The first three days of the cruise were at sea getting to the islands we were going to visit. We were constantly moving, day and night, so we soon got used to the motion.
One thing to remember is that there is no need for cash on the ship, although you may want some for the islands — there are ATMs on board.
All on-board sales are done via a swipe-card (which is also the key to your cabin) so you want to make sure you hold on to it the whole time.
That's why you can always spot a fellow- cruiser by the lanyard holding their cards around their necks.
It really is the easiest way to carry it and as I had a collection of lanyards from various “gigs”, it pained me to pay A$6 each on board for a fancy bit of string (even more for my wife's one because she wanted one with some “bling”. I'll bring my own next time, I mentally noted.
Cards can be loaded with dollar values on them (we received a $300 credit as part of the cruise package) and also the option to go into debit. This was NOT the option we chose for our kids' cards!
If you really want to, you could get away without any additional spending on board as there are at least 16 different places to eat at for free as well as juice, water, tea and coffee (not barista), all at no charge.
However, the ease of charging extra items to the card makes it simple to get any “necessities”, like a flat white or alcohol.
You can purchase an alcohol add-on package. But we are not big drinkers and if we had paid for it I would have seen it as a challenge to get my money's worth — I guess the next day I could have claimed seasickness . . .
There was so much to do on the ship that even after nine days, we were still finding things we had not seen before.
For the kids, there are great age-appropriate free “Kids' Clubs” where you can just drop them off and know they are being looked after. There's a beauty spa, full gym, massage, a casino, sports bar and so much more, including an “adults-only pool area”.
For entertainment there is a games arcade, basketball court, minigolf, outdoor movie theatre as well as the “Pharaoh's Palace” live theatre which had a different show each night — they were some of the most professional I have seen.
There is also the comedy club featuring guest comedians — an 8.30pm PG show and then a late-night R18 session.
And for the workaholics or those who can't “unplug” there is on board wi-fi, although I think they charge per kilometre for the signal to get back to Australia — ouch!
I received an $80 birthday voucher from the spa (so it is worth mentioning it if you are having a birthday), which I then topped up for a “stress-buster massage” — not that I was very stressed on a Pacific cruise. It was great, until they started recommending certain products I should buy to help my muscles relax. I guess it is all about the up-sell.
I'm not sure if it was the language barrier (most of the workers are from the Philippines) or the fact that I was in a haze of relaxation but I ended up buying a relaxing oil rub which turned out to be for cellulite.
They then said I qualified for a free session with their skin doctor.
“Why not?” I thought.
This was a half-hour session pointing out the lines on my face by a guy who looked about 23 but was probably older.
“We have a programme with a package of injections which will tighten your skin back to how it use to be,” he offered.
Ah ha, this explained his youthful good looks.
“Only $3800,” he said.
I politely declined, which may have upset him a bit, but it didn't show.
The islands we visited were great — warm clear water with white sandy beaches. On one we hired a kayak to take the kids for a view of the coral — rock shoes are a great idea.
The final island, the Isle of Pines, was my favourite. It had a few waves and more sand than the others, along with beautiful coconut trees.
A warning — don't sit directly under the coconut “drop zone”. Apparently people have been badly injured this way.
The last port of call was Noumea which was actually the only port we docked at. All the others we took the tender to, as people do when they visit Gisborne.
Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, was the biggest place we went to. But it was a Sunday and the little that was open, pretty much shut at midday.
In terms of on-shore excursions, you get a list of the next day's activities delivered each night to your cabin, and the paid options range from riding a Segway around the island or snorkelling with turtles to just making your own way around the markets and picking up souvenirs from the local crafts people. I am sure they see dollar signs any time a ship docks.
We had a great time on our cruise and I can honestly say that there were more people aged under 60 than over and also a lot of families with young children. I would certainly look forward to doing another one once this Covid-19 thing is over.
When we docked back in Sydney, we spent a couple of days exploring the city, including a visit to Madame Tussauds wax museum, which was fascinating, and we all took the opportunity to take a photo with our favourite celebrity.
A quick flight back to Auckland (apparently the tail wind makes up for the rotation of the Earth) and then back to Gisborne and home — relaxed, refreshed and full of new experiences. I would recommend it to anyone.