Vila cruises destination information
|Vila itinerary and upcoming sailing dates|
|Apr 13, 2020||Pacific Islands, 11 nights||from $1925|
|Mar 7, 2020||South Pacific, 11 nights||from $982|
|May 22, 2020||Fiji Explorer, 14 nights||from $3143|
|Mar 18, 2020||South Pacific, 10 nights||from $2226|
|Mar 30, 2020||South Pacific, 10 nights||from $2175|
|Dec 19, 2020||Christmas, 10 nights||from $4283|
|Jun 8, 2020||Discover Vanuatu, 10 nights||from $1740|
|Nov 24, 2020||South Pacific, 10 nights||from $2516|
|Sep 28, 2020||Discover Vanuatu, 10 nights||from $2691|
|Aug 15, 2020||Pacific Island Hopper, 7 nights||from $2136|
|Apr 9, 2020||South Pacific, 10 nights||from $2811|
|Sep 7, 2020||Discover Vanuatu, 10 nights||from $3533|
|Dec 22, 2020||South Pacific and New Zealand, 13 nights||from $5628|
|Mar 7, 2020||Pacific Island Hopper, 7 nights||from $1452|
|Apr 14, 2020||Discover Vanuatu, 10 nights||from $2072|
|Jun 22, 2020||Pacific Islands, 11 nights||from $2385|
|May 30, 2020||Pacific Island Hopper, 7 nights||from $2825|
|Nov 28, 2020||Pacific Island Hopper, 7 nights||from $1837|
|Apr 7, 2020||South Pacific, 11 nights||from $2812|
|Jan 19, 2021||South Pacific, 11 nights||from $3076|
The Stunning Main Port of Vila
Port Vila is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu. Situated on the south coast of the island of Efate, in Shefa Province, Port Vila is the economic and commercial centre of Vanuatu. Having won elections in 2005, as of 2008, Paul Avock Hungai is its mayor.
The area occupied by Port Vila has been inhabited by Melanesian people for thousands of years. After 1887, the territory was jointly administered by the French and the British. This was formalized in 1906 as an Anglo-French Condominium. During World War II, Port Vila was an American and Australian airbase. In 1987, cyclone Uma severely damaged the city. A powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused extensive damage in the capital and surrounding areas.
Port Vila has a tropical climate, with a dry season and a hot, wet season. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimetres (94 in.) per year, and the wettest month is April. The driest month is September. There are 113 wet days in an average year. The area also has south-east trade winds. Temperatures do not vary very much at all throughout the year.
Cruises port: What to do in Port Vila
Spread over steep hillsides surrounding Vila Bay, Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu and the centre of operations for tourism, business and everything else. The small city is a tropical stunner, with cafes and bars crowding the waterfront, a colourful marketplace and a busy harbour where fishing boats come and go.
Port Vila serves as a base for trips into the wilderness of Efate Island, one of the biggest in the Vanuatu chain. It is also a place of great history and culture, with plenty to do and see in the town itself. However you choose to spend your time there, the many attractions of Vila Bay and Vanuatu will make your visit amazing.
A severe tropical cyclone named Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015 and caused devastation, with damage to buildings, homes, trees, boats, infrastructure and more. 24 people were killed in the storm. Cruises to Vanuatu were redirected elsewhere in the immediate aftermath, but ships have long since returned- in fact, several played an important part in the aid effort, bringing supplies to the city.
The devastation caused by Pam is still apparent in Port Vila- downed trees, damaged buildings and the occasional murky waters serving as a reminder of what passed. Vanuatu is rebuilding and is well on its way back to business as usual- but be aware of and sensitive to the effects of the storm, which are not just physical.
The cruise dock for Port Vila is around four kilometres from the centre of town, on Wharf Road. Tenders are occasionally used when there is more than one ship in port.
The average fare for a taxi is $AUD15, or 1000-1500 Vatu- but always agree on a set price before entering the taxi. Water taxis are also available near the gates to the wharf. Buses are vans marked with a red Ã¢â‚¬Å“BÃ¢â‚¬ï¿½ on their license plate, and don't really follow set routes. Flag one down, tell the driver where you want to go, and he will tell you the price which should be just a few dollars per person (or a few hundred Vatu). Some passengers choose to walk! It is important to note that the drivers can be very insistent and finding a taxi can be a little bit overwhelming. Stand your ground, make 100% sure that you have agreed on a price and don't be afraid to turn down a ride that you think is too expensive.
The local currency is the Vatu, and there are ATMs in town where you can exchange your dollars. The exchange rate is usually somewhere between 80 and 100 Vatu to the Australian Dollar. Some taxi drivers will take dollars as payment, and the larger shop chains will accept credit cards, but it is always a good idea to pick up some Vatu while you are there. Any change given will be in Vatu.
Transport is likely to be your biggest cost in Port Vila if you are exploring independently rather than taking a tour organised by your cruise line. You can get into town and back for no more than AUD$10 (or close to 1000 Vatu) per person. If you want to explore the island a little more, a car and driver for the day will likely cost less than AUD$100. A beer will set you back around 300-500 Vatu, and you can pick up a casual meal for around 1000-1500 Vatu.
Local life and language
Bislama is the language widely spoken in Port Vila by the local people, and it is a pidgin form of English which is reasonably widely spoken, especially amongst tourism workers. French makes up the trio of official national languages, but Vanuatu is a treasure trove of linguistic diversity and there are more than a hundred different tongues spoken across the islands.
The people of Vanuatu, known as Ni-Vanuatu, are quite conservative so it is best to cover up when off the beach- and do not try any nude or topless sunbathing when you are on it! Tipping is not practiced, and neither is haggling- although as mentioned before, you should shop around for a good price when it comes to transport, and be sure to settle on a price beforehand. As is the case all over the South Pacific, patience is a virtue. Everything operates on island time, and there is no use complaining or showing anger as it will have the opposite of the desired effect.
There are no guarantees when it comes to WiFi in Port Vila, but some cafes and restaurants around the city do offer it free to customers. If you are searching for a hotspot, try Nambawan Cafe at the north end of the main waterfront strip, nearby La Tentation, Chantilly's at the north end of town, or Emily's Cafe on the Rue Dartois opposite Parliament House.
Things to do in Port Vila
The best shopping in Port Vila is in the markets. The fruit and vegetable markets are on the waterfront next to the 'Au Bon March' supermarket. The many stalls are run by women from nearby villages who rely on the income, so it is a great place to taste the local flavours and support Vanuatu's economy. There are also food stalls where you can get cheap meals.
As soon as you get off the ship you will encounter stalls selling souvenirs, and a little further along Wharf Road is the Vanuatu Handicraft Market which sells strictly locally made arts and crafts, another great business to support. In any markets, remember that haggling is not a custom in Vanuatu. Prices should be clearly marked.
This lovely little resort island of Iririki will definitely catch your notice during a visit to Port Vila. It lies just offshore across from the city centre, and it is a little slice of tropical paradise. Although the island is a resort hotel, it welcomes day visitors. The ferry fare, which is more like admission to the island, is 1,500 Vatu per person but this is redeemable on food and drinks in the restaurants. Iririki is perfect for those who just want to relax- there is a beach, a pool, and cocktails galore.
Hideaway Island is a little further out from the city, another small island prime for a day trip. It is home to the only underwater post office in the world, where you can post waterproof postcards. Water sports are very popular there- these include swimming at the beach, snorkelling, scuba diving and glass-bottomed boat tours.
Take a bus or taxi from the cruise dock or downtown to visit this beautiful natural attraction. It is just ten kilometres from Port Vila by car, and then a short bushwalk to an incredible series of waterfalls and pools hidden amongst the hills. The entrance fee of 2,000 Vatu per person includes access to toilets, a restaurant and a picnic area. Swimming in the pools is a fantastic way to cool off!
Vanuatu Cultural Centre
This is where you can go to learn more about Vanuatu, its people and its history. The Centre's role is to record and document the stories of the nation, and it offers museum exhibits both permanent and temporary, examples of the incredible outrigger canoes used to migrate and travel between the islands, photos, videos and cultural performances or demonstrations. Find it on the Rue Dartois opposite the parliament buildings.
Tours and Excursions
Organised vs independent?
It's the age-old question for cruise lovers: join a tour organised by the line, or make your own arrangements. In Port Vila, it's a tough decision. The range of tours available on all visiting lines is huge, as there is so much to see and do on the island. With so many taxis and public buses, some of them are easy to get to independently, but others are better seen and experienced with a guide. The city itself offers a lot to do, and if your plan is to just get acquainted with Port Vila, it's achievable with no organised tour.
Going it alone
If you have decided to make your own way around, we suggest taking public transport or even walking from the dock into downtown Port Vila to exchange some money and get your bearings. From there, there are plenty of places you could go, many of which we have already covered above. A day trip to one of the islands or the Mele Cascades, or a bit of retail therapy in the markets around the city, lunch at a food stall, and a visit to the Cultural Centre and you will have easily filled up a very pleasant day of relaxed sightseeing.
The offered excursions vary across the many lines visiting Port Vila. Here are some common types of tour:
City highlights tours
These are given by all the major cruise lines, in fact by most lines full stop. The generally include the Museum, a stop at a scenic lookout, and sometimes a village where you can experience a bit of traditional Ni-Vanuatu life. Is a tour necessary? You certainly could visit most places by yourself, but sometimes its nice not to have to worry about organising transport. Also, an informative guide can improve your experience greatly.
A slightly more specialised option is the Port Vila 'pub stroll', advertised as 'A Toast to Vila' by Royal Caribbean, Carnival and P&O. This allows cruisers to sample some of the city's best food and wine at four great bars. Perfect for foodies and wine lovers!
Adventures and action
Thrillseekers won't be disappointed with the excursions on offer in Port Vila. There's a long list of action-packed activities at various points on the 'extreme' scale, offered by one, some or all of the lines visiting Port Vila. Just a few:
Helicopter scenic flights
Jet boat rides
Off-road buggy or quad bike tours
Big game fishing
Wave rider safaris
Slightly less thrilling, still fun
There are also plenty of activities for those who like to get out and about, but aren't quite up for the adrenaline shot. On the water, you could try snorkelling, sailing, a glass-bottomed boat ride, a lagoon cruise or even a trip in a traditional outrigger canoe. On dry land, there's horseback riding, golf, visits to the cascades and cultural villages, kayak safaris and more. Check with your cruise line which excursions they offer- Carnival, P&O, Princess and Royal Caribbean all have a very wide range of options.
Friends of mother nature will enjoy these options which will allow you to get a little more up close and personal with the flora and fauna of Vanuatu. Selected cruise lines offer tours to the Secret Gardens complex, a tropical cultural centre and gorgeous botanical gardens on the outskirts of Port Vila. Also focused on tropical greenery is the Waterfall Eco-tour, which visits the privately owned 'Eden on the River' for a walk and a swim in the lush estate around the Rentaboa River. The animals are the stars of the show at the Turtle Sanctuary, a tour offered by several lines visiting the city. It includes not only a visit with the turtles but a sail across to Tranquility Island and a tropical bush walk and tour of the island.
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