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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...

I think I've noted the Oz school schedule before. There are 4 terms, each being 9-10 weeks long. Between terms, students get 2-3 weeks break. Summer break is 6-7 weeks. Remember, summer break is mid-December until end of January.

So with the kids first school break, we decided on a 13-day Royal Caribbean cruise out of Sydney. My dad joined us all the way from Detroit, MI, USA! Living in a port city has huge benefits! The itinerary had several stops in Fiji and New Caledonia; plus Mystery Island in Vanuatu.

I don't really know how to describe being on a 13-day cruise. It was lovely not to have to cook or clean for almost 2 weeks! But we were very tired of the food and activities by day 10.

Our favorite stop was Isle of Pines, an island in the archipelago of New Caledonia (an overseas French territory). I'm not a beach lover. In fact, I'm a beach hater. I loved this beach. The sand was soft and luxurious. It was amazing and relaxing and loads of fun. I even offered to let the boys bury me in the sand!

We also stopped at Noumea, New Caledonia; Inyeug, Vanuatu; Lautoka, Fiji; Suva, Fiji; and Mare, New Caledonia.

In Noumea we walked around a bit but there wasn't much to see right near the port. The port itself is an "active" port, meaning it is in frequent use for shipping goods. We had to be bussed from the ship to just out of the port.

Bus out of the port in Noumea

View from ship in Noumea

Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia. Right near the bus drop felt incredibly touristy, and by this point Passover had started so eating off the ship was very challenging. We walked around a bit but didn't do much else.

Inyeug is commonly referred to as Mystery Island. As someone in PR can tell you, this is all BS. This tiny islet off the southern tip of the Vanuatu archipelago is totally uninhabited. The human population of this lovely place is 0. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The natives that service the island live on a different island -- they won't sleep here. History says in the 1850s Australian blackbirders (kidnappers who would enslave islanders and drag them back to Queensland to work on the burgeoning sugar cane farms) used the island as a hiding spot and safe haven from authorities. The local islanders, then superstitious cannibals, feared Inyeug was inhabited after dark by ghosts. So after dark, the blackbirders could roam free here.

Inyeug / Mystery Island is supposed to be an amazing snorkel and dive spot. We had miserable weather; we played on the beach for a bit, then got back on the boat. Sad.

I picked up this neat shell and realized it was someone's home!
Digging to...China?

Lautoka is the second largest city in Fiji. It is in the heart of Fiji's sugar cane crops. Lautoka was a mostly wonderful day (more on that in the next post). We took a taxi to a lovely resort and spent the day swimming and lounging. We skipped seeing the town as it was Easter Sunday and most everything was closed.

Passover lunch at the pool -- icy poles (popsicles) and crisps (chips)

Next stop was Suva, the capital city of Fiji. It's a shame we were here on Easter Monday (public holiday in Fiji, Australia and many other South Pacific countries) as I would've liked to explore a bit more. The boys skipped this port (again, you'll learn more about that in our next post) and hung out on the ship in the kids club. We shopped a bit but most stores were closed for Easter Monday.

Our final stop was Mare. I didn't think I'd be able to cajole them off the boat, but at the last minute they both joined me. We took a bus to a beach and played in the water and sand all day. The sand wasn't nearly as magical as Isle of Pines, but I toughed it out 👧

The boys burying each other at the beach near Mare

Proof that Grumpa visited a beach (he likes beaches less than I do).
All in all, it was a nice trip. Thirteen days was a bit long, but its hard to complain about that. Our special order Passover food never materialized but the crew did a phenomenal job catering to us. Here's M eating a ship-made matzo pizza!

Explorer of the Seas matzo pizza!
Lunch at Johnny Rocket's on the ship. Root beer floats!
Romping around the ship 

Early birthday celebration!
Arriving back to Sydney on day 13 was spectacular! I hope this view never gets old or mundane.

It was great to have no internet for almost two weeks, though returning to the grid following that was a bit painful.

As you've probably gathered from this post, M had a defining event in Lautoka, Fiji, that he wants to blog about. Until next time...!

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