Embarkation - we flew up to Brisbane (from Canberra) on the morning of the cruise, this is something we would not normally do as if flights are disrupted we could have missed the ship. We arrived at Portside at around 11.15am after a $30 cab ride from the airport. We were able to check- in (despite our time being 12.30) and it went fairly quickly despite the line, as we were on the ship by 11.45am. We went straight to the Waterfront for lunch and we were told the rooms were already accessible.
The ship - Pacific Aria - it was clean and tidy and relatively good condition despite it's age. We like the design of this class ship and with only around 1200 pax aboard it doesn't feel crowded. The cruise passengers were mainly Queenslanders, with family groups and such but not that many children. Overall it was a fairly old demographic (I would guess the av age around 70+).
Service was excellent all around the ship.
Food was good in the Waterfront (4 nights) and excellent in Dragon Lady (3 nights) and Angelos (3 nights), and the pantry had great selections with Mexican, Asian, indian, sandwich, fish and chip, roast, salad and dessert stations. The waterfront was open for lunch every day (even port days) and we used it often as well as for breakfast most days.
Alatou - we used Jaywood tours ($60pp for the two of us), which was good and they took us all over the place visiting numerous sites and highlights. We would recommend utilising the Cruise PNG page on FB which has numerous recommendations. If you want the Cultural show, Alatou tours is best utilised or the ship's tour.
Kitava Island - we couldn't tender due to winds, but we were going to swim and snorkel.
Rabual - we used Scenic tours ($85pp and we were put on a bus with around 10 others). It was the Volcano, town and WWII tour and was excellent, it took close to 7 hours and mainly due to road conditions slowing the drives.
Kirawina Island - we swam and looked at the stalls and the village, took a canoe ride, it was low tide so snorkelling was difficult. This is the place to buy any woodwork as the selection was huge. Use up all your Kina here as well.
Conflict Island - great island beautiful swimming and snorkelling. Food and drinks ashore are reasonably priced and you need to buy vouchers for the purchases (they accepted AUD and Kina).
We took 210 Kina with us and had bought some dresses and shirts for our granddaughter as well as some drinks, the rest was used as tips and gifts as well as swapping our left over Kina for AUD at Kirawina as they cannot change the AUD.
Debarkation - had to be out of the cabins by 6.30am (explains why the rooms were ready so early on embarkation day), we did the walk off and was in a cab by 6.45am.
Overall, the cruise was wonderful.
Room was clean and adequate as per usual. I requested a fridge (for my pills and drinks) which was delivered on the second sea day.
A wonderful day, they took us everywhere from the Volcano, the observatory and to the War Cemetery and every where in between. nearly 7 hours of fun and discovery. Danial and Judy where fantastic.View All 5 Highlights Tour Reviews
Tender ports, we didn't get to go ashore at Kitava, but Kiriwina was wonderful. Snorkelling was difficult due to the low tide.
Tender port, absolutely beautiful, great swimming and snorkelling as well as all the amenitites on shore.