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Vanuatu Cruise Testimonials

Richard and Lyn Corbett,

A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to travel down to Wellington with a busload of fellow bowlers from Paraparaumu Beach Bowling Club on an introductory and promotional trip where we went on board the Island Passage. At that time we were very impressed with the immaculate presentation of the boat and the hospitality extended by the crew. It is hard to believe that earlier this year we were so fortunate to win the all expenses paid holiday to Vanuatu which included five days cruising the Vanuatu Islands with Island Escape and a two night stay on the luxurious Iririki Island Resort thanks to the very generous sponsorship of House of Travel and Peter Bissett of Island Escape “Luxury Small Ship Cruising.” How do we ever begin to say thank you!

Thanks firstly to Dermot from House of Travel for the superb arrangements from Paraparaumu to Vanuatu. We left Paraparaumu on the early flight on a gloriously sunny morning and also had a good flight from Auckland to Port Vila. We were met at the airport by Seth and from there, taken to the Grand Hotel where we were warmly greeted by Emma and Taoho. We had some free time to wander around Port Vila as the rest of the fourteen passengers arrived and at 5pm started the short transfer from the hotel to the Island Passage.

Where to start! The boat is immaculately presented and such a credit to Captain Andrew (or Poppa) and the rest of the crew. Once on board we were introduced to the ten members of the crew who were to be our hosts for the time on board. We cannot stress highly enough how wonderful everyone was. Peter – you must be extremely proud of your team as they are totally dedicated to ensuring that everyone is made most welcome and, so importantly, kept safe.

Each evening we were given a brief on what was on the programme for the following day and a copy was delivered to our cabins whilst we were dinning (and at the same time our beds were turned down and a delicious wee chocolate placed on our pillows). For the benefit of our bowling club members we have attached a sample of the daily schedule.

Talking of dining, the meals provided by Chef Yano Gideson and Sous Chef Donald Siel were of an extremely high quality and would match any five star hotel. Again for the bowling club members we have attached sample menus. Each morning at breakfast we were presented with the menu for the day – should there be anything you were unable to eat you simply had to mention it to Yano and he would plan something else for you. In addition to the delicious main meals we were also presented with morning tea and nibbles with our evening drinks.

Most days saw us sailing a short distance to a new island where we were taken ashore, warmly welcomed by the local Chief and given a tour of his village. Following that we would usually spend some hours relaxing on the beach, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking – in delightfully warm 25 degree days. Every day began with the opportunity to swim off the starboard swim platform – always under the watchful eye of a crew member. Early-risers could breakfast on fresh pastries, coffee or an early morning cup of tea.

Our first full day on board saw us head to Lelapa Island trolling for fish on the way. We were met on Lelapa by Aaron, who, as part of the tour, took us into a very forbidding looking cave, right at the end of which were a couple of skulls we were told. I’m afraid we didn’t venture in that far! Just the appearance of hundreds of bats flitting around our heads at the entrance scared us off.

Day two was spend at an anchorage in Havannah Harbour, Efate. The highlight today was a 12 minute scenic helicopter ride. I think it was scenic because although it was exhilarating it was also scary. Lyn had the front seat next to the pilot and spent most of her time assisting him guide the helicopter over and around the hills, up off the waters edge etc. She was also responsible for operating the emergency exit – what a risk for the rest of us. Prior to the flight we were given an extremely good safety lecture – its normal for people to duck as they walk under the rotor blade and while we were told this isn’t necessary, we were also advised not to wave our arms above our heads. It was therefore a little disconcerting to see that that the helicopter pilot was missing three fingers on one hand – and that was the hand in control of the gear stick!

Tuesday we moved to Pele Island where we were met by Chief George and what a character he was. That evening we were served the Captain’s cocktails and were entertained by Chief George and his Pele string band as we enjoyed a fabulous BBQ. Dancing Donny, the Sous Chef, finally managed to get us all up dancing and for the first time ever apparently, Chief George relaxed and joined us on the dance floor – something his fellow island band members struggled to contain their amusement over. At the end of another glorious evening we sang (badly out of tune) farewell to Chief George and his band as they sailed back to their village.

Our final full day on board was spent cruisimg back to Port Vila, trolling again on offer and again without success. We did manage to hook a fish but that was as far as it went. By the time we had our cameras ready it had already slipped off the hook. Even the group that took the opportunity of a special early morning fishing trip failed to bring back the goods!

Back in Port Vila on Thursday we were delivered by the barge to either Iririki Resort or back to the Grand Hotel. It was a surprisingly emotional group who said their farewells to the crew – in such a short space of time it felt like we had known each other forever – again a testament to their warm friendly manners and unfailing willingness to ensure that we had the best time possible. Thursday evening the sixteen passengers all had dinner at the Grand Hotel followed by a short (but very lucky) stint at the Casino where we walked out with 96,000 Vat! This roulette is an easy game!

We had a lovely restful two days on Iririki resort which is a very short, four minute barge ride to the mainland. We had a delightful “fare” on the water’s edge and spent our time swimming and enjoying a bit of sightseeing on the mainland as well.

Peter and Dermot – how can we thank you enough for your sponsorship of the bowling club and in particular for giving us such a wonderful holiday. It was a truly memorable experience and one we have been delighted to recommend to everyone since we have been back home. Peter – please pass on our warmest best wishes to your team on board and in particular Taoho and Emma whose professionalism and rapport with the guests was noted by all on board. It seems wrong to specifically identify just two as everyone was great, however our most frequent and first point of contact was with Taoho and Emma and they set the stage for what was an incredibly special trip.

Thanks again to all concerned

Chris and Kelvin Moses,

My husband and I did the 5 night Romance Cruise in Vanuatu on the 24th of May. I would like to congratulate you on everything. The boat was immaculate and comfortable, the food was great, activities well organized and lastly the crew were amazing. I would like to give a special mention to "T" for the wonderful service and care. Thank you for my birthday special and I hope that we see some of the crew when you are back in the Bay of Islands which is where we live.

Mike and Leanne, Queensland,

Well we are back home now and I know I speak for Leanne and myself when I say our “Secrets of Vanuatu” cruise on the Island Passage exceeded all our expectations in every way. Paul and the entire crew worked tirelessly to ensure we had the most amazing seven days possible. The superlatives just keep coming with the food, the ship, the places we visited and the people we were introduced to. I expected to give my wife a holiday and instead we both came away having experienced Vanuatu in a way I could have never expected. The Vanuatu people are the most warm and welcoming people and to have met them through the relationships that have been developed by Paul and other members of the crew just enriched our experience many fold.

We look forward to returning to Vanuatu again and when we do it will be with Island Passage. We will be telling our friends, our travel agent and anyone else that will listen. Not only would we like to return but we are investigating ways we could provide school books and materials and other items for the Asanvari village school.

Lastly, Peter I wanted to thank your fantastic team for contributing to our great and memorable holiday.

Rachael,

Dear Peter

We recently had the pleasure of cruising Vanuatu on the Island Passage and I believe the following people need to be recognised for their outstanding contribution to our holiday. Firstly, the captain Vince who went beyond the call of duty to include, befriend, help and enable us all to have a fabulous holiday. Then, of course, Happy, for whom no request was too much trouble. And also Sandy with his wonderful smile. The cooks also need special mention and may I suggest that you purchase a couple of hats to easily distinguish them so that passengers get the opportunity to congratulate them on their delicious meals. I believe the cruise exceeded everyone's expectations. What was especially good was that there was no sense of skimping and saving, instead the crew went out of their way to be as helpful as possible.

We will definitely be booking again and recommending Island Escape Cruises to our family and friends.

Rachel

Mark,

I am writing to express my thanks for arranging our recent trip onboard the Island Passage. Everything we touched turned to gold! The vessel, employees, food ( 6 star at all times) and destination were beyond our Expectations. The whole trip was outstanding value for money. Arranging a trip for 12 friends and family has it risks, your organization was faultless. The entire group was thrilled with the trip and I also believe the crew thoroughly enjoyed our company. A new bar record was set! Would you please pass our sincere thanks to the owner of Island Passage? He certainly runs a professional business he should be very proud of. His Captain (Patrick) and 1st mate (Vince) worked tirelessly to ensure all passengers were satisfied. Virginia and Happy were a pleasure to deal with, at all times they were available and willing to please. Both Sandy and Markus Worked hard to ensure all had a catch. I will be in contact in the coming weeks to discuss next years adventure. Again, many thanks Mark

Linda,

This is a wonderful upmarket all inclusive (alcohol is additional) small cruise experience in our part of the world operated by Kiwis with a couple of the local Vanuatu people in training. It is easy to get to, just a short flight from Port Vila to Santo where you are met and transferred to the BP Wharf where a little boat from the Aore Resort comes across to collect you and your baggage. Most people will spend the afternoon swimming in the pool or off the beach, having a leisurely lunch in the open air restaurant, kayaking, snorkelling etc. A room is set aside for the Island Passage guests to change and shower etc. Our experience was tropical down pour but it did give us a chance to get to know our fellow passengers. Late afternoon the Island Passage tender comes to collect us and transfers us to our home for the next five days. The vessel is a very efficient, modern soft adventure catamaran with cabins for 20 guests and 9 crew members. The cabins have a lovely rich feel, the obligatory flat screen TV and the bathrooms have slick Italian fixtures. There is limited hanging space and no ironing facilities so pack the non wrinkle wardrobe, clothes you would take to spend a week at a friend’s beach house. Hair dryers can be requested but for convenience I suggest you pack your own as voltage and power points are the same as home. Activities were a combination of water adventures and village visits. We were paddled up the Riri River in dugout canoes to the most beautiful blue holes with time to swim and snorkel but back onboard in time for the first of our gourmet lunches. Then we were off to Champagne Beach, those who wanted to test their angling skills transferred to the fishing tender….sorry to admit not a successful exercise. We had a full day at Champagne Beach gorgeous white sand and truly crystal clear water. You could kayak, swim and there are coral reefs to explore within swimming reach of the beach. The ship provides snorkelling equipment and reef shoes. The local ladies had lines of colourful pereos for sale. Apparently the previous day one of the P and O ships spent the day in the harbour and I must say you would not have the same pristine experience sharing the beach with 2000 friends! Helpful hint….take a rash shirt for snorkelling as you may feel cool in the water but the sun is beating down on your back. Then back to the ship for another wonderful lunch that someone else has prepared. That afternoon some decided to snorkel at an off shore reef and we tried to redeem ourselves as fishermen only managing to loose one of Marcus’ beautiful lures. The main lounge on the vessel contains the bar / coffee corner, comfortable sitting area with coffee tables and the two large dining tables taking 10 guests each. Outside this area is covered deck space with comfortable seating and low tables and a big silver barbeque. With such a small number of guests it is easy to get to know and mingle easily with everyone. The crew are happy to have a chat and there is an open bridge policy. If you are so inclined you can ask to check out the engine room. The tenders are hoisted onto the helicopter deck by cranes at the end of the day. I also noticed they carried a couple of rubber duckies but they were not used on our cruise. Having moved in the night we awoke in the bay off Asanvari village and after being advised that the Chief was not ready for us until 2:00pm we spent a couple of hours snorkelling off the bommy next to the ship, it was just like being in an aquarium. At the appointed hour we were tendered ashore and greeted with song, music and children with huge brown eyes to be ushered into the Asanvari “open air” Yacht Club. The chief and men from the village in full regalia and body paint danced for us and the women sold us the most exquisite baskets and offered us refreshing fresh coconut milk. We were then taken on a tour of the village, a monumental contrast to our western way of life. We passed the dancers who had moved on to house building and saw the school just as the children were coming out of class. I am not sure who was more curious of whom. One of the guests had taken some books for the school and presented them to the head mistress. The next day was Pentecost Island and the land diving. This feat was originally a once a year effort but as it is one of the only ways this remote island is able to earn a cash flow they now land dive every Saturday for the season April to June. The 30 metre tower is built on a hill looking down on what was a coconut plantation but now the trees have been felled and have become pews for the cruise ship passengers. As we were such a tiny group in comparison we were invited onto the hill close-up and personal, just as well as when the brown bodies clamber into the jumping tower they are the same colour as the timber and they disappear until you see them on the various jumping platforms. All the while the dancers and chanters at the bottom are psyching the jumpers up for their leap. We saw 8 jumpers and each one took your breath away. After lunch we travelled further up Pentecost Island to Waterfall Village. It was a real treat as this village had not had a cruise ship stop for more than 20 years. We were welcomed with song and dance, we were allowed to swim under their waterfall, we were taken into the Kastom House and shown sand drawing. Then along came the snake dancer but it was more fun watching the audience with their horrified wide eyes and squeals of fear. We were offered kava and adorned with leis and each given one of the exquisite baskets that we had to purchase the previous day (note….mine had to remain at Australian Customs to be fumigated, $30 for three baskets, well worth the effort). After speeches and more singing it was back to the ship for a freshen up and our last gourmet dinner. The following morning it was hugs and kisses as we said goodbye to the crew. Disembarkation was an easy exercise, we pulled up to the wharf at Luganville, the transfer vans appeared and whisked us off to the airport where as everywhere in the world it is the hurry up and wait routine. You will need to have a few vatus for domestic flights as there are local airport taxes not collected on your international tickets. When I travelled it was 200vt per person per domestic flight.

Adela,

Hi! Just a note to thank you for arranging this 'wonderful cruise' - it was sensational!!!! The yacht was a dream and the cabins so nice and comfortable. The food first class and professionally crafted; the service on board; the attention to every detail; the facilities provided were endless and finally the view of the beautiful beaches and different islands - all of them fantastic.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to have a great time in style at a very affordable price. We were all pampered during the entire cruise. Very well organized!!

Darren & Lucy,

What an amazing experience! Loved everything about it, from the superb hospitality offered by Brittany to the amazing sights and island excursions, and of course the fishing, which Darren thoroughly enjoyed! With the assistance Sandy, the VERY knowledgeable local guide, the 'boys' managed to catch Wahoo, Dogtooth Tuna and Mahimahi - what a delight! Patricks smoked fish (sorry the description just doesn't do it justice) and the sashimi that was produced from the said fish was superb - lets face it, it couldn't have been fresher! I higher recommend this amazing adventure to one and all. Thank you to the crew - you're all fantastic, and most of all thank you to our fellow guests for making if the trip unforgettable!

Sandy & Phil,

Day 3 we woke to a new place. White sandy beach 25 metres away, palm trees, outrigger canoes with local people surrounding the ship. We expected to Robinson Crusoe come walking down the beach. This cruise is SUPERB in every way. Superb cabins, superb meals, superb crew and a superb itinerary. Boy oh boy this will become THE pacific islands cruise. We would suggest this to anyone but get in quick because this will soon be fully booked. Its just so easy everyday. We will do the NZ cruise next. We had 18 passengers onboard which is almost full (sleeps only 20 I believe) but there is so much space unlike some of the small ship cruises we have done. Just DO IT.

Dave,

Went to Vanuatu with lowered expectations after such a good time on the Auckland cruise but it was exactly the same -fantastic! The vessel and crew will always deliver no matter where the destination - thank you. I,ve decided to head a cult group that doesn't bother to holiday elsewhere and will see you again soon.

Val and Brian,

On behalf of my wife and myself i would like to thank you for the magnificent cruise we experienced recently as part of your recently launched "Island Escape" using Espiritu Santo as your base. As the cruise we were on was only the second such cruise we were expecting many early problems with schedules.These were much fewer than we expected,and were very minor.These were far outweighed by the outstanding comforts onboard the ship. No bouquets would be large enough to present to your magnificent staff and crew for their courtesy and assistance on board. We wish you great success for this new venture. Brian & Val. Queensland, Australia.

Chris Waite,

Thank You, Island Escape. The 6 day Vanuatu cruise we have just returned from was fantastic. It was great to leave the cold weather in Sydney on a Saturday and to be kayaking and snorkelling in water of 26 degrees on the Sunday. The islands and the village people we visited so beautiful and friendly - a real eye opener and the reefs surrounding the islands were up there with some of the best in the world. The food and the crew were outstanding. Stephen the chef cooks the best poached egges in South Pacific and Patrick's smoked Wahoo from the earlier fishing trip was unbelievable. The equipment on board is top qaulity and combined with the expertise of the crew, we did not have to do too much considering this cruise involved our inaugral fishing trips. Thank You, Chris and Sophie

Peter,

Hard to explain the trip without gushing too much – we had a wonderful time, with wonderful people and got to see Vanuatu as very few would be able to. Had we stayed for a week in a resort in Vila or Santo – I am sure it would have been relaxing and enjoyable but we would never have experienced the Vanuatu we did by water…the villages, the islands, magical bays, fishing, sunsets and snorkeling were literally on our doorstep every morning. Highlights…there were bucket loads: § Champagne beach – pristine § The Blue hole – paddling in the dugouts up the river – what a magic place § The outer island villages and the people – warm, friendly and a wake up call for those that think we have it tough § The food – hard to get back to normal food after being spoiled for a week § Fishing – in heaven. Mel came out a couple of times also. We only managed to boat Wahoo and Skipjack Tuna – but there was definitely other strikes and losses that kept the interest high § Guests/crew – a great bunch, lots of laughs and many friends now to catch up with § The sea – we saw turtles, dolphins, pilot whales, dugong (missed that), sea snake, jumping manta rays, sail fish, wahoo, tuna and endless varieties of reef fish…not a bad assortment Would I recommend – most definitely. Would I go again – in a nano-second. We have racked up a few trips and holidays over the years but few compare to the overall experience that this one gave. Just loved it. Peter
 

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