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Published: February 2nd 2011
Captain Pier Paolo Scala
Pasta chef par excellence!
Five straight days at sea are wonderful. Plenty of time for lectures, paddle tennis, blogging,dancing, emailing and socializing. We had good weather all the way from Hawaii to Tahiti. The traditional equator crossing ceremony was great fun especially with Terry Waite in the role of King Neptune welcoming all the polliwogs into the ranks of seasoned shellbacks after their initiation. Mr Waite’s lectures are very popular and he is as highly regarded on the ship as he is throughout the world. He loves to dine outside, as do we, so we have been fortunate to share meals on the veranda with this gentle giant of a man. Mr Waite takes great joy in life and loves meeting and mixing with people. But after five years in confinement-- mostly solitary, it is no wonder that he craves human contact.
One of our Cruise Specialists passengers lost the diamond out of her engagement ring. Karolyn retraced her steps on the ship and told the staff of her distress over the loss. Two days later her steward showed up at her room with a small package wrapped in tissue paper—lo and behold it was her lost stone. The steward came up with the
View across to Moorea.
brilliant idea to check the vacuum cleaner bag. Not knowing for sure which vacuum he had used he had to sift through many different bags to look for the prized diamond. Karolyn was overjoyed and wrote a letter of commendation and rewarded the zealous steward for his fine detective work.
Harry Chittick gave an interesting lecture on the Pan Am Clipper planes. He outlined how in the mid-1930s Pan Am planned and implemented its goal of circling the globe by airplane. In order to cross the Pacific Ocean, the airline would need to have refueling stops between Hawaii and the Philippines. So they filled a cargo ship with building materials and headed out to Wake and Midway Islands and built the air terminals and hotels on these remote specks of land. They did the same in the South Pacific in order to reach New Zealand and Australia. Now we are following the path blazed by this wonderful airline albeit at a slower pace.
Moorea was our first stop in this fabled group of islands. We took a boat out to play with the sting rays and somewhat unexpectedly, black tip sharks. The rays are big and velvety and
gentle. Our guide said that the sharks were also pretty friendly but I wasn’t sure if they had gotten the memo. A certain movie theme song was drumming through my mind as I watched these large predators zip around us in the water. The wind and current were quite strong so many of us ended up with a few more reef tattoos as we scraped against the coral outcroppings.
That evening we cruised across the Sea of Moon to Papeete. We got there in time to hop off the ship and have dinner on the quay where locals set up their traveling food wagons called “roulettes.” There are about 20 roulettes offering Chinese, French and Tahitian food at very reasonable prices. They are all family run operations with two or three generations preparing and serving delicious meals. Harry Chittick joined us for dinner while on the center bandstand a group of performers were swaying to the earthy sounds of Polynesian drums.
We took a city bus out to the Beachcomber Hotel which has the best swimming pools anywhere. They are sandy bottomed, fresh water, free-form pools which have a view all the way to Moorea. One big change
that has happened in Papeete is that the small open-air trucks used for local transportation have been replaced by large air-conditioned buses that have big speakers blaring ear splitting rock music. Progress is not always progress and I truly miss “Les Truks” where it was possible to chat with mothers and kids out for their daily shopping. Now any attempted conversation would be drowned out by loud music.
We arrived in Bora Bora early one Sunday morning to the sound of church bells ringing. For a moment I thought we were in Switzerland. But instead of snow-capped peaks there were soaring mountains covered with rain forest greenery and the sweet scent of tropical flowers fill the air. This island served as the inspiration for James Michener’s Bali Hai and is reputed to be the most beautiful isle in the world. I don’t know where it rates on the scale of beauty but it is truly breathtaking to cross the reef into the Bora Bora Lagoon. We again spent the morning swimming with the fishes. Nora was our tour guide on the boat. We have toured with her several times over the last few years. Suzanne knew her also from
years ago when she was working as a physician on board a cruise ship. At that time Nora’s grandson was sick and Suzanne gave her some medicine to cure his ills. Now the grandson is a teenager and he was helping Nora with the tour. Nora from Bora presented us with pretty shell necklaces as a token of appreciation.
Since we were in port on a Sunday, the fabled Bloody Mary’s Restaurant was closed so Chick and Sue took us to a family snack café for lunch which turned out to be one of the better meals we have had in Tahiti—fresh Mahi-Mahi, shrimp and chicken on skewers, bowls of crispy pomme frites and local Hinano beer to wash it all down.
Then in a flash it was time to leave one of our favorite places in the world. Later in the cruise when we are tromping around the teeming mega-cities of China or dodging motorbikes on the streets of Saigon or weaving our way through the pirate infested Arabian waters, we will think back fondly on these idyllic days in the beautiful isles of Oceania.
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