Sunday, November 4, 2018

Majestic Princess to New Zealand in 2019 - booked!

We paid a $2 deposit back in June for two New Zealand cruises. One on the Norwegian Jewel and one on the Majestic Princess. After much discussion and tooing and froing we decided to go with the Majestic Princess. It worked out better value in the end for the three of us plus I am pretty sure on the Majestic the third bed is an actual bed and not just the sofa made up as a bed. I guess I'll find out in January!

The cruise is a 12 nighter to New Zealand doing both North and South Islands. We leave on Friday 25 January, just before Australia Day and get back on Wednesday 6 February. Hopefully the weather will be lovely and we'll be able to get in to see the fiords.

Now that we've paid for our cruise, the final was due at the end of October, I could log in and complete all our details and we can also prebook our tours or restaurants on board if we want. We won't do any of the paid for restaurants by may book a tour or two although having had a look at them they're pretty pricey! The main one I wanted to book isn't so much a tour but the bus to Christchurch from Akaroa. It's $90pp which seems like a lot for a 3 hour (return) bus trip but I don't think we'll have any choice if we want to get to Christchurch. Akaroa is a small place and from the searching I've done there are no car hire places. The last time I was in Christchurch was 2001 way before the earthquake and I'd really love to see how they're recovering since the earthquake.

Other stops we have are Auckland, Tauranga (both of which mum and I went to on our Ovation of the Seas cruise in 2017), Wellington and Dunedin plus scenic cruising the Sounds (fingers crossed as they are quite often cancelled due to the weather).

I'm hoping they have shuttle buses to Tauranga, which I am sure they will, as where we dock is actually Mt Manganui which mum and I have already seen and walked around. Auckland, not sure what we'll do here just know one thing we WON'T do and that's climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge (right mum!!), maybe we can jump of Skytower (just kidding mum). Possibly get a ferry somewhere or just walk around town.

Wellington I'd like to do the cable car and go to Cuba St to see the funky bucket fountain. The cable car's $5pp one way ($9 return) so we can catch it up and then wander back down through the gardens, if it's a nice day that is.

The exchange rate at the moment is about AU$1 to NZ$1.06 so pretty even really.

I've booked a hotel in Sydney for the night before the cruise and the train for mum and dad, haven't booked my flights yet. Not sure if I'll fly down the night before or the morning of, most probably the night before just in case there are flight issues on the day of. I'll also have to book my car in at the airport and organise travel insurance. I'll probably go through either Budget Direct or Woolworths as they both seem to be about the cheapest, there are a few cheaper but they don't have very good reviews. Hopefully we won't have to use our insurance but you just never know!

We've got a balcony cabin on the Marina deck which is just below the Lido deck and the buffet! It looks to be in a good spot but I guess any cabin on a ship is a good spot :-)

82 days and counting!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Pacific Aria - Monday 3 September, Debark Day

We were out of our cabin not too long after 6.30am which I thought was pretty good. Up to the Pantry for our final Aria brekky and then off the ship we could go. We didn't end up needing to wait in our designated area as they were all running on schedule and we could leave straight away. I think we left right on time, 8.15am and with that our cruise was over. Why didn't we book back to back??

Another yummy Pantry breakfast
The Atrium

The Ocean Bar

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pacific Aria - Sunday 2 September, 2nd Sea Day

Happy Father's Day!

This was outside the Waterfront Restaurant
Breakfast in the Pantry and then a cuppa out by the Lido whale watching.

The lovely Lido looking towards the pool, behind is the door into the Pantry
There is a whale there if you look closely
We watched a few people zip lining and then the cruise director doing his Bollywood dance class on the Lido. After that it was time for lunch. Desserts were all chocolate, my most favourite thing! I had chocolate rice pudding with chocolate custard and a chocolate rum ball! Mmmmmmmmm

Bollywood on the Aria

Chocolate desserts with a view

We did a spot of walking and then decided we'd walked enough so found a comfy chair and had a cocktail and why wouldn't you! A Toblerone for mum and a Maragrita for me. I don't know why anyone wouldn't like cruising, what's not to like?? No cooking, cleaning, washing, lots of food, relaxing, drinking, whale spotting....

Cheers to the Aria and our next cruise, where to next?
And relax - one of the stunning areas on the Aria. This was just down from the main bars/casino & shops on deck 7
If you can't let your hair down on a cruise then when can you??
Dinner tonight was at the Dragon Lady, Asian inspired decor and food. Very disappointing. The food didn't appear to be freshly cooked and my main of Ramen Chicken wasn't at all what I expected. Three pieces of deep fried chicken that reminded me of KFC. The share noodles and rice were nice and the starter of kumur and potato chips with dipping sauce and a refreshing watermelon shot were probably the best part of our meal. We had a chocolate cake/muffin with icecream for dessert, not very Asian, which had a nice chocolatey flavour but was very solid. Underwhelming to say the least. Should have stuck to the Pantry, we'll know for next time. We did head up to the Pantry for our cup of tea. Our final night on the Aria and when we wake we'll be docked back in Brisbane.

Looks good but looks can be deceiving!

We had to have our bags packed and outside our cabin between 5-8pm so after getting reading for dinner we did that and just kept a few essentials and clothes for tomorrow out. Our debark time was scheduled for 8.15am but we had to be out of our cabin a 6.30am!! What?? That's too early to end a cruise on.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Pacific Aria - Saturday 1 September, Airlie Beach

Airlie is a tender port as there aren't any docks bigger enough for cruise ships. They were using 4 of the ships tenders and 2 larger boats from Airlie to transport us passengers. We caught a ships tender over and a catamaran back.

Before any of that happens though, breakfast!

Breakfast in Airlie
We both had the scrambled eggs this morning, so yummy. I had a weird pancake muffin thing, I don't recommend them. The french toast was good especially with maple syrup and a gorgeous view. The water is so blue.

The crowds had died down so we went and got out tender ticket and waited in the Marque for our numbers to be called.

On the tender heading for Airlie marina.
Once off the tender we followed the boardwalk/road to Airlie Beach. A pretty easy walk with a pretty view of the harbour and islands. Airlie is quite a small place, I didn't realise it was so little. Lots of holiday units that would have amazing views of the harbour. There is a fabulous area, similar to Southbank in Brisbane, with lagoon pools and seating. The water was a bit nippy but did help us cool off. 

Refreshingly cold

How could you not enjoy being here??

We had a walk around the markets but didn't buy anything. Another place to come back to, good excuse for another cruise.

After kicking back by the pool, just with a legs in the water, we slowly made our way back to the tenders. This time we caught the bigger boat back.

Our transport back to the ship
Back in time for lunch and a bit of dessert, why not we are on holidays afterall.

Time for a spot of bull riding?? Maybe not, don't want to be heading to the medical center.

Woah nelly
This is more our style:

Cheers big ears

Cheers to Airlie!
Dinner tonight was in the Waterfront after we went to the show in the Marque. The show was Cover Girls and one we hadn't seen before. So good. three female singers doing songs from around the 40's/50's with funny little skits based around finding a man, being a diva and just having got married. Very enjoyable. I love going to the shows on a cruise. They are generally really good and only going for about 45 minutes makes for a nice evening before heading to dinner.

The meal wasn't anything to rave about unfortunately. Our main was yummy, roast beef and the dessert was ok but not like previous cruises (excluding the 3 nighter with my niece) a bit disappointing really.

Waterfront - dessert
The restaurant itself is really nice looking, light and airy, at lot smaller than the Dawnie and looks to be set out quite well. We were able to get a table for two although our booking was for 8pm so that may explain it as it wasn't too busy. The menu is quite small compared to back in the day so choices are pretty limited. They now have a section for 'pay for' meals which I don't think would be worth it going by the quality of the meals we had. At least we didn't have to cook or clean up so we shouldn't moan too much :-)

Our last sea day tomorrow before arriving back in Brisbane on Monday - this cruise is going way too fast! Father's Day tomorrow too.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Pacific Aria - Friday 31 August, Townsville

Our first port on this trip is Townsville. The Aria can dock here as she is a smaller ship but it did take a bit of manouvering from the captain.

Reversing into our spot at the dock
We were alongside the wharf at about 9.30am. Getting off the ship was a bit messy but we managed in the end. Quite a long slow process. not sure why they don't have this down pat by now, they do it so often. The gangway was a bit wibblywobbly so I'm sure quite a few people, especially ones with walkers, had a bit of difficulty getting off. It would be good if they had two gangways.

After a lovely breakfast sailing slowing into Townsville we relaxed some more before heading off as it was quite congested getting off, still was when we got off.

Brekky out the back of the Pantry
Gorgeous weather, I don't think we could have asked for a better day really. Sunny, not many clouds and a slight cooling breeze. Just what the doctor ordered after what feels like a very long winter!

Heading towards Townsville and Castle Hill
We had planned o walking up Castle Hill but that changed pretty quick once we got close to it and saw how big it was and how hot it was and how far we'd already walked! 

There's quite a bit of road works happening and lots of closed shops, not quite what I was expecting. I picture a very water centric place full of life and activity but it wasn't quite that. The Strand, which is based along the water, is lovely but no one was in the water. We didn't know if it was because of stingers (although the stinger season is meant to be from November to May) or if the water was too cold. The weather was perfect. We did lots of walking and sitting by the water before making our way back to the Aria.

The Variety Charity Car Bash finished in Townsville today, we didn't know this until millions of weird and wonderful cars came driving down the Strand making a huge racket. That added a bit of excitement to the place!

The Strand - one of the deserted beaches

Variety Charity - Geelong to Townsville
We slowly made our way back to the Aria passing some lovely old buildings and a giant spider.

Lovely old building

Watch out for the spiders!

Back to the Pacific Aria
Much easier to get back onto the ship. We had walked a lot and next stop was the Pantry for a cuppa, we thought we'd missed out on lunch as it was after 3pm by the time we got back to the ship but we were in luck and half of it was still open! We grabbed a quick bite and then went to the Dome to enjoy the view and a cocktail.

Fluffy duck for mum and a frozen margarita for me.

Every Saturday should end with a cocktail
Dinner was at Angelo's tonight but first drinkies on Deck 7 after a jooz and putting on our best frocks.

Cheers to Townsville
This became one of our go to spots, just off the Mix bar, quiet but still in amongst it. The shops were just behind along the side and then in the middle was a lounge bar and the otherside was the casino.

Our restaurant was on this level so we didn't have to stagger too far :-)

A delicious meal for both of us and a lovely evening. The desserts were the best we had the whole cruise. Out of the three restaurants this was the best, we thought anyway. The only problem was I had been dying for roast lamb and thought for sure I'd be able to have it on the cruise unfortunately the night they had the roast lamb in the Pantry was tonight, doh! I did say to mum that that must mean tomorrow's Indian dish will be lamb (it was and I had it, not quite a roast but still yummy). The trials we go through on a cruise, poor us!


 Tomorrow is Airlie Beach!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pacific Aria - Thursday 30 August, 1st Sea Day

Mum was up at the crack of dawn as the bacon and eggs were calling her, I got up a bit later and wandered up to the Pantry for brekky and a view.

Bye Brissy see you in 5 days
There were a lot of whales out and about which we had been hoping we'd see. Most were still heading north but a few looked as if they were heading back down the coast. I didn't get any photos of the whales as I was never quick enough but they were there!

Most of the day was spent wandering around the ship and trying to get our bearings. It's quite a bit different to other ships as the atrium is quite small and not really the central part of the ship. Deck 7 is the deck to be most everything is here. It took me awhile to warm to this ship as it is quite compact but in the end, especially with the lovely decor, I grew to like it and enjoy that all the bars basically lead off one another so it was quite an inviting place to be. You could find a quite spot to sit or be in a bit more of a lively area without feeling too crowded. We never did make it to trivia as that bar was always full, people like their trivia!

Pandora had yet another Grand Opening and would you believe Mum was the winner! This time it wasn't a charm but an Aria teddybear.

Winner winner chicken dinner!
We had drinks and nibblies on the Lido and what lovely nibblies they were. I got them from one of the stations in the Pantry. I could get use to this.

This is what life's about!
After the show, The Velvet Rope (another show we've seen before but it is a fabulous show!), we headed to the Pantry for yet another lovely meal. Indian for mum and Asian for me plus dessert of course.

The Pantry - Stix Asian station

Dessert and a cuppa before retiring for the night
Tonight was Gatsby night but was we weren't going to the restaurant or the after party we didn't get all dressed up but a lot of people did. They always look great on Gatsby night, feathers everywhere!

Heading to our cabin (sideways!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Pacific Aria - Wednesday 29 August, Embark Day

Finally, our Aria cruise is here! Our official P&O boarding time is 1-1.30pm but we've never known P&O to stick to these so we'll see how we go getting there earlier.

All packed and ready to go we left at about 10.30am and arrived at Portside Parking 12pm, not a bad run at all. We used Siri to help us as there are some roadworks happening and a few roads are closed or detoured. She did a good job even though I did turn right a little too early so had to turn around but no biggy. A few people pulled into Portside as we got there but check in as quick and it's an easy 100mtr walk from Portside to the ship.  Once at the dock we dropped our suitcases off and jumped on the short queue to get our cruise cards. Easy so far and that continued, we waited about 20 mins before our number was called, with a singer to entertain us, and away we went. No forms to fill out as this was a local cruise, just a quick buzz through the scanners and then ding we were on board!

Our cabin was on Deck 4, we boarded on Deck 5 so walk down a level and then worked out where our cabin was. It was ready so we had a quick freshen up, met with Romeo our Cabin Steward (Dora was his helper) and then headed for the Pantry. It was lunchtime afterall!

Cabin 4142 - Lounge area

Cabin 4142 - Beds and our window (we had been upgrade from a Porthole)
 The cabin felt a bit bigger than other P&O cabins, maybe just a bit longer as we haven't ever had a lounge on a P&O ship generally just a single seat. Nice to have a little bit more space to dump all our stuff and all of the cushions on the beds.

The only thing we weren't a fan of was the bath in the bathroom. Quite awkward to get in and out of and to turn the taps on and off as the shower was over the bath and the taps were at the bath level plus the bath filled up with water while showering. We both prefer just a shower but if that's wat it takes to go on a cruise I'm sure we can put up with it ;-)

We stopped off at the Bar near the two extra restaurants to make a booking, we were told on the first night you could book 2 nights (any two) and then tomorrow you could book other nights if you wanted to. We ended up booking the Italian Restaurant for our Townsville night and the Asian Restaurant for our last night. A couple of days later we also booked the main Waterfront Restaurant to try that out. All bookings were for a table for two. We booked 7pm for the Italian and Asian and 8pm for the Waterfront. We didn't think of the show times but it ended up working out ok as one night was a comedian which we're not fans of and the last night we could have gone to the 9pm but ended up not bothering.

Still working out how the ship is laid out we headed for the front set of stairs from our cabin (we came to realise the rear set were better as they lead straight to the Pantry!) We walked through the Lido and couldn't decide if this was only part of it or if it was just a lot smaller than the other ships we'd been lucky enough to cruise on. It was smaller, no other part to it. A very lovely space though. One pool and two spas with lots of seating around the edge and comfy deck chairs around the centre. A big bar area at one end with more seating and a coffee shop/ice cream shop on one side. There was also a small pay for Grill area at the other end. Things like burgers and buckets of prawns, we didn't go there. Why pay for food when the Pantry has so much choice?

Through to the Pantry and again it was smaller than previous ships but still just as lovely and yummy. It has the same stations as the Dawnie just a bit more compact. Also, there are only two tea/coffee stations, at the end of the Pantry near the back deck where as the Dawnie also had one at the front of the Pantry. This area could get a bit congested as it also had the cold water and ice machine, even though there never seemed to be any ice.

Our first Pantry meal - Mexican!

One of the water stations (opposite the dessert station)
Muster was at 3pm so we headed back to our cabin to see if our bags had arrived, they had, so we could unpack. There's plenty of storage, lots of drawers and the suitcases fitted under the bed although I left mine at the end of my bed between the lounge. It was out of the way there.

We grabbed our life jackets and headed to Deck 6 outside for our muster. Unfortunately during muster a chap was not feeling too flash and was sick over the side of the ship. Hope it wasn't sea sickness as we hadn't left yet! Not a great start to his cruise. Mum never quite managed to get her life jacket on so she's just going to grab one of the life rings instead.

We dropped our life jackets back in the cabin and then headed upstairs for sailaway. We were due to leave at 4pm but left about half an hour late. P&O do a good sailaway. It was a gorgeous afternoon, blue skies, slight breeze and no work for a few days, yay!

We spent some of sailaway on the top deck and then mum spied a free table on the Lido so we hightailed it down there, grabbed a drink and sailed down the Brissy River. 

Sailaway on the Aria

Heading under the Gateway Bridge

We went to the 7pm show Chart Toppers (something like that) modern songs, think Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse and Taylor Swift. Really good show, we had seen it on a previous ship but with different singers and dancers it's almost like a totally new show. The Marque is smaller than the Dawnie but we had great seats. Up the top in the front row. The show went for about 45mins.

After the show we headed to the Pantry for dinner. Nice quiet time to go.

Happy place