Isle of Pines , New Caledonia (Ile Des Pins)

Isle of Pines (Ile Des Pins) is one of the many islands in the Pacific which is most known, name was. This is particularly true for those of us on the eastern seaboard of Australia in New Zealand. The Pacific Islands are to Queenslander’s what Mexico is for American’s. It does not take very long to get to, is still another country and is (or used to be), significantly cheaper than holidaying at home. It is know as ‘the Jewel of the Pacific’a and with its white ands, turquoise lagoons and the Araucaria soaring pine trees, the name is well deserved.

IMG_6942We had been due to go to the Isle of Pines second out of our three stops, but due to shocking weather at sea, they switched the ports around and so it was our last stop. We had slept like absolute babies the night before (I am now certain I am accustomed to being rocked slowly to sleep on a ship) and when we woke up from stillness (so strange when this happens, you become used to constant movement!), and drew the curtains back in excitement – the view was absolutely incredible!

The Isle of Pines is not just a whimsical name, it is pine-heaven and the soft breeze which was moving over the island, out across the ocean and softly onto our balcony was unbelievably inviting.

IMG_7000Luckily the group of people on this cruise in particular were slow-movers (or maybe just big drinkers!), so even though we were not the first off the ship (I am not sure either of us have ever failed to take advantage of a buffet breakfast 🙂 ), we were still only the second or third tender off of the ship.

There was pretty sketchy cloud coverage and raining on and off, so it was quite a cool day. We had really failed to plan at all, which was 100% a mistake. We figured we would be able to hire bikes on the island, or even a car – so we could head out to Oro Bay, for which the island is famous for. What we didn’t realise is that the cruise ship companies (to a degree) get the monopoly of the island activities and locations. So without paying for the incredibly overpriced day tour to the other side of the island, we weren’t able to get there.

IMG_7109What you do need to be prepared for travel-wise, is to totally let go of your expectations. What we had planned for the day was 1. Arrive at Isle of Pines. 2. Swim. 3. See Oro Bay and 4. Spend a loved up day together enjoying our last port for the trip. Now, it doesn’t matter where you come from – three out of four in any country is pretty good!

When we first got there, we walked as far as we could, making our own adventure – then we realised how happy we were so we headed back to the main section.After our failed search for a bike/bikes/car or any other mode of transport to try and get to the other side of the island, we decided to head back and ask one of the friendly locals if they could perhaps drive us across the island. We did get a two hour island tour for $25 each (not cheap but not nearly as expensive as what we would have paid for one of the organised! We had an hour and a half to wait for our tour so I think we spent that time, the very best anyone really could.

It involved exploring a completely isolated part of the beach, drinking a beer at the other end of the beach and then having a swim in the incredibly cold waters at another side of the island – where I basically koala’s onto my Husband for his body warmth and could barely move and then eating chips and gigantic sandwiches, which I managed to order in French (win!).

When our private tour departure time rolled around, it seemed our local driver had capitalised on the $25 per person fee and there were two other ladies from the cruise joining us (great!), but there were also four extremely inebriated people from the cruise (who had obviously been drinking heavily for the day) joining us. Seeing as they were obnoxious, culturally insensitive, and absolutely hammered – I won’t give them too much airtime. Safe to say they heavily impacted on the portions of the trip where we were stuck in the van with them.

IMG_7128Our driver explained to us that he was not able to take us to Pro Bay, as only the organised tours through the Cruise company were allowed there when a ship was in port, but he did take us to some amazing areas.

We visited Queen Hortense’s Cave, which involved a walk through a beautiful rainforest and gardens and the inside of the caves were absolutely amazing and the history of the local Queen who hid in these caves for several months during an intertribal conflict.

There were ruins and a cemetery belonging to the original French Penal Colony from the 1870’s at the Kuto Peninsular we were able to explore, which was really cool. Our driver also took us to the Mission Church and the Statue de St Maurice commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries.

It seemed like the quickest day stop ever and before we knew it, the weather had turned nd it was time to catch a tender back to the Pacific Explorer. It was an absolutely beautiful day and I am really thankful we were able to visit such a beautiful place. I highly recommend a stop or trip there if you ever get the chance!

Have you been to the South Pacific? How did you like it?

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see!

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

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

x C x

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

P&O Pacific Explorer

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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