we had a $500 budget (plus $75 room credit you have allocated to you) we ended up spending $998. what to allow money for: photos - we purchased 6 all up costs around $200 including SD card and $8 souvenir frame (I love photography and found them excellent quality- get Vladimir to take them on COCKTAIL DRESS night- we are very proud of them. Buy LANYARDS for everyone prior to leaving, for all access cards or for 6 will cost you around $36-$40 buying them onboard as opposed to $10 in cheap shop. Buy a couple of cowboy hats/check shirts, pirate hats/costumes from cheap shops prior to leaving - lei & grass skirts & coconut boobie covers pretty cheap on the islands and nice souvenir purchases for island nights, pirate patches only $3-4 on board but with many kids can add up- so planning is good on your wallet. ALCOHOL is pretty cheap- allowance PER ADULT is 2.25litres to take home ONLY (we purchased 3xcaptain morgan rum and a grouse scotch for $50).
IN NOUMEA get the cheapest bus ride - we paid $15 each on explorer tours but to get the little train was $39-$49each and went to the same boring places. The Casino supermarket across from the port in Noumea has normal priced drinks and about a block to your left of Port is a French bakery (pastisserie) with nice french delicacies. you can buy souvenirs as soon as you get off the boat, thought it was a bit expensive there. ALL 3 ports TAKE AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS AND GOLD COINS but we found nowhere accepted the kids saved up 50c/20c silver coins ($80 worth-so had to change on the ship)
IN LIFOU - again a disappointment. the water was beautiful, we paid $15 per person to snorkel in a lagoon (no snorkel equipment provided) was pretty ordinary, kept scraping my legs til they bled on coral and we didn't venture out more than 15 metres and stayed for 20 mins. When we walked back we found almost the whole cruise swimming FOR FREE on the island facing the boat- it was superb- even sea turtles could been seen not far from shore (will add pictures below of lagoon and free beach). We walked up to the church which was the only other interesting thing to do on the island.
my advise here is spend up big on the tours in PORT VILA:
amazing activities here, first you have to get through a scary mob attack from all the drivers offering you different prices to be your driver for the day THEY DO ACTUALLY wait for you though. we spent $100 for 6 of us to be taken from Port to hideaway island $15 per head for adults and $10 for kids, snorkel equipment is available to hire, (a nice little snorkel spot) and then back to port. A guy called Joseph was our driver, less rabbley than others. Another group of people paid $200 for 13 people in a bus to same place and another shady bloke offered us $60 for the same trip. It IS a BIT SCARY initially but security and police are there too. But the people are just trying to get business for their families so just understand that there is no bad intent. We went on a glass bottom boat snorkel experience for the afternoon HIGHLIGHT of the trip we handfed the fish, they provided snorkelling and flipper gear and we were dropped approx. 100 metres from shore and had a magnificent 2 hours - no sharks etc $59 per adult and $29 per kid but was soooo worth it. My 19yr old son and girlfriend went on horseriding adventure $79 per person (maximum weight 110kilos) and 12-18yr olds have to have guardians- had an great time rode bareback on the horses through lagoon and he has never ridden a horse before. so was well pleased with experience. Definitely worth putting your money into these experiences and there are at least 37 activities to do. YAY PORT VILA !!!
The shows onboard were way beyond expectations, the show staff were so grounded and approachable and take majority of the passenger activities onboard so you get to have a chat and pictures with them etc. THE KIDS activities were very well organised and the staff were amazing, I did not use the shark and turtle shacks as drop off areas as many parents did but we wanted to spend holiday with kids but if I wanted to I would not have hesitated as it was really really well organised, my daughter joined in the kids onboard night parties everytime they were on and still felt part of the group. ,Waterfront restaurant in a MUST. iT IS FREEEEEEE breakfast, lunch and Dinner (however you must book for dinner extension 3463 and 3063 for next day bookings- can only book 1 day ahead) there is a phone in your cabin so as soon as ship sets sail try to get a booking for the evening. and the STAFF ARE MAGICAL ! Plantation Restaurant is fantastic- you are not paying for it and you cant expect to have 5star quality on the cruise price but with that said it caters for almost everyone. For breakfast they have 4 different types of eggs cooked, bacon, pastries, fruit, cereal, pancakes etc... people who complain need to fork our more $$$ for more expensive cruises, we ate there almost every morning and lunch. Coffee is bloomin awful BUT you can pay for a great coffee down on DECK 5 at the café - staff aren't as friendly but can be coaxed to smile ;) My son got enganged and paid for dinner at the SALT GRILL restaurant $49 per person and was in raptures with the beautiful food and restaurant was FIRST CLASS. They have a chinese restaurant La LUNA that we never got to, but that is apparently lovely too at $29 per person.
THE CLEANERS on the ship are fantastic they work quietly in the background keeping everything in shipshape. PLEASE THANK them as without them the passengers would be grubs. sorry but its true
Deck 12 is where a lot of people party, sunbake, swim and drink cocktails throughout the day and there really is plenty of room and a big screen there for movies, NRL etc. You can get a card for the kids to allow 6 mocktails for about $30 and the kids loved the novelty. Adult cocktails, get island tea cocktail couple of dollars dearer but greater alcohol base, the bottle of cabernet merlot was $25 (forgot the name) gorgeous hubby and I had 5 bottles over the week. bingo costs up $30 for 5 games NOT FREE.
LAST COUPLE OF TIPS: sea sick and motion sickness medications are a must, take a couple of packets of salt and vinegar chips, or salty crackers to help with sea sickness (pringles from shop were $6.95each) take a couple of slabs of water bottles an a bottle or 2 of soft drink (definitely adds up at $2.75 per can), purchase a mosquito spray with 20%deet in it for the islands (expensive on board).. rooms were fantastic but think middle of ship better for the movement factor and midship deck 10 you get your own balconies. T