For the second year, P&O Australia have positioned the Pacific Eden in Adelaide for a six week period allowing South Australian travellers the opportunity to experience a cruising holiday right from our own back yard.
Departing from Outer Harbour, Adelaide residents have finally been given the opportunity to take a cruise without the additional expense of a flight to reach the departure point.
The cruises on offer have been short three or four night breaks with destinations including Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island, Melbourne or Nowhere! We opted for the nowhere destination - and we loved it.
The Sea Breaks are themed with additional non-ship based entertainers on board for the weekend. In 2016 we took a Food and Wine Cruise over Easter and backed it up the following weekend with a Comedy Cruise.
In 2017 we could not resist and once again headed to Outer Harbour on a Friday lunch time and sailed up and down the coast for the weekend on another Comedy Cruise. The cruise had us landing back in port on Monday morning bright and early enough to get to work and school for the day.
The Sea Break cruise is a great way to travel with friends and family. In 2016 we had more than 30 people in our travelling party, in 2017 a group of 20. And Adelaide being Adelaide, we of course bumped into people on the ship that we knew and did not even know were going to be there!
Cruise bookings generally average groups of eight people, cruising is always more fun when you have friends and family on board. With the concept of weekend cruising new to Adelaide it was great to be able to enjoy the trips with larger groups of people we knew. Other travellers obviously also got that memo as there were clear groups of hens and bucks nights on board as well as groups of work colleagues on weekend seminars at sea.
As a family, having other families on board with kids was a great bonus. Miss 7 and Master 10 had a posse of friends and cousins to keep them entertained. Whilst my little travellers love kids club regardless, it added an extra element of enjoyment for them to have their mates on the journey. They were able to build special memories such as singing Karaoke with their mates - something they would never usually do.
For mum and dad it meant more adult dinners and time to enjoy the late night comedy and other live entertainment around the ship. Even the option of relaxing and soaking up the sun with a cocktail in the Adults Only pool deck!
If you have never cruised before, a Sea Break is a great option to try your sea legs. If you have cruised before, the Sea Break out of a home port is a perfect excuse for a weekend away!
Your weekend cruise fare includes your accommodation, all your meals and your entertainment. A night out in a nice Adelaide restaurant, a show at the Fringe and a hotel in town would nearly cost you the same!
The Pacific Eden is in Adelaide until early April 2017 when it then heads to Fremantle. The ship will be back in Adelaide in February 2018 for an even longer season with further options for cruising out of Adelaide including a return trip to Tasmania.
For prices and itineraries, head to the P&O Australia website.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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As a regular cruiser, I like to explore every corner of the ship. I love the idea of having a spa at sea where you can indulge in beauty and health treatments but often find them to be very overpriced.
P&O cruise ships Eden and Aria offer an area on the ship called the Thermal Suites, other cruise ships offer similar such areas. The Suites on the Eden and Aria offer, for a price, access to a sauna, 2 x steam rooms, mineral spa, heated relaxation lounges and a relaxation room with comfortable day beds and refreshments.
On a recent 12 night cruise the ship was offering a limited number (they said 20 - but I think they may have sold a few more than that) of all access passes for the entirety of the cruise for $199 for a single $299 for a couple. So I decided to try them out!
But was it worth it ? Here are the pros and cons - you decide……..
Pros of Thermal Suites
1. A Hot Tub with No Children
The Aria and Eden offer an adults only area - Oasis - however there is no hot tub, only a pool, in this space. I like to refer to the main pool deck hot tubs as bowls of children soup! Don’t get me wrong, I like children - I even have two under 10 of my own - but in a hot tub I would rather not indulge in children’s soup.
The Thermal Suite pass gave access to a mineral bath that nine times out of ten I got to use on my own. With only a limited number of people allowed access to this area, it made for a nice way to relax at the end of the day. The Suites were open from 8am to 8pm every day.
2. Peace and Quiet
The last cruise we did was a NYE cruise which meant there was a pretty lively crowd on board and many late nights to be had. It was nice to have a semi-private space to simply chill and relax away from the crowds and the masses. With only a limited number of passes on sale it meant many times there was not even anyone else in the area. It was like a private oasis.
The relaxation room offered inviting day lounges with wall to ceiling windows to sit and watch the sea roll by. Couple that with a herbal tea or a fruit infused ice cold water and it made for an inviting quiet space.
3. Steam and Sauna
With all the calories consumed on a cruise the steam and sauna gave easy access to sweat some of them out. A dry sauna was always my first point of call followed by an aromatherapy sauna. Great way to sweat out the alcohol!
Whilst I would have loved to spend hours in the Thermal Suites, the reality is I never quite got around to it. With port days and fun filled activities on sea-days I barely managed to squeeze in an hour a day. However I did make a point of visiting every day - even if for a quick 30 minute thermal bath.
2. No Products to Use
When the Suites are shown on the first day of the cruise there were lovely scrubs on display near the showers. Many of us got the impression that they would be made available for the duration of the cruise - however that was not the case. You do however receive a take-home pack of the scrubs when you sign up - which of course you could make use of during the cruise. Of the 12 night cruise, only on one day were any beauty products/scrubs made available for use - which of course I took full advantage of.
3. I Felt Lazy
Laying on a thermal tiled lounge for any length of time made me just want to go to sleep! If you want to completely wind down, switch off and relax this is the place for you. I am generally a bit more active on my holidays so I felt a bit lazy spending time just relaxing. (ok this is not really a con - I just could not think of a third one to balance the article!).
Have you ever used Thermal Suites - or Private Spa areas on a cruise ship? What did you think? Would you indulge again…..
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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In 2016 we ended the year and started the New Year doing what we absolutely love - travelling! For the midnight countdown to welcome in the 2017 New Year we were sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard the P&O Eden.
If you have ever considered taking a cruise that includes New Years Eve, here are a list of Pros and Cons to consider.
To prepare for the evening we had the option of three restaurants for dinner. There was a special festive menu served in all restaurants and no surcharge for it being NYE.
Lots of Options
All the bars were in full swing on NYE so there was plenty to choose from. Jazz in the blue room, piano tunes in the Mix Bar, DJ on the pool deck, acoustics in Oceans Bar, band in the Dome - there was so much to choose from. If the crowd or the tunes were not taking your fancy at one venue you could simply walk to another! And best of all - no cover charge!
As many locations now do - the cruise offered an option for families to celebrate NYE without having to wait for the official midnight countdown. The entertainment staff put on a great party from 7:30-9pm for all the junior cruisers (and their parents) to feel a part of the atmosphere with a rocking white-party on the pool deck. The kids got glow sticks, the parents joined in for the YMCA and a great time had by all.
No Taxi Needed
Wherever we needed to be on the night, whichever party we decided to attend - we were able to walk there! No-one had to be the designated driver. And at the end of the night we didn’t have to line up for hours to get a ride home, or pay a 10 x surcharge on Uber - we just walked back to the cabin!
Fireworks and NYE go hand in hand - however in the middle of the ocean there was no such thing. If fireworks are a requirement for your celebration - a cruise may not be your thing. We did however get an awesome 2017 ice carving!
No Live Television Coverage
If you have ever celebrated NYE at home - or at a home party - live coverage of how people are celebrating around the world normally forms part of the occasion. When you are in the middle of the ocean you are in a bit of a bubble from what is going on in the world - that includes the coverage of the fireworks at iconic locations around the world. I have no idea who pressed the button to release the ball in New York this year!
Celebrating with Strangers
Unless you manage to convince your friends and family to join you on your NYE cruise, chances are you will be doing the countdown amongst mostly strangers. If you prefer to be surrounded by people you know, this is not the celebration for you.
Limited Phone Coverage
Unless you have your phone on International roaming, you will not be able to call/text your friends and family at NYE and clog up their inbox with obligatory Happy New Year texts!
If you have ever cruise over New Year's Eve - how did you enjoy it? Leave us a comment.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Lifou Island, New Caledonia, is a popular location for cruise’s sailing through the South Pacific. If you are thinking of, or have booked, a South Pacific cruise and are wondering what to expect from this island port, here are a few tips and ideas of things to see.
The island is quite small so a tender is required at this port, the view as you are anchored out at sea is that of a picturesque and quaint island that calls you from the ship.
We have been fortunate enough to visit on three occasions, each time we managed something new. So for a small island there is plenty to see and do. Here is our guide of things to do and see at Lifou Island.
Notre Dame de Lourdes
Upon arrival you will notice a small white church perched up on a hillside to the left. This is Notre Dame de Lourdes. Once off the tender walk straight up the hill through the markets and take the main road and head to the left.
You will walk past a few village houses and, if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time, a plethora of butterflies just begging to be chased and photographed by your youngsters. Ours had their water cups provided by the ship upon arrival that they used to catch and release.
At the end of the road you will come to a path of stairs which will take you up to the summit of the hill to where the quaint church is perched. It is a bit of a hike, but well worth the effort.
Visit the church and then take in the amazing scenery.
For those with a sense of adventure the local grotto is a must when at Lifou. Ship tours will not take you here, probably due to OH&S, but for those with a sense of adventure - it is worth a visit.
When you arrive at the island walk straight through the markets, past the transport and up to the main road. This time take a right turn and follow the road.
It is a good 8-10 minute walk past village houses until you reach a church on the right. Just past the church you will see a clearing and entry into jungle like terrain. A local will be standing near the entrance ready to take your entry fee.
The price is $10 AUD per person, however I have negotiated that down when doing a subsequent visit with a number of children.
Follow the path through the trees and down into the cave until you reach the grotto. When you reach it, you will not be disappointed. Crystal clear, beautiful water just begging you to take the plunge into.
The locals have set up some lighting inside the cave and one or two hang around to spectate the cruise passengers experience - but you are essentially on a self-tour at your own risk.
Snorkel Jinek Bay
There is some amazing coral and sea life to be seen at Jinek Bay - but you can only enter the water if you have a ticket. Just a short walk up the road from where your tender arrives, I can't tell you how many people I have seen turned away and disappointed as they didn't pre-arrange entry.
Tickets are $15 per person and must be pre-purchased from the ship in order to snorkel in the Bay. The locals will collect your timed ticket (although it is a loose timing - we went about 30 minutes early and it was ok), give you a piece of wool around your wrist as entry and away you go.
Take your own snorkel set from home (you can pick up a cheap set from Kmart for around $10) and enjoy the fascinating sea life in this Bay.
Melanesian Discovery Tour
On our most recent visit to the island we decided to do a P&O ship tour - Melanesian Discovery Tour. The tour took us via van to a local church - John the Baptist, where we were given a history of the island and invited to view the church.
Stop number two was a visit to a local parliament house. A large thatched roof hut we were invited to remove our shoes and take a seat on the floor whilst our guide explained the ins and outs of the government structure on the island.
Stop three was a walk to a local village where we watched a cooking demonstration of chicken and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and buried in the ground. A previously prepared meal was then shared amongst the group.
The tour was interesting, we got a good understanding of the make-up of the island, however priced at about $200AUD for the family, I was a bit disappointed that our only interactions with the locals was primarily one guide. I personally was hoping for a greeting from the villagers, a dance, ritual or the likes.
The far side of the island is the location for snorkelling. If you have packed your own snorkelling gear simply walk straight through the markets, take the main road to the left until you see the road veer off to the right.
We have not personally snorkelled here, the weather has not been great on our visits and the sea a bit too choppy. But if you get a clear day, the beach is within walking distance.
Even for those that don’t venture into the water, there is still opportunity to spot the sea turtles that frequent the waters here. The tender jetty is the perfect spot to get a glimpse of these beautiful and large creatures.
The water on Lifou is crystal clear so instead of just being mesmerised by the views as you arrive and depart, take some time to scan the waters and you may just be rewarded for it.
As with all the islands, you will have an opportunity to shop at local markets and have your hair braided. However a word of warning, this stop is one of the most expensive of the islands I have visited to get your hair braided. If your itinerary includes Mystery Island - wait until you are there if you are after some tropical braids.
Massages on Lifou are available upon arrival. Priced at AUD$10 per 10 minutes I found this to again be one of the more expensive islands to indulge. If you are heading to Mystery Island as part of your itinerary they have a much better set up and it is much cheaper.
Have you been to Lifou? Leave a comment on what you experienced on your visit. Or if you are heading here and have questions, feel free to ask.
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Santo Blue Lagoon
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
There are a number of “Blue Lagoons” around the world, on a recent South Pacific Cruise we discovered the Blue Lagoon on Santo Island, Vanuatu.
The Lagoon is, as the name suggests, Blue. The water is an amazing colour and crystal clear I imagine when there are not 300 cruise passengers swimming around in it!
We did not join a tour, we instead opted for a private taxi which we found upon arrival into port. We shared a van with another couple and paid $50 return for the family of four.
There are not many taxis on the island and I am not sure this one really qualified as one, rather an eight seater family van that was earning some cash on the day. Completely unroadworthy for Australian standards - but when in Vanuatu!
The Lagoon was approximately a 20-minute drive from the port and upon arrival an AUD $5 per person charge was required to enter the water area.
A short walk from the car park past some obligatory markets and we were greeted by the turquoise waters.
The locals have put in some ladders and jumping platforms and everyone lines up to swing on the rope like a monkey from a tree gracefully, or not so much, diving into the refreshment from the humidity and heat of the tropical island.
Beware of rusty nails on the ladders, there are no Occupational Health and Safety Officers checking the standards here, and the floating piece of wood in the middle of the lagoon portraying a pontoon had all types of species of algae to discover.
Of all the Blue Lagoons in the world I am sure this one would not rank in the top 5, however it does deliver on amazing coloured water and a unique swimming experience on a tropical island.
The lush jungle that surrounds makes you feel like you are in a location out of a movie set and it is an experience not to be missed if you have a cruise port stop in Santo.
Have you been to this Lagoon? Tell us about your experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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The Itchy Feet Family love to cruise. Our next getaway will be on a 12 night cruise out of Sydney to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Cruising can be a fantastic family holiday. You can switch off the phone and the wifi, unplug and spend some quality time recharging and reconnecting with your family.
As a family we find cruising provides a great balance of family time and adult time with the onboard kids club providing a great option for that balance.
If you are thinking of, or are a family that are about to head on your first cruise, here are five helpful tips to help yo with your cruise holiday.
1. PAck a Lanyard
All cruise passengers must carry a cruise card. The card is used for all purchases on board as well as identification when you board or depart the ship. The easiest way to carry the card is with a lanyard around your neck. Of course you can buy one when you get onboard, they are the hottest seller on day one, but if you have some at home bring one along.
2. Register for kids club
If you have children that will be utilising the kids club, make it a priority to find the kids club and register your kids as soon as you board. Generally kids clubs do not open until the first day after departure but are open for you to view the facility, meet the staff and complete the necessary paperwork.
The first morning at kids club I have always found to be a bit of a nightmare so getting that paperwork done the day before helps streamline the first morning drop off process.
3. Photograph your daily schedule
Each night you will receive a ship newsletter in your cabin outlining the activities and events onboard for the next day. If you don’t want to carry a piece of paper around all day and you are already carrying your phone as your camera, simply take a photograph of the schedule so you can refer to it at any time.
4. Don’t hold back on luggage
I always overpack on cruise holidays - because I can. Unlike airlines, cruise ships are very generous with their luggage allowance and there is always plenty of storage in your cabin to unpack when you get there. Empty suitcases can generally be stored under your bed in your cabin. Pack plenty of options for your theme nights and get into the spirit of what is happening onboard.
5. Yes to hair iron - no to clothes iron
Portable clothes irons are not allowed in cabins, they are a fire danger. The ship will have a passenger laundry with ironing facilities if you need them. However hair irons are allowed! I know…..
What are your top tips for cruising? We would love for you to share them with us, leave a comment below.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
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The average age of cruise passengers has dropped dramatically in recent years. Australians are a cruising nation, one of the fastest growing cruise markets in the world, and families are taking over.
The target market of cruise passengers has reduced meaning that the old days of the senior citizens with their zimmer frames ruling the flavour of on-board activities are gone. More and more families and multi-generations are cruising and they want adventure!
We have been fortunate enough to have taken a number of cruise holidays with P&O and a big drawcard is the P&O Edge activities - the largest adventure playground at sea!
No longer do you have to attend knitting classes or ballroom dancing lessons, now you can take a zip line, learn to ride a segway, rock climb the ship’s funnel, abseil down the bow, recreate the Titanic moment and climb the cargo ropes in the lobby! There are so many options to burn off the endless calories you consume when cruising.
However P&O Edge does come at a cost. To complete activities individually is quite expensive, we recommend a pass that provides access to activities each day of your cruise. If you purchase the pass in the first 24 hours there is normally a discount on offer.
OUr Top 5 p&O edge activities
Segways are a fun activity be it at land or at sea. The Segway course on the P&O Jewel is one of the better on offer as it has a large space dedicated to the activity with ramps and obstacles to navigate. The Eden and Aria also offer Segway however it is done on the basketball courts with a course navigating around cones as obstacles, still fun but not quite the same experience as on the Jewel.
2. Cargo Net Race
We first experienced this activity in the lobby of the Jewel. Rope nets are hung from the ceiling of the lobby which spans three levels of the ship. Crowds of cruisers gather around across the levels to watch the climbers compete to see who can get to the top the quickest. This is a tough climb and not for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights. When you reach the top your weary body abseils back down allowing a much quicker journey to the bottom.
3. Rock Climbing
Rock climbing off the funnel that sits in the open air of the ships top deck is a great challenge for all levels. Once harnessed in there are a series of courses to get to the top that challenge the beginner to the experienced climber.
4. Walk the Plank
Now this was a novel idea. Harness yourself in and walk off a plank over the edge of the ship. If you are game enough, let go of the rope and balance on one leg. You can walk at either day or night depending whether you want to see what is beneath you or not!
5. Laser Tag
This is the kids favourite activity. The Edge team take over the theatre and let the kids run wild on a laser tag adventure. Players are divided into teams and battle it out with electronic vests and laser guns.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
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Christmas can be both an amazing and a stressful day all within hours of itself. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with the day. We look forward to it and many magical memories are made on that one special day of the year - but it can also be a rushed and stressful time of year.
We have taken two Christmas cruises and whilst we are not doing one this year, I would absolutely do it again. Here are my top three pros and cons to Christmas cruising.
PROS to Christmas Cruising
1. No cooking or cleaning!
When at home, Christmas day means someone has to cook and clean - or you go to a restaurant and pay top dollar for the experience. Christmas Day on a cruise means wake up, enjoy the morning opening and playing with kids presents, get dressed and walk to the restaurant for lunch. There is no rush to get a turkey on, a pork in the webber or a ham glazed, it is all done for you!
The restaurant staff go all out with all the traditional trimmings and it is all there to simply order. When you are finished, the waiter clears the table and you are done! No dishes, no clearing, just nap time.
2. No rushing
The two Christmas cruises we have been on departed on 18th and 19th of December. By the time you get to Christmas day you are chilled and in holiday mode. There is no need for any mad last minute rush to the shops to fight for the last minute ham glazing or any fights in busy shopping centre car parks to get that one last present for Uncle Jim who decided at the last minute he was coming for lunch!
You are on holiday, de-stressed and simply enjoying the moment.
3. No car travel
Many people try to squeeze everyone in on Christmas Day. A trip to visit one lot of parents on Christmas Eve, a brother on Christmas morning, parents at lunch, other parents for dinner. There can be a lot of car travel in that 24 hours.
On a cruise you don’t have to drive anywhere. If you are fortunate enough to have extended family on board the most you will have to do is walk one end of the ship to the other to knock on their cabin door. No-one has to drive, there are no responsible drivers needed at the end of the day and there are no sleepy over stimulated children screaming in the car at the end of a long day.
CONS to Christmas Cruising
1. No Family
Whilst some may see this as a Pro, it depends what your traditional Christmas looks like. Christmas to me means being surrounded by family. Having come from a large family of five children, having a crazy day with lots of family is what Christmas is to me.
The first Christmas cruise we did we had a set of grandparents with us. The kids loved having them with us and it was nice to have them there to share the experience.
The second Christmas cruise we were just the ITCHY FEET FAMILY and the kids really missed having all their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents around.
When we asked the kids what they wanted to do for Christmas this year they specifically asked NOT to travel. So instead we are going away for New Years.
2. Packing Presents
Packing gifts for Christmas day can be a bit challenging. If you require a flight to get to the departure point, your airline baggage allowance can put some limitations on what you take.
You certainly can’t have a bike or a swing set under the tree on Christmas Day and you need to be selective with what to take.
We made sure extended family knew well in advance of our travel plans and gifts were purchased accordingly - or left under the tree at home for when we returned.
Thankfully Santa makes his way on board and every child on the ship receives a gift from him - and amazingly Santa also magically left something under our cabin door each year.
3. Missing Out
Because Christmas Cruises in Australia are generally 10 or 12 nights in duration and departing before the 20th December we did miss out on a few family and work Christmas parties.
Sporting club and social group end of year break ups, work break-up parties and the like all seemed to happen in the last week before Christmas.
Most businesses don’t break up until closer to the 25th and this therefore also meant eating into our annual leave more than we would want to. The cruise returns a few days after Christmas and generally businesses are still closed for that week until the New Year which meant we would be returned from our travels but still in enforced annual leave. Annual leave allocations are precious to us as we are always maxing out our allowance and having leave and being at home is not something we enjoy!
Have you taken a cruise at Christmas? What were your thoughts? Would you do it again?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
In Australia P&O offer Christmas Cruises departing Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.