| Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
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After 9 days at sea everyone was delighted to arrive at Papeete. Papeete is the capital of Tahiti, which is the largest of the islands of French Polynesia. The local currency is directly linked to the euro because French Polynesia ia a french overseas territory, and the exchange rate for dollars is much worse than for euros. Sunday is not a good day to arrive in French Polynesia. The shops and most pavement cafes are closed, although here there were souvenir stalls.
The Queen Victoria was berthed next to a splendid superyacht, "Arctic", with her collection of posh motorboat tenders. Local musicians and dancers welcomed us and their local arts and crafts stalls were next to the Tourist Information Office on the quay. It was very hot. Passing the statue of dolphins and fishes on the corner of the Boulevard Pomare there was time to look back and admire the Queen Victoria. The promenade along the Boulevard Pomare was shaded and after staring at the multicoloured trapped fish in cages by the marina, it was not far to cross the road to the Bougainville Park. This was named after the French explorer who reached Tahiti in 1768. There are two canons on display; one from the german ship Seeadler and the other from the french gunboat Zelee. Both date from 1917.
Further along the Boulevard Pomare there was a wide road, the Avenue Pouvanaa'a Oopa, which led to the High Commision and the memorial to General de Gaulle. The Palais de Justice, the Police Station and the War Memorial monument were opposite. The Presidence was the end of the road.
Returning along the Rue Dumont d'Urville was less interesting, passing the back of the Assemblee de Polynesie and other government buildings. The target was the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and then the Market Place which was nearby. Mass at the cathedral was at 0830 but the building was still full and this was because it had been followed by a baptism service for three children. As we arrived the families were completing the ceremony and then came outside to have their photos taken. The Market Hall waas usually closed on Sunday and many stalls were covered with cloths, but other stalls selling souvenirs were open and doing a brisk trade. Tahitian pearls are a very popular purchase in the islands and vary in price from $10 upwards to many thousands. Every French city has a Mairie, and that of Papeete is a very impressive building. It was completed in 1990 and is a replica of the mansion of Queen Pomare which used to stand on the site of the modern Government buildings at Place Tarahoi.
After lunch we looked at the area from the ship to see where else we should explore. Next to the Bougainville Park there was another park and another church. It looked an interesting area to explore. The road was closed to traffic in the afternoon and the preferred mode of transport was a bicycle; they were everywhere. Family groups were sitting in the gardens, having picnics in the thatched shelters and using the outdoor gym and playground equipment. There was just one cafe, selling snacks and TipTop icecream. When we reached the Protestant church at the end of our walk it was closed. A further long walk along the promenade, and close to the airport, was a Carrefour supermarket. There was also supposed to be a supermarket near the church, but on Sunday afternoon all the supermarkets would likely be closed. Back near the ship we found the Bora Bora bar, at the corner of Rue de l'Ecole, with a happy hour of a small glass of local blonde beer for 240. A perfect end to the day. If we had stayed longer then the "roullettes" mobile food kitchens were just setting up in the car park. Instead we went to the Lido Deck 9 special BBQ with Caribbean music - an excellent evening.
Bora Bora is 147.8 n miles north west from Papeete so is an easy overnight cruise. The main island is 6 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and there are many smaller islets surrounding it. As we approached down the channel to the lagoon through the coral reefs we saw rows of identical huts on stilts; they are said to be very expensive tourist accommodation each with a glass floor for watching the colourful fishes. The lagoon is three times larger than the land mass. The Queen Victoria anchored in the lagoon in the rain and soon the ships tenders were making the short journey to Vaitape, the largest village. It was nice to have a proper ocean view again once "our" tender was in the water. Soon after the clouds dispersed and left a beautiful sunny and very hot day.After looking back at the ship we admired the local canoes.
Bora Bora is much much smaller than Tahiti and this shows in the Mairie building of Vaitape which is much smaller than that in Papeete. From the Queen Victoria it was clear that there were not many buildings but the modern church was not far. There is an italian ice cream parlour at the edge of the town, when the speedlimit changes to 40, and because it was very hot we decided to turn around there. There were a few nice houses, including the Robert Wan pearl shop. Small boats and tenders are kept in frames and lifted out of the water. Catamarans are popular because they can be driven up onto the beach. As well as churches and museums it is nice to visit local markets and see local produce. In Vaitape there were lots of fruit stalls at the side of the road, but nothing was cheap. The other church in the centre was closed. There are three supermarkets on Bora Bora and the Supermarket Chin Lee is in the centre of Vaitape. Prices for wine and spirits were very, very expensive, although local rum and beer was more reasonable. A few stalls had set up opposite. Chin Lee also owns a hardware and material shop next door, which was more interesting than the supermarket. The material varied between $8.50 and $12.50 per metre for pretty dress material - 2 metres will make a really spectacular long skirt.
Now the weather had improved there were good views of Vaitape from the Queen Victoria. We departed late becuase one couple had not returned by the departure time, but were at the wharf, and so the high speed pilot launch went back and brought them to the ship. There were good views of Vaitape as we departed because the Queen Victoria made a slow pass along the waterfront promenade before turning towards the marker buoys which showed the narrow channel through the coral reef to the open seas. We had already remarked that the water has different colours, changing from dark blue to pale turquoise depending on the depth.
Tonga is the first place in the world to see the sun shine each new day, and was famous for this special feature when the new Millenium arrived. Nuku'alofa is the capital of the Tonga island group and of the island of Tongatapu which is the largest island, measuring 17 miles long by 9 miles wide. The people of Tonga speak English, their currency is approximately 2 to the £1, and they have close links with New Zealand and the UK.
Unfortunately their Queen Mother, who was 90 years old, had died in Auckland just before our arrival, and had been flown back to Tonga on 28 February to be ceremonially buried. Everyone was in mourning for 10 days - people were all wearing traditional black clothes and a woven mat. The flags were all flying at half mast, including those flying on the Queen Victoria. TVNZ showed images of the roads lined with school children waiting to pass their respects as her body passed by on its route from the Royal Palace to the Royal Tombs. Houses, churches and public buildings had their fences decorated with black and purple ribbons. The arch from the berth to the town was festooned with purple flowers and the Treasury building immediately beyond had black and purple decorations. On the main road there was an arch, in purple, with a crown on top. In the circumstances we were amazed that any of the shops were open. The Market Hall was close and it is always best to check markets in the morning. Downstairs was mostly fruit and vegetables, with some clothing around the edge. Upstairs was mostly T-shirts and clothes, but gave a good view down onto the stalls below. From the map later there was also a fish market towards the east and along the waterfront.
Exitting from the other side of the Market Hall there were more shops and a supermarket which had a few bottles of wine (Matua and Shingle Peak) and wine boxes (made from mixed Australian and New Zealand grapes) for sale. There was also TipTop Passionfruit icecream, but because of the transport costs it was all more expensive than in NZ. It has been a long time since we managed a full 2 litre box between us. We used the excuse that we hadn't brought spoons. Turning towards the tower of the white church visible from the ship it was clear from the procession of people and the tour buses that we needed to turn left and this was along the road passing the Free Church of Tonga. Both sides of the road the fences were decorated with purple and black cloth and flowers. The Free Church of Tonga was completed in 1885 and was the official State Church. It is made of coral. It is on the corner facing the entrance to the Royal Tombs. Here there were workmen dismantling the tents which had been used as shelter for the burial of the Queen Mother. The royal catafalque, a platform with a black canopy with four white pillars, on which the Queen Mother was carried from the Royal Palace to the Royal Tombs was still in place. On the corner of the square was the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, again decorated with purple and black. While we were there it was 1200 and the lady bellringer came to the three bells outside and rang the hour.
The next target was to see the Royal Palace, by walking along the fence of the Royal Tombs and then turning along the Vaha'akolo Road towards the ocean. It was by accident that we passed the Wesleyan Centenary Church, with the white tower, which had been our original target. This church has a service at 1000 which is often attended by the Royal Family and they have a special area of seating reserved for them. The church can seat 2,000 people, including tiers of seating outside. When we looked inside they were preparing the mats on the floor for a funeral, so we did not linger. Again the fences were all covered with purple and black; the route from the Royal Palace to the Royal Tombs would have been in this area. At the end of the road, at the Royal Palace, there were more tour buses and a few souvenir stalls. The Royal Place was in mourning, and decorated in white and purple.The building was completed in 1867 and is said to have been made from Kauri, and sent to Tonga from New Zealand. It is very similar to buildings of that time, in a colonial style. The Royal Palace is never open to the public, and at this time was definitely closed. It is in excellent condition having been renovated in 2007-08. The area along the waterfront had some other interesting houses, including that previously belonging to the British High Commission and now named Polata'ane, meaning Britain. The British were based here from 1862 to 1970. The four canons belonged to "Port au Prince" which was sacked in 1806 and was gifed to the British Government by the Government of Tonga in 1951. Further along the road is a cemetary, which we looked at, but then heard funeral hymns nearby and decided it was best to disappear. The final pictures near the ship are of the fountain given by the British Government in 1970 and the memorial to men from Tonga who died in the two World Wars.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 5th March, 2017