The South Pacific islands are becoming a popular choice for cruises. It’s the opportunity to escape to paradise and a less-commercialised alternative to the Caribbean. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation anticipates that by the end of this year visitor numbers will reach 3.2 million. The destinations are undeniably beautiful, with their turquoise waters and white sand beaches but which South Pacific islands should you visit on a cruise?
In this post, I am wanderlusting over some of the South Pacific islands to visit on a cruise and take a look at the cruise lines that sail there.
Where are the South Pacific islands?
The South Pacific islands are scattered across a vast region of the Pacific Ocean stretching from the top of Australia to Hawaii. This 11 million square mile area gives the islands their mystique and remoteness; offering a desert island vibe to those who visit. There are 15 small island countries that make up the South Pacific islands so there’s plenty of choice available to cruisers. In this post I’ll be focusing on destinations in Melanesia.
If you are looking for beautiful untouched beaches with sand as soft as talcum power then Lifou should be on your South Pacific cruise itinerary. Lifou, one of the Loyalty Islands is part of New Caledonia. It is well-know for its excellent snorkeling spots and the island prides itself on its preservation of coral reefs.
Jinek Bay or Baie de Jinek is the ultimate place to snorkel on Lifou. To get there from the cruise ship, head up the hill, past the market and turn right for approximately a five minute walk. Entry is $15 but the money is used to protect and preserve the coral so it’s well worth the fee. The coral at Jinek Bay is teaming with aquatic life and you may even get the chance to spot Clownfish (Nemo fish) and sea turtles. Don’t forget to wear coral-safe sunscreen when snorkeling in these waters to ensure that the sea life isn’t harmed.
Cruise ships that visit Lifou: Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Dawn, and P&O Pacific Explorer.
The capital of New Caledonia and the most cosmopolitan destination you’re likely to visit on a South Pacific cruise is Noumea. This is foodies’ heaven with a vast array of cuisines to tempt your senses. During your visit you can take a gourmet food tour to explore the local food markets situated in Port Moselle, the restaurants in the Latin Quarter and a stop off at Chocolats Morand. It’s recommended to book an organised tour through the cruise line to be assured of a safe and reliable service. It isn’t advised to book tours once you get off the cruise ship as passengers have been vulnerable to robberies in the past.
Cruise ships that visit Noumea: Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Dawn, and P&O Pacific Explorer.
Isle of Pines
The Isles of Pines was given its name by Captain James Cook because of the trees that line it’s shore. It’s a small island with only 2,000 local inhabitants. I really like the sound of taking an hour’s hike through the rainforest to the top of N’Ga Peak, where you can view the entire island and its surrounding blue ocean.
Some friends of mine really loved their visit to the South Pacific and the Isle of Pines in particular. As you can see, the the water is a beautiful turquoise colour and the landscape hasn’t been spoiled by developments.
The Isle of Pines is a highlight for many cruisers who have the chance to visit. Many say it lives up to the photographs in the cruise line brochures.
“It’s a heaven on Earth. Blue water and amazing coral to see at the beach.”Trip Advisor, 2019
Cruise ships that visit Isle of Pines: Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Dawn, and P&O Pacific Explorer.
If your idea of a South Pacific cruise is the chance to experience remote island life then Dravuni Island is a must. This tiny beach island in Fiji is home to only 200 residents!
On Dravuni Island, life is simple and during a day’s visit from the cruise ship you can get a real feel for local life. Swim in the warm crystal clear waters and take a moment to admire the picture perfect beaches. Visit the local market to pick up handcrafted souvenirs and sample the BBQ whilst you’re there.
One way you can really mix with the locals and learn about their culture is by visiting the local school. This is something I would definitely take the time to do. The island’s school welcomes tourists to visit and chat to the school children (it helps with their English language skills). The school always welcomes donations, so it’s a good idea to pack a few small gifts like exercise books, pencils, rulers and rubbers to give to the teacher during your visit.
Cruise ships that visit Dravuni: Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Dawn, and P&O Pacific Explorer.
The capital of Fiji is Suva and has a tropical rainforest climate. Like Noumea, Suva is more developed than some of the other South Pacific islands. To escape the hustle and bustle, I would opt to visit Suva Village on Orchid Island to explore the ancient customs and rituals of the local people and learn about the local flora and fauna. Wear respectful clothes that cover your shoulders and knees and be prepared to remove hats and sunglasses.
Another alternative would be to take a tour of Colo-I-Suva Nature Reserve to experience the rainforest and swim in the natural pools of its waterfalls. The South Pacific does not only have gorgeous beaches, these rainforests are equally stunning.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try Kava, a Fijian drink made from dried and powdered root stock. It’s supposed to induce feelings of euphoria with Kava bars popping up across the USA. The only Kava bar in Suva is Aunty Julie’s Kava Bar. Even Prince Harry tried Kava on his visit to Fiji.
Cruise ships that visit Suva: Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Aria, P&O Pacific Dawn, P&O Pacific Explorer, Radiance of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
This tender port is known as the hidden paradise of Fiji. Dotted around the town are numerous hot springs that you can see bubbling away. There are even some on the shore line that are visible at low tide. Beware, these thermal springs are very hot and cannot be bathed in! The locals cook on them by placing their pots of food over the springs.
If you’re interested in taking some time to relax and enjoy the benefits of these thermal hot springs you can visit the Savusavu Medical Centre where there are thermal baths available (no booking required) at a safe temperature.
Cruise ships that visit Suvasuva: P&O Pacific Aria
Those with a sweet tooth rejoice! Lying in the heart of Fiji’s sugar cane- growing region, Lautoka is known as Sugar City. Lautoka is situated in the west of the island (Viti Levu). There is a definite mix of cultures here with Indian influences. This is clear from the Krishna temples and mosques that have been built for the large Indian population.
This South Pacific destination is home to the oldest known Fijian village, Nakawa Village. It welcomes tourists to visit and learn about the culture, including a demonstration of the local warrior’s dance.
If you head to the Loutoka Market, there are plenty of sights and smells to soak up. Locally grown fruit on sticks and freshly squeezed watermelon juice for just one Fijian dollar can be found among stalls selling handcrafted souvenirs. Sugary treats from the local sugar mill are also in abundance.
Cruise ships that visit Loutoka: Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas.
This is an island like no other you’re likely to visit on a cruise but one you’re unlikely to forget. If you’ve ever watched Tom Hanks in Castaway, this is the closest thing you’ll experience because the island has no inhabitants, no roads, no electricity and no telephones!
If you’re dreaming about getting away from it all on a South Pacific cruise, Mystery Island is likely to be on your agenda. There is in fact something for everyone on Mystery Island, despite not having anything (kind of):
- Relax on the beach
- Stay active with stand-up paddle boarding
- Enjoy a spot of shopping from the local stalls
- Explore the warm waters and coral reef armed with your snorkel gear
All of these activities are possible due to its close proximity to the neighbouring island of Aneityum. The residents of Aneityum believe that Mystery Island is home to ghosts and therefore will not live there. But there is nothing to be afraid of when visiting Mystery Island, except perhaps the toilets, which are very basic. Fortunately, the cruise ship is just a tender ride away but it’s worth bringing your own toilet paper (just in case).
Cruise ships that visit Mystery Island: Radiance of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, P&O Pacific Aria, P&O Pacific Dawn, P&O Pacific Explorer, P&O Pacific Adventure, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Spirit.
A popular South Pacific cruise destination is Mare Island. If you’re looking for lots of attractions and shopping, this port is not for you but if you’re in search of beaches, blue water and snorkeling spots – this is a winner.
It’s recommended to take the 20 minute cruise bus to Yejele Beach on the other side of the island.
Cruise ships that visit Mare: Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, P&O Pacific Adventure, P&O Pacific Aria, Pacific Dawn, P&O Pacific Explorer, Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
How to get to the South Pacific
South Pacific cruises typically start from either Sydney or Brisbane. The airports are approximately 35 minutes by road to the cruise terminals. The Australian port you cruise from will ultimately depend on the cruise line and ports of call that you choose.
South Pacific Cruises from Sydney
If you choose to cruise to the South Pacific from Sydney, there is an array of cruises on offer. Cruises from here have the added bonus of sailing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a special touch to your sailaway and an exciting start of the cruise holiday.
Ovation of the Seas
The newest and largest ship to cruise from Sydney is Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. This Quantum-class ship was launched in 2016 and has some incredible onboard features that will enhance your cruising experience. The ship’s Two70 venue offers some awe-inspiring wake views during the day and transforms into an entertainment venue at night, featuring dancing Roboscreens.
Cruise Lifestyle’s Top Tip:
Grab a roast beef sandwich (very delicious) from the Two70 Cafe and find a spot to gaze at the wake view!
Another notable attribute of Ovation of the Seas is the North Star. The glass capsule takes you up above the cruise ship for 360 views from 300 feet above sea level. The North Star operates whilst the cruise ship is at sea. I’d highly recommended reserving a time slot to guarantee the spectacular views. I enjoyed seeing the cruise ship from a bird’s eye perspective as I could take in the view of the whole ship.
Ovation of the Seas boasts 14 dining venues and 8 bars in addition to the entertainment venues, which also serve drinks. If you enjoy specialty dining, I’d highly recommend purchasing a dining package. This offers an economical way to sample a range of different cuisines onboard. I particularly enjoyed Izumi (sushi), Choppes Grill (steakhouse) and Wonderland, which is a delight for the senses and definitely a venue to experience.
The Bionic Bar is a novelty that must be tried at least once on your cruise. Simply swipe your cruise card on the order screens and select your tipple, before watching the bionic bar tenders whir into action to mix your drink.
The Sky Bar, situated on the lido deck has waiter service during the day to help you keep cool from your sunbed. At night this bar is ideally situated to enjoy movies on the outdoor cinema screen.
Ovation of the Seas is a great option for families, with plenty of things that will appeal to multi-generational cruising. It’s a large ship but because there are many different areas on the ship, it’s less likely to feel too busy.
Carnival Spirit sails out of Sydney and caters well to those looking for fun and activities onboard. It boasts the biggest waterpark at sea in Australia and how does 24-hour pizza and ice-cream sound?
Carnival Spirit can accommodate 2,124 guests with a range of stateroom options. The ship is based in Australia permanently and therefore is able to cater well to Australians looking to cruise to the South Pacific.
The Redfrog Rum Bar and Redfrog Pub are fun venues to enjoy day or night. Both serve Carnival’s signature private-label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Summer Ale.
Entertainment on Carnival Spirit is in abundance including theatre shows that incorporate music that you know and love. There’s so much, that you may not get chance to see and do everything in one cruise. Just remember, a cruise is an opportunity to relax and enjoy yourself.
There are several dining options on Carnival Spirit and it’s good to know that some of the best restaurants are included in the cruise fare. The Main Dining Room offers first class dining but when you fancy something a little less fancy, Guy’s Burger Joint and Ol’ Fashioned BBQ can really hit the spot. These are both complimentary for all guests onboard.
If you decide to eat at any of the specialty dining venues, I would highly recommend a meal at Nouveau Restaurant. The service is exceptional and you will be treated to steaks cooked to your preference alongside lobster tails and fish dishes.
Pacific Aria from Brisbane
Cruisers looking to sail to the South Pacific on a smaller, more intimate ship should consider P&O Australia’s Pacific Aria. The ship cruises from Brisbane and came out of it’s most recent dry dock in 2018. It won a Cruise Critic award for Best Ship Refurbishment.
Pacific Aria has a capacity of 1,260 passengers. This means that the South Pacific destinations will feel less crowded than if cruising on one of the larger cruise ships.
Despite its smaller size, Pacific Aria offers passengers 16 dining options. Notable specialty dining venues include Dragon Lady and Angelo’s. Dragon Lady offers dishes inspired by Australians’ passion for Asian cuisine (including Chinese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian and Japanese). Angelo’s serves authentic Italian cuisine in a tastefully decorated restaurant on Deck 8 adjacent to Dragon Lady.
The Theatre on Pacific Aria reminds me of the Royal Court Theatre on Queen Mary 2 with it’s tables and multi-level seating. This lends itself well to feeling closer to the Broadway-style performances you can expect onboard.
A fantastic addition following the dry dock work in 2018, was a retractable roof over the pool on the Lido Deck. This means that whatever the weather, you can still enjoy a dip in the pool. I really like the design of the pool area on Pacific Aria.
There are a number of aspects to consider before booking a South Pacific cruise. In my opinion, the destinations you’d like to visit should be the number one factor. Do you want to escape modern living and explore the islands that still remain relatively untouched or go in search of different cultures? The islands of New Caledonia certainly offer soft sands and plenty of opportunities for snorkeling whereas the islands of Fiji invite you to tropical rainforests and village life.
When it comes to selecting the right cruise ship for you and your family, you certainly have a good choice on offer for a South Pacific cruise. All ships will cater for children in varying degrees. If you are looking for a ship that caters for multi-generations, Ovation of the Seas is a good choice. For those of you who are not bothered about the bells and whistles and prefer the benefits of small ship cruising then P&O’s Pacific Aria is a better fit. There is a cruise line to suit everyone.