Kiwis and Castles

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cruise part 2

Seeing as I'm going to China on Monday (!!!) I thought I should finish off writing about this cruise. I'll have heaps of stuff to write about when I get back from Asia. I'm going for 3 weeks and will see Beijing, Xian, Hanoi, Halong Bay, and ethnic minorities in the Vietnamese mountains. Now back to Polynesia ...

Day 4: At Sea
This day was mainly spent around the pool. It was great. I'm sure there was a show at night and it was probably midly funny and mostly cheesy. The dancers on the ships were dropping like flies so by the end of the cruise there was only 1 female dancer left! On day 4 there would have been a full cast though. I can't remember exactly but this may also have been our first formal night. I wore a white dress with a black flower print and we had some photos taken at our dinner table. I don't remember the food being special that night, but it was great throughout the cruise so I really have nothing to complain about!

Day 5: Rarotonga
The capital of the Cook Islands, this places was one of my 2 favorite islands we went to. It was just stunning with the stereotypical postcard crystal blue lagoons and soft sunlight and lush tropical jungle and hysterically funny tour guides. We did a 4-by-4 tour of parts of the island, going off the main coastal road and into the mountain. We were taken to a few look-out points for gorgeous photos, to a marae (native sacred temple-like structure) and our guide's home for juice and fruit at the end. His brother played the guitar and sang to us. The whole family came out and sat around and talked and they were very kind and funny and didn't try to sell us anything. Our guide kept making jokes that it was great to be classified as a third world country because France built their power station, NZ built their water purification system, the UK did this, Australia did that ... He told us a funny story of how one country came in and decided they needed a zebra (pedestrian) crossing on the one main, paved road on the island. So the country funded it, painted it, and it's never been used. Our guide said that the island people have enough sense to look one way, look the other, and cross. They never understood the zebra crossing. It rained a lot that afternoon so we just went back onto the ship and didn't stay on the island. (Our tour was about 4 hours so we saw lots of it, and all the shops were closed because it was a Sunday.)

Day 6: At sea
At sea again. We played a lot of Bingo and won some money. I'm sure we drank, ate our usual 2 lunches and then had ice cream at 3:45. I think it rained most of the day so there wasn't much laying by the pool.

Day 7: Raiatea (rye-ya-TAY-a)
This was my other favorite island. It was a really small with a couple tourist shops right at the port, but once you walked beyond that one block it was very undeveloped. Just the restaurants, shops, and supermarket that the locals use. Nothing was painted pretty or cleaned so as we walked around there for a little while you got to see real island life. As always, the people were extremely friendly. We pattered around the tourist shops for a while as well, and I was surprised to see that the prices were fairly reasonable. I still didn't buy anything though. We got on the ship again in the afternoon as it had started to drizzle and we had a night activity booked. We were taken to a small island just across the lagoon and had a umu meal and more polynesian dancing. The umu (which is the same as the Maori hangi as far as I can tell) is like an underground oven. A large pit is dug, ridiculously hot rocks are layed on the bottom, then meat and veggies are put on top in pots or metal racks. Then I think some more rocks, then dirt, then tarps and a few other layers are added so the heat doesn't escape. It's left in there for hours to cook. We watched as the Mama of the island directed the men to open it up and showed us how the food was cooked. We got to eat (and there were a few non-pork dishes) and they even cooked the dessert in the umu. Then about 6 children from the village danced and I got pulled up to dance for the second time on this trip. It was fun, embarassing, and of course Matt took photos. As soon as the dancing was finished it began to pour and it leaked through the thatch roof we were under. We made it back to the ship very full and very wet.

Day 8-9: Bora Bora (although our Italian captain pronounced it Borrrrrrra Borrrrrrrra so it sounded like we'd landed in Europe)
I think I had very high expectations of this place because of all the publicity it gets from celebrities hanging out there. It was much less built up than I thought - in fact, it was barely built up at all. The 'downtown' area clearly hadn't been built to accomodate tourists at all. It was hot, dusty, unpaved, and with only a few tourist shops and cafes. Further around the island were a few large hotels but they were spaced out enough that it didn't make much of an impact. It certainly wasn't Miami. We had lunch in Bloody Mary's which is the famous restaurant there and the prices reflected that. There were boards outside with the names of all the celebrities who had eaten there dating back quite a while, as well as the names of some locals who had come by and painted their names on the boards. The meal was good although nothing that really merited the restaurant's fame. I had an unnaturally blue cocktail that was quite nice and Matt bought a t-shirt. The weather was really nice that day so we found an old boat dock and just sat and relaxed with some friends for a while, then wandered back to the 'city'. That night was our "Sunset Champagne cruise" which would have been a great trip except it rained a lot. Still, the alcohol was flowing freely and the guides were fun and entertaining so it could have been worse. We were on a giant catamaran sailboat. The funniest thing that happened that night was a man who struck up a conversation with the crew of the sailboat about how he has a big boat like this, he's a master captain, he sails all the time, if they need any help he knows how to do everything, etc. About halfway into the boat ride Matt and I notice that he's wearing the motion sickness patch behind his ear!

Day 10: Moorea (mo-RAYA)
We didn't spend any time in the touristy part of this island, which is visible from Pape'ete. This was the day we got to swim with dolphins! We knew it was overpriced but neither of us had done it before and in the end we were glad that we were. It was a bit chilly (for polynesia) and raining a little bit but the dolphins didn't mind. We were meant to be taught about them and shown what they do for 30 minutes, then were to have 30 minutes in the water with them. Our guide could see that we were cold so we just got in the water right away. I don't remember our dolphin's name but it was a 2 year old male and he was really energetic. He did some jumps, spins, and peed. We learnt the signals to make him jump and tried those out. Two of the women in our group seemed to be afraid of the dolphin and we wondered why they'd joined onto this program, but it just meant that I got to touch the animal more. Then we did the obligatory kissing-the-dolphin photo and to be fair, it turned out really cute. Then it was back on to the boat for our second formal night which was a lot of fun because the stuffy British couple at our table got drunk and stopped being so stuffy. The waiters also made a big showing out of the baked Alaskas that were for dessert and everyone was just very relaxed.

After disembarking we went to the hotel we'd be spending the next two nights at. It was a lovely hotel but unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate. It drizzled and such for a couple days, although not constantly so we still went swimming and spent time in the pool. Then we flew back to NZ.

All in all it was a fabulous vacation!