The World According to Renee

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Renee’s Cruise Tips

*All prices are correct as of 15 March, 2014

*All prices are in AUD unless indicated otherwise 

Recently I went on a cruise to Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila. It’s the second cruise I’ve been on, although with a different company than the first. There’s a lot of info on the internet about these ports but some things have changed recently so I thought it would be a good idea for a blog post… Plus it’s a handy guide if you’ve never cruised before. 

Saving Money Onboard

Newsflash: Holidays aren’t kind to the savings account. Depending on the cruise company, there are ways to save some money while you’re onboard. 

Most activities onboard are free. Some of the crafts have a small charge ($10-$15) but bingo is up to $30 per ticket. That’s OK because you can win several hundred dollars. Holland America bingo tickets have poke-and-fold technology which doesn’t require a dabber. P&O dabbers are $3.50 each or you can use a pen. I recommend a dabber, so bring your own. 

P&O Cruises allow you to take bottled water and soft drinks onboard. P&O charge $2.75 per can of soft drink and $4.95 for a litre of bottled water. You do the maths on that one. Beer starts at $5.95 and cocktails are $9.90-$11.50, which is reasonable compared to cocktails at a nightclub. You can’t bring any alcohol aboard with you, not even Duty Free. 

Duty Free Goods

Port Vila is the place to go for all your sarongs and Duty Free needs. There are Duty Free shops onboard but you’ll get a better price at port. P&O offer a price match guarantee if you can prove the prices in port are cheaper than onboard. There are a bunch of rules for bringing in Duty Free goods so make sure you’re up on the latest. At the time of writing, adults are allowed to bring in 2.25L of alcohol and 50 cigarettes. 


Noumea is a very cosmopolitan city. It’s full of fashion and good French food (as well as other favourites like burgers and pizza). There are shore tours available onboard but my advice is to wait until you’re off the ship and get a tour onshoreI recommend the Tchou Tchou Train: if you pre-book, it’s $69 per person but if you book once you get there, it’s only $35. If you want to do your own thing, get a bus ticket for $15. You’ll be able to hop on, hop off at as many stops as you like around the city. Anse Vata Beach is lovely on a calm day. Noumea tours will take Australian dollars but most places prefer francs. Use your debit card, it’s much easier. 


Lifou is a pretty little island “around the corner” from Noumea. It’s a tender port, which means the ship docks out from shore (because it’s too shallow) and you catch a lifeboat-type thing to the wharf. There are shore tours which you’ll have to pre-book but there’s not much on the island… Except snorkeling. The best snorkeling is Jinek Bay but you’ll have to purchase a $15 pass on the ship! Jinek Bay is a marine conservation area and your $15 goes towards protecting the environment. There’s only a limited number of passes so be quick! If you do miss out, there’s free snorkeling at the beach where the tender wharf is. There are lots of turtles and fish to see, so you’re not missing out if you can’t get to Jinek Bay. If you walk to the right after disembarking, you’ll come across some caves near a church. It’s $5 per person fir the caves but worth it. Jump into the water when you get to the bottom for a refreshing swim.  You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness as it’s quite a steep walk . The stalls onshore will take either Australian dollars or New Caledonia francs- cash only. If you’re into hair braiding, it’s about $15 for an adult or $10 for kids. These stalls tend to take AUD$1 as 100 francs regardless of the actual exchange rate. 

Port Vila 

Port Vila is in Vanuatu, a chain of volcanic islands covered with rainforest. Pre-book your tours but once you get onshore there are also a few extras you can book. There are dozens of tours with everything from snorkeling to helicopter rides to glass bottomed boats to hiking through the mountains. Everything you could possibly want to do in Port Vila is right there. It’s also the best place for Duty Free shopping so make sure you take your $$ with you (including card, it’s easier on card). Hair braiding is about the same price as Lifou. Most shops and stalls have an exchange rate of AUD$1 = 100 Vatu but make sure you’re clear on it beforehand. Bargaining is not expected in Port Vila but you can try it with the stalls. Tourism is their only source of income so they’re happy to make any sale. It’s cash only at the stalls however the shops in town have EFTPOS facilities, but I’d take some cash with you. They’re happy to take AUD anywhere. 

Things in Port Vila are much more civilised than January 2013 when I was there last. Back then, as soon as you got off the ship there were a thousand taxi drivers yelling at you. Now they’re about 1 km away (past all the stalls) and forbidden to enter past boomgates with a police presence. Fares to and from the city should not be any more than $15 for a taxi and $3 for a bus, but they will try to rip you off so settle on a price beforehand. If you’re hiring a taxi for the day, settle on a price but it shouldn’t be more than $100. The most common way for a taxi driver to scam you is by saying they’ll take you to the city but then they’ll detour through the mountains, take you to a mate’s place with a lovely view, ask for donations and then charge you $50 more. If you know what to expect, you’ll be more assertive (I hope!)

When you buy Duty Free in Port Vila, the shop will send it directly to the ship. This is for several reasons, the two most important are: 
1) It’s only available as Duty Free when it’s re-exported from Vanuatu. This means you can’t drink it while you’re in the country.
2) It’s illegal to buy Duty Free goods for native Vanuatu people, so you can’t bargain a taxi fare with the promise of alcohol or cigarettes. 

You’ll be able to collect your Duty Free on the last morning before you disembark the ship. 

I hope that’s given you some information about these lovely ports and what to expect while you’re there. It’s a truly beautiful part of the world and well worth the effort of taking a cruise to get there. 



March 17, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi Renee, thank you for your comments, we have been to Vila before and can agree about all the taxi’s at the dock, but I have a husband who cannot walk far due to breathing probs. Do you know of any other way to get to town, there is no way he could walk that distance past the markets, we are going back in May and would like to go somewhere other than a ship tour, are busses allowed down to the dock area that are not connected to the cruise line. Thanks in advance, Pam

    Comment by Pam Sinclair | March 19, 2014 | Reply

    • Sorry, I don’t know.

      Comment by Renee | March 20, 2014 | Reply

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