Cruises are an affordable holiday option worth keeping in mind.
Taking a cruise is often mistakenly thought of as something only "old people" do. With the popularity of cruise holidays on the rise around the world, this certainly isn't the case. In late 2010, P&O launched their new ship, the Pacific Pearl, from Auckland. It became number four in the budget-friendly Pacific series.
PHOTO GALLERY: Onboard the Pacific Pearl
While the Pearl is new to P&O, she was actually built in 1988 for a different cruise company, and spent a number of years in Europe. Windsurfing champion Barbara Kendall became her godmother at the official naming ceremony in December 2010, after the ship was refurbished on the way down to New Zealand.
Much is now made of this Kiwi connection. Unfortunately, on board, this is about as Kiwi as it gets. All prices in the bars and shops (yes, there are shops) are in Australian dollars, the on-board music has an Australian bias (certainly no Fat Freddy's Drop, Dane Rumble or Chills anywhere to be found) and many of the staff thought the passengers were from Australia rather than New Zealand.
Apart from that slight oversight, a recent sojourn on the Pearl to New Caledonia and Vanuatu over eight nights proved an interesting experience. The floating resort, as P&O calls its cruise ships, has the usual cruise items: topside pool, lounge areas, outside bar, gym facilities and multiple dining options. A daily newsletter delivered to your cabin details the multitude of activities scheduled for the next day, hosted by your fun-loving entertainment team.
Activities include bingo, quoits, deck-chair aerobics, early morning boot camp, team trivia, dance lessons, nightly disco, singles mingles, teeth-whitening seminar, yoga, karaoke, martini demonstration, Scrabble get-together, sarong tying demonstration, and a variety of shows. Regular cruise-goers are keen on the main events and tend to start nabbing seats up to an hour before kick-off.
Performances range from show tunes to magic and Pacific Cirque the Cirque de Soleil-esque circus act. Nightly entertainment that comes as part of the fee package is fun when it's delivered just down the hallway. Keep in mind, you have to take it for what it is holiday-camp entertainment, which means leaving your serious face at home.
All the activities may seem a little corny at first, but after a few solid days at sea with nothing to look at but endless ocean, they gain a new appreciation. This is the thing with cruises it's not the destinations that are the focus but the holiday experience in general. From the endless queuing and schedules to the overindulging in delicious food, forced fun and meeting new people.
Overall, the highlight of the Pearl was the fabulous crew card tricks from the restaurant waiters, endless smiles everywhere and macramé towel animals from the cabin stewards.
A P&O cruise is a good holiday choice for families, party groups, those with accessibility needs and the budget-conscious. If you're looking for something that doesn't tax the brain power, then this is an ideal holiday choice. If you prefer something a little more spontaneous, choose a short cruise (like the Auckland to Sydney trip) or perhaps just watch and wave from one the island stopovers.
The writer was a guest of P&O Cruises. To book a holiday onboard the Pacific Pearl or any other P&O Cruise ship phone 0800 780 716 or visit P&O Cruises.