Recently The Haze family went cruising. It was the first family holiday we had had in four years so there was a lot of expectation. The last holiday was to Disneyland with my extended family and it is quite a bit to top that!
We were heading off on a 12 day South Pacific cruise with Royal Carribean on Voyager of the Seas. We caught the train up to the International Cruise Terminal in Sydney so the excitement started early for the kids.
Once we got to the cruise terminal we went through customs quickly and thanks to my parents being seasoned cruisers and having essentially a frequent flyer status for regular cruisers we were on the ship within half an hour of arriving. Well we all were Mum nearly got left behind because of her new knees she set of the security check, then one of the little hazes’ walked off with her bag which had her seapass in it meaning she couldn’t get on! Dad to the rescue he came up got the bag and Mum joined us all.
We were able to head straight to our cabins, put our hand luggage down and we headed up to Windjammers for some lunch. The kids were extremely keen to start exploring, but first a quick stop back to the cabin for them to put their swimmers on.
After a short walk around the ship we headed to the Flowrider on deck 12. This is a fantastic wave simulation area. It took me up to day 11 to work up the courage to have a go and the kids thought that was fantastic. Before we pulled away from the dock in Sydney Harbour the kids had been on the Flowrider, in the pool and spa and had a game or two of mini golf with Pop!
We had a couple of beautiful days at sea with lovely weather and the kids were in heaven. There was the Teen Club for our eldest and there was about 100 other kids between 13-17 on our cruise. The girls went to the Kids Club because there were so few kids on our cruise this had all the ages from 6-12 combined in together on other cruises with more kids these would be broken down into 6-8yrs and 9-12yrs. There is also a 3-5yr group and we later found out there is actually a room for babies up to 3yrs as well. All the staff in the Adventure Zone for kids are degree trained in education somehow. The Adventure zone is open from 9am in the morning closing for a couple of hours for lunch and then again for about 90 mins around dinner time open until 10pm. There is a babysitting service you can pay for after 10pm if you need that. The Teen Zone doesn’t open until 12pm but then they have activities until their midnight curfew every night so the sleep in becomes necessary. Teen Haze spent every night he could in the spa watching the late movie that started about 10ish most nights.
Our ports included Noumea, Lautoka, Suva, Mystery Island and Isle of Pines.
Our first port of call was Noumea. It was nice to get off the ship and just walk around. I had the chance to try and remember some of my school French that I haven’t used since leaving school back in the dark ages. We jumped on one of the hop on hop off buses and went for a drive hoping off at Lemon Bay. Most of the family went for a swim and Mr Haze was in heaven he got to use his snorkel and googles to head out and see the fish in the beautiful blue ocean.
After our swim we headed over to the Gelateria for ice creams and coffees. I discovered the TonTon Jules Chocolate Shop that had the most beautiful selection of chocolates and tea. I bought a little packet of chocolate to eat on the rest of the cruise and the tea to bring home. We were finding the language barrier a little frustrating trying to explain that our son was coeliac and that he couldn’t eat wheat. So my parents headed back to the ship with the little Hazes and got them some lunch and they stayed onboard.
Mr Haze and I went for a wander around downtown Noumea. We needed a couple of things from the Supermarket and then we headed for Les Petit Choux an amazing patisserie. We had a little bit of lunch and a magnificent pastry then headed back to Voyager.
Our next port of call was Lautoka in Fiji. As we were here on a Sunday pretty much everything is shut. So we headed out to Vuda Point this is also called First Landing. We had a lovely day. Mr Haze snorkelling around, Pop Haze having a Fiji Bitter, the little hazes getting some henna drawings done and just being back in Fiji. We headed back to Voyager and arranged with our driver to see them around in Suva the next day.
Suva was my favourite stop on the trip because it is where I have some incredibly happy childhood memories. Pop Haze was keen to get up to the village for a bowl of grog (kava) so we headed up there.
After the village we took a drive around town via my old school and Government House back to Suva for some lunch and shopping.
As we left Suva harbour we were escorted out by a pod of dolphins playing in our wake. They made so much noise I thought someone had fallen overboard.
After another day at sea we tendered out to Mystery Island. I would say this was probably Mr Haze’s favourite stop of the trip. He was able to get out and do lots of snorkelling. He saw lots of tropical fish, nearly stepped on a sea snake and had an all around great day. All three little Haze’s had their hair braided, and I had just a few put in down the side. One of the little Haze’s wasn’t feeling well so I headed back to Voyager with the twins and left the boys to their exploring and snorkelling.
We were meant to have another port stop at Isle of Pines. Unfortunately for us the weather had other ideas. It was a rough day at sea for us and much of the crew who all said that it was the worst day that they had had in the current South Pacific season. We had big seas, strong winds and generally it was miserable.
This meant that the Captain took us the long way home at sea to avoid the worst of the weather. Luckily for us there is plenty to do onboard Voyager so as disappointing as it was to miss a port, it gave us more time to explore all the other things to do onboard.
We didn’t pre-arrange any tours prior to leaving Australia or through the cruise line itself. There are plenty of operators at every port including Mystery Island that is a tender only port to be able to arrange these direct with the local operators. Everyone is well aware of the times that the ship needs to leave port so will ensure that you are back in time for sailing. Of course if you aren’t you do run the risk of being left behind. That is the “insurance” of booking through the cruise line but on our cruise there were no issues.
Remember that all tours are extra and not included in the price. You can book through the cruise lines before leaving if you want peace of mind and want to know you have paid for everything before leaving. You will get a much cheaper deal if you are happy to wing it when you get there and you are paying the money directly to the local operator and that is something that I really like to know. An example of this is in Suva we were doing the exact same tour that we could have booked through the cruise line, we had a personal driver and chose to skip a few things and do other things and it was about F$40 per head. If we had booked through the cruise line we wouldn’t have been able to take the kids on a trip down memory lane for Nan, Pop and I and it would have cost us approximately USD90 per adult and USD70.
Highlights of the cruise:
- Food – OMG there was more food than anyone could poke a stick at. There are a few restaurants that had a surcharge but we didn’t go to any of those as everything on offer in the Main Dining Room and Windjammers was more than enough for us. We had breakfast in the a la carte area of the MDR every morning and our eldest was in heaven as some mornings before he even sat down he had a plate full of gluten free banana pancakes with chocolate sauce at the table specially prepared for him every day! Most days we had something from the Windjammers buffet for lunch. For our son this had a good variety of gluten free options with a specific gluten free section. For something lighter during the day or night there was the Cafe Promenade. Every night we would re-group for dinner together as a family in the MDR. Usually our son had pre-ordered the night before so that he could have anything at all he wanted off the menu prepared gluten free. Like the night he discovered snails!
The Dining Room staff were amazing and really went out of their way to ensure we all had a great time.
We did My Time Dining which meant that we could choose the time that worked best for us for dinner and that worked for us. Though I imagine with younger children it might be easier to have an early sitting. In the dining room there is a strict dress code of smart casual unless it is formal night which is worth dressing up for.
- Don’t forget if you have younger children they would probably really enjoy the Dreamworks breakfast there is a small surcharge for this but if your kids love Kung Fu Panda, Shrek or Madagascar movies they will think this is fantastic.
- Activities onboard – Wow, is all I can say there is so much to do and then more. The outdoor activities including the Flowrider, Rock Wall, Mini Golf, Multipurpose court (Basketball, Volleyball, Dodge Ball), Table Tennis tables, Running Track, Pools, Spas (including an adults only pool and two heated spas), an Outdoor Cinema and I am sure I left something out.
- Indoor activities include a library, games room for quiet games like cards, board games etc, many bars lol, the multipurpose Theatre that was were the productions, the 3D movies, Karaoke competitions, a fully equipped gymnasium overlooking the helideck and the bow of the ship and of course the Ice Skating rink where they have the most spectacular Ice shows and on sailing days the Ice Rink is open for guests to skate. And Shopping don’t forget the shopping.
- Don’t forget to look out on the Cruise Compass for the Dreamworks Grand Parade! This is so much fun.
As are the theme nights that include 70s night, Tropical theme, White Night.
- The activities staff do an amazing job at providing a wide variety of activities both indoor and outdoor and every night when your room was made up you were given the Cruise Compass for the following day’s activities so you could plan what you were going to do. These included things like: trivia, karaoke, scrapbooking, dance classes, ballroom dancing, jazz nights, education lectures, comedy nights, knitting and crochet sessions and so much more. They all also did their best on days when things had to be changed like when we had to miss a port or we couldn’t use the pools due to strong winds they would come up with different activities. Make sure you try to get at least one sunrise and one sunset in. They are magic.
As far as a value for money family holiday I would recommend a cruise to anyone. There are some fantastic benefits like being able to unpack and not live out of suitcases, everything is included in the price all your meals; unlimited soft serve ice cream; tea, coffee, hot chocolate in sachets just ask for them, tap water (which is perfectly fine!), a lemon cordial type drink. You do need to pay for soft drinks, bottled water, alcohol and speciality coffees (lattes, caps etc) but you can get packages for these. We got the kids a soft drink package so that meant they could go mad and drink as much as they liked and made our lives much easier. We didn’t get any other drinks packages because none of us are big drinkers. I personally think to get value for money you would need to be drinking at least 7-8 alcoholic drinks per day. The other thing that is included in the price is room service up to 10pm at night. After that there is a small surcharge of $3.95 which is amazingly reasonable. Plus if you don’t want to pay the surcharge the Cafe Promenade is open 24hrs for that midnight piece of pizza or sweet treat.
The one thing I wish I had done more of and that was sitting, reading and writing, but that is my own fault. With a cruise you can do as much or as little as you want it is entirely up to you.
An interesting fun fact while on the cruise over 12 days according to my fitbit I walked approximately 104,365 steps or about 71kms! So I came home for a rest.
We had an amazing time and are planning our next cruise we are hoping to head to New Zealand.
Linking up with #teamlovinlife