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Archive for 'Pacific cruise'

Nukuʻalofa, Tonga #travel

We made a brief stop at Nukuʻalofa during our very first cruise. The weather was horrid and it poured with rain. We decided to go for a walk anyway and managed to get very wet, but it was fun exploring a little of the Tongan capital.

Tonga Main Street

The main street of Nukuʻalofa.


A carving on the roadside.

Tonga Washing

Washing on a clothes line.

Tonga Flowers

Hibiscus flower after the rain.

Tonga Harbor

Fishing boats at the harbor.

By the time we returned to the ship, the rain had eased off, and it turned into better day. Our clothes, however, took longer to dry out!

Helmet Dive in Bora Bora

Camera Critters

This week I thought I’d combine my Camera Critters photo with a story about our visit to Bora Bora.

Helmet Diving in Bora Bora by Shelley Munro

One of the fun parts of travel is the planning of a holiday. There’s the research, both online and in books, the correspondence with travel and tour operators and the detailed discussions at home with my husband. Should we or shouldn’t we?

My husband, in particular, loves the planning part of our overseas trips. This process starts months ahead. First we decide which part of the world we’re going to explore, we look at our budget and then it’s the research.

Our latest trip was a Pacific cruise on board the Dawn Princess, the Love Boat from the old TV series. There were stops at Tonga, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, American Samoa and Fiji. Once we’d booked our trip and put a countdown graphic on our computer, it was time to decide what we’d see and do at each stop.

“Let’s do this,” my husband said one day.

I read the details of something called a helmet dive. “It sounds good,” I said. “But I won’t be able to see a thing without my glasses.”

“You can wear your glasses underwater. The helmet goes over the top of your head. Your hair won’t even get wet.”

“Oh,” I said. I watched a YouTube video with my husband. It did look like fun. According to the site, your head didn’t get wet, no swimming experience was necessary and the excursion was suitable for all ages. “Okay,” I said. “We should do it.” I kept my lingering doubts to myself. I can swim, but I much prefer to keep my feet firmly on dry land.

Before I knew it, we were booked for a helmet dive when our ship reached Bora Bora in Tahiti.

We traveled out to the tour company’s diving platform on a speed boat. That’s when I started to get a little nervous. What if I didn’t like it? To my relief, I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing anxiety.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a beautiful spot. The water is a brilliant blue, an impossible color that makes you wonder if the photographer has employed Photoshop to touchup photos. The sun shone and a faint breeze stirred the foliage on the trees. Beneath the surface, we caught glimpses of fish while we waited for our turn to descend into the water.

The helmets are large clear bubbles. Imagine a cartoon spaceman’s helmet—they’re exactly like that. They’re weighted to keep them in place, which means they’re pretty heavy.

Bora Bora

We climbed down a ladder at the end of the platform and waited for the helpers to winch a helmet in place and place it over our heads. I was surprised at the weight. With the helmet over my head, I slowly went down the ladder under the water. Initially, you have to equalize. A couple of the other women had experienced trouble. I was determined I wouldn’t end up the same so I was busy making saliva and swallowing a lot. LOL Probably more than you want to know!

Bora Bora

Under the water was magical. There were loads of fish of all colors swimming around us. A diver and a photographer swam around helping and showing us different things. Lots of different things grew on the rocks and fish darted in all directions. A stingray swam around us, floating around our helmets in a graceful dance.

Bora Bora


Bora Bora

The current was surprisingly strong, so I was glad of the added weight of the helmet. Walking along the sandy bottom was quite difficult and we all looked a bit silly flapping our arms. With so much to see, the time sped past quickly.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora

One at a time, we climbed back up the ladder and waited for the helper to attach the winch and remove our helmets. It was the first time I’ve ever swum and kept my glasses and hair completely dry.

The helmet dive ended up being one of our trip highlights. It was both exciting and magical seeing fish and a stingray in their natural habitat. I especially recommend a helmet dive to anyone who, like me, has wondered what it’s like to scuba dive. I believe helmet dives are available in a number of places now, including the Caribbean, so if you’re interested in trying one do some online research before you leave home.

To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters.

A Shipboard Tour

During our cruise, we did a ship tour. We had to pay for the tour, but it lasted for four hours and we received several gifts from the departments we visited, drinks and canapés and a photo with the captain so we were well pleased.

Behind the scenes on a ship is absolutely fascinating. We started in the Princess Theatre and learned about the lights, the dancers and singers and the costumes. During the course of the cruise, we saw four cabaret-type shows. The sheer number of costume changes amazed me, and when I saw how small the changing rooms were I was even more impressed. Many of the costumes were very heavy as well.

We visited the laundry, which is below the water line and is a very busy and steamy-hot place. The laundry is in action twenty-four hours a day to keep up with all the onboard washing and ironing.

The anchor is immense and has several backups so it doesn’t become loose at the wrong time. The printing shop where they print everything from menus to daily newspapers and the ship newspaper (The Princess Patter) to TV guides is also small and staffed by two people.

During the course of a cruise, a team of photographers and videographers constantly photograph the passengers. The place where they print the thousands of photographs is also small, and it’s amazing that they manage to get the prints done. All repairs to the photography machines are done onboard, so the head of department needs to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Next was the galley, which is spotlessly clean and incredibly busy during service times. It’s a very delicate balance trying to work out how much food it will take to last the length of each cruise. On the cruise we were doing food and supplies were taken aboard in Sydney and Honolulu. There was a fair amount of consternation amongst passengers when the ship ran out of bananas. Most of the passengers came from Australia and it seems Australians love their bananas! The store rooms and chillers were crammed with meat, fruit, vegetables plus raw and canned goods. The workers are rotated to avoid boredom.

We visited the engineering department, where they generate electricity for the ship, before heading to the bridge to meet with the captain and his officers. We finished with drinks and canapés.

During our visit to the galley, we received a chef’s jacket each. I put mine on today while I was cooking vegetarian chili for dinner. It made me feel very “chef-like”. I even managed to get it dirty when I opened a can of kidney beans. The juice shot over my chef’s jacket, my face and glasses, so it’s now officially christened!!

Here’s a photo of me in my chef’s jacket.