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Review - R738 (We're back!!!!)


Neilius

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We've had a wonderful week aboard Pacific Star, and just arrived home this morning.

 

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.

 

Boarding

 

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.

 

Cabins

 

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" :)

 

Food

 

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.

 

Entertainment

 

Fantastic.

 

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.

 

Kids Club

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.

 

Summary

 

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 :)

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Thanks Neil - sounds like you all had a wonderful time......

 

 

Just one thing - thanks for putting the image of Adam in the tutu back in my head :eek:, I was only just starting to get the image erased!! But it has reminded me that I need to pull that evening's entertainment off the video tape and share it!!

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Hi Neil,

 

Thank you for taking the time to do a great review and so quickly!! It was great to see you, Liz and the family off last week, and see the ship arrive this morning (although we couldn't seem to see you up on deck!!). It was a great start to the day, albeit a bit early (for which I am now paying a heavy price!!)

 

Glad you all had a great cruise and that you are ready for the next one!

 

Sarah

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Thanks Neil - sounds like you all had a wonderful time......

 

 

Just one thing - thanks for putting the image of Adam in the tutu back in my head :eek:, I was only just starting to get the image erased!! But it has reminded me that I need to pull that evening's entertainment off the video tape and share it!!

 

If you've got that skit on video, it would be PRICELESS :) Please share it. My kids would all crack up if they could see it again.

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Boarding

 

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).

......Note to Neil: Don't chat on MSN on the morning of your cruise. :D Guess I need to be wary of this myself.

 

Love your review Neil. Would have been happy to wait a week for it, blut glad you have posted it. Looking forward to your Youtube stuff (Next week at the earliest, OK)

 

Noticed that one of the experienced cruisers here had a great tip with waking up in an inside cabin (sorry for forgetting the poster). This is a tip you should be in raptures about - turn to the deckcam channel when you go to bed, and it will act like a window to the front of the ship. When the sun rises, your cabin lightens up. Should also make you feel at home too Neil.

 

So to Neil, Liz and extended family - it was a pleasure to be invited to catch up with your cruise each day.

Thanks to you all :)

 

Cheers

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Thanks for the review Neil :D Great reading, as usual :D

 

Looks like you all had a great time!

 

When's the next one? :D

 

Hi Jo :)

 

Got the tickets cheap but I'm still paying for the bar bill!

 

I think we'll be doing another one a few months into next year - maybe March / April.

 

Pacific Star is doing a cruise to Tonga out of Auckland that looks really nice. I looked pretty closely at the webcams when she was last there, and Vava'u looks absolutely amazing. I don't mind not being on a ritzy ship, provided they look after me.

 

I'll have a talk to Lizzie in a few weeks and see what I can come up with.

 

It would be great to take a big group next time too. Maybe if I give enough notice I could convince some CC'ers here to come along as well :)

 

Regards

 

Neil

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Ok, tried uploading it to You Tube, but they claim it was too long so it wouldn't load. At the moment I'm trying to upoload it to Webshots, see if it works through there.

 

Kym

 

No, too big for Webshots as well. Back to the drawing boards.

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No, too big for Webshots as well. Back to the drawing boards.

Kym

 

Thanks for making the effort anyway.

 

With YouTube it has to be shorter than 10 minutes. If it's not, you'd have to split it or trim it.

 

If it's shorter than 10 minutes, but still too big then you'll have to re-render it at a lower resolution and frame rate. Youtube recommends 320 x 240 res.

 

If either of these don't help, I'd be happy to host the file for you on my server and give you the credit for it.

 

Or you could try yahoo videos.

 

Just let me know if I can help. My MSN id is in my profile of you want to chat about it.

 

Regards

 

Neil

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Loved all your pics Neil, looks like you have a beautiful family, and your Dad sounds a gem:)

 

Chez

xx

 

Chez

 

Dad is a lot of fun. He has a broad scots accent, and tells some really funny jokes that I've heard hundreds of times, but never tire of hearing again. (And I never steal the punchline when he tells them).

 

The kids love him. My eldest (now 20) started calling him "Glandan" when she was about 18 months old coz she couldn't say "Grandad". Now all our kids call him that.

 

He also has a part time job at Christmas time as Santa Clause which he loves. I think sometimes he thinks he is Santa. (Maybe he is :) )

 

Neil

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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.

 

DONE.

 

Please see

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Kym

 

Thanks for making the effort anyway.

 

With YouTube it has to be shorter than 10 minutes. If it's not, you'd have to split it or trim it.

 

If it's shorter than 10 minutes, but still too big then you'll have to re-render it at a lower resolution and frame rate. Youtube recommends 320 x 240 res.

 

If either of these don't help, I'd be happy to host the file for you on my server and give you the credit for it.

 

Or you could try yahoo videos.

 

Just let me know if I can help. My MSN id is in my profile of you want to chat about it.

 

Regards

 

Neil

 

 

Yes, it went for 12 minutes - they really stretched it out on our cruise. I'll see if I can find a point around the six minute mark that I can split it at and try again in two parts.

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