Looking for a new winter escape option for the July school holidays my family decided on a Pacific Island cruise. Options for cruising the South Pacific at this time of year are limited, P&O have capitalised on this offering a variety of cruise options around Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. After many a night pouring over the possibilities we chose the 10 day Discover Vanuatu itinerary departing from Sydney. In 2018, P&O’s Pacific Jewel will be operating out of Auckland, making cruising even more accessible to the New Zealand market.
Being well aware we were flying out of Christchurch during the foggy winter we chose to fly out the night before our cruise departed. This was a great decision, giving us time to relax and squeeze in a spot of shopping along Pitt St Mall before taking the ferry to the White Bay Cruise Terminal. Although this terminal is in a rather isolated location, the ferry service is seamless, and the advantage of departing from here is you start your holiday in spectacular fashion cruising under the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
I’d been approaching this holiday with serious trepidation, having never experience big ship cruising I was unsure of how I would feel being with close to 2,000 other travellers. But, oh, how I was to be surprised! There are endless activities to choose from, however, these are not pushed and you can simply take it or leave it.
With our 12 year old daughter showing no interest in the Kids Clubs activities, the first two days at sea proved a great time to relax as a family, and get our bearings on the ship. My daughter’s usually excellent sense of direction was certainly put to the test – much to the amusement of her parents!! We couldn’t resist giving the paper flower making a go (our attempt was a hilariously huge failure!), and soon the daily 5pm quiz became the must do activity to kick off the evening’s events! The nightly entertainment stage shows, were enjoyable too. Of course, being a cruise, food options were nearly endless! It was great to see our daughter embrace the challenge of trying something new at every meal.
The itinerary has been well thought out with each port stop proving better than the previous, culminating in the most stunningly gorgeous Isle of Pines. The uninhabited Mystery Island was also a highlight, small enough to walk around in under an hour, catching glimpses of some massive spiders webs spanning trees (thankfully we didn’t see the spiders!), and were mesmerised watching a sea snake slither across the rocks back into the water!
Disembarkation varied depending on the size of the port, the tenders to the smaller islands were well organised with little or no waiting time, and meeting areas for pre-booked tours were easy to find. If you enjoy snorkelling, definately take your own gear, it is available for hire off the ship, and on the islands, but the quality is questionable. Also give some thought to your cabin selection. Midship may be most central, but can also result in a lot of foot traffic past your room. We opted for a balcony cabin, placing us high and aft, away from the lift shafts, and giving us plenty of exercise moving around to other key public areas! The cabins are pleasantly furnished, with an impressive amount of storage (remember to hide your suitcases out of the way under the bed!), and compact functional bathrooms. It was lovely having the balcony, many a morning was spent out their soaking up the views of the day’s island waiting to be explored.
I was so surprised at how truly enjoyable this family holiday was, and highly recommend you consider it for your next family holiday option. As I keep telling people, I came back feeling as if my brain had been in its own health spa for 10 days, it really was that relaxing!