Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ovation of the Seas - Tuesday 31 January, Noumea - New Caledonia

Heading into Noumea
Noumea - New Caledonia. We have been here many times now due to our love of cruising and the fact that just about every cruise, that does the South Pacific, goes to Noumea. We've been tossing up whether or not to do the Kayaking Tour ($106pp) on the Dumbea River.

Noumea Fire station
We ended up not doing any tours and just wandered around Noumea for a few hours before heading back to the shuttle bus and the ship. Being that the Ovation is so large we docked at the container terminal and had to catch shuttle buses to the main cruise terminal. This was all organised very well and didn't take us very long at all to get off the ship and onto a bus.

Coconut Square
 Nothing much has changed in Noumea since our last visit. I did try and get onto the wifi in Coconut Square as I needed to contact my sister about a tour I had organised for Auckland but I didn't have any luck. Possibly due to 1,000's of other cruisers also trying to log on! No big deal, I'll just try again once we get to NZ.

I'm still amazed how BIG the Ovation is!

I hadn't changed any money so could go to the casino (supermarket) to buy any nibblies which I previously have done. Not that the nibblies are that fabulous or anything it was just something I started doing and they became the pressies for everyone. No pressies this time!

We had one or two ice creams during the course of our cruise
Once back on board, would you know it, it was lunch time. Windjammers and then an icecream. We left Noumea right on time, possible a little bit early and headed for Mystery Island.

Leaving Noumea
 Dinner again in the Icon but we were placed in a different section this time. Still fabulous just a busier area as it was much closer to the kitchen and bar areas. The waiters put on a little show for us, it was a great evening. I had a sweet potato pie for dessert, different, unusual, nice.

Show time
Creme Brulee and Sweet Potato Pie
 Another roomie tonight, this time it was mister turkey,gobble gobble!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Ovation of the Seas - Monday 30 January, 2nd Sea Day

Day 3 - 2nd sea day
Our second sea day went pretty much like the first one although this time we ate lunch in Windjammers and not our cabin and went to a 'silent disco' in Two70.

Silent Disco - getting my DJ groove on
The silent disco had us intrigued so we had to go and see what it was all about. How it works is there are two dj's who play different music to one another but to hear them you need to be wearing headphones! There's a button on your headphones which you can switch between the two dj's (green or blue) or switch off so you can't hear any music. This is when it gets funny! People are dancing and singing but if you don't have headsets or you've switched them off you can't hear any music but you can hear people singing, generally very loud and off key! It's hilarious. As is the dancing because there are two types of music playing some people don't look like they're dancing in time but that's only because your listening to the other dj! We didn't dance, may have accidently sang out loud a few times, but had a great time!

There's dancing at the Silent Disco

We watched the flowrider and ifly - we're booked on the ifly for later in the cruise but think we'll just be spectators for the flowride. It looks fun but it also looks like you could hurt yourself if you get it wrong, which I'm sure I would. Actually, a day or so later a guy of about 60 did fall and hurt himself quite badly and had to be airlifted off and taken to Noumea Hospital. We did hear later on that he returned to the ship when we were in Auckland. He was wearing a neck brace but luckily had no serious injuries!

It's a big ship so the corridors are long, luckily our cabin wasn't far from the stairs/lift
 We had drinks in Vintages before we headed for dinner. It's a nice, quiet lounge just up from Two70 and next to Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant and above our restaurant.


American Icon - our restaurant!
Starters - the food in the restaurant was superb
 When we got back to our cabin we had a new roomie, Ellie the elephant!

Ellie the elephant

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ovation of the Seas - Sunday 29 January, 1st Sea Day

How lucky are we?? (hint: very)
We started our first sea day with a cuppa, made from our kettle in the room, on our balcony. Such as small thing to have a kettle but it was nice to not have to either order room service or pop upstairs to get a cup of tea. I know, 1st world problems! We're easy pleased anyway.

Solarium Bistro - our breakfast venue of choice
No plans for the day so we just relaxed a bit on the balcony before getting ready and then headed upstairs to check out the Solarium Bistro for breakfast. This became our place for brekky. It's a smaller and quieter buffet style restaurant which suited us just fine. I'm not a morning person so being able to eat my muesli and have a cup of tea in relative peace was nice, especially on such a big ship. The solarium area is a lovely space with lots of windows and light coming in. I could get use to this. (and I did)

The Promenade - deck 4. Always busy when there are bargains to purchase!

Heading for Jamie's, Vintages and Two70 Lounge and Cafe

Two70 Lounge
After breakfast we went for another walk around the ship, trying to get our bearings and work out where everything is. Is very well laid out so didn't really take us that long to find things and not get lost. The majority of the main public spaces are decks 3, 4 and 5 and then the top decks 14, 15 and 16. The rest is basically cabins. Deck 3 is the casino, deck 4 is the main promenade or atrium level with the majority of shops plus restaurants and the main part of the Royal Theatre (Our restaurant was on this level) and deck 5 has a few restaurants and bars plus a couple of shops and the photo centre.

The Two 70 Lounge at the back of the ship, deck 5 with a balcony area and library on deck 6, was a beautiful area. The whole back of the ship is all glass so you can image the views. This also turned into screens for shows, a very funky place.

We went to Windjammers to grab some lunch and decided to enjoy it on our balcony, we loved having a balcony.

Lunch in our cabin
6.45pm - Dinner reservation in American Icon. I'd prebooked this doing an earlier sitting as I had booked us in to see the show in the Royal at 9pm so didn't want to have to rush dinner (or miss out on dessert!). Our second dinner on board the Ovation was just as yummy as our first!

We'd often check the menu out on either our TV or the iQ app on my phone
9pm - Show in the Royal Theatre, Live.Love.Legs Fantastic show. Lots of dancing, legs and singing. Definitely worth seeing. There was another showing at 10.45pm but that was a bit late for us. This show was after mum's bedtime! We could go straight in after having our card scanned as we had a booking but there were a number of people waiting in the 'standby' line hoping to be able to go in if anyone with bookings didn't show up. 8.50pm was the cut off for people with bookings and then they would start letting in the standbyers. It is a decent sized theatre but like old theatres are there some seats better than others. A few nearer the back were behind columns and the lower ones weren't as tiered as the top so if a taller person sat in front of you, you may have a bit of a time looking around them. We did notice people saving seats, which aren't meant to do, but what made it even worse was that they were saving them for people who did not have a reservation. A bit selfish if you ask me! Anyway, we really enjoyed the show and were looking forward to the other shows I had prebooked for later in the cruise.

Live.Love.Legs show in the Royal Theatre
 Now it's time for bed, we aren't party animals that's for sure!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ovation of the Seas - Saturday 28 January, Embarkation Day!

Ovation of the Seas here we coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooome! Cruise day is finally here and we can not wait to get on board!

We checked out of our hotel and headed over to Central to get to Circular Quay (where our ship was waiting for us) but I had read online that the trains where being replaced by buses due to trackwork. We hadn't seen any signs anywhere yesterday so thought they may have cancelled the work, nope the trains for the City Circle weren't running. We had to get a bus from the opposite side of Central to where we were and then it dropped us off a street back from Circular Quay. Probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't a day when 3 cruise ships (Ovation, Radiance and the Eden) were in so many people had suitcases. We managed ok but there were quite a few older people who would have found it a bit tiring.

Ovations of the Seas!!
We dropped our suitcases at the OPT at around 9.30am and went to Maccas for brekky. I just have to note that the moment I saw our ship I did freak out a bit. It is GINORMOUS! I knew it was big but when you see it in real life you realise how BIG it is!! I was a bit nervous wondering if I'd get lost a lot and how busy it would be!

Our check in time was set for 11.30am so we had a couple of hours to wander around and take piccies. The Radiance of the Seas was anchored in the harbour, it was meant to dock at the OPT but the Ovation took it's spot after they extended it's stay in Australia. The logistics for the Radiance would have been HUGE. They had to do everything via ferries - restock, get passengers off and on. Apparently they didn't leave Sydney until around 11pm that night. It didn't make any difference to their itinerary.

Before going back to the OPT we stopped at a money exchange place under Circular Quay station just to get a little bit of NZ dollars. We changed $50 (Australia) and received $40 (New Zealand), I had thought we would get roughly $50NZ but when we looked at the receipt we were charged a $10 transaction fee!! We thought that was a bit of a rip off.

Radiance of the Seas
On the Royal Caribbean website it says that check in from kerb to ship is 10 minutes. I didn't see how this would be possible, especially when there are around 4,000 passengers! We got to the check in area at our allotted time (11.30am) and were sitting on the Pool Deck 14 at 11.47am. We were on board within 10 minutes! Very efficient! I wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't of done it. Their checking in is well organised and, I guess, as long as you do all of your precheckin before hand (I did it all online at home) you'll be on board in no time!

Splash zone - deck 14. Part of the main pool area.
Our cabin wasn't ready yet. There was a sign on the main door which lead to the corridor and our cabin saying it would be ready at 1pm. No problem. We only had our handbags with us (mum did have a small slightly heavy carry bag as it had our wine in it) so we decided to head for the buffet, of course! Windjammers is on Deck 14 at the rear. It has a 'washy washy' station before you can enter the main food part. I didn't get a photo of this and forgot during the cruise! It's a smallish curved room that has a row of sinks, taps and soap dispensers and paper towels. You must wash your hands before entering the buffet. There is always a staff member or two standing near it saying 'washy washy' and making sure everyone does washy washy! There were also the standard hand sanitisers around the food areas so there was no excuse not to have clean hands. It still surprises me how many people walk straight passed these! I guess that's why they now have the washy washy station for the buffet!

There were about 10 or so different food stations, which I thought could have been laid out better for a much easier flow but it still wasn't too bad. The food was plentiful, as always, and there seemed to be a lot to choose from. Indian, Chinese, American, Mexican, salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, roasts etc etc You are very hard to please if you couldn't find something you liked! I had some delicious pasta salad, a slice of pizza and a sweet (or two!). There desserts and cakes were so yummy, very hard to resists when you walked by! I had read before we cruised that the seating could get quite busy and that it was best to head out to the back area of the Windjammer in the busier times, as people don't generally like to walk too far, so there was quite often plenty of seats down there. Seeing as we were one of the first to board it was pretty quiet, relatively speaking when the ship holds 4,000, so we didn't have any problems finding a lovely table with a view.

During lunch they did announce over the speakers that all cabins were ready, yay. After we'd finished (stuffing our faces) eating we went for a bit of a wander around the top decks to try and get a lay of the land. What a gorgeous ship, what a big ship! So far so good! We also stopped by the ice cream station on deck 14 :-) This isn't self serve but is free. I think it's a good idea having someone serve you, much less mess! Chocolate, Vanilla or Chocolate/Vanilla swirl.

Yum! It was quite warm so it's a bit melted and I've eaten some!

We excitedly headed down to our cabin which, surprisingly, was quite easy to find! Deck 13 just down from the main front stairs and lifts. Mum's cruise card was waiting for her at our door - we needed this to get into our cabin as well as for everything else on board. We took some 'yay we're at our cabin photos' and headed in. Very lovely room and very roomy! The bathroom was to the left when we walked in, then there was a wardrobe and large lounge on the left and opposite it a desk with chair and an area with the kettle. Under that was the bar fridge and next to that lots of drawers. Further into the cabin was another wardrobe plus the room safe and our beds (and my cruise card, yippee!) and then passed the beds was the door out to our balcony!! The beds have a curved edge to make getting passed them easier, very nifty idea.

I had noticed some bags a bit further down our corridor so went and had a look to see if my suitcase was there, yay it was. I asked one of the cabin peeps if it was ok to take and away I went. Not long afterwards mum got her suitcase. We unpacked, plenty of wardrobe space and drawers - I could have packed more although my suitcase was already heavy enough! After unpacking I put my suitcase in my wardrobe and mum put hers under her bed.

We put our wine in the fridge. You are allow two bottles of wine per cabin although mum had both of the bottles in her carry bag and they didn't question her. Maybe if I had wine in my bag they may have but we did go through the security scanners separately so they wouldn't have actually known we were together. We did see a lady later on in the evening going to guest services to collect her suitcase as she had put her wine in her suitcase. They do say if you bring any wine on board it must be in your carry on luggage. As usual, people don't bother to read or do what is requested!

Cabin 568 Deck 13 - our first towel animal

Anyway, we're happy and excited to finally be on board the Ovation. We booked it back in October, which for us is very early and so glad the day has finally come!

We had muster to do which was all the way down on deck 5 (remember we're on deck 13) so checked out the back of our cabin door to find the instructions on how to get there. Pretty easy. Straight down the stairs to deck 5 and hang a left into Chops Grille. All the life jackets are stored here and around the ships, there aren't any in the cabins. It was a bit hard to see or hear the drill but we've done a few musters so have a pretty good idea of what we need to do in an emergency. Thankfully we didn't have to test out our mustering skills!

Off for another little wander around before it was time to say goodbye to Sydney and head off on our cruise. We sat on our balcony for sailaway - we loved our balcony! The Pacific Eden went out about an hour before us and the Radiance headed out at approx. 11pm later that night.

The Pacific Eden heading off on her cruise
Dinner reservations for tonight was for 7.45pm in the My Time restaurants which we found out were located on deck 4. (This was printed on our seapass card) American Icon or Silk. We had a quick freshen up and then headed downstairs to find our restaurant. We found it! To begin with I thought it was if you had reservations you went to American Icon and if you didn't you went to Silk but a few days in I realised you could go to either, they just had separate lines for with reservations and without reservations. The menus are the same in all four main restaurants it's just the decor which was different. If we had the set dining (5.30pm or 8pm) we would have been in the restaurants on deck 3 - The Grande or Chic.

We didn't wait long at all and were being shown to our table. Beautiful restaurant, we loved the Icon! Now the hard part, deciding what to eat :-)

Our first dinner menu on the Ovation

Enjoying our first of many delicious dinners in the Icon

Dessert menu!!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sydney - Friday 27 January, 2017

Staying at: Valentine on George - 21 Valentine Street, Haymarket

Possible things to do today: catch a train out to our old stomping ground of Penrith, Luna Park, ferry over to Manly, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour.........we've got a few ideas but will wait and see what the weather's doing and what we feel like doing. :-)

We ended up heading out to Penrith on the train, curiosity got the better of us! Well, nothing has really change out there. They're still working on the station, they were working on this when we left 12 years ago! Nothing much has been done around town. A few new buildings but that's about it. Penrith is looking a bit tired and in need of some tlc and sprucing up.

Top of the High Street, Penrith
We walked over to Penrith Panthers and, again, it was pretty much the same as when we left. A new entrance and a new building next door for the iFly (which we plan on doing on the ship!) but the inside is exactly the same and so very dark! We had lunch at Harry's Cafe de wheels which is inbetween Panthers and the iFly and then walked back into town and the train.

Penrith Panthers and iFly

Lunch at Harry's Cafe de wheel (next door to Panthers)
One back in Sydney we freshened up a bit in the room and then headed out for dinner. We had seen a pub not far from the hotel with cheap snizzies but on the way to it we passed Mad Mex so ended up in there. The food was yum and a little bit messy!

Mad Mex Ultimo
After dinner we wandered down to Chinatown for.............................cream puffs!! Had to get my cream puffs while I was here :-)

Waiting for Cream Puffs in Chinatown
 Last night before our cruise tomorrow, so excited!! (and a little nervous)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day 2017 - Heading to Sydney

Thursday 26 January, 2017. A relatively early start but not too bad. We need to be at the Coach Terminal by 7.35am to get the coach to Wauchope Station. The terminal's only a couple of minutes drive away so dad's going to drop us off before he heads to bowls. The train leaves at 8.44am so we'll have a 40 minute or so wait at the station. Been there, done that, got the photos to prove it :-)

It's the beginning of our holiday and getting closer and closer to seeing (and cruising on) Ovation of the Seas!! But first we must endure the XPT from Port Mac to Sydney. ;-) We've done this trip a few times now so know what to expect and how looooooooong the trip is. At least this time we are only doing the XPT to Sydney and at the beginning of our trip and not at the end, we splurged and have booked a flight home - woooo!

We are planning on taking our own lunch with us and tea bags (we're cheapskates, if you bring your own tea bags you only pay $1 for hot water instead of $3.50.) You do get it free if you bring your own mug with lid but that just takes up precious room in our bags!

I'll update and add photos once we've actually done the trip but thought I'd get a head start :-) also this will help remind me of the dates and where we were. It's easy to lose track of days when you're on holidays!

Everything went smoothly with the bus and train and surprisingly the train trip wasn't too bad at all. We relaxed and talked about our cruise, read our books, watched the scenery wizz by and arrived in Sydney right on time. After collecting our luggage we head off in search of our hotel. A very easy 5 minute walk from Central and we were checking in. Great little hotel. Close to Central, Paddy's Markets and Chinatown.

Valentine on George
After having a cuppa we headed out for the evening. First up dinner in the food court in Chinatown and then onto Darling Harbour for the Australia Day festivities. Dinner was delish as always and plentiful! We did walk down to Darling Harbour but for what ever reason it was all fenced off and we couldn't actually get in to the main part of DH. We hung around a bit to see if they were going to open the gates but finally decided to head down to Circular Quay.

Chinatown Foodcourt
There was a big concert at the Opera House so we sat by the water and enjoyed the music and harbour sights. Just as we were thinking about heading back to Central and our hotel the fireworks started, right in front of us! Very cool.

Opera House Fireworks Australia Day

We caught the train from Circular Quay to Central and headed back to our hotel and bed. Our holiday is off to a fabulous start!

Mum and I said we would both stay at Valentine on George again, great little hotel!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

24 days until Ovation time!

Mum and I are excitedly counting down the days until our Ovation of the Seas cruise - 24 days.

I've made all our travel plans so all that is left to do is pack and triple check we have our passports! We've decided to stay in Sydney for two nights before our cruise, so Thursday and Friday nights and then head straight home after our cruise on the 9th February.

I've booked a twin room at Valentine on George which is about 5-10 mins walk from Central at $140/night, the cheapest I found and pretty reasonable too considering it's Australia Day when we check in. It's also close to Chinatown and Darling Harbour and with it being easy walk (will confirm when we've actually done it!) to Central Station it shouldn't be too much trouble getting to Circular Quay on Saturday for our CRUISE! We've got our Opal cards for the train so we don't need to worry about getting tickets, just tap on/tap off! I wonder if mum will get stuck in the turnstyles again (she did this on a previous cruise we took which left from Sydney)?

Cream puffs! It is now a must do when we go to Sydney and Chinatown, get some cream puffs. Well for Emma and me anyway and probably Kyle now that he's tried them!

We're catching the XPT day train on Thursday (free for mum and $63 for me) which takes around 8 hours (this includes the bus from Port Mac and wait time at Wauchope Station) and arrives at Central Sydney around 3.30pm, we're flying home (Virgin - $110 each, they did have a flight for $95 but I missed booking that as we hadn't locked in what we were doing. Thankfully it didn't go up too much!). That was the only way I would have it otherwise I would have just flown each way from the GC and let mum catch the train on her own!

I keep checking the RCI website to see if any more Entertainment or Activities have been added - so far it's been a Character Breakfast which is aimed mainly at families and kids ($12 adults, free for kids) and a Behind the Scenes tour of the ship ($137pp) - a bit pricey but would be really interesting. I have done a tour of the galley on the Pacific Dawn when they did those. I also check out the drinks package to see if they've got any of those on special, none so far. Earlier on they did have the standard package half price. ($41 down to $20)

Still haven't booked any shore tours, we'll just do our own thing I think. Cheaper. I'm looking at the kayaking trip in Noumea. It looks fun and also looks like we'd get to see more than just Noumea town. It's $109ea and the tour is listed as 3 hours, 1 1/2 of this is the actual kayaking. If I don't book this we'll probably just walk around the town for an hour or so, maybe go to the Casino (supermarket) and spend the rest of the time on board. We possibly may not even get off the ship. Who knows???

We've got our travel insurance, always a must, I went through Webjet (Allianz) as they seemed to be the best value. There are so many to chose from it can get confusing and time consuming but we always have travel insurance, mainly for the medical cover as this is what can cost thousands, even tens of thousands, if you get sick or injured when on holidays. I used one of the comparison websites to help narrow it down. I did use Tick Insurance once for a cruise we did a little while ago but read the reviews for them and they were really bad so didn't want to risk it. Maybe that's why they were so much cheaper than everyone else, they never payout claims!

I 'think' I've got everything covered now, I just need to start getting a lot more orders in to pay for it all now! Anyone need a gift hamper???? :-)