If you are wanting to up your anti on your Australia Day celebrations, a unique option is to take an Australia Day Cruise out of Sydney that will have you spending the iconic Aussie Day in Sydney Harbour amongst all the action.
Departing out of Sydney we experienced the P&O Australia Day three night cruise aboard the Pacific Explorer in 2019. A great option for international visitors and locals alike, here is a wrap up of the highlights you can expect.
Sydney Harbour Activities
Whilst the three night cruise is a “cruise to nowhere” - ie the cruise departs Sydney Harbour and does not dock again until disembarkation - the ship does drop anchor in Sydney Harbour for Australia Day. The Harbour is abuzz of activities and the cruise ship is right in the thick of it.
With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House within your camera lens shot, there is a festive atmosphere on the top pool deck with a fever of activities going on in the Harbour. In the sky RAAF fast jets, a Navy helicopter and a Qantas aircraft all do low fly overs. On the water the iconic Sydney ferries take part in a ferry race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and then back to the finish line of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a tall ships race, a tug and yacht ballet and a stirring 21-gun military salute. There is so much activity in the Harbour you could literally just pull up a sun lounge and sit and watch it all unfold in front of you for the day. Tall ships, luxury yachts, catamarans and ferries - if it floated it was on the Harbour proudly flying Australian flags and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Lamingtons, Pies and Prawns
Food is always an important element to any cruise and on an Australia Day celebration cruise there are certain items you would expect. Lamingtons and prawns featured in the pantry, or you could buy a bucket for $15, and if you were wanting a meat pie with sauce there was no shortage of them.
For those that love their pies a pie eating competition was on offer - the fastest to eat three pies washed down with a XXXX can of beer the winner!
Thong Tossing Competition
Thongs, Flip-Flops, whatever you want to call them! Australians love spending summer with a piece of rubber strapped to their feet - they are essential Australian footwear - Haviana hit the jackpot when they landed in Australia. What better way to waste away some time than throwing a thong at a target! The thong throwing competition was hotly contested - shortly followed by the beer can ring toss!
Aussie Rock Anthems
Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Darryl Braithwaite, John Farnham and Cold Chisel - all the classics you need played on Australia Day - they were all being belted out on the top deck. Groups of friends singing Horses, followed by Karaoke on the big screen on the pool deck, there was no shortage of opportunity to join in on a classic. It wasn’t the Triple J Hot 100 - but it was a great collection of Aussie anthems creating a buzzing atmosphere all day long.
Aussie Legend Dress Up Competition
Passengers were invited to don their best for a Look Like A Legend competition. From the Wiggles, Kath & Kim, Dame Edna and Steve Irwin there were some passengers that went all out for this one. With a $10,000 cash prize to be won there was some serious competitors in on this one and it created a great atmosphere onboard.
Aussie Movie Classics
For those that love their movies, a classic Aussie movie marathon ran throughout the day both indoors in the theatre and out on the pool deck. Classic Aussie films Muriels Wedding and The Castle featured.
The one question that everyone asks is - Did you see the fireworks? And the answer is no. The ship had to depart the Harbour around 4:30pm so we were not docked for the evening fireworks display. And whilst it may have been nice to have seen them - there was certainly enough activity in the Harbour during the daytime that made this a special cruise and one that we would do again for the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
After having such a great time on the Pacific Dawn for Christmas in 2017, we decided to head back for more in 2018 this time celebrating Christmas onboard the Pacific Explorer with a 10 night South Pacific cruise which departed Sydney December 18, 2018 -stopping in Noumea, Port Vila, Lifou and Mystery Island.
There are so many great reasons to cruise at Christmas time and the extra effort that the crew put into the festive season really make it a great way to celebrate. Here are some of the festive additions we experienced on the Pacific Explorer this Christmas.
There must be someone out there with the sole job to interior design a ship for the Festivities - nearly everywhere you went there was some sort of Christmas decoration. From trees, gingerbread houses, Nutcrackers and more, the ship was decked to the halls with Christmas decorations.
And for the passengers in the Christmas spirit, many of the cabin doors were also decorated - it was fun walking past the cabins to see what people had come up with.
Letter to and from Santa
Just because you are on holidays, does not mean you can’t send a letter to Santa. At reception there were special letter to Santa printed sheets that the kids could write a short note and post in the Santa postbox.
On Christmas Eve, Santa wrote back with a personalised letter delivered to our cabin for the kids to read before going to bed. Our towel animal on Christmas Eve, placed on the bed was a reindeer complete with a red nose!
Gingerbread House Making
Whether you are crafty or not, making gingerbread houses at Christmas time is a fun family activity. On Christmas eve the youth team put together a Fun Family activities afternoon on the lido pool deck to get us all into the festive spirit - including all you needed to make a gingerbread house. There was plenty of icing, decorations and piping bags to create a masterpiece - unfortunately ours looked more like a tornado had gone through so we just had fun eating the decorations on gingerbread cookies!
The pool deck was a hive of activities with pin the heart on the grinch, water balloon games, a kids raffle and a raft of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy together.
Yes, who would have thought in the middle of the Pacific Ocean you would get snow - well we did. On Christmas Day the atrium became a magical place to be as snow rained down from deck 7 to deck 5 and the kids were covered in white whilst Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas played!
The Entertainment team did the countdown, the atrium was packed with children, parents and grandparents dressed in the Christmas Day outfits to experience a glimpse of a white Christmas. Little as it was - everyone enjoyed the experience.
Towel Decoration Display
The housekeeping staff can be very creative when it comes to towel art. For Christmas they put an amazing display of creations in front of the waterfront restaurant that we could walk past and admire - much like a store window display we walked along and admired the amazing creations.
From a towel Christmas tree, to a kangaroo with a joey in a pouch, there is a very creative crew working aboard this ship!
Visit from Santa
Christmas would not be complete without a visit from Santa and all 300 children on board from age 0-17 received a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. The Black Circus was transformed into a magical sea of green and red balloons and Santa made his way to the stage sitting for hours as every child filed through for a photo, a chat and to receive a gift. The youth and entertainment staff do an amazing job to make it feel festive all decked out in Christmas t-shirts and elf costumes.
If you like to sing carols at Christmas, there is plenty of opportunities to do so on a Christmas Cruise. There is a passenger choir that is formed with rehearsals leading up to the performance and the Officers take the opportunity to try out their pipes with a special carols performance in the atrium.
Not forgetting the origin of Christmas, a midnight mass was held as well as a non-denominational service on Christmas morning. If you are wanting to join in a congregational activity - you can do it at sea.
Food plays such an important role to our festivities and the Pacific Explorer delivered. A special menu was served across all restaurants for Christmas dinner. Regardless of whether we dined in Waterfront, Angelos or Dragon Lady, we were treated with a special menu that included ham, turkey, pudding and all the trimmings.
The tables were decorated with Christmas crackers and beautifully presented with the special menu. We were able to pop a bon bon, wear a paper hat, tell bad Christmas jokes and enjoy it with our roast dinner and gravy. And no-one had to bring a plate, prepare the ham or even clean afterwards. It was just like any Christmas dinner you would have at home.
The entertainment team go all out at Christmas - we had a special Christmas presentation on Christmas Eve and then on boxing day a performance of a Christmas pantomime. There was a pretty funny rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, (5 Toilet Rolls! for anyone that was on board) some great vocals singing Silent Night and of course renditions of All I Want For Christmas. If you like to be entertained in the main theatre you will not be disappointed by the Christmas performances on offer.
Home Alone, Elf, 42nd Street - all the Christmas classics were shown across our 10 day cruise. Some shown on the big screen on the pool deck, some in the Black Circus, others in our stateroom - but there was no shortage of opportunity to squeeze in a classic Christmas movie on our festive cruise.
There are many pros and cos to Christmas cruising, but we believe that the pros far outweigh the cons and after four Christmas cruises now on the Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden, Pacific Dawn and now the Pacific Explorer - we look forward to continuing the tradition.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you happen to take a cruise through Alaska’s inside passage you may well enjoy a port stop in Sitka Alaska. Only accessible by air or boat, Sitka is a quaint village that holds onto it’s Russian heritage and is a great city to explore. Here are five tips for your visit
No Tender Required
Sitka recently built a port for the many cruise ships visiting therefore there is no need to take a tender boat. The port is a little out of the town though, so you need to take a shuttle bus upon arrival to get into downtown. The shuttles are complimentary and provide some great scenery along the way. The port terminal offers some shopping and the crab shack on the wharf offers beer, crabs and wifi.
Fortress of the bear
If you fancy getting up close and personal to both Brown and Black bears, but want a different experience than viewing through the glass at the Zoo exhibit, Fortress of the Bear is a great option.
The sanctuary that rescues orphaned bears can be access via a shuttle bus from the cruise shuttle drop off point. We paid $10USD per adult round trip for the shuttle and $10USD per adult for entry to see the Bears.
The shuttle will drop you at Fortress of the Bear and return one hour later. You then have the option of taking the shuttle to the Raptor Park, or back to Sitka.
For more details about Fortress of the Bear read my full review here.
New Archangel Dancers
At 12:30pm on our visit a local volunteer all-female dance group - The New Archangel Dancers - performed at the Harrigan Centennial Hall. Entry was $10USD adult and $5USD children for a 30 minute performance. The group showcased traditional Russian heritage folk dancers and also gave some great insights, through an emcee, on the local history.
Also included was a presentation on the story of the Alaskan flag, how and when it came about and a recital of the State song.
Just visiting the Centennial Hall was a highlight, the facility has a floor to ceiling glass wall with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Main street stores and sites
Sitka has a really quaint main street with wooden stores housing local arts, crafts and furs. If you have a spare USD$15,000 you may want to buy a fur coat that the sales lady tells you will last your life time.
Walk the streets of the tiny town made famous by the Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, film The Proposal. A walk along the main street will stroll you past St Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral, Totem Square and The Sitka Pioneer’s Home and take the stairs up to the lookout where the official ceremony took place when Russia transferred Alaska to the US.
There is plenty of free wifi access at this port. Upon arrival the crab shack offers access at the port terminal and once in town the library and community centre both offer really strong, free connections.
Enjoy your day in Sitka - such a pretty part of the world. There are so many other great things to do there that we did not get a chance to see - leave your comments below for any other tips or ideas to share with us and other readers.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Bergen is a beautiful city in Norway that if you happen to be cruising through the Fjords you are most likely to visit. We were fortunate to take the journey on the P&O Britannia in 2017 and found ourselves unusually in a dry day in Bergen!
Bergen is known to have rainfall on an average 240 days a year, it is known as the most rainy city in the world! So a dry day is unlikely for your visit - we got very lucky!
So pack your raincoats and umbrellas and head out and see this stunning city - here are some ideas of what you can do if you have not booked a tour.
Walk to Town
The ship ports close enough to the city that a stroll in is a pleasant introduction. A 15-20 minute stroll will have you in the thick of things in the centre of town.
Cable Car or Funnicular
If you love spectacular scenery Bergen offers two vantage points to take in the views. From the city centre you can catch a Funnicular to the mountain of Fløyen at 320m above sea level. Many tourists opt for this as you can walk to the Funnicular from the city centre - but beware it is busy!
An alternative is to take the cable car where you will get the most spectacular views of Bergen from a top Mt Ulriken - the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. The cable car is a little out of the city centre so you need to catch a bus from the city centre right near the tourist information centre.
The bus journey takes you out of the centre of town so not only do you get to the less crowded mountain, you also get to see a little of the outskirts of Bergen as you travel to the cable car.
The cable car is a seven minute journey to the top which takes you to 643m above sea level. Upon arrival you can stop at the restaurant, let the kids play on the playground, do a zip line across the top of the mountain or just sit and take in the views.
There are also walking trails so if you have the time and are up for an adventure you could walk one or both ways to take in the views at a leisurely pace.
Visit the Fish Market
In the centre of town you will find an open air fish market showcasing the best of the regions local catch. It is vibrant and bustling offering tourists and locals alike a taste of Bergen. Try things like Reindeer hotdogs, Kaviar and of course salmon is plentiful and presented in a myriad of options.
See the Wooden Houses
Bergen actually has one of Europe’s largest collections of wooden houses and they are spectacular. If you are after some great photos of colourful houses and buildings this is the place to see and walk amongst them.
Whilst many fires throughout the years have seen these wooden houses disappear, the centre of Bergen houses Bryggen - a UNESCO World Heritage Centre - the old fishing wharf. The area is beautifully restored and houses shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy. Just walking amongst these restored buildings is a great way to spend your day.
What did you do on your day in Bergen? Leave your tips and ideas in the comments for other travellers.
Itchy Feet Family
I have never really been one for girl’s trips, I have never had any burning desires to head off without my husband or children. I loved travelling with my husband BC (before children) and I really enjoy family travel now.
However last weekend I was given the opportunity to take a weekend trip with a friend, who is also a mum, a short getaway aboard P&O’s Pacific Eden. We boarded from Adelaide’s Outer Harbour on a Friday afternoon and sailed up and down the coast for the weekend landing back at Outer Harbour on Monday morning early enough to get to work for the day. The ship did not stop anywhere, it was just three nights of sailing and enjoying the destination of the cruise ship and all it had to offer.
I have now decided that all mums need a weekend at sea - here are eight reasons why!
Reason 1. It’s only three nights
The weekend cruise departs on a Friday afternoon and is back in dock by 7am Monday morning I was able to drop the kids at school on Friday before heading off and I was back in time to get to work on Monday morning.
Reason 2. You don’t need to fly anywhere
P&O operate weekend cruises departing out of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, so if you live in one of the big capitals, no flight is needed. Whilst other States have had these for some time, cruising in and out of Adelaide has only been operating the last three years. P&O port a ship in Adelaide, the Pacific Eden, for a few weeks each year. However so successful they must have been that in 2019 there will be an extended season providing even more options for cruises departing and returning to Adelaide.
Not having to take a flight anywhere takes the hassle out of the weekend. Simply drive to Outer Harbour, jump on the ship and sail away!
Reason 3. You can throw your towel on the floor
You know how your kids just throw things on the floor and we as mums pick them up. Being on a cruise is like having your own magical mum do that for you. I dare you to give it a go - have a shower and simply throw your towel on the floor when you are done. When you return to your cabin a few hours later it will be picked up and a fresh towel folded on the rack.
Ok so that tip is not very environmentally friendly - or very adult like - but hey you gotta indulge a little every now and then.
Reason 4. Enjoy a meal without taking someone to the toilet or cleaning up a spilled drink
The Pacific Eden offers three restaurants included in your fare. Friday night we had Italian at Angelos, Saturday night is was Asian at Dragon Lady and Sunday night we ate at the main restaurant, The Waterfront.
Imagine a whole meal not having to take a child to the toilet, clean up a spilled drink across the table or having to cut up someone else’s meal. It was bliss. Add to the amazing food a bottle of Moet and we were in mum heaven!
No-one had to drive, no-one had to sort the kids before we went out, we just got ourselves dressed and walked to dinner! We even stopped off at the bar first for a sneaky pre-dinner drink.
Reason 5. Stay out all night
There is no curfew on the ship - you can stay out as long as you like. You don’t have to worry about trying to get a taxi at the end of the night, you don’t have to rush home because you are paying the babysitter by the hour and you don’t have to wake up at 6am the next day to get the kids breakfast or take them to sport. In fact, the next day you can stay in bed as long as you want - and we did!
Reason 6. Read a book
When I cruise with the family we are on the go a lot of the time. Take the kids to kids club, meet for morning trivia, pick the kids up and take them on the flying fox etc etc. I have taken books away with me before, but it normally ends up just weighing my bag down and rarely getting read. On a mums weekend away I got myself out of bed, headed for the adults only area and sat in the sun to read a book.
So engrossed I was in reading (which incidentally I had not done in years) that I completely forgot to reapply sunscreen and fried to a crisp! Again, not great advice, but shows the indulgence you can take to simply switch off and do something for yourself.
Reason 7. Enjoy the late night shows
We were on a comedy cruise which meant late night comedy shows at 10:30pm. Now lets be honest, as a mum going out at 10:30pm is a very rare occasion. When you cruise as a family the kids club closes at 10:30pm so you either tag team and only one parent gets to go to the show whilst the other picks the kids up, or you pay the late child minding fees so you can both go. No such dilemma on a mums trip, we went and enjoyed every show on offer.
Reason 8. Meet other mums
When dining in the Waterfront restaurant the wait staff ask if you mind sharing a table. This is a great way to meet your fellow cruise passengers and, to our luck on each occasion, we were seated with fellow mums also on a weekend away.
Apparently we were not the only mums that had found this phenomenon of a sneaky weekend away at sea. One pair we ate with were on their first ever cruise, let alone weekend away - by the Sunday night they were already booked in for 2019 - something they would tell their families when they got home! Deposit paid - in fact I think they paid in full and made sure it was non-refundable.
So if you have ever thought about taking a girls trip, consider a weekend cruise, you won't regret it. If you have ever taken a sneaky mums weekend at sea, leave us a comment and tell us why you loved it.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Travel blogs generally are all sunshine and lollipops. Everyone always looks so happy, the pictures post an idyllic scene and there is a tendency to think that travelling is always great.
Whilst 90% of the time that is true, there are also times when a visit to a location can be disappointing. Take for example a recent cruise port of call stop in Fiji that we have now phrased - our “Sad Stop in Suva!”.
As part of our Christmas Cruise onboard the Pacific Dawn in 2017 our itinerary included a stop in Suva, Fiji. This was our first visit to this destination and we really did not know what to expect. We didn’t book any shore tours - in hindsight our biggest mistake - and instead thought we would explore the town on our own. Suva is the capital of Fiji, it must have something to offer right?
The weather was pretty awful when we arrived, warm but with overcast with showers which persisted throughout the day. And the scenery was pretty grim, the ship pulls up in a working industrial shipping port with shipping containers and workmen the greeting views. The plus side to this was that we were within walking distance of the town and no tenders required to get off the ship.
We were in Suva just a few days before Christmas so the town was busy and buzzing with locals getting supplies for the festive season. We took a shuttle bus from the port to the town shopping mall which actually took longer on the bus than if we had walked it due to the crazy traffic. However at least we were sheltered from the rain, we got to see a little more of the town and we were able to sit and watch the locals go about their pre-christmas shopping frenzy.
On route our bus guide made sure we knew the obligatory term “Bula” and gave us a few tips on what to do in town - a message skewed towards shopping at the shuttle bus sponsor Taperoo Centre (essentially a shopping mall).
In town we headed to the top level where we were told we could get WIFI. Upon arrival we discovered you could only get 15 minutes of wifi and even when we tried to connect it was such a poor connection we did not bother. Not that it mattered we had not had any connection for the 7 days on the ship it took to get here anyway, a cruise is a great holiday for a digital detox.
If you are looking for WIFI in Suva, it is not readily available in any of the cafes or restaurants. (Update, apparently there is WIFI - we just had no luck finding it despite asking at numerous cafe's. According to cruise forums it can be found at Jacks?).
One positive to our visit was that the markets were open and we happened to be there on the day of the weekly flower market. The colours and arrangements were bright, colourful and unique to the flowers we get at home. We always enjoy walking through markets and discovering the local fare and trying to figure out what it is! There is always a new and exotic fruit or vegetable to be discovered.
After walking about a km of the main street in each direction, stopping at a cafe for a milkshake, we decided that the highlights of Suva were not going to be found in the township and we were disappointed in ourselves for not taking the time to do some research before arriving.
We ended up walking back to the ship, it was located just behind the markets and only about a 100m walk. There were a few markets set up at the port so we had a look at them but then decided to call it quits and head back to the ship.
So no WIFI, showery weather (we were there in rainy season what could we expect), really busy shops (it was Christmas) and lots of roadworks making the streets muddy and hard to navigate - that was our Sad Stop in Suva.
Having said all that the paint of the blog is that I am sure Suva has some amazing areas to see and explore, if readers can take anything from my sad post it is to book a tour when in Suva. Get out of the town and explore the beauties of Fiji so that you too don’t have to write a post like this! A good tip to do some research before you arrive as sadly we did not do.
If you have visited Suva on a port day stop and had an amazing adventure - leave a comment and let us know what we missed.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Whilst a South Pacific cruise is mostly about relaxing, drinking cocktails and swimming there is more to do on the Island stops than just check out the local marine life.
If you are heading to the Isle of Pine and are after some physical activity and great views, there is an adventurous walk that takes you to a great summit, Pic N'Ga, that sadly very few cruise passengers venture to.
We have been to this island a couple of times and on both times enjoyed the walk. The first time, three years ago, we had planned to leave the kids at the beach with their grandparents whilst we tackled the mountain. However both the grandparents and kids decided they wanted to join us despite the fact that our then 5 and 8 year olds were wearing flip flops on their feet.
Our most recent visit on our 2017 Christmas Cruise aboard the P&O Dawn, the children now 8 and 11 years old were wearing appropriate footwear, carrying water bottles and wearing sunscreen and hats!
To access the walking track you follow the main road out of town and turn left at the intersection. About 200m down the road you will see a sign pointing you to Pic N’Ga that will take you to the off road walking track.
The walk starts through green lush forest like grounds and takes you along a stream that has only been dry when we have done the walk. I have read other reviews that have said this area can be quite muddy - both times we visited were in December.
About 300m off the road there is an official entrance with a donation box that the locals use to keep the track clear and signed for the tourists.
The walk along the stream is interesting, the kids watched out for any creepy crawlies lurking in the grasses but it made for a good adventure.
The walk then takes you onto rough grounds before going into a reasonably steep climb on gravel. This section is the hardest and it is very exposed with barely any shade along the way. It is important to take water, sunscreen and a hat as it can get very hot.
Once the incline is done, the views are amazing. You can see the ship, the beaches and the spectacular greenery of the island with uninterrupted views.
The walk is about a 4km round trip, is steep and loose ground in places, is exposed to the elements - but the views are worth it.
If you are after more than just markets and snorkelling on your trip to Isle of Pines, Pic N’ga is a great activity for the whole family young and old. And a great way to work up a sweat before you hit the beach for some awesome snorkelling!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Getting away for Christmas is a great option. Avoid all the stress and running around required at home and simply board a ship and get away. This year was our third Christmas cruise - we have written before about the Pros and Cons of Christmas Cruising having sailed on the Pacific Jewel in 2014 and Pacific Eden in 2015.
This year we opted for a 12-night Fiji and Vanuatu itinerary that sailed out of Brisbane on P&O’s Pacific Dawn which departed December 16, 2017.
Many people ask us if the ship does anything special for Christmas, for those considering a Christmas cruise, here are some of the the extras we experienced this year that made our trip Festive.
Passenger Christmas Choir
If you love your Christmas Carols and have always wanted to sing on a stage, here is your chance. The entertainment team recruited a passenger choir early on in the cruise and rehearsals were held on the sea days . A repertoire of Carols were performed on the main stage of the Marquee theatre in front of 400 odd passengers on Christmas Eve.
Kids Christmas Play
If you have children in the kids club they will also get the opportunity to perform in the Marquee theatre in front of a crowd of passengers. The kids club scheduled rehearsals for the children who had the opportunity to take part in a Christmas play performed on stage on Boxing Day. The play was a cute story about a little Christmas tree waiting to be picked from the woods and taken home to be a part of a family’s celebrations. Our daughter played a bird!
Family Christmas Fair
On Christmas Eve from 10am-12pm the Dome was transformed into a Christmas Fair for families to enjoy. Stations of activities were set up including face painting, wreath making, Christmas colouring and cookie decorating.
The kids club team conducted family games, ice-cream vouchers were handed out and families could opt in for a gingerbread house making competition. With only 10 minutes to construct and decorate a gingerbread house we failed dismally and opted for just piling on as many sweets and decorations as possible so we could eat it later! Needless to say we did not win that competition - we did get to eat the gingerbread house though!
For those wanting to celebrate the actual reason for Christmas, there was a catholic midnight mass and a Christmas morning non-denominational church service held.
The ship slowly became festive over the course of the cruise in the lead up to Christmas day. A display in the atrium of gingerbread houses and trees, the bars all had trees and decorations, the pantry came alive with gingerbread house displays and the waterfront restaurant had a great display that greeted everyone. All the staff wore Christmas hats and t-shirts and there was a really festive feel about the cruise.
Passengers also got into the spirit decorating cabin doors with wreaths, children’s drawings and even Christmas lights. We took it a step further and put tinsel up in the cabin and many passengers wore Festive t-shirts, hats and other outfits throughout the cruise. Top marks to the group of girls wearing the ugly Christmas jumper rashies.
Letters To and From Santa
At reception there was a Santa letter box set up with special paper for children to write letters to Santa. On Christmas Eve both our children received personalised letters on their beds in return from Santa, along with a towel animal of a reindeer!
Christmas Eve Carols
On Christmas Eve a special Christmas production was performed in the Marquee theatre with all the Christmas classics sung by the Entertainment staff. Passengers were all provided with song books and encouraged to join in the with the passenger choir when they took to the stage.
In the Atrium the crew also performed a few carols during the night to get everyone into the spirit of the Festive season.
Waterfront Christmas Menu
On Christmas Day the main restaurant, the Waterfront, presented a special Christmas menu. A traditional menu was served for dinner only (the restaurant was closed lunch on Christmas Day as we were ported in Port Villa). The menu included all the traditional offerings of Christmas ham, turkey with cranberry and Christmas pudding for dessert. The tables were set with bon bons and the staff all wore Christmas hats and were in a Festive mood.
The restaurant was packed for dinner on Christmas night. We forgot to make a booking (most people did this on the first day of the cruise!) and by the time we remembered they had booked out. Having said that, we simply arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, was told to come back at 6pm and was seated by 6:15pm. The restaurant did two seatings that evening and did the best they could to accommodate as many passengers as physically possible. The service was a little slow but that was to be expected with a full house and it gave us as a family plenty of time to catch up and enjoy the bad jokes in the bon bons!
Visit from Santa
On Christmas Day Santa visited the ship! All the children gathered at the marquee which was decorated with hundreds of red and green balloons and a big red chair for the special visitor. The entertainment team had packaged a video together of Santa and an elf around the ship which was shown not he big screen before Santa entered the theatre and took place on the stage.
Every child onboard was then invited to the stage to receive a gift and the ship photographer was unhand to capture Santa photos for all.
Our children received a P&O Selfie Stick (11yo) and a P&O frisbee, ball and drink bottle (8yo).
Late Night Babysitting
After a long day, our kids were of course up at 6am!, the kids club offered complimentary late night babysitting. Normally charged at $5 per hour after 10:30pm until close at 1pm - on Christmas night the late-night service was offered complimentary.
The kids were given blankets and a Christmas movie allowing the adults some time for a late night drink or visit to the night club to celebrate Christmas.
Overall the crew did a great job to get us into the spirit of Christmas. We noticed many large groups travelling together and multi-generational families enjoying a stress free Christmas where no-one had to cook, clean or drive!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Norway is simply stunning. No pictures can capture the beauty that is the majestic snow capped glacial mountains, the crystal clear waters of the Fjords and the picturesque colourful wooden villages that scatter amongst the journey.
A great way to experience Norway is from a cruise ship and here are a few reasons why.
There is a lot to see in Norway, you want to take in as many of the towns/villages as you can.
However packing and unpacking, moving from one lodging to the next, can be tiresome. Once on a cruise ship, unpack once and your accommodation moves with you.
2. Visit More Than One City
On the P&O Britannia 7 night itinerary, we visited four cities in Norway. Stavanger, Olden, Flam and Bergen. Although only for one day each, the cruise gives a nice sampler of what Norway has to offer.
3. Enjoy the Scenery At Night
Norway enjoys long days with very little darkness in July. During the day you can explore the cities, at night watch the scenery pass you by. Pre-dinner drinks at the front of the ship in the comfortable bar with 180 degree views of where you are heading, dinner by the restaurant window as you watch Norway pass you by, post-dinner walk on the outside deck, there is an endless supply of beautiful scenery as you cruise through the inlets of the Norwegian Fjords.
4. Great for Families
Cruising Norway is a great option for families as it provides a balanced holiday for all. On the P&O Britannia kids are well looked after with an awesome kids club and amazing staff.
The kids can make friends and play whilst the adults enjoy on-board activities and the scenery. Lets be honest, a seven and 10 year old are going to be more interested in learning how to spin DJ decks than marvel at snow capped mountains!
5. Shore Activities
We picked some great shore activities for our day stops in Norway.
Kayaking the Fjords in Olden, taking a cable car up 2000ft in Bergen, visiting the street of colours in Stavanger and experiencing the world famous Flam Railway.
There is a lot you can cram into your 7-8 hour port stop and we made sure we certainly did!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
In July the Itchy Feet Family took a seven night cruise departing Southampton, UK, through the Fjords of Norway. As an Australian family - there were a few noticeable differences to travelling on a British based ship as opposed to an Australian.
Here were our top eight stand out observations: - good, bad and indifferent.
1. No Lanyards
On Australian ships we love wearing our room keys on lanyards in a kaleidoscope of colours proudly around our neck. On the Britannia there was barely a lanyard to be seen. No fire sale on day 1 to get your blinged out lanyard - the Brits just put them in their pocket!
2. Women Love a Lager
I have never in my life seen so many women drinking pints. It is the beverage of choice for men and women alike. I will never lose the picture of a 70 year old lady necking a lager like I drink a bottle of water after a work out! And with so many options of craft beers and beers on tap - why not enjoy a lager! The bars offer sampler paddles of beer so you can try a range of craft brews from varying regions across the UK. And if you simply can’t find a waiter - there is a self-serve beer tap in the buffet just swipe and pour!
3. Long Life Milk
Brits don’t mind a bit of long life milk - Aussies prefer it fresh. The advantage is that there was a kettle in the room with mountainous supplies of tea/coffee and long life milk. At any time - day or night - a cup of tea was available in your cabin. In the buffet restaurant long life milk in sachets is kept on the tables so tea could be poured at the table and you did not have to get up for milk. For me, I prefer milk from a jug rather than a sachet.
4. No Baristas
Australians are coffee snobs and we love a good coffee made by a Barista. Although there was Costa coffee on board - the machines were automated. The coffee waiter simply pressed a button and the machine did the work.
5. Kids Can Not Roam
When the kids are put into kids club, they are secured. In Australia generally children can sign themselves in and out of kids club from age 10. On the Britannia, kids have to be 13 years old to gain that privilege.
The kids club was also open quite late - until 11pm at night. The Brits like to party so the kids are well looked after so the parents can enjoy the onboard evening activities.
6. No Leaving Kids On The Ship
If parents go ashore - the kids go with them. In Australia and the US kids clubs operate on port days and parents are able to leave the ship without the kids. This is not allowed on the Britannia.
Not that we have regularly done this - however there have been a few occasions when we have taken the kids off the ship in the morning and then enjoyed an afternoon exploring further without them when they were too tired to continue.
On this particular cruise our first port day was met with cold, wind and rain. Whilst we put ponchos on the kids and headed out into the awful weather, they were not impressed. We did not get to explore much - there was only so far we could force them to walk in the rain. The adults however would have soldiered through - but back to the ship it was. The kids enjoyed their afternoon in kids club whilst the adults had to sit on deck and wonder what could have been explored at a port stop they would probably never return to.
7. Best of British
Best of British sail away party, Best of British quiz, Best of British party night, Best of British stage show - I did not realise the British were so patriotic. It was actually great to see - even if it meant at Trivia time we got the so called “easy questions” wrong. We simply had no chance when the theme of the quiz was British TV show songs.
8. Formal is Formal
Wow can the British bring out a frock! Where did all these women get such formal gowns from. I have never seen so many long flowing ball gowns and men in tuxedos. Even on smart casual evenings the British glam it up! Maybe they don’t get out much - maybe they are just more proper than us Aussies. Even on the last night of the cruise passengers were suited and booted with high heels, frocks and ties on display.
Cruising is a great family travel option, if you are considering a cruise outside of Australian waters you may want to consider a few of the cultural differences you will encounter. Have you cruised abroad? What differences did you notice?
Itchy Feet Family
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Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.