Saturday, February 09, 2008

Aboard the Cunard Queen Victoria at Pago Pago

American Samoa historically has been significant as a place for refueling ships.

Today the Queen Victoria, the newest ship in the Cunard fleet, docked for the first time in American Samoa’s capital, Pago Pago (pronounced “pango pango”) for 9 hours to allow 1,900 passengers and some crew off the ship after 5 days at sea.

Margaret Meade, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Somerset Maugham found this island, Tutuila, and its people inspirational for their writings.

We went ashore to see what these people may have seen in the city of Pago Pago, with its 4,000 inhabitants. We found a friendly people, ready to say hello and welcome us. A tuna cannery is the major industry. We got a beer at Sadie Thompson’s and a chocolate shake at a cafĂ©, Island Java, near the docks. It was easy to pick out the passengers from the locals.

The opulence of the ship contrasts with the simple shops and houses in this city. One street runs the length of the town with shops obviously catering to the townspeople rather than to the rare ship’s passengers that visit this port. We are told that only one or two ships such as ours dock here each month.

This island still looks like paradise, with its coconut heavy palms and bright flowers growing in the bushes. But the people and the plastic bottles that litter the streets and beaches do not fit our image of an idyllic people, picking bananas, mangoes, and coconuts off the trees. Obviously, there are improvements to be made here as in any of the world’s cities.

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