Cancelled flights, super quick catch-up with friends, complicated transfers & finally our home for the next 10 days.
Early morning notification from Jetstar to inform us of cancelled flight was surprising but we remained reasonably calm! Weblink provided by Jetstar was not helpful but the call Centre was. We managed to have our flight rescheduled to 2 flights after ours (13 of us on the same flight) exactly why we booked one of the earlier morning flights!
The traffic was slooooow on the Ring Road & the Jetstar Check In counters were slightly chaotic with humans being replaced by machines to check baggage in. Good idea in theory however NOT when the machines would intermittently fail.
Arrival at Sydney was smooth with baggage collection & boarding our train bound for Circular Quay. Janelle, Elissa & Ashton met us at the station for a 5 minute catch up while Captain Cook Cruises swiftly organized our journey to White Bay Cruise Terminal. $9 per pax. An 800m walk to the check-in counters & we are so relieved to see our ship – our home for the next 10 days waiting for us. Relief.
Customs forms to fill in. Sickness indemnities, cruise tags distributed, luggage tagged to find its way to our rooms and we are on our way!
Interior rooms (9240 & 9243) with 2 bunks x 2 are pokey but liveable. Lifts, stairs, rooms and people everywhere. We are starving & want to go to The Pantry (apparently there is lots of food there) but we get to The Pantry & it is closing for the mock sinking drill – the kids had already found the pantry. I scoffed down any food I could find – went back to my room & made my way to the VERY crowded muster station C. I’d lost everyone by now & met a family of 4 from Perth. The Dad reminded me that the Titanic set sail on 10th April. Hmmmmmm……so it did! Brittany & I booked us in to the Waterfront Restaurant for our evening meals – 5:15.
After this it was time for the Sailaway Party on the open deck! Let’s get this party started! We are all feeling so exhausted but the Sailaway Party perked us up. So much fun – NOW I feel like I’m on holidays & perhaps out of a scene on The Love Boat – except in Sydney. The spectacular sight going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge was pretty awesome. After the party we explored the kids clubs – Shark Shack for Kobi (we gave him sign in/sign out privileges until 10:30pm daily.)-HQ for Corey, Brooke & Kynan, HQ+ for Lachlan with sign in/sign out privileges until 1:30am.
Dinner at The Waterfront was Swedish Themed & I was so exhausted the rocking of the boat nearly put me to sleep. How was I going to cope with the evening program! The unlimited beverage package may assist – it did! Managed to stay awake through the Welcome Aboard show in the Marquee. That was fun!
Then it was time for BED – ahhhhhhhh- rocking of the boat was very peaceful.
The Mason family holiday adventures continue. Not so smooth a start as our JQ flight to Sydney was cancelled! Fingers crossed this flight is not cancelled because we have a ship to catch which is leaving Sydney at 4pm
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Movies and Welcome Parties
What to do at sea? There is so much to occupy our time. No time to be bored. Breakfast & Lunch at ‘The Pantry’…..Dinner at the waterfront. Lazing on the deck, movies on the deck, swimming in the COLD deck pool, as many drinks as we like, family welcome dance parties, & ‘Adele’ concert in The Marquee, not to mention the SECRETS TO A FLATTER STOMACH seminar some of us girls went to. Ian & I also went on a sneaky date to the piano bar. What more could we wish for? We have signed up for The Edge Adventure Activities which we will start tomorrow. Phew! So much going on.
It was a very rocky boat last night. Woke up a bit wobbly & slept in because we don’t have any sunlight coming into our room. This morning we ran some laps around the deck, the girls went to the gym, and the oldies did Armchair Aerobics. Mum made a paper flower – that’s what I love about this cruise – something for everyone. Apart from lazing by the pool deck (and witnessing a few vomiting kids – bit rocky today and seasickness appears to be kicking in), we tried the Flying Fox (this was fun flying across the deck), climbed the climbing wall, participated in a game show, learned the art of ballroom dancing (well, we tried – the instructor didn’t seem too impressed with his students), watched the Magical Carnivale Show in the Marquee which Ian ‘assisted’ in, played name that song trivia, hung out in the Connexions Bar listening to live music, and cheered on Round 1 of Pacific Karaoke. We’re hitting land tomorrow & looking forward to spending time on the island of Mare.
Land! This morning we arrived at the New Caledonian island of Mare. Having already purchased 2 shuttle tickets for $9.50 per person ($5.50 for the 3 younger kids) in the Atrium 2 days prior we were good to go. Tenders are required to get us all to the island so in the morning after breaky we lined up with the rest of the ship in one section ready to board the tenders. Organized chaos & we were amongst the first 3 tenders to get to the island of Mare where we were greeted by ladies singing. Then aboard the shuttle to Ledjele Beach – the main thing to do in Mare. Approx 20 minute shuttle ride (I think every car & bus in town was ‘hired’ to shuttle the population of the ship) took us to a beautiful warm beach which I’m sure when there is no cruiselings there this beach is magical. With cruiselings it is still beautiful just crowded. The locals are very welcoming with music booming, lifeguards, & lots of huts & locals making $$ out of anything they could. Hair braiding (Brittany, Brooke & I paid $45 to get our hair done). We paid $5 each for a bucket of chips, $3 for coconut, $4 for an ice cream & $5 for chair hire. This chair hire seems to be a new lucrative business discovered today thanks to Mum & totally explains why the girl braiding Brooke’s hair changed from sitting in a chair to sitting on a log! Quite peculiar I thought until at dinner time Mum told me the story of how she thought it would be handy if Dad had a chair to sit on at the beach. Turns out she asked one of the locals whether they had a chair that she could hire. Ching Ching! Of course they did. We’re thinking now perhaps the chair that Brooke’s hairdresser was sitting on was taken off her to fill Mums request! Eventually a few other beachgoers decided it was a good idea & as we were leaving the beach we realized there was a sign saying ‘chair hire $5’.
As we were lining up to board our tender to get back on the ship We noticed about 20-30 cruiselings swimming off the boat ramp. I think these cruiselings didn’t wish to pay for the $9.50 shuttles. They have no idea what they missed out on. Ugly boat ramp or beautiful clear beach with amazing views? Definately worth the $9.50. Just before boarding the tenders Kynan also took the opportunity to join in with the singing ladies & clapped along with them.
Safely back on the ship & we are STARVING but The Pantry is closed until 5pm. Arrrrrrgh! I’m hangry! The bar is open so until 5pm I filled my tummy with soft drinks and cocktails. Had to be quick though as we went to the theatre for Laser Tag (part of our Edge Pass). Unfortunately Segway were cancelled due to the rain so kids ‘slacklined’ in the rain. Ian & I gave it a miss! Nightlife was fun with Name That Tune – Ian & I signed up for the Marriage Match game show in the Marquee. Thankfully we didn’t get ‘chosen’ to play. Was funny but happy we weren’t one of the couples! Early start tomorrow as we meet with our Vanuatu friends.
WOW! What a day! Day started early so we could line up first to get off the boat. Breakfast – tick, lining up – tick but then chaos arrives with the announcements telling us to go on a different level. No-one knew where they were meant to be going. We ended up in the middle of the line. Arrrrrgh! That plan failed & was rather frustrating as no-one knew what was going on. Not a great P&O moment. Thankfully this time we could just walk straight off the boat but through a maze of souvenir shops. Eventually we found Pastor Zebedee whom Brittany & Lachlan met at the Vanuatu School Mission Trips. A warm welcome with a sign saying Lachie Mason & we boarded Pastor Zebedees mini bus for a fun filled educational & inspiring day out in Port Vila.
Pastor drove us through some communities which was a massive eye opening experience as we saw how the Vanuatu people live, past the government house, correction Centre, local shopping centres, resorts & so many other community landmarks.
We enjoyed a Good Friday church service at His Victory Church & met, played & talked with many of the families & children after the service. The 2 Grandpas had he opportunity to preach and pray. Such a lovely authentic experience. We were sorry to have to leave after church so quickly as the children were having fun with the local children playing soccer & doing card tricks.
However, boarding time for the ship is 5pm so we had things to do. Pastor Zebedee & his wife Rowlinn were very kind & hospitable & drove us around Port Vila. We drove up to Cascades Waterfalls which is not what it used to be before the drought so we declined admission into there. Hideaway Island and the underwater post office was a different experience whereby we were met by a boat which took us over to Hideaway Island. Pretty fish were seen with the snorkeling gear and we even posted a waterproof postcard to the Underwater Post Office. Yep! It is an authentic Post Office & there is such thing as a waterproof postcard. Unfortunately the coral has been damaged from the 2015 Cyclone so is not very bright. Water shoes would be recommended next time we visit.
Lunch at the Hideaway Island Cafe & Pastor drove us to the Blacksand Slum Community & school which they have set up. WOW! Eye opening & so pleased to see where the kids go to on their Mission Trip. This community lives in extremely simple housing with most ‘houses’ made out of tin and some with grass roofs. Lots of mud & rubbish & dogs BUT everyone seems very friendly & we receive many warm smiles. We were going to spend some time at The Blue Lagoon but not wanting to miss our ship – a long way to swim to the next island – we made the decision to go shopping in the main strip at Port Vila. This was fun – we purchased our mandatory fake brand sunglasses, rip off DVDs, tacky key rings & snorkel set from the supermarket. Farewells to our new friends & we’re quick to jump back onboard and straight to The Edge for our Big Screen Experience – standing as high in the ship as we can & waving goodbye to Port Vila. All 9 of us – Masons & Alyssa on top of the world.
The island of Lifou is where the Kanak people are from. Beautiful beach at port. Our ‘tour’ is not till the afternoon so we explore the island – walk up to the cathedral & take a ‘short cut’ for a fee! Apparently it’s $2 per person to take the short cut. A 17 year old boy called Michel is a good businessman. We walk the steps to the cathedral & take in the view. Then we discover Janek Marine Reserve. Looks gorgeous to swim & snorkel in & we ask the local man how much to swim? He tells us we needed to prepay on the ship. There were only 200 passes sold. So we showed the local man some Aussie dollars. He was happy for 5 kids to swim for $20! On the ship pre-paid it cost $16 per person! Corrupt!
After a snorkel and people watching the local kids being absolute daredevils jumping off the ramp showing no fear we headed back to the main hut to board our tour of a vanilla plantation & the Jokin Cliffs. The transport is VERY different to what we are used to back at home & not necessarily supersafe but we made it to the plantation, where we learned about the vanilla bean & its growth on the island, then we were driven down to the cliffs where we drank from a coconut, were presented with head wreaths & walked down to the cliffs to take us to a pretty view. Back on the road again & we arrive back at the main hut where the local people perform one last traditional dance for us. Brittany & I were chosen to dance with them. That was fun! Back on the ship by Tender & we got our whites on because tonight is White Party night. On Deck it was the kids party & Ian won best lady dancer & I won best female dancer. That is now 2 wins for Ian’s dancing skills. I was also part of the winning ‘mothers’ over & under team – we beat the Dads! WooHoo. In the Connexions Room for DJ Rhemedy ‘name That Song’. Tonight I gathered a team of Brooke’s B’ball coach & his girlfriend who happen to be on the same ship & some other newfound young friends from Darwin (Mat & Sarah), then there was the family from Yepoon, QLD. Between us we STILL didn’t win but we are back tomorrow night for the Noighties (2000s). Then it’s party time for White Night. Kids went to kids club & played casino games!!! Really? Is that appropriate?, then we were meant to party for White Night on the deck. Not happening because it rained. Party was relocated to Connexions which was quite crowded….fun atmosphere though. The grandparents & Lachlan were happy watching a movie in the Marquee – but that was cancelled! I found Ben Kitchen the program director at the White Night party and talked Entertainment Programming & got the lowdown. That was all! Noumea tomorrow!
Happy Easter. The Easter Bunny found us on the ship! An Easter Sunday church service was enjoyed by half of us – the other half of us made it to the last song.
It’s a port day so another busy day of adventuring. Shore excursions are very expensive and really difficult to know what to do so today we have decided to chance it and not pre-book anything. Grandma & Grandpa and Grandma & Grumpy hopped on the Noumea In A Nutshell bus tour. We resisted the urge to pre-purchase the Hop On Hop Off pass sold by P&O and purchased on land. For $24 each we got on the Hop On Hop Off bus & a boat taxi over to Duck Island. P&O shore tours was trying to sell a similar trip for $70-$80!
First we shopped at the markets & purchased 2 storybooks – 1 in French/1 in English – written by a local artist. Then we bussed to Lemon Tree Bay – shopped at the local chocolate shop, walked to the boat taxi to take us to Duck Island. Duck Island is quite pretty snorkeling but not amazing. We had a lovely relaxing time on the beach, then a quick lunch stop to try out Noumea McDonalds – VERY EXPENSIVE!!
Back on board OUR ship (Pacific Aria is also in dock & looks so much newer than our Pacific Jewel).
Tonight’s entertainment- Mentalist Anthony Ley (AMAZING).
Ahhhhhhh! The Isle of Pines. A relaxing place. Tenders take us to the beach which is just there waiting for us to swim! A small market, & just a short walk along we find a fabulous place to enjoy one of our favourite holiday pastimes – stand up paddle boarding! We hire 2 paddle boards for $30 for 1 hour. The fish are aplenty but not super pretty in this spot. Apparently turtles were spotted at the beach but we didn’t see any.
For $25pp we went on a guided bus tour to some landmarks of interest on the island. Our tour guide was VERY enthusiastic and friendly but unfortunately could not speak clear English. This was a great opportunity for me & the children to brush up on our French speaking skills! A similar tour was being sold for $60 as a shore excursion through P&O so we were very pleased with our ‘bargain’ & greater insight into The Isle of Pines.
Back to our ship & we are treated to a show by hypnotist Peter Powers. Ian & I are amongst the volunteers willing to be hypnotized but unfortunately, or fortunately we were duds, so we watched the show which was rather amusing.
Following the Hypnotist show was The Crew Show which consisted of 4 acts by staff including magic, singing, cocktail making & Michael Jackson dancing impersonations. These were quite good but then the entertainment team did some skits that were reminiscent of Grade 6 concert skits. Not impressed but I suppose they tried. Then…….bed!
Sea Day – what to do? Ian & I signed up to do The Titanic Moment & the Bow Climb. Ahhhhhhh! The Jack & Rose moment – we’re on top of the world! That was pretty cool.
Ian & I relaxed on the open deck – watched a movie ‘Mr Church’. We didn’t really do much but the day passed by quick enough. Kids did The Edge activities & hung out at kids club.
The kids entered Ian into the Mr Sexy Legs competition & I was most upset that the judges didn’t make him the winner or even a finalist! They don’t know potential when they see it. Lindsay from New Zealand with his tattooed legs won the crown. The evening show was Tony Pantono (not our style but the Grandparents enjoyed his singing & he seems like a nice man). Tonight was also The Gatsby Party. The kids/teens/adults all get a party. We started with the kids/family party & ended at the adults party. Mid adult party Ian & I take refuge in The Orient where the piano man plays / sings some tunes. The kids are ‘somewhere’ in the ship enjoying themselves too
Sleep in purely because it is so dark in our room being an interior room. The captain woke us up with a report of whale sightings so we pounced out of bed to find the whales. Unfortunately we didn’t spot the whales but we were now up & at ’em! Breaky at The Pantry & we are ready to meet the day.
A culinary show at The Marquee & then a tour of the Galley where all the food is prepared! Amazing!!!! There were escalators & all!
On our way to the ice carving demonstration I stopped by the “How to lose 5kg in 10 Days seminar”. This was totally the same as how to get a flatter stomach – just different title! After 10 minutes I caught up with the others and enjoyed the amazing ice carving demonstration on deck.
At 2pm it was back to The Marquee for the Time to Shine show which Brooke was performing in amongst many of the other kids onboard – Kynan & Kobi declined.
3pm and it’s time for Pacific Popstars. Performances by 6 finalists were enjoyed ranging from a Michael Jackson (this was Lindsay the man crowned Mr Sexy Legs) tryhard who unfortunately could not sing, to an 84 year old man who endeared himself to the audience and an amazing female singer who belted out her tunes & was clearly the star of the day.
Then it was time for the big official wave ‘goodbye’ from the crew & a lovely video recapping our cruise memories.
Then, it was time to pack our bags & fill out our customs cards in preparation for our disembarknent tomorrow. Feeling rather sad that our cruise adventure is coming to an end. We have met some lovely people & have created lots of happy family memories. The staff have been amazing! We went down to Waterfront to join the family for dinner even though Ian & I treated ourselves to dinner at The Salt Grill tonight. Delicious last night treat. We said our goodbyes to our amazing waiters.
One last show at The Marquee featuring The Mentalist (our favourite), The Impressionist & singer Tony Lantano. After our Salt Grill dinner Ian & I are entertained by comedian Gary Who in The Marquee. Then we hunt for the children. All are in bed except Brooke & Kynan. Pick them up from kids club & it’s time for bed. Perhaps early start in the morning as the kids want to see our ship sail into Sydney!
Last day. Sad to say goodbye. Up early to see the sunrise & ship sail into Sydney. It really is an amazing sight! We are one of the first groups to leave as we have a bus transfer to the airport. Pick up our bags – through customs – on the bus to the airport & our holiday is coming to an end – BooHoo. Goodbye Pacific Jewel – we have had fun. Perhaps we will see you again!