One of the world's newest ocean liners is due in Apia next month bringing 2000 passengers to the capital.
The Queen Elizabeth left Los Angeles on its maiden voyage and is due at the Port of Apia on February 9. From the US, the 90,900-tonne liner will sail to Hawaii, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. The ship is expected to arrive at 8:00am and remain in port until 6:00pm.
Stretching 294 metres in length, the four-month old Queen Elizabeth was launched in Britain by The Queen in October last year. Queen Elizabeth pays homage to Cunard's original Queen Elizabeth.
On arrival, the ship's passengers and crew will be treated to a meet and greet ceremony featuring traditional Samoan entertainment. A retail area will be set-up on the wharf to showcase and sell local handicrafts. Guests are expected to take in the sights and sounds of Upolu through private and organised tours during Queen Elizabeth's 10-hour stop.
Guests can enjoy more than 700 private balcony cabins, more than 10 restaurants and cafes and a games deck including paddle tennis, croquet and bowls.
Queen Elizabeth also offers a two-storey library complete with leaded glass ceiling and a globe from the original Queen Elizabeth.
Source: The Dominion Post
By CATHERINE WATSON, Special to the Star Tribune
Travelers to the Samoan islands will come across many locals whose lives are centered around family and church, a legacy of the Protestant missionaries who arrived in 1830.
A trip inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson turns up a culture as vibrant as the buses that ply the roads, as traditional as the island home built by the writer.
Even in darkness, on the way from the airport, Samoa didn't look like anywhere else I'd been in Polynesia -- not like Rarotonga or Fiji, not like Tahiti or Easter Island.
Open pavilions dotted the roadsides, almost as frequent as the small houses. Some were more brightly lighted: Shaped like ovals and sometimes squares, their thatched roofs supported by pillars, they glowed like cages in the hot tropical night.
In some small ones, families were watching TV, as if the pavilions were open-air living rooms. In the largest ones, men were sitting as still as cross-legged statues, one at the base of each pillar. A church service, perhaps? But we were passing dozens of churches. A ceremony, then?
The pavilions were the first things I asked about on a visit to the Samoas last winter, though they weren't the reason I'd come, and my reason wasn't all that typical to start with.
Most tourists come to the Samoas in search of the picture-perfect South Seas paradise: green mountains sloping to white beaches, coconut palms framing deep-blue ocean and friendly people with flowers in their hair. And all that is here.
But I had come for a house -- an old house and a long-dead hero. I wanted to see Vailima, the carefully restored Victorian villa that was Robert Louis Stevenson's last home.
Drawn by fragile health and a wandering soul, the prolific author began building Vailima with his extended family in 1890 in the hills above Apia, independent Samoa's small capital. He died there four years later, about as far from his native Scotland as he could get.
I could identify with that. I was a Minnesotan trying to escape the cold. Besides, I'd once dreamed of plying the Pacific in a white schooner, as Stevenson did.
Now I rode wildly colored Samoan buses, made a sweaty climb up a small mountain to pay homage at Stevenson's grave, toured Villa Vailima a couple of times and lingered there one afternoon to read Stevenson's poetry in the breezy shade of its verandas.
The rest of the time, I asked locals about ancient customs and modern contrasts, everything from those mysterious pavilions to the incongruous presence of McDonald's, rush-hour traffic in downtown Apia, even coconut biodiesel, an attempt to reduce Samoa's dependence on imported oil. Its time is surely coming, given that the potential fuel literally grows on trees here, free for the gathering.
Family and God.
Just about every conversation led back to Fa'a Samoa -- the Samoan Way -- a tradition that still shapes the society of this small, mid-Pacific nation and its closest relative, American Samoa, a half-hour's flight to the east.
Fa'a Samoa centers on two things, "the family and God,'' said Dwayne Bentley, marketing manager for the Samoa Tourist Authority in Apia. "And 'family' almost always means your extended family, everybody from the nuclear family out to your aunties and uncles and second and third cousins.''
The pavilions are part of it, too. The small ones are traditional-style family dwellings.
The big pavilions function as meeting halls, each the purview of a chief, or matai, as the leader of an extended family is known. The matai's job, people told me, is to keep peace and harmony within the family and with other families and to make sure that everyone is behaving properly.
"In Samoa, law and order don't come from here,'' one woman said, indicating the big white parliament building on Apia's Beach Road. "Law and order come from the village itself.''
Matais are ranked low to high, from family to village to national government.
"Every leader, every member of Parliament, has to have a matai title,'' said Savea Sano Malifa, editor of the Samoan Observer newspaper in Apia and himself a matai. But the system is not hereditary: "Everyone in Samoa is entitled to become a matai," he said.
The tenets of the matai system explained why I saw office workers crouch down when they spoke to a boss, keeping their heads well below his.
It was why people didn't stand in the aisles on buses, even when they were crowded. "You sit down!'' I heard one bus driver admonish a young French backpacker. "You don't stand over people! They'll make room for you!''
It was also why so many women wore modest ankle-length skirts and why men wore knee-length ones -- the traditional garments called lavalava -- and why tourists weren't supposed to wear shorts and swimsuits anywhere off the beach. In villages, as one dignified older lady explained, "you cover yourself up.''
"They say we are very churchy people,'' she added, smiling at her own understatement.
Protestant missionaries arrived in 1830, and Samoans swiftly converted, which accounts for the multitude of white churches. Church fit right in: The matais were responsible for proper moral and religious behavior, too.
So government offices, most businesses and sometimes whole villages shut down at noon on Saturday and don't reopen till Monday morning; really traditional villages still have a "prayer curfew" every evening.
You don't have to pray then, the same dignified lady advised me gently, but you do have to be quiet and stay inside. "They say it is tapu to move,'' she said, using the Polynesian word that became "taboo'' in English.
Two nations, shared history.
From what I'd read, Robert Louis Stevenson was a sort of freelance matai who got involved in Samoan politics and is still deeply admired for it.
"He's the one fighting strongly for freedom, in those days,'' my guide at Vailima said as we stood among the antiques in its redwood-paneled Great Hall. "He gives good advice for our people.''
The islands must have been easier to explain in Stevenson's day than they are now. There was only one Samoa back then, though three world powers were arguing over the archipelago when he arrived.
Great Britain eventually dropped out; the United States took possession of Tutuila Island and the littler islands in the east, creating American Samoa, and Germany claimed Western Samoa, the islands of Upolu, Savai'i and their smaller neighbors. New Zealand became Western Samoa's trustee during World War I and granted it independence in 1962.
Thirteen years ago, Western Samoa officially dropped the adjective from its name. American Samoans protested -- in vain -- on grounds that the change diminished their own cultural identity.
But people on both sides of the international border are still connected by language, tradition and kinship. A year ago, their bonds were further tightened by shared tragedy.
Early on Sept. 29, 2009, undersea earthquakes triggered a tsunami, sending huge waves smashing into the southern coasts of Samoa and American Samoa and the northern coast of nearby Tonga.
Nearly 200 people died; 5,700 were displaced and many more moved permanently to higher ground, breaking their age-old ties to the sea.
The biggest loss of life was around Lalomanu, on the southeast coast of Upolu, independent Samoa's main island. One day I had a taxi take me there from Apia. Even five months afterward, the damage was shocking.
Cliffs rise steeply behind what used to be a picture-perfect beach, but the churches, pavilions and houses that stood there had been smashed and broken. Even the sand had been scoured away.
"There was no place to run,'' said Samoan writer Lani Wendt-Young, author of "Galu Afi -- Wave of Fire,'' a new book that was commissioned for the first anniversary of the disaster. No time to run, either, she said: People had dashed out of their houses when they felt the earthquake, and the tsunami struck while they were still in shock.
The first response was pure fa'a Samoa: "When relief workers came in, they wondered where the refugee camps were,'' Wendt-Young said. But there weren't any. The people who'd lost their homes had all been taken in by the rest of their aiga, their extended families.
Beauty of American Samoa
Despite sizable populations now -- 220,000 in independent Samoa, 65,000 in American Samoa -- they still look like paradise, and they aren't overrun with tourists.
True, Apia has modern grocery stores, traffic jams and the occasional giant cruise ship in port, but it didn't feel particularly busy when I was there. Next door in American Samoa, Pago Pago was so low-key that it made Apia feel like Manhattan.
I spent an astonishingly quiet Sunday there, driving the twisting coastal road on 20-mile-long Tutuila, taking side trips across its steep spine and through the spectacular scenery of the National Park of American Samoa.
I stopped often, but I never encountered another tourist. The only people I saw were locals on their way to church, or in church, or coming back from church, or getting ready for family dinners after church.
It was the closest I've come to what may be every tourist's secret dream: having some exotic place all to oneself. But with a catch. There was almost nowhere to stay.
From Pago Pago eastward, until the paved road ended at the village of Oneona, the only accommodations I found were a bar-restaurant with a few rooms; an occasional beach that permitted camping but had no campers, and a pair of pretty fales on a pristine strip of sand in front of a village called Avaio.
The fales were sheltered from the gentle surf by a motu, a tiny islet that looked like a volcanic cupcake, black lava mounded with tropical greenery. There were no guests there, either, just a group of children playing with a litter of puppies. I asked what the place was called.
"Two Dollar Beach,'' one of the girls said. "You pay two dollars, and you can stay.''
Robert Louis Stevenson probably would have. I imagined his white schooner tied off at that motu and was envious. But I didn't have a sleeping pad or a mosquito net. Or time. That was the real problem.
I used to think that 19th-century travel was harder than ours. Now I think it just took more patience. Stevenson couldn't drop in on another culture the way I had dropped from the sky to see Vailima, nor could he zip back out on a night flight.
But he didn't have to base his travels on nonrefundable airline tickets, either. Right then, on Two Dollar Beach, a slow white schooner had a lot more appeal.
Catherine Watson is a former travel editor of the Star Tribune and the author of two collections of travel essays, "Roads Less Traveled" and "Home on the Road."
IF YOU GO
For information on Independent Samoa, go to www.samoa.travel, run by the Samoa Tourism Authority.
Samoa is the place to take it easy, writes Cassandra Murniek.
Arriving at Samoan hotel Le Manumea, the owner, Luna, rolls out the welcome mat and takes me in as one of her own.
From the continental breakfast to the barbecue dinners, Le Manumea feels like home.
The hotel is a short distance from downtown Apia, with views of the Pacific and Mt Vaea.
I'm not the first to have fallen for this place.
Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family sailed to Samoa and made it their home in 1889.
Stevenson liked the warm climate and lived here for four years before his death.
He was buried at the foot of Mt Vaea, to be joined by his wife in 1914.
The Stevensons bought 127ha of land below Mt Vaea and named the property Vailima ("Five Waters") in honour of the streams on their land.
The large house was opulent. Most of the furniture came from England and pieces remain today.
Leaders and society elite were entertained in the grand mansion, and it is still used by the government.
It was damaged by a hurricane in 1990 but restored to its original state by an American and now acts as a museum.
The house is simply stunning.
For a small entry fee you can wander around the house or take a tour.
The latter is recommended, as it provides a real insight into the life of Robert Louis Stevenson.
The library houses first editions of Stevenson's books and his writing desk. Take the nearby track to Stevenson's grave and a pool which was once the main water supply.
It doesn't take long to work up an appetite in Samoa. I head to the Fugalei Food Market, through surrounding streets chaotic with buses, taxis and cars all jostling for somewhere to park.
A coconut costs about 60 cents, served up just like a barman would with a cocktail.
Local fresh fruit and vegies are lined up for sale, as are bouquets of island flowers.
Taro and barbecued banana, staples of the Samoan diet, are available from stalls.
The Savalalo Flea Market is close by and a good stop for gifts, including handmade jewellery, clothes and bags.
Sunday is a day of rest in Samoa. With at least one church in each village, religion plays a big part in their lives.
I wake on the Sunday morning and, looking towards Apia, spot smoke billowing in all directions: Sunday is about church and barbecues.
My temporary family at Le Manumea invite me to lunch. A fresh-caught fish takes pride of place on the table alongside salads and barbecued taro.
The day is spent eating, lazing by the pool and sleeping.
The best way to see Samoa is by car, but there are plenty of buses, and travelling on them is quite an experience.
A brightly coloured Queen Poto bus draws to a stop.
We are heading to the south side of Apia, through mountainside that reminds me of Jurassic Park.
The blue and green hued ocean laps the creamy white sand; palm trees rustle in the breeze and families frolic in the water.
From about $30 a night, this is paradise without the price tag.
Source: Herald Sun, January 07 2011
From Switzerland to Samoa and the Maldives to the Mediterranean, Australian celebrities reveal where they plan to holiday in 2011 and where they would go if they could.
Here's what Andrew 'Reidy' Reid of Bondi Rescue had to say:
Where do you want to holiday in 2011?
I hear the waves are great, people are friendly and weather is hot. Sounds perfect to me.
Where would you go if money was no object?
I'd hire the biggest campervan I could, fill it with a couple of mates and our girlfriends, surfboards, prawns and Coronas and travel all the way around Australia.
Source: Angela Surine, The Australian
Following an online vote by members, PATA has announced the five finalists for the 2011 Face of the Future competition. Among the successful individuals is Miss Samoa 2010, Tavalea Nilon.
Each year Face of the Future spotlights an individual, 35 years old or younger, who has worked to change or advance travel and tourism in Asia Pacific. Nominations for the 2011 competition were of a particularly high standard and the online vote – the first year PATA has asked its members to participate in the judging process – led to a closely-fought first round.
As part of the the next stage of the competition, Tavalea Nilon has submitted a video in which she talks about ideas concerning the future. In this video presentation, Ms Nilon outlines three challenges she believes she may face as a travel and tourism leader in the future, and how she would plan to prepare for, or manage these challenges.
The winner and two runners-up will be announced by March 1, 2011, after a vote by PATA Executive Board Members in February. The winner of the Face of the Future 2011 will be honoured at a special awards ceremony at the 60th Anniversary and Conference, April 9-12 in Beijing. They will also have the opportunity to participate in a plenary session alongside luminaries such as senior government officials and industry leaders from across the spectrum of PATA membership.
The other finalists are Mr Deepak Tamang, Managing Director, Raven Tours and Treks, Bhutan; Mr D K Singh, Founder and President of Heritage Group of Institutions, India; Ms Hsu Htet Hlaing, Managing Director of Unique Asia Travels & Tours Co., Ltd, Myanmar; Mr Sitpasu Thongsuk, Owner of Fair House Villas and Spa, Thailand.
For further information visit www.pata60.org or email PATA60@pata.org.