METRO PLUS

Cruising along with Tahitian Princess...

IT IS the season to do something jolly on a different wavelength. Delhi's nautical wannabes can now find inspiration in the tropical islands of French Polynesia, so far away from the real world. Roughly two million years ago, the earth expressed its indigestion with an enormous underwater volcanic burp. It left behind mountains rising above the surface of the ocean and surrounded by a barrier reef. Between reef and mountain lies the glorious lagoon, an all-year heated outdoor swimming pool, gentle and shallow, which is home to a stunning density of marine life.

It is these lagoons that make these islands so exceptional. While in the lagoon, you float amid a rippling rainbow of fish -- yellow wrasse, multi-coloured groupers, striped snapper, the vibrant blues, greens and pinks of parrotfish. There are fish with pink lipstick, fish with purple mascara, fish with violet blusher, too many species, and too much colour to list. But the Tahitian Princess is the real prima donna, sightseers applaud the ship into port and it even has its own photo-call when passengers take to the lifeboats and snap the ship sailing elegantly through the waves. As a supporting cast, dolphins race alongside, fishing boats hoot and dingy-sailors wave. You will have the wind in your hair and tangy breezes in your nostrils for a week -- on this voyage the sea and the Princess will be the star of the show.

Tahiti lies in the Society Islands, about halfway between Australia and Los Angeles. For first-timers to the islands, the Princess cruise might be a good way to absorb the ambience of French Polynesia in a few days. While Tahiti is synonymous with unspoiled beauty, its bustling capital of Papeete is typically a cruise port, very busy with yachts, ocean liners and schooners. Here you can see several interesting sights include the Paul Gauguin Museum but don't expect to see his works, which are scattered throughout the world, the Maraa Grotto and the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, with numerous archaeological finds and an overview of the island's geological history. Nearby Moorea may be the best island to purchase the famous black pearls for which the Tahitian islands are known. Here numerous pineapple, vanilla and coffee plantations and lush tropical foliage cover the mountain slopes offering a patchwork backdrop to any photo.

The next port is Bora Bora, which first became famous in the `40s with James Michener's best-selling novel "Tales of the South Pacific". Ancient and recent history is easily visible here. At the shoreline you may see archaeological sites containing the remnants of temples for sacred turtles. A short distance away on a hill lie the giant cannons of World War 11, defenders of the island against the Japanese. But in reality, these islands never experienced the war.

One of the highlights of the Tahitian Princess cruise is spending the day on a private island. The crew sets out comfortable lounge chairs throughout the beachfront and, there is fun in abundance -- water sports including kayaking, snorkelling and water skiing. You will particularly enjoy walking to the other side of the island and snorkelling away from the crowd. The fabled towering peaks -- laced with narrow waterfalls and palm-lined white sand beaches -- offers a vacation setting that would be hard to top anywhere on earth. So we are sure that you can never be bored in Bora Bora! In case you would like to go: Tahitian Princess, the latest addition to the Princess fleet sails year-round in Tahiti and the South Pacific, debuting the only ten-day sailings in the region. Choose from three unique itineraries, with a total of 50 departures roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti. Each includes port calls at the tropical paradises of Bora Bora, Moorea and Raiatea. Call Nishith Saxena, Country head, Princess Cruises at 011 3738927 for details.

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