Our last excursion on the cruise is a stop at the port of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. French settlers inhabited this region beginning in 1854 and their influence can be seen everywhere from the architecture, to the patisserie shops, and in the language spoken, in fact, Noumea is sometimes described as the Paris of the Coral Sea. It is a relatively large, thriving city of about 164,000.
We decided to buy “hop on, hop off” bus tickets for the day so that we could easily get around to a number of places as sites were too far apart to walk. We were advised to get them on the ship as they may not be available at the bus terminal. So Sanford purchased two tickets at $20 each only to find out, once we were at the bus terminal, that tickets were easy to get and only $10 each. Sigh…..
No matter, we got on the bus and started our day. Our first stop was the local market. It was a mixture of the usual fruits, vegetables, and meats, but there was also a handicraft section that was quite good. Rather than the usual souvenir things we saw in all the ports, this one was more like an artisan type of market with lots of original wares. I bought a small purse from here that is made from one 7 foot long zipper. It is sold in the shape of a cone, only so that if you give it as a gift it is a novelty way to wrap it, and then, as you zip up the zipper, it magically turns into a purse!
From the market we went to Mt. Ouen Toro as our excursion would not be complete if we did not climb a mountain. Thankfully, this hill is only 420 feet high. From the top, we were rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding area and we also saw a number of people paragliding over the sea.
We next spent some time walking along the beautiful pristine beaches and it was here that I found a souvenir pin of New Caledonia for my collection. Then it was back on the “hop on, hop off” bus and back to the city centre. We spent our last few shore hours walking around the city and stopping to rest in a few parks. It was a lovely day.
Back on the boat, we watched the shore disappear before heading to dinner. The next two days would be at sea and we would arrive back in Sydney Harbour at 6:30am on the third morning.
The cruise ship is interesting. It is surprising to me just how many cruises some people go on. One night we chatted with a couple who were on their 31st cruise and then a couple of days later met someone on their 49th cruise who already had their next two cruises booked! It actually took a few days till we met another couple of “virgins” like us, who were on their first cruise.
There is a lot happening on the ship at all times and you can join in, or not. There are trivia challenges, some physical activity events, lectures, and movies. In addition, some people start up their own groups to find other people who might like to play bridge or scrabble, have a bible study, or meet other singles.
The ship is also be a place for vices. There is a casino, a constant buffet, many places to drink, and lots of high end shopping.
Sanford and I did enjoy the cruise, but I think it will not be our primary form of travel for some time. Time restrictions while on shore only allow for minimal coverage of an area and of course you can’t go all that far afield easily on your own. The things I liked most about cruising were at the end of each shore day you didn’t have to worry about where to go for meals or how to fill your time. There was a constant buffet for most of the day and there was lots of entertainment. In addition, because there are sea days while travelling, it was like “forced” days off from sightseeing and that too was something I enjoyed, as Sanford and I tend to travel hard and not build in much relaxation time. I felt quite rested after the cruise rather than feeling like I needed a holiday from my holiday.
That’s it for this set of travel notes. Take care.