The effects of Vanuatu's Cyclone Pam devastation have been far-reaching, and more than a year on from the storm one more piece in the rebuilding puzzle has finally been put into place. Yesterday marked the completion of a brand new tender pier on Mystery Island, and the Explorer of the Seas megaliner was the first to make use of this great facility.
Royal Caribbean invests in Vanuatu's future
The new pier, which replaces a smaller and older pier frequently damaged in bad weather including Cyclone Pam, will ensure that Mystery Island can receive ships all year round. It was funded and undertaken by Royal Caribbean, and follows on from another investment by the line in expanding the cruise berth in Port Vila.
Acting Prime Minister, the Honourable Joe Natuman, was very welcoming of the development. "Today is a very proud day for tourism in Vanuatu, and we are extremely grateful to Royal Caribbean for their assistance in ensuring the continued success of cruise ship visits to our country" he said.
These contributions are mutually beneficial. Vanuatu's tourism industry is vital to the economy, and the cruising infrastructure development allows the country to continue to welcome ships of all sizes to their beautiful ports. For Royal Caribbean, the upgrades mean that their biggest ships - such as the Explorer of the Seas, currently the largest cruise vessel to sail from Australia - will be able to berth in the country which is a favourite amongst Aussie cruisers.
From Adam Armstrong, managing director for Royal Caribbean in Australia and New Zealand: "Cruises to the South Pacific are the most popular itineraries for Australian travellers, and Vanuatu is one of the highest rated destinations for our guests. Being able to guarantee calls to destinations like Mystery Island and Port Vila with our larger ships is vital to cruise tourism to Vanuatu and is an important economic driver for our island nation neighbour. Our investment here solidifies Royal Caribbean's long-term commitment to cruising in the South Pacific."
The opening ceremony of the new pier was attended by the captain of the Explorer of the Seas Captain Kjetil Gjerstad, the acting prime minister himself and a contingent of executives and important people from both sides. There was a performance by local schoolchildren to celebrate the occasion.
Vanuatu: the perfect cruise destination
The South Pacific is a veritable treasure chest of wonderful beaches, coves, villages and landscapes, and Vanuatu has some of the best. The nation is made up of around 82 small isles, with Port Vila the capital city. The Vanuatuan destinations most commonly visited by cruise ships are Port Vila, Mystery Island and Champagne Bay on the island of Espiritu Santo.
Port Vila, with its new extended cruise dock, is an urban injection - but just barely. It is far from a big city, the perfect place to enjoy a drink on the balcony of a restaurant or cafe while watching fishing boats come and go in the harbour. Many different shore tours leave from here to various attractions around the island of Efate, but you could easily spend a day just soaking up the buzz of this lovely tropical town.
Mystery Island is raring to go with its new tender dock, and cruisers will continue to flock to this top-rated cruise port. It is a beautiful, white-sand palm tree-fringed paradise, and the epitome of tropical getaways. Passengers come ashore via tender and from there can while away the hours exploring above the water or below.
Champagne Bay is not on quite so many cruise itineraries, but when it is, it's quite the treat. The gorgeous curve of bright white sand gets its name from small bubbles which rise up in the water at low tide due to volcanic rocks on the seafloor. Cruisers can spend an idyllic day here walking, swimming, snorkelling and relaxing in general.
Are you excited to check out the new cruise infrastructure in gorgeous Vanuatu? Find a South Pacific cruise with this Melanesian nation on the list (there are many) and you'll be well on your way.