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All Ashore for the Tour Bus

My first 21 months at sea whizzed past, they were exciting and thrilling, with many new experiences and challenges. The first twelve months were spent on Oriana as Catering Assistant Purser which I just loved, it was a whole new adventure in my life. At the end of a short leave I found myself on a plane to the west coast of America as part of the Island Princess take over team. Another short leave and I was again heading across the pond to join Sea Venture to complete the changeover to Pacific Princess.

By this time, I had built up a lot of leave and decided to spend an extended leave back home in the English Lake District. Six months at home was more than enough and once I was back on a plane, this time flying out to Auckland to join Pacific Princess again for her first season in The South Pacific.

Having spent the last two terms of duty as Crew Assistant Purser handling the change over to the P&O way of paying Italian crews, a difficult story for another time. For the first time l found myself on the pursers front desk facing the passengers full time. I loved it despite the silly questions that you are asked all the time.

This time around I was in charge of Shore Excursions which proved a whole new experience having dealt mainly with crew matters in the past.

Sailing from Sydney, most cruises went to Fiji and Tonga. Suva had always been a favourite port from my season on Oriana. I had a good working relationship with Louis a big Fijian Guy and his assistant Amy. So, arriving back on Pacific Princess having been away for a couple of years was like coming home and quiet a few drinks later it was like l had never been away. Selling Shore excursions for Suva was a great experience and always ran pretty well.

One of my favourites was Orchid Island where I always received a warm welcome. I Just google it and find out that it is still welcoming guests some 45 years later. Suva was also great for buying electrical and photographic gear.

Orchid Island Suva

Tonga was a different experience and much more primitive as you can see here from the transport used. In fact, this was quite luxurious as one of tours used the local flat truck lorries with a couple of benches strapped to the sides and decked in flowers. Usually they involved a trip down a mud road to see some local dancing.

This trip there was great excitement as we were going to Pago Pago in American Samoa and then on to Papeete in Tahiti.

One of the perks of being Shore Excursions A/P was that you were looked after pretty well by the tour operators in the various ports of call. This could involve being take out for lunch, sometimes being provided with a car and driver to show you around or occasionally a self-drive car waiting for you on the dock side to use during your visit. These perks were very self-serving for the operators as you were sure to try and sell more of their tours on your next visit.

Tahiti has it's attractions.

On arrival in Pago Pago I was met by a delightful tour operation call Bob Cavenagh. Who after we had seen all the tours off, took me for lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking Pago Pago Bay. He ordered from me and a dozen oysters arrived first. Well they are not one of my favourites and l swear they were biggest I have ever seen, so l stoically ploughed my way through them. A few months later Bob contacted me and offered me a job on Pago Pago, unfortunately I had to find my own airfare to the American Samoa and in those days getting to an island in the middle of the South Pacific was very expensive so unfortunately, I had to turn him down.

Tahiti was our next stop and it was going to be a two day stay. The amount of money that we took selling the tours was the largest we had taken for any port during the whole season. I cannot remember the exact amount but at the time it was astronomical. Now I normally get on pretty well with most people but the French Polynesian lady running the tour operation here was a absolute B****h of the first order and made the whole experience of the Shore Excursions a complete nightmare for me.

One of the tours was a Glass Bottom boat trip and l had missed selling my minimum number for this tour by a couple of passengers. I had all the other passengers on the dockside, and she came up to me and said she could not run the tour and walked away leaving me with all the perplexed passengers. I did manage to hire a boat locally and eventually got the trip on it’s way

The same lady had a self-drive car on the dock so that I could tour the island and see where we were sending the passengers but guess what. She made me pay for it. In my time selling excursions l had never come across anyone quiet like her and I must admit it ruined my impression for Tahiti. I will leave Tahiti for Captain Bligh.

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