By: Thierry Tholon, General Manager
I can’t help but feel nostalgic when Oceania Cruises debuts a new season of itineraries – it always makes me look back on all of my wonderful travel experiences and reflect on the incredible memories. Now that I’ve been with Oceania Cruises for more than a decade, I’ve had the pleasure of sailing aboard all of our ships and all around the world. I’m excited about so many of the voyages in our new Tropics & Exotics Collection – faraway journeys to Asia; around the continent I call home, Australia; up the east coast of Africa and across the Indian Ocean… truly once-in-a-lifetime voyages. There are also lots of great Caribbean escapes and adventures in South America. I have to confess, though, that the region that always catches my eye first is definitely the South Pacific.
Over the years, French Polynesia has become a very special place to me. As I was born in Lyon, the French influence combined with the beauty of the Polynesian islands left a deep impression on me when I first sailed there more than 15 years ago. The endless shades of blue water all around, the island culture and the friendly locals – there’s nowhere else like it on the planet.
Once a chef, always a chef – so of course, I love going to the local fruit and vegetable markets on the islands. You can smell the fresh aroma of vanilla, and the sweet pineapple, mango and passion fruit are delightful. The selection of fresh fish is also amazing – tuna, mahi mahi, parrot fish, swordfish, you name it, and you can try it all at one of the local restaurants. I especially love the local market in Papeete, so that’s one not to miss when you are in Tahiti.
The Best-Kept South Pacific Secret
Of course, whenever you mention French Polynesia, Bora Bora is what everyone naturally thinks of. It’s an icon for good reason, and everyone who sails to the South Pacific should spend some time there. But I’ll share a little secret with you – since I have been fortunate enough to sail so much in this region, the island that I have really come to love is Fakarava. I first discovered it about two years ago. I remember tendering there, and once you get to the tender pontoon, all of the locals are there to give you a warm welcome. There is a wonderful beach with restaurants only about five miles away. These little restaurants have tables and chairs in the water and you’re surrounded by this gorgeous aquamarine water. It immediately feels like a complete getaway – having lunch as you sit, the warm water all around and enjoying one of the most stunning views. This island is a place truly too beautiful words, and one you must see in your lifetime.
I am very lucky to have visited so many other islands in the Pacific, and there’s never a shortage of adventures. I’ve hiked in a Fijian rainforest, picked black pearls in Raiatea, enjoyed the wine and cheese of Nouméa (this Frenchman can attest to the quality!), snorkeled in Hawaii and even visited a few traditional villages in Papua New Guinea. There is so much to explore – beaches and lagoons, rain forests and mountains, and native cultures and local delicacies.
The magic of the South Pacific is one of those things that is hard to describe, and then once you are there, it surrounds you. When you are sailing there, you really feel like you have found a piece of heaven on earth.