortunately, balance was an issue and the boat tipped to one side and dropped its load.  Justin and I were so proud of them, because they were the only kid team, everyone else were mature adults, and they did it all themselves.  They learned so much that they even came up with a better design to take into account balance.  They are just waiting for me to buy them 12 milk boxes.  All in all, we had a wonderful time on the cruise and were very happy that we were able to add a couple of stops in the South Pacific to our list.  

The kids at the boat building contest
Joel on the veranda of our cruise cabin

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