Whether you prefer to experience the local culture of a Fijian village or explore the underwater world on a snorkelling trip, South Pacific cruises do not disappoint. Here the only thing warmer than the glorious tropical sunshine is the smiles of the locals who welcome you to their islands with open arms. But there are a few things you definitely should not do on South Pacific or Australian cruises.
Pacific island cruises are a big hit with Australian families, especially during the school holidays when there can be up to 800 children onboard. If you are travelling with children, this can be great fun. If you aren't, it's not so much fun. Passengers without school-age kids would be wise to avoid the school holidays, even they are fond of children, as fares tend to be much more expensive during this peak period.
There are more ships in the Pacific than you can poke a conch shell at, especially during Australia's peak cruise season. Sign up for Cruise Critic's weekly deals email, or keep an eye on your favourite cruise lines for special deals as there are bargains to be found, particularly in February when children head back to school. There's only one thing better than a South Pacific cruise, and that's a cheap South Pacific cruise!
Shops in major ports usually take credit cards but if you want to buy something at a local market, it's highly unlikely the stallholder will have an EFTPOS machine. If you fancy a bit of shopping, make sure you have cash in your wallet. Local currency is best but some shops and stalls will also accept U.S. or Australian dollars.
Working out what to wear on a cruise can be tricky. Due to the region's warm weather and relaxed style, many South Pacific cruises don't have formal nights. Even if there is a gala dinner on the ship, you're more likely to see ladies teaming sun-kissed skin with a pretty summer dress and men in chinos and a collared shirt. Leave your ball gown and tuxedo at home (unless you really want to wear them).
Even though it is hot in the South Pacific, you should dress modestly when visiting a local village. Men can wear shorts but ladies should cover their shoulders and their knees (a sarong worn over a shorter skirt or shorts is fine). Officially, hats should not be worn in the village but locals will often let this slide for Western visitors due to the potentially uncomfortable effects of hot sun on pale skin.
Capital cities usually have safe drinking water but remote villages may not. Always travel with a water bottle (or two) filled with safe drinking water from the ship. Some excursions provide drinking water but others don't, so it is wise to go ashore prepared.
The South Pacific is fabulous at any time of year but it is worth knowing that peak cruise season is also cyclone season in this part of the world. Most of the time you'll be fine, just be aware that the weather can turn and your captain may have to redirect the ship on another route to avoid a storm.
Almost every port is a tropical island paradise that's made for lazing on the beach, so don't forget your swimmers. If you're planning on snorkelling, buy a snorkel set before you leave. It's almost always cheaper than hiring one at the port, plus it will probably be a better fit.
Even if you aren't going to the beach, wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin when you're out and about in port. The South Pacific sun is hot, hot, hot and it is surprisingly easy to return to the ship with a bad case of sunburn, even on an overcast day. Pay particular attention to the back of your neck and upper arms if your skin hasn't seen the sun for a while.
Some visitors mistakenly assume that the locals' enthusiastic greetings are simply put on for tourists, but nothing could be further from the truth. Greet everyone you meet with a smile and your friendliness will be returned tenfold. South Pacific islanders are some of the most welcoming people on the planet, so smile back and enjoy it.