My family & I aren't new to cruising, but we've never been able to afford the luxury of a balcony cabin....until now. Thanks to a wonderful deal, we were able to book a balcony for this cruise. Our cabin on Sun Princess had 4 bunk beds, 3 of which magically vanished into ceiling & wall cavities, leaving the 4th bunk to be converted into a sofa/lounge during the day. This gave us so much space - it was wonderful. I'd highly recommend this to families with older children.
We chose this cruise because it went primarily to Vanuatu, an absolute gem of a place.
Isle of Pines: Absolutely beautiful beaches to explore. Postcard perfect.
Lifou: Community living there, with lots of cultural arts & crafts & displays. Brilliant walks. Beach is coral - so wear reef shoes or thongs/flip flops. You can buy things in currency (French Pacific Francs) or AUD$. (See my tip below.)
Port Vila: Best Duty Free shopping I've found in the region - forget Suva & Noumea. Must see - Cascade Waterfalls. For tours - I recommend Atmosphere Tours - a local tour company. Friendly people in Port Vila. Restaurants can be expensive though. I recommend split the day in 2 & go back to the ship to eat!! We had the best nachos in a restaurant, a small bottle of wine, couple of cokes, couple of beers & it cost us around AU$100.
Wala: Part of Vanuatu - again - a coral beach. Beautiful though. Not bad snorkeling.
Champagne Bay: Part of Vanuatu HIGHLIGHT OF THE CRUISE an absolute MUST see. The most perfect beach, with big beautiful shady trees lining the beach. Azure blue water & white sand. The locals catch lobsters & cook them fresh for you. Does it really get any better???
Noumea: Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday & everything was shut. We did a 1 hour tour, which was great. Book something when you arrive - there are heaps of tourist companies waiting to take you somewhere!! The city itself was not that attractive. Wouldn't bother going there again.
This tour had tenders used for 4 out of the 6 ports of call. But Princess have it down pat & you just need to be patient and reasonable about waiting. It didn't bother us at all. Princess staff were so well organized with this, it didn't take long (about 20-30mins) to go ashore. If you leave it to later in the morning, it won't be as long to wait.
This cruise is really reliant on good weather. That's the only downer. If you don't like beaches & island culture, this is not the cruise for you.
Tip: When ashore, try & use the local currency. You can buy it online before you go & pick it up at the airport through Travelex. The locals give you a local currency price & the AUD price at the markets & stalls. The AUD value is NOT at a good rate. I got all the rates before going, as well as currency, that's how I know. I wish I had have bought more currency. Will be doing this next time.
Princess gave us a great time. Staff were fantastic, food always brilliant. They have introduced a new 'Ultimate Kids Package' for drinks. It used to just be soft drink, but this 'Ultimate' deal, included softdrink (no cans) shakes, mocktails, ice-cream, hot chocolate. I think it was about $11/day. Our kids certainly got their (well..our) money's worth!!