While on the cruise, we posted dozens of photos and short logs which you can view here.
I won't rehash those entries here. You'll have to read them for yourself
Incidentally, we did this exact same cruise 6 months ago in April / May, and didn't feel at all like we were going over old ground. It was still as exciting as before, and well worth doing.
Pacific Star in an older ship - built in 1981, but that didn't bother me at all. The thing that made this cruise so much fun was the wonderful staff and the great destinations.
We travelled in a group of 13. Liz, me and the two youngest kids, the two eldest kids with their partners, my father, our nextdoor neighbors, and their kids.
I think Liz and I raved about our last cruise so much that it was easy to convince them to join us when we booked this cruise.
Travelling in a group is wonderful fun. You get to experience the fun part of cruising, and get to share it with people you love.
My dad is a fantastic man, and did a great job helping us with the younger kids. He shared a cabin with them, that meant Liz and I could have a cabin to ourselves. That made a big difference. I think a four berth cabin with our two little tornadoes would have been too much.
We arranged for everyone in our group to meet at Portside at 10am so we could board early. Everyone got there on time except Liz and me. (Note to self: book a taxi the day before, don't leave it to the last minute).
Everyone else in our group was in the second batch of people to board. When Liz and I arrived half an hour later, we were about to be put into the fourth batch of people to board. I told the terminal staff we were in a group, and could we "jump the queue" please. She happily obliged, and gave us boarding tickets so we could board with all the other people in our group. That was really kind of them.
Immigration / Boarding took about 20 minutes, and we got on board just after 11am.
All our of our group had inner cabins on deck 5 (Caribe), forward on starboard side. (5019 to 5033). 5 cabins in all.
Our cabin stewards (Noel and Gilbert) cleaned our cabins several times per day. We were very happy to leave the $5.50 per person autotip on, plus gave them each a $20 tip at the end of the cruise.
They remembered all of our names, and were always cheerful and friendly.
Last cruise our cabin was configured with two single beds. This time it had a queen sized bed. We were worried that having a big bed in the middle of the cabin might make it feel less roomy, but it wasn't a problem at all - there was plenty of room. The only downside of a queen bed is that it's a bit more difficult to put empty suitcases under them. But you can actually lift the beds up a bit, which makes it easier to slip the cases under.
Sleeping in an inner cabin is wierd because there is no port hole. So when you wake up in the morning, it's hard to know what time it is. That's good at bad. If you want to sleep in, you could sleep all day in the pitch darkness. But when you open your eyes in the morning, you're never quite sure if its morning yet. I had to check the time on my mobile phone just to make sure. If I had an inner cabin in future, I think I'd take a clock with a light in it to make it easier to see what time it was.
We brought a eurpoean power adaptor to convert the ships power outlet to fit Australian power plugs ($20 in Dick Smith for a 2 port adapter). We also bought a 6 point power board because of all the gizmo's I have. I didn't have any problems with the power supply at all.
My only negative issue with our cabin was that we were next to a 4-berth cabin in which all four women smoked incessantly and simultaneously, with their cabin door open. It stank out the whole corridor. I don't know why they couldn't go out on the deck, or at least close their door. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to cause a scene, although secretly by the end of the cruise we'd christened them "The Smoke Hags"
Our table waiters (Christian and Vera) were also very attentive, so we were also happy to tip them the same way at the end of the cruise.
We were booked in for the first dinner sitting every night. Initally they split our group into two separate tables - one of 7 and the other of 6. We had a talk with the Maitre D (Carlos) who was very responsive and rearranged the tables so we could be together - almost. Our nextdoor neighbors had their own table of 4 plus a couple of strangers, and we had 9 on our table.
For most of the cruise we had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the bordeaux restaurant. It's really difficult to get a good seat in the Lido buffet for breakfast and lunch. I don't like queueing for food, or fighting with other passengers for a good table. So we just chilled in the restaurant and got waited on instead. It ended up costing us more because we had a bottle of wine with lunch when we were in the restaurant.
The only time we had to queue to get into the restaurant was this morning when we arrived back in Brisbane. Everyone tries to eat brekky at the same time, and we had to wait about 5 to 10 minutes to get a seat.
All the food on board was delicious. There was plenty of it, and the quality was very good.
I only have two gripes:
1. It's hard to find a seat in the buffet at breakfast or lunch time.
2. They only serve instant coffee in the restaurant. There are only 3 places on board ship where you can get espresso coffee. (Lido bar, Outback bar, Casablanca bar). Outback and Cassablanca bars don't start serving coffee till 9am. The coffee machine in the Lido bar was broken three mornings in a row, so it was hard to have a nice long black for breakfast.
Our cruise director, Adam Goder, did a very good job. He's very funny, and isn't reluctant to get "out there" to do some hilarious stunts like dressing up in a ballerina outfit, or as a leather-bound member of "the village people".
The deputy cruise director, Sandy, was also very energetic, and always seemed to be doing something on the ship to keep us amused, like calling bingo, hosting the "Popstars" competition, or firing up the parties up on deck.
Sandy's lovely assistants, Jo and Charlotte were friendly, and bubbly. I had a bit to do with them because I had a fit of temporary insanity and signed up for the "Popstars" comp on the last night. (More on that in a later post) I never felt like they were "doing me a favour" or just doing their job. They appeared to really like what they were doing, and seemed genuinely interested in me as a person.
The Pacific Star Entertainers are energetic, talented, and friendly. Nicole and David are great singers, and the dancers were stunning. All of their shows were exciting to watch. We'd seen the shows before, but it was good to see them again. Late in the cruise, the skit "If I were not upon the sea" was hilarious - something you must see.
There were also two guest entertainers.
Martin Ralph is a comedian and magician. He had us in stitches. A very funny man, but he can do some amazing tricks with yo-yo's and spinning tops. I won't spoil the surprise for you, but you simply must bring the kids to see him on the night he does his yo-yo and spinning top tricks. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
Donna Campbell is a cabaret-style singer. She had a lot of energy, and did a funny impersonation of Dolly Parton. Some of the cruisers really enjoyed her show
Eric Carrol is the Pianist in Duke's Piano Bar. He is very talented and can play any tune you throw at him. We bought him a few beers and he obliged by playing us a few tunes. He's a very friendly man.
There were two bands on board - "Muzzik Unlimited" and "Crystal Harmony". Both were very good quality.
So there's something in the entertainment for everyone.
Staff and Crew
I wanted especially to make this cruise special for my Dad, who used to work for P&O as a steward in the early 60's aboard the origial Oriana. He gave up working at sea when I was born.
I wrote a latter to Captain Draper, mentioning Dad's history with P&O. The Captain was very generous, and invited all of our family (all nine of us) to a private cocktail party on Thursday night. He sent us a beautiful bunch of flowers, and his secretary, Lara, made us feel like royalty. She reserved special seats for our family right at the front of the cocktail party.
I could have asked for better treatment. It was way beyond what I had anticipated.
Even the security guards helped make it special for us. Lilly, our 5 year-old, lost her bracelet in the Lido deck pool on hawiain night. The pool was netted, so I couldn't climb in. She insisted I tell someone, so we explained to a security guard what happened. He said he'd fix it, and the next morning, Lilly's bracelet turned up in her room with a nice note. You can read about it here. Realy cute.
The Trip and The Tours
Days 2 and 3 of our cruise were very rough. Liz and Emma didn't enjoy those days at all. They both got anti-seasickness injections on day 3 ($90 each), which cured their seasickness within 30 minutes. It made them drowsy for a couple of hours, but then they were fine. So if you suffer from seasickness, or start feeling queezy, I'd suggest you tackle the problem right away. Cruise time goes quickly enough as it is. Why let any of it get wasted by feeling sea sick?
We arrived in Noumea at about 2.45pm. We'd done the city sights tour last cruise, so this time we visited the Tjibaou cultural centre. Unfortunately, it rained all of the time we were in Noumea. Even so, it's a very visually stunning place, with some fascinating galleries that show amazing works of native art. It's worth the visit their just to see the bee-hive shaped buildings, and hear about the history of the Kanaks in New Caledonia, and about the man, Tjibaou, himself. We got back from our tour just in time for dinner at 5.45pm - but it was a close finish since they shut the dining room doors at 6pm.
It rained torrentially all day in Lifou. We got soaked. We spent an hour huddled up under a grass thatched pavillion trying to keep dry from the rain. I'm very glad I brought a good raincoat, a big had, and a spare pair of shoes. We did the "Secret Grotto" tour, which included a demonstration of native medicinal herbs, and a visit to a hidden cave in the rain forest. We saw a coconut crab the size of a dinner plate. Their claws are so strong they can break through a coconut shell, and can snap off fingers. The guide even let me pick it up. Hmmmm - that still gives me shivers.
Vila was stunning. The sun came out all day. We visited Ekasup cultural village. This was the highlight of the cruise for us. I think it's a must-do experience in Vila. Last cruise we forgot about the tour and got a taxi driver to drive us through a village, but that's nothing like the experience we had at Ekasup. We got an up-close look at village life. They even put on a dance for us at the end of the tour. I got some video footage on my phone, so I will try to put together a youtube video of it for you. My advice - this is a tour not to be missed and is worthe very cent.
After our tour in Vila, we did some duty free shopping. The cheapest place for booze, we found, was Feng Kuey's, which is the first big duty free shop as you drive into town from the ship. The shop even delivers the booze back to the ship for you so you don't have to carry it around.
From there we took the barge accross to Irririki Resort and had a late lunch there. For 3 adults and two kids, it cost us about AUD $100.
After lunch, it was back to the ship by taxi - an experience in itself.
The sail-out of Vila is beautiful. A stunning sunset, blue water, and green islands. We just propped our selves down the back of the ship, ordered a few cocktails, and watched it all pass by us. I could do that again and again and never grow tired of it.
I have one thing that could improve it though. First sitting dinner was at 5.45pm. We had to pick up the kids from kids club beforehand, get them ready for dinner, and get down to the restaurant before 6pm.
That's a shame when there's a gorgeous sunset happening up on deck - especially at Vila. Second sitting dinner is a bit late for young kids, so next time, I'd probably book a dinner in the steakhouse the night we're in Vila.
Laundry / Clothes
We took some clothes pegs with us, which came in really handy on the rainy days when we had to hang up clothes to dry. We used some spare wire coat hangers for this as well. A lot of my shirts and shorts are mircofibre, which made it really easy to wash them in the sink, hang them up at night, and they were bone dry in the morning. I thouroughly recommend microfibre clothes for travel in warm climates.
(Hint: take a small container of liquid laundry detergent if you want to rinse out some clothes in your sink).
There were two discount laundry days on our cruise. If you fill up a bag with laundry, they'll wash and press it for $25. Other days the prices were much higher, so we just waited for the cheap days. But it takes a day and a half to get your clean laundry back. I.e. put it in one morning, get it back late afternoon on the next day. So don't put in anything you need the next morning
I don't know how many shoes Liz took, but I took 3 pairs, and I'm glad I did. Dress shoes for formal night, walking shoes for shore tours, and deck shoes for onboard ship. It rained really heavily in Lifou, and my walking shoes got saturated. So I was glad I had spare deck shoes on board that I could wear in Vila next day.
The staff at kid's club are amazing.
Some kids are absolutely obnoxious, so I don't how those people who run Turtle Cove (age 2 to 6) and Shark Shack (age 7 to 12) do it.
It was great to leave the kids there, so we could go off and play.
Most of the time the kids had a great time, and there was plenty for them to do. I think this cruise there were a lot of kids in Shark Shack, and some of them were rowdy and pushy, which made it a bit difficult for Harrison.
The kids put on a great talent show for us on the last day of the cruise.
A great cruise & itinerary. A good ship. An outstanding crew. Worth every cent.
I can't wait till the next cruise!
And yes - the room is still rocking, but I don't mind because it reminds me that the last week wasn't a dream, but actually happened
Ellinis. Southampton to Brisbane. April 1965
Myuna II (My rusty old yacht) Numerous coastal cruises 2002 to 2007.
Pacific Star. R717. April 2007, R738. October 2007
Oriana. February 2008, February 2009
Aurora. February 2008, March 2009
Dawn Princess. June 2009