When you go through check in you get given a cruise card. You can set this up with either your credit card, debit card or cash. If you choose credit you get charged 1.5% for whatever you spend on board. I chose debit, which works well because at the end of each day on board they hold the amount you’ve spent on your card so they can make sure you have enough money. You can also scan your cruise card in at the kiosk and it shows you a record of how much you’ve spent each day and what you’ve spent it on. It’s really hand to check this each day to make sure you’ve been charged for all the right things.
Servicing of the room
When you first arrive at your cabin you will be greeted by a lovely staff member that will be servicing your room each day. They make up your beds, give you fresh towels and clean your room and bathroom. They will also tell you where you have to meet for you emergency drill. Most people aren’t paying attention when this is said, but if you don’t hear where you are meant to meet, refer to the chart on the back of your door which should have an A, B or C letter and will tell you where to meet. Don’t forget to take your life jacket to the emergency drill (your jacket will also have the same letter that is on the back of your door).
Every night you are delivered a newsletter called the “Pacific Daily” that outlines what will be on the next day on the ship. It includes the theme, any specials, and a detailed time outline of the day’s activities. I found that a lot of the activities during the day were more orientated for children and families and the older generation, and the night things were orientated for young adults. I found that there was so much to do at night that it clashed a little bit and you couldn’t possibly do everything.
The buffet is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there are always a multitude of foods to choose from. It is hard not to already have a full plate before you’ve reached the end of the food trays. There is free water, tea and coffee (all available day round). The food there does get very boring very quickly, and if you are looking for something a little bit more fancy try the Waterfront Restaurant on Deck 7. It is FREE to eat here, you simply just need to book in advance. We had a group of 14 that we had booked in for dinner every night at 8pm. You can also book for lunch. The service and food there is 5 star. You get to choose 3 courses off a huge menu and you can order more if you are still hungry. You are served bread rolls and water and the wait staff are readily available for you to order drinks. I ate at the buffet for most breakfasts and lunches, and had 1 lunch and all my dinners at the Waterfront. It was definitely worth it. Amazing food, quality service and a beautiful setting with fantastic staff. There is another restaurant on board, called the Salt Grill which you have to pay for to eat at. Considering the service at the Waterfront I didn’t bother.
There are 2 pools, a big screen, 2 spas and plenty of deck chairs out on the deck to enjoy. If the weather is bad though it isn’t very pleasant and can be quite windy when the ship is out at sea. It is a good place to meet up with people though and a good place for tanning and getting some fresh air.
Each day they take professional photos of everyone on board. This is usually out the front of the restaurant and also around the ship and at the docks when you get off on the islands. These photos are then displayed on deck 7 and are available for purchase. The photos are $20 each for the casual theme photos and $30 each for the professional formal photos (all are taken by the professional photographers on board). There is also an option to buy a USB stick at the start of the cruise and you get $10 digital copies of your photos but be aware, you have to pay for the photo first (so its $20 or $30 + the $10). I bought a couple while on board as the photos are amazing!
The easiest thing to spend your money on is drinks (as these aren’t included). Most cocktails are $9.90 which is reasonable, and you can get a pacific island ice tea for $11.50 (which has a lot more alcohol in it). In the long run I figured out it was cheaper to buy the ice teas as they are better value for the alcohol. Just try to be wary of how much you are spending each day/night as it adds up quite quickly! There are 2 bars on Deck 7 to drink at – The Orient and The Promenade, and various other bars on decks around the ship.
Pretty much every night on board is a party/clubbing night. The Dome is the night club on board and it has a big dancing floor and bar. It is up the front of the ship. Each night they have a band playing up there after dinner and then later in the night a DJ comes on.
For afternoon tea or a snack there is a café on Deck 5 (reception level). They serve pots of tea for $3 and macaroons, biscuits and slices for $1-$3 each. It is really good value if you want something to tire you over until dinner. There is also a New Zealand Ice Creamery on board (charges apply) outside the front of the buffet.
The Islands - Tours
Noumea (New Caledonia): To be honest, Noumea is it bit of a dumpy place. The shops look run down and there isn’t really that much to see. When you first get off the boat at the dock there is a big building with markets all upstairs. These are worth a look. There are musicians playing also which are lovely to listen to. If you have booked a tour you simply wait to the left of the building when you get off the ship. The tour I did was the Segway adventure, and it was $105. It was well worth it. You get driven to another part of Noumea, and get taught how to ride a Segway (which is a great experience). You ride along Anse Vata Beach and go all the way to Lemon Bay. You get to taste local chocolates and local gourmet delicacies. It was a really fun tour and good way to see more of Noumea without being couped up on a bus or in a taxi.
Maré (New Caledonia): is a lovely little secluded island, and to get to the island you have to get on a lifeboat which takes you ashore. You then have the option of walking around an exploring the small number of markets; or getting on a bus and going to Yejele beach (where most people go). This is a white sand beach with beautiful crystal waters and you can snorkel, swim or just chill out and sun bake. The beach was pretty packed with people off the boat but there was still plenty of room to explore. I saw lots of beautiful tropical fish while snorkelling, but unfortunately a lot of the reefs have died and are damaged due to the rising sea temperatures.
Port Vila (Vanuatu): You arrive at the dock, to the left you can walk all through a very long line of markets with lots of souvenirs and flower leis (which are great to purchase for island night); and to the right is where you go to wait for any tours you have booked. The tour I picked was paradise kayak and snorkel experience. You are driven by a bus through the town of Port Vila (which is very interesting in itself – if you wish to explore this you can get a taxi to take you around). The bus arrives at Mele Bay, on another part of the island, and you are greeted by lovely staff and get in a kayak to paddle out to a little sand bar not too far away. The kayak is fun and there is a glass hole that you can see through into the water. When you arrive at the sand bar you can go snorkelling. There are a lot of beautiful tropical fish to look at and sea.
There are several different shows on in the marquee during the cruise. These are a must see. They are fantastic, show off some amazing talent, are well put together and full of laughs. I missed out on seeing some of the shows due to clashes with dinner, etc. but if you get a chance try to go to each show.
On my particular cruise there were 3 theme nights: Country and Western, Pirate Night and Island Night. These tend to stay pretty consistent (as I’ve had a friend do the same cruise several times). I packed costumes in advance which in turn saved me a lot of money. It is a lot of fun to get dressed up. Most other nights were either smart casual, cocktail or formal. So pack a suit if you’re a guy, and a few classy dresses if you a female (you may want to throw in a long formal dress for formal night).
Karaoke & Pop-Stars
Each night they hold karaoke and/or pop stars in the Orient pub. Karaoke is more for the amateurs, and you get to pick out of a big book of songs. Be aware that there is not much modern music and it is mostly all the old classics. For pop stars you have the same song selection, but you are competing against people for a chance at performing in front of the entire boat on the last night in the Marquee. This is more competitive and designed for people that have a passion and talent for music, although everyone is encouraged to participate.
The Wi-Fi on board is very expensive at about 75c per minute! You can access this from your phone, tablet, laptop or from the computers available on board. I had international roaming activated on my mobile, but the maritime rates (when you are at sea) are very costly ($4 a minute for calls, $1 for each text and $15 a mb). I recommend either telling people you will be out of touch with them until you get back or just sending the odd text. Out of Noumea, Mare and Port Vila, Port Vila was the only place I could get reception (with lower rates of $1 a minute for calls, and 50c for texts).
- I definitely recommend buying reef shoes and your own snorkel if you intend to go snorkelling at any of the islands. Most snorkelling tours include at least the mask and snorkel, but not always a pair of flippers. If you want to save luggage space I recommend taking reef shoes instead of flippers.
- The experience of being at sea is quite different if you’ve never experienced it before. The boat moves around quite a bit and if you’re not used to it you may experience sea sickness. It is best to bring your own purchased medication (from the chemist) on board so as to save money. I purchased Avomine which was good as you take it at night (so any drowsy effects don’t matter) and it is in your system during the whole day. I took one each night and didn’t feel sea sick at all. I think everyone’s experience is different; but it can simply help to not think about it too much and just try to have fun.
- There is the option of purchasing duty free alcohol on board and you can also purchase it at Port Vila. Apparently it is cheaper in Port Vila. If you buy on board, be aware that they pack it in a cardboard box without any packing. I bought 2 bottles and when I got off the boat (as you collect it when you leave) the 2 bottles clinked together and 1 shattered. I recommend opening up the box and putting an item of clothing between the 2 bottles to avoid this.
- Also, the cruise I found was a party based cruise with lots of young adults on board (I am 23 so that suited me fine), but if you are not up for the party lifestyle then this cruise may not be for you.
- Make sure you have plenty of cash on your card for spending (e.g. drinks, photos, tours, etc.). Altogether, including 3 shore tours, 6 photos and a fair amount of drinks each night I spent around $760. It was all worth it though!