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This year I was hoping to go to New York or Buenos Aires during my yearly break. Things don't always work out the way you would like. Sometimes they turn out better. Cruising was not something I thought I would do until later in life when I earned silver locks of glorious hair and retired to a tranquil life of bingo and lawn bowls.
I realize now that leaving a cruise ship holiday until then is like waiting to use gold dipped dinner plates for that super special occasion that may or may not happen in a future far far away. I ask you, what's the point of having access to pretty things if you keep them hidden away and only dream to use them 'one fine day'?
In November I found myself booking an Island Hopper Holiday with P&O and on the 3rd of December my adventure with The Pacific Dawn commenced.
What your gran doesn't want you to know is that cruise ships are a hell of a lot of fun. They are also quite affordable because it's literally a floating hotel. The fare includes most activities and your meals.
There is a sea of cruise ship destinations. P&O's Island Hopper takes you to three islands, Nouméa, Lifou and Vanuatu. These are three very different tropical islands. Two are part of New Caledonia, which is French territory, the French influence especially noted in its capital, Nouméa. They kept the aquarium open for our private tour. There are some sea creatures in there that I have never even heard of. It has some excellent beaches and the city has a unique mix of French and old Melanesian culture evident in its architecture, gastronomy and people.
Lifou is less populated and untouched. It consists of 36 tribes and around 9,000 inhabitants. I didn't see one tall building, just a small population of very humble happy people. Its beauty surrounds the whole island. If tropical clear water beaches are your weakness, then you will love Lifou.
Vanuatu is where I had my first snorkeling adventure. That's when I learned the huge benefit of taking your own equipment. The equipment provided was fine but the mask didn't suit my face. Everyone else brought their own, except this newbie who watched through slowly rising waters the amazing coral and sea life surrounding the Island.
There is a wide range of shore tours and activities that can be booked before you even step onboard. It's a good idea to do this to ensure you don't miss out if there is something in particular you want to do. However, I found the more experienced cruisers didn't have everything pre booked and made local arrangements when they arrived. I played it safe and I was happy to pay for the peace of mind. The other option is of course to stay on-board or do your own thing at each destination.
What you need to know about a cruise holiday is that it can be whatever kind of holiday you want it to be. As they say, you can do it all or do nothing at all.
If you are out to party into the early morning, there are bars, a casino, shows and clubs to ensure you have a good time. If you are in desperate need of relaxation then you will adore the peace and quiet you can find on board. There are decks and lounge chairs everywhere. I had a balcony room where I spent several God-sent hours writing with only the sound of the ocean in the background. You can book a spa treatment or get yourself a massage.
They have an Entertainment Manager who can fill your day with fun things to do. Every day there was a list of activities that kicked off every 15-30mins. Trust me, there was never a dull moment.
On Board Activities Include:
P&O Edge Adventure Park
Yoga, Pilates, personal training, Bootcamp at Sea
Wine and spirit tasting
Cocktail, martini and coffee making classes
Art and craft classes
Sit Down Comedy Club
Casino with poker machines, roulette and blackjack
And the list goes on. Oh, did I mention they have themed dress up nights? Gatsby and The Bianco parties were a lot of fun. Everyone dresses up as young and old come together to Pa-r-ty!
The food on board was good and the menu was always changing – variety is truly the spice of life. The a-la-carte menu at the Waterfront Restaurant through to the buffet at the Plantation Restaurant was great. I hear by March the ship is having a massive makeover and part of those changes will be Introducing The Pantry which is P&O's modern style buffet. I would have loved a behind the scene tour of that kitchen. The volume of food prepared is mind blowing.
The cabins are small but have everything you need including a decent sized shower. The balcony suite is a little more expensive and suited me perfectly but I didn't spend a lot of time in my room.
Last but not at least, the staff of The Pacific Dawn were lovely professionals. They work hard but never let you know it. Wait staff, room service, cleaners and shopkeepers all shared a big smile the entire cruise. They were helpful and happy and that just added to the experience.
There is a lot to see and do but the simple things like watching the sun set and rise out at sea to me were spectacular moments. It is a great place to relax, regroup and gather up the energy you need to get back into life. I am hoping one day soon to try out another cruise. I may have caught the cruise bug and I love it.
Book it now, I promise you wont regret a single thing, other than the cruises you have already missed, of course.