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A fascinating, stuck-in-time string of South Pacific isles, the nation of Papua New Guinea (colloquially known as PNG) is an anthropological never-never land, where a linguistically rich population, representing more than 800 languages and dialects, maintains a culture and traditions that seem altogether from another time and place (ahem, cannibals and headhunters figured prominently in the not-so-distant past!). Brimming with lush coconut palm-speckled coastlines and astoundingly rich reef systems – the diving and snorkeling counts amongst the world’s best – I recently touched down for an exotic taste of the tropics at Rabaul, aka the “Pompeii of the Pacific.” Read more
As a writer specializing in honeymoons and romantic travel, I have been lucky enough to visit Tahiti five times (go ahead and hate me) and these magical South Pacific islands never get old – but cruise ships do. So I was happy to hear that the m/s Paul Gauguin (shown at left in Moorea), the 332-passenger ship that has been sailing the South Pacific for 14 years, underwent a $7 million refurbishment in January. And when I went aboard in late February for a seven-night Tahiti & Society Islands cruise, the renovations looked great. The new color scheme – muted neutrals and pale blues instead of the old red and dark navy – gives the ship a renewed elegance and sense of place. And the all-inclusive (with the exception of shore excursions and spa treatments) pricing makes the Paul Gauguin, while still a splurge, a great value in a region where overwater bungalows run upwards of $800 per night and food alone can tack on another $500 a day for two. Plus, book in 2012 and cruise fares include free round-trip airfare from Los Angeles. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of booking a romantic sail through the islands of French Polynesia.
If the winter solstice has you in a celestial state of mind, Celebrity’s set to host one cruise itinerary in 2012 that’s sure to be out of this world. Their 20-night South Pacific Solar Eclipse Cruise, aboard the 1,950-passenger Celebrity Millennium, is due to embark on November 2, 2012, from Honolulu en route to Sydney. Given that one of the best places to view the total solar eclipse will be from the southern Pacific Ocean, cruising is just about your best bet for viewing this cosmic phenomenon firsthand.
The Luxury The 20-night South Pacific Islands in Style package from Swain Tours takes you on an in-depth journey through Australia, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands. From Sydney city life to the secluded Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, from a West Auckland winery tour to a wilderness safari, you’ll experience all the South Pacific has to offer – while bedding down each night in the region’s top luxury hotels.
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