P&O Cruise to Vanuatu and New Caledonia


We woke at 0700 for breakfast, then had a big day planned for our second port of call, Wala. During breakfast, however the captain announced that we wouldn’t be able to dock at Wala. The weather was extreme- 38 knot winds and an even stronger 3metre swell. We managed to anchor, but the ship wouldn’t stay in position. Even if it had, the swell was just too great for the tender boats to ferry passengers safely between the ship and the island. Papa Smurf agreed with the captain’s professional assessment.

Looking out the window at breakfast, you could see the horizon change at every thumb-length. White and silver lines on the horizon blazed as the sea reflected sunlight through cloudless patches on the grey water. A thumb-length beside that saw a heavy blur in shades of elephant grey. These two images spanned the length of the horizon- it’s very strange to be able to see the rain from afar.

As disappointed as I was to love and leave Wala, I was glad to have a rest day. We’d been at sea nearly a week and a day in bed was definitely a welcome prospect. I napped, then woke around meal times. Dinner was an egg-battered Basa fillet with a warm nicoise salad. Our waiters for dinner were a riot. One was from Indonesia and he only took my order if I spoke in Bahasa, and the other made us all laugh with impressive magic tricks. He made a sachet of sugar disappear into a napkin, then poured the sugar crystals into my hand not five minutes later.

The ship docked at Port Vila around 1600, the capital of Vanuatu, a day early because as soon as the captain decided against Wala, we travelled full steam ahead. Port Vila was still a little overcast and there were muddy puddles on the ground, so the humidity meant that the mosquitoes were out to feast. Soaring Eagle, Papa Smurf, Frodo and I decided to go for a short adventure, to take advantage of the ship having docked overnight.

The taxis assaulted us as we walked the main road towards the city centre. Nobody knew about the cruiseliner docking a day early, apparently this was a rare blue-moon occasion. Because of this, the market stalls weren’t yet open, and the taxis filtered through when word got around.

The trees were tall, rainforest like and untamed. A mixture of diesel, burning rubber and wet, fragrant foliage filled the air. Run-down dwellings sporadically popped up on the outskirts and well-manicured fenced off gardens signified the place of marine offices.

We walked as far as the Chinese mechanic, which sat between a Japanese restaurant and an American brewery saloon. We asked a local how far it was to the city centre and she said it wasn’t too far, but we decided it was getting dark so we turned back.

I took my book to my new hangout- Charlie’s Bar on Deck 5, just to chill with my surrogate Indonesian uncle, who walked past me and giggled uncontrollably at the sheer coincidence of finding someone who was practically related on a cruise ship. The seats were comfy, the coffee was ground and there was a jazz band playing in the Atrium. The Clan slowly congregated there and decided how to spend the following day at Port Vila.

As we were winding up, we heard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” wafting down from the Mix Bar and we meandered up to find Gregg Ackermann, Piano Man playing our songs for us. He smiled and waved in the verses and we were chuffed that he remembered us, (but how could he not? We were the only people engaging with him and requesting ridiculous tunes for a jazz pianist to play, like Green Day tracks. Our Clan had become infamous). We clapped for “Hallelujah” then realised how knackered we were and what a big day we had ahead of us, but then Gregg played the intro to “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John and we just had to stay. What an excellent showman and entertainer!


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