Cruising the Pacific with P&O Cruises
Note: This review is based solely on my experience with P&O and has not been sponsored (because no one actually cares about my opinion yet). Regardless, all opinions are mine and mine alone.
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When I was growing up, we didn't do too many family holidays. My dad worked really hard to support us while mum stayed at home raising us, so our holidays together were few and far between (I'm forever grateful for those holidays because I know that even those few and far between holidays were more than a lot of people had!).
After an advertisement came up on the telly for a deal on a 7-night cruise around the Pacific, my mum had it stuck in her head that that was going to be our next holiday. Dad and my siblings jumped onboard (pun not intended) with the idea and they even convinced my grandparents to come up from Port Macquarie (located in NSW) to come with us.
"That's a terrible idea!" I wailed. "What are we going to do on a boat for a week?" I sobbed. "Stuck on a boat with all of you for seven days!" I whined... Yeah, I love my family but damn, I need my space too. "It's happening with or without you" they said. So I decided to go. It was pretty rare that all of us were together for a week and even my grandparents were going to be there so I couldn't say no.
Since there were 9 of us (2 grandparents, 2 parents, 5 kids), we needed an extra person to get two rooms with 4 bunks each while my grandparents got their own room. I nominated my best friend Casey because he was a close family friend (i.e. everyone already knew him well) and because he would keep me sane, more or less. Everyone agreed, probably to shut me up and we were set.
We were going to do a 7-night Pacific Island Hopper cruise with P&O, starting in Brisbane, cruising out to Lifou and Noumea in New Caledonia and Port Vila in Vanuatu and then cruising back home. And despite all my reservations and concerns and whining, I had an absolute blast! I bloody loved it and here's why.
Cruises are really safe, provided you don't run into really bad weather or all end up with gastro, which thankfully, we didn't. Mum gets sea sick on boats (yeah, I know, why would she choose a cruise? Go figure.) but she stocked up on crystallized ginger which helped her out.
It's affordable for big families. We paid about $500pp (for a quad room), for a whole weeks worth of food and accommodation. That's less than the price of a return flight to New Caledonia alone and I know you can get them even cheaper than what we paid. They do specials all the time so don't forget to check them out.
Everyone gets to do what they want. Gamble at the casino, lounge out on the pool deck, catch a show, learn to craft, have a swim, go to the nightclubs and pubs, go to the gym or kids room, I could go on forever. With such a large family of varying ages, we all wanted to do different things, and we could. We'd go off and do our own things and then meet back for meals or the big shows.
No one can get lost. Well I mean, we lost my Nan about 3 times, but because we were stuck on a boat we always found her again. N.B. They will not use the intercom to call out for your Nan, you will have to probably search the entire ship and it definitely counts as your exercise for the day.
You get to meet a lot of people. Quite a few of the other passengers only did cruise holidays and one of them was retired and just went from cruise to cruise. It is an interesting collection of people - families, couples, friends, young and old.
You aren't just stuck aboard the ship the whole day. We had 3 days to go out and explore. In Lifou, New Caledonia, we got to snorkel in beautiful turquoise water (mind the shells on the ocean floor, though), drink coconuts and explore the market. In Noumea, New Caledonia, we jumped on a tour bus and saw all the sights, before exploring in the evening by ourselves and saying "bon soir" to all the locals (ah ok, that was just me, pretending to speak French). In Port Vila, Vanuatu we jumped in a van with a local tour guide who took us around to the sites. These were just things you could do that didn't involve buying the extra tours or activities through P&O. There are many more different things to be experienced in these locations. Take a bike tour, get your hair braided or go quad biking!
You can eat some much food! You can head to the buffets or go to the fine dining restaurant (already paid for, remember?). We all did a lot of eating. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert and more dessert. We made sure we got our money's worth!
The staff on P&O were amazing. The rooms were cleaned to perfection, the towels were arranged into animals, everyone was really friendly and really helpful. They ensured that all our needs were met and we were having a great time.
So basically, what I'm saying is, I was wrong (don't tell Corey though, I have him under the impression that I am always right.) Totally and utterly wrong to think that I would hate cruising. While cruising can't give you the same travel experience you could get from staying a whole week and exploring either island deeply it gives you something else. A chance to get away with your family and friends, the opportunity to experience something new with people you care about and the option of a totally stress-free holiday, because everything is taken care of for you!
While I don't think cruising will ever be my main form of travel I can definitely see the appeal now that I've done it. I know my parents are already planning the next one (and there is no whining from me!)
Stuck on what to pack for your next tropical cruise? Check out the first of our What To Pack series here.
So tell us about your cruise experiences, were you as surprised as I was or do you regularly go on cruises?