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South Pacific Cruise: 8 November 2007

Aitutaki, Cook Islands

I woke up feeling much better at 6:15. I let Chris sleep while I retrieved two cups of coffee from La Palette. We relaxed on the balcony and drank our coffee until 7:30, when we went out for breakfast.

We had been eating breakfast at Le Grill, but it was also served at La Veranda. We thought it was time to try a new place and let ourselves be waited on. La Veranda has both a buffet and table service. We ordered from the limited menu at the table, but we still had to go to the buffet for juice and toast.

Lagoon Tour and Beach Break

Our excursion for the day was a Lagoon Tour and Beach Break. We boarded the tender at 10:00 and went ashore. From there, we boarded a motorized, catamaran outfitted like a pontoon boat. There was a covered deck with chairs and a second level where we could stand for a good view of the lagoon. The “tour” part was disappointing. The pilot did not tell us anything about the lagoon or the island. In fact, he didn’t talk to the passengers as a group except to introduce himself as “Captain Incredible.”

The lagoon was quite beautiful, with every possible shade of blue and turquoise. We motored past quite a few motus that looked like postcard images with their white beaches and palm trees. After about forty-five minutes, we dropped anchor within site of One Foot Island, a tiny motu at the southern end of Aitutaki’s lagoon.

The captain told us he would blow a conch shell when it was time to return to the boat in about an hour. Everyone donned their snorkel gear and splashed into the water off the back of the boat. There was shallow water on one side where the water was only waist deep. On the other side of the boat was a deeper channel with water about twelve feet deep.

We swam over to the channel and enjoyed the coral and colorful fish. There were even a couple of giant clams that had embedded themselves into the coral. After about twenty-five minutes, Chris swam to the shallow water to see the sights there. I stayed in the channel, but after ten more minutes, I heard the captain blowing the conch shell. We had been in the water only a little more than half an hour, but I started swimming back to the boat.

As I got closer, I could hear the captain shouting something and pointing out into the channel. He had spotted a moray eel, and was bringing everyone into the shallow water for their safety. Moray bites can be nasty, and he wasn’t taking any chances.

I joined Chris in the shallow water for the rest of the swim, then everyone boarded the boat again and we motored the rest of the way to One Foot Island for lunch and more swimming. There was a geocache on One Foot Island and I was looking forward to finding it. We looked for it before lunch and after lunch. We searched for a total of about an hour, but we never found it. Chris joked that it was probably in one of the hundreds of coconuts that littered the area, but we didn’t seriously consider that possibility. Later, when we read the logs of previous cachers who found it, we realized she was almost certainly right.

The excursion included a lunch of fish, fruit, and vegetables. There was a cash bar, too, but we hadn’t brought any cash with us. We ate lunch with a young couple we had talked to a few times. Steve and Marlene were from Stockton and were celebrating their tenth anniversary on the cruise. We also chatted with the Salters who sat right behind us on the lagoon boat.

After lunch and geocache-hunting, we explored more of the picturesque island. There was a striking young blond woman on the excursion that we didn’t remember seeing on the Paul Gauguin. At one point we saw her posing for a professional photographer among the palm trees. We figured she was a model and didn’t mingle with the rest of the passengers.

We stayed longer than we expected to on One Foot Island, so we were almost an hour late getting back to the Paul Gauguin. We had some tea and sandwiches in La Palette before we showered. While at tea, we talked with the Salters again and we all agreed we should have dinner together. We decided on Monday night.

More Enlightenment and Good Jazz

At 6:00, we attended a lecture on the European exploration of the Pacific in the 17th and 18th centuries. The topic was pretty interesting, but the speaker had a dry delivery that made the talk a little boring.

Before dinner we went to La Palette to listen to a jazz trio made up of part of the ship’s band, Orion. The music was fantastic and much more animated than most of the music we had heard so far on the boat. As we listened, we realized the bass player was the beautiful blond “model” from the island.

We ate dinner at a group table at L’Etoile. Our tablemates were John from Sidney, Australia; Rosie and Warren from Tucson, Arizona; and Pete Neighbor a professional clarinetist who was onboard as an entertainer. Pete is British and he and I had a great time talking about British comedies. He was surprised to find a fellow Monty Python fan sitting next to him. While I talked primarily with Pete, Chris chatted with Rosie, Warren and John. Pete and I joined their conversation occasionally.

We didn’t finish dinner until after 9:00. We stretched our legs with a walk around deck eight, watched some more of The Incredibles and went to sleep about 10:15.

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