Thursday, 31 January 2013

First Time Cruising

P&O's Pacific Pearl 
My neighbour Jane's holiday on Pacific Pearl was the first time she'd been on a cruise so I was keen to hear her impressions. She made the most of her time on the ship, going to talks, shows and demonstrations. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Circus performances with acrobats, trapeze artists and jugglers putting on a great show in the atrium and outside on the top deck. Jane was interested to find out that there is a circus training school in Brazil and most of the performers were Brazilian and Columbian.
  • The Captain's talk about the ship where she learnt about how the Pacific Pearl operates and the parts of the ship the passengers don't see.
  • A cooking demonstration that was fun to watch as the chef and staff had a bit of a comedy routine going as well as making tandoori prawns, grilled steak and creme brulee.
  • The night time entertainment. Jane was especially impressed with the 'Please Don't Stop the Music' show, featuring music from the 1980s and 1990s, with the singers and dancers having nine costume changes in the hour long production.
  • The Galley Tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the food preparation areas.
Apart from a rough first day out from Sydney they had lovely weather and Jane, Derek and Gemma really enjoyed going ashore at Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines to swim and snorkel.

On the galley tour of Pacific Pearl
Thanks to Jane for sharing her thoughts and photos.
So, would she like to go on another cruise? Yes, yes, yes!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Children's Activities on P&O Cruises

Gemma and her dad, Derek, at Port Vila
Our neighbours have recently returned from their first cruise and loved it. They went on P&O's 'Pacific Pearl' on a 9 night itinerary that was a round trip from Sydney and visited Port Vila in Vanuatu, Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines.
   I was very interested to hear what 6 year old Gemma had to say about the children's activities on board. She was bubbling with excitement as she told me what she'd been doing in 'Turtle Cove', the programme for 3 to 6 year olds.
   "My really favourite part was watching the Sponge Bob movie. And the best part of all was the Talent Show. Oh, and the Ice cream Party. And my favourite food was the pizza, and the pancakes. And we did lots of art. And we did cheer-leading with big pompoms. We learnt a song about crabs and seashells and dolphins. And there was a dancing video game and playstations for pretending to drive a racing car and the kids had their own swimming pool."
  As Gemma was telling me all this, she was acting out the things she'd done, singing the songs and telling the jokes. She was one happy cruiser!
At Port Vila
On P&O ships, the 'Turtle Cove' programme is for younger children with hours from 9 am to noon and again from 2 pm till 10.30 pm. There is a children's dinner in the buffet each evening from 4.30 till 5.15 pm. Night time child minding services from 10.30 pm to 1.00 am can be arranged if registered before 8 pm. 
   For older children (7 to 10 years) there is the 'Shark Shack' activity programme.
   Gemma's mum, Jane, was impressed with the children's programme and the  kids' area. She said it was very clean and well-organised with a great range of things for the little ones to do. That's a good recommendation for any of you planning a family cruise.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Where Cruise Ships Dock in New Zealand's South Island

Cruise ship docked at Picton, New Zealand
Here's a round-up of the South Island ports where cruise ships visit on around New Zealand itineraries.

Picton: This small port at the head of the Marlborough Sounds is the terminal for inter-island ferries and is becoming increasingly popular as a port of call for cruise ships. The ships dock at Waitohi Wharf. As you can see from this photo, it is very close to town. A paved walkway leads from the port into the township or you can take the free shuttle bus that runs all day.

Cruise ship at anchor in Akaroa Harbour
Akaroa: Since the big earthquakes that devastated Christchurch and its port of Lyttelton, cruise ships have been visiting Akaroa. They anchor out in the harbour and passengers are taken ashore by tender. The wharf where you'll disembark is right in the little township. The ride in the tender takes between five and ten minutes.

Two cruise ships at the commercial port, Port Chalmers, near Dunedin
Port Chalmers (for Dunedin): Situated on the shores of Otago Harbour, Port Chalmers, which is a working commercial operation, is the nearest port to the city of Dunedin. There is a bus transfer (charged for) from the wharves into the Octagon, the heart of Dunedin city. The bus stops right outside the information centre. The scenic journey along the harbour shoreline takes about 20 minutes.

If you'd like more details about each port of call in New Zealand, search this blog and you'll find accounts of what we did and where we went at each stop on our round New Zealand cruise. It was great!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Where do Cruise Ships Dock in New Zealand?

Holland America's Volendam docked at Mount Maunganui, Tauranga
If you're like me, you'll like to have some idea of where you'll be docked when going to a port, especially if you haven't been there before. Here's a round-up of information that will be helpful on your Round New Zealand cruise. Today I'll write about the North Island ports of call.

Bay of Islands: The cruise ship anchors in the bay and passengers go ashore by tender to Russell or Waitangi. This takes about 5 minutes.
Cruise Ship at Anchor in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Auckland: Ships dock at Princes Wharf or Queens Wharf. As the wharves are at the foot of Auckland's CBD, the location is very convenient.
Tauranga: Here the ships dock at Mount Maunganui, a seaside suburb. To get into Tauranga city, local buses leave from the port for the 20 minute, 9 kilometre drive.
Napier: Cruise ships dock at the wharf near Ahuriri, the oldest part of Napier that was once a whaling station. It is a one kilometre flat walk round the shoreline to Napier's CBD.
Gisborne: This is another tender port. The ships anchor in Poverty Bay and passengers go in tenders to the marina. This takes about 20 minutes. It is a flat walk of a couple of blocks to Gisborne's main street and shopping district.
Two Ships in Port at Wellington
Wellington: Aotea Quay is where the cruise ships dock. From there a shuttle bus transports passengers to the main shopping street, Lambton Quay. Or you could walk - it takes about 10 minutes.

Well, that's the North Island ports of call sorted! Next post I'll talk about the South Island ports of call on a New Zealand cruise itinerary.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Cruise Ships to Auckland in January 2013

Dawn Princess at dock in Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland city is the port of call for many cruise ships this month, the most that have ever visited the port in one season. Most of them will be on round New Zealand itineraries that include ending or beginning in an Australian city.
  This month in the City of Sails we will see these larger ships with 1900 plus passengers:

  • Dawn Princess, Sun Princess, Sea Princess and Diamond Princess (Princess Cruises)
  • Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
  • Celebrity Solstice (Celebrity Cruises)
  • Oosterdam (Holland America Line)
The smaller luxury cruise ships cater for a niche market. The ones visiting here range from one carrying only 72 guests to one with 700 passengers. Most have under 500 passengers.
  • Seven Seas Voyager (Regent Seven Seas Cruises)
  • Oceanic Discoverer (an expedition type vessel)
  • Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper (Silversea Cruises)
  • Seabourn Odyssey (Seabourn Cruise Line)
  • Crystal Symphony ( Crystal Cruises)
  • Caledonian Sky
The thing that has struck me the most when sorting out this list was what wonderful names the ships have! All, no doubt, designed to seduce you into buying a cruise ticket!