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Date: 27th December 2022

Arrival

Set my alarm for 5,30am to watch as we entered Sydney Harbour and make our way to the White Bay Terminal.

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After we docked I went for my breakfast, no exercise walk this morning.

Disembarking

There was plenty of time after breakfast to collect my bag from the cabin before 7.30am and make my way to Deck 7 to wait for my disembarkation time. Many comfortable chairs available as people left so I just read or watched the goings on around me as I waited. The time passed relatively quickly and soon there was a call for the “Orange 4” group to make their way to the gangway.

Thank goodness getting off the ship was not the hassle that getting on had been – had to find my luggage then queue to get through immigration, this was not well organised but at least the line moved steadily. P&O definitely need to improve their embarkation and disembarkation procedures.

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Once outside found my way to the queue for the bus to Central Station, there was only a short wait, I was lucky to get on a bus pretty quickly and was soon going into Central Sydney. The only downside was that my train was on Platform 25 down in the bowels of the earth, many lifts and levels down

I caught the 10.30am train to Wollongong, unfortunately, being a public holiday, it stopped at every northern suburbs station but can’t complain about that too much, it just took about 20 minutes longer than normal to reach home.

Conclusion

As on my one and only previous cruse I enjoyed it more than I thought I would but again I would be surprised if I ever went on another cruise. Yet here we are! My previous cruise was with Carnival who also own P&O but it was like a different company.

Embarkation was absolute hell, it was horrible, a complete farce that was totally disorganised and ridiculous, I hope they improve on that – they certainly would have trouble doing any worse.

The one real disappointment on this cruise was the entertainment, it was at best very ordinary, I am talking about the theatre productions, the bar bands were much the same as before, pub bands of varying abilities but good enough. The Christmas Eve and Boxing Day shows were a big improvement but frankly they were the only good shows on the whole cruise, it should have been so much better.

The rest of the “free” shows, as I say, were very ordinary, less than an hour of one performer on stage, sometimes with a recorded backing track, if you wanted a “variety show” it was an extra fee which I thought was a bit over the top and a very poor way to go. I noticed other events that required an extra fee though they were (I think) mainly aimed at the younger passengers but I think it is a bad sign that these cruise lines are going to indulge in drip pricing, where there are a number of add on fees to the original cost of the cruise.

A minor irritation (because this annoys me on land too) – the only “ordinary” beer they stocked was VB in 375ml cans  for $9 each, all the other beer was in 330ml stubbies and cost at least $9.50. I think the Adventure Hotel was the only bar with draught beer (that might be incorrect). Personally I don’t like drinking from cans but they were always willing to give me a (sometimes) chilled glass to pour it into however I really object to 330ml bottles they are an absolute rip off.

Will I ever go on a cruise again? Who knows?

Vanuatu and New Calidonia

Boxing Day at Sea

Date: 26th December 2022

Morning

Usual breakfast and walk until 7.30am, still working up a good sweat even though the temperature is now only about 22 or 23°C

This is my last day without the Internet, many facts have had to go unverified over the last 10 days but normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

There was an event in the Marquee Theatre this morning with the cruise director explaining the procedures for disembarkation tomorrow morning. It was actually a publicity promotion for P&O because all he said of substance was that passengers will receive a letter telling them their meeting time and place, that their bags have to be outside their room by 8pm tonight and that the cabins must be vacated by 7.30am in the morning. I thought it was surprisingly poorly attended but perhaps everybody else knows what will happen tomorrow and realised that most of the content was publicity fluff.

Pacific Adventure - Disembarkation Talk

Sure enough when I returned to my room there was the disembarkation letter waiting for me, listing my group, my meeting time and place. The arrangements were actually different to the information I had previously been given regarding my transfer to Central (train) Station so I rang the Guest Services to check but was told just go by the letter.

Disembarkation Letter

I spent a little while filling out the “Incoming Passenger Card” and my baggage label then sorted out and packed my clothes into the suitcase. Set the alarm on my phone for 5am tomorrow, it might be a long day tomorrow being a public holiday so I want to make sure I get some breakfast.

Disembarkation Luggage

Soon it was about time for lunch, so it was off to the Pantry, where I had a blow out meal with a hot dog, chicken sandwich and some dessert. Well, it is the last lunch of the trip!

Afternoon

Not much planned for this arvo so just wandered about, plenty of passengers enjoying the sunshine around the swimming pools but there is definitely an end of voyage feel to things.

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I brought a couple of books with me on this trip and have read them both so now only have my faithful old Sony Ereader to read. I found carrying a book (or a hat) was a handy way of reserving a table when you go to the bar to get a drink or some more food, normally not a problem if there are two of you but by myself, if you leave the table for any reason when you return it has sometimes been taken by someone else unless you leave something behind.

Sat on my balcony for a while enjoying the sunshine, not that the view changes much with the land way over the horizon but it is very nice out there.

Pacific Adventure Balcony in the SunPacific Adventure Balcony in the Sun

Evening

Before going to dinner I put my bag out in the corridor to be collected for disembarkation tomorrow, I remembered to keep some clean clothes to wear in the morning.

Dinner tonight was in the Dragon Lady restaurant, as usual a decent enough meal but I felt rather full after my excessive lunch so possibly didn’t enjoy it as much as I should.

There was a show in the Marquee tonight called Musicology – it was a big improvement on the rest of their shows, I enjoyed it. Lots of singers, variety and a live band – how the shows should have been all along.

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Am up early in the morning so will give the rest of the evening’s entertainment a miss.

Pacific Adventure Voyage MapPacific Adventure Voyage Map

Luganville

Date: 23rd December 2022

Arrival

When I woke at 6am the ship was still steaming along, I decided it was a good time to do a bit more washing but when I hung it out I found that it was quite windy and the sea had white caps.

Luganville Washing

After breakfast I had my usual walk, the wind had died down but it started to spot with rain, it was never heavy, more of a drizzle. I think it is just the overnight rain marking the beginning of the wet season.

Luganville Misty Wet MorningLuganville Misty Wet Morning

Oh yes, the ship does have a laundry service but I prefer to wash my own.

Laundry Invoice

As predicted the island of Santos was soon in sight and quickly all around us as the ship made its way to the dock. It is interesting that the ship seems to be able to turn in its own length using bow thrusters and (I presume) stern propellers  that can face any direction. On this occasion my cabin faced away from the dock.

Luganville Misty Wet Morning

After docking the weather started to clear and looked quite promising as blue sky appeared.

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The WWII Relics Tour

Went to lunch at 11.30 just to leave plenty of time to get off the ship for my Relics of WWII Tour.

Luganville Tour Ticket

The tour took place in three mini buses which was ideal compared to a coach, they stopped often for passengers to get out and hear all about the site, the driver of my bus was called Henry – a mine of information. about the island and its history

Luganville Relics Tour Buses

In some ways it was rather like an Australian small town’s historic tour where all the sites are of places long gone because, for example the wreck of the ship President Coolage was completely under the water but despite this I really enjoyed the tour. We stopped at some beautiful places with great views, the guides  gave interesting talks about the history of each place and why it was important. Finally we called in at a restaurant where we had a complimentary drink. Well, worth the money.

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After the tour returned to the ship at about 4pm, tired but happy. The cabin steward had left yet another of his weird towel arrangements.

Luganville Towel

Well, that is all my shore visits done, from when we cast off this evening it is all sea days heading south back to Sydney where we should arrive Monday morning.

Evening

Tonight I dined at Dragon Lady, I chose better for this evening’s meal last time I had Laksa, I don’t know why I chose it, I am not a fan of soup at all. This evening the meal was really good, I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. The service was back to normal too.

There was a magic show on in the Marquee Theatre which I attended and enjoyed, the bloke was funny and a there was a lot of audience participation.

Pacific Adventure Show

I had intended to go to the Sit Down Comedy later in the evening but to be honest when the time came I was just so tired that I fell asleep in my cabin.

Today was a good day.

Mystery Island

Date: 21st December 2022

Breakfast

The usual routine – cereal and coffee in The Pantry followed by half an hour walking exercise.

Today was much brighter than yesterday, no sign of rain but quite humid. The humidity shouldn’t have been a surprise, it is summer after all and we are in the tropics.

As I walked the islands came into view and the ship started to slow and by the time I had showered we were stationary and presumably anchored. Soon there was a tender floating off my side of the ship.

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Ashore

After 8am I wandered down to collect a tender ticket which was being given out on deck 7 by the resident Elf. Actually I was lucky, when she asked me how many and I told her that it was just for me, she gave me a single ticket she had lying on the table for Boat 6, the tickets she had been handing out to the people before and after me were for boat 8, it must have just been an odd ticket left over.

Pacific Adventure Mystery Island Tender Ticket

Sat around waiting for my ticket to be called, was chatting to a lady at the table I happened to sit at, she had been on 27 cruises and went several times every year, she was telling me she had a cruise coming up that cost her $250 for 11 days, I gathered from her that regular cruisers get offered freebies or bonus cruises, she had booked this Christmas cruise two years previously.

Pacific Adventure Mystery Island Waiting for the Tender

Didn’t have to wait too long for my tender to be called and soon I was clambering ashore on the jetty at Mystery Island. It was a pretty small island offering the usual fare to passengers, hair braiding, massage, food, tours etc. I think most of the passengers just wanted to get into the sea or sun bathe on the sand. That evening at dinner I noticed a lot of the children had elaborately braided hair.

(Don’t forget if you click on a picture you can view a larger version)

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I wandered about for a while, surprised to find it even had an airport and a grass airstrip but after an hour or so I think I had seen all I wanted to see so I made my way back to the jetty to catch a boat back to the ship. I suspect I was the first to return as they seemed quite surprised to see me!

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Afternoon

By the time I returned to the ship the humidity had taken its toll, my T Shirt was saturated with sweat so I bit the bullet and washed a couple of T shirts to hang on my make shift line on the balcony. There is a line in the bathroom but it is about half a metre long and I reckon clothes would take a week to dry in there.

Had absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the day except I might catch the Spicy Margaritas in the Blue Room later this evening, for the rest of the time it looks like reading and drinking.

Pacific Adventure Leaving Mystery Island

Evening

Dinner tonight  was in the Waterfront Restaurant and was quite enjoyable, I had grilled barramundi which was OK. Chatted to the couple at the table next to mine, they too were complaining that before Covid all the entertainment on a cruise was free but now some of it had an extra charge and the free entertainment  in the theatre was pretty ordinary.

During dinner the ship’s captain reported that the liner had been diverted to a rescue a small boat that had sent off a distress signal, turns out that it had run out of fuel. Unfortunately it needed petrol and the ship only carried fuel oil so the bloke had to abandon his craft and be taken onboard. There was an aircraft flying low circling the ship while this was all going on.

First Day at Sea

Date: 18th December 2022

Breakfast

I woke up just before 6am with the sun streaming in my window – didn’t close the curtains (seems little point).

Had a shower and got dressed, found the daily newsletter in my letter holder outside the cabin door, I checked to see what time breakfast was served in the various restaurants. The Pantry seemed to be the earliest opening at 6.30am so I made my way up the stairs to the 14th deck.

My first mistake! I found myself on the 15th deck couldn’t understand it and it was only when I checked the deck plans near the lifts that I discovered that there is no 13th deck, it goes from 12 to 14. Daft!

The Pantry is a number of separate “stores” each providing things like bacon and eggs, fish and chips etc. Personally I am not a fan of a cooked breakfast preferring coffee and cereal and at first thought that was not a choice but asking one of the girls proved me wrong she showed me where to get cereal like Weet-Bix etc.

Exercise and Exploration

After breakfast went looking for a place to walk, Actually this ship doesn’t really have a long(ish) walk but on Deck 15 found a reasonable circuit for an half hour walk which brought up a bit of a sweat.

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Needed another shower after that and took my book with me to look at the bars and other facilities which seem to be clustered around decks 5, 6 and 7 in the middle of the ship. I tried sitting in various areas watching the other passengers between reading, even enjoyed a Chai Latte in the Avalon Cafe before wondering if there was an adults only area on the ship.

There is indeed – the Oasis Pool a small swimming pool and bar right at the stern of the ship behind The Pantry Restaurant where there were comfortable seats and tables as well as lounge chairs.

Pacific Adventure Oasis Pool Adults Only AreaPacific Adventure Oasis Pool Adults Only AreaPacific Adventure Oasis Pool Adults Only AreaView From Oasis Pool Adults Only Area

Lunch

By now it was lunch time  and because it was close I thought it was time to try The Pantry’s selection of food, I ended up selecting sausage, mashed potato, peas, onions and gravy. Actually it was too much for lunch so will try sandwiches over the coming days. It was also very crowded so perhaps later is better?

Back to the cabin for a nap afterwards.

Afternoon and Evening

The main bar (Adventure Hotel) on board seems always packed, perhaps not full but crowded, it is where a lot of events happen, Trivia and the like. Nearby is a smaller bar called the Blue Room which, so far, seems rarely packed, indeed  this afternoon I was there mostly by myself or occasionally a couple would wander in for the odd drink. You don’t even have to go to the bar to get your drink, a waiter brings them to you.

Dinner this evening was in the Waterfront Restaurant, it seems to be the largest of the three complimentary restaurants and it was here that I was booked for tonight’s meal. I was actually in a bit of a rush because I wanted to get back to the Blue Room for the music at 6pm. I had an entre of duck  and a main course of Scallop and Mussel Pie, the entre was OK but the pie was delicious.

The casino on board seems pretty large but personally I just go through it on my way to somewhere else.

Pacific Adventure Casino

Returned to the Blue Room after dinner to enjoy the band, a girl singer accompanied by a trio of piano, bass guitar and drums which was fine especially accompanied by Victoria Bitter. Actually the VB was in cans, I hate drinking out of cans but they gave me a chilled glass when I asked so all was well.

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I attended an adults only “Sit Down Comedy” show in the main theatre (Marquee) after 10.15pm. It was moderately funny but either the PA system was badly set up  or I am getting deafer because I couldn’t understand what he was saying half the time. If he was on again I wouldn’t bother.

…and so to bed.

Embarkation Day

Date: 17th December 2022

Why? You may well ask…

A few years ago I went on a cruise, it was not something I had ever thought about doing or was particularly interested in doing but this was a family affair, a celebration of my daughter, her husband and friend’s 30th birthdays. In the event it turned out to be better than I expected but perhaps not good enough for me to want to go again.

A combination of circumstance  this year made it look like I would spend Christmas alone, which, after the great debacle of 1971 when, for job related reasons, I spent Christmas Day alone eating a chicken the size of a sparrow and listening to John Lennon’s “So this is Christmas”, was not an event I cared to repeat.

A couple of months ago I started looking for Christmas holiday packages but was quite surprised to discover that they barely exist. I came across a P&O 10 day cruise that left before Christmas and returned after Boxing Day but when I tried to book there were no vacancies so I thought that was that. However a week or so later I received an email from P&O telling me of special cruise offers and to cut a long story short I paid for a balcony cabin with an obstructed view on this Christmas cruise.

I was only advised about a week before sailing of my cabin number together with a note to say that I had been “upgraded”. So here I was on yet another cruise set to sail with only a few weeks notice on Pacific Adventure. I was off to the south Pacific – visiting New Caledonia and Vanuatu on a very large ship indeed!

P&O Pacific Adventure

Getting There

No rush, don’t need to catch the train until after 9.30 so I watered my pot plants in the hope that they will survive until my return.

The train was late arriving at Central but still that is no worry the bus to White Bay didn’t leave until 1pm, there was over an hour to kill so sat down on one of the seats in the Grand Concourse and prepared to wait. Had only been there for five minutes when some fellas in Hi Vis and P&O shirts wandered by asking for people waiting for the shuttle bus. They said there were people waiting at stand 1 just outside the station so I wandered out. In fact there was one couple! But here was as good a place as any to wait.

The bus arrived after about 20 minutes and they loaded my case while I sat on the bus. At least it was comfortable because this turned out to be a long wait of nearly an hour and it was not until after 1.15pm that the bus finally left for the White Bay Terminal.

It got much worse…

On arrival at wharf terminal I dropped my bag at the baggage drop off point and joined the long queue outside the terminal building, this queue was slow but worse was to come.

When I finally arrived inside the building I was asked if I had completed the Verifly app. I had not, in fact I deleted it off my phone because it wouldn’t recognise my vaccination certificate so was useless. Because of this I was directed to a separate queue, this queue moved at a glacial pace and it took over an hour to get to the front, several times I thought of just going home because I was fed up with all this standing which was killing my back and walking was getting painful.

When I did eventually get to the front of the queue I was directed to a lovely lady (no complaints about any of the staff I encountered) who took pity on me, after examining my proof of Covid vaccination and RAT cassette she wrote a big P on my boarding pass. From this moment on I experienced no hold ups at all, every queue was bypassed and within half an hour I was on the ship. (A big Thank You to her)

They really need to do something about this initial queuing it was awful. No seats, no social distancing, just dreadful.

On Board

Once on board it was a matter of finding my cabin and waiting for my bag to arrive – finding a lift was the next challenge, I think the reception was on Deck 7 so I had to get to deck 11, the lifts were in great demand but eventually I did get to my deck and found my cabin. My pass key was waiting in the letter holder outside the door together with my meal times and the ship’s news paper.

My BalconyMy Cabin

I certainly had an unobstructed view of the ANZAC Bridge and the old White Bay Power Station from my balcony.

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The cabin was nice enough, the shower was tiny but quite useable so I watched the safety video when I was interrupted by a knock on the door it was my room steward telling me that I had to report to my Muster Station as soon as possible and that food was available at the rear of the ship.

Muster Station

The cabin had a double Australian power point as well as a couple of, what I presumed were US power sockets, so I wouldn’t need the double adapter I had packed just in case.

A hiccup

My bag didn’t arrive, eventually I found a note in the mail holder telling me it had been deemed suspicious and I needed to collect it from the library on deck 7 . After attending my Muster Station (waste of time that was) I went to pick up my bag, the girl asked if I had any alcohol or liquids in it (I hadn’t) and asked if I would open it which I did. She then said all was well and I was allowed to take it back to my cabin. Again a bit of a waste of time but so it goes.

Underway

By the time I got my bag back to my cabin the ship was moving and before I knew it we were travelling under the harbour bridge.

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As you can see it was a grey, miserable day and while it didn’t actually rain it always looked like it would.

The Evening

According to the timetable they provided my evening meal was in the Dragon Lady Restaurant. My meals are scheduled at a different restaurant each evening with different cuisine. Dragon Lady is Chinese, Angelo’s Italian and Waterfront is apparently modern Australian. I can change the venues but I will try each first. According to my schedule on Christmas Day I will eat at Angelo’s.

Dragon Lady was a bugger to find, it is on deck 6 at the rear of the boat BUT you cannot reach it directly because the theatre is in the way so you have to go to deck 7 to get past the theatre then down to the restaurant. I had to ask several times to be able to find it.

Pacific Adventure Dragon Lady Restaurant

It was a three course meal and pleasant enough, no complaints there, I had trouble hearing the girl waitress because she was wearing a mask and I am getting deafer but she was very attentive and the courses arrived regularly without any delay.

After the meal I had a look around the bars etc but I was pretty tired after today’s proceedings so I went to bed about 9.30pm.