At first glance, a tropical paradise unfolds with swaying palm trees and a tempting teal sea, but looking deeper, history reveals itself as stories of the past surface from these warm waters and Oceanic islands. During World War II, Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, served as headquarters of the U.S. military presence in the South Pacific and befittingly, its port serves as the launch point for the Victories in the Pacific Cruise, a once-in-a lifetime adventure that navigates the Pacific Theater of World War II and the rarely explored, key battlefields from 1942-1944 in this tropical paradise.
Imagine seeing WWII-era sunken ships while diving off the coast of Lifou Island, an Eden of crystal lagoons, white sand beaches and charming churches. Then visualize yourself on the ship’s deck with Vanauta’s Tanna Island and its active ash- spewing volcano as a backdrop, as the foremost authority on the Pacific War, Richard B. Frank, delivers captivating lectures on each destination. An erudite scholar and author, Frank served as a consultant on the HBO mini-series The Pacific, and this military historian is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on the area.
Other war-related attractions along your voyage include Million Dollar Point off Espiritu Santo, where U.S. equipment and vehicles were dumped into the sea after the war, making it a popular snorkeling site. SS President Coolidge, a converted luxury liner that was sunk by a mine in shallow water in 1942, lies nearby. It remains one of the largest and most accessible wreck dives in the world. Another compelling stop in the heart of the Solomon Islands is Kennedy Island where John F. Kennedy and his crew came ashore after their torpedo patrol boat was sunk in a collision with a Japanese destroyer.
Visiting Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, guests explore the Japanese basecamp where tunnels, bunkers and other war-related sites still exist. A visit to Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville is another exciting afternoon, as Bougainville was occupied by Japanese troops in mid-1942 as an intended forward outpost of the Japanese Empire. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the local villagers and see the remains of an Allied airstrip built on Cape Torokina.
A special excursion to Arnavon Islands Marine Reserve calls for more snorkeling and a glass-bottom boat tour to view endangered wildlife, including the Hawsbill Turtle. An island walk reveals the conservation efforts at work in this natural haven.
Aboard the intimate ship, passengers can unwind in their modern, spacious staterooms, at the spa pool or at the cocktail bars. A comprehensive reference library awaits for history buffs who choose to delve deeper into the wealth of information about this compelling landscape and its tales of the past. The sleek ship holds just 72 passengers with a stellar 20-person crew to accommodate guests.
During the cruise, passengers will also venture out on excursion boats and zodiacs. The “Xplorer” is a specially designed aluminum excursion vessel used for landings and for extensive exploration of rivers and tributaries in the area.