A Travellerspoint blog

Day 12 - Vanuatu

A day ashore


View South Pacific on Christinesolo's travel map.

I am woken up around 7.30 by the bed shuddering, the ship is docking. I don't see what people saw in vibrating beds, it really did nothing for me. Maybe the vibrating needs to be constant and not in bursts, I don't know.

The ship is docked and the gangways are open so I can go ashore at any time. So I fluff around, have a coffee then head down. There are markets set up along the road even though I keep getting asked if I want a cab into town I just want to go for a walk. I buy a dress, colourful for $18, I see others same style different patterns for $15 a little further along. Typical. I finish one side and cross over to do the other, I get part way and run into Sylvia who says she is going to a handcrafts market she saw in a building just up the road. She wants to get back in time to go snorkelling no worries. It is a slightly up hill walk in the sun but it doesn't take us long to get there. I have water but stop to get a cold coke zero. Then I spot a shop selling postcards so I have to get one. Then back to the markets, one stall is selling jewellery made out of seeds and shells. Quite nice, especially the shells but I am restrained. Move on and find a stall selling cotton shirts with painted designs. I buy one with turtles on the back, well at least I think they are turtles. I asked the woman selling them and she started to giggle. Then I buy another colourful dress same style as the last one but $3 cheaper from another stall. Sylvia also bought a couple things and we head back. Time for a snack and a nap before dinner.

Another nice meal met two more people, and we had a nice conversation. It's been a long day so hopefully I will have an early night. But first some more of the comparisons. Meals are probably where the big differences are on the three cruises I have experienced. Arcadia and Sun Princess organise passengers into 2 sittings for dinner in the main dining room. Their dining rooms are quite spacious with mainly round or oval tables. They have an a la carte menu split in 2 sections, a standard menu that doesn't change on one side and a changing menu on the other side. All meals came with vegetables. The food is always well presented and served with appropriate garnishes. On the Pacific Jewel they have the same menu format but you have to order vegetables separately as a side dish. I heard people complain but I always found the food to be fantastic. They also have buffets that even though you move around them to add to your plate it felt more like a Sizzler salad and pasta bar than a cafeteria except here on the Pacific Jewel it feels like a cafeteria and there isn't as great a choice as there was on the others. The Arcadia had longer service hours in the buffet, in fact I think they only closed for about half an hour twice a day. There was also a grill out near the pool with some basic favourites on the Sun Princess and the Arcadia. The Pacific Jewel has one but fewer choices. Room Service costs on Sun Princess and Pacific Jewel but most things were part of the fare on Arcadia. The Sun Princess had a Pizzeria that was included in the fare and was open for lunch and dinner. They all have specialty restaurants that cost extra.

Posted by Christinesolo 07:27 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Day 11 - At sea heading toward Vanuatu

A time to reflect a little

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Leisurely morning, can see land so we must be passing islands. Today there is an Art Auction and I have decided I want to see how they operate. I arrived way too early so I have a good look through the Jewellery Store as well as some of the other shops. Unlike the Sun Princess and Arcadia, I have not found any "real" jewellery pieces here I like. They also don't seem to have as many pieces. There are lots of ways that I could compare the three cruise lines and for me the Aussie P&O comes in third most of the time.

Let's start the comparison with the rooms, all three cabins I have experienced have had a balcony. The Sun Princess had a sliding door out to the balcony, whereas the other two have hinged doors, the Arcadia door would not stay open but on the Pacific Jewel it does stay open. They all have comfortable beds and air conditioning that doesn't really work properly, Aussie P&O has a lamp and drawers in the study desk that act as a bedside table whereas on the others there was a separate bedside table. The TV size was about the same on the Princess and Aussie P&O and was positioned in the corner near the balcony door, the Arcadia TV was larger and mounted on the wall opposite the bed/s. The wardrobes are probably the same on all three just a slight variation on layout. Size of the bathrooms is also similar, so don't bring a cat to any of them!

More later on the comparisons! I went to the Art Auction, which there was a lot of interest in, and I couldn't understand why until the fellow started. Apparently the give away pieces of art as lucky door prizes. From what I could see most of what they are selling are prints, some limited editions and signed. The sale at auction is final, unless otherwise stated the artwork is unframed and there are additional costs for shipping outside the US. The fact that the ship sails in and out of Australia and therefore most of the passengers will be from Australia seems to have escaped these guys. Anyway the first few prints were passed in then there was a sale, more passed in then a door prize draw. Some people then seemed to lose interest. The poor auctioneer seemed to lose concentration just a little when two young girls came in wearing just bikinis to talk with a woman in the seated section. One of the young women kept gesturing towards her breasts so I am not sure what the problem was but fortunately they didn't stay long.

It really amuses me that they have "rules" - dress standards for the lounges and dining areas but they don't enforce them. Anyway it was interesting to see how the run the art auctions on board. After finishing my cocktail I head off to see what else is happening. I have a hot chocolate then head back to my room for a while. It is really pleasant on the balcony in the afternoon.

There are a lot of people waiting outside the restaurant when I arrive but I don't have to wait long for Sylvia, and we head in to the table they have booked. The two couples didn't turn up so it's just the two of us. Stewards come around with menus and water. We have a rather enjoyable dinner and part ways agreeing to meet in the theatre for the evening show which again is a musical production. Not bad but unlike on the Princess and Arcadia the theatre is half empty.

After the show, Sylvia wants to check out the band in the Atrium and I head off to one of the lounges to check out the karaoke. I find a table on the edge of the room so I can make a quick escape if needed. Unfortunately after I order a drink an ignorant mother with her three daughters comes along and stands right in front of me. Now I can't see anything, eventually they move slightly and I can see a bit of the stage between their heads. Given this is a bar, and it's 10.30pm I would have thought kids wouldn't be allowed but the waiters are back and forth and say nothing. The first guy is pretty good, the next was kind of ok and the next couple are pretty good. A couple of drunk guys step up and are fairly bad but not bad enough to be funny. Time for me to head off I think!

Posted by Christinesolo 07:24 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Day 10 - A second day at sea

The day I wished I was 25 years younger!

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Ahh this is the life. I draw back my curtains to see sunny skies and relatively calm seas. I have my "Do not disturb" sign on the door so I can get some writing done or have yet another sleep in. I will shower and head up to the cafeteria soon for a coffee. I also want to go to the session today on the feet, what I heard yesterday was interesting so I would like to get my foot print analysed. That's at 1pm in one of the lounges, before that at 10.30 there is a talk on diamonds.

By the time I had a coffee, walked around and dropped off forms to reception I missed the diamonds talk. I pop back to the grill and grab a sausage on a hot dog bun for brunch or lunch then down to the lounge for the foot talk. Time for a cocktail before it starts, today I think I will have a Midori Splice. Trouble with them is that it is so easy to drink them quickly.

The foot talk starts with the free foot prints, so off with the shoes and walk on the little pad and viola I made a foot print. This tall, tanned, muscly, handsome man with amazing brown eyes and wonderful accent starts talking, he is so expressive and enthusiastic. He says his name is Zoran that's heaps better than Ketut. No idea what he said for about the first 5 minutes, did I mention he was good looking and really well put together? He kept looking straight at each one of us in the group so I decided I should get out of my head and listen. OMG, I was sitting in the right spot because he headed over to me and started to massage my shoulder to demonstrate something he was talking about. As soon as he started moving towards me I lost all concentration, I reckon I must have gone all shades of red. I certainly hope he can't read faces as well as he reads feet. He said something about a full body massage later - again not sure what he said for the next 5 or 10 minutes. Seriously though it seems I put too much pressure on my toes and the balls of my feet when I walk which causes stress on my lower back and shoulders which could cause pain and headaches. That was an hour well spent if just for my imagination!

I check out the casino, but don't stop to play anything. It's huge, lots of pokies and many I've never seen before. In the centre slightly lower are the tables bit quiet just now but the pokies seem popular. Time to look at the shops jewellery, perfume, alcohol and clothes. Some beautiful red jewellery pieces, very tempting but I resist.

A little afternoon nap then up to collect my Good feet arch supports, then the cafe for a hot chocolate before heading back to the cabin to get dressed up for formal night. They were really busy in the spa before my hot chocolate so I tried again later but they are still busy.

Still not sure how formal nights work on this ship I might be getting dressed up for nothing, but then I really want to see the show tonight so it will be good to fit in. I need to drop off another form to reception about disembarkation, so I have a look at the restaurant and it's crowded inside and out. So I head up to the cafeteria where anything goes. I usually have my ipad so I can amuse myself but I left it in the cabin tonight. After eating I head back to the cabin, then at 9 I head to the theatre to get a good seat. I also have time for a cocktail, I am getting used to these Raspberry Coladas. A lady came up to me and asked if I was saving seats for anyone. I thought she was with the two people who were right behind her but when I said I was on my own she said she was too. We had a nice chat before the show, I asked her how she was handling dinner arrangements or lack thereof. This is her 7th or 8th cruise and this is the first time they have not done set seating for dinner so on the first night she went to the formal dining room and said she wanted a table and was happy to share. They put her with two couples and they had so much fun together they have continued the arrangement. I probably should have done that...next time I will know what to do. She said they have a table for 6 so if I wanted I could join them. Of course I jumped at the offer. Sylvia is a godsend! Now I seem to attract people who work in Education. The show was great, The Velvet Rope it didn't last that long maybe 45 minutes. Sylvia said she was heading downstairs to have a coffee and listen to some music before the comedy act at 11. She asked me if I wanted to join her, which I did it was quiet nice although the band only played one song before they finished.

At 11 we went back to the theatre for the Sit Down Comedy Club act, a man named Andrew Nason. We were warned that this was an 18+ show with lots of swearing. He was funny, although some people behind us didn't seem to think so. It was a good night, I am now really looking forward to dinner tomorrow night. New people and not the cafeteria!

Posted by Christinesolo 05:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 9 -At sea

Who is my new friend?

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Clocks went forward by 1 hour overnight and unlike other cruises it wasn't made blatantly obvious that was happening. Thankfully I only wanted a coffee for breakfast as they were setting up for lunch when I arrived for breakfast thinking it was nearly 10.

As soon as they opened the buffet for lunch people came out of the woodwork and loaded plates with all sorts of fried food. This buffet is set out differently to the Princess and Arcadia, all the food is in one area with the same dishes laid out on the left and the right, since there is no clear in and out it gets really congested. I have a peek to see what's on offer before moving off.

I collect my ipad seeing my room is as I left it, and head downstairs to find a lounge where I can sit, relax and have a cocktail or two. Ahh this is the life, well it was until a couple of kids ran past squealing about something. Good thing was they really were running so it didn't last long. A young couple came in with hot chips and sauce... Mmmmmm! Maybe I do need food.

There is a talk in this lounge about feet and how your feet affects the rest of your body as far as different pains are concerned. I listen while I drink my Raspberry Colada. When I get up to leave I seem to be a bit wobbly, seas must be rough!

I get back to my cabin to find Melwyn, my cabin steward, has left me a little present. Isn't he lovely!

My new friend 2

My new friend 2

My new friend

My new friend

Now I have company. Thank goodness he didn't make it out of pink towels cos that would have just frightened me a little.

Lunch will cease being served in 45 minutes so I will go eat in the cafeteria aka the Plantation Restaurant (buffet). They have a little booth near the pool selling New Zealand Ice cream, no mistaking it here ice cream costs extra. People keep giving me that look, like they feel sorry for me sitting on my own but I'm OK with it.

After lunch I feel really tired so back to the cabin. Now that foot talk is started to sink in a little so I take off my shoes, find some body lotion and sit out on my balcony for a foot massage. Ahhh that felt good but sitting in the sun has made me even more tired. An episode of Rush is on TV and it's the one where Michael dies. Then a movie with Stephen Curry and Shaun thingy comes on, it's the one about Damien Oliver. I haven't seen this. OK that was a six tissue movie! It reminded me of the Berry boys a little - one brother dies and the other keeps racing for them both. I don't remember the 2002 Melbourne Cup or Media Puzzle.

After a nap and a bit more writing it's up to the cafeteria for dinner. It's Country and Western night. I have nothing suitable, oh well I am sure 3/4 trousers and a souvenir T-shirt will suffice.

Tonight's show is a juggler, so I will give it a miss. Instead I grab a coffee and take a seat near the pool to watch the fourth quarter of the Hawthorn/Port Adelaide game. Got a bit exciting for a few minutes there! There were kids running around the pool, another yelling out miss it and goooo Hawthorn. Ahhh I miss the Arcadia...

Time to be in my room. They have left me a room service breakfast menu, aww I'm supposed to hand it in before retiring. Oh well I will have to go up for breakfast and yes that was a pathetic attempt at humour.

Posted by Christinesolo 02:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 8 - Embarkation Day in Sydney

Boarding the Pacific Jewel

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Got up and tried to squeeze everything back into my suitcase. Just need to pop out and buy a few things before going to the cruise terminal. Checked out on time and asked the nice man at reception to hold my suitcase for a couple of hours. No worries.

Found my way to David Jones and purchased a top and two pairs of long shorts. These will be good in the gym. Head back to the Vibe and try to fit my purchases into my suitcase. All good! Then hail a cab "New York style" as the receptionist said that was better than booking one.

Really nice cab driver, got my bag into the back of his car and we chatted the whole way to the terminal. Such a lovely day in Sydney, I didn't even need my cardigan. Looks like everyone decided to get to the terminal at the same time. First bag check, done! Then Health information card, completed. Queue for check in, along with about 1500 people. Imagine an airport queue at the peak time of the day in the days you couldn't check yourself in. There was a woman and her boyfriend/husband in front of me - he seemed laid back and happy, she was... Well the opposite! Behind me were two ladies, bit like me normally in that they didn't bloody shut up the whole time we were in that queue which was well over half an hour. Finally got through to a counter, picture taken for the ships records, departure card and cruise card provided. Now to fill out the departure card and line up for customs processing. Doesn't take long and I am heading through the glass tunnel and onto the ship. Scan in and she checks my photo and wishes me a great holiday. Next ship person wants to see my room number so she can tell me what floor I'm on. I know my cabin is on 11, I just don't know what deck I'm on now. It's 7 apparently so I am up 4 and all the way to the front.

View from my cabin on arrival

View from my cabin on arrival

White Bay Cruise Terminal

White Bay Cruise Terminal

My cabin

My cabin


Alt view of my cabin

Alt view of my cabin

This is very different to the Arcadia and the Sun Princess. I text a few people then head up one level to the pool deck to take some pictures. I finally decide on a cocktail and try to order it but the tell me they have closed for the evacuation drill. So it's back to the cabin to get my life jacket and wait for the 7 short and one long burst of the ships whistle. Off to the theatre, which is my muster station. They keep us in here longer than necessary waiting for a ship wide announcement. While we wait he asks us what are we supposed to do when we hear the general alarm.back to the cabin and collect - Life jacket, warm clothing, a hat and any medication. It's not hard to remember when nothing is happening. Five minutes later since we are still waiting he asks again. Then after another 5 minutes he asks again. Then again, we all groan and I answer mobile phone, the guy next to me says credit card for the second item and his wife says jewellery and I follow up with computer for the last. We amused ourselves and thankfully we weren't asked again.

Following the announcement that told us what to do if we heard the general alarm we were shown how to put the life jackets on. We were told to watch only and we would then be asked to put them on ourselves. As always there were two people who continued to put theirs on during the demonstration even though they were asked twice to wait. Once we all had our life jackets on and were again seated they said we could leave. Back to the cabin to put the vest away, collect my camera and glasses then back up on deck for the sail away. Slowly we edged out from the dock, then started to make our way to the mouth of the harbour. Another P&O ship was a couple of minutes ahead of us, reminded me a little of our transit of the Suez Canal just a few months ago. We seemed to just fit under the Sydney Harbour bridge but I am sure there was plenty of room. With Luna Park on one side and the Sydney Opera House on the other I moved from one side of the ship to the other to try to get some nice photos. It was windy and getting quite cold on deck so I went in to the buffet for a coffee to warm up.

Moving away from the dock

Moving away from the dock

Farewell Sydney

Farewell Sydney

Approaching the Bridge

Approaching the Bridge

Chasing the Pacific Pearl

Chasing the Pacific Pearl

Luna Park

Luna Park

A tight fit

A tight fit

What a view

What a view

The Opera House

The Opera House

Peaceful Sydney

Peaceful Sydney

The pilot heads back

The pilot heads back

On my way back to my cabin I watched the young ones on the flying fox over the pool. There were kids everywhere, I miss the Arcadia! At least tomorrow the kids room/s will be open. Funny thing is that one of the kids areas overlooks the adults only area. Now to work out dinner arrangements. Hmmm it seems that I can just turn up when I like to the buffet but the other restaurants I need to make a reservation. There are so many reasons why I should have waited for a Princess cruise and this is one of them. Looks like I will be dining solo. There is a cafe serving all sorts of chocolate treats and an ice creamery, but they cost extra just like most of the dining options. Room service costs extra, again I miss the Arcadia.

Flying Fox

Flying Fox

Another view from my cabin

Another view from my cabin

I couldn't get internet access in the room and the brochure said it was available in all public areas and lounges. Couldn't get it in the buffet when I had dinner so I went looking for an Internet cafe - there isn't one! One of the ship's people saw me checking out the deck plans on the wall. He said "is everything OK there, dear?" I responded yes thanks but walked away feeling very old... Dear? I'm not old enough to be a dear!! I should have coloured my hair.

Dinner wasn't bad, but there wasn't a great deal of choice. Being on my own, I would have preferred an a la carte menu with assigned stewards but I'm not on the Sun Princess or the Arcadia.

I stopped in one of the lounges there was a band playing but it had internet so I logged in/ signed up. That's done so it's time to walk the promenade deck - hmmm you can't go all the way around! Just as well this cruise is about writing and not about talking nice leisurely walks.

Back to the cabin to write, here it is nearly 10.30 and I haven't unpacked yet! They are playing "The Sapphires" on TV, even though I have seen it I keep stopping to watch.

Posted by Christinesolo 08:33 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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