2009 World Cruise – We left Honolulu, Hawai’i at midnight Jan 25/26 and sailed through calm seas all the way to Vanuatu. Several of the crew were commenting on the calm seas saying this was the calmest they had ever sailed across the Pacific (which means peaceful waters; and is often anything but. Especially a long distance away from land.)
Two things broke up the long sea days. The first was the second formal night of the cruise, and the first themed-night: The Black and White Ball. We learned to like formal nights. Often there was a color theme or costume theme (you were under no obligation to take part) and every formal night we returned to our cabin to find a gift on our beds. We had previously received leather-bound journals stamped with the map of the world, and this night we were each given a multi-time-zone clock
Second was the Golden Line Crossing on January 30. We crossed the equator at the International Date Line at noon so the date changed immediately to January 31. There is a tradition when making the Golden Line Crossing. The Captain blows the ship’s horn from the moment the bow touches the intersection of the equator and the International Date line until the stern has crossed over. We received certificates from King Neptune as you must have his permission to make the crossing.
And January 31 was our third formal night in honour of the Queen Beatrix of The Netherland’s official birthday (our gifts were a boat bag).
On February 3 we docked in Luganville. Many, many people on board were very happy to see land. Seven days at sea in a row is a lot and people were getting antsy.
We were scheduled to visit Funafuti, Tuvalu on Feb. 1 but there is some political uncertainties in the area so the Captain changed the port-of-call. A change of port or change of arrival time happened several times on our trip.
Vanuatu is comprised of several islands. The major port of Luganville is located on the island of Espiritu Santo. There is not a lot to see here. Our tour was World War II relics. Many of the South Pacific islands became military outposts in the war against Japan. The allied forces set up a supply and support base, naval harbour and air field on Espiritu Santo. It was not a super, super exciting tour but interesting enough and we got to drive around the island quite a bit.
We visited a B-17 bomber crash site in the jungle, two overgrown airstrips, a concrete bunker that was a jail cell for Japanese POWs, and traveled on lots of severely pot-holed roads. It was raining heavily all day and our driver got stuck going up one of the hills. After three attempts he still could not make it. The van following ours eventually pushed us up. We were fortunate to be with a group of people that made light of the bad weather and rough roads so we had a lot of fun in our truck. Some of the other vehicles were hot-beds of discontent.
The most interesting part of the tour was a visit to Million Dollar Pointe. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945 the military moved off the island. It was deemed to be too expensive to ship the jeeps, guns, and other equipment back to the US so everything was dumped in the ocean. The area is now a popular dive spot, as is the wreck of the SS President Coolidge, a converted luxury liner that hit a mine during the war. Approximately 40,000 US military personnel were stationed in Luganville during WWII and it is estimated between 400,000 or 500,000 military personnel took R & R on the island.
Our tour ended with a visit to a nice hotel for some refreshments before we headed back to the ship. The rain became steadily heavier until it was coming down in torrents. The only time I experienced a heavier downpour was in 2011 in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia where the rain was falling so thick and fast it looked like a single sheet of glass.
We returned to the ship at noon and had intended to go into town and walk around after lunch. However the continuing rainfall put paid to that notion and our trip to Vanuatu came to an inglorious end.