Noumea for a double milestone

Ann Karhu from Hornsby Heights, gives an appraisal of her third cruise, this time to Caledonia

Who: Ann Karhu from Hornsby Heights, on her third cruise.

What: French food and wine tasting.

Where: Noumea, New Caledonia.

The ship: Ann and her husband Pekka cruised on P&O's Pacific Jewel but booked the shore tour independently with Short Excursions (

The experience: "We went on the cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday and our 30th wedding anniversary, so we wanted to do something special."

I contacted Short Excursions through Facebook and they recommended the wine and food tour. When we got off the ship in Noumea they picked eight of us up in an airconditioned van.

The wine and food tasting was in an old gaol [a former convict settlement in Nouville, about 15 minutes from Noumea] which was just what we needed because it was cool in there and it was such a hot day. There was a grandmother and her daughter and granddaughter and they presented so much beautiful French food. They had made the whole lot: pates, meats, cheeses and breadsticks. It was like being invited into someone's big family home. It wasn't really a wine tasting, either, it was more like "have a glass and have another one!"

Our tour guide was a French girl and she was excellent; she told us a lot of the history of the place and there seemed to be no hurry to get back to the ship. She took photos and told us to relax and enjoy it. After we left the old gaol we went for a drive around the area and saw how the local people lived.

We went to one of the big resorts and because it was off-season there weren't many people around. It was magic as far as the weather was concerned; the sky was blue and the water even bluer. It was absolutely beautiful, something you would see in a magazine and think "I'd love to go to a place like that". We had a photo there, it was just so perfect.

Back at the ship we felt relaxed and as though we didn't need to go off and do more touristy things. It was a really special day out. Our 30th and my 60th are something I will cherish."

Value for money: The two-hour-plus excursion cost $59 each. Ann says the couple had done a similar wine tour on a previous cruise and had paid a lot more than the Short Excursions price. "It was excellent value. What I really liked about it was that there were only eight of us, taken away from all the tourists and in the opposite direction to where everyone else was going."

Shame about: "Although the wine was great, it would have been nice to have tasted a few different varieties. I only drink white and there was only one white to try."

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at, with "shore excursion" in the subject line.