Hiking in Picton

Picton was the last of our New Zealand stops.  

Since Jen and her parents were still in quarantine, Dom decided to go on a 12km round-trip hike out to "The Snout", to explore the peninsula.

As the boat departed Picton through the Marlborough Sounds, we saw some really great views of the coast.


Our stop in Wellington was rainy and cold.  Jen and her parents were sick, so Dom was the only one allowed to disembark.

He took it easy and visited the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, the City Gallery, and wandered along the main streets. 

The Te Papa museum had a few interesting exhibits including a section on the First World War Gallipoli Campaign, with giant wax statues that were incredibly realistic! 

The City Gallery wasn't particularly interesting, however there was one interesting exhibit where you could watch "2001 Odyssey" and the "Thriller" music video with all of the people removed from the footage, because the artist wanted to explore the backgrounds of videos without the distraction of the people them 🤷‍♂️.

Cycling in Napier

After another 5 days at sea, we arrived at our first stop in New Zealand - Napier. 

We rented a couple of bikes and headed South along the nicely maintained, coastal pathway. 

Over the 40km ride, we were rewarded with perfect riding weather and beautiful scenery.  We also saw the biggest asparagus and aloe plants ever!  😜

Napier is famous for its art deco architecture, so before heading back to the boat, we took a stroll down to main avenue and admired all the art-deco style buildings.

Tour of Papeete

The capital city of Tahiti, Papeete, was our last stop in French Polynesia.  In the morning, we wandered around town to explore the local market, the cathedral, and strolled through the gardens at the Assemblee De La Polynesie Francaise.

After lunch, we took a tour of the island and stopped at 6 different sites: 

  • Taharaa point 
  • Venus Point
  • Waterfalls of Faarumai
  • Aarahoho blowhole
  • Vaipahi garden 
  • Maran Arahurahu 

The trip was about 5 hours long with quite a lot of driving.  Some of the sites were quick "instagram" stops and others were in areas that you could wander and explore a bit more.

The stop at the Aarahoho blowhole was particularly special.  When we arrived, we didn't see much to look at but fortunately we had a guide to point it out to us.  

When the waves crash into the rock-wall along the shore, the air is forced through a small tunnel that ends further up the shore.  Check out the video of Dom quickly discovering the impressive amount of wind pressure that comes out of the hole!

Every night, a bunch of food trucks gather in the square next to the cruise ship dock.  We took advantage of the opportunity to taste a local speciality called “poisson cru au lait de coco”, which translates to "raw fish with coconut milk".  The portion size was quite large so it was a good thing we shared.  The national dish is made of sushi-grade fish marinated in lime and fresh coconut milk - sounded so simple but it was SO fresh and delicious!  We would definitely have it again.

Kayaking and Snorkelling with Shark and Rays

After hiking Magic Mountain, we headed back to the Gauguin Pier to meet up with Jen's parents.  While waiting, we strolled to the local church to watch the church choir dancing and singing church-songs, with local instruments and style.  It was really beautiful.

We took a taxi to the Plage des Tipaniers on the North side of the island, where we rented kayaks from Tip Nautic for about $10usd per kayak/hour. 

We paddled out to a sandbar ~1km away and tied our kayaks to the floating anchors that were out there.  We put on our snorkel gear and hopped into the water to swim with the black fin sharks and the stingrays that typically hang out in the area.

After returning the boats, we hung out around the beach for a couple more hours and checked out the fish in the lagoon

The island of Moorea has 2 main bays.  The Western bay is named Cook's Bay, in honour of Captain James Cook, the first European to dock on the island in 1777.  Moorea is also the island where, 12 years later, the Mutiny on the HMS Bounty occurred with Captain Bligh.  
The Eastern bay is named Opunohu Bay, which means "stomach of the stonefish".  Stories of stonefish are common in the folklore of the island.  The extremely venomous stonefish like to bury themselves shallowly in the sand of the island's lagoon, making them very hard to spot. There are many stonefish hospital visits here each year because if you accidentally step on one while wading the waters, it can be very dangerous.  So it is highly recommended to wear shoes with thick soles and avoid walking near rocks/coral, when wading in the beautiful lagoons here! 

Fortunately the beach locals warned us which areas of the lagoon to avoid in particular and we also wore our sandals in the water just incase.  We managed to avoid any incidents with stonefish, but Dom did have a fun encounter with a Damselfish while trying to capture some pictures and videos in the lagoon!  Apparently these guys get very territorial during breeding season.. checkout his footage of "Damsel vs the GoPro":

Magic Mountain Moorea

We started the second day with an early morning hike up Magic Mountain since it was easily accessible from the Paul Gauguin dock.  The area around the mountain is privately owned, so we paid $2 usd/person to enter.  
The walk was along a paved road where tourist vehicles would occasionally pass by.  We spotted a number of different fruit trees along the way including mango, papaya, lime, and banana, unfortunately, since we were on private land, we were told not to pick any of the fruit.  After about 45 mins exploring the 3.3km hike up, we reached the 180m peak where we were rewarded by yet another beautiful view of the island and surrounding lagoons.
We overheard one of the tour guides explaining that Moorea is a volcanic island (an atoll).  All of the dramatically steep "mountain peaks" along the horizon, were all part of the volcano caldera.  The 2 large bays on the North side of the island are areas where the caldera collapsed, giving Moorea it's unique "heart" or "butterfly" shape when seen from above.  To learn more about how the beautiful atolls were formed, checkout this site: Formation of atolls and islands illustrated.

Motorbiking Moorea

After leaving Honolulu, we spent five days at sea before arriving at the island of Moorea, in French Polynesia.  

The cruise itinerary originally had a stop in Bora Bora, but in order to preserve the island's ecosystem, the authorities stopped allowing large ships to dock there anymore.  The itinerary was changed to stop in Moorea for 2 days instead.  This actually ended up being perfect for us as we were able to take more time exploring the island in more detail.

Dom was excited to finally travel to a place where he could speak French with the locals.  It sure came in handy for getting directions, understanding the motorbike instructions, and figuring out the local taxis!

On our first day, we rented motorbikes and drove the ~60km clockwise loop around the entire coast of the island.  

Our first stop was at the Belvedere lookout where you can see a view of Mount Routui.  The road to get up here was rather steep and winding - a bit unnerving since none of us had been on a motorbike in some time, but the warm scenic ride up was definitely worth it!

After travelling and hiking in so many different places around the world to see so many viewpoints, sunrises, sunsets, etc., we figured this would just be another typical viewpoint.  To our delight, this viewpoint showed us what an absolute magical paradise Moorea is.  We were all blown away with the stunning scenery.  The turquoise colours of the sea, the light mist, the lush vegetation of the forest - it was unreal.  It felt like we were on the beautiful island from Jurassic Park!  

We spent a pretty long time taking pictures here, but sadly, the pictures don't come anywhere close to conveying how magical and stunning the island felt in real life.

On the way back down, we stopped by the side of the road to see the local pineapple plantation.  As we strolled through the area, we could smell the sweet pineapple scent every once in a while.

The next stop was at the Routui juice factory where we sampled some juices and alcoholic beverages.  The Tahiti Drink - Strawberry Daiquiri was the best, so we bought a carton (for about $10cad) to enjoy on the ship.

Lastly, we stopped at the Toatea viewpoint where we saw a beautiful view of the Sofitel over-water bungalows hotel and surrounding waters.  We were amazed at how beautifully turquoise and clear the water was - the pictures of Moorea really don't capture how breathtaking all of the views were in!

We then completed the rest of the island loop to returned the motorbikes and taxied back to the ship for a late-afternoon lunch.  

There was a beautiful sunset over the island that evening.. the perfect way to end our adventurous day in paradise.


After Maui, our ship stopped in Honolulu.  

This was the final stop of the 9-day Vancouver-to-Hawaii leg, so the ship was super busy with passengers disembarking and new passengers embarking.

Since we were continuing onward to Sydney, we decided to spend a few hours visiting Honolulu.  Walmart provided a free shuttle bus from the pier to a Walmart near Waikiki beach so we took that into town and then had a relaxing day window shopping and strolling along Waikiki Beach while people-watching all of the beach-goers and surfers.  

Internet on the ship is rather slow and expensive (ie. $30 usd/day), so we also used the opportunity to find some free internet hot-spots to get caught up on all of our messages and emails, while Jen's parents got caught up on all of the latest photos and videos of their baby granddaughter 🥰.


After 6 days at sea we finally reached Maui where we stayed for 2 days.

On our first day we rented a car and went out to explore the island. Of course, we had to start our visit with a lunch stop at Costco to test their hot dogs and see their free-range chickens 😂.

Our main goal was to go up Haleakalã Mountain, but by the time we finished driving all of the switchbacks to reach the top of the mountain, it was completely fogged over and raining. Weird to think that only 30 minutes earlier, it was hot with clear blue sunny skies 😀. 

On our way back, we stopped near the start of the road to Hana, to walk around and catch some beautiful views at Twin Falls and Ho'okipa beach park.

We were a bit caught-off-guard to discover that most of the parking lots charge $35 USD to park a rental car overnight in Lahaina!  We drove around for quite a while and luckily found a place called Republic Parking on Dickenson St. where they only charged $20 - by that time, it was getting dark and we were getting hungry so we thought it was quite a bargain! 🤪

On the 2nd day, we went out snorkelling but had mixed results. 

We tried to see the turtles in Napali Bay, Honokeana Bay, and Kaanapali Beach but with no real success.  From the beach, we could see lots of turtles coming to the surface for air, but once in the water, the visibility was about 3 feet so you couldn't see the turtle until it was right in front of your face!  The waves were quite rough in Honokeana Bay, so it was a bit scary to get into and out of the water.  You had to time yourself just right so that you wouldn't get slammed into the rocks by the big waves and currents. 

Before returning to the ship, we stopped in Lahaina to window shop and admire the massive Banyan tree. If you look at the picture, it looks like a little forest with several different trees, but it’s actually all part of same single tree - each of the "trees" were aerial roots that branched off, rooted themselves, and continued to grow into separate-looking trees over time. 

Back on the ship, we enjoyed a 5-star view while eating a late-afternoon snack at the Windjammer cafeteria. 

Quick stroll in Seattle

After being stuck in Calgary for the past couple of years, we got the travel itch and decided to join Jen's parents on a cruise from Vancouver to Sydney on the Ovation of the Seas.  Our first port of call was Seattle. 

We had already done most of the local tours and attractions when we were here 10 years ago, we decided to just take a bus into town and stroll along the wharf, through Pike place and, of course, have a Starbucks coffee.  Seattle hasn't changed much from what we remember, except that sadly it seemed like there were a lot more homeless people in the streets this time :(.