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A tropical trio
With salt white beaches that dissolve into palm-fringed forests, the unspoilt islands of the South Pacific are among the most beautiful escapes on earth. We take a closer look at just three of the enigmatic islands in this tropical archipelago you can discover on a South Pacific cruise with Cunard.
Picture a desert island and you’ve more or less conjured the South Pacific. Encompassing a string of tiny atolls and landmasses, barely impressionable on a map, these literal drops in the world’s largest ocean are so exotic you almost expect a pirate’s chest to wash ashore at any moment.
Thousands of vivid green islands shine like beacons in the South Pacific’s piercing blue sea, while the region’s Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian communities each offer their own blend of culture, customs and culinary twists to ignite the senses.
Three things worth knowing...
Left or right? In French Polynesia, wearing a tiare flower in your hair is a way for women to communicate whether they’re attached or single. Left signifies you’re in a relationship, while the right side is reserved for women seeking a partner.
Water world: The South Pacific sits in the Pacific Ocean, the largest of the world’s oceans. Stretching over ten million square miles, water far outweighs land here with 1,000 square miles of ocean for every one square mile of land.
Ink colour: The word tattoo derives from the French Polynesian ‘tatau’ which literally means ‘to write’. Tattoos are considered a symbol of beauty in Polynesian culture and were at one time used to cement a child’s rise to adolescence.
The South Pacific islands are individual troves of natural treasures. Beaches as radiant as any you’d find on a postcard are the thread that connects this part of the world, but the landscape between islands still offers up the occasional surprise. Stilted beach houses and mountainous rocky outcrops are a familiar sight on a South Pacific cruise. So too are towering waterfalls, sea caves and dense rainforest, the leafy branches of which radiate emerald intensity.
The pleasantly warm waters surrounding each island are also abundant with treasures to uncover for those curious enough to seek them out. Colorful coral reefs, tropical fish in neon shades, and the downed wrecks of WWII crafts, all lie in wait beneath the South Pacific’s endlessly shimmering surface – a magnet for divers and snorkelers.
A taste of paradise
One of the pleasures on a South Pacific cruise is the opportunity to try island delicacies lesser found elsewhere in the world. Fish is where South Pacific cuisine excels. The oceans here offer up a plethora of tastes from wahoo and tuna to fruit de mer favorites such as spiny lobsters, mangrove oysters, crab and prawns.
Many dishes are delicately tempered in coconut cream and served with a root vegetable such as cassava, yam (sweet potato), or dalo (a type of corn). Curing cubes of raw fish in lime and chilli is also popular in the South Pacific, particularly on islands such as Fiji, where fragrant curries (intense with chilli heat) are another delicacy to enjoy.
Meat in the South Pacific is less common, although suckling pig makes an appearance on special occasions and Vanuatu claims to have the best beef in all the world. Then there’s the island of New Caledonia, where chicken wrapped in banana leaf and cooked atop hot coals buried in sand (known as bougna) is a native speciality.
Fine dining is one of the many things that makes a Cunard voyage special. Our range of restaurants and dining options ensures that your vacation menu is just as delicious on board as it is on shore.
Cunard recommends: our favourite South Pacific highlights
One of the best known South Pacific countries, Fiji is made up of 332 islands, around a third of which are inhabited. Cunard cruises call at Viti Levu, home to the island’s capital Suva and its second-largest city Lautoka, which literally translates as ‘spear hit’ in reference to a historic battle between two tribal chiefs. With warm temperatures throughout the year and impeccable white beaches, the island is one of the prettiest in the Fijian archipelago.
In Lautoka, you’ll find markets selling woven baskets and distilleries offering a taste of rum, heady with molasses. The city is home to the world’s largest community of Hare Krishnas, and observing Sunday prayer at Sri Krishna Kaliya Temple is always a wondrous sight. For nature-lovers, Fiji’s Koroyanitu National Heritage Park is just a stone’s throw away, bringing a chance to spot the rare Fiji Goshawk.
By contrast, mangrove-fringed Suva is an enchanting blend of historic architecture and green spaces overflowing with the fragrant scent of Fijian fauna, drunk on the city’s humidity. Home to the Presidential Palace, where colorfully uniformed guards stand watch, every day in Suva exudes vibrancy. Temper the frenetic energy of bustling markets with coastal walks along Queen Elizabeth Drive, or visit Colo-i-Suva Forest Park for tumbling waterfalls and untamed rainforests.
Sailing west of Fiji brings you to the smaller South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, a series of eighty islands, a fraction larger than Connecticut, and home to some of the best dive sites anywhere in the world. South Pacific cruises to Vanuatu usually call at the capital, Port Vila, on Efate Island and Luganville on Espiritu Santo (Santo to locals). A typically tropical mingling of coconut plantains, white sand and emerald vegetation, Vanuatu is every bit the island paradise its appearance teases.
In Port Vila you’ll find the National Museum of Vanuatu - showcasing countless artefacts of cultural significance - and colorful markets selling artisanal wares. The natural pools of Mele Cascades - a Vanuatu cruise highlight - are also within easy reach. Offering the chance to swim in a naturally occurring plunge pool at the base of a 35-foot waterfall, a visit to Mele Cascades is sure to provide a magical memory of your time cruising the South Pacific.
Luganville offers equal natural treasures on a port call to Vanuatu. Dive among the long-abandoned WWII vehicles littering the sea bed at Million Dollar Point, or venture into the jungle where Vanuatu’s mineral-dense Blue Holes await. Legendary to Santo, these phenomenal pools are formed by underground streams puncturing the earth’s surface. They take their name from the unnaturally sapphire color they exude, the likes of which shine as intensely as any jewel.
You’ll find a distinctly French flavor on a visit to New Caledonia, which is hardly surprising considering the island is an official French territory. Affectionately referred to as a ‘Riviera of the South Seas’, New Caledonia’s capital, Noumea, is like a South Pacific St Tropez, with luxury yachts bobbing in the bay, French wines chilled to order and a slew of boutiques, the likes of which wouldn’t be lost on the streets of Paris.
Despite some similarities with Southern France, Noumea still harbors all the hallmarks of an island in the South Pacific. Its beaches, abundant with white powdered sands, are as spectacular as any you’ll find in the region. Then there’s the marine life. New Caledonia boasts one of the world’s largest lagoons, and reefs can be found surrounding its shores. One of Noumea’s most interesting attractions however is its rotating statue of the Virgin Mary, which turns 360-degrees every day.
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