Monday, December 23, 2013

30-day Cruise to Hawaii and French Polynesia

I did not take any major trips this year (2013), which is not typical for me, since I normally go on one major trip each year, and often go on a more modest trip as well. 2014 will be different, since last week I booked a 30-day cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, Fanning Island, and French Polynesia, leaving in February 2014 and returning in March.

I had originally planned to take a Mediterranean cruise in 2014, and then those plans morphed into an around the world trip with a cruise from the Mediterranean to Singapore forming the middle portion of the arrangements.  Finally, I actually made a decision to go on a photography tour to Morocco, however that fell through when the tour operator cancelled the tour. So it has been a year of indecisiveness for my travel plans, and my passion for travel had waned quite a bit.

I did travel to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada for a week away in late June 2013, returning home in early July. I suppose that trip counts as travel, although it was a short trip within Canada. I was attending an astronomy convention at Lakehead University, but I also took a wonderful day trip to the Slate Islands in Lake Superior, and also saw the local Fort William Historic Park on another day.

Anyway, back to the South Pacific cruise for 2014. I am sailing aboard the Statendam, a Holland America ship. I have sailed on two of their ships in previous years, and I am very happy with the service, and the value Holland America offers, as well as the interesting itineraries to virtually anywhere in the world one might want to travel to.  This cruise departs from San Diego in California, which makes is very easy for me to travel to the departure point from my home in Victoria, BC, Canada.  I have booked a direct flight from Victoria to San Francisco, and then a connecting flight to San Diego on the departure day.  I leave Victoria at 6:30AM and arrive in San Diego at 12:30PM, giving me plenty of time to embark the ship before the 5PM sailing time.

It takes the ship six days to sail to Honolulu, where we stay overnight before moving on to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii over the next four days. Then we have three days sea time before arriving at Fanning Island, Kiribati. We then cross the equator on our five day sail to Bora Bora, our first stop of six islands in French Polynesia. Nuku Hiva is our last port-of-call in French Polynesia, and then we sail for seven days back to San Diego, which is the end of the cruise.

Since I have visited Hawaii many times before, I will not be booking any of the shore excursions offered by Holland America.  I plan to rent cars, and simply explore my favorite spots on each island.  Fanning Island is tiny, and there are no shore excursions offered.  I expect passengers will disembark to simply say they have been there, have a quick look around, and then re-board the ship.

French Polynesia is without a doubt the main reason I booked this cruise. It is expensive to both travel there by air and stay there, so traveling by cruise ship is an ideal way to see French Polynesia.  This cruise first arrives at idyllic Bora Bora and stays overnight before moving on to Raiatea, the capital Papeete (another overnight), Moorea, Rangiroa, and finally Nuku Hiva. I have spent my excursion budget to ensure I maximize my fun on these islands, favouring snorkelling, but also having a variety of experiences.

After leaving French Polynesia, we have a seven-day sail across the Pacific Ocean, back to San Diego. I enjoy having some sea time, which we will get going to Hawaii and returning from French Polynesia.  Typically, special shipboard events are scheduled during this time, in order to keep the passengers occupied.  I’m quite happy reading a book, catching up with my travel journal and photographs, and find myself getting into a daily routine.

I’m looking forward to seeing the ports of call this cruise takes me to, and I will be planning my time in the Hawaiian Islands a bit more over the coming days. I traveled to French Polynesia in 1978 and promised myself I would return!

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