Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cruising The High Seas. What's it Like?

The remnants Cyclone Oswald  wreaking havoc on Sydney
So we were all packed, passports at the ready, 500 odd dollars later, what the heck?  The shuttle bus to the overseas passenger terminal was booked, the mail was redirected, the papers were cancelled and we were all systems go.  If only it wasn't for the remnants of cyclone Oswald, which decided to bare down on the city of Sydney the day before our departure, with predictions to worsen the following day.  We are usually very lucky travellers, but this time was our turn to be mucked around by the weather.

One of the many benefits of cruising is that you only unpack once.  You do go to several gorgeous ports of call, but your suitcase stays in the same spot.   A plus for mothers don't you think?  However, at this rate it looked like we would be holidaying moored somewhere in Sydney Harbour. The seas off Sydney were huge and it just wasn't possible to get safely outside the Heads.  We were instructed to board the ship on the original day of departure, so frankly I wasn't  that fussed about the delay.  We would still be on board and for me it was never about the destination, but rather the journey.  So we embarked and that afternoon I was lying prostrate here, having my back seriously de stressed by the lovely Rosie.  Man it was good.  I don't know what that bamboo was for, thankfully it was never used on me.

Directly after we boarded, we acquainted ourselves with the lay of the ship.  At 3pm all the outlets closed as the presence of every passenger was required in the Mustering areas for a safety drill.  Yes that's right, you are required to at least know how to put on your life jacket and those of your kids.  We were also instructed that this bar would be our muster point in the event of an emergency, what the alarm to evacuate would sound like and how to exit the ship in the direction of the life boats in single file holding onto the life jacket of the person in front.  The drill was very informative and I only hoped  my new skills would never be required in practice.
We didn't want any Titanic experiences, although you can have your photo taken infront of a back drop of the Grand Staircase if you care to.  There are professional photographers around every corner ready to snap your holiday for a fee.  They put filters on the lens to make you look good.  Believe me my skin hasn't looked this flawless for 15 years.  In the end we started to avoid them, as the shots were hard to resist. 

After the safety drill we were left to settle in and check out the lay of the "land".  There was lots to see.

The pool deck complete with movie screen and circus hoists, for instance.  They ran loads of movies here throughout the cruise.  There were also circus acts performed here one night, once the sea calmed down.

And as you would know with cruises, there is food every where you turn.  All main meals are included, which I absolutely loved, but there are extra dining options for purchase as well.  

Like these buckets of prawns

And my absolute and utter favorite was Luke Mangan's Salt Grill

As I indicated in my last post about the cruise, we were given a complimentary dinner here, but we did go back to dine there again under our own steam later.  The supplement is $40 per head, but I ask you, when would Mr Beach House and I get the opportunity to go to Luke Mangan's  Salt restaurant on terra ferma and for that price? Never is the answer to that and with free babysitting by the kids club until 10.30pm, why wouldn't you take the opportunity again and again to hang out with your beloved dining in style, kiddo free?  

Serious concentration as one must have their fair share of the mocktail no?
You can actually be as kiddo free as you like on the cruise. The Kids Club will even take the kids to dinner if you request it.  Our kids made lots of friends and actually asked if they could have dinner with the Kids Club most nights.  There were no complaints from me on that. Though they do close at lunch time for 2 hours.

At the Salt Grill, I loved this chocolate indulgence.  And I might add, one of the only 2 desserts I had over the 10 day holiday.  As I didn't want to get off the ship 2kg heavier, which would be quite easy to do.

So anyway 24 hours after embarkation, we were still moored in Sydney harbour, some of the non residents got off the ship and had a lovely day in Sydney, but as we are locals we decided to stay on board.  As the weather began to clear, it was lovely to swan around and photograph all the gorgeous icons that the harbour has to offer.  I figured a hotel room with views like this could cost up to $1500 a night, so if you are going to be stuck somewhere, it might as well be here.

We finally left Sydney Heads some 36 hours after embarkation and as it was 4am in the morning, by the time we awoke, we were well and truly at sea, which was a lovely feeling.  But feel it we could.  Lying in bed in those big seas felt a little like slow love making and as we were in a 4 berth cabin with the kids, it was about as close to slow love making we were going to get.  It was then that I realised why we had not left sooner, as the seas were still at 6 metres and believe me you can feel it. There was some seriously wobbly walking going on as well.

This most unusual cyclone decided to travel south east toward New Zealand,  the direction that we were originally going too.  So the decision was made to dispense with the ports of Dundedin  on the southern tip of NZ and a cruising tour of Fiordland from our itinerary and to head for the Cook Straits.  We were no longer going to circumnavigate the south island in an anti clockwise direction, but rather head down the east coast of the south island, visit the other 3 ports on our itinerary, turn around and come home through the Cook Straits again.

This was very disappointing to some, but again I was not that worried, I mean Fiorland wasn't going anywhere.  And hey, there were people up North in Queensland who had lost everything due to cyclone related flooding, so a little perspective was required.  I did learn one of many things on the cruise that day.  That the weather is completely in control of what happens out there at sea and you have to be prepared to roll with the punches. 

The Atrium was a little like a shopping mall
We were compensated by way of more cabin credits for the change of plans, so my way of dealing with it was to book another massage ($131 for 50 minutes) and not fret about what I had no control over.  I was still getting the lovely break I had so longed for.

The circus in the Atrium
All the while, the staff were absolutely fabulous.  They do their absolute best to make everything run smoothly.  They often spend up to 8 months of the year at sea away from their wives, husbands and children, but are so happy to have this kind of work.  We had the same waiters every night and they were so completely lovely. When we did eat with the kids, the waiters were so patient with them. and the kids loved the food.  Our cabin attendant was also very kind and attentive.  The kids club ladies were just gorgeous too.  Always greeting the kids by name and with a huge smile.  It's the little things that make the experience so pleasant.

There is a kids free bar and spa area at the back of the ship, known as the Oasis Bar.  It just so happened that we got an invite to the Captain's cocktail party held there.  I'm not sure if it was because we befriended the wife of the second in command of the ship at the evening trivia  or because I was a blogger, but I'm always up for a party however I score an invite.
Mr Beach House is great at a party and has no trouble talking to anyone about anything.  When the ocean is involved you can't stop him.  He is an arm chair expert.

The Beach House Brats were invited too, obviously as an exception to the kid free rule in the Oasis Bar.  We left the little one in the kids club and enjoyed some complimentary wine and canapes on the high seas and I have to say it was a beautiful evening and was delightful.

The Captain of the ship was an absolute scream and was newly remarried.  He had his new wife on board and speaking of slow moving depressions, he was very funny about his ex mother in law. Boom Boom.  Actually that's one of Mr Beach House's lines, but the captain had a similar sense of humour.  It was even funnier with his Italian accent and quirky use of English.

He gave a two hour lecture, which was a virtual tour of the ship and its bridge, which was fascinating and explained all manner of logistical, environmental and food issues.  The ship really is like a little self contained planet, with recycling, a desalination plant and huge stabilisers.

The Captain also had a party for repeat cruisers, where he presented fellow passengers Bruce and Edward, on their 100th cruise, with some champagne and invited them to Luke Mangan's for dinner. Bruce and I had become friends, so even though we were cruise virgins, Bruce got us an invite to that as well. When we docked on the Thursday back in Sydney, Bruce and Edward were going to reboard for a cruise to the south Pacific on the following Sunday.  I have heard about people who live on cruise ships and these guys practically did.  We teamed up with them in the trivia sessions too.  They sure knew most of the answers.  Bruce was an interesting guy who had been an actor in his youth.  He had been in movies with Helen Mirren and in many Aussie dramas of the day in the 1960' and 1970's, but he wouldn't tell me his stage name and I can't remember him.  I told him it was because I was too young.

So there you have it peeps, a bit of a run down on what cruising is like. Here's my other post on what we did on board if you want to get a further feel for what cruising is like.  I think I have one more post in me about the ports we visited. New Zealand really is a beautiful country.

I should also tell you that we paid our own passage on the cruise, but once I knew we were travelling, I decided to track down the media company who handles P&O and asked if they were interested in doing a deal with me to write about the cruise.  They said 'yes' and offered me some cabin credits and a complimentary dinner in Luke Mangan's Salt Grill.  As always, I shall be telling it exactly as it was, but I didn't have to pay for all my drinks and a few other things due to the cabin credits.

And for serious players who fancy a little turn about the ocean some time soon, this is for you.

P&O Cruises' Pacific Pearl carries 1800 passengers, and 700 crew.  It features Salt Grill fine dining restaurant by Luke Mangan, an Oasis child free retreat, The Dome entertainment area and observation lounge, nine bars and lounges, a health spa, two swimming pools, whirlpool spas and a jogging track.  Nine- night cruises to the Pacific Islands including a call at the Isle of Pines start from $699*
4 per person quad share departing Sydney July 29, August 7 and August 29 2013.
Fares include accommodation, main meals, onboard entertainment and activities including kids' clubs.

For more information call 13 24 94 or visit
*conditions apply

Today I am linked up with
Feathered Nest Friday
Show and Tell Friday
Weekend Wrap Up
Flaunt it Friday


  1. Slow love making! LOL What's that? LOL I might have to go cruising to find out. Lovely post Carolyn. I'm dying to go on a cruise.

    Anne xx

  2. Sounds like you had a great time Carolyn.
    It's like enforced relaxation.
    I like the idea of that ;O)
    Tania xx

  3. Wonderful post, Carolyn! I really enjoyed hearing about your cruise. I love how you and Mr. Empire make friends so easily!


  4. We love cruising. It looks like you had a really nice time, glad you enjoyed your trip! Stopping by from Sunday Scoop

  5. That's a brilliant review, Carolyn. It's good you took all the little setbacks in your stride. Seeing you images makes me want to immediately rush out and book a cruise. How lovely you were able to dine at Salt not once but twice. And those room credits sound like they didn't go to waste! xx

  6. Great review, Carolyn! I haven't ever been on a cruise, but have been thinking of taking one. We've had a recent drama just this week with a cruise ship having issues here in the Gulf of Mexico, so a lot of people are re-thinking their cruise plans.

    If you have a moment, please drop by and visit my new site - I haven't been blogging much recently because my life has taken a new direction:

  7. Great review, Carolyn! I'm sorry that your cruise didn't get off to a good start, but it sounds like you made the most of the change in plans!

  8. sounds like a great way to get away from it all.
    the kids must have loved it!

  9. Oh I so enjoyed this!AriadnefromGreece!

  10. looks like a great time was had by all you are really inticing me to book a cruise for the 3 of us next year.Kev turns 50 in may so this would be a great experience for all of us.He went on the fairstart when he was 21yrs so i think he would love the changes-love dee x

  11. Loved hearing all about your holiday, it sounds amazing! Love how you made friends with everyone as well. xx (welcome to pop in whenever you are free!) xx

  12. Fantastic! Fantastic! Just the sort of info I wanted to know, and your tips here and also the sensible way you did it ie no fussing about bad weather and not scoffing every dessert on offer are great. And previously when you talked aboutt he out of school holidays thing and booking in a sale... I think I need you as my travel agent.

    There is NOTHINg like the perspective of a fellow mamma, and nothing like seeing a lot of real life photos.

    Well done, really helpful.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Very good post. Enjoyed it. (How's Mister Beachhouse's mullet coming along?)

  15. Fabulous! Sorry you didn't get to cruise fiordland I hear it is stunning, but not when it is raining and it probably would have been. So a massage instead was probably an ok swap.

  16. Would love to go on a cruise but hubby has said no as he gets terribly seasick! might have to go with some girlfriends instead!

  17. Everything look so fabulous and delicious. I would love to go on a cruise. And your photos are amazing! I came here after commenting on the post of Seana Smith.

  18. Think you could quite easily and entertainingly write a book on cruising... lovely living through your adventures/ holiday. Rach xx

  19. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  20. Ahoy Carolyn!!

    I'm so happy that you enjoyed a much needed rest. Your children are so cute!!
    I've never been on a cruise, but, my mister has and loved it. I keep telling
    myself 'One day I will.'


  21. Your cruise did look like a great one and the food looked much better, than the food on my one and only cruise. I hope you and your family had a great time - the pictures certainly look like you did!


  22. This post takes me back to 1988 though i have"t been on the cruise i did visit the beautifully constructed opera house and the Harbour bridge.Thanks for taking me back to the time...:):)

  23. Sydney Harbour Bridge is my all time favourite, I think it's just so beautiful. The cruise sounds fabulous. A friend of mine has just been on a cruise to New Zealand. It probably was the same one. :)


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