We drove down to Darling Harbour on the morning of the cruise and went straight to Wharf 8, parked, and dropped off our large luggage. You don’t go into the main terminal for this, but to the right of the terminal where you will need your passports ready as you give them your suitcases. We then drove around to the other side of Darling Harbour to Harbourside and parked at Wilsons Parking. They have a deal with P&O where you can park your car for $14.00 per day. You have to find an attendant and fill out a special form. This is a good deal. A taxi to the ship is about $10.00.
Back at Wharf 8, you join a queue that snakes around barriers like an airport. Make sure you have filled in your paperwork and have your passports ready. Your bags go through x-rays etc and they will give you your cruise card and room keys
Then ‘smile’ they take a boarding photo for posterity and then you go on board. Very exciting.
There is lifeboat drill before you sail and announcements tell you what to do.
Then it is up on deck for sailaway. Choose a good spot and enjoy it. It can be a bit cool up on deck when you are underway so it is a good idea to take a jacket. No need to take your bag, that is one good thing on a cruise, just leave them in your cabin. All you need is your lanyard with door key and cruise card on it
Clothes for dinner. Just smart casual will do. No shorts are allowed in the dining rooms in the evening, but are ok for breakfast and lunch. Formal nights can be as formal as you want. Some go all out with cocktail dresses, long gowns, bridesmaid type dresses etc with some men in tuxedos, but most just wear a sparkly top and skirt /pants and the men in dress shirt, tie or a suit. You will fit in no matter what you wear. Some don’t do it at all, some go all out.
There is a set up for formal photos. They look great (there is a photo gallery and you can check them all out at your leisure) and there is no obligation to buy any of them. It may be a chance to have a fabulous family photo with you all looking your best.
Small pocket sized maps of the ship are available from the pursers desk. I carted mine around for the whole 10 days.
Tenders. You will need tickets to the tenders (free). Once anchored off the islands – I love to be up on deck watching the rigmarole of anchoring - they announce that tender tickets are now available. Don’t get the tickets until you are ready to go ashore. We got them straight away once, thinking we would get in early, and they announced our number and we hadn’t had breakfast or anything yet. J There is no rush, you are at the islands all day.
There is no food on the islands, and definitely none is to be taken off the ship, (quarantine laws) so have a good breakfast. Phil and I worked out that we would explore the islands and shop before lunch, go back to the ship and eat lunch and get changed into swimmers and go back to the islands for the afternoons swimming and snorkelling. That worked well for us because Phil is diabetic and needs to eat regular meals. You might be fine and just fill up on a huge breakfast. They do have a P&O stall selling packets of Smiths chips and cans of drink, but that is usually all.
You can have your passports stamped on some of the islands. They have a grass hut with a sign ‘passports stamped here $2.00 each’. Unless you want them stamped, you don’t need to take your passports ashore. Your cruise card is put through a machine as you go on and off the ship.
Be prepared for sudden showers – it is the tropics – and don’t make a rush back to the ship. You are a long time back home so enjoy those islands with palm trees, coral beaches and tropical fish while you can. Just take a spray jacket or $2.00 ponchos, rolled up in your bag or be philosophical and just get wet.
Take the blue and white striped beach towels provided by P&O. It is very strange to be on a beach and EVERYONE has the same towel. When you get back on board, there is a large bin for wet towels. Just put them in there and clean ones will be provided by your cabin steward.
Take gold coins to the islands for the islanders. They never ask but they stand and sing in groups with a donation box in front of them, just chuck in a coin or two before taking their photos. You definitely don’t have to, but it is a great earner for them and they don’t have much.
No need to change your money into Vatu in Vanuatu. Australian money is used even in Vila in shops, taxis, duty free etc. So take small notes for the markets. It seems tacky to give them a $50.00 and expect change.
There is a great shop in Vila across the road from the post office, great for rip-off clothes and stuff like Billabong, Quiksilver, DVDs etc. Buy your duty free from Feng Kuei ?? it is the best one. It is the last one on the left hand side of the main shopping street.
Hair braiding. There are quite a few places in the markets on the wharf at Vila or on the islands that do it. Choose one with care. Watch them doing others to make sure they do a good job.
You can buy stuff for island night on the islands. Vila wharf markets are best. Don’t buy from the first stall, look all around, some further on may be better or cheaper.
Some stuff cannot be brought back into Australia. Check that wood products are fully lacquered. Look for borers or small bugs. Customs will keep anything that is dodgy. Some stalls will tell you that things are OK to take back home. Don’t believe them. Shake baskets etc. to see if bugs fall out. If they do, customs will take them.
Reef shoes for swimming and walking on the beach are essential. I never bothered with flippers, but Phil took his reef shoes when he was buying his flippers to make sure they fit over the top of them. Worked a treat.
Sun block and Aloe Vera gel for sun- skin care.
The cabin stewards always hang around in the hallway all day. Just find them; they will be close by their cart which has things like towels, ice, toilet paper etc in it. If you want anything at all, (extra coathangers, another blanket, more towels, clean beach towels, more soap etc) just ask them, they are lovely.
If you take water bottles, buy some with a wide mouth and you can fill them up with ice from the ice machine on the lido deck in the buffet area.
We took 6 – 8 wire coathangers with us and washed out our light clothes and hung them up in the window to dry. It worked well. The hangers on board are better quality and do not fit over the little rail. We just hand washed some stuff, put it between two towels and stood on them to get as much water out as possible and hung them up. There is a laundry provided and we only used it once. Take stuff that does not need ironing and is lightweight. Towards the middle/end of the cruise they have a special offer of 25 pieces of clothing washed and dried for $25.00, something like that. We never used it but plenty of others do.
Take a highlighter to mark out things you want to do in the Pacific Daily. It is put under your door each evening. It would be a shame to miss something.
Some families take post-its to write messages to each other and stick them on the mirror in the cabin. ‘gone to bingo’ etc.
There are phones scattered over the ship in the public areas and you can call your cabin from them. All free, of course. Can be useful.
Take a powerboard for all your electrics. There is only one power point. You may need to plug in your battery chargers and stuff.
A hairdryer, soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided. But they are hotel type sachets, I took my own hair products.
The cabin stewards come in twice a day. Once in the morning when they make the beds, clean the bathroom etc. And again when you are at dinner where they tidy up again and turn down your beds.
There is an automatic tip added each day to your cruise cards. I think it is $5.50 per person per day. If you don’t want to pay this, you can go to the purser’s desk and ask it to be removed. You can do this at any time, even the night before going home. If you get the guilts, you can leave it on one card and have it removed from the other. It is a personal thing.
You can go to the purser’s desk at any time and ask for printouts of your cruise cards. This can be really handy to keep a track on your spending and to make sure it is all correct.
If you feel seasick – don’t wait, take Kwells or other travel medication and go up on deck into the fresh air. If you still feel sick after a day or two, go to the doctor and get a needle and you will be right as rain. It might cost, but you have paid a lot for your cruise and you don’t want it ruined. I never felt sick at all, but Phil got a bit queasy in the show lounge. Just go up on deck and stand in the fresh air. You will feel much better.
Enjoy the roll and movement of the ship, it is part of being ‘at sea’. I love it.
Overall, enjoy yourselves. It is the best holiday for doing nothing, total relaxation. No driving, cooking, cleaning etc. You are fully looked after and the biggest decision is where to have lunch, at the buffet or in the dining rooms. If you choose the dining room, it is much like the evening meals, with baskets of yummy rolls and three courses. You are seated at tables with strangers, they fill up one table at a time….. This can be good as you meet others and ask where they are from etc.
I have hints about the islands too. I'll try and find them and post them as well. This could be a really useful thread.
Me on: Facebook
* 13 October, 2011: Pacific Jewel - Bounty Adventure to Tonga
* 28 March, 2012: Pacific Jewel
* 21 May, 2011: Pacific Jewel
* 8 October 2010: Pacific Sun - sailing out of our home port of Newcastle. It was great.
* 1 February, 2010: Pacific Jewel - circumnavigation of New Zealand
* 21 October 2009; Pacific Dawn
* 20 March 2009; Pacific Dawn to Samoa
* 3 October 2008: Pacific Dawn .......
* 9 November 2007: Pacific Dawn - MAIDEN VOYAGE
* 30 April 2007: Pacific Sun.......
* 9 June 2006: Pacific Sun
* Dec 1964 - Jan 1965: P&O Oriana - Southampton to Sydney (8 yrs old)