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
If you are heading to Hong Kong on your holiday, you may choose to include a side trip across the waters to Macau. And here are some tips on how to get there.
Direct from Hong Kong International Airport
If you are arriving at Hong Kong International Airport, there is a ferry service direct from this location. Follow the transfer signs to the Sky Pier and you don’t even need to clear customs or collect your bags. You can purchase your ticket at the terminal, show your baggage tags and your bags are automatically transferred onto the ferry for you to collect at the other end.
For those who want the simplest option, and happy to pay a little extra for this service, it is a great option. This service is operated by TurboJet and you confined all the details on their website here.
However, the down side to this option is that the ferry’s don’t depart very frequently. For example we arrived into Hong Kong from Australia at 5:20pm - the earliest ferry option we had from the airport was 10pm. So if you are like us and don’t like sitting around waiting for things, there are some alternative options.
Taxi to the Ferry Terminal
The ferry terminal in Hong Kong has ferries departing to Macau around every 15 minutes. So if you are impatient like us you may want to consider getting yourself here instead of waiting at the airport.
Take a taxi from Hong Kong International Airport - there are three lines for taxis at the airport and you want to take an Urban taxi to Sheung Wan Ferry Terminal. Depending on the traffic (we were commuting about 6pm on a Thursday night) the trip takes about 30 minutes and cost us approx 350 HKD.
Upon arrival at the ferry terminal purchase a ticket from the TurboJet ticket counter - ferries leave every 15 minutes so you can simply take the next one.
We were travelling in the evening so the fares are slightly more expensive 880HKD for two adults and two children, however there was no luggage service at this time of night so we were able to wheel on our own luggage and did not incur any luggage fees.
When we returned from Macao to Hong Kong we took a 10am weekday ferry - the fare was slightly cheaper but we had to check our large luggage and pay a fee for those.
Arrival to Macau
Upon arrival in Macau you will need to go through passport control however it is a very simple, pain free process. To get to your hotel, there are taxis available or you may want to check if your hotel has a shuttle bus service. There are lots of free shuttle buses around Macau that take you between the large hotels and the ferry terminals. You may even be able to get a bus to a nearby hotel if your hotel does not run a service - and then walk or taxi from there.
Anyone for free tickets?
So if you are planning a trip in 2019 there is a fantastic offer for free tickets - yes free. To claim you must simply be an Australian or New Zealand traveller. Tickets are available in both directions between Hong Kong and Macao and valid for travel until the end of the year - 2019.
A limited number of tickets are available - to claim yours simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that Itchy Feet Family sent you!
I hope you find these tips helpful (we travelled in April 2019 and unfortunately did not know about the free ticket offer when we travelled!), if you have any further advice leave us a comment.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that planning a holiday in Bali can, at times, get a bit stressful. Instead of drooling over pictures of tropical beaches and turquoise waters, or dreaming about technicolored sunsets, we find ourselves worrying over passports and tickets and making sure we have got the absolute best deal. One of the biggest decisions to make is the type of accommodation to stay in. Bali has a few choices on offer, but, if we rule out backpackers and hostels (lets not even get started with tents, glamping or otherwise!), great if you are young or travelling solo, but less appealing the older you get, then really there are only two main contenders: hotels or private villas.
For many people, a hotel is the obvious first choice, they are safe, reliable and we generally know what to expect. The idea of booking a villa though, can seem a little bit daunting for first timers - so why would you consider a villa over a hotel?
Pros and Cons
Of course both forms of accommodation have their pros and cons and it really is up to each individual to decide which will be the best option for them - we for example really enjoyed our stay in the Hard Rock Hotel. If you keep reading though you may decide that a private villa can, in many cases, be the way to go.
There are many benefits to staying in a hotel. They often have the best locations (i.e right on the beach), large pools, opportunities to socialise and onsite bars and restaurants. However, there are also downsides, most often involving either space or privacy. Suites can be expensive, standard rooms a little too small, especially for families, and you may have to keep the noise down in order to avoid becoming unpopular with your neighbours.
Villas, on the other hand avoid most of these issues. Perhaps their biggest selling point is the amount of privacy and freedom they can offer. If you want to get a feel for what it’s really like to live in Bali, a villa will give you a much closer approximation of this than a hotel. Imagine just popping out of your own private enclave, strolling just a couple of minutes down the road and finding yourself right in the heart of some of Bali’s best locations.
A villa can be your own home-away-from-home, you can cook whatever you like, whenever you like (or never if you like, as many villas come with a private chef!). You can stay up as late as you like, without worrying about the noise, and you can even take a skinny dip in the pool!
Maybe, best of all, there will be no more staring longingly at towel draped sun beds, the claimants of which are nowhere to be seen, because you will have your own private outdoor area.
How do costs compare?
Whilst there are plenty of villas designed as romantic getaways for couples, there are also many larger properties that are a great choice if you are travelling with friends, or relatives. In fact the more people you can bring along the better a deal you will be able to find.
As of writing, it is possible to find some amazing villas, available in high season for as little as $20 USD per person per night! These are villas with private gardens and pools, spacious bedrooms with ensuites, beautifully appointed kitchens, well designed living / dining areas and a permanent staff, available to cater to your every whim.
One major concern that many have about renting a villa is the cost. The idea of renting an entire building with facilities anywhere as nice as even a basic resort seems as though it should be prohibitively expensive. In Bali, however, this is really not the case. Of course, there are villas that were built to cater only for the super rich, but, there are also plenty of others, that are much more affordable, and would still easily be classified as luxury accommodation.
Where will I feel safe?
Another barrier many have about renting villas is the perception of the possible lack of security in a villa as opposed to that offered by a resort, however many offer 24h security guards on duty so be sure to check the details of the villa you are renting.
There are couple of options when it comes to finding your dream villa, you can try to do so privately, or, you can organise it through a dedicated villa company. I would recommend doing the latter.
There are plenty of these companies operating in Bali and a quick search through some of their websites will turn up tons of fantastic villas for you to compare. Bali’s private villa market has been booming in recent years and with so much competition, villa companies have to ensure a high operating standard in order to remain in the game. The best will have stringent quality control checks on all their listed properties and team of staff on the ground to provide you with advice or to assist you should any problems arise.
This guest post was contributed by Bali Villas.
With extensive experience in servicing Australian clients, Bali Villas knows what families are looking for in terms of location, style and pricing. Each of their family friendly villas situated on the beautiful island of Bali have been hand-picked by their ‘family expert’ – someone with children who knows exactly what families are looking for.
Contact Bali Villas on email@example.com for a short consultation, and they will be able to find you the perfect villa. Bali Villas aim to take the stress out of planning your holiday, so you can concentrate on creating lasting memories with your family.
Hong Kong is heaven for foodies - on our recent trip we were salivating at all the options available - but had no idea where to start.
A great way to induct yourself into the culinary delights of a destination is to take a food tour. With the help of a local you can explore a neighbourhood, be introduced to all the best foodie spots and know that you are experiencing the local flavours of a destination.
We came across tour company - Humid With a Chance of Fish Balls - who offer an Off The Eaten Path Street Food and Authentic Eateries Food Tour through the Neighbourhood of Whampoa in Hong Kong.
Here are five reasons to consider a walking foodie tour with Humid With a Chance of Fish Balls.
1. Meet the Locals
One of the advantages of walking the streets of Hong Kong with a local is that they know, and are known to, the locals. From being able to walk through the back yards of a public housing estate to witness the afternoon gossip session of the senior ladies, to being served an egg pancake from a legendary local street vendor, to interrupting a family dinner in a restaurant who are happy to clear out to let us in - there is a real local flavour to this tour.
Owner of Humid With a Chance of Fish Balls, and our guide for this tour, Virginia, said when she started the tours she wanted to provide an insight into the origins of the food and why locals eat what they eat - providing something more than just a tasting opportunity.
2. No English - No Worries
A disadvantage of being Australian is that our language skills outside of English are generally limited. When travelling through Hong Kong, although English is widely spoken, there are still a lot of vendors and restaurants that simply do not communicate in English. There is a whole world of culinary delights that would have otherwise been out of our reach had we not had a translator with us.
As a general rule, when walking streets on our own, we never would have even walked into a venue unless there was some sign of an English menu being available. Being able to walk into a restaurant (like the one pictured) where absolutely no English was spoken provided a great experience and brought great rewards of amazing food.
3. Why Else Would You Visit Whampoa?
If you are after a bit of an adventure and like getting off the beaten path - this tour would be for you. As well as the culinary delights and the full belly you get from the tour - you are given an opportunity to discover a neighbourhood that may well be otherwise skipped on your Hong Kong visit.
Whampoa was easily accessed via MTR and upon reaching street level from the station you are greeted with a large ship! Yes, a ship, purpose built to only ever be placed on the land in Whampoa. Thanks to our guide, Virginia, we were given a well rounded history and insider knowledge of the neighbourhood.
As we walked through the area she was able to position us at certain vantage points showcasing the Old and New Whampoa, took us into the back yards of both a public and private housing estate and walked us through the wet markets where the locals shopped daily. We even stopped by a real estate agency where we were given the run down on what all the crazy pricing on their store windows meant and a good insight into the high cost of living in Hong Kong.
4. The Food
Ok, so the main reason for doing a foodie tour is for the food! Well this did not disappoint, we tried things that blew our mind. From the herbal jello with shavings of turtle shell, the bitter tea and pork floss on a pancake - this experience absolutely opened our palettes.
And the venues varied from a modern restaurant, a family owned dessert bar, a street vendor for street snacks and more - we had a real variety of experiences in the tour.
A highlight was a visit to a dessert restaurant. I have always been fascinated by Asian Desserts but never had the confidence to order and try. By being on the tour our guide ordered a selection off the menu, including a shaved ice dish with kidney beans, jelly squares, fruit and condensed milk, allowing us to sample a whole range of new delights.
5. Families, Singles, Couples - all welcome
We travel as a family - 2 Adults and 2 children - and found that the small group opportunity was as suitable for us as it would be for a single or couples. The groups are kept small, we had 10 in our tour, and everyone interacting and enjoyed the experience together.
Being a small group meant we had access to ask Virginia questions along the way and, as it is a walking tour, there were plenty of opportunities in between food stops to get to know more about the city from our guide.
If you are travelling alone - what a great way to meet some other tourists from all over the world.
And for families, we were well catered for and taken care of. Our kids are pretty adventurous when it comes to food - however the spicy rub at the BBQ stall certainly tested the spice levels of our 9 year old. Both the restaurant and Virginia were accommodating providing a less testing level of spice and sharing a milky type candy to cool our 9 year olds tongue that apparently was “on fire!”.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were a guest of Humid With a Chance of Fish Balls Off The Eaten Path Street Food and Authentic Eateries Tour in April 2019.
Going to the dentist on a holiday might not be everyone’s first thought for a restful and fun break. But if you’re one of many who laments on the dentistry that was never done in your teens, then you might just find yourself considering it.
In Australia, my husband was looking at $35,000-$40,000 for the work that he knew inevitably would have to be done (or consider false teeth in the not too distant future – eek!).
When in Thailand some years ago, we met an Aussie nurse who worked in cosmetic hospitals and the stories that he shared on the professionalism and results that he saw daily really had us thinking. Maybe this overseas thing isn’t as mad as it sounds. A few years went by, but the idea was firmly in our mind.
ONE FLIGHT DESTINATION
Being from Adelaide, you really just want one flight to the destination and back home for a short holiday, so Bali was put on the list. A chance holiday to Legian at the last minute allowed my husband to seriously consider this idea. So, combined with hundreds of hours of internet research, he decided to go and meet two dentists on the shortlist and chat about the options.
Both were incredibly professional and suddenly this option was real. Estimates for the work were around $15,000 and the process was explained clearly with a map of visits, timeframes and what to expect.
Would we really consider this? Haven’t we watched any of those ‘Surgery that Destroyed My Life’ shows? Are we mad?
But sitting in the waiting room, in this modern surgery, with all the latest equipment and meeting the staff made us realise this is a genuine growing business in some countries – and they take it very seriously. Most surgeries have a head surgeon who is from a more medically advanced country. In this case, our choice was a German dentist (and his surgery runs with that precision) and his speciality is cosmetic dentistry and implants.
Finally deciding to go ahead with the process means a commitment of several visits, depending on what you are having done. We chose to do some extractions in Australia and then do the restorative and implants in Bali to save on having to do a third trip.
Of course there were some nerves about the procedures, but after several consultations, any concern over the competency, hygiene and professionalism had disappeared. So on day eight of an 11 day holiday, in my husband went for implant surgery.
I won’t go into details of the procedure, other than to say it was over extremely quickly and the panoramic x-ray was done prior and post-surgery to confirm exact location (very professional and reassuring). You certainly won’t be lining up for cocktails that evening, but my husband was shocked at how manageable the pain was and with some painkillers, he slept for most of the day following the procedure. The next day, much to my surprise, we still went out and he was managing to eat some soft food like pasta and rice without great challenge after we went back to the dentist for the 24 hour follow up visit.
Returning back home, we resumed daily life and there were no issues around pain or healing. Unfortunately, one implant didn’t take, but that related more to existing damage on the jaw and we knew that risk before surgery as it has been highlighted by the dentist. It was worth a shot and the other four took exactly as planned. We knew the day after surgery at the check up about this failure and it was managed quickly then.
Some months later, we returned to Bali to complete the process which involved creating the tooth component and having veneers on 13 teeth. This visit to the dentist was by far the longest and certainly the toughest, because of the process of building veneers. It’s fair to say my husband wasn’t that spritely the following day, but he knew that this was part of the process and he was relieved that it was over.
Around a week after that long day at the dentist, he was able to return to complete the veneers and implants. Upon walking out of the surgery, I have never seen him smile so much and he admitted to the dentist that when he saw the results he actually teared up knowing that the days of being able to eat simple things like apples and smile in photos had returned!
The results speak for themselves and my husband doesn’t regret it for a second. And the number of people that have asked him about is experience has blown me away. With the world becoming more connected, many people are choosing this option and certainly the waiting room at this clinic was always full of Aussies and New Zealanders. Even for a check up it’s about $60, so regulars to Bali (particularly without health insurance) make that hour part of their annual holiday. The clinic downstairs does injectables and minor cosmetic procedures and that place was flat out every time we visited too.
The total cost for us was around $14,000 at the dentist (the exchange rate will vary visit to visit) and the dental work was completed in two trips that we enjoyed as holidays too. Obviously though, the flights and accommodation are a cost you can’t ignore, but we invested no more than $4000 on both trips.
Our top tips:
So would we travel for procedures such as heart surgery, plastic surgery or laser eye treatment? I’m not sure being perfectly honest, but probably because we haven’t faced that health challenge (thankfully). If we did though, it’s certainly something we would consider and research again. And I’d not be surprised if we came to the same conclusion as we did on dental.
The VixenMixer was a patient of ARCDental on Sunset Road, Kuta - http://www.arcdentalbali.com/
A weekend at sea is a great idea - what better way to switch off and unwind than jumping on a cruise ship from your home town and sailing up and down the coast for the weekend whilst your every need is taken care of.
Since cruise ships started visiting Adelaide a few years ago we have taken advantage of this opportunity to cruise without the need to fly first to the east coast - and what a new world of travel it has opened up.
Whilst those in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth have enjoyed this opportunity for many more years than little old Adelaide, the weekend cruises departing either on a Friday or Saturday for a three night getaway for us have included trips such as a weekend to nowhere, comedy cruise weekend and a girls trip.
Our most recent adventure was the P&O Food and Wine Cruise - one of the last cruises on the Pacific Eden before it sailed to Singapore to be handed over to new owners (who incidentally have purchased it to return to Adelaide!- watch for the new badged CMV cruises).
So what does a weekend Food and Wine cruise entail? And what can you expect from the experience. Apart from all the great incentives of a cruise that we already know and love - here are some of the highlights that a Food and Wine Cruise offers.
Well the theme of the cruise kind of gives this one away - but there really is a great showcase of wines onboard for you to experience. And best of all - no one has to be the designated driver!
Although South Australia is rich in wine resources, I really enjoyed trying out the wine tasting session from Perth’s Margaret River Region. With a representative from Watershed Wines on board to take us through the tasting notes and the history of the winery this session opened a new variety to me otherwise unknown.
There were a number of food and wine pairing classes on offer over the weekend. Cheese and wine, Egyptian food and wine were just a few. At $16 pp it included four wines matched with a sample of food to open the discussion of how wine can change the taste of food and vice versa.
If you are a budding chef - or even a real one - the ship had a full demonstration kitchen where guests chefs shared tips and tricks. Onboard for our cruise was Chef Dyna Eldaief from Taste of Egypt who showcased Egyptian cooking.
Dyna presented a conversational workshop talking about her experiences on the television reality show MasterChef, whilst showcasing some simple Egyptian dishes that all the passengers could go home and prepare. So simple were they that I even got up on the stage and joined her! If you prefer to participate than simply observe take the opportunity when a volunteer is called for and you will get an up close and personal cooking class from a renowned chef. Where else would you have that opportunity!
Chef Prue Daly from Grass Tree Kitchen was also onboard who presented a Sensational Seafood Masterclass and Canapes to Entertain. So no matter what your culinary taste, there was a good range of cooking demonstrations available over the weekend.
On our cruise cheese deserves a special mention as it was a feature in itself. Peter Gross from Black Pearl Epicure was onboard and he proved to essentially be a walking encyclopaedia for all things cheese. He was so passionate about his cheese and his knowledge was second to none.
We enjoyed a cheese and wine pairing session that Peter guided us through and for those that really love their trivia he also hosted a Food and Wine Trivia.
We learned how to pick a great cut of camembert and what the actual difference between Brie and Camembert is (apparently not much at all but a bit of an extra helping of cream in the Brie). I was even convinced by Peter to step out of my comfort zone and try a Blue cheese. I still did not enjoy it - but I did at least give it a go seeming I had a glass of red to wash it down with!
Even if you don’t love your wine - there was no discrimination against the beer drinker with options of “Hops and Malt” Beer tasting with The Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn and a Food and Beer Pairing class. Additionally a Beer and Cheese Tasting was on offer.
Add to this the usual mixology classes that you can always expect on a cruise and there was no shortage of drinks on offer for passengers no matter what their taste.
The food and wine options were sprinkled throughout the daily list of activities and at night the entertainment returned to what is usually on offer with a cruise - theatre shows, movies, themed parties and great restaurants to try a new bottle of wine with.
Have you ever taken a Food and Wine weekend cruise - what were your highlights? Leave a comment to let us know about your experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
When travelling there are so many different options and styles to accommodation. From budget hotels to independent Air BNBs to fancy resorts and five star hotels We’ve just about tried them all - and always happy to give something new a go.
Although not on purpose - we have even managed to stay at a few memorable quirky themed hotels. And whilst we didn’t particularly go out of our way to stay in them, they just happened to have a good rate on the day we were in town, they have certainly left a lasting memory.
Here are a four quirky themed hotels that you may want to try on your travels that have left an impression with us.
StayPineapple Hotel - Seattle
Yes you read it right, there is a pineapple themed hotel! Why, I really could not answer, but we have stayed there! In fact there are a chain of StayPineapple Hotels across the USA with the newest addition opening in New York’s Midtown Manhattan.
From the moment you first step foot in the lobby there is no mistaken the obsession here with pineapples. In the afternoon the lobby features signature pineapple cupcakes and pineapple infused water to greet arriving guests and the walls are adorned with pineapple themed artwork.
From the subtle print of the pineapple on your room key, through to the pineapple sticker on the toilet paper roll to the more obvious pineapple embroidery on the pillows and slippers, there is a lot of yellow going on in this hotel.
And if you like to travel with your pooch, these boutique hotels are dog obsessed and your canine companion is always welcome. For more details, visit the StayPineapple website.
Nickelodeon Suites - Orlando
When our son was young we took a trip to Orlando, Florida and ended up staying in the Nickelodeon Suites. We booked the hotel as it had a great rate and it provided apartment type accommodation - but the added bonus was the Nickelodeon theme.
The centre of the resort homed a massive water splash park and every afternoon the splash bucket would be filled with the trademark Nickelodeon green slime for a good old slime splash session! What more could you ask for than being dumped with green slime - right!
The rooms featured pictures of Nickelodeon stars on the walls and there was a themed breakfast in the restaurant where you could dine with Spongebob and Dora. Unfortunately our son was terrified of the giant characters walking around - but many kids loved getting up close and personal with Diego.
This resort is no longer operating as Nickelodeon Suites, it is now a Holiday Inn, but the fantastic waterpark still remains.
Hard Rock Hotel - Mexico, Bali and Penang
We seem to have a bit of an affinity for the Hard Rock Hotel. Before children we would always seek out Hard Rock Cafe’s in every city we visited, we even have a quirky collection of Hard Rock Hotel hurricane glasses from across the globe!
Since having the kids we tend not to buy the glass but instead have taken to staying in the themed resorts. So far we have tried the Hard Rock Hotels of Bali, Penang and probably our favourite the all inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
If you like your music memorabilia, these hotels certainly cater for that obsession. From a Jimmy Hendrix guitar to a Michael Jackson glove, the corridors are filled with framed bits and pieces from iconic popular culture.
The resorts offer a few signature extras such as the option to have a guitar in your room to use during your stay and in Bali the hotel featured a sound booth to record your own album.
Visit the Hard Rock Hotel Website for Details.
Peabody Hotel - Memphis
Now the name of this hotel really does not give any indication of the theme, which is why we were a bit surprised upon arrival - but this hotel is duck obsessed.
This charming southern hotel is home to some very pampered ducks who entertain international visitors every day with the Daily Duck March. At 11am and 5pm the Peabody Duck Master escorts five ducks as they ride down the elevator from their rooftop sleeping quarters to the lobby of the hotel where red carpet is laid out for them to parade their way to the atrium fountain.
Visitors line the red carpet and forward book tables in the restaurant for an up close and personal viewing of the internationally renowned spectacular.
The duck obsession is not contained to the lobby - the hotel room carries the theme through with duck embroidered linens and towels, duck shaped soap, ducks printed on the stationery and duck shaped pillow chocolates at your turn down service. In nearly every corner of your room you will find a duck weaved into the design.
Interesting fact that duck is strictly prohibited from being served in any of the hotels restaurants! Find more fun facts at the Peabody hotel’s website.
Have you ever stayed in a quirky themed hotel - let us know in the comments.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Noosa, located on Queensland’s sunshine coast, is a great destination for families, solo travellers, couples and everything in between. There is a bit of something for everyone - and great weather most year round to greet you.
On a recent visit we discovered the Noosa Heads Coastal Walk - one of the great coastal walks in Australia, up there with the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk in New South Wales. If you like getting outdoors and experiencing amazing scenery, this walk ticks those boxes.
Starting from Hastings Street, the main street of Noosa, the start of the walk is easily accessible. Grab your morning coffee from a Hastings street cafe and then meander north in the uphill direction and you will join the boardwalk path.
There are a number of walking tracks to take in this area that allow you to discover the National Park, we opted for the Coastal Track - but an inland track is also available for those that like to discover that sort of terrain.
The walk starts out as a beautiful wide boardwalk path making it accessible even for those with strollers or wheelchairs. Most of the path is accessible - up until Dolphin Point where we saw those with strollers turning around as it gets a bit narrow with rougher terrain.
The coastal walk is a great fitness track and many locals use it for their regular routine, however as tourists we took the opportunity to do a slow meander and enjoy all the scenery had to offer.
Rugged coastline, crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, this is a stunning part of Australia.
There is a look out called Dolphin Point - where I did not see any dolphins, but at another stop along the way I watched a pod of some 15 dolphins playing in the waves - it was amazing. If you have the time to enjoy the walk at leisure, be sure to take some regular stops to soak it all in. Whales are regularly sited in-season (August to November) and Koalas can be spotted in the trees.
We walked as far as Hells Gate, about a 3.7km walk from Hastings Street, there is an option to follow the heads around to Sunshine Beach and then grab a bus to return - we opted for the return walk from midway point.
Take a Swim
If you love the surf, there are plenty of opportunities to stop off for a swim or catch some waves at quiet secluded beaches. The crowds at Noosa Main Beach are overwhelming during peak seasons, the beaches along this walk offer a much more isolated experience. The sands are white, the water is clear and they offer welcome relief from the crowds. However look out for the stingers - Queensland beaches can be unforgiving when it comes to marine life that sting and the beaches in Noosa are no exception.
There are plenty of picnic spots along the way with welcome shade from the harsh Australian sun. There were very limited toilet or water spots along the trail so be sure to pack a backpack with the essentials - hat, sunscreen, water - and if you have the time pack a picnic and enjoy one of the many stops along the way to soak it all in this a great place to do it.
Have you ever taken this walk? Leave us a comment about your highlight of the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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
If you are visiting Port Villa, Vanuatu for an extended stay, or on a cruise port day visit, and are looking for something adventurous to try a fun activity is Zip Lining through the jungle! Popular with both locals and visitors, this is a great way to see the lesser visited areas of this destination.
We have only ever visited Port Villa on cruise ship port days and have tried a few of the excursions on offer, for our Christmas 2018 cruise visit we opted for flying through the jungle on a zip line.
From the cruise port we joined 10 seater vans for the 30 minute journey out to the location. Along the way there was plenty of opportunity to see a bit of the town and our driver provided commentary as we passed a local school, the prison and drove through the main street.
As the activity is up in the mountains we were transferred at the base of a very steep driveway into 4WD vehicles with a bit of grunt for the descent up. A narrow and windy road took us to the top - a drive I would not like to attempt in my city SUV.
Upon arrival we were strapped into harnesses, given gloves and hard hats and triple checked to make sure we were secure before heading into the jungle. As our guides pointed out - the equipment is faultless the only thing that can go wrong is human error. They were very thorough in checking the equipment, something I was very thankful for once I was in the air!
Before we took our first leap of faith we needed to climb a few flights of stairs of a man made platform to our first launching point - from then on in it was all zipping through the jungle from one tree to another like Tarzan! There were a couple of short lines to get us warmed up and used to the experience before we crossed a rope bridge to our first serious experience - and what an experience it was.
As we came out of the jungle we were zipping across a ravine with views of the beach to the right, beautiful cliff faces to the left - and a massive drop beneath our feet! (This is where I was thankful for the triple check of the equipment.)
The great thing about the experience is all the landing platforms are built into the jungle trees. You really do get a Tarzan like experience as you fly from one tree to another.
Generally people were propelled as single fliers, however on one of the longer lines our 12 and 9 year olds were clipped together to ensure there was enough weight to get them all the way across to the other side. An experience they enjoyed!
There were six lines in total and a couple of rope bridges hanging amongst the trees to walk across. Definitely not an experience for anyone afraid of heights - a great experience for travellers that like to do more in a city than just sit in a bus and see the sights.
At the end of the experience there was a bit of a walk through the jungle, including one steep climb of stairs, but there were some great views along the way to take away from the burn in the legs!
We booked our tour through the P&O excursion desk onboard. Tickets were priced at $129 per adult and $99 per child. We got lucky when we booked - they had kids fly free so it only cost us $258 for the family of four.
There are some great youtube clips showcasing the experience if you are after a visual of this fun activity take a look.
Verdict from our family - mum, dad, 12yo boy and 9yo girl - would definitely do it again!
Another great experience added to our travel memories.
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're looking for a family holiday that’s full of adventure, sunshine and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet (if we do say so ourselves!) then heading Down Under is the perfect option. That said, it’s a pretty enormous country, so for those of you who aren’t familiar, it can be hard to decide where to go. Here are our recommendations for the best places in Australia for a family holiday.
Sydney certainly doesn't disappoint. When we did our 24-hour Sydney adventure, we managed to get on national TV, explore the stunning botanical gardens, visit Macquarie’s Chair, stop off at the Opera House for some great photo ops, check out the Harbour Bridge and even catch a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Imagine what you could fit in if you were here for a week!
Brisbane is the perfect city for children, with so much to see and do. Take a ferry ride and head to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to fulfill a dream of snuggling with one of these furry little critters. The Streets Beach is man-made and as such has shallow water, ideal for your little ones.
For some free fun, the treehouse playground at New Farm Park is popular, or soak up some culture with the Queensland Art Gallery, or the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre – both of which cater to children.
If you’re looking for the perfect family driving holiday, jump in a campervan and head to Tasmania – small but perfectly formed. Check out the Freycinet National Park for some of the most stunning views you'll see, and explore Mt Wellington on your bikes. There are so many different museums for those rainy days, but otherwise, you will probably want to be out and enjoying the accessible wilderness.
Darwin and the Top End national parks
Nature loving families need to head to Darwin and explore the Top End National Parks for their holiday. Litchfield National Park has beautiful waterfalls, ideal for cooling down. Alternatively, head to Kakadu National Park to check out the amazing indigenous rock-art galleries, as well as spot some crocodiles and other crazy creatures. The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is ideal for a stroll after a busy day, or unwind as a family at the Deckchair Cinema.
If you’re a family of daredevils, the Gold Coast is a fantastic option, with five enormous theme parks! Head to the beach to try out surfing, jet skiing, and kayaking, but remember, if you’re going for some of the more extreme activities, you’re going to want to check that your insurance covers them – just in case! For example, base jumping is not something most insurance providers will cover. For a more relaxed afternoon, spend some time whale-watching or head to the Australia Zoo, where you will not be disappointed.
As you can see, there’s so much to offer families in Australia, and these are just five of the best – we could keep going on all day! Whether you want to soak up some culture, get your adrenaline pumping, or just relax, there’s somewhere for everyone.
So, what are you waiting for? Have you been to Australia before? Where would you recommend, or where would you most like to visit?
By Guest Blogger: Vixen Mixer
Food and holidays certainly go hand in and hand, following Itchy Feet Family’s review of Juan More Taco’s Walking Foodie Tour in San Jose I happened to be in Cabo San Lucas so decided to try Juan More Taco’s Cooking Class.
Each day the cooking class’s food agenda changes and whilst I was pretty flexible on what I cooked my inquiry to join the class the following day was promptly responded to by Issi with encouragement to do hold out for Thursday Paella Day. With the weather looking average for the next few days I locked in his suggestion and waited hungrily for Thursday to arrive!
The cooking tour is a small group activity with no more than 10 people. The tour starts by visiting a few local shops, including a tortilla factory where the majority of the town’s tortillas are produced. The group were able to sample the tortillas whilst they were still warm, crisped up and touched with salt. We knew the day was looking good after the first salty bite! We also visited a local grocer and fish supplier and Issi quickly moved through the stores making sure we had enough time to see a little part of daily life, but respecting that cooking was our main game and reason for joining him.
The actual class is conducted in Issi’s home with a converted area as a work kitchen (separate from the main area of the home). Around a long table the other seven tourists I’d just met became friends as we squeezed limes, seeded chillies, chopped seafood and vegetables and listened to Issi share his tips on preparation and Mexican cooking.
This tour is just as much for kids as it is adults. On our tour we had a father and daughter enjoying the day and Issi confirmed that many children come along, mostly over the age of 10 years old.
The class is as ‘hands on’ as you wish. We were all keen participants and I was particularly pleased when the first item we made and shared was a Margherita – certainly I can make that! My view on tequila quickly changed as Issi introduced the higher grade of tequila and shared his prepared recipe. Of course you can enjoy the virgin version as well, for the children and non-drinker just as much fuss is made to make special drinks sans alcohol in keeping with the family friendly activity.
Moving into appetisers we chopped and diced and the plain tortilla chips were transformed into taste sensations as we enjoyed a range of salsas. There were lots of variations on what you find in traditional eateries which highlighted the delight of home-made food. We had to forcibly stop snacking so that we could enjoy the paella in the next phase of our class!
Over the stove we stirred, fried and watched our paella come to life, with lots of wonderful spice tips. Whilst some of us stirred, others pressed dough into small tortillas and flipped them on a hot grill.
When the main meal was served a quiet calm came over the room whilst we all savoured every bite and nodded a lot, motioned to each other to ‘try a bit of this’ and generally just enjoyed food in the way we genuinely should. After lunch we were chatting so much dessert was nearly forgotten, but Issi quickly rectified this and his generous assistant whipped up a delicious finish to our incredible meal.
In such a wonderful atmosphere the group shared stories of home, travel, love and more. At the end of our several hours together we left not only full of amazing food but also with some new friends from around the globe and memories that are deeper than just a good feed.
The warmth of Issi’s home makes this experience something more than just a tour and as the food changes daily you could easily do more than one day – if you’re not committed to weighing in on your return home!
Until the next adventure…..The Vixen Mixer