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Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Toronto, Ontario
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Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Hi there,

My husband and I did a 10 day cruise in French Polynesia plus a few extra nights in a wonderful B&B in Moorea in Feb 2011. It was honestly the best trip and most beautiful place we have ever experienced. The cruise visited Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Rangiroa & Raiatea. We have completely fallen in love.

That being said, we are also adventurous people and love to experience new things. So we are thinking of doing a cruise that does New Caledonia & Vanuatu roundtrip Sydney for our next trip. The cruise stops in:

Isle of Pines, NC

Noumea, NC

Lifou, NC

Vila, Vanuatu

Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Champagne Bay, Vanuatu

Here is the dilemma (if you can even call it a "dilemma" :P)...

I have been watching YouTube videos of these ports and see that it seems a bit more like the Caribbean than the South Pacific - not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the mass numbers of people trodding off the ship and parking themselves on the beach. Almost all the videos show very crowded beaches, nothing like what we experienced in Tahiti even though we were on a cruise ship there too (although it was a much smaller ship).

Has anyone done a cruise like that in NC/Vanuatu and also visited French Polynesia (cruise or not) who can compare the two on different levels?

Price-wise, I think I could make a French Polynesia trip (maybe not a cruise) work out to the same price as the Vanuatu/New Caledonia cruise. Obviously, travelling to these places is not the cheapest option from Canada, and we don't want to spend the cash to get all the way to New Caledonia & Vanuatu to be disappointed with overcrowding and not being able to enjoy the serenity that I am imagining.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

Campbelltown...
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1. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Unfortunately, being on a cruise ship means that if you want to get off on a beautfiul beach, then everyone else is going to as well. I did a couple of cruises years and years ago and visited mystery island and champagne beaches. I just remember the beaches being crowded. Such a shame because they are such beautiful places to visit. We were staying on santo last year and had a day trip to champagne beach and we had the beach to ourselves......now that is bliss and serenity.The only time there is loads of people on these beaches is when a cruise ship is in. The local ladies set up stalls to sell goods as well.

If you want uncrowded beaches in vanuatu, fly there and dont visit them on a cruise ship day.

Jody

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Good call Jody, I was going to suggest the same, chaboey do you HAVE to do a cruise?

Can you not fly into Sydney, Auckland or Fiji (look for Air Pacific ex LAX) then to Port Vila and Noumea? You could then do the sightseeing and beach visits in non-peak times rather than sharing them with a ship load of other people.

Just a suggestion to maximise your experience and value for money,

Cheerz Wabster.

New Zealand
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3. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

If you really want to do a cruise, then it might be worth looking into this company - www.coralprincess.com.au/melanesia.html. I haven't been on one of their cruises, but their boats accasionally call in here, and look comfortable enough and not too big. There's also a link under 'Top questions about Vanuatu' about cruising around Vanuatu in a small boat.

I certainly wouldn't want to visit on one of the larger ships that has 1500 to 1900 passengers. I visited the Isle of Pines the same day that a cruise ship came in (bad planning!) and it was busy and crowded in parts.

The suggestion above to fly to Noumea and Port Vila is a good one. In 10 days, you could go to Port Vila and Santo (where Champagne Beach is). You'd have more time to explore and experience Vanuatu. If you want to do both New Caledonia and Vanuatu, it's possible to fly between Port Vila and Noumea. The Isle of Pines is easy to get to from Noumea, and can be done as a day trip, although I think staying overnight would be better. Flying to the islands will also maximise your holiday time, as the ship takes a couple of days to get to the first port and a couple of days to get back to Sydney. That's a lot of sea to look at, in my opinion!

Moreton Island...
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4. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

If you are going, then fly go to Vanuatu, forget Noumea completely IMO. I would never go back there, it's expensive, over developed and not like a South Pacific country at all.

And as Selsy mentioned there is a ship (ex small cruise ship from Fiji) MV Lycianda with Pacific Blue cruises. Haven't heard much about them lately though.

LTB

Australia
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for Port Vila, Vanuatu
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5. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Last I saw the Lycianda was moored, but sort of pulled up on the shore at the south end of Iririki. It may be getting maintenance or something but definitely call Sandy who runs it for his son and see if they are touring now.

www.pacificbluecruisesvanuatu@gmail.com

Or use Port Vila as a base and do a couple of days on Moso Island http://www.southpacdivecruise.com.vu/ on the Coongoola.

And/Or do a few days on Lelepa Island

http://www.lelepatours.com for fantastic snorkelling. Speak to them regarding accommodation if you want to stay a few days and experience village life.

I agree with everyone regarding the big package cruise ships where you are 1 of thousands...don't bother unless you are not able to travel independently for some reason. I don't think they get a good impression of any of the islands really on the few hours you get on each.

You could also get to and stay on Nguna or Emao Islands very easily and cheaply too from Port Vila.

I guess Noumea is more touristy and has a huge French influence and if you just want to go relax on a beach or by the pool its OK as a destination but I wouldn't come all the way from Canada for it. Much of its wealth comes from mining so you don't get the diversity and tribal culture persisting like in Vanuatu.

I hope you get to see Vanuatu!

Australia
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for Port Vila, Vanuatu
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6. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Last I saw the Lycianda was moored, but sort of pulled up on the shore at the south end of Iririki. It may be getting maintenance or something but definitely call Sandy who runs it for his son and see if they are touring now.

www.pacificbluecruisesvanuatu@gmail.com

Or use Port Vila as a base and do a couple of days on Moso Island http://www.southpacdivecruise.com.vu/ on the Coongoola.

And/Or do a few days on Lelepa Island

http://www.lelepatours.com for fantastic snorkelling. Speak to them regarding accommodation if you want to stay a few days and experience village life.

I agree with everyone regarding the big package cruise ships where you are 1 of thousands...don't bother unless you are not able to travel independently for some reason. I don't think they get a good impression of any of the islands really on the few hours you get on each.

You could also get to and stay on Nguna or Emao Islands very easily and cheaply too from Port Vila.

I guess Noumea is more touristy and has a huge French influence and if you just want to go relax on a beach or by the pool its OK as a destination but I wouldn't come all the way from Canada for it. Much of its wealth comes from mining so you don't get the diversity and tribal culture persisting like in Vanuatu.

I hope you get to see Vanuatu!

Toronto, Ontario
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7. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Hi There,

Thanks everyone for the comments. You have confirmed our concerns with the cruise ship option.

We do not "have" to do the cruise, we chose it initially as it seems to get you around to tons of places for very little $ - it is all inclusive, really. We have had lots of successful trips via cruise ship in the past (French Polynesia, as an example) but we have also ended up either visiting large ports so the large numbers of passengers didn't make a difference, or in the case of the FP cruise the ship was smaller (600) and I don't think more than 60% of the people were disembarking in each port anyways (it was an older crowd). We never had problems with crowds. This ship has a capacity of over 2000. And I just can't imagine what Mystery Island is going to look like with 2000 people on it. Well, actually I can - it will basically be like a Caribbean cruise.

The ports we chose this cruise specifically for were Isle of Pines (I have always wanted to go there), Mystery Island and Champagne Bay.

Do you think it would be possible to create a 12 day itinerary to see these places without breaking the bank? Can anyone make any suggestions on itineraries - ie: where to go, how long to stay, and how to get from place to place? This would be greatly appreciated!!!

I looked at the cruises mentioned in the posts above - they are beautiful but a bit out of our price range!

New Zealand
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8. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

I think trying to see all three places in 12 days could be a bit hectic, and may break the bank!

The biggest problem I see is Mystery Island, where you would need to fly from Port Vila to Aneityum. I don't think there are direct flights, you would need to go via Tanna, and you could be spending quite a bit of time travelling. If you really want to go to Mystery Island, perhaps think about spending time on Tanna, which is a lovely place in itself.

Champagne Beach is more accessible, being on Espiritu Santo which has daily flights from Port Vila, and some flights from Australia.

Isle of Pines is also very accessible from Noumea, and it is a beautiful spot, so I can understand why you'd want to go there. There is a ferry service from Noumea, which I've been on, and enjoyed. It is also possible to fly, but one really irritating thing about New Caledonia is that the international airport is nearly an hour from Noumea, whereas the domestic airport is in the city.

There are flights between Noumea and Port Vila, so it would be easy enough to go to both countries.

So, in summary, in 12 days, I think you'd be best to drop one of those destinations. Options could be both New Caledonia and Vanuatu, or stick to one of these countries and find some other beautiful destinations within them to explore.

Having a look at the websites for Air Vanuatu, Aircalin and Air Caledonie might help you decide what is possible.

Palm Beach...
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9. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Having only just come back from a cruise (ex Brisbane) via Noumea, NC -Lifou, NC -Vila, Vanuatu. I though I would put my story in here for another perspective, as there seems to be a little negativity in some of these responses.

First and foremost, i was 'talked in' to going so reluctantly said yes. in hindsight i have no regrets. The conjestion on boarding in brisbane was slightly frustrating, but as soon as the formalities were over, the balance of that day was quite enjoyable. I wont go into detail of each day, but suffice to say, there is almost always something to do. so the actual cruise is as hectic or peacful as you choose.

As for disembark/embarkation on these ports, i will mention each separately as they were each unique.

Noumea

We entered Noumea on a cloudy afternoon, and relaxed at the front bar with the view overlooking all the main town as we entered the harbour. the ship intercom explained the proceedure and we watched the "masses" leave the ship. this was already decided as we had no pre arranged tour to go onto, but could clearly see from the top deck, a quick efficient departure to the waiting tours by those exiting the ship.

Now to our surprise, the (adult) kids left us only 5 minutes before (from the bar), here they were walking on the wharf leisurely strolling towards their tour guide.. So we decided it must be relatively easy to leave without too much waiting in ques. And that was the case. In a matter of less than ten minutes we were from the top deck of the ship, through customs (less than 30 seconds) out to enjoy the city. we pre-planned on meeting the kids back at the warf so enjoyed, really enjoyed, the streets and shops walking around noumea. we returned to the warf around 730 pm, met the kids, enjoyed the festivities still going on in this undercover area. then proceeded to walk to the tavern we found while on 'walkabout' earlier. excellent service, wonderful people. I only speak english, and found everybody in town i met so friendly and helpful, particularly knowing i was a obviously a (sometimes lost) tourist. re-entry onto the ship was a no brainer. a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Lifou

The night before we were advised to collect a token (boat allocation) in the morning. The ship entered to the safe anchorage, and we decided to once again chill and leasurly leave the ship via its tender boats after "the rush"(no ship access to wharf). This ticketed roster (the token) was for accessing the tenders. so everybody who was departing already had their seat allocated. an efficient way to transfer i think. we knew we were having our number called after the tenders were actually operating so enjoyed a late breakfast and a shipboard stroll after. The intercom called the "purple 7" passengers to disembark so we casually made our way to the reasonably short que. total wait time less than 15 minutes. The kids also had 'purple 7' and were in the beggining of our call. they were waiting at the base of the wharf near the markets as were arrived. not phased by the short delay us oldies gave them. there were tour buses (vans and cars also) waiting to negotiate informal tours with us. but we decided to explore this idillic little place on foot. Gettin back onto the tenders later was quite simply, a breeze. just a small delay on board for the tourist gifts and duty free proceedures. once again took only a few minutes.

the only negative i experienced on arrival at lifou, was the end of the wharf which was monoplolised by photographers , holding up the exit off the narrow wharf by attempting to verbally coerce each person/group to have their photo taken. they could have easily given room off the wharf to allow those not interested to pass. but they chose this tactic to get their captive audience. a little dissapointing, but no deal breaker.

Vila

This time we all split up as we were going on different tours. As i was taking a scuba tour (absolutely loved it) I had to ensure i was onto the wharf by 0815. a no brainer. i got into the que at 0800, and off the ship to the tours end of the wharf in no time at all. waited there till the allocated time 0830 and presto, by 0840 the co-ordinators had the scuba group walking towards the mini bus. lots of traffic, lots of mayhem, a narrow road through the markets, now set up and full of touristy stalls. an experience i would still call enjoyable. mini buses flying all over the place trying to get into town, and back out again, for the next fare. wonderfully caotic. We arrived at the scuba tour in less than 10 minutes of getting into the minibus. After the scuba experience i walked to town (500 mtrs) with a fellow tourist . he was meeting his lady at a well renowned duty free store. so we chatted as we walked, enjoying the day and the sights. I left him there and spent the next several hours alone, taking in the new and strange sights. As the day went on i made my way on foot, eventually rarely seeing another tourist(hand held gps , Very good idea)and finally back to the ship. took in the markets, still there of course. and an easy entry yet again, into the ship.

Sorry about the length of this text. Although I do hope I have helped you decide your itinery. but take it from someone who was not excited at all about the prospect of the very same thing that now concerns you. Make each day an enjoyable one, dont stress on the small stuff. the ships crew are extreamly helpful, as are other guests with prior experience of the next port and destination. The pursers desk answered all my concerns regading the next days experience, in all good value for money. (and take you-tube with a grain of salt. I researched there before i left as well) and leave the headache of organising to the sightseeing to someone else. or do what i did. go walkabout and you will find those islolated place for yourself. I didnt speak the language remember, and still discovered my holiday !

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Can anyone compare French Polynesia to Vanuatu&New Caledonia

Thats some great info there Gigglehat!

Having done a small ship cruise in Fiji last year, I'm a bit concerned about being stuck in a pack of rabble on the "big ship" cruise we are planning this year. I've always avoided cruises in the past for this (and a few other) reasons.

I'm quite happy to relax with my coffee & let all the punters be on their way first & its good to know its not a problem. So thanks for your input.

Anni