Seasons in the Sun
Favorite thing: -
There were never enough deckchairs to lie in the sun – apart from one day between Vava’u and Rarotonga when we had rain, and in the pouring rain of Suva, as well on the last day in the cool air, getting closer to New Zealand ;-)
No, really, not even when the rain had stopped in the late afternoon did the people want to relax on the deckchairs, as it was not warm enough to roast and grill your skin. We could choose from about 200 deckchairs or more. (I did not bother to count…)
On piping hot days you could not get a deckchair in the shade, and I for my part needed a shower after an hour in the sun, and it was good that I sweated that much and had enough, because any minute longer, and I would have been sunburnt despite having applied sunscreen lotion.
The solution of the deckchair crisis was to pay AU$ 10 for a half or AU$ 15 for a full day at the Oasis Lounge. This did not only guarantee a deckchair but also permanent water supply as well as unlimited tea and coffee. (There were two one hour gaps in the supply of the latter between lunch and afternoon coffee, and dinner.
Those deckchairs were much nicer than the deck chairs in cost-free areas. They were padded, there were sunshades, so you did not get sunburnt, and there was a lot of space to other people. In fact, it was soooooooo quiet! Sometimes you heard only the gurgling of the spa pool – which I did not use due to the health crisis on board, although they took test samples from the water every hour…Related to:
Onboard Entertainment, Shops and Spa
Favorite thing: -
There is more on offer than you can ever do. It started with a welcome party that began long before the ship left port in Auckland. Live music, raffles, and making a conga-line for warming up the people. (We fled to a safe watching distance LOL) If you want to make the monkey, this is the right place for you. I was most impressed with a guy who took about one second to jump into the pool with all his clothes and shoes on after the showmaster promised a bottle of best champagne to the first person to jump into the pool…
The two evening shows with vocalists, dancers, comedians and cirque performers were always a big hit with the crowds.
We quite enjoyed the presentations of the destinations the day before going ashore, with the focus on history but also some glimpses into geology and local encounters.
There were people who went to the bingo every day, or to bridge courses, table tennis and chess tournaments, dance classes, fitness classes like the Bootcamp at Sea, arts and crafts workshops, quiz shows, speed sudoku, shuffleboard and quoits fun. There were films shown on the big screen and a huge selection of movies you could view via the TV in your cabin. One day, I remember, there was an ice-carving demonstration – quite an exotic idea on a cruise to the Tropics.
We went to the sports quiz in the last week but after we had won ten P&O bags (combined) my husband did not want us to carry on playing, so others had the chance to win one of those rather useless bags LOL
There were separate entertainment areas for children and teens well tucked away from the general amenities, so nobody had to endure permanent screaming or crying. Of course, it was helpful that the cruise took place outside the holiday season, so only a few parents dared to take their kids out of school, and very few people travelled with babies. But during the last week crying kids suddenly appeared everywhere. I wonder where they had hidden them before. (And you wonder why they have to bring crying babies into quiz shows and to bars at night.) Perhaps they had been quarantined?
In the evenings there was more music and dance, karaoke and disco. Really too much to list it all. But you get the idea that you would not have run out of ideas if you did not have your own plans of how to spend the time on board. I always took some time off to work on our photos, so this was all done when we arrived back home, so I did not have to spend several days just going over the pictures, doing levels, crop, select, name them. I also wrote a lot on my laptop. And we took time to chat with nice people we met.
You could also spend a lot of money on entertainment. For example, if you gambled in the Casino on a regular base, like our cabin neighbours Dick and Jane. You could get beauty treatments at the Lotus Spa for excessive amouts, about twice as much as you would pay in an average beauty parlour. You could even get your teeth whitened. You could buy jewellery, watches and perfumes in the duty free shop which BTW was not very big and did not have a great selection of goods, just the old boring stuff you get anywhere. There was a tiny souvenir shop with P&O memorabilia, and another mini shop where you got chocolate and creams – just no adaptor plugs… ;-)
There were art auctions where you could auction paintings valued from AU$ 1000 to 15,000 and more.Related to:
- Spa and Resort
- Casino and Gambling
Fun with Dick and Jane
Favorite thing: -
One of those two names is invented, as one of the two people involved never addressed the other one by his name. At least not while we were forced to listen to their dialogues that often evolved into fierce arguments. As we thoroughly enjoyed those disagreements – although I must admit that it could be annoying when they woke us up at 5.30am, or after returning from the casino at 1.30am – I named them Dick and Jane, referring to the film with Jim Carrey and who cares whom.
Dick and Jane were retirees. He was a big man and had a sombre calming voice. She was a short woman and talked like a mad parrot. She made her shortness and lack of glamour up with aggressive behaviour. The funny thing about this is that obviously she was the bad one of the two, and although she once had had an affair with a Maori man in Rotorua she terrorised Dick with her jealousy. This is difficult to imagine, as both were amazingly unattractive. But life has taught me that those who look the least like wife and husband cheaters are among the worst. So I would not defend neither her nor him, and at least she did not deny that she once had this affair.
As you can imagine, the arguments between the two did not start on the cruise ship. They had a routine of arguing about the same things over and over again, probably for many years, and had missed to each go their own ways a long, long time ago.
We did not sit with our ears glued to the thin formica panels they call walls on the cruise ship. It just was what we got to hear when they had their bad half hours – not only moments! – in their cabin. We would surely not have heard a lot of them, had the casino not closed for several hours every night, as they spent most of their time there. We saw them sitting there at 7pm – and while I slept with earplugs, hubby heard them slamming the cabin door just after 1.30am. He sat at the poker or Black Jack table with a grim, well, poker face, and she, happily smiling, at a slot machine. Sometimes when they had run out of verbal steam, they even sat side by side at slot machines.
Although gaming (the daily limit per person was AU$ 1500, just for your information) seemed to make them happy, their first big arguments must have originated there. In any case, Jane accused Dick that he had flirted with another woman – who almost certainly was a Russian croupier Dick called “cute” - and/or embarrassed her with actions or words. But it was easy to embarrass this fury of a woman, as hubby could learn first hand when he met Dick and Jane at the laundry.
Jane blocked hubby’s way. Dick told her to step out of hubby’s way because “you are blocking the door”. Jane yelled back: “Don’t talk to me like this! You embarrass me!”
We have heard those words several times.
We thought it was good entertainment, and held pillows in front of our mouths because we were laughing so much. It was the most perfect reality satire you can imagine. If you are German and know Loriot, only this master observer of human behaviour could have written such pointed dialogues, and we got them for free in bed.
The following dialogues are just snippets of a much bigger argument after the above mentioned particular casino visit. In between Jane left the cabin slamming the door behind her, but came back soon to tell Dick that he was “mad” – “crazy” – and “nutty”, and that he should go to a mental asylum, and he telling her that she was “ridiculous”.
Dick (talking about the card dealer at the casino when they entered the cabin): “She is cute. I think she comes from Russia.”
Jane: “You embarrassed me. I cannot set foot outside the cabin.”
Dick: “Don’t do this to me. Will we go out tomorrow?”
Jane: “I stay in the cabin. Good night!”
Dick: “Don’t do this to me. Please talk to me.”
Jane: “I said Good night. I stay in the cabin.”
Dick: “You cannot do this. Please talk to me.”
Jane: “You have embarrassed me.”
Then Jane dished up the story about Dick either flirting with the Russian card dealer (about a third of Dick’s size, as we researched later) or whatever he did wrong in the casino. Dick responded by reminding her of the affair with the Maori man.
Dick: “You don’t like white men anymore.”
Jane: “He was a lovely man.”
Dick: “I’ve never been unfaithful to you ever. You don’t want to make up, do you? People talk about you, too, you know.”
Jane: “Who talks about me?”
Dick: “My friends tell me.”
Jane: “What do they talk about me?”
Dick: “About you and the Maori man.”
Jane: “He was a lovely man.”
Dick: “But people talk about you.”
Jane: “And if SHE walked on board now you’d be all over her.”
Dick: “Don’t be ***ing ridiculous!”
Jane: “Don’t you use that word at me!”
Dick: “You use it all the time.”
Jane: “Don’t you use that word to me!!”
Dick: “You are ridiculous!”
Jane: “Go over to cabin 3 on deck xxx [Sorry, can’t type the name and/or number, as I am trying to keep a pinch of anonymity in the story for the sake of this long lasting marriage.] Tell her that you want to go out with her today. I am staying in the cabin!”
Dick: “You are ridiculous!”
Jane: “You have embarrassed me. You are mad! You are crazy! You are nutty! You should go to a mental asylum.”
Dick: “You are ridiculous.”
My humble opinion: He will go to a mental asylum one day because she will drive him that far. Other guys would long be in prison because they would long have killed her.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Who has made the worst Cruise Experience?
Favorite thing: -
You have such and such cruise experts on board who share their cruise experience with novices like us and with other similarly knowledgable passengers. Two such guys, not only rich in cruising experience but also in years of age, shared our breakfast table on one of the first days at sea. More exactly: Only one of them sat at our table until the second one joined him.
Grumpy Old Man I was not easy to impress. I pointed out an extraordinary sunrise – the sun broke through thick cloud and disappeard two minutes later behind the clouds, like a burning and fading flare - he could not see from his seat. He grumbled: “Oh yeah.” I wanted to be nice and share my early morning excitement, saying he would only need to stand up and make one step back to see the celestial wonder, as a pillar blocked his view. He munched on his toast while I ran outside to take a photo.
Shortly afterwards Grumpy II joined Grumpy I. They must have known each other, as they were discussing their “girls” and if they were still in bed. After having discussed this issue, they went to talk about that particular early morning and cruising in general.
“Have you seen land?”, asked Grumpy II, the latecomer.
“Oh sure”, said Grumpy I. “And I have even seen the sun rise.”
He did not go into detail, as he had not seen the sunrise, and we spotted the first Tongan island at the horizon about four and half hours later.
“It has even rained”, added Grumpy I. Sure enough, we had to jump far and wide to get under the few spots that were dripping from the sky earlier.
Grumpy II was impressed.
Rain! This reminded him of previous bad cruising days, and the bad weather the Tongan islands can experience, and they shared their worst moments. They just could not agree which one of them had had the worst days on board a ship, until Grumpy I said that on one of his cruises they could not land on Vava’u (as tender boats take the passengers to the wharf), and instead had to sail to Nuku’alofa (where the cruise ships land right at a proper wharf). But still the storm was so horrible that the waves washed over the highest deck.
Grumpy II gave in and accepted defeat: “I have had bad weather – but I have never had this.”
As the weather discussion was over with this unbeatable superlative, they changed subject and discussed the craziness of being forced to have a credit card to pay for the expenses on board.
“I have never had a bloody credit card”, said Grumpy I.
“You can also use it as an eftpos card”, said Grumpy II.
“Mine is also an eftpos card.”
“What is your limit?”
“About 100 K”, was Grumpy II’s answer. For ignorants: 100 K = NZ$ 100,000.
He must be a billionaire.
When I saw the two Grumpies having breakfast together every morning, I wondered if they are the human faces of Wallace and Gromett, and we were just the spectators of their show.Related to:
The Small-Office Coffee Machines
Favorite thing: -
Let me tell you of the biggest daily mayhem. That clearly was the coffee and tea counter. There were two such areas, and each of them was fitted with two small-office Nescafé coffee machines that soon gave up the ghost. The longer the cruise, the more frequently we had no coffee at all with our breakfasts because this would have taken another 20 minutes of queueing, and sometimes forever.
When I decided to queue in a relatively short coffee queue - this could still take forever because they turned the coffee machines off and on again after every cup of coffee or water they got out of them after a lot of praying… - I always asked for several coffees and teas, as refills would have taken even longer queueing.
Although breakfast was nice in the serviced restaurants, it was difficult to get enough liquid. There was a time window for serving juice (in the tiniest glasses you have ever seen) and coffee and tea, and if you wanted refills you had to fight for it, and more than two cups was nearly impossible. Well, I did it a few times, and then sat alone at the empty table for 15 minutes… If you wanted more juice, you just had to order three glasses at the start and got this without problem.
Only on the last day they got the idea to get hot water from big jugs… Some days earlier they had decentralised the provision of juice from the coffee corners, and had started to fill the hot water for tea from big hot water containers and not from the not working coffee machines. However, you still had to wait for tea in the coffee queue of the hopeful dreamers, so nothing was gained…Related to:
- Food and Dining
The Masters of Non-Information
Favorite thing: -
Not only did we not get informed until the last minute that we would not land in Nuku’alofa, and only from the papers on the ship that we we would not land in Niuafo’ou at all. We were also kept in the dark about suspected swine flu cases and a norovirus epidemic on board until it could no longer be covered up.
In fact, it started with masked cleaning staff sneaking in and out of cabins, more and more people getting their meals served to the cabin by masked staff, and rumours of people being isolated and quarantined and whatever.
Suddenly there was no more self service in the buffet restaurant. Before receiving a tray you got a portion of sanitizer pumped into your hands (which is obviously normal on other ships but was not on this one until the epidemic was in full swing), and staff had to serve you everything from behind the counters. In the restaurants with service the salt and pepper shakers, milk jugs and sugar were taken from the tables. You had to tell the waiters to salt your potatoes and pepper your fish or meat, to pour milk in your coffee, etc.
You can surely imagine the delays and huge queues all this caused in the buffet restaurant. When we had lunch or dinner there, we planned it around the shows because at the end of presentations and shows big crowds were headed to the Lido buffet. So we went there 15 minutes before the end of shows or left presentations five minutes before the end, and if there were queues we chose our food from the buffets with the shortest queues…Related to:
Ignorance or Impertinence: P&O Fooling Passengers
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Although P&O assure you in any moment of the day and night, and in their printed statements as well, of their commitment to best customer service, they have been fooling their passengers with blatantly misleading information about the itinerary. I am sure this did not happen on our cruise only, so this seems to be the company’s policy. They escape responsibility by writing in their terms and conditions that they can change the itinerary without further notice, and you do not give it a lot of thought as you think of bad weather, high sea, and technical problems. But they do lie from the beginning, and this is what made me really angry.
We missed out on two of the published eleven stops I had really been looking forward to and had planned plenty of activities.
Already the first port of call (Nuku’alofa) was taken from the itinerary because nobody had told the travel experts from P&O that a Tongan law forbids working on a Sunday, so there was no way to dock. How ridiculous! When I checked information sheets about the other islands on one of the many days at sea, just to find out where we would dock and where we would have to get off the ship by tender, I spotted that we would not stop at another Tongan island, Niuafo’ou (Tin Can Island), and just sail past it. I quote from the pamphlet: “As there is no safe anchorage for large vessels at Niuafo’ou, we won’t be landing.”
I was really furious about this because I had intended to do a loop walk on the crater rim of this doughnut-shaped island filled with a big crater lake, try to spot a very rare bird named Megapodius pritchardii, a rail with big feet, and get some of their extraordinary stamps.
At the Purser’s Office I learnt that it was true that we would not be landing although they had given irritating landing times on their official website, suggesting that we would have one hour between arrival and boarding, but surely enough I had thought that this was just a typing error. But the guy at the Purser’s Office also told me that it was not true that there was no safe anchoring place, but that they had just never landed there. I was told they would well be anchoring there to do some technical or maintenance work, or whatever. He suggested they should correct their port guide, as the part with the “no safe anchorage” was not true. “That seems to be a little old”, he said, and doubted my printed schedule. “Where did you get this from?”, he asked, thinking our travel agency had given me false information. But sure enough, it was the print of our “Cruise Personaliser” on the P&O website which you can only access with your booking number!
In the end we learnt that the water is so deep around Niuafo’ou that you really cannot anchor there. And in the 2010 cruise itinerary they have noted that there is only “Scenic Cruising” off this island…
The other case with Nuku’alofa is as ridiculous as this one.
I cannot imagine that they did not know that ships cannot dock in Tonga on a Sunday, as on this day all work is strictly forbidden by law. It would have been too much of a coincidence that P&O Cruises would never have tried to dock on one of the Tongan islands on a Sunday, and would have learnt that this is impossible. Even the airports are closed. So why should they make an exception for a cruise ship?
When I had prepared for our cruise, I had read in every travel guide and everywhere on the internet that Tonga is closed on Sundays, and had wondered how P&O would have succeeded to get around this law. But I thought they would know better than I, as they would surely have cruised there before, and not just on our specific itinerary. So I bought a white blouse for the Sunday service in the church the royal family uses to attend in Nuku’alofa on the main island of Tongatapu ;-) Only when already on the ship we learnt from a pamphlet in the cabin that we would not stop in Nuku’alofa because of this decades old law, and would bypass the island all together and would stay at sea a day longer until the next intended anchoring.
Also on board we learnt from other people that P&O had acted in a highly unprofessional, ignorant or impertinent way. Those people had called P&O several times in the weeks and even several days before the start of the cruise, insisting they check if the Pacific Sun would really be allowed to land at Nuku’alofa Harbour on a Sunday. They were assured that this was out of question. We met one couple who had a huge bag full of wedding gifts for their son who lives in Nuku’alofa, and wanted to deliver them because other parcels had never arrived. So now they were sitting on the ship with their bag, and the promised shore day was just a joke. All they could do was to try to get the gifts delivered by courier from the next Tongan island we went ashore (Vava’u). Some Tongans on board had wanted to meet up with family and friends.
Really: This information policy is not good enough. I would have preferred to go ashore in Nuku’alofa rather than receiving a AU$ 50 reimbursement for the inconvenience of not stopping. Not to talk of those other people who were much bigger losers.Related to:
The Cabin Stewards
Favorite thing: -
These Guys are just for You…
… and a Hundred other People
The Cabin Stewards are an incredibly friendly bunch of people, always with a smile on their faces and some nice words on their lips. Every section of a corridor has its own steward and assistant steward. They make up your room, bring you a replacement hairdryer if the one mounted to the wall does not work, just look after everything regarding your accommodation.
I talked to our steward who was from Indonesia. He works eleven hours a day, seven days a week, eight months without a single day off, hopping from one cruise to the next – and still keeps on smiling all way through. He would be allowed a couple of hours off for getting off the ship while in port, but he said this is not enough, so he prefers to stay on board. I wondered if he ever seens the sun. He said: “Yes. Through the windows of the outside cabins.”Related to:
Favorite thing: -
Sometimes you think you are used to it. But then the ship starts swaying again, and especially when you are in bed you feel like in a nutshell on the ocean. And we were on an easy cruise in smooth waters! (At least on most days and nights. We had two rough nights, and that was hell in our bow cabin. It felt like racing through potholes for hours without end – and straight into hell on a downward track in a train without breaks, and falling into space at the same time.)
The most difficult thing is to walk a straight line in the endless corridors. It is impossible. You sway from the left to the right and from the right to the left, to the rhythm of the ship’s movements, and it looks as if you were drunken. It is like walking in the aisles of a train and worse than in an airplane. Just that on a train you would crash into sitting passengers, and on the ship you would hit the wall ;-) It is nearly impossible to walk on a treadmill in the gym without grabbing the handlebar for staying on the running belt. Standing, on the other hand, is no problem once you stand somewhere. The bathroom is the exception: As the floor is plastic and somehow hanging in the air – you have to get one step up to get inside – it is slightly flexible and makes you dance around at times.
Items on your desk do not move or fall, just the water in bottles and glasses keeps moving, and the curtains are swaying. (Well, as long as the water is smooth…)
Your hear the walls, wardrobe doors and coat hangers creaking and shaking, a bit as when high wind hits a not very solid hut (or a Kiwi-made house LOL).
You also hear a faint sound of the engine – apart from the noise your neighbours make. This also reminds of travelling on a train.
So a cabin on a cruise ship surely is not the most quiet kind of accommodation.
… and I do not want to imagine a cruise in less kind sea conditions. The two rough nights we had were enough for us. Most experienced travellers have been on such cruises. They said normally items do not fly around, so you do not have to safely store everything in bags and drawers. The worst thing would be the many people getting seasick, and the smell of digested food returning to where it came from can upset even the most resilient stomachs. So you better stay in your cabin if you are not seasick (yet) and do not want to walk past too many smelly spots that could make your stomach (or brain?) think twice…
But back to the rough nights: In our cabin only the electric tooth brushes flew through the bathroom, and the cream pots fell over. And we were really scared. On a lower deck an elderly woman fell out of the upper bunk, and the water crashed so hard against the porthole or window (not sure about the kind of “lookout” they had) that it broke, and the lady stood in the water and could not open the cabin door… We wondered how easy it would have been to be washed or pulled out through the window opening…Related to:
The Extras Shock and Restaurants
Favorite thing: -
I have spoken of the big personal account shock that can hit you upon checking out, thanks to the magic Cruise Card. Nothing costs a dime while you are onboard, only signature after signature. You sign for every purchase on board, from a tin of diet coke to the money you gamble in the casino, and even the AU$ 15,000 an original painting might cost at the art auctions. Add all the specialty coffees, cocktails and shore tours, pizzas and steaks, perfumes and watches, and hire of snorkel gear.
In principle all food on board is free. Exceptions are the Steakhouse & Seafood Restaurant as well as the Pizzeria.
Free drinks are sparse and limited to water from jugs and coolers (this is served in the restaurants automatically, and you find a water cooler at the bar and in the gym), coffee and tea at the Buffet Restaurant (Lido) on level 10, and fruit juice during breakfast hours. For all other drinks – including soft drinks – a charge applies. They call all charges nominal charges, and are not very upfront with the amounts in their daily information papers, so you are not turned off events beforehand if the nominal charge is a high one.
You have the choice of three restaurants.
At the Lido Buffet you can queue at several buffets with quite a good selection of salads, cold and hot dishes, and desserts. You can eat indoors or outdoors, which is especially nice. But sometimes it is hard to find a seat, so people take their plates to the deckchairs and other places.
At the Burgundy and Bordeaux restaurants they serve the same three-course meals from a permanent and a daily changing menu. You have to wait to be seated, and if you are not fast enough to put the linen napkin on your lap the waiters slap it onto you ;-) You can make reservations for the Bordeaux but still you have to queue to get to your table. The queues at the Burgundy have always been enormous. “Your” table rather means: your seats at big tables which you share with other passengers. This BTW is a great way to make passengers talk to each other, and creates quite a nice atmosphere.
We have eaten at the Steakhouse. Although it was nice, and the service great, I wonder if it was worth the AU$ 25 pp extra cost. Although much smaller than the other restaurants, it was very noisy.
Plus: Mine and some other people’s steaks were not cooked as requested (rare instead of medium). It was nice that you could choose the kind of potatoes you wanted, and vegetables and salads. But you could also get extra vegetables and salads in the other restaurants at no extra cost, you just had to order them – although they were not mentioned on the menu… Well, hubby just reminded me of the fabulous long list of desserts in the Steak Restaurant… On the other hand, I remember ordering two plates of French cheese at the Burgundy at no extra cost… ;-)))
When you wanted to have a nice deck chair with a lot of space to other people's chairs in a child-free area, many with sun shades, you could go to the Oasis Lounge. This cost you an extra AU$ 10 for half a day and AU$ 15 for the whole day (pp), a big bottle of spring water included.
If you do not want to suffer from the extras shock, get a print of your spending at the Purser's Office from time to time, so you know if you have to limit your spending or not. We were pleasantly surprised and spent less than expected. However, we both had some spending money included our cruise package, and got some money for not landing in Nuku'alofa. You should also think about cancelling the automatic gratuities for cabin and service staff. We gave the gratuity to our cabin stewards, and you can change the amounts you give to other staff, or tip them individually. I think AU$ 16 for two per day is very steep.Related to:
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
First People Encounters
Favorite thing: -
Having spoken of queueing, queues on the ship are not always the fault of the crew. (Although most are…) They can also be created by indecisive people. For example this couple with the American accent at the lunch buffet when you were still allowed to help yourself. They did not only struggle with their huge professional camera and laptop bags permanently slipping from their shoulders but also with the choice of dishes.
“How do you prepare this pasta?”, asked SHE, and after looking in puzzled eyes on the other side of the buffet, clarified: “Is there any wine in it?”
No, there was no wine in it.
“Is there any lemon in it?”, she continued.
Yes, there was lemon in it.
“Which kind of lemon do you use? Freshly squeezed lemon or lemon from concentrate?”
They always use concentrate.
“What is in the butter chicken?”, asked HE.
Butter and chicken, I would have thought.
Looking in the poor chef’s rolling eyes, I am sure he thought the same. But staff on the ship are required to be friendly, so he only asked: “What do you mean?”
And the photographer said: “There might be wine in it.”
And I thought: Yes, the Indian cuisine is famous for cooking with wine and using holy beef instead of chicken.
“Is there any wine in it?”
No, there wasn’t any wine in it. Neither in the pasta sauce nor in the butter chicken.
And I wondered: Can you be allergic against wine AND lemon? Or were they only anti-alcoholics, Mormons, Methodists, Muslims, or reformed alcoholics and allergic to preservatives in concentrates? Or are they supporting the organic lemon growers association?
I thought: Lucky me my plate was full and I was busy munching on my food near the buffet while they were investigating the ingredients of the butter pasta chicken sauce...Related to:
- Food and Dining
Transport and Embarkation
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Once we had booked the cruise, everything went forward strategically. The best point, however, was that some weeks before departure we got quite a lot of money back because the prices had obviously changed. This seems to be normal practice and unique in the travel industry. If, for example, you buy an airline ticket and later they decide to sell tickets at dumping prices, you will not see a cent of your money back. You are just unlucky if you have purchased at the wrong moment. However, once on the ship we found out that some people who had booked at about the same time as we had got the refund and others not.
Our domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland was included in the cruise package. Such give-aways can change without notice. The seats in the airplane were booked, we only had a voucher. At Auckland Airport a staff member pointed cruise passenger towards the shuttle buses to the port. When our suitcases were loaded into the bus storage compartment, we did not see them again until they were delivered right to our cabin door - as the cabin numbers had to be noted on a pink P&O sticker that had to be attached to the luggage. This worked like magic.
As said, once at the port, we did not have to look after our luggage. Lucky us, I have to say. Queueing without luggage is so much easier – because we had to walk from one queue to the next. Not once, not twice, not… We did not count. Every time we thought the next step would be boarding the ship, a new queue started, and be it only a queue behind a staff member who informed the passengers where to queue next. So there were queues for queueing, a queue for checking if the cruise ticket and the name in the passport were identical, a queue for collecting the health forms (that you had no flu symptoms, as the Pacific Sun had just arrived from Sydney in the morning with a swine flu suspect and a dozen of his/her close contacts), a queue for passport control (immigration), a queue for luggage control, and at some point a queue for check-in where you got the magic Cruise Card which pays for everything on board. Of course, not really magic – as everything on board that costs extra is added to your final bill and finally deducted from your credit card, and somehow nothing costs anything until the final shock ;-)
Having passed the check-in – a row of white-bloused staff as numerous as a colony of ants – clearly brought you closer to the ship. A photo in front of a dream island white beach with leaning palm tree paper background was taken – and later sold on the ship for AU$ 30, but most without any of the beachy features, or just some millimetres of palm leaf dangling in a corner of the picture. The photo shoot where you had to stare into a lens was no photo shoot but the camouflaged infrared measuring of your body temperature, so they could filter out people with (swine) flu or other contagious diseases.
But where was the ship? Well, we were right in front of it at some point. But it was so huge that I had rather taken it as another block of the Hilton and the apartments along Viaduct Harbour that look like cruise ships – but the rooms are much nicer inside than most cabins. Although I see cruise ships from our house in Lyttelton permanently, and often get rather close to them, and had even been on the Pacific Sun when she was in port, this cruise ship is so much bigger and especially higher than you imagine. Somehow this immense height gives a kind of comfort, and a feeling of reassurance that you will survive even in high seas ;-)
The last – very short – queue finally was on the ship where a last photo is taken for a photo ID. This is important when you re-embark the ship after shore tours, so they can see that it is really you who gets on the ship with your Cruise Card.
Ok, you will encounter more queueing at the restaurants and buffets on the ship, and maybe at the cardio machines in the gym because the gym has the size of a sardine tin. And come disembarkation…
A thing I found fabulous after the check-in was that a lunch buffet was ready at the Lido deck, just when I felt a headache creeping up and me getting grumpy ;-) It was not so good that we left with a delay of several hours, so we did not bother about the sailaway party. But the view of Auckland at night was fantastic from the ship, and we had enough to eat, so everything was fine ;-)))Related to:
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: -
P&O was founded in 1837, starting with so-called excursions on Royal Mail runs starting in England and travelling to ports of the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean.
Their ships have got a not very flattering reputation for not the greatest safety standards lately.
In 2008 the Pacific Sun – so just “our” ship – got into a very bad storm because the captain made a bad decision, sailing from Fiji to Auckland through a bad storm and very rough seas in the last days of “our” cruise. Several people were badly injured when non-fixed furniture and gambling machines crashed through rooms and lounges, one woman even lost part of a finger. The report of the investigation has just been published when we came back from our cruise.
It criticises the captain’s decision who felt under pressure of meeting the ship’s tight schedules.
My view: They have surely fixed the problem of flying furniture but not allowed any room for possible delays. The chaotic disembarkation at the end of our cruise in Auckland and the parallel check-in of passengers for the next cruise spoke volumes.
I guess such schedules allow P&O to offer such cruises to fabulous destinations at affordable prices. Still, safety must always come first. (My advice: Always try to get your transport to the ship organised by P&O and included in the package, so in case of a delayed return they are responsible for re-booking your flight, transfer, etc. If not, take care to have such cases covered by your travel insurance.)
Here is the report of the New Zealand Herald on Sunday (28 June 2009, slightly shortened by me) about the incident of 2008, titled: Dream Cruise “Hell on the High Seas”:
A dream cruise turned into a life-threatening ordeal for more than 2000 people, with an official report revealing a combination of events led to mayhem and carnage aboard the New Zealand-bound ship. Seventy-seven passengers and crew were injured when the P&O cruise ship Pacific Sun rolled up to 31 degrees during a severe storm north of New Zealand last winter. An official report into the accident reveals full details and causes of the ordeal, which some fearful passengers said resembled the Titanic movie.
The report said it was "pure good fortune" that some passengers and crew were not more seriously injured or killed by unsecured furnishings including casino gaming machines, tables, a grand piano and heavy office equipment such as photocopiers. It says procedures for securing furnishings following an earlier accident - in which another cruise ship's equipment injured people - were not "sufficiently robust".
The report, by British maritime officials, reveals a litany of other events and problems on board the ill-fated cruise, including:
The Pacific Sun was on a tight schedule and this placed the captain in a "difficult situation" to return to Auckland to ensure the following cruise left on time. By not heaving-to earlier, the report said, he "inadvertently placed" the ship in the worst sea conditions, 322km northeast of North Cape;
The crew were essentially flying blind, unable to see or monitor abnormal swells of up to 7m in darkness;
The ship's stablisers were inoperative - one was worn out and the other was rendered useless in the slow speeds that the ship was reduced to;
Two of the four muster stations - areas where passengers are meant to congregate in an emergency - were also rendered useless because of the damage and mess caused by unsecured furnishings;
The accident damaged the ship's main satellite system, reducing officers' abilities to communicate with shore;
Many passengers were concerned to see crew wearing lifejackets, while they were not. This was attributed to a crew alert signal being sounded before a general emergency. The report said this was appropriate, but that the common situation needed a better solution in the cruise industry.
Passengers' injuries ranged in severity from broken bones, to cuts and bruises. Seven were seriously hurt, and three were greeted by ambulances when the ship berthed in Auckland two days later. One passenger had part of a finger amputated. The report said other passengers suffered anxiety attacks.
"Had Pacific Sun's furnishings and fittings been sufficiently secured so as to resist moving when she heeled, the number of injuries would have been greatly reduced," the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report says. It said this very issue was addressed in an earlier accident report, featuring another ship managed by P&O sister company Princess Cruises. "Attempts to identify and secure items, and especially heavy objects, on Princess Cruises' vessels following the Crown Princess accident in July 2006 were not successful in preventing similar items from breaking free on Pacific Sun," said the report. "In the absence of an industry standard, Princess Cruises should develop a company standard for securing fixed items on board its vessels and apply it across its fleet as soon as practicable."
Last night, a P&O spokeswoman said the heavy objects on Pacific Sun had now been secured and the company was conducting a fleet-wide review on other ships. She said the experience had provided a "valuable insight" for the company. The spokeswoman said officers and crew members onboard, many with 20-30 years' experience at sea, had never experienced rolling of the magnitude that occurred during the trip. It was "unpredictable and rare wave behaviour". The ship rolled so badly that two spa pools were emptied of water, causing further hazards.
The company had also been advised to review furnishings and "develop suitable means of securing such items for heavy weather" and to develop an overall standard for such as issue. The report also recommended the company review its stabilisers and planned maintenance. The P&O spokeswoman said the company was committed to continually reviewing and improving safety measures.Related to:
Favorite thing: -
The Pacific Sun is 224 metres long, 31.6 metres wide and has a maximum draught of 7.8 metres. It can carry 1900 passengers. It was full to capacity when we travelled.
It is a ship of 47,546 gross tons, powered by two single acting, two stroke, slow speed, turbo charged, non-reversible crosshead diesel engines. Her cruising speed is 19 knots.
(1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour; 1 nautical mile = 1852 metres; so: 19 x 1852 m = 35,188 m; so the speed is 35.188 km/h)
So you see, a cruise ship travels at very low speed. It only gets from A to B relatively quickly because its engine keeps on running until you reach the next port of call.
The ship has two stabilizers that can be extrended at any time, in order to reduce the rolling of the ship by 85 per cent.
Each fin is 15 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 2 feet thick, and they are located 14 feet below the waterline, on either side of the vessel – if you think they sit right next to your cabin ;-)
The ship was built in 1985 by Kockums AB in Malmö (Sweden), and delivered on 2 June 1986. The original name was Jubilee, and she was run by Carnival Cruise Lines. It became the Pacific Sun in 2005.
In December 2009 the Pacific Jewel will take over the Pacific Sun’s cruising itinerary out of Brisbane (and Auckland), and the Pacific Sun will relocate to Fremantle and undertake voyages to Asia.Related to:
New Years at the Gold Coast
Favorite thing: This is a forum question answer wanting to know about the Gold Coast and what there is to do on New Years.
A few years ago we did the Cavell Mall think at Surfers. If you like BIG crowds and that sort of thing you will love it. We lined up to get into a few clubs but gave up as the lines were moving no where. The cover charges were also $20 and more! Instead we just settled ourselves on the beach to watch the fireworks. From memory there was no drinking alcohol except in the clubs but you might like to check that because I couldn't be one hundred percent sure. Also I remember huge line ups for the yucky portable toilets.
We had another New Years spent on our apartment balcony down at Coolongatta at the southern end of the Gold Coast. Make sure you ask for an ocean view room so you can see fireworks. The good news is at Cooloongatta you do New Years twice as it is right on the border of NSW and Qld and one has daylight saving and the other doesn't. You can either chill out in your rooms with friends or go out. They have pretty good clubs/pubs which aren't as busy as further up the coast. Also Coolongatta is a bit cheaper.
While you are on the Gold Coast there are all the amusement parks (Dreamworld, Seaworld, Movieworld, Wet n Wild, etc), have a walk around Cavill Mall during the day it is good fun, there are beaches, the hinterland is interesting but depends on your transport. Heaps to do.
By the way I spotted you are staying at Southport (I have never really stayed there and have never thought of it as a 'visitors area' of the Gold Coast.)Burleigh Heads is another one I know people have enjoyed. Anyway on or near the beach front is good.
Hope you have a good time.Add to your Trip Planner
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