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
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
If you are wanting to up your anti on your Australia Day celebrations, a unique option is to take an Australia Day Cruise out of Sydney that will have you spending the iconic Aussie Day in Sydney Harbour amongst all the action.
Departing out of Sydney we experienced the P&O Australia Day three night cruise aboard the Pacific Explorer in 2019. A great option for international visitors and locals alike, here is a wrap up of the highlights you can expect.
Sydney Harbour Activities
Whilst the three night cruise is a “cruise to nowhere” - ie the cruise departs Sydney Harbour and does not dock again until disembarkation - the ship does drop anchor in Sydney Harbour for Australia Day. The Harbour is abuzz of activities and the cruise ship is right in the thick of it.
With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House within your camera lens shot, there is a festive atmosphere on the top pool deck with a fever of activities going on in the Harbour. In the sky RAAF fast jets, a Navy helicopter and a Qantas aircraft all do low fly overs. On the water the iconic Sydney ferries take part in a ferry race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and then back to the finish line of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a tall ships race, a tug and yacht ballet and a stirring 21-gun military salute. There is so much activity in the Harbour you could literally just pull up a sun lounge and sit and watch it all unfold in front of you for the day. Tall ships, luxury yachts, catamarans and ferries - if it floated it was on the Harbour proudly flying Australian flags and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Lamingtons, Pies and Prawns
Food is always an important element to any cruise and on an Australia Day celebration cruise there are certain items you would expect. Lamingtons and prawns featured in the pantry, or you could buy a bucket for $15, and if you were wanting a meat pie with sauce there was no shortage of them.
For those that love their pies a pie eating competition was on offer - the fastest to eat three pies washed down with a XXXX can of beer the winner!
Thong Tossing Competition
Thongs, Flip-Flops, whatever you want to call them! Australians love spending summer with a piece of rubber strapped to their feet - they are essential Australian footwear - Haviana hit the jackpot when they landed in Australia. What better way to waste away some time than throwing a thong at a target! The thong throwing competition was hotly contested - shortly followed by the beer can ring toss!
Aussie Rock Anthems
Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Darryl Braithwaite, John Farnham and Cold Chisel - all the classics you need played on Australia Day - they were all being belted out on the top deck. Groups of friends singing Horses, followed by Karaoke on the big screen on the pool deck, there was no shortage of opportunity to join in on a classic. It wasn’t the Triple J Hot 100 - but it was a great collection of Aussie anthems creating a buzzing atmosphere all day long.
Aussie Legend Dress Up Competition
Passengers were invited to don their best for a Look Like A Legend competition. From the Wiggles, Kath & Kim, Dame Edna and Steve Irwin there were some passengers that went all out for this one. With a $10,000 cash prize to be won there was some serious competitors in on this one and it created a great atmosphere onboard.
Aussie Movie Classics
For those that love their movies, a classic Aussie movie marathon ran throughout the day both indoors in the theatre and out on the pool deck. Classic Aussie films Muriels Wedding and The Castle featured.
The one question that everyone asks is - Did you see the fireworks? And the answer is no. The ship had to depart the Harbour around 4:30pm so we were not docked for the evening fireworks display. And whilst it may have been nice to have seen them - there was certainly enough activity in the Harbour during the daytime that made this a special cruise and one that we would do again for the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
After having such a great time on the Pacific Dawn for Christmas in 2017, we decided to head back for more in 2018 this time celebrating Christmas onboard the Pacific Explorer with a 10 night South Pacific cruise which departed Sydney December 18, 2018 -stopping in Noumea, Port Vila, Lifou and Mystery Island.
There are so many great reasons to cruise at Christmas time and the extra effort that the crew put into the festive season really make it a great way to celebrate. Here are some of the festive additions we experienced on the Pacific Explorer this Christmas.
There must be someone out there with the sole job to interior design a ship for the Festivities - nearly everywhere you went there was some sort of Christmas decoration. From trees, gingerbread houses, Nutcrackers and more, the ship was decked to the halls with Christmas decorations.
And for the passengers in the Christmas spirit, many of the cabin doors were also decorated - it was fun walking past the cabins to see what people had come up with.
Letter to and from Santa
Just because you are on holidays, does not mean you can’t send a letter to Santa. At reception there were special letter to Santa printed sheets that the kids could write a short note and post in the Santa postbox.
On Christmas Eve, Santa wrote back with a personalised letter delivered to our cabin for the kids to read before going to bed. Our towel animal on Christmas Eve, placed on the bed was a reindeer complete with a red nose!
Gingerbread House Making
Whether you are crafty or not, making gingerbread houses at Christmas time is a fun family activity. On Christmas eve the youth team put together a Fun Family activities afternoon on the lido pool deck to get us all into the festive spirit - including all you needed to make a gingerbread house. There was plenty of icing, decorations and piping bags to create a masterpiece - unfortunately ours looked more like a tornado had gone through so we just had fun eating the decorations on gingerbread cookies!
The pool deck was a hive of activities with pin the heart on the grinch, water balloon games, a kids raffle and a raft of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy together.
Yes, who would have thought in the middle of the Pacific Ocean you would get snow - well we did. On Christmas Day the atrium became a magical place to be as snow rained down from deck 7 to deck 5 and the kids were covered in white whilst Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas played!
The Entertainment team did the countdown, the atrium was packed with children, parents and grandparents dressed in the Christmas Day outfits to experience a glimpse of a white Christmas. Little as it was - everyone enjoyed the experience.
Towel Decoration Display
The housekeeping staff can be very creative when it comes to towel art. For Christmas they put an amazing display of creations in front of the waterfront restaurant that we could walk past and admire - much like a store window display we walked along and admired the amazing creations.
From a towel Christmas tree, to a kangaroo with a joey in a pouch, there is a very creative crew working aboard this ship!
Visit from Santa
Christmas would not be complete without a visit from Santa and all 300 children on board from age 0-17 received a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. The Black Circus was transformed into a magical sea of green and red balloons and Santa made his way to the stage sitting for hours as every child filed through for a photo, a chat and to receive a gift. The youth and entertainment staff do an amazing job to make it feel festive all decked out in Christmas t-shirts and elf costumes.
If you like to sing carols at Christmas, there is plenty of opportunities to do so on a Christmas Cruise. There is a passenger choir that is formed with rehearsals leading up to the performance and the Officers take the opportunity to try out their pipes with a special carols performance in the atrium.
Not forgetting the origin of Christmas, a midnight mass was held as well as a non-denominational service on Christmas morning. If you are wanting to join in a congregational activity - you can do it at sea.
Food plays such an important role to our festivities and the Pacific Explorer delivered. A special menu was served across all restaurants for Christmas dinner. Regardless of whether we dined in Waterfront, Angelos or Dragon Lady, we were treated with a special menu that included ham, turkey, pudding and all the trimmings.
The tables were decorated with Christmas crackers and beautifully presented with the special menu. We were able to pop a bon bon, wear a paper hat, tell bad Christmas jokes and enjoy it with our roast dinner and gravy. And no-one had to bring a plate, prepare the ham or even clean afterwards. It was just like any Christmas dinner you would have at home.
The entertainment team go all out at Christmas - we had a special Christmas presentation on Christmas Eve and then on boxing day a performance of a Christmas pantomime. There was a pretty funny rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, (5 Toilet Rolls! for anyone that was on board) some great vocals singing Silent Night and of course renditions of All I Want For Christmas. If you like to be entertained in the main theatre you will not be disappointed by the Christmas performances on offer.
Home Alone, Elf, 42nd Street - all the Christmas classics were shown across our 10 day cruise. Some shown on the big screen on the pool deck, some in the Black Circus, others in our stateroom - but there was no shortage of opportunity to squeeze in a classic Christmas movie on our festive cruise.
There are many pros and cos to Christmas cruising, but we believe that the pros far outweigh the cons and after four Christmas cruises now on the Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden, Pacific Dawn and now the Pacific Explorer - we look forward to continuing the tradition.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
I have never really been one for girl’s trips, I have never had any burning desires to head off without my husband or children. I loved travelling with my husband BC (before children) and I really enjoy family travel now.
However last weekend I was given the opportunity to take a weekend trip with a friend, who is also a mum, a short getaway aboard P&O’s Pacific Eden. We boarded from Adelaide’s Outer Harbour on a Friday afternoon and sailed up and down the coast for the weekend landing back at Outer Harbour on Monday morning early enough to get to work for the day. The ship did not stop anywhere, it was just three nights of sailing and enjoying the destination of the cruise ship and all it had to offer.
I have now decided that all mums need a weekend at sea - here are eight reasons why!
Reason 1. It’s only three nights
The weekend cruise departs on a Friday afternoon and is back in dock by 7am Monday morning I was able to drop the kids at school on Friday before heading off and I was back in time to get to work on Monday morning.
Reason 2. You don’t need to fly anywhere
P&O operate weekend cruises departing out of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, so if you live in one of the big capitals, no flight is needed. Whilst other States have had these for some time, cruising in and out of Adelaide has only been operating the last three years. P&O port a ship in Adelaide, the Pacific Eden, for a few weeks each year. However so successful they must have been that in 2019 there will be an extended season providing even more options for cruises departing and returning to Adelaide.
Not having to take a flight anywhere takes the hassle out of the weekend. Simply drive to Outer Harbour, jump on the ship and sail away!
Reason 3. You can throw your towel on the floor
You know how your kids just throw things on the floor and we as mums pick them up. Being on a cruise is like having your own magical mum do that for you. I dare you to give it a go - have a shower and simply throw your towel on the floor when you are done. When you return to your cabin a few hours later it will be picked up and a fresh towel folded on the rack.
Ok so that tip is not very environmentally friendly - or very adult like - but hey you gotta indulge a little every now and then.
Reason 4. Enjoy a meal without taking someone to the toilet or cleaning up a spilled drink
The Pacific Eden offers three restaurants included in your fare. Friday night we had Italian at Angelos, Saturday night is was Asian at Dragon Lady and Sunday night we ate at the main restaurant, The Waterfront.
Imagine a whole meal not having to take a child to the toilet, clean up a spilled drink across the table or having to cut up someone else’s meal. It was bliss. Add to the amazing food a bottle of Moet and we were in mum heaven!
No-one had to drive, no-one had to sort the kids before we went out, we just got ourselves dressed and walked to dinner! We even stopped off at the bar first for a sneaky pre-dinner drink.
Reason 5. Stay out all night
There is no curfew on the ship - you can stay out as long as you like. You don’t have to worry about trying to get a taxi at the end of the night, you don’t have to rush home because you are paying the babysitter by the hour and you don’t have to wake up at 6am the next day to get the kids breakfast or take them to sport. In fact, the next day you can stay in bed as long as you want - and we did!
Reason 6. Read a book
When I cruise with the family we are on the go a lot of the time. Take the kids to kids club, meet for morning trivia, pick the kids up and take them on the flying fox etc etc. I have taken books away with me before, but it normally ends up just weighing my bag down and rarely getting read. On a mums weekend away I got myself out of bed, headed for the adults only area and sat in the sun to read a book.
So engrossed I was in reading (which incidentally I had not done in years) that I completely forgot to reapply sunscreen and fried to a crisp! Again, not great advice, but shows the indulgence you can take to simply switch off and do something for yourself.
Reason 7. Enjoy the late night shows
We were on a comedy cruise which meant late night comedy shows at 10:30pm. Now lets be honest, as a mum going out at 10:30pm is a very rare occasion. When you cruise as a family the kids club closes at 10:30pm so you either tag team and only one parent gets to go to the show whilst the other picks the kids up, or you pay the late child minding fees so you can both go. No such dilemma on a mums trip, we went and enjoyed every show on offer.
Reason 8. Meet other mums
When dining in the Waterfront restaurant the wait staff ask if you mind sharing a table. This is a great way to meet your fellow cruise passengers and, to our luck on each occasion, we were seated with fellow mums also on a weekend away.
Apparently we were not the only mums that had found this phenomenon of a sneaky weekend away at sea. One pair we ate with were on their first ever cruise, let alone weekend away - by the Sunday night they were already booked in for 2019 - something they would tell their families when they got home! Deposit paid - in fact I think they paid in full and made sure it was non-refundable.
So if you have ever thought about taking a girls trip, consider a weekend cruise, you won't regret it. If you have ever taken a sneaky mums weekend at sea, leave us a comment and tell us why you loved it.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Getting away for Christmas is a great option. Avoid all the stress and running around required at home and simply board a ship and get away. This year was our third Christmas cruise - we have written before about the Pros and Cons of Christmas Cruising having sailed on the Pacific Jewel in 2014 and Pacific Eden in 2015.
This year we opted for a 12-night Fiji and Vanuatu itinerary that sailed out of Brisbane on P&O’s Pacific Dawn which departed December 16, 2017.
Many people ask us if the ship does anything special for Christmas, for those considering a Christmas cruise, here are some of the the extras we experienced this year that made our trip Festive.
Passenger Christmas Choir
If you love your Christmas Carols and have always wanted to sing on a stage, here is your chance. The entertainment team recruited a passenger choir early on in the cruise and rehearsals were held on the sea days . A repertoire of Carols were performed on the main stage of the Marquee theatre in front of 400 odd passengers on Christmas Eve.
Kids Christmas Play
If you have children in the kids club they will also get the opportunity to perform in the Marquee theatre in front of a crowd of passengers. The kids club scheduled rehearsals for the children who had the opportunity to take part in a Christmas play performed on stage on Boxing Day. The play was a cute story about a little Christmas tree waiting to be picked from the woods and taken home to be a part of a family’s celebrations. Our daughter played a bird!
Family Christmas Fair
On Christmas Eve from 10am-12pm the Dome was transformed into a Christmas Fair for families to enjoy. Stations of activities were set up including face painting, wreath making, Christmas colouring and cookie decorating.
The kids club team conducted family games, ice-cream vouchers were handed out and families could opt in for a gingerbread house making competition. With only 10 minutes to construct and decorate a gingerbread house we failed dismally and opted for just piling on as many sweets and decorations as possible so we could eat it later! Needless to say we did not win that competition - we did get to eat the gingerbread house though!
For those wanting to celebrate the actual reason for Christmas, there was a catholic midnight mass and a Christmas morning non-denominational church service held.
The ship slowly became festive over the course of the cruise in the lead up to Christmas day. A display in the atrium of gingerbread houses and trees, the bars all had trees and decorations, the pantry came alive with gingerbread house displays and the waterfront restaurant had a great display that greeted everyone. All the staff wore Christmas hats and t-shirts and there was a really festive feel about the cruise.
Passengers also got into the spirit decorating cabin doors with wreaths, children’s drawings and even Christmas lights. We took it a step further and put tinsel up in the cabin and many passengers wore Festive t-shirts, hats and other outfits throughout the cruise. Top marks to the group of girls wearing the ugly Christmas jumper rashies.
Letters To and From Santa
At reception there was a Santa letter box set up with special paper for children to write letters to Santa. On Christmas Eve both our children received personalised letters on their beds in return from Santa, along with a towel animal of a reindeer!
Christmas Eve Carols
On Christmas Eve a special Christmas production was performed in the Marquee theatre with all the Christmas classics sung by the Entertainment staff. Passengers were all provided with song books and encouraged to join in the with the passenger choir when they took to the stage.
In the Atrium the crew also performed a few carols during the night to get everyone into the spirit of the Festive season.
Waterfront Christmas Menu
On Christmas Day the main restaurant, the Waterfront, presented a special Christmas menu. A traditional menu was served for dinner only (the restaurant was closed lunch on Christmas Day as we were ported in Port Villa). The menu included all the traditional offerings of Christmas ham, turkey with cranberry and Christmas pudding for dessert. The tables were set with bon bons and the staff all wore Christmas hats and were in a Festive mood.
The restaurant was packed for dinner on Christmas night. We forgot to make a booking (most people did this on the first day of the cruise!) and by the time we remembered they had booked out. Having said that, we simply arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, was told to come back at 6pm and was seated by 6:15pm. The restaurant did two seatings that evening and did the best they could to accommodate as many passengers as physically possible. The service was a little slow but that was to be expected with a full house and it gave us as a family plenty of time to catch up and enjoy the bad jokes in the bon bons!
Visit from Santa
On Christmas Day Santa visited the ship! All the children gathered at the marquee which was decorated with hundreds of red and green balloons and a big red chair for the special visitor. The entertainment team had packaged a video together of Santa and an elf around the ship which was shown not he big screen before Santa entered the theatre and took place on the stage.
Every child onboard was then invited to the stage to receive a gift and the ship photographer was unhand to capture Santa photos for all.
Our children received a P&O Selfie Stick (11yo) and a P&O frisbee, ball and drink bottle (8yo).
Late Night Babysitting
After a long day, our kids were of course up at 6am!, the kids club offered complimentary late night babysitting. Normally charged at $5 per hour after 10:30pm until close at 1pm - on Christmas night the late-night service was offered complimentary.
The kids were given blankets and a Christmas movie allowing the adults some time for a late night drink or visit to the night club to celebrate Christmas.
Overall the crew did a great job to get us into the spirit of Christmas. We noticed many large groups travelling together and multi-generational families enjoying a stress free Christmas where no-one had to cook, clean or drive!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Norway is simply stunning. No pictures can capture the beauty that is the majestic snow capped glacial mountains, the crystal clear waters of the Fjords and the picturesque colourful wooden villages that scatter amongst the journey.
A great way to experience Norway is from a cruise ship and here are a few reasons why.
There is a lot to see in Norway, you want to take in as many of the towns/villages as you can.
However packing and unpacking, moving from one lodging to the next, can be tiresome. Once on a cruise ship, unpack once and your accommodation moves with you.
2. Visit More Than One City
On the P&O Britannia 7 night itinerary, we visited four cities in Norway. Stavanger, Olden, Flam and Bergen. Although only for one day each, the cruise gives a nice sampler of what Norway has to offer.
3. Enjoy the Scenery At Night
Norway enjoys long days with very little darkness in July. During the day you can explore the cities, at night watch the scenery pass you by. Pre-dinner drinks at the front of the ship in the comfortable bar with 180 degree views of where you are heading, dinner by the restaurant window as you watch Norway pass you by, post-dinner walk on the outside deck, there is an endless supply of beautiful scenery as you cruise through the inlets of the Norwegian Fjords.
4. Great for Families
Cruising Norway is a great option for families as it provides a balanced holiday for all. On the P&O Britannia kids are well looked after with an awesome kids club and amazing staff.
The kids can make friends and play whilst the adults enjoy on-board activities and the scenery. Lets be honest, a seven and 10 year old are going to be more interested in learning how to spin DJ decks than marvel at snow capped mountains!
5. Shore Activities
We picked some great shore activities for our day stops in Norway.
Kayaking the Fjords in Olden, taking a cable car up 2000ft in Bergen, visiting the street of colours in Stavanger and experiencing the world famous Flam Railway.
There is a lot you can cram into your 7-8 hour port stop and we made sure we certainly did!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
In July the Itchy Feet Family took a seven night cruise departing Southampton, UK, through the Fjords of Norway. As an Australian family - there were a few noticeable differences to travelling on a British based ship as opposed to an Australian.
Here were our top eight stand out observations: - good, bad and indifferent.
1. No Lanyards
On Australian ships we love wearing our room keys on lanyards in a kaleidoscope of colours proudly around our neck. On the Britannia there was barely a lanyard to be seen. No fire sale on day 1 to get your blinged out lanyard - the Brits just put them in their pocket!
2. Women Love a Lager
I have never in my life seen so many women drinking pints. It is the beverage of choice for men and women alike. I will never lose the picture of a 70 year old lady necking a lager like I drink a bottle of water after a work out! And with so many options of craft beers and beers on tap - why not enjoy a lager! The bars offer sampler paddles of beer so you can try a range of craft brews from varying regions across the UK. And if you simply can’t find a waiter - there is a self-serve beer tap in the buffet just swipe and pour!
3. Long Life Milk
Brits don’t mind a bit of long life milk - Aussies prefer it fresh. The advantage is that there was a kettle in the room with mountainous supplies of tea/coffee and long life milk. At any time - day or night - a cup of tea was available in your cabin. In the buffet restaurant long life milk in sachets is kept on the tables so tea could be poured at the table and you did not have to get up for milk. For me, I prefer milk from a jug rather than a sachet.
4. No Baristas
Australians are coffee snobs and we love a good coffee made by a Barista. Although there was Costa coffee on board - the machines were automated. The coffee waiter simply pressed a button and the machine did the work.
5. Kids Can Not Roam
When the kids are put into kids club, they are secured. In Australia generally children can sign themselves in and out of kids club from age 10. On the Britannia, kids have to be 13 years old to gain that privilege.
The kids club was also open quite late - until 11pm at night. The Brits like to party so the kids are well looked after so the parents can enjoy the onboard evening activities.
6. No Leaving Kids On The Ship
If parents go ashore - the kids go with them. In Australia and the US kids clubs operate on port days and parents are able to leave the ship without the kids. This is not allowed on the Britannia.
Not that we have regularly done this - however there have been a few occasions when we have taken the kids off the ship in the morning and then enjoyed an afternoon exploring further without them when they were too tired to continue.
On this particular cruise our first port day was met with cold, wind and rain. Whilst we put ponchos on the kids and headed out into the awful weather, they were not impressed. We did not get to explore much - there was only so far we could force them to walk in the rain. The adults however would have soldiered through - but back to the ship it was. The kids enjoyed their afternoon in kids club whilst the adults had to sit on deck and wonder what could have been explored at a port stop they would probably never return to.
7. Best of British
Best of British sail away party, Best of British quiz, Best of British party night, Best of British stage show - I did not realise the British were so patriotic. It was actually great to see - even if it meant at Trivia time we got the so called “easy questions” wrong. We simply had no chance when the theme of the quiz was British TV show songs.
8. Formal is Formal
Wow can the British bring out a frock! Where did all these women get such formal gowns from. I have never seen so many long flowing ball gowns and men in tuxedos. Even on smart casual evenings the British glam it up! Maybe they don’t get out much - maybe they are just more proper than us Aussies. Even on the last night of the cruise passengers were suited and booted with high heels, frocks and ties on display.
Cruising is a great family travel option, if you are considering a cruise outside of Australian waters you may want to consider a few of the cultural differences you will encounter. Have you cruised abroad? What differences did you notice?
Itchy Feet Family
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Planning on a cruise holiday? Beware of the cruiselings. These are the seasoned cruisers that tend to have developed a language of their own that can be confusing for a first-time cruiser.
As self-confessed cruiselings, Itchy Feet Family have compiled a list of lingo that to a novice may not quite make as much sense - so we have broken it down for you.
Here are our top 15 Cruise Ship Lingo explained.
When you make your booking you will have an option of either booking a specific cabin on the ship that you select from the deck plans or to book a “Guaranteed Cabin”. A Guaranteed Cabin means that you are guaranteed that class of cabin or above. You will not be notified of your cabin number until close to your cruise departure. If you are booking multiple cabins and want to make sure you are positioned together, it is not a good idea to book a guaranteed cabin. People sometimes think if they book an interior cabin on guaranteed they will be upgraded to a balcony - this is not likely……
An interconnecting cabin is like interconnecting hotel rooms - it means there is a door between two cabins that can be opened to connect the two. However unless you are actually booking two cabins, being allocated an Interconnecting cabin does not mean you have been given two rooms. It is just a courtesy to let you know that there is a door between your cabin and the next - and essentially that the noise restriction between the two rooms may be affected.
A tender is not a document produced and written to the government asking for a contract or grant funding, on a cruise ship the Tender is the small boat used to ferry passengers between the ship and the port of call.
When you board the ship you will notice the Tender ships hoisted up on the side. They are also what the ships use in an emergency - lets hope you never have to use them for that - only to explore a port.
If you are taking a cruise on a small expedition ship, a Zodiac is used instead of a tender boat. A zodiac is a robust motorised small rubber boat used to ferry passengers from ship to shore or to simply explore waterways at a more intimate level.
A tender port is a location that does not have the infrastructure for the cruise ship to pull directly in to disembark passengers. It is a tender port that will require the use of the Tender boats to get passengers ashore.
When visiting a tender port your ship will instruct you the process of getting onto a tender, generally you are required to gather in the ship’s theatre to collect a numbered ticket. When your ticket number is called you head to the bottom deck where there will be a pontoon set up for embarking/disembarking onto the Tender.
Before your ship leaves it’s embarkation port it is international law that a safety drill is performed with all passengers onboard. Passengers will be directed to collect their life jacket from their cabin and assemble at their allocated Muster Station. This does not refer to an outback sheep station in central Australia, but rather your meeting/assembly point for the safety drill and subsequent emergencies should it be required.
This is a tour arranged by the cruise line at your port locations. The advantage of booking a shore tour is that you are guaranteed the ship will not leave without you. If your tour bus gets caught in traffic or breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the ship will not leave without you. The risk of booking independent shore tours is that if you do not make it back to the ship by boarding time, the ship will happily sail into the sunset without you!
It seems crazy that I would explain this, however I recently completed a weekend Sea Break where I heard a passenger complaining that they were astounded that the ship had not stopped anywhere all weekend! A Sea Break - or Sea Days - literally means your cruise ship will be out at sea and not docking anywhere. Sit back and enjoy the Sea!
Sail Away Party
One of the best parties to get involved with on the ship - the Sail Away! Say farewell to land and hello cruise holiday. Most ships will have music playing, bars fully stocked and all the entertainment staff on the deck getting you in the right spirit for your relaxing getaway.
The Entertainment Director on a cruise ship is the fun police. It is their job to schedule all the passenger activities and ensure passengers are having fun. Often you will see them running a Trivia or a Bingo and they will appear on the theatre stage at the end of the night letting you know what entertainment is planned for the rest of the night and the next day. You may hear them over the loud speaker with announcements of activities you can get involved with and you will also see them at all the parties around the ship getting people involved in whatever is going on. A good Entertainment Director can really set the tone of your cruise and make sure everyone is having a good time.
A lot of ships have a common deck named the Lido deck. This is a common term for the deck that has the open air pool and activities.
The wake of the ship is the powerful wash of water viewed from the back of the ship as it sails through the ocean. Quite often you will see people at the back of the ship watching the wake at sunset or sunrise.
This is your most important item on your cruise. Before you board the ship, at check in, you will have your photograph taken and issued a cruise card. Your cruise card is you key access to your cabin, your payment method for all things on the ship and your identification as you board and disembark the ship.
On-board Credit/ On-board Spend
Many cruise lines offer incentives for booking that includes OBC - on board credit. This is a nominated amount that is added to your cruise card available for you to spend wherever you wish on the ship. Spend it at the bar, on shore tours, at the duty free shop or spa - the choice is yours.
Anytime dining is a dining room that allows you to simply walk up and ask for a table at whatever time you feel like dining. If a table is available you will be seated immediately, if there is a queue you will need to wait your turn. Alternatively you will have allocated dining which is a set time for your dining. Many ships will have allocated dining times for evening meals. An early dining time - around 5:30 and a late seating time of 8pm. If your ship has allocated dining you choose one of the times and that is your dining time for the duration of the cruise. Generally you will sit at the same table each night. A great option for solo travellers wanting some company for dinner.
I am sure there are many more that would be of interest to first time cruisers. If you have a word to add to our list, share it with us in the comments below, we would love to hear them.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Other blogs you may be interested in:
- Christmas Cruising: Pros and Cons
- Family Cruising - Five Top Tips
- Dixie Dude Ranch - Visit to a Real Texas Cowboy Ranch
- Cruise Ship Thermal Suites - Are they Worth It?
- Mystery Island - Things to Do on a Cruise Ship Port Day
Recently we took a weekend Sea Break P&O Cruise out of Adelaide departing Outer Harbour on the Friday, sailing around the coastline to nowhere in particular, before coming back to land on the Monday morning and heading off to work for the week.
It was a fantastic weekend away on a cruise to nowhere! And the added benefit of the departure in and out of Adelaide meant there were no airport connections or long drives required for our quick break.
The cruise we sailed on was billed as a “Comedy Cruise” which to be honest I really had no idea, nor cared, what that meant as I was just happy to get away. However it become apparent that there were cruisers on this particular journey for whom the Comedy element was the main drawcard.
So what can you expect and take away from a comedy cruise?
If you are a budding comedian, or have any desire to tick off your bucket list standing in front of a large crowd and giving it your best to make them laugh - this is a perfect opportunity to do just that. Not only did this cruise come complete with nightly comedy shows, it also offered passengers the opportunity to learn from the masters before giving it a try.
Our first night at sea we were warmed up at the Sit Down Comedy Club. An adults only show performed at 9pm in the ships main theatre featuring our MC/Host for the cruise and a stand up comedian. For our weekend we were entertained by Kehau Jackson and recent Adelaide Fringe award winning performer Luke Heggie.
On our first full day at sea passengers were given an opportunity to join a Comedy Workshop with Kehau Jackson. Tips on joke writing, delivery, knowing your audience, stage presence and more were handed out to budding comedians posing as passengers on the cruise.
On Saturday night the 400+ seat Marquee theatre filled again at 8:30pm for an all ages performance and then at 11pm for an Adults only Comedy Gala. This evening we were entertained by Pete Rowsthorn of Kath & Kim fame, Bev Killick, Elbow Skin and an encore from Luke Heggie.
For cruisers with little ones wanting to see the late show the kids club is open until 10:30pm at no extra charge, for a minimal charge of just $5 per hour you can leave the little ones in until 1pm so you can make the most of the comedy on offer.
For our last sea day the comedy continued and was packed into the day and night. Starting with an up close and funny session with the comedians at 2pm, this lead into the Comedy Gong Show where passengers hit the stage. The twin deck theatre was packed as budding comedians took the microphone and did their best to make us laugh, impress the judging panel and avoid the sound of the gong ready to be hit at any time by the entertainment director.
I must say I was surprised at how many passengers hit the stage. There were eight contestants brave enough to get up and give it a go. Granted, some of them probably shouldn’t have! but credit to them for giving it a go - it was more than I could do!
For our last night at sea a new act performed, Moments of Magic and Humour with Jonas Jost followed later in the night with one final Sitdown Comedy Club performance that featured Kehau Jackson and Bev Killick.
With all this entertainment included in your cruise fare, along with your accommodation, meals and child care - what a great value weekend. A night out to a fancy restaurant, a show at the Adelaide Fringe, a hotel in town and a babysitter for the night would almost cost you the same!
Whilst I loved the weekend, my only negative was that we sailed in 2016 on the Adelaide Comedy Cruise and we saw some of the same comedians - who disappointingly used much of the same material again in 2017. I would love to do the weekend again in 2018 and really hope that P&O can find some new fresh talent before then as a joke is only really funny once…….
Have you done a comedy cruise before - let us know what you thought?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Other blogs you may be interested in
- Cruise to nowhere - weekend at sea
- Christmas Cruising - the pros and cons
- Dixie Dude Ranch - our stay at a real cowboy ranch in Texas
- Lest we forget - visiting battlefields of Long Tan
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.