As fun as it is to travel with a toddler brigade or a family of 500 (I’m sure), sometimes it’s fun to drink obnoxious cocktails at noon, and read books and sleep on a holiday.
With these ludicrous fantasies in mind, my family of 8 left everyone in NZ and Aussie behind and nicked off on a cruise for the old man’s 60th birthday.
We flew into Brisbane, then hopped onto the luxury Pacific Aria. We (“I”) arrived famished so went straight to the poolside restaurant, and fancy buffet, The Pantry, trying not to notice the 4,000 small children and families struggling and splashing around the pool. We headed straight for the big children’s pool out the back of the boat and found our posse for the next 7 days at sea (sangria was mandatory, tough day).
Three courses, a kilo of fries (and some fish, I suppose), pork knuckles, prawns, 10am eggs bene, an oversized pepper grinder and chocolate lava brownies all packed into our woozy and happy bodies, was for sure the highlight. What’s that you say? YES! It’s all inclusive!* Goodness! Such living dangerously! Much craziness!
*aside from the couple of restaurants that were 5 star ooh la la.
Our rooms were completely fantastic with a side of amazing. Complete with life jacket, shower, and window out into the big blue. I got a real kick from walking/wobbling from my bed to the bathroom every morning. Sarcasm aside, our rooms were something Goldilocks would be proud of, because after all they were just a dumping ground for your bits and bags. Archie, our room looker-afterer was a 14/10 and fully equipped with a daily towel animal to brighten the day (and it actually worked, but it also might be because I’m six years old and mistook a penguin for a storm trooper).
We booked our restaurants early and enjoyed days at sea drinking by the pool, playing bingo with Mr 33 two koalas in a tree, or trying our luck at the casino. The decision of the day was what sort of tarting up was required for dinner at the Dragon Lady, a moody, fun Japanese joint with a cozy cultural feel. It was by far my favourite dining experience and I enjoyed my meals immensely: the chicken katsu was INHALED and the only negative was that I was too full to try everything on the menu. Did I mention that I love food? I’ll stop talking about food now.
For three of those seven glorious days on the Jewel, we were always in awe at the breathtaking view looking out over the water and to the neighbouring islands we were set to explore for the day.
We had three pieces of pacific paradise lined up: Noumea, Mare and Port Villa.
Noumea, New Caledonia. A place that was somewhat underwhelming, and their $21 pina coladas took the mickey. I really was expecting James Bond to deliver it to me personally.
Mare, New Caledonia. This island was the cute baby sister of New Caledonia. I just wanted to pick up every single local and put them in my pocket. The snorkeling on the crystal white sand beaches was a must do and make sure you top it off with a local shack’s $5 chicken curry.
Port Villa, Vanuatu. Without touching too much on the negatives (don’t get on a van tour with a guy called Jackson and expect anything other than a picture of a waterfall). The pub crawl, one of the on shore packages provided by P&O, was all kinds of fantastic. Any tour that ends with a YMCA karaoke performance and finding out who the fuck Alice is, gets 5 stars in my book.
We swam and drank and took four million photos on those three days on land, presumably so the guys on the boat could do some work, catch up on Facebook and, I don’t know, weave some baskets.
The only downside to the on shore adventures was that there just wasn’t enough time in the day for too many shenanigans and the land to sea ratio certainly took its toll (but nothing another sangria couldn’t fix).
Onto the entertainment. When the sun went down, the various bars filled up and the musicians came out to play. I expected the brilliant young girl singing and playing this weird piano flute contraption to show up on X Factor at any moment, (and easily win).
Themed nights were a hoot. White Night, School’s Out, Gatsby and Hawaiian- a night to satisfy your every want, odd costume fetish and desire.
The white night was a personal fave, based purely on the fact that we had appropriately themed birthday squad tees, and the Gatsby night because glamorous is my middle name darling. They were also a good excuse to meet new people, sing, dance, drink and be merry up on the top deck. Then make your way back down (somehow) to your room in the wee hours of the morning. On the plus side- you could never be too sure whether it was you or the boat swaying at that time of night.
THIS is how you cruise, I may have slurred victoriously, more than once.
Oh, oh, and, the gym! The gym is excellent. I didn’t actually go. But hey. It was still excellent. And there was more than enough weird PT stuff for us to do our kooky fitness programs in peace/without fear of strange looks.
But my bottom line when I holiday anywhere basically comes down to this question: would I return?
In this case, I’m not sure. But that said, it is clearly a terrific destination for couples who wanted bragging rights for the amount of cruises they’d actually been on, and perhaps if I was at a different stage of life my opinion would be different, and yes, overall we had a wonderful week, and a way to holiday without the stress of, well, anything really!
But for instance, they kept forgetting to dress my caviar with gold flakes each morning. And that’s just unacceptable.
Seriously though, you can prepay for pretty much everything and you only need to find your room and unpack once, which is handy for me when I go to pull my favourite skirt out from the deep abyss of my suitcase.
It didn’t matter if you weren’t first in the queue for lunch, or that you haven’t booked for dinner. The best way to make sure you enjoyed your holiday was to do a good walk round of the ship on the first day so you know what’s what, and then capital C chill. You won’t get bored and you won’t go hungry – promise. And on sea days, get outside that little bubble of yours. There is a daily list of activities- who knew vegetable carving was a thing? Cocktail classes and ABBA quizzes while bobbing away in the middle of the big blue. YES PLEASE!