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Make the most of your time in beautiful Vanuatu

Make the most of your time in beautiful Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a beloved cruise destination in the South Pacific (Melanesia specifically), providing cruise lovers with all of the idyllic tropical must-haves: waving palms, sparkling sands, friendly and relaxed towns, deserted beaches and some amazing underwater landscapes beneath the blue waters. For a chilled out holiday, you really can’t beat it - and despite occasional troubles with stormy weather, it has a resilient spirit which captures the imagination.

Vanuatu features on many of the South Pacific cruise itineraries departing the ports of Australia and New Zealand, so there are plenty of opportunities to visit for cruise lovers to get there.


The emerald waters of the Mele Cascades surrounded by lush greenery on Port Vila, Vanuatu
Image: Jason Thomas, CC BY 3.0

A single country spread over many outcroppings in the Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu has more than 80 islands. Many are small, some uninhabited. Dreamy Espiritu Santo is the biggest isle, and the third largest - called Efate - is home to the capital city of Port Vila. Although there are certainly plenty of people who call Vanuatu home, they are spread out and mostly resident in small villages across the various islands, giving the archipelago a wonderfully deserted and laid back vibe.

Active volcanic cones, covered in verdant greenery, are a prominent feature of the Vanuatu landscape - a beautiful sight to look upon from your cabin balcony. Once you step ashore, you’ll find plenty of deserted beaches to wander, and vistas beneath the waves to match those above in beauty, should you choose to take a peek.


Lush tropical trees frame the view of a cruise ship moored next to Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Image: Jason Thomas, CC BY 3.0

Cruise ships visit several locations around Vanuatu’s islands, making it a varied cruise destination with a range of things to do - or places to sit and do nothing, should you prefer. Port Vila is the capital city and the biggest urban centre, but don’t expect a bustling metropolis. It has a population of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants and the atmosphere of an oversized fishing village. Many shore tours depart there to see the wonders of Efate and surrounding islands, but visitors can also enjoy the small town centre, stroll the handicraft markets and watch the fishing vessels come and go in the harbour. Some cruise lines even offer pub strolls as shore excursions so you can really get amongst local life!

Beyond Port Vila, Mystery Island charms many cruisers who arrive in Vanuatu and often tops lists of favourite South Pacific destinations. The tiny uninhabited islet is your quintessential tropical paradise, one that belongs on a wish-you-were-here postcard. There’s not much to occupy visitors beyond the beach and the ocean, so relaxation is a forced priority - punctuated perhaps by a spot of snorkeling or swimming. Another popular spot is Champagne Bay on Espiritu Santo, so named for the bubbles which often rise through the sands to the surface thanks to a freshwater spring. 


Experience the tastes of the South Pacific in Vanuatu. Seafood is of course the star of many menus in this island nation! The best way to eat in Vanuatu is at casual eateries and stalls, as fine dining is not common and restaurants can be expensive. Head to the markets in Port Vila for cheap meals of rice and meat, or some laplap which is a Vanuatuan specialty consisting of a kind of savoury cake made from root vegetables wrapped up in a banana leaf. The country is also known for its quality and relatively inexpensive steaks.

The fresh lobsters sold on Mystery Island by the locals from nearby isles are famous in the cruise community. Make sure to take some cash ashore so you can buy one of these memorable treats!


Local children play next to the tranquil ocean as the sun sets in Vanuatu

The vatu is the currency of Vanuatu. Depending on the exchange rate, one vatu is generally equal to a little more than one Australian cent. Some places will accept Australian dollars from cruise ship visitors, particularly markets and stalls, and you can pick up vatu in Port Vila. Outside of Port Vila and the other major city of Luganville, there are no banking facilities. Tipping and bargaining are not a part of the culture in Vanuatu.

The climate is tropical, with warm (28+ degrees celsius), rainy weather from around October to April, and dry, cooler (20+ degrees celsius) weather the rest of the year. There is a risk of cyclones, but cruise lines will keep a careful eye on forecasts and change itineraries where appropriate. Add to your packing list clothes for warm weather, plenty of sunblock, sunglasses, a hat and a few extra layers in case of cooler temperatures.

Local women in Vanuatu tend to wear modest dresses or skirts and tops, and cover up even for swimming. Men tend to dress more casually in shorts and a t-shirt. If you are venturing outside of the heavily touristy areas and resorts, we advise covering thighs and shoulders.

The official languages of Vanuatu are English, French and Bislama, although there are more than 100 native languages spoken across various islands and villages. English and a bit of polite gesturing should get you through any situation during your cruise visits to Vanuatu’s ports - which are well-used to English-speaking tourists. If you are concerned about communicating, booking a tour through the ship is a good option.


A lush green palm tree fills the frame on the tropical island of Vanuatu
Image: Jason Thomas, CC BY 3.0

Cricket is a very popular sport on Vanuatu, so if you are a keen cricketer, keep your eyes peeled for a match to spectate around Port Vila. The country is also keen on kava - a traditional drink prepared with the ground root of a plant with light sedative, anaesthetic and euphoriant properties. Kava bars are not generally open during the day, but you might be able to find a tour that includes some, or buy the powder at a supermarket.

Ready to see it all for yourself? Browse our South Pacific cruises and find one that’s heading to the isles of Vanuatu for a holiday to remember.

From party cruises in the Baltic to a classy Cunard voyage, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the full spectrum of cruise life. Onboard you’ll probably find me by the pool with a doorstop sized book in one hand and a mojito in the other, or sampling an array of delicious foods.

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