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Cruise Diary: When in American Samoa, Do as American Samoans Do!

Day 45, Feb. 19:

Our world cruise gave us the opportunity to spend a half-day in Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) in Tutuila, American Samoa – don’t you just love exotic names that are repeated like Pago Pago and Bora Bora? They roll off the tongue and hold within themselves the power to fill the mind with idyllic images of “those far away places with the strange sounding names,” as the show-stopping song “Far Away Places” from “The King And I” proclaims. There were souvenir shopping opportunities right by the pier where the Amsterdam was docked, with plenty of handicrafts including the typical “tapa cloth,” made from the inner bark of trees like the paper mulberry, breadfruit and fig trees, and hand-painted with geometric designs and repeated motifs such as fish and plants. To make the most of our stay in Pago Pago, Humberto, Duffy (“our bear that went around the world”) and I signed up for a Holland America shore excursion called “A Taste of Samoan Village Life.”

We departed from the pier in the island’s spectacular harbor with its backdrop of mountains. Our transportation consisted of island-style open-air, flower-bedecked buses that took us along the beautiful coastline to southwestern Tutuila and then turned inland through local villages. Along the way we passed the Flower Pot Rocks (scenic rock formations by the coast) and the Leone monument and church, and then we went on to the tour’s highlight: a recreated traditional Samoan village where villagers greeted us warmly and performed native songs and dances. Then a special treat — they served us typical Samoan foods cooked in an “uma”(above-ground oven).

Georgina, Humberto and Duffy next to plumeria and hibiscus and coconut ornaments.

Me, Humberto and Duffy next to plumeria and hibiscus and coconut ornaments.

I was chosen to taste the water of a coconut just picked off a tree by one of the young men of the village – it was very refreshing in the hot, humid morning! Then we all sampled hot cocoa made from locally grown cacao (yummy!) and we tasted breadfruit (like its name implies, it tastes like bread!) and dipped it into coconut milk. We watched basket and hat weaving demonstrations and a cooking demonstration – with chicken, tuna, lamb and spinach cooked in the “uma” and covered with banana and taro leaves (used like we use aluminum foil). The spinach in particular is important, our guide, Jonathan said. “If there is no spinach, there is no feast!” Cooked in coconut milk and served on breadfruit, it was delicious! It and the rest of the food is served on a banana leaf and eaten with your hands, getting not only the senses of taste and smell involved, but the sense of touch too – when in American Samoa, there is nothing like doing as the American Samoans do! Tip: Ladies, take note, in American Samoa, it is the men that tend to the family’s garden, do all the cooking, cleaning and other chores! “I’m moving here!” one of the ladies on our tour exclaimed.

Samoan men preparing traditional dishes of chicken, lamb, tuna and spinach.

Samoan men preparing traditional dishes of chicken, lamb, tuna and spinach.

Samoan basket and hat weavers.

Samoan basket and hat weavers.

Samoan little girl.

Samoan little girl.

When we returned to the ship, the Lido Deck poolside was already being decorated and prepared for a big Mardi Gras celebration today, Feb. 21. We recently crossed the International Date Line as we made our way to Sydney, Australia. There was no Feb. 20 for us on this cruise. Captain Jonathan Mercer said he hoped nobody was having a birthday on Feb. 20 but if so, there will be plenty to celebrate at Mardi Gras on Tuesday.

Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.

  • Fofo

    I’m from American Samoa, I would love to have more pictures from Samoa. I’m glad you did experience the Samoa way of Life “Easy going 24/7”.

  • charlotte squarcy

    hi there – actually so many of the pictures I took were of the photos by the Park Rangers of the special birds and flowers–check out the american Samoa National Park spot on Facebook. HAL: partners with the National Park here and in Glacier Bay, Did you know that?—they have this thorough IpodCast of all that you are viewing as you cruise along…wonderful

  • Su'a Lucia Bartley

    Beautiful article, with just one minor correction, the Samoan outdoor cooking oven is called UMU, not UMA, UMU is outdoor oven, but UMA is finish. Thank you and I’m glad you had a nice experience of our beautiful island.

  • Julie

    Thank you for the correction!

  • Shanette Tilo Loto

    Thank you for that great article. We sure hope you decide to visit us again and share with others our beautiful Islands and invite them to come. I will share with out family your great experience.

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