I recently returned from a ten day boat cruise up to New Caledonia and Vanuatu and the experience totally exceeded my expectations. It was like a whole new (water) world was opened up to me!
My partner and I were fortunate to travel with P&O’s Pacific Pearl, the beloved New Zealand-based ship going through it’s final few trips before she departs for her new hub in the UK. It felt weird hearing so many Kiwi accents onboard (“thunk yo”) but this was well contrasted with the myriad of accents from the ship staff. Ka kite ano Tamaki Makaurau… hello Pacific Ocean…
Some of my observations…
- The process of checking-in and checking-out of the ship is seriously efficient. I was impressed with how quick and easy it is (heck, who needs aeroplanes?).
- Cruise ships are HUGE. The perception that ships feel claustrophobic or too enclosed aren’t true. The cabin I stayed in was spacious and it was so easy to find quiet spaces around the boat.
- Yes, we were constantly given a bit-of-stick for saying that we were from Auckland.
- Ships do rock and roll. Like hello, the boat moves on water! You do get used to it after a while and it can make dancing both fun and tricky.
- There is food galore. The Pearl has numerous restaurants and cafes and you can order room service too. The buffet is an impressive feat in itself and the food changes everyday. There are also fancier restaurants for those seeking something a bit more chic and classy.
- The decor is fresh and contemporary. The onboard bars are stylish and elegant and wouldn’t look out of place in Britomart or Ponsonby.
- As a music buff, I loved listening to the bands perform in different areas of the ship. The musicians are extremely talented, playing music of all genres.
- There is entertainment of all kinds available on the ship. From trivia, to dance, to game shows, to live theatre, to table tennis, to movies on the deck, there is something for everyone.
- It is a thrill to explore each of the stops. I got to see Mare, Noumea, Lifou and The Isle of Pines in New Caledonia – these truly are picture perfect places. I also went to the lovely and vibrant town of Port Vila in Vanuatu.
- My partner and I purchased one of the beverage packages and where we able to have endless amounts of barista coffee each day. It made two JAFAs very happy.
- Everyone experiences the cruise differently. We spoke to some people who were happy to stay on ship for the whole time (they loved sunbathing on the deck and going to the spa), and others who relished all the stops, going on every excursion available. Whatever floats your boat right?
- Take a pair of reef shoes with you (around $15 from The Warehouse). It’s the best investment you’ll make.
- The themed-party nights are fun. Lots of people get into costume, in fact, the Great Gatsby night was one of my favourite party’s ever (flashmob + Charleston Dancing + confetti + Champagne = one helluva hootenanny).
- The Captain’s morning address provided a few chuckles. “Good morning everyone, this is your Captain speaking. Yesterday we departed Auckland and now we are in the middle of… NOWHERE!”
- Do not mention the ‘T’ word on the ship. And do not thrust your arms out and proclaim to be the King of the World. It is not cool.
- The Cabin Stewards are amazing and always made sure our rooms were serviced. They are creative too… they left us a monkey and an elephant made out of towels!
- You meet wonderful people on board. We met travellers from all over New Zealand, some of whom we’ll remain in touch with. The ability to ‘bump’ into people made it easier to keep conversations going.
- The staff are fascinating… they live on the sea for 6-12 months at a time and they are have different reasons for embarking on their nautical careers. The lovely cafe worker from Vanuatu said her 8 year old daughter provides the inspiration to work hard. The young pianist from NZ said that working on the ship is a great way to see the world. The tour director from Canada simply loves beaches and water, with the Isle of Pines a personal favourite.
- Yes, we did end up dining with many baby-boomers. They were all lovely to chat to and it made me wish my parents were travelling with me too.
- Do not do a Kate Winslet and try and count up the lifeboats. Yes, there are plenty of boats for everyone. It is 2017 after all.
- Um, you may be required to do the Macarena at some stage during the trip. It just happens.
I can happily say that I enjoyed my cruise to the Islands as it was such an easy and unique way to go about my holiday. I highly recommend it to those who haven’t thought about it before.
I leave you with some holiday snaps. Enjoy x