A Reef, a Lagoon and a Beach at Rarotonga

Day 52, Grand World Voyage 2020

Monday, Feb. 24, 2020; Rarotonga, Cook Islands

I should have realized how small Rarotonga is when I tried to download its map on my Planet Earth phone app and couldn’t find one. As it turned out, it took little more than 30 minutes to circle the island, which mainly sits within a coral reef.

This volcanic island is slowly sinking, and the lagoon between the land and the coral reef is slowly growing. Of course, “slowly” is a technical geological term that means “not noticeable in my lifetime.” So I just enjoyed the lagoon without a worry.

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, a country in the South Pacific with ties to New Zealand for defense and foreign affairs. It’s known for snorkeling and scuba, and tourism is its main industry.

After a leisurely breakfast we tendered ashore mid morning, not realizing just how fortunate we were to be landing on this island. The word on shore is that the previous five cruise ships arriving here could not call on the port because the ocean swells were too big for tendering. Just as at Easter Island, a team of four crew members carefully guided each of us from the ship platform onto the tender, synchronizing their moves with the movement of the swells.

Our destination today was the Rarotongan, an island beach resort where Holland America arranged day passes for our excursion. We split our beach time between swimming, snorkeling and lounging in the sun. There weren’t too many reefs in the lagoon, but plenty of pretty fish. Obviously I’m no authority on fish, and I didn’t have an underwater camera. But we had fun nonetheless. I was too lazy to give standup paddle boarding a try.

Most people chose fish and chips for lunch, but I went for the ceviche made with local fish and coconut milk.  Even the burgers drew compliments, and everything went better with the accompanying sangria. The piña coladas looked cool and refreshing, but as I’ve never been a rum fan I opted for gin with cranberry juice.

As we completed our circumnavigation of the island on the return, we passed the airport, where a direct flight from Los Angeles lands once a week. Most tourists come from New Zealand, and someone said the Kiwis think of the Cook Islands like we in the United States think of Hawaii. Lots of them come here to get married.

Yesterday our new cultural ambassadors from New Zealand entertained us with a Maori performance of dancing and storytelling. The team is called Kahurangi; The Maori Dance Theatre of New Zealand, and I think they will be very popular, especially when performing elements of the haka. (Search YouTube for New Zealand rugby haka videos if you’re not familiar with the Maori war dance.)

Meanwhile, I dove right into reading China Rich Girlfriend, the second in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan. The third book, Rich People Problems, is our next book club selection. I’ve already read the first so want to squeeze No. 2 in so I downloaded it on Kindle. It’s fun reading and should go quickly.

Palm trees — Mylar palm trees — filled the dining room for a Tropical Paradise Dinner last night, and each diner received a straw hat. I wasn’t sure if it was tropical or red neck, and most of us left them on the tables. But we love the effort the crew puts into making every night special, and hostess Josephine was happy to model her hat.

Last night ended with a powerful performance by Annie Francis, an Australian singer I’ve gotten to know on three previous voyages, from Asia to the North Atlantic. It’s surprising when I see her around the ship because I would swear she’s taller than me. Her voice and commanding style make her one of the most popular entertainers on board.