Sunday, August 31, 2014

Carnival Spirit cruise (Pt II) - Ports of Call


The ship's three ports of call in New Caledonia were, in order, Noumea, Lifou and Mare.

If you're wanting to get an idea of the shore excursions available, the Carnival Cruises website has a page dedicated to all the ports of call visited by Carnival Spirit. This page has listed the various shore excursions that are available. This page can be seen HERE.

You can 'go it alone' and book a shore excursion when the ship gets to each destination. You will save $$$ compared to what the ship charges but I've found booking tours through the ship is good for several reasons - 

1. You get all relaxed on the ship, then get stressed trying to find a shore excursion that will save you a few $$$. I don't think the stress is worth it.
2. Everything is organised for you when you book through the ship. This follows on from the previous point of not wanting to get stressed after a relaxing time on the ship.
3. The ship will wait for you if the ship tour you're booked on is running late. If you go it alone and decide to take your time getting back, or the vehicle breaks down, or the driver gets lost - whatever - the ship might not be there when you get back. Then it's up to you to play catch up with the ship and find/pay your own way to the next port of call.

(Above photo - Notre-Dame de Lourdes chapel at the far end of the bay near Easo, Lifou)

My overview of Carnival Spirit - with tons of info and great photos - can be seen HERE.

My video of Carnival Spirit can be seen HERE.

***Unless otherwise stated, the photos of, and information regarding, Noumea and Lifou in this post are taken from my 2012 P&O Pacific Dawn cruise that also went to New Caledonia. The photos of Mare are from this cruise.

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

Carnival Spirit moored at Mare.


New Caledonia is a French colony and Noumea, the capital, is its economic and cosmopolitan heart, boasting, among other things, French fine dining restaurants, designer boutiques, beaches, and colonial mansions. Not surprisingly, it proclaims to be the Paris of the Pacific! French is the spoken language but most locals have a grasp of English, especially those in the tourist industry.

I went on the 'Tchou Tchou' train (Carnival Spirit prices - $59.99 adult, $39.99 child), a motorised 'train' like the sort you see kids on at theme parks or shopping centres (you're a tourist - this is what you do!).

The TT train takes you on a tour of the city, with tour guide supplying commentary, of the city and surrounding area. The tour took two hours (Carnival Spirit also offers a three hour tour) and stopped twice, both times at lookouts. The first is an out and out lookout and the second is at the Notre Dame du Pacifique, a statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the city. Several companies run TT train tours, so you tend to bump into each other at various times.

Downtown Noumea. When I was on Pacific Dawn, the ship docked where that blue boat is docked.
Carnival Spirit docked at a cargo port - not sure if this is always the case - a short distance away.
However, you couldn't walk through the port and had to get shuttle buses. 

Telecommunications tower on Montravel.

The Tchou Tchou train.

Tourists sit on a gun, placed there by the Australian Army during WWII, at the first lookout.  

One of the views from the first lookout.

The Tchou Tchou train is a common sight and just about every local
waves enthusiastically as you pass by.

The cross marks the spot where one of Noumea's two guillotines was located.

The nickel smelter in Noumea - New Caledonia has around 10% of the world's nickel deposits.

The Notre Dame de Pacific overlooking Noumea.

A wall covered in art in the Noumea CBD.

On the Pacific Dawn cruise in 2012 the ship ended up revisiting Noumea due to a cyclone over Port Vila, and were afforded the chance to get some more photos...

The Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie (didn't get the chance to go in).

One of the more wealthy parts of town (some real estate prices rival that of Sydney Harbour).

The Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

A Pacific flying fox stretched its wings at the the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. 

A monkey hangs onto the side of its enclosure. A little sad to see.

The Tjibaou Cultural Centre (designed by Renzo Piano) is also set in quite expansive grounds - including a Melanesian village - and the cultural centre building itself is a spectacular example of modern architecture blended with, and incorporating, traditional design.

One obvious aspect of this is the louvres installed at the base of the building that, when opened, send the prevailing breezes streaming through the building. The traditional works of art on display were quite spectacular, including a wonderful photo of the Noumean 'last supper' - a take on da Vinci's Last Supper (photos are not allowed inside the building, so I'm unable to share it with you).

 The Tjibaou Cultural Centre.

The Melanesian village at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. 

The inside of a traditional Kanak Great House in the Melanesian village.

 Paragliding Noumea-style - at the first lookout we stopped at during the Tchou Tchou train tour.

The fruit and fish market.

 Inside the Cathédrale Saint-Joseph de Noumea.

Joan of Arc statue outside Cathédrale Saint-Joseph de Noumea.

Porcelain sculpture at the Notre Dame de Pacific.

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If you like the photography in my blogs, it's because I am a professional photographer. My photos don't merely show something, they tell a story. And visual stories i.e. photos, are more interesting than pictures that merely show something. 

If you'd like to know how to turn your images into visual stories, I've published a book that takes a whole new slant on photography and 'translates' the art of taking photos into a language we all understand.

To read more about my book and see some of its 100+ visual examples, please click HERE.

***I use all the tips and hints from my book in every photo I take, including those in Travel With Giulio.

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Lifou, our second port of call, is the largest atoll in the world (1,146 sq km) and one of several islands that make up the Loyalty Islands, 190 km to the north-east of New Caledonia's mainland.

While, for many (me included), atolls evoke images of low-lying sandy islands covered in palm trees, Lifou is made of fossil coral with a wide, flat centre surrounded by cliffs. Before you start having doubts, Lifou, due to its size, has a diverse landscape comprising limestone caves, beautiful white beaches, and coral reefs full of marine life (Lifou is known for its snorkeling).

Carnival Spirit passengers mill around the village of Easo on Lifou.

Church of Easo at the Baie du Santal.

I booked a tour through the on board tour desk - this time the 'Forest and Secret Grotto walk' (Carnival Spirit prices - $62.99 adult, $32.99 child). We dropped anchor off Lifou and this meant we had to be tendered into the island.

Tenders are small boats, often the ship's life boats, that act as a shuttle service between the ship and shore (photo below). They run all day, usually at 15-20 minute intervals. You need a tender ticket (free) to get on one of the tenders and, once again, the advantage of booking a ship tour is that your tender ticket is taken care of.

NOTE - those who have booked tours through the ship get preference when the tender tickets are handed out and, if you decide to go it alone, you may have to wait until all the ship tours have gone ashore before you are able to.
A tender drops off passengers on Lifou as others approach.

I thought the Forest and Secret Grotto walk would involve a good hike but, in short, it doesn't. All up you walk a few hundred metres. However, the guide (ours was a local who didn't seem to think his English was good - it was excellent!) stopped at many of the trees and plants along the way and explained each one's use in what we refer to as bush medicine and bush tucker ('food', for non-Antipodeans).

We all found it funny that we often walked only a matter of metres from one tree to another before stopping. This was fine - we got used to it - and the explanations of how the tree/plant was used (eradicating headache, helping pregnant women etc) were interesting. It made you realise how most of us look at a forest and see a bunch of trees, whereas the indigenous people of Lifou, or any land, see something totally different.

Our guide tells us about one of the trees.

When it came to the grotto, I'd envisioned a large, cavernous type grotto with massive stalagmites and stalactites. It wasn't quite as expansive as this (though, apparently they do exist on other parts of the island). The grotto was entered through a large hole in the ground and the 'cavern' itself was around 10x10 metres (35x35 feet), and about 2 metres (7 feet) in height, descending as you got to the edges of the space.

What was so lovely about it was that the grotto was lit by candles sitting among the rocks - as if it had been set up for a romantic dinner. There were some small stalagmites and stalactites and at one end of the space was a small opening through which you look into another small cavern with more stalagmites and stalactites (there were torches provided, which were used to light this smaller space). As you can see from the photo below, I opted not to use flash photography (it would have killed the ambience) and, for those keen photographers among you, the exposure was 1/8 second at f4, rated at 6400ISO - it was dark!

After we'd ooh-ed and aah-ed in the grotto we continued the walk and were shown some of the traps that were used to catch animals such as coconut crabs, wild pigs and birds. It was fascinating to see the simple, but effective, ingenuity involved. Our tour guide was joined by the owner of the property we were on (no land is sold on Lifou, only handed down through the generations) who explained how the traps worked, in French, yet with his gestures and enthusiastic explanations so we knew exactly what he meant.

Inside the grotto.

Some stalactites visible inside the grotto.

A coconut crab - the type caught in one of the traps we were shown.

Back at the jetty, I walked through the markets that were there. What was nice about these markets was that they didn't look like they'd set up especially for the cruise ship i.e. there was nothing tacky about them. You got the impression that, despite being conveniently placed at the end of the jetty, they were used as a part of daily life and you just happened to be wandering through on the day your cruise ship was in port.

Part of the markets near the jetty, with Carnival Spirit in the distance.

Get your hair braided as you take in the view.


At 42 km (26 mi) long and 16 to 33 km (10 to 20 miles) wide, Maré is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands.

The island's population is just short of 7,000 and the only shore excursion there was a shuttle service ($19.99 adult, $15.99 child) that went from where passengers came ashore in the tenders, to Yejele Beach the other side of the island - around 20 minutes in a shuttle. The 'shuttle' isn't what you might think. Locals roll up in a flotilla (?) of vehicles of varying shapes and sizes and you give them a voucher to get you to Yejele and a voucher to get you back. They then 'cash in' these vouchers to get paid.

I decided against spending $19.99 to see a beach, despite the promise - 'On arrival at Yejele Beach you will be blown away by Mare's pristine beauty'.

The township of Tadine on Mare, with passengers in shot and some of the transport about to take
then to Yejele Beach on the other side of the island.

 Waters around Mare.

 A local makes her way into town.

I think this was a church (we were there on a Sunday morning and there were bells ringing),
located right next to the clear, sparkling water.

 Not quite sure what is happening here.

Carnival Spirit moored off Mare.

Carnival Spirit moored off Mare.

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I hope you enjoyed visiting the Carnival Spirit ports of call on this cruise. If you have any comments or queries, please email me at

Bon voyage!


My overview of the ship that is Carnival Spirit - with tons of info and great photos - can be seen HERE.

See and read about more of my cruise experiences/reviews.

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All photos & text by Giulio Saggin
© Use of text and photos must be via written permission

1 comment:

John Harlow said...

We didn't go to Yejele Beach either and had great fun walking around the village. We saw people coming back from the beach at about 10:30 AM saying it was disappointing, too windy and very poor facilities. We were there on Sunday and got great shots of the locals attending church and the kids at Sunday school.