Neil Robin, Dec. 2003

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Part 1

Background information:

Throughout my life I've wanted to travel to the South Seas and explore those special places that are removed from the tourist crowd. Many have special meaning for those that like adventure. Places such as the Marquesas, Bora Bora, Huahine, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Easter, Manihi, Mataiva, Pitcairn, Palmyra....... etc. A few are discussed at this site.

One of my favorite stories was "Mutiny on the Bounty". With the help of the Internet, I began exploring some of these places, how they fair today and how you might reach them. As it turns out, nearly all are easily reached if you have the funds to support your adventuresome spirit. The usual way has been via private sailing yacht. The Marquesas are legendary to yacht owners who have the time and skill to sail the mid Pacific.

Times are changing and what was once a choice for the privileged few can now be enjoyed by many. Freighters and cruise lines are now stopping regularly at many of these ports. Only Palmyra is still pretty isolated but that will be changing soon.

To prepare me for these far away places, I decided that a "sampler" was a better way for the first time around. To see if they are really what they're cracked up to be; I started looking for ways that I could sample some of these islands and not have it cost me an "arm and a leg". Since many of the cruise lines are now starting to venture to the more exotic, this seemed a good choice. Through the help of Cruise Clearinghouse, Portland I found a couple that fit my needs. The most convenient was the STAR PRINCESS.

Star Princess

They had an itinerary for a relocation cruise from the Northern hemishere to the Southern. Big ships often move their operations seasonally to take advantage of the most attractive weather and passenger draw in each part of the world. The Star Princess is one of the largest passenger ships on the sea today at 107,000 tons. A few statistics for the ship . My trip commenced November 1st, 2003 and we sailed a total of 9,300 nautical miles.

The itinerary included:

This gave me the sampling I was looking for. Below is a map of my route:
Map of Pacific


We began in Long Beach, Ca. Cruise ships rarely stay in port more than 12 hours during the active season. You must keep things moving. Typically, the disembarking passengers leave the ship by mid morning and the new passengers start embarking by 12:00 noon. They will be ready to sail by 18:00.

Here are a few scenes aboard ship during my 25 days at sea. Besides traveling the high seas, I wanted to be able to operate my ham radio equipment along the way. The principle approach taken was to use IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project) which has become popular throughout the developed world. More on that later.

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Stateroom Stateroom Theater Me at Embarkation Port Bridge IRLP contact
Gym 1 of 5 pools Steel Band Sun Deck Culture Central Pacific

Listen to one of the songs played by the Steel Band


After five days at sea we reached Lahaina, Maui, our first landfall. One surprise on the first leg was the failure of my new digital camera. I recently purchased it specifically for this trip. It was a highly rated PENTAX Optio 550. Once in Lahaina, I decided to purchase another camera of lesser capability so my first few hours were spent finding a decent camera shop. Luck would have it and I found a Ritz camera store only a few blocks from the dock. I picked up a tiny SONY Cyber Shot U which is lower resolution and designed for Internet Photography. Because of its small size, it's a pleasure to carry around. It will fit in your shirt pocket with ease. Most pictures were taken with this camera for the rest of the trip.

We had two stops in Hawaii. The first in Lahaina and the second in Honolulu. In Honolulu, I concentrated on learning more about the South Pacific and the culture. The Northeast shore of Oahu boasts the Polynesian Cultural Center, (PCC) and that's where I wanted to spend my limited time. I've been there before but it's a great place that concentrates a lot of information in one location.

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Star Princess
Lahaina Lahaina Tender, Maui PCC Leaving Honolulu

PCC PCC Breadfruit tree, PCC
Started the problems for
Capt. Bligh

During my Hawaiian island visits, I had the best IRLP contacts with Marsha. Talked multiple times from the ship including a contact with our ham club president. It was fun being Maritime Mobile (MM) off shore from these islands. I was able to reach the Maui repeater when 60 nmiles at sea, on UHF no less. It's amazing what good open terrain can do for propagation.

Our next leg was to the Southeast for 2300 nmiles before the next port of call.

Crossing the Equator

A big event for me was reaching the Southern Hemisphere. I had never been to that part of the world. I was really looking forward to it and had calculated the longitude by which I expected the ship would cross. I came within 4 miles. It was 07:00 in the morning but I was ready. We passed the equator at: 154° 30' West. This is about 30 nmiles west of the site which is used to put satellites into geo-synchronous orbit. An interesting story in itself.

A ceremony is performed on board ships when passengers or crew cross the equator for the first time. On the day the equator is crossed, one of the ship's company appears suitably attired as King Neptune. He is accompanied by his wife, Queen Nephritite, an evil-looking barber, a surgeon of equally villainous appearance, some fierce looking guards and as many "nymphs" as the occasion may demand. After parading around the ship, court is held and King Neptune summons the novices one by one. This procedure earns them a certificate which exempts them from a repeat of the treatment on future crossings. The ceremony undoubtedly owes its origins to ancient pagan rites connected with the propitiation of the sea god "Poseidon" or "Neptune". Before ocean navigation began in earnest in the middle of the 16th century, it was the custom to mark the successful rounding of prominent headlands by making a sacrifice to the appropriate deity, many of whom have temples erected in their honor on such points. With the spread of Christianity, many of the vows and obligations paid to the heathen gods were transferred to the saints. In 1529, the French instituted an order of knighthood called Les Chevaliers de la Mer in which novices were given the accolade when rounding certain capes. The earliest account of visits to the ships from imaginary King Neptune appear in Abin's Dictionnaire Nautique (1702) and in Woodes Roger's book, "A Cruising Voyage Round the World (1712)", in which described the performance of a ceremony on passing the Tropic of Cancer which is similar to that performed today on crossing the equator.

Once the ceremony is performed, you become a "Shellback". Novices are called "Pollywogs". The ceremony on the Star Princess amounts to covering you with discarded food items, usually desserts and then throwing you in a pool……

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We made it! Ceremony, note mess

The seawater temperature reached 86.6° through the Equatorial Pacific.

As we progressed on this leg, we came close to several uninhabited islands which are part of the Kiribati group. Malden was about 70 nmiles but to my surprise we came within 20 miles of Vostok Island and I could see trees. It's located at 10.1°S, 152.38°W. It was fun to experience the difficult sighting at sea like the mariniers of the past. I thought of Palmyra and what it must have been like to sight that island for the first time.

French Polynesia

Probably the most dreamed about land in the world. But is it really all it's cracked up to be? It certainly is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Particulary, if you like green tropical growth and emerald water. It also has a very nice climate. At about 17° South Latitude, it's moderated slightly from the intense heat of the tropics. That's about where the positives end.

It's one of the most expensive places to vacation, from a lodging point of view as well as food and recreation. You get poor value for your money. We stopped at two "ports of call", Bora Bora and Papeete, Tahiti. I could learn to enjoy Bora Bora.

Spent a day touring the island of Tahiti Nui. This is the main island, the capitol and commerce center for all the islands. French Polynesia has a total population of 250,000. 175,000 live and work in the Papeete area. The rest are scattered throughout the islands. 75% are of Polynesian decent, 15% are European and American (French 5%). The remaining 10% are Chinese. France takes care of most everything but now that the nuclear testing is done, Polynesia is becoming a burden.

It's well known that if you want to enjoy the natural beauty, go to the outer islands and avoid Papeete. "Mutiny on the Bounty" really put Polynesia on the map, otherwise it would probably remain a pretty, but out of the way place.

I would only consider Bora Bora as a possible repeat visit. I would enjoy further skin diving in the lagoon but I'm told there are really better and more colorful places. Much of the coral in the lagoon is dying because of overuse and pollution. Fiji has a reputation of more colorful coral/fish. Overall, I enjoyed Cozumel and Glover's Reef, Belize, more, but would consider the other islands of Polynesia if I were to return.

I had to go there once to get it out of my system. All that said, it's still nice to see. If you want tropical beauty, the outer islands of Hawaii or Central America have nearly as much to offer at a much more reasonable price.

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Polynesia Map Mt. Otemanu
Bora Bora
Feeding Sting Ray
Bora Bora
Sting Ray
Bora Bora
Bora Bora
Small French Car
Gauguin Museum Bird of Paradise Ginger Entering Lagoon
Bora Bora
Dive Leader
Bora Bora
Papeete Market

Last modified:8/05/04