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

Reefs & Rainforest – Cairns, QLD

Cairns is Queensland’s beautiful gateway to the Great Barrier reef and is also one of the larger cities in far north Queensland. Cairns is not only located on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef but it is also blessed with the Daintree National Park in its backyard, filled with rainforest as well.

Cairns his humid as it is pretty and it has around 150,000 people living there. It is laid back, beautiful, relaxing and most of all – friendly, filled with some of Australia’s nicest people. Thankfully we had two days in Cairns, which is perfect when you don’t want to miss out on the reef, or on the forest.

The World-Heritage listed Daintree Forest is one of the most beautiful forests I have ever seen, it is however two hours from Cairns. So if you do have the time, please do – you won’t be disappointed. We were quite time-poor however so we decided to visit the mountain village of Kuranda, which you get to via the Kuranda rail. A place which I first visited when I was around 8 years old in 1994 (pic below).

It was pretty special going back as a 30 year old with G, who had never been there before. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides above the rainforest canopy and then descends into the rainforest, it is around a 90 minute tree and allows time at two different rainforest stations. It was raining when we were there, so brolly’s in hand- we made the trek. If it doesn’t rain, is it even really a rainforest?!

Kuranda itself is a little mountain town, hippy shops, a few decent restaurants and mostly touristy type hops. There is also the butterfly sanctuary (above) which is quite expensive but the money does go towards conservation, so that’s not too bad!

On the way back down the mountain the train journey takes about two hours, if you can – try to get a window seat on the left hand side of the train – this will guarantee you will see out the window and see the view. The seats are quite small because it is an old train but it is really nice. The Barron Gorge, is not to be missed!

Below is a picture of us with our delicious lunches – I had the chicken and G had the crocodile – I cannot and will not a dinosaur haha. I think the Kuranda Skyrail and the transfers cost around $125 per adult and whilst it is expensive, if you can afford it I would definitely recommend it!

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, and if you have ever seen any tourism ads regarding Australia and more specifically, Queensland – you will recognise it instantly. It is made up of over 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays. Sadly, the colours in the reef from when I was a kid to when we last went are very different. Unfortunately coral bleaching is a very real tragedy happening to this natural wonder and we (humans) are losing the battle to save it.

My fiancé bought us a private snorkel with a marine biologist (available on the boat we went out on as an additional extra) as my birthday present. So that was amazing, just holding hands and snorkelling out on the reef. We were quite a long way from the boat and on a few occasions I had the ‘what am I doing?!’, but it went well and it was absolutely beautiful. We also had a beautiful lunch, fruit and snacks on the day-trip and I think it was around $250 pp.

Hilariously, one of the most memorable parts of the day was the teenage boy working on the boat who was trying to help some older men and their wives with sea sickness, but they were dismissing him and basically shoo-ing him away. Anyone who has been on the water or is Australian with some coastal knowledge, is aware that if you are feeling sea sick – you need to be looking at the horizon, usually from the back of the boat. When this poor guy was trying to stop them from laying down and shutting their eyes they refused him and became sicker. They all ended up throwing up in the end, the one man who had been particularly rude looked so angry that he was vomiting, his eyes darting around wildly as he scream-vomited into his bag. I thought G and I were going to pass out we were laughing so hard (because he had been so rude to the young kid just trying to do his job and help).

Our time in Cairns was brief, but it was absolutely spectacular and a nice little break off of the boat! One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, was as the Pacific Dawn sailed out of Cairns and it was quite misty and it was such a beautifully soft departure, quiet and smooth and really really beautiful – as you can see from the pictures above!

Thanks for reading – let me know what you think of Cairns?

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