It’s been a couple of months since I returned from my family holiday in the South Pacific. As always, we immensely enjoyed Cruising. As a family of six it is really hard to get a better value holiday than that of Cruising. We like a bit of rest and relaxation but we also like to discover new and exciting places and Cruising offers just this and more.
To date I have sampled the Cruising goods on a number of ships in a number of locations but this was the first time we have enjoyed our own backyard. The South Pacific from Australia is one of the cheapest and easiest places to Cruise. There are ships that leave year around from our Aussie shores that venture to these lovely tropical lands. The hardest choice is which ship, when to go and when to book. That’s where I come in, I can help with all of this. For our family adventure this time around, we went with a new experience in that of the Christmas Cruise.
There are a number of reasons why people might choose a Cruise for Christmas, let’s face it, Christmas can be hard work. Some people might be experiencing a few difficulties in life and want to get away from it all. Some might want to bring their whole family together in the one place where no one person is responsible for all the cooking and cleaning etc. Or you may just want to go for it and get together with new friends on the Cruise and celebrate together with your substitute family and friends. Regardless of the reason, a Christmas Cruise can suit everyone’s needs.
All the major Cruise companies have a Christmas Cruise, some are very over the top in their decorations and festivities and some are very subdued. I was expecting it to be very over the top and in your face but was surprised at the festive restraint. Upon reflection, many people would take a Christmas Cruise to escape the festive season so festive restraint is probably very appropriate. It is there if you want it, but can also be avoided if you choose. We did have a huge Christmas tree in the promenade area, they did sing Christmas carols on Christmas eve, Santa did come and gave a gift to all the kids onboard and they did serve a traditional Christmas meal on Christmas eve. For me, having 4 kids, I also had to pack a whole other suitcase just for Santa, but other than this it was just like any other Cruise, which is pretty great!
So, who did we go with, where did we go and what did we do?
This time around we went with Royal Caribbean. We left it to the last minute so we were unable to secure interconnecting rooms, which usually need to be booked at least a year in advance. We prefer oceanview (I have written another blog on why, if you want to read that too?), and we were able to secure 2 x oceanview rooms side by side on the Explorer of the Seas.
The ship itself is great, it offers something for everyone as most Cruises do. Royal Caribbean take things up a notch with adventurous extras such as ice skating or the flowrider. Did I have a go? Not this time, the last time I tried the flowrider was on Oasis of the Seas and I felt as if I was an injury waiting to happen. So, this time I saved myself the medical insurance excess and just observed. My kids did enjoy the ice skating though, they also use the rink for a skating show at sea on one of the evenings, which is also pretty special. They have hired world class skaters just for this purpose.
During sea days we do tend to spend most of our days by the pool. If the kids are at the (included) kids clubs, we will go to the adult pool zone. If they are with us, we will go to the main pool area and attempt to find a sun lounge there. It does get very busy, I found this Cruise particularly busy with an excess of kids, being school holidays. The majority of the kids were well behaved but you always get the occasional kid that wants to scuba dive in the spa and kicks you in the face in the process.
Some family members we travelled with were not interested in the pool at all, they enjoyed their time chatting to the staff in the bars, reading books on their balcony or watching the various bands perform at various times, in various bars or lounges.
Our port stops were Noumea, Mystery Island, Mare, & Lifou. All were rather lovely and we were very lucky to be rewarded with warm weather as all but Noumea are small island destinations where snorkelling, wading in the beach and water activities, play a big part in what there is to do.
In Noumea we chose the hop on hop off bus, the popular chou chou train was there too, but the bus had air conditioning and went a few stops further to an island look out. Both of these can be arranged once you are off the ship quite easily at the Noumea port. Noumea being part of New Caledonia, a French territory, does have a French flavour about it. There are some nice restaurants and shops as well as some tourist markets to explore but with the warm weather a lot of the Cruisers end up at the beach.
Mystery Island, is a quaint little island that is uninhabited until the Cruise ships are in town. It is there purely to cater for the Cruisers. It is very pretty, with lovely crystal clear waters that are great for snorkelling and swimming. On the island, locals come across from nearby villages to sell things at the market, braid hair, run sightseeing tours or to generally entertain by singing and dancing. It does have a local Polynesian village type feel, and everyone is very welcoming.
On Mare, you need to purchase a transfer to the beach onboard the ship, once you reach the port by tender (which does not offer much) you are transported to the beach where you can swim for the day. There did not seem to be many other options here. The beach again was probably a ‘tourist’ beach, with many locals coming in to run the various small businesses set up along it’s shores to cater for the Cruisers. You could hire a kayak or purchase a drink from a coconut. It was all very touristy, but again, with beautiful clear waters and a nice beach to walk up and down it was good to explore.
Our last port was Lifou, we chose not to book a shore excursion on the ship as with a family of 6, they can get quite expensive. Once on shore we found that there were several local run tour buses that took you around the island for a fraction of the price. Was our bus nicely maintained like the lovely 5 star shore excursion ones that drove past us….no! The seats were pretty terrible and thread bare, they literally did not seem like they had been cleaned in their 30 year life span. Did we have a good time, yes! Did we see all the sites the island seemed to offer, yes! Would I choose this again based on value for money, yes! It is an interesting island Lifou, it is pretty picture perfect offering lots of nice snorkelling again, as well as some ruins, a church and some culturally significant places to see. We enjoyed another day of sunshine, beaches and exploration in the South Pacific.
Back on Explorer of the Seas we continued to be entertained each evening with a quality show, they mix it up a bit with theatre like productions or even gig’s, where you go an see a live band rock the stage. Royal Caribbean have been getting the INXS tribute show a lot lately and the feedback seems positive. They did rock it according to my limited band knowledge.
The meals continue to be delicious, the food in general is in abundance and all very nice. You can choose from being served in the main dining room or buffet style in the windjammer food hall. There are also other paid options for fine dining which we did not take this time, we were more than happy with the food that was included and certainly had our fair share. My absolute favorite was the crème brulee dessert, I find it hard to go past this each night.
We were sad to have to get off in Sydney, but we are sure that we will be back one day, hopefully sooner, rather than later, perhaps next Christmas 😊
If you would like more Cruise information, which Cruise company is right for you? Where to Cruise to, and when? please do not hesitate to contact me, i would love to chat.
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