Indulge in a cruise north with fabulous food and great ports
Ever been on a cruise? Is it on your bucket list as it was on mine?
I chose P&O Cruises because it was sailing up to north Queensland and back again in just 7 days with 3 day stops on the way. It was an enjoyable holiday - but don't think you have paid for it all. When I was doing my research I came across a website where past passengers were leaving comments. When I read that you should expect to pay about $100 $150 a day I wondered 'what for?' I soon found out.
Drinks are around the $10 mark. Whether it's a glass of red, white, champers or a cocktail. (Mind you, the array of cocktails is impressive and cheaper than on the mainland). There's also the duty free alcohol and various perfumes and gifts on offer. There was an Art Auction on a couple of times with the constant lure of spending up big (the free glass of champers helped).
Whilst all meals are included in your fare, you do however have the option of dining at a couple of restaurants on board. There was Asian for $25 pp or Luke Mangan's at $40 pp ($30 at lunch). I didn't try either because I was more than happy eating à la carte at the impressive dining room - as the food was exceptional.
The other reason you will need extra money on board is if you intend to buy photographs. Now, these photographers pop up at every port (to be honest I found it annoying - to be jumped upon the moment you stepped on shore), but, they are trying to create an income and at the end of the day there were lots of lovely pictures to peruse through. If you don't mind paying at $20 a pop, you had the option of buying a few quality pics of memorabilia.
Now, a word of caution. When you pre book your room, make sure you are not directly underneath a bar or noisy night club. Believe me, you will wish you had chosen differently, unless of course you are younger than moi and stay up much later. I had to request a room change because the clanging, thumping, (you get the picture) that went on until midnight for the first 3 nights became unbearable. To P&O's credit, they moved us promptly (thank goodness).
The ports were all great to stop at. Airlie Beach had major works going on in town, but the markets were great and the park was lovely to walk through.
We also stopped off the shores of Cairns (Yorkeys Knob) and Port Douglas for the day. The tenders were all extremely well organised, along with the various tours (which you can book on board the cruise). It really was a well oiled operation.
From Cairns,we went white water rafting with a company called Foaming Fury - for adventurers & risk takers which was loads of fun. It's a good thing we had 'the safety talk' because a couple of people did get bounced around on the rocks and hit their heads, so - they were all very happy to have been wearing those hard hats! The scenery was spectacular down along the Mulgrave River with huge trees leaning over the crystal clear waters. The rapids were scattered among quiet stretches of the river where we could happily bounce along for a hundred metres or so. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Port Douglas is a gorgeous little town in far north Queensland and you can easily get lost among the shops, explore the beach (which is right in town) or catch a meal at one of the many up market restaurants. I heard later (at dinner) that some folk hired electric push bikes and scooted around the area. What a great idea! It would have turned out a ton cheaper than going on the tours.
There were several to choose from and we chose to go on a catamaran out to Low Isles for the purpose of snorkelling. It was a tad disappointing for the following reasons;
1. The tour had about 150 (or more) people which meant long queues.
2. Didn't arrive at our location until 11.30am and we had to leave at 2.30pm but in between this you had to go back to the boat for lunch as well as line up for snorkels, fins and stinger suits.
3. Unlike other boats that I've been on, you couldn't jump over the end of the boat and snorkle. You had to wait (in line) to catch a smaller boat over to Low Isle. This all took up valuable "snorkel" time
4. As I chatted to other people in the line up, I asked them what they thought of the day. Unanimously we agreed - very expensive for the amount of time we actually got to snorkle on the reef. My advice? Forget going out to Low Isle, choose the other Great Barrier Reef tour - it was about $50 more, but would have been worth it.
There were lots of things that I loved about the P&O Cruise:
1. The shows were great, they had a good variety between comedy nights and singing and dancing shows. Even a magician evening which had us scratching our heads for ages afterwards.
2. There was a talent karaoke night for the brave few that got up and had a go and trivia nights which were a lot of fun and free to enter. Unlike the bingo, which was priced between $15 and $35 for 5 games.
3. The food at the buffet and the à la carte was excellent. Loads to choose from.
4. There were health talks and a beauty spa on board (quite expensive compared to shore) but the talks were very informative.
5. Dancing lessons were available (from the cha cha to the waltz) and proved popular with the older people on board.
6. The staff were all exceptional - from reception - (who showed incredible patience working long hours) to the cleaners of our rooms (fresh towels and room cleaned daily plus the bed turned back of an evening) to the wonderful waiters who were polite and joyous every evening they served us. A big thumbs up to them all.
Would I go on another cruise? Not in a hurry. However, I've been told cruising the Caribbean is pretty amazing so never say 'never'.
Thank you for the good informative article. You're right about the hidden costs for cruises. It was the same for our Alaskan cruise where the drinks were expensive & many of the activities on board were designed to get additional money out of you. When it comes to shore excursions, many of the things they offer you can just do yourself when you arrive for a fraction of the cost. However, on the upside the food is usually always very good, the free shows are always very professional and it is a great way to see a variety of destinations without having to unpack every few days.
Cruising. Will always be a very relaxing way to holiday. It certainly can be an expensive vacation if you make hasty decisions. They photographers seem to be every where you turn and at every event that's happening. But you do not have to purchase any photos. (Take a camera). The tours are arranged by the cruise company and will include any are priced accordingly with a margin built in for the cruise line. On most every cruise My family have taken we. Organise our own tour after we disembark because every port of call will have tour operators at the wharf and offer very similar tours as the cruise lines at a fraction of the costs. Alcohol on board is an expense however not as expensive as you would expect considering where you are (a captive market). If you don't like the price the. Only choice you have is to not indulge. A cocktail at $10 would be cheap in a night club if purchased on the mainland. Like P&O Cruises most every company offers a choice dining option at a very reasonable price (ie:). P&O's Luke mangans restaurant basically all you can eat for $30 Lunch and $40 Dinner. This multi award winning chef has created the most exclusive menu for a ship at sea, the menu consists of a variety of mouthwatering delicacies that would be near impossible to find at home $40 well spent. Accomodation is simple but well appointed the entainment again simple but enjoyable the buffet,evening dining restaurant and a variety of lunch options are all very good. My favourite destination would have to be the Carribean on a royal Carribean ocean liner. Compared to most of the Australian ships we have to choose from (averaging 70 thousand tonnes). These ships are big enough to get lost on(anywhere from 70,000 Tonnes to 240,000 and the entertainment options are endless. The one thing I found out very quickly was that cruising was overall the least expensive way to have a relaxing vacation.