Tim TamWe Aussies are a generous bunch. We also love to share our greatest exports with non-Aussies so that they can also revel in our favourite foodstuffs: Vegemite, meat pies and Tim Tam.
Now, I have no idea how or when the practice started, but it seems that many Australian cruisers believe that the wonderful room stewards who change our sheets, clean our toilets and make whimsical towel animals want Tim Tam as either a sign of gratitude or in lieu of a cash tip.
Before I go on, I'd like to first state some truths here:
1) Tipping is NOT obligatory 2) Stewards do NOT work for tips 3) Stewards do NOT expect nor ask for tips 4) A tip will not affect the service you receive 5) Stewards will accept any gift with gratitude 6) Steward cabins are small. There is NOT a lot of storage
On many social media forums, the issue of gifting stewards Tim Tam biscuits is rampant. I completely understand that cruisers want to do a nice gesture and are just looking to sweeten another person's day.
But, rumours and myths can be detrimental. Especially to new cruisers who come to these forums for advice.
So, in an effort to dispel the myth, I spoke to a very, very reliable source. I have promised to keep this person anonymous, but my source has worked for P&O for more than a decade and in a position to give a 100 per cent accurate answer to this hotly debated question:
Do stewards want Tim Tam biscuits?
"No. This is completely inaccurate."
"Our stewards are [mostly] Asian and don't give a toss about Tim Tam. Cash is what they'd prefer."
So there you have it folks.
Now, I'm not telling you what or what not to give your room stewards. If you want to leave a cash tip, then feel free to give what you can afford. If you can't afford to, them do not feel guilty. A thank you, a smile and a friendly word can brighten someone's day. If you have time, fill out a feedback card.
Personally, I leave money. Anyone that is cleaning my toilet deserves cold, hard cash.
He’s the owner of the distinctly Aussie voice calling a cruise ship captain a “d*ckhead”, but for Gold Coast man Robert Lauretti, his first ever cruise adventure will be forever remembered as the time his ship ploughed into a Venetian dock and rammed a riverboat.
In a video that has since gone viral, Robert can be heard calling for his companions to “brace” as the MSC Opera, the 13-deck high ship and his wife were travelling on, heads on a collision course with a river boat, Uniworld's Rover Contess docked at San Basilio Cruise Terminal, Venice on Sunday, 2 June.
Robert Lauretti spoke exclusively to Cruising With Honey from aboard the MSC Opera which is currently on an 8-night cruise.
“My wife Rita and I, and our traveling companions Michael and Roz, were on our cabin balcony having breakfast, enjoying arriving in Venice,” Robert said.
“I looked up and saw the ship pointed at the pier! I grabbed the camera and starting filming. I watched the tug boat trying to pull us left, but witin 30 seconds, I knew there was no stopping or turning.”
The next minute unfolded “very slowly” however Robert braced for a hard impact. “My biggest fear was that we’d crush the river boat and that innocent people would be killed,” he said.
“We could see the panic in people running for their lives. “The fear wasn’t for our safety, but for the passengers on the river boat. I felt safe as we knew the angle it approached was not going to destroy ship, and in fact we were literally on land.
“It all happened slowly, so I knew we would be okay. As it turned out, apart from a metal scrapping sound, we hardly felt a bump.”
In another viral video, people standing on the dock can be seen running away from the huge ship as it mounted the pier before coming to stop.
Four people suffered minor injuries in the crash, including one New Zealander.
“There was no announcement prior, but about 10 seconds before we hit, we heard the captain over the PA say, ‘drop anchor’ and ‘brace’.
“Soon after an announcement came over saying not to worry and that we have had a small accident.” Robert and Rita, who have three adult children and four grandchildren, said the incident has put a dampener on the couple’s cruise of a lifetime.
“This is our first ever cruise and we only got to enjoy about 20 hours before the accident.
“My wife has been at me over 20 years to get me on a cruise. I have just retired and agreed to cruise as part of a European trip. It might be a while before I decide to cruise again.”
Despite being offered a full refund for their $5600 cruise, including any charges on board, Robert said he was angry that information has been less than forthcoming.
“No other information was given for hours. After a while we were told that we were going to stay at the port for a while, which turned out to be about four hours before we were allowed to dock at our dock around the corner.
“A lot of people didn’t even realise anything was wrong until the horn sounded. The mood on board has been of disbelief and anger.”
“I’m the one that called him [the captain] a d*ckhead. MSC should have been more transparent with what’s happening or what we are to do. They have been terrible at letting us know what is what.”
In a statement released by MSC Cruises, mechanical problems were cited as the cause.
Venice Towboat Association president Davide Calderan said that two towboats guiding the cruise ship into Venice tried to stop the ship, however a cable broke, cut by the collision with the river boat.
The incident has sparked a protest and renewed calls for cruise ships to be banned from sailing in the Venetian lagoon. During the 6-month tourist season, nearly 600 ships visit Venice. Critics claim the vessels are causing damage.
Italy's Transport Minister Danilo Toninellihas called for an immediate ban from ships using the Giudecca Canal.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Chairman Adam Goldstein said they welcomed the statements by the Mayor of Venice demanding an urgent solution that would allow cruise vessels to enter Venice cruise terminal via an alternative route to the Giudecca Canal.
“The cruise industry has worked diligently with the Mayor of Venice, the Veneto Region, the Port Authority and many others, to find viable solutions to allow larger cruise ships to access the Marittima berths without transiting the Giudecca Canal,” Mr Goldstein said.
“CLIA Cruise Lines recognise his views are supported by many locally in the region, and in national government.
“The member lines of CLIA have been actively engaged in discussion about using the Vittoria Emmanuele Canal as a solution for a considerable time, and have been cooperative in simulations and studies that resulted in the Comitatone recommendation.
“We are in agreement with the solution developed by Comitatone in 2018 to utilise the Vittorio Emanuele Canal as the best and most prudent means to move larger cruise ships away from the Giudecca. CLIA cruise lines welcome and will support the urgent implementation of this solution.”
Cruise ships in VeniceFacts at a glance:
In 2014 cruise lines enacted a voluntary limit on the size of ships visiting Venice via the Guidecca Canal, which means vessels of more than 96,000 tons currently do not call at the city. Cruise visitors represent around 5% of overall visitors to Venice. The number of cruise visitors to Venice has declined since 2014 when ship size limits were voluntarily implemented.
Dream Cruises Genting Dream Beads of sweat tickled my top lip, my eyebrows were damp under my sunglasses. So this is what it feels like to be locked up in the laundry with the dryer going full ball? Ugh.
And yet, I attempted to give off an air of aloofness despite a trickle of perspiration making its way down my spine.
The hotel I was stayed at the night before at Park Hotel Clarke Quay said it would take about 45 minutes to arrive at Marina Cruise Centre, but as I was to realise, wherever you want to go in Singapore it only realistically takes 15 minutes.
I shifted my weight, trying to look cool in my floor length multi-coloured silk Bonita kaftan, searching the busy terminal for my hosts. I didn't know any of the other members of the media group, but scanning the crowd, I noticed a young woman also standing alone. I headed in her direction. Amelia (who I would later nickname Milly-Moo) smiled and we figured out we would be travelling partners for the next five days. Within another 10 minutes, the remainder of our group, nine very lovely people and one other (there's always one) and our two hosts Brigita and Leonie, had assembled and we were ready to board. Boarding
I will be honest, boarding was a little... busy. The terminal itself was large and clean and there were a lot of helpful staff. A few staff were a little inexperienced and others were a little 'efficient'. But I made it through after several strict security procedures - and after physically being shoved by a fellow passenger. (A little cranky, my inside voice wished she copped a handful of Honey sweat).
However, this minor annoyance soon subsided when I stepped aboard the Genting Dream. Taking a deep breath in, I stepped off the gangway and looked up.
Oh My WOW! My neck arched trying to make out the top deck. While I knew she was large ship, 18 decks to be precise, it's not until you're actually aboard that you really get the full scope of her height.
My cruise card had my cabin number and a letter to mark my muster station, so I was eager to dump my luggage and explore before the safety drill at 5pm. I headed aft and stepped aboard, had my photo taken and then was ushered to a sign with my muster station letter on it. That's strange? I thought to myself. I still had two hours till attend. The friendly crew scanned my card. Still confused, I asked if I had to wait here for the drill. She just smiled and pointed toward the lifts. Okay, I'll wait for announcement, and pressed deck10.
Eager to get to my cabin, I didn't take much notice of my surroundings, except to notice how clean, new and BEAUTIFUL the decor was. Lots of time to ogle the art later.
I knew I was given a balcony cabin, but I had no idea what it would look like. Unlike other ships, there was no need to insert my cabin card, rather quick tap on the sensor and the door unlocked. Nifty.
This was my second OH MY WOW moment. You can see all my photos here. Spacious, bright, and with the BIGGEST most modern bathroom I have ever had at sea. The shower had a proper glass screen and the vanity was gleaming. And that bed... not only was the mattress extremely comfortable but the linen was super luxurious. Diving onto the bed (as you do) I experienced my first slight pang, missing Mr Cruising With Honey...
A few things to mention, there was ample hanging wardrobe space, but no drawers. There were however shelves. A big, flat screen TV, an electric kettle and tea/coffee making facilities, USB ports by the side of the bed, a couch and a stool that tucked neatly under the desk. The colours were tasteful and inviting, the art work had an Asian-flair. Yes, I was going to be very, very happy here.
Smoking Outside on the balcony was a small table and two high-backed chairs. And an ashtray. Which bring me to the smoking policy on the Genting. It is important to note that there is a sign inside the cabin that states that inside the cabin is strictly No Smoking. However, the ashtray on the balcony puzzled me. In Asian countries, smoking laws and smoking in general, is for want of a better word, relaxed. By no means is smoking encouraged on balconies, however ashtrays are provide to avoid the mess of cigarette butts being left outside or flicked into the ocean. Smoking is also permissible in some area inside the ship, but more on that later.
Quickly unpacking, I headed back outside to explore. (You can see my Livestreams here Part 1 and Part 2).
I don't know why I expected the ship to be crowded, but on my first walk around the decks, I was surprised by how much room there was! The combination of a very big ship (335.33 metres long, a width of 39.7 metres) and a passenger capacity of 3300 and crew of around 1999 made for a very comfortable surroundings and very attentive service.
Okay, so no-one really enjoys muster, right? I've sat and stood through enough to know they aren't terribly exciting, so I was a little shocked that halfway through my Livestream Part 1 (at about 12 mins) a safety announcement was made over the PA by the Cruise Director. The general emergency alarm sounded as was the emergency info - in English and Mandarin. I wasn't overly fazed, but I couldn't help but wonder if first timers understood the actions they would have to take in an emergency.
Penfolds Wine Experience
I'm far from a wine connoisseur, and to be honest, my wine knowledge is limited to red, white, bubbles, stickies. I prefer sweeter drops and usually can feel the effects in my legs after a few sips. However, like any activity I'm afforded, the opportunity to learn something new, is always a privilege. I'll never get so jaded that I'll allow myself to not appreciate and not be grateful. I'll even give you, yes YOU the reader, to slap me upside-the-head if I ever become arrogant. Anyway, back to the wine.
We were introduced to a number of very expensive and exceptional drops. Our sommelier Erdol (who became a constant fixture during our cruise, anticipating our every want) poured, swilled, decanted, aerated and schooled us in the fine art of wine tasting, putting not only an entertaining display but sharing his in-depth knowledge on every wine we sampled.
As I looked around the beautiful room, lined with eleventy-hundred bottles of wine that probably cost more than my car, I spied Chef Mark Best. Wait, we weren't supposed to meet him till dinner. I'd better hold my glass by the stem and swirl with authority.
The hour seemed to fly by, however while my comment about one red wine that "tasted like adult Ribena" went down like a lead balloon, everyone's spirits were buoyed and it was such a fun experience. I could easily imagine doing this again with my family and friends on my next cruise with Dream. I mean where else could you sample such exquisite wines for around $20 each? Seafood and steak, yes please!
I'd missed lunch and my breakfast of Aloe Vera yogurt (it's actually delicious) was a distant memory, so my rumbling tummy was very much anticipating our last activity for the night, dinner at Mark Best's Seafood Grill and Prime Steak House.
The speciality restaurant (that offers two menus) is an elegant and modern eatery on the ship. It does have a surcharge, but for the quality, variety and five-star service, it's well worth spending your dollars here. The intricately designed dishes bursting with fresh ingredients exceeded my expectations. Offerings included lobster, steak, pasta, risotto, created with thought and dollops of flavour.
Seafood isn't my favourite, but I absolutely froth for scallops. Naturally, I ordered scallops for entree (slightly seared and floating on a golden pool of saffron risotto) and main (delicate lobster and scallop ravioli in a light broth). I mean I'd only be wasting my stomach space if I ordered anything else, right? And can I tell you, I delighted in every masticated mouthful. A velvety tiramisu crowned the meal and, with a satisfactory smack of the lips and a stifled yawn, I bade adieu to my dining companions good night.
Sleep came easily as I dissolved into into a thread count that I couldn't remember the number of. Pictures of my dream day filled my thoughts and I smiled for myself alone, knowing there were more day dreams to be had tomorrow.
So the kind people at Dream Cruises have invited me to be part of an Aussie/NZ media group to check out their beautiful ship Genting Dream on a 5-night adventure in South-East Asia. You see, one of their ships, the Explorer Dream will be heading down under in October this year for the very first time, and this is a great opportunity for us to get accustomed to the brand and let Aussie cruisers know what they have to offer.
You can read more about Dream Cruises on my NEWS page.
Anyway, not only do I feel extremely lucky to be invited on this cruise, but this will be my first time in Asia. My plans involve eating, eating, eating, swimming, eating and maybe a bit more eating. I've planned my trip so that I spend a day before and after my cruise in Singapore to give me a chance to see this wonderful city. I've been told its hot, which doesn't bother me in the slightest as I LOVE hot weather.
As you can see from the itinerary on the invite above, this massive ship (which I know nothing about) will be transporting us (and by US the other members of the media group) to the exotic destinations of Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. As a super-added bonus, acclaimed chef Mark Best will be joining us (swoon) on a culinary adventure of sorts. No idea what that means, but if it involves Asian food and an incredible chef, then I'll be as happy as a pig in mud.
I'd better go pack, my ride arrives in 5-and-a-half hours...
Is there anything more indulgent and soothing than a High Tea? The combination of dainty finger sandwiches, delectable scones and sweet morsels washed down with steaming tea is the epitome of elegance. Add a glass of bubbles and it's hard not to feel like Lady Muck.
One of my most recommended hotels for cruisers to stay in pre or post-cruise, the Holiday Inn, Old Sydney (at the Rocks) READ MY REVIEW HERE has just introduced a beautiful experience to fill the void between lunch and dinner. I was lucky enough to be invited to road-test their new offering, and let's just say, I'll definitely be back.
Accompanied by my middle honeybee, we headed up to the Playfair Restaurant, and no sooner were we settled in, steaming pots of our requested tea, (English Breakfast for Eden, Earl Grey for me), were set before us. Soon after, a three-tiered tower spilling over with all manner of yummy treats was placed on our table.
My little one wasn't sure where to start, a little apprehensive that all this was just for the two of us. But, after a nudge from me, she picked up mini-baguette with smoked salmon and started tucking in.
Working from the bottom up - savoury, scones, sweets - we munched out way through the spread like two hungry caterpillars, gulping down mouthfuls of hot tea in between to cleanse our palates. The lovely waitress brought over a flute of of bubbly for me, and really, I couldn't be happier.
While the High Tea was tasty and filling, the best memory I took away from this experience was sharing this little moment in time with my daughter. Watching her nibble macaroons and heaping whipped cream onto her scone with abandon was just a delight.
So, the next time you're waiting for your cruise ship at Circular Quay, or you've just disembarked, treat yourself to a delicious High Tea, bask in the serenity and enjoy the company of the one you love.
WIN A FREE CRUISE Do you want three glorious nights aboard a gorgeous cruise ship...
Of course you do!
I am giving one reader the chance to win a cruise for two people to enjoy a ship full of laughs on P&O Australia's Pacific Explorer Comedy Cruise from 27 April to 30 April 2019.
Entry is EASY, just visit my Facebook page, the competition is pinned at the top.
PLEASE READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW
T&Cs: Australian and New Zealand residents only over 18-years-old. Winner and guest must be over 18-years-old. Competition will run from 14.03.2019 and end 09.4.19 at midnight. The 10 comments with the most LIKES will be selected as finalists. ONE comment will be chosen as the standout entry, judged on creativity and originality, and be chosen as the grand finalist and winner of the cruise. If the winner does NOT claim the prize within 24 hours, a secondary entry will be drawn and offered the prize.
Prize: 3-night cruise for two people on the Pacific Explorer Comedy Cruise
3-night cruise for 2 people, departing Sydney on the 27 April, 2019 from Circular Quay and returning to White Bay 30 April.
Twin share accommodation in an Interior Stateroom
All main meals (excluding specialty restaurants)
Most on-board activities
All Port and Government charges
The fine print:
The prize (namely, the cruise) is non-transferable and not redeemable for cash. The prize must be accepted 'as is' and cannot be exchanged for any other cruise or travel related product/s. Cruise Terms & Conditions: The cruise prize is for two people sharing an interior stateroom on the P&O Pacific Explorer Cruise (Cruise X922). Departing Sydney Australia on 27 April, 2019 and concluding in Sydney Australia on 30 April, 2019. Only valid entries will be selected for final prize. Contestants from locations other than Sydney are required to make their own travel arrangements to Sydney. Travel Insurance is strongly recommended. Stateroom allocation is in an Interior stateroom. Stateroom allocation is on a guarantee basis and is allocated for Cabin 9011. This offer is subject to further terms and conditions outlined by both the cruise line. Please visit their website for further details - www.pocruises.com.au. Prize is for (2) people to share a twin cabin. Prize does not include transfers to/from the ship. On-board ship purchases such as drinks, Spa charges, specialty restaurant surcharges, photo purchases, casino charges and the likes are the responsibility of the prize recipient. Any on board gratuities are the responsibility of the recipients. Cruising With Honey reserves the right to deny any financial claim made; whatever the cost, whatever reason. By accepting these Terms & Conditions, you indemnify Cruising With Honey for any additional cost arising having accepted the prize offer. Cruising With Honey will not be held accountable for errors or omissions for information that cannot be relied upon as truth, or has changed by the time it is used. You have entered this FREE giveaway on the understanding of these Terms & Conditions, and eligibility criteria. Facebook Terms & Conditions: By entering and participating, entrant agrees to hold harmless, defend and indemnify Facebook from and against any and all claims, demands, liability, damages or causes of action (however named or described), losses, costs or expenses, with respect to or arising out of or related to (i) entrant’s participation in the Sweepstake, or (ii) entrant’s participation in any Prize related activities, acceptance of a Prize and/or use or misuse of a Prize (including, without limitation, any property loss, damage, personal injury or death caused to any person(s). This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.
P&O Pacific Explorer Her fingers gently kneaded my shoulders, working meticulously and deliciously slowly down my back, the coconut oil luxuriously warming my skin. In the moody lighting I lost myself in the gentle sway of the motion, drifting off into a seductive lullaby. Little did I know in that state of bliss, that the next morning I’d be in a wheelchair.
STOP! I know what you’re thinking and no. This isn’t a sexy-time/murder narrative from a trashy romance novel. Rather, I'm setting the scene of my last day on Pacific Explorer. I had woken that morning knowing that everything I’d be doing would be the ‘last’. My last breakfast at the Waterfront, my last iced frappe at Charlie’s, my last lunch at the Pantry… sigh. If I didn’t snap out of this melancholy, I was going to miss out and not enjoy any of it.
After breakfast (I had the breakfast burrito) I had a bit of time to kill before my massage up at Elemis. It was the perfect day at sea, and so I couldn’t think of anything better than soaking up some rays and drinking in the atmosphere on the decks. Armed with our cool drinks, we laughed and cheered on the passengers who were playing some kind of water balloon-towel-tossing game. Among the giggles and splashes, it dawned on me that nowhere else in the world could you watch people of all ages delight in a simple family-friendly game, bond over this absolute absurdity with strangers, while being surrounded by the breathtaking hues of the ocean. As corny as it sounds, my eyes misted over this sudden gratitude of being able to experience all of this. For me, this moment epitomised the magic of cruising.
After the heavenly massage, a quick dip in the pool and a late lunch, it was suddenly the afternoon and time for one last rehearsal. The last week of choir practice with the super talented Anthony Quimby had been such a delight.
Before long it was showtime, and our little choir was buzzing with excitement. The Atrium was packed to the rafters and I felt slightly jittery. We assembled on the steps and waited for our cue. Anthony played the first chords on the baby grand and we inhaled. First, two soloists sang their lines, and then, I was up. My hands were slightly sweaty but I sang my lines, almost losing my breath on the last note, but I DID IT! The next few minutes were a blur, and as the last note faded there was absolute silence. Suddenly, there was a deafening eruption of clapping and cheering. What a moment! Two more songs, more clapping more cheering. Hand on heart, being a part of the guest choir was amazing and definitely a unique and joyous experience!
Still bouncing with endorphins, I had the great idea to pack our bags before the evening as I didn’t want to be thinking about packing while wolfing down pizza at 400 Gradi. Yes, it is sad seeing all the corridors lined with bags, but at least I could have an awesome last night and hopefully, stay up till the early hours.
We were warmly welcomed with a huge hug by one of my absolute faves, Jessamine at 400 Gradi. Soon, our table was laden with all sorts of mouthwatering nosh, and we tucked in with much gusto.
Once we’d demolished our mains and waited for dessert, I asked my three honeybees to reflect on our last week. Teen one answered, “Great” and Teen 2 answered “Great”. I waited for my youngest who had been suffering Fortnite withdrawals, experienced horrible sea sickness for the first two days (oh the joys of catching her vomit in my mouth as she chundered out on the open, windy deck) and double-sunburn, sat quietly thinking. After a minute, she said, “Mum, it was perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Patting myself on the back for pulling off the ‘Perfect Holiday’, and feeling buoyed by my family’s satisfaction, I decided I wanted to spend the last few hours walking around the deck, soaking in the last few moments of the inky sky and breathing in the salt air. The kids and Mr Cruising With Honey wanted to watch the show and so we parted ways, promising to meet at Charlie’s for the final jam night.
As they walked down the stairs, I gave final hugs to the Gradi crew and bounced towards the entrance. As I turned, somehow my leg forgot it was attached to my body. What came next can only be described as a gut-wrenching ‘POP’ followed by blinding, excruciating pain. There I was, doubled over, but somehow trying not to cause a scene and thereby attracting a medic. No, no, no, I was not going to spend my night sequestered in the medical centre.
Somehow, I hobbled down to deck 7, wincing with every step and plonked myself on a stool. Stubbornly, I thought all I needed was to rest for a sec and I’d be dancing shortly. Time passed, pain increased. A lovely person brought me some ice. The show finished. More time passed. I couldn’t get in contact with my family and the pain had increased 10-fold. Somehow I had to make it down to Charlie’s where my family was waiting. Slowly, I inched my way to the elevator and made it halfway across the packed Atrium. Faces looked at me in bewilderment, my tear stained face willing my husband to turn around and look at this wounded sop. Out of nowhere, one of the lovely readers from this blog recognised me and rushed to my aid, helping me into a chair. Oh the melodrama of it all!
I spent my night with some unfriendly ice packs, feeling utterly sorry for myself. Looking around my empty cabin I could only think of two good things: 1) My bags were packed, and 2) I didn’t hurt myself on the first night of the cruise.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d be wheeled off the cruise and being pushed down the gangway in a clunky wheelchair. But looking back now, despite the torn calf muscle, horrible moon boot, crutches and weeks of physiotherapy, I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing!
Life is all about creating memories; some are joyous, others tinged in shades of pain. For me, cruising through this thing called life is an adventure of the most thrilling kind. The discovery of new places, the meeting of kindred souls and the utter escapism of being at one with the vast expanse of the sea. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Until next time, all my love, Honey
As most parents can sympathise, you’re never really off-duty, even on holiday, and on this night I was on ‘mum duty’ due to my youngest Honeybee having copped sunburn on top of sunburn.
Now you might think I’m a terrible parent allowing my kid to get sunburnt, but I reassure you, we went through three tubes of sunscreen, wore hats and rash vests. Well, SHE didn’t wear it the whole time, even though I insisted, so yes, sunburn. So, heed this warning; be extra sun safe when on the islands. After I made sure she was well hydrated and soothed her sunburn, she drifted off into a lovely slumber.
Meanwhile, I was starving. Soon enough, Mr Cruising With Honey and the other two kids returned from the Waterfront and I headed down to dine.
Please don’t get me wrong, but after six days of having breakfast, lunch and dinner with the family, it was so nice to just eat alone. And, the meal I had that night - a chicken supreme stuffed with mushrooms and sitting on a bed of spatzle - was by far my favourite dish at the Waterfront.
It had been an eventful three days in a row - discovering three gorgeous and very different ports was a dream come true. So after a very restful sleep, I approached the second last sea day with gusto. I hadn’t had my fill yet of this beautiful ship yet, or her crew, and I wanted to absorb every single second.
After another yummy breakfast, we headed to the Marquee for a live cooking demonstration with Executive Chef Ben Frankitt and Maitre d’Hotel Ricxel Quisto. Don’t miss this highly entertaining show, as it’s full of slapstick humour, great cooking techniques and a highly amusing dance and serenade by the the chefs at the conclusion (did someone say chicken dance?) Plus, all attendees were invited for a walk through the Waterfront galley, a highlight for any foodie.
I’d be lying if I said the day went by slowly, and I started to panic a bit. There was still so much to do. We hadn’t eaten at Luke’s yet and I was hanging to try those famous chicken wings. As lunch time creeped up, we thought now was as good as time as ever to try the burgers and wings at the eatery. Kishan found us a table, (well they all are great tables as they’re all overlooking the pool) and placed our orders. The cheeseburgers were juicy and flavourfully topped with ‘Luke’s Special Sauce’ - which the kids thought tasted very similar to Big Mac sauce - the truffle and parmesan coated fries moreish, and the wings saucily scrumptious. While there is a surcharge, it’s definitely worth eating at Luke’s. I think our bill came to about $60, which is very reasonable for five people. The one tip I would suggest, though, is to check what the Pantry is serving for lunch before deciding what you fancied, for as I discovered after our Luke’s lunch, that burgers and hot dogs were being served up, hot and fresh! Duh
We spent the bulk of the day truly relaxing in our favourite spot, the Ocean bar, drinking frappes and cool drinks. My absolute favourite theme was approaching, and I had even attended the Gatsby dance class so I was conserving my energy for the night. Before I move on, the Gatsby dance class is super fun and very relaxed. Even if you have zero rhythm and coordination, like me, you’ll pick up the steps. And, taking part in the ‘flash mob’ in the Atrium was one of the highlights of the cruise!
Evening approached and I was so excited getting dressed to the nines! If you only take part in one theme night, make an effort for Gatsby. The atrium gets decked out, the music is festive and everyone looks incredible. Even if you just don a sparkly headband for the ladies or a hat and braces for the gents, you’ll love the atmosphere.
Dinner was at Angelo’s, and we were treated to the second menu of the cruise. (Both Dragon Lady have two menus that they rotate every three days). Dishes included Caprese salad (which is quite small, so order two if you’re hungry), gnocchi, chicken carbonara and beef flank. Inspired by the meals before me, I asked our lovely waiter if he wanted to hear a joke. He replied, sure, so I couldn’t not deliver. I asked him,
“Why couldn’t the man open the front door?"
“Umm, I don’t know…” our obliging waiter answered.
“Because he had GNOCCHI”
There was complete silence. His face was deadpan, no reaction. My kids groaned and literally slid under the table in embarrassment.
Trying to save my joke, I pressed on,
“He had GNOCCHI (pointing vehemently at my plate of gnocchi) GNOCCHI, NO-KEY, NO-KEY.”
By this stage the whole side of the restaurant was staring at this mad woman pointing at her plate repeating, GNOCCHI, louder and louder.
Suddenly, our waiter roared with laughter,
“Ah yes, NO KEY, I get it, yes!”
And he walked off chuckling to himself. Vindicated I loudly exclaimed to my family just how funny I was and that they in fact had no sense of humour. Honey 10 points, humourless family zero.
Dinner wound up, and as we walked out, the music drew us towards the Atrium in a bouncy-walkey fashion. Feathers, sparkles and champagne filled the air. Running down the steps to wait for the dance flash mob, I plonked myself right at the front so I could follow the steps. Looking up, smiling faces lined every possible spot in effort to be a part of the electric atmosphere. Soon enough, the cue came and the dancing begun. I’m sure I stuffed up the steps, but it was SO MUCH FUN!
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur; more dancing and a few glasses of champagne made it one fabulous night. As I walked into my cabin a little giddy, heels in hand, I threw my feather boa across the room. Watching it slowly float to the floor, I suddenly felt sad that there was only more day on the Pacific Explorer. I sank into my bed and allowed the gently waves to rock me to sleep, knowing that the dawn would be upon me soon, heralding my last day on the wide, blue expanse of the ocean.
P.S I forgot to add we watched the awesome show Let's Misbehave. It was FABULOUS!
I haven’t travelled much. And it’s not because I haven’t had the desire. But life - which is awesome by the way - has had other plans for me; school and straight to uni, career, marriage, closely followed by babies (three in three years!) and then more work and a Sydney mortgage.
The bucket list is long, and I’m confident that I’ll get to most places in my lifetime. Ecstatically however, thanks to cruising, a place I have pined over for a very long time, has been well and truly crossed off. I hope you enjoy reliving my experience through my words, as I try to explain the magic that is the Isle of Pines.
As the nine-minute tender ride slowed down to dock at the wharf, I intentionally held back my excitement until I was on dry land. I mean, knowing me I’ll trip getting off and ruin the whole day. Calmly, I walked off the tender and, once both my feet were firmly planted, allowed myself to drink in my surroundings.
Walking along the wharf, I was beckoned by the singing and dancing of the local performers. It was hot, and our welcomers had obviously been out in the heat for a few hours. I was enthralled by the troupe and clapped a little too loudly when they finished. But where to now? We hadn’t booked a tour and so decided to follow the crowd (and the dogs).
A word about the dogs. At first I was very nervous around them, but they were sweet, gentle, and obviously used to visitors. I’m not sure if they were anyone’s pets, but throughout our day, we would often have a friendly pooch sit down on our beach towel or rest under the same tree. I still didn’t allow my kids to pat them as I was respectful of their personal space. It’s difficult to describe the magnificence of this island without sounding clichéd. But as we slowly walked along the bitumen road, my senses were swamped with technicolour images. Surreal hues bounced off the water, in shades of blues and greens that could only have been created by waving a Pantone swatch book around like a magic wand, sprinkling colours, painting an image of supreme beauty.
Against the backdrop of the beguiling waters, cream banyan tree trunks emerged from roots deep in the shoreline, punctuating the skyline with gnarled fingers.
And, rising tall and proud in the distance, the jade-coloured conifers - for which the Island earned its name by Captain James Cook - grew in a natural picket fence, guarding this perfect paradise.
I pinched myself, it hurt; I wasn’t dreaming.
We had walked far enough. Dumping our blue-and-white striped beach towels, we stripped off in lightning speed, running into the water with our snorkel masks in hand. But before my toes could feel the cool water, my feet were consumed by sand that could not possibly exist. Had the world’s largest bottle of talcum powder exploded, blanketing the Isle? Deliciously, I dug my toes in deeper, igniting yet another sense.
For the next three hours we frolicked and snorkelled in Sacred Rock or La Rocher, delighted by the crystal-clear, salty water. Marine life of every shade and shape swam between the coral and our legs. I could’ve stayed there forever. It was thrilling, unexpected and truly mesmerising.
With grumbling tummies and dry throats, we sought out refreshments from the food vendors, set up nearby. Using the Aussie $5 and $10 notes I’d packed, we snapped up grilled sausages in baguettes, pomme-frites (hot chips) and fresh coconuts from the charismatic Coconut Lady.
As she sat on a small stool, hacking away at green bowling ball-shaped fruit with a machete, her musical voice and hearty laugh drew me in. I asked if she lived nearby,
“I live here! This is my beautiful home. I was born here.” (hack, hack, hack - here is your coconut).
“Have you always lived here?” I ventured.
“I have been all around the world” she vehemently told the little group that had now gathered.
“I’ve been to France, Australia, America, South Africa, New Zealand… everywhere. But there is no place like my home, nowhere!
“Ile des Pins is the most beautiful, peaceful, place on Earth.”
Her eyes misted over, then she laughed and continued hacking at coconuts while exclaiming that a woman’s work was never done.
A quick time check, and I realised it was past 1pm. (Expletive) Time was zooming past and the last tender was at 3pm. Dragging my kids kicking and screaming to explore the beach on the other side, we stopped umpteenth times to snap Intagram worthy shots that needed #NoFilter. It was impossible to take a bad photo.
After picking up a few more souvenirs from the local vendors, we dove back into the cool water, once again enthralled by the powder-like sand. At one stage I looked over to see Mr Cruising With Honey rubbing the white sediment into his skin, repeatedly exclaiming, “It’s so soft!”
As I floated on my back, admiring the palm trees in the sky, and the Pacific Explorer anchored in the distance, I was still in disbelief that I was experiencing this magical moment. It was what I can only imagine heaven to be like, magnificent, ethereal and glorious.
Whoever first said that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ must have made this discovery while on the Isle of Pines. Dragging my feet, I reluctantly boarded the tender to return us to the ship. Sitting on the top deck, I turned my head to savour every last second, willing the images to be burned into my memory.
Within minutes, the engines slowed and we were pulling alongside Pacific Explorer. Suddenly, a gust of wind picked up my daughter’s cap, flinging it high into the air as if a magical thread was pulling it back to the island. Among the shrieks of joy, I whispered to the wind, telling it to carry my message back,
“Keep the hat, but know that I’ll return soon to reclaim it, along with the piece of my heart you’ve stolen.”
Almost a month ago, I purchased my White or Bianco party outfit. A gorgeous one-shoulder, linen jumpsuit. However, I hadn’t taken into account on two things: 1) Sunburn and 2) non-stop eating and drinking for 5 days straight.
After washing off the sand, I gingerly stepped into my jumpsuit, ouch-ouch-ouched it over my stinging skin. Thank God there was only one shoulder strap. Taking a sigh of relief, it was time to zip up. Sucking in my guts, I twisted and grunted and (after breaking a sweat) fandangled the dang zip about half way up. The kids and hubby were waiting impatiently at Dragon Lady. What to do? The idea to knock on my lovebird neighbour’s door crossed my mind, but I quickly dismissed the thought. Could you imagine their reaction if the person who pooped their party appeared at their door, in a state of semi undress?
So, I walked out of my cabin, hoping to cross the ship with an undone zip without scarring too many people. (I did mange to harangue a lovely woman in the lift to finish dressing me!)
Dinner at Dragon Lady was delicious, and we were fortunate to try the other menu (Angelo’s and Dragon Lady change their menus every three days). However, my dining companions were suffering from a combination of sunburn and lack of sleep and the mood was a little quiet.
Once dinner concluded, we headed to the Meet the Officers cocktail party in the Blue Room. Not only did I get to see Captain Gavin Pears again (who has a very strong handshake and a charismatic air), but also Hotel Director Melissa, F&B Director Martin and many other officers. I just love those uniforms.
While I wanted to stay up and party into the white (see what I did there?), the family piked out. Eden and I did take a quick walk around the deck.
Tomorrow was Isle of Pines, and I fell asleep crossing my fingers that the weather would remain kind. If we missed this port, I’d be utterly devastated.