A Taste of New Caledonia – our journey at Sea <3

Hi there! Welcome to February, can you believe it? This year is just whipping on past, faster than each year before – sometimes I worry that I will wake up at 60 wondering what happened to the last 30 years!

My last post was all about the beautiful Pacific Explorer, the P&O ship which carried us to New Caledonia last September. This little post is about the actual journey from Sydney through to Nouméa – our first island visit on our Taste of Caledonia 8-night tour.

I guess one of the main differences I have noticed in boarding at Circular Quay Passenger Terminal is the number of people there. Also the lack of people in matching shirts. I promise you, that is a huge thing here in Queensland!

The next difference was leaving Sydney heads – I had no idea it was going to be that rough venturing out into the open seas, but with the only comparison being the smooth Coral Sea when you leave Brisbane.

We were rocking and rollin’ pretty early on and the poor little tug-boat helping the Explorer out of Sydney heads. We were in for a rough night – thankfully we had a good room and although frowned upon, keeping the sliding door cracked open a little really assisted with the fresh air. Also ginger ale + Kwell tablets really helped.

Our first evening we spent checking the boat out, trying a cocktail in each of the bars and eating at the Waterfront Hotel. We also made our restaurant bookings for the week. The trick is to really prioritise making these bookings ahead of time, because the bookings can sell out and sometimes it can be really hard to get a table with just the two of you (or with your booking crowd).

I don’t want to sound like a snob or as though I don’t like meeting other people but in all of the times we have had share tables we haven’t had the best luck. We have been sat next to incredibly drunk people, people in thongs and singlets and wet togs (even though P&O advise you won’t be permitted into the restaurants unless you are dressed appropriately – this does not always occur). We have also been sat next to incredibly racist old people and then three girls which erupted into a full-on fight with one another. So….I am all for the table for just the two of us.

In terms of the restaurants we sampled in the first three days we tried the Waterfront Hotel (dinner, breakfast and lunch), we tried Luke’s (delicious burgers!), 400 Gradi (amazing pizza) and we had room service breakfast.

You can book packages before you get on the ship, such as sail-away champagne and strawberries, activities on-board, and room-service.

This was our first big holiday since our Honeymoon, so we really went all-out! We joined bingo, the waiting game, trivia and the stage shows. At the end of the day a cruise will always be what you make it. If you want to relax and lay by the pool and drink cocktails then you absolutely can, if you want to tick every activity off the list then you can. I think we are a good mix of the two and this was our third cruise and we have loved each and every one :).

Theme nights are always a lot of fun, you get to dress up, the ship is decorated and usually everyone gets involved. Our second night was back to school theme and rather than the standard school-girl, high school jock; I took my Gen-Y #basicb attitude and ordered us two matching shirts from redbubble.com.

We went with classic Mean Girls greatness and dressed as though we were members of the Northshore Mathletes. Unfortunately not too many people got the reference and I can guarantee they would have been a bigger hit in Brisbane. On the plus side, we (or I) wasn’t falling over in rough weather in a mini-school skirt at an age far-advancing appropriateness ;).

Our first morning we decided to use the gym facilities before we hit breakfast, the gym itself it pretty well-equiped and they also have a day-spa and exercise classes. Which I thought was really amazing.

Each night we had a plate of canapés brought to our room – this was something we had booked to spoil ourselves and since we booked ahead of the cruise – it wasn’t an out of pocket expense while we were on the ship.

Cruising is so much fun, I will always be an advocate for it when it comes to a relaxing trip away. It is cost-effective, everything is done for you and really when else is a 30 year old going to have the opportunity to smash some carrot cake and coffee and play trivia with some sassy pensioners?

Also – the most amazing thing about cruises, are the staff. Each and every member of the cruise ship staff will go above and beyond to make your holiday memorable and their smiles will light your day right up.

So please, please, please – use your manners, be gracious and tip. Just remember, they can be away from their homes and families for eight months at a time and a little bit of kindness and conversation goes along way!

x C x

Sydney in September <3

IMG_3037‘The greatest trips are the unexpected ones’ – Anon

Sydney is the type of destination which makes you think of the Sydney Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, insanely expensive coffee and hipsters by the barrel-full. It also makes me think of insane traffic, way too many people and a city which has a constant buzz of energy and activity!

G is originally from Sydney and he did his apprenticeship all around Sydney (think 17-year-old driving a van with a trailer on the back of it), so his driving and people-handling capabilities are far more advanced than mine!

After I surprised G with the news I had booked us a cruise in September, just a mere two days after sitting him down and going through our budget and determining we needed to cut costs and be responsible 30-somethings…. he leapt on board and confirmed that we would be doing it in style!

We booked our airfares and booked the Shagri-La for our pre-cruise stay. The Shangri-La in Sydney is divine, it has views like no other in Sydney and if you can afford to splurge and stay there, then I highly recommend it! We booked an Executive Grand Harbour View room, which although pushing $500 a night, does have views of the full harbour. The Sydney Opera House, the Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful harbour in all her glory.

The bathrooms are like no other, think marble bath and shower and plush towels and bathrobes. 50sqm of pure heaven and the views, my goodness the views! The rooms are located on levels 22-29.

DSC06606My favourite thing about the Shangri-La is that if you do arrive before 2pm and your room is ready, you are more than welcome to check-in earlier than expected. There is a gym, all day dining at Café Mix, amazing food at Altitude Restaurant and the Blu Bar on level 36. My tip is to get up to Blu Bar well before sunset, because it does get packed and secure yourself a front-seat view to the orange beauty which is a Sydney harbour sunset!

I have some amazing girlfriends who live in Sydney and we often travel interstate to see each other a few times a year, so we were lucky enough to be able to meet up with a late lunch at Cruise Bar, which is in the bustling Circular Quay. The view is beautiful; it has an amazing selection of wine and cocktails and the house made flatbreads with dip and salt and chilli squid is delicious! After spending a couple of hours here, we made our way up to the Blu Bar (get the Thyming Tokyo or Yamazukara ;)) and enjoyed the sunset.

We then headed out to Harts Pub around the corner and enjoyed some sparkling wine and waffle fries and then it was time for us to say goodbye and head back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

Our dinner reservation was at the amazing Saké Restaurant at the Rocks and we had been looking forward to this dinner for months! It was like watching two kids at a candy bar once our amazing server handed us the menu! So, I won’t bore you with the details but our menu looked something like this: sashimi combo, spicy tuna rolls, Hiromasa kingfish, edamame, popcorn shrimp and the cape grim short rib bo ssam. You can go ahead and unbutton your pants and take a few deep breaths after reading that if you need to, we sure did!

Drinks consisted of the Hatori Hanzo (Bombay Sapphire gin, Yuzu sake, jalapeño pepper, cucumber and elderflower), E-momo-ki (cherry-blossom themed) cocktail, a Master of Malt Japanese whiskey tasting board (Mars Maltage Cosmo, Suntory Kabukin & Hibiki Japanese Harmony) and we finished with the phenomenal Miso Caramel Dragon Egg for dessert. We basically had to roll ourselves back to our hotel afterwards!

We spent an incredibly comfortable night in our amazing king-size bed and kept the curtains opened so we would wake up with the sun rising over Sydney heads. We woke up just before 5am and were lucky enough to watch our home for the next 8 nights make her way through the harbour and dock at Circular Quay. This was amazing to watch, from our bed with our room-service coffee!

The Shangri-La gym was our next stop and then we made our way to the famed breakfast buffet and before you know it, it was time to leave!

Matching flamingo shirts at the ready, we made it to the ship – dropped our bags – celebrated with some Prosecco and it was time to start our New Caledonia adventure!

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney?

IMG_3158

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post.

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and items, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – redhead_novaturient

x C x

 

 

 

P&O Pacific Explorer

DSC06693

In early 2017, I had an extra week off work and G went back to work after our short Christmas break.

I cleaned the house, prepared my new exercise and food plan, worked out my budget for the next week. Made a decent plan of attack to pay my debt off. You know, the standard boring business of a January approach.

Then something terrible happened. Something wonderfully, excitingly terrible. P&O Cruises had a sale and when that email hit my account I had those excited butterflies and taste of freedom leap into my mouth. So… I texted G. No answer. I called G. No answer…

Disclaimer: G works in a van, he rarely has access to his phone and spends his days on roofs, under houses, in between walls and behind the wheel of his van. It is not entirely reasonable that I would expect him to be available for every text/call.

However – how’s a girl supposed to ignore a sale email? It was $1 deposits and free premium drinks packages per booking. It would almost be as though I was making money by booking it!

Which….is exactly how I told G when he FINALLY called me back (seriously it was only 12 – 15 mins, but when you’re waiting to book something exciting – it may as well be 6 hours!).

So, there’s my summarised version of how I went from Captain Money-Saver for 2017, to ‘WE ARE GOING ON A CRUISE IN SEPTEMBER!!!’

This would be our third PO Cruise. We had been on the Pacific Aria, Pacific Dawn and we were now booked to go on the Pacific Explorer.

The Pacific Explorer, is the biggest and newest ship to the Australian PO family and with a capacity of 1998 guests and at a length of 260 meters – she’s a beauty! We booked a balcony room and had a room on floor ten. We were right at the back of the ship, Portside. Which, although had some restricted view points from the work platform hung at the back of the ship and near our balcony. Which to be honest, is not that big of a deal – it only restricts some photos. Just remember that it means there may be tradesman painting / cleaning the sides of the ship on dock days and your disrobed status is not as private as when you’re sailing the high seas!

Pacific Explorer has 12 different dining options, two different marquee/entertainment areas, an amazing adult only pool / sundeck and bar area, a waterpark, two water slides, a big movie screen near the family area, barefoot bowling, zip lining, and a great variety of bars, pubs and live band areas.

Its decor is one of my favourites of the PO Ships – when was the last time you saw a framed portrait of Leonardo, Elvis or Nick dressed up like Captains? The answer is you haven’t and you need to. Immediately.

Our favourite drinking spot was the Archie Rose Bonded Store – it has amazing whiskey (G) and gin (moî) options and it was where we went before we headed to dinner. There are more than enough dining options for everyone and my advice would be to mix it up.

You don’t need to eat at the same place every day and your food, apart from Gradi and Luke’s included in your fare. We ate at 400 Gradi (by award-winning Melbourne pizza chef Johnny di Francesco) twice – amazing pizza and wonderful service! Luke’s has amazing burgers, hot dogs and fries and is the perfect post-swim place to grab a feed. Although both 400 Gradi and Luke’s do have a service charge, we are talking $6-8 for a burger! So very affordable and is worth it 😊.

After my third cruise, I have a few standard tricks and tips I follow in preparation of boarding a ship. You may find them useful, or you may have tips for me!! I would love to hear them 💛

〰️ DO buy your own antacids, pain relief, sea sickness and gastro-stop. Yes, you can buy them at the shop onboard if you need to – BUT (and this was horrifying to us on our second cruise) – sometimes they are out of stock.

〰️ DO arrive at check-in at your predetermined time. Do not expect to get on early just because you have shown up early.

〰️ DO respect and understand that the boarding process is the same as it would be if you were boarding an international flight. Be respectful, be mindful, be prepared and treat the boarding process how you would the security/immigration process at an airport.

〰️DON’T treat the wonderfully committed employees of the ship you are on like rubbish. These amazing people spend 4-8 months at sea – AT A TIME – use your manners. Say thank you. Say hello, treat them with respect. If you don’t, you may end up with people like G and I behind you – yelling out “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” in the gaps of your sentences where you have forgotten to.

〰️ DO attend your muster when you are meant to. Don’t wear your jacket to the muster, don’t bring your drink and don’t talk through it. We don’t want to be in a room for an hour with you instead of at the bar either, but trust us – you are the reason this is taking so long 🙃

〰️ DO attend your muster when you are meant to. Don’t wear your jacket to the muster, don’t bring your drink and don’t talk through it. We don’t want to be in a room for an hour with you instead of at the bar either, but trust us – you are the reason this is taking so long 🙃

〰️ DO tip. Just think, could you work on a ship eight months at a time, away from your family and friends – living Groundhog Day without tips, manners and appreciation? No. Be kind. Always.

〰️ DON’T forget that you are on a ship. At sea. Have reasonable expectations. If you remember this, you will genuinely be appreciative of every moment you experience. You are on an affordable, family-friendly, cruise liner. Sometimes for days. You are not staying at the Shangri-La, with access to fresh aqua blessed with virgin tears. Just calm down and stop carrying on.

ANNNDDDDD

〰️ DO HAVE FUN!!!

Have you been on a cruise? How did you find it? What’s your best cruise tip?

〰️

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post.

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and items, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram, click here – redhead_novaturient

x C x

P&O Comedy Cruise on the Pacific Dawn

For Christmas I was not too sure what to buy my Husband as his present. We had recently celebrated our amazing wedding and honeymoon only a couple of months before. So we had agreed to take it relatively easy on the present-giving. Except we both broke that promise and G bought me a brand new camera and I bought him (us) a three-night comedy cruise!

 

We had sailed with P&O Cruises last year for my 30th on the Pacific Aria, our three-night cruise was on the Pacific Dawn over the Anzac Day weekend. Luckily for us, the Dawn had a face lift before we were on her. All of the recreation areas had been done up and were looking beautiful. We had a balcony room because the ocean view rooms had all sold out and I 100% was not going to handle any sea-sickness in an interior room!

 

Our ship took off much later than expected due to technical issues but that really is not a problem because A) you are on holiday regardless if the ship is moving; and B) the bar is open whether or not the ship is moving ;). A three night cruise is completely different to a week long cruise (no, not just because of the timeframe), because you don’t feel as though you have to rush and take advantage of every activity on-board! You don’t need to feel guilty if you sleep-in, have day-naps, eat too much food and drink too many cocktails. This is the equivalent of a three-night weekend – but at sea and with no cleaning/cooking! Hooray!

Comedy Cruise 7

The Dawn is one of P&O’s older ships and has 11 guest decks, all of the new eatery options, waterslides (fun!), retail choices and also the P&O Edge Adventure Park. The beauty of cruises is once you pay for your tickets – you’ve covered your food, board and most of the activities. The additional costs you need to budget for is alcohol, bingo, whiskey tasting. wine classes, or if you wish to eat at Salt which has a cover-charge. In saying this, it is an inexpensive cover-charge for what you get! Dinner is only $49 per adult and that is unlimited sides, starters, your main and dessert. This is food by Luke Magnan – it is delicious!

Comedy Cruise 10

Salt restaurant also has a high-tea during the day, again at a very inexpensive cover charge ($20 I think it cost us) and is the ultimate day-date. A decent trade for the whiskey-tasting for G :).

Comedy Cruise 11

I love cruises, I call them my in-between holidays. When going overseas on a big holiday is not an option. They are so affordable – once you pay your deposit you can pay off your holiday over many years. You can now even load spending money onto your onboard account over the course of months/years – so you can plan ahead!

Comedy Cruise 8

My tip? Don’t pay full price. Wait for the sales which P&O have several times a year. Sometimes it is for additional on-board credit. sometimes it is free drink packages and sometimes you have the ability to upgrade your room for a small cost.

P&O Cruises– They’re having their Premium Drinks Package sale again now – so jump on it!

There are plenty of places to grab a drink, different shows and live music and of course daily trivia and games! We have been on three cruises with P&O now and I could quite happily go on a cruise every year!

Enjoy!

x C x

Pacific Aria – P&O Cruise Ship

There comes a time, after the madness of the silly season is over, when you have been back at work for a few months and…you need a break. That sounds terrible doesn’t it? To get to April and just about be climbing the walls out of desperation for a holiday!

Let me take you back to early 2016. I was approaching 30, we were saving for a Wedding, we KNEW we could not wait until October (our Honeymoon) without at least a little break. So we decided to book a cruise. As it so happened, there was a P&O Cruise which departed Brisbane on my Birthday and went up to Cairns. Needless to say we decided this was a fantastic idea!

We booked an ocean view room, for the price of around $1500 as there was a sale, also when we made the booking, it came with the free Premium Drinks Package (all soft drinks, cocktails, wine, beer, spirits water up to the value of $12); excluding T2 and coffee from the coffee shops.

Our 7 night cruise was called the Barrier Reef Discovery and it was scheduled to travel from Brisbane up to Hamilton Island, Cairns, Willis Island (Drop Anchor) and then back to Brisbane. We were quite excited as we had heard great things about the new Pacific Aria which had been welcomed to the P&O fleet from the Holland America Line and we were on one of the first cruises for it.

IMG_5907About a week before our cruise was set to depart, P&O offered us an upgrade to a balcony room for $99 each. How can you refuse this? It was for my 30th and it was our first time on a cruise and really, what’s an extra $199 when you have a free drinks package anyway?

Boarding was incredibly easy on the first day, we had registered to get onto the ship around lunchtime, so we went and checked out our room, bought our touristy lanyard’s, grabbed our first drink and decided to check out the ship.

We booked to have our first dinner (my Birthday and our anniversary of meeting) at Luke Magnan’s Salt Grill, which is amazing. It is easy to forget you are a on a ship, and it is always really cringe worthy to see some rude person on a boat yelling at a waiter because they don’t think the food is the quality it should be. So let me be the reasonable person to confirm, that, actually – the food is quite given it has been prepared and served on a budget cruise-liner! I recommend the licorice parfait. Yum!

Dragon Lady is pan-Asian cuisine and the restaurant is very pretty, the service lovely and the lighting subtle. What we didn’t realise (on our first cruise), is that you (if you book far enough ahead), do not need to accept a share-table booking. In fact, unless you live for meeting and eating with strangers, awkward conversation or a lack of privacy then I would advise against the share table. Unfortunately, we did accept a share table at Dragon Lady and we were sandwiched in against a wall with an older couple who sat beside us. The conversation was forced, the couple were racist (seriously, not okay!) and the woman was whinging the entire time, saying how she only likes to eat fried eggs. Anyway, that’s not P&O’s fault, we downed a bottle of sake and tried to forget our hideously racist dinner mates.

Angelo’s is an Italian restaurant, it is classy and elegant and has a pretty decent wine list for a boat. The food is yummy and there is a selection of desserts available to you!

Our room was nice and had plenty of space, the public areas are nice, there are no shortage of bars, there is a beautiful view – wherever you go!

There is no shortage of activities – at all. You have trivia, bingo, drinking, game shows, dance shows, karaoke, movies on the top deck, dating games, marriage match, book swaps, cocktail lessons, whiskey tasting, mocktail classes, tours of the ship etc.,

A cruise is what you make it – if you are with good people or are looking to relax then this is for you! If you don’t really like your company and feel a bit caged on a boat for a week then it may NOT be for you.

What have you got to lose?

x