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If you are a “pollywog,” who has never crossed the line at sea, you will be expected to undergo a mock trial by King Neptune and his court for the entertainment of the “shellbacks” who have already done so. Mild but hilarious indignities will be conjured, and in the end a good time will be had by most, if not all.
The Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation consisting of multiple island groups, scattered in the South Pacific east of Papua New Guinea. Its capital is Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal. Many of the outlying islands in the nation are relatively untouched, but Honiara is a busier hub of international commerce. The islands’ recent history is scarred by the desperate battles fought between the Japanese and American forces during World War II. In 1942, the Japanese launched their last great land offensive in the islands, which culminated in the Battle of Henderson Field fought at Honiara. Of the estimated 36,000 Japanese troops on Guadalcanal at the beginning, only 1,000 survived, the rest having either been killed directly, or succumbed to disease and starvation. Ghostly evidence of this horrific warfare dots the island, and it is memorialized at the American Memorial overlooking the town and at a smaller Solomons Peace Memorial erected by the Japanese outside the city. On a lighter note, traditional arts and crafts are on display at the National Museum, which also boasts a display of eight traditional Melanesian houses from various parts of the country. Behind the museum is a cultural center. Above town there is a pleasant botanical garden, and the bustling Central Market is a great place to get a feel for everyday life in Honiara. Although English is the official language, only a small percentage of Solomonese speak it. The common language is Pijin.
On the north shore of Vanuatu’s large island of Espiritu Santo is a beautiful pink-tinged sand beach ringing a clear warm lagoon. A freshwater spring bubbles up through the volcanic rock substrate beneath the bay, and at low tide this phenomenon creates tingling bubbles like a geothermal spa. Thus the name. Your ship will anchor offshore, and you can take a tender ashore to bask and swim or snorkel in the bay or follow one of the short trails into the surrounding forest. Local craftspeople will be there to offer handwoven mats or other crafts, and perhaps cold drinks. The site is one from a South Pacific dream, and sufficient unto itself.
The islands of French Polynesia are acclaimed as the most beautiful in the South Pacific. Tahiti is the largest of the Polynesian islands and home to the capital city of Papeete, a delightful blend of cultures. Papeete, meaning the “water basket,” was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh water. Today, it is the gateway to the country, and boasts romantic resorts, fine dining, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and boutiques. Tahiti’s mountainous interior is adorned with deep valleys and scenic waterfalls, while the rugged coastal lands are home to fields of tropical flowers, and glorious white and black sand beaches.
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