P&O’s Pacific Explorer is the most recent addition to the P&O Australia fleet of ships and, as with any ship, it has some unique features to explore. If you are booked on, or looking to take a cruise on, the Pacific Explorer here are a few handy tips on some of the offerings available to you.
Pacific Explorer App
The Pacific Explorer App is a must download as soon as you board. If you head to Deck 5 Reception there is a large board near Reception with details on how to download and get online with the App. Once loaded you can see your onboard account, view the itinerary and activities of the day and send messages to your travel companions.
Of course for those that love getting their paper copy of the daily activities that is still placed on your pillow each night - but for those that prefer a digital option I found the app really handy.
The messaging option is also a great way to keep in contact with your family. The one downside is that the app does not have the ability to send push notifications. Consequently the only way you know if you have a new message is if you open the app and check. So unless you are checking your messages at regular intervals it is possible to go some time in between actually getting messages.
The Pacific Explorer has two waterslides for both young and old to enjoy. If you are cruising in nice weather and the slides are operating you should give them a go. However one thing worth noting is that there are strict rules around jewellery when sliding. You are not allowed to wear any necklaces and the staff are very strict on this. To avoid the inconvenience of climbing to the top of the ship ready to take a slide only to be told that the thin gold necklace around your neck is not allowed - be sure to remove your jewellery before you leave the cabin.
I have also been told that zips on swimsuits are not allowed so make sure you have zip free swimmers for the kids to avoid disappointment.
If you have a quad share cabin - you may want to consider the luggage you take as there is not much storage space for large suitcases. On other cruises we have taken our bags have fit under the beds - however on the Explorer they don’t actually fit as the beds are very close to the ground. You may want to consider bags that pack inside each other and/or soft bags that can be unpacked and placed under the beds.
If your bags are too large to fit under the bed, try opening them up and sliding them under the bed open in two halves and they may just fit. Otherwise be prepared to take up your wardrobe space with a suitcase.
There is only one powerpoint in the room. It is a dual plug consisting one Australian outlet and one European. Bring a power board/double adaptor and/or European plug to give access to more power for charging all your devices.
Yes there is a hairdryer in the room - however it is a standard against the wall low wattage type. Fine if you are not fussy - but not very powerful if you need a strong hairdryer.
There is no need to bring pool towels as they are provided in your room. The pool towels can be used both on the ship and off shore so that saves packing them yourself. Best of all someone else will wash and dry them for you and give you clean ones every day!
Soaps in the Room
The shower has two dispensers - one with a shampoo/conditioner all in one type liquid, the other a shower gel. For some reason this seems to be a common question from cruisers. I tend to take my own shampoo and conditioner - but it is nice to know there is some supplied should you forget.
Kids Club Registration
If you have kids that are using the kids club there is paperwork that needs to be completed before they can attend. Watch out on your schedule for the registration opportunity (normally on the first day in the Black Circus an hour or so after the emergency drill).
If you miss this sign up it means you are lined up at the door of kids club on the first morning waiting to get your paperwork done whilst other kids just check in and settle in to play while their parent’s are sipping cocktails.
Read my other blog for some handy tips for family cruising.
There are two specialty restaurants included in your cruise fare: Dragon Lady and Angelos. These are both great restaurants and it is best to make a booking for these on the first day of your cruise.
When making your dining times it is worth noting that the main shows are generally scheduled for 7pm and 9pm so you may want to make your bookings for dinner with those show times in mind.
However if you don’t manage to secure a booking, don’t despair as they do still take walk-ins and if you are happy to eat early sitting (5:15pm) or late (8pm) then you can normally get lucky on a walk in.
Tucked away on Deck 12 there is a quiet inside room called the Bondi Room. If you are looking for somewhere quiet - or somewhere to play cards, or a board game, then this is the place for you.
There is also a book exchange and board games (although my most recent trip there were not any board games) located in this room for those looking for some quiet entertainment.
Pacific Explorer does have a thermal suite in the spa area - however it does not really rate compare to the thermal suite onboard the Pacific Aria. The thermal suite on the Pacific Explorer is more a private sauna and steam room located in the ladies and mens change rooms of the Elemis Spa. There are no ceramic thermal beds or relaxation area - so unless you are after a daily steam or sauna you may be disappointed by this offering. However the price point is much lower than that of other ships and it is a quiet space on the ship to escape crowds.
The Nutella Calzone in 400 Gradi restaurant is pretty good! Priced at just $6 it is great value and is enough for dessert for four people. You can get it take away - but I can’t imagine trying to eat it in my room. Even if you don’t dine here for pizza, I highly suggest a dessert stop to try this gem.
Have you cruised on Pacific Explorer? Do you have any ship specific tips to share? We enjoyed a Christmas Cruise on the Pacific Explorer and took the trip from Sydney to Tasmania on the Dark Mofo Cruise and loved both our cruises on this ship.
Itchy Feet Family
When planning our trip to Hong Kong I met an expat who suggested we must include a visit to Ocean Park. I had never heard of the Park, but was intrigued to visit the location that she spoke so fondly of that held so many fond childhood memories for her.
Ocean Park is a full day of fun and thrills - an action packed theme park popular with both visitors and locals - this is one busy attraction in Hong Kong. More than 140 million people have visited the park since it opened in January 1977.
We visited in April 2019 as guests of Ocean Park and were blown away at just how much was on offer at this expansive park. Whether young or old, all ages were attracted to this park where your entry fee provides access to a world of shows, animal encounters, thrill rides, amusements and entertainment.
The fantastic thing about Hong Kong is how accessible everything is through the expansive rail system - the MTR. A dedicated stop at Ocean Park means that no matter where your Hong Kong hotel is located, accessing the park is simple.
Tourists can purchase a 24 hour travel card for the MTR, however we found it was actually more cost efficient to simply purchase single trip tickets as we went. The only downside to that was the need to have cash at the station to use the ticket machines - and the machines did not take large notes.
Tickets for Ocean Park are priced at HKD$498 (approx AUD$90) for visitors aged 12+ and provide entry and access to the majority of attractions. You can purchase your tickets online, at the gate, or at a 7-eleven.
Locals told us they too love to visit Ocean Park, particularly on their birthday when they receive free entry to celebrate their special day!
Navigating the Park
Ocean Park is an expansive attraction spread across a mountainous area. Located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, Ocean Park covers more than 91.5 hectares of land and has more than 80 attractions.
There are two distinct areas of the park - the Waterfront and the Summit - the two areas are connected by the Park’s 41 year old cable car, providing breathtaking views of the South China Sea, and the Ocean Express, a funicular train system.
I have to be honest it was a bit overwhelming the expansive size of the park - and as my navigation skills are not the sharpest I did find it a bit of a maze. However it meant there was constantly something new around every misguided turn I took!
The Park provided a printed map upon arrival and there was an app that was useful to help us navigate our day. Look out for the e-coupons available on the app - a great way to save a bit on your food and drink costs for the day. And the park is all hooked up with free wi-fi to keep you connected and posting all you favourite snaps of the day to you social media channels.
We opted to take the cable car up to the Summit as soon as we arrived - an option that proved a smart one as in the afternoon the line up to take the journey down the mountain was huge! The four minute funicular train journey is capable of taking 5,000 people per hour and had more capacity at the end of the day when we were tired and ready to leave.
So we are a family that loves a good roller coaster and Ocean Park did not disappoint us there!Thrill Mountain homes rides such as the Hair Raiser, Arctic Blast, The Flash, Mine Train and Raging River that have you speeding through loops and around corners at speed.
Our favourite had to be the Mine Train, set on the side of a cliff, this ride gave an option to include a virtual reality headset. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had and takes your thrill ride rollercoaster to a whole new level.
For those not seeking loops and drops there were plenty of other lower adrenaline options to entertain including a ferris wheel, bumper cars, tea cups and the like.
As well as offering theme park rides and activities, Ocean Park is renowned for its animal husbandry, conservation and research. As proud South Australians we were delighted to see the Adventures in Australia attraction that highlighted none other than South Australia! Featuring a koala, laughing kookaburra and a rare albino wallaby, it was interesting visiting our local flora and fauna in Hong Kong.
Add to this the giant pandas, birds of prey show at the amazing bird theatre, a polar adventure featuring both south and north pole encounters, and an amazing aquarium - there is plenty of animal encounters to be had at the park.
Have you been to Ocean Park? What was your highlight of the visit? Leave us a comment with your suggestion.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
* Itchy Feet Family were guests of Ocean Park for our visit in April 2019.
If you are heading to Hong Kong, like me, you may be surprised at just how much there is to do in this city with kids. Our expectations were exceeded on our April 2019 visit where we found so many fun things to do. Here is a selection of 15 things you may want to consider for your Hong Kong visit with kids.
Hong Kong Disneyland
All kids love a visit to Disneyland and a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland is just as fun as the original park in the USA. Easily accessible via MTR the experience begins when you step on board the Disney train that takes you to the Park.
Unique to the Hong Kong park be sure to try out the Marvel attractions - Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! and the Iron Man Experience. You can also meet and greet with Iron Man as well as be transformed into the hero yourself at the Stark Expo which has an interactive game that uses motion-sensor technology to put you in the armour of your super hero.
The park has all the features we love of Disney Main Street, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, spinning tea cups and plenty of other attractions to fill a complete day for both young and old.
If you love roller coasters, thrill rides and amusements you will want to spend a day at Ocean Park. From cable car rides, to virtual reality roller coasters on a mountain top to dodgem cars - Ocean Park is the ultimate amusement and entertainment park for all ages.
Be aware - this place is HUGE! It is spread across a vast mountainous area and is a bit of a maze to get around. And there is so much to do from the rides to the shows to the animal displays - there is no way you can get through everything in one day. The park is a very busy attraction so be prepared to spend some quality time lining up in queues unless you opt for the fast pass.
Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles has Boulevard of the Stars - Hong Kong has Avenue of the Stars. Located along the harbour, walk along the waterfront promenade where hand prints of famous entertainers that have helped make Hong Kong the Hollywood of the East feature.
Redesigned and reopened in 2019, Avenue of the Stars features more than 100 hand prints and whilst you may not necessarily know who they are - it is a fun activity to do. If nothing else, it is a great stroll along the Victoria Harbour where you can take in the waterfront and skyline in all it’s glory.
We have tried a number of observation wheels around the world - the London Eye, Singapore Flyer, Melbourne Star, the Wheel of Brisbane - and Hong Kong also delivers with its own version - the Hong Kong Observation Wheel. And the best part of this wheel is it is so cheap!
At just 60HKD for a family of four you get three laps of the wheel. This had to be some of the cheapest entertainment in this city. The 60-metre high ferris wheel provides some great views of the harbour and city and is conveniently located on the Central harbour front.
Yum Cha with a Trolly Lady
Traditional Yum Cha, where the trolly lady circulates the room with her culinary delights, is a fading tradition. However there are still a few restaurants providing the timeless experience that can be found if you look.
We visited Admirality Plaza for our unique experience. Not one of the trolly ladies spoke any english so it was a game of roulette pointing and grabbing what looked interesting and giving it a go. The kids had a blast chasing the trolly ladies down and taking their pick hoping to get a winner.
Whilst it’s not quite Central Park New York, if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the people and the concrete - Kowloon Park offers some greenery and respite from the hustle bustle.
A large public park with an area of some 13.3 hectares, Kowloon Park is located in Tsim Sha Tsui. As well as plenty of green park spaces the area also offers sporting facilities, a bird lake and aviary, pool complex and an avenue of comic stars.
If you like flowers - a visit to the flower market could be added to your agenda. A jungle of exotic blooms, the area in Mong Kok is filled with rows upon rows of stalls and shops showcasing amazing blooms and scents.
While you are there the bird garden is also in close proximity so you can pair your feathers and flowers on this outing.
Whilst this may not be a quintessential Hong Kong experience on first glance - there is some fun to be had trying out the local additions on a Hong Kong McDonalds menu. Every country has their unique twist on a local dish so why not give it a go.
The best thing about this is that with the fantastic McDonalds touch screen ordering system it has never been easier to order your McDonalds in a foreign country. Switch the online screen to english and you know exactly what you are ordering. Popcorn milkshake anyone?
Walking Food Tour - Whampoa
If you are after some Hong Kong street food a great way to discover the local delicacies is with the help of a local. Humid with a Chance of Fish Balls offer walking foodie tours through the neighbourhood of Whampoa where not only do you get to taste the culinary delights of the neighbourhood streets, but also walk the pavements of the locals and visit their frequented spots.
Try fish balls from a street vendor, egg pancakes with pork floss, learn how to order traditional noodle dishes, visit the wet markets and take a stroll through the courtyards of a public housing estate. Read a full review of our walking tour with Humid with a Chance of Fish Balls.
Walking Food Tour - Central
If you want to discover the best spots in Central Hong Kong - try a walking foodie tour with Hong Kong Foodie Tours. Discover the best parts of Central, enjoy amazing wontons, cozy dim sum and wrap it up with a hot and fresh egg tart. A walking tour with a local guide takes you into the pockets of a neighbourhood you otherwise may not have ventured and you fill your belly along the way!
For some of the best views of Hong Kong you have to head up the hill to Victoria Peak. From Central you can take a local bus - no 15 or mini bus no 1 - that winds up the hill to this amazing look out point. There is also a funicular tram that can take you to the vantage point - however it was not in operation for our visit in April 2019.
Coffee with a View
Upon arrival take a walk around and enjoy the views, grab a coffee from Pacific Coffee and sit and enjoy some of the best views you can get from a coffee shop anywhere in the world. If you are lucky enough grab a seat by the window and sit and soak up your surroundings.
While at the peak you can even enjoy a visit to Madame Tussauds wax museum. There are some amazingly life like wax figures and although there is a large section of eastern actors that we did not know - there were plenty of western personalities including Marilyn Munroe, David Beckham, Lady Gaga and more that we recognised and enjoyed taking selfies with.
The creations of Madame Tussauds are extremely life like and are fascinating to see - and for those that like activities there were also interactive displays including a fashion show runway and a dance-off game that kept us involved.
Lantau Island Cable Car
If you are after amazing views and are not scared of heights, the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car to Lantau Island is an absolute must do in Hong Kong. The 5.7km cable car ride takes you from downtown Tung Chung to the peaks of Lantau and the views along the way are spectacular. For an ultimate experience the crystal cabin provides a glass floor for uninterrupted views on the journey.
Tian Tan Buddha
Upon arrival into Lantau you are greeted by the Tian Tan Buddha perched high on the hilltop reached by a 260 step stair climb. The Po Lin Monastery adjacent the Buddha can also be explored and there are plenty of food and drink vendors to enjoy a meal atop the mountain.
Have you visited Hong Kong with kids? What were your highlights and must see attractions for this city.
Share your thoughts in the comments below if you have other must see or do activities for Hong Kong.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family