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February 9, 2020
Fakarava: Awards Night

Russell writes…

And we thought Nuku Hiva was remote!

Today’s port was Fakarava, where we arrived after a day at sea. Fakarava is an atoll – a ring of islands. Think of an underwater volcano, where only bits of the crater rim show above water. At 37 miles long (it’s shaped like a rectangle), Fakarava is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia.

Our approach to Fakarava. It looks like a bunch of thin spaghetti-strand islands. It also looks like rain.

Our port was the tiny town of Rotoava Village. It has 800 inhabitants, a couple of stores, a couple of churches, a post office… and the most gorgeous unspoiled beaches we have ever, ever seen. Our time here would be limited – 7:00 am until 4:00 pm – so we were up bright and early and caught the first tender ashore.

Once again, we were welcomed by locals passing out flowers and playing music. An older gentleman kept asking Russell (in French) about where our ship was from and when. It finally occurred to Russell that the man wanted to make sure we had not been in China, where coronavirus is currently a huge threat.

The welcome band, with Happy the Hedgehog

Fakarava has so little tourist infrastructure that Regent did not offer any excursions here. Instead, we rented a couple of bicycles ($12 for two bikes for an hour) and rode around town. We rode to a beach on the windy side of the island, where it started pouring rain. We rode to a beach on the lee side of the island, where we saw sharks swimming around very close to shore.

We needn’t have worried. At another beach, we saw three sharks that were so used to people they were practically domesticated. They would literally swim up to the shore, stop and pose so you could take your picture with them. Gail petted one of them and was surprised to discover their skin is pebbly, not smooth. Gail also met the most friendly and well-behaved dog ever. Gail would have taken her home if we could have found a way.

Bicycle rental

The leeward side of the island

The windward side of the island


Gail makes friends

Gail makes another friend

A pristine, unexploited land

And the bluest ocean we’ve ever seen!

After poking around the local sellers of handmade artifacts (mostly pearl and shell jewelry), we were back aboard the Mariner in time for lunch. This gave us enough time to do some laundry and rest up.

Resting up was important because of two big events aboard ship today. First, this afternoon was the last session of the cumulative team trivia contest. Throughout the past two weeks, the cruise director has been adding the cumulative scores of each team. And the winner for this segment’s total goes to… the team that Russell is on, the “Northern Lights.” Coincidentally, “Northern Lights” had scheduled a group dinner for tonight, so we were able to celebrate. Even better, the normal Compass Rose restaurant had no more large tables, so we were upgraded to the specialty Chartreuse French restaurant.

Gail, Peter, Lorna, Russell, Ross and Brigitte

Yes, there are really that many wine glasses at the table!

The second event was a treat. Andy the cruise director had arranged for us to watch a tape delay of the Academy Awards! The ship went all out to decorate the theater for passengers. Since it was also a formal dress evening, passengers went all out as well. We stayed for the entire show (fortunately with commercials cut), and were some of the last out of the theater at midnight. But it was worth it!

Cruise Director Andy warms up the audience before the big event

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