Pacific Aria - September 2017

Oceans and Seas
September 15th 2017
Published: September 11th 2017
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Pacific Aria - Noumea - Port Vila

14 September 2017 - Brisbane

One day to go - still testing TravelBlog to see how it works. Added a sunrise at sea photo to test that side as well.

The weather has changed for the worse in Brisbane so hope that improves for our departure tomorrow. The forecast is for a chilly start of 9 degrees followed by a sunny day. Forecast in Noumea for Sunday 17 September is good, 20-26 degrees with more sun than clouds.

15 September 2017 - On Board

Beautiful day to go cruising. Arrived at Portside at about 10.30am - you would have thought it was Bourke street. People must have been camping out overnight to be there first. Despite that, it was only about an hour from arrival to boarding - about average for most ships we have been on except Princess where we now have reached priority boarding status.

Cabin 10086 is a balcony toward the back end (aft) near the lift well. Good location so far as we are directly above or below all the restaurants. Coffee is one set of stairs away !! The adults only pool is just 3 or 4 cabins down the corridor - good news is that we won't have the constant patter and noise of little feet in that area - bad news is some of the sights we may have to endure !!

Minimal refurbishment has occurred in these cabins - carpet replaced, minor spruce up - but the age is showing. The good news is the cabin is relatively spacious compared to some other balconies we have been in. A good sized double seater lounge should be fairly comfortable to stretch out and snooze. Bathroom has a spa bath (a bit of a worry as we do not know who has been in it before us !!) But Roz has brought the disinfectant so will use that before use.

Cabin available as soon as we boarded (good work) so we were able to unload our carry on luggage straight away. Then went and booked Dragon Lady restaurant (Asian) for tonight, Angelos (Italian) for tomorrow night and Luke Mangan's Salt for Monday night. Might get a meal ashore in Noumea so thought we would leave Sunday night and dine in waterfront restaurant if we strike out ashore (we arrive Sunday afternoon in Noumea and the advice is that most places are closed).A quick salad lunch in the overcrowded Pantry restaurant. We are not fans of the concept - there are long lines waiting for service at each food station but to be fair, everyone is in the one open restaurant for lunch on sailing day. Hopefully it evens out a bit.

The usual safety brief on Deck 6 (Promenade Deck) at 1.30pm and then underway at 2pm as advertised.

Unpacked the bags and met our Cabin /steward - Hilario - who seems to be a nice lad from the Philippines.

Then down to the serious business of cracking the bottle of champagne provided as part of a birthday package I had bought ahead of time to celebrate Roz's birthday.

All good so far.

To dinner at Dragon Lady and it was up to its usual standard from our previous visits. We shared a table with Nikki and Anthonny - a younger couple from Carindale. Both of them are doing uni studies in addition to their current jobs (he is a sparky and she worked in early child care in EQ). In fact Nikki was working with some of the people I knew ! Small world.

We were to late for the one and only show for the night so just took a stroll to remind ourselves where where everything was and then retired for some TV.

Clocks put forward an hour tonight as we head further East.

A lot of families with school age children on board but not aproblem so far.

The waters were a bit up as we came out of Moreton Bay and the rolling of the ship became more noticeable. Just had to watch our step on the stairways.

16 September 2017 - At Sea

A reasonably good night's sleep with more movement in the water overnight. Up at 7am and headed for an early breakfast before the rush starts. The offerings were reasonable but each foodstation is only staffed by one person - slow service. Most of the staff in the Pantry dining room are from the Pacific Islands and PNG. But we did meet a young lady from NE India who was very personable and stopped by for a chat.

Off to The Dome nightclub area where we spent the rest of the morning reading, doing crosswords and trawling the internet. The Dome was a little noisier than usual with an influx of mothers and young daughters - we managed to be there while a beading class was underway.

Following a light salad and (good) pumpkin soup lunch it was back to the reading and movie watching. Still overcast and cool in open deck areas. Have even had to keep the cabin door closed due to the cool breeze.

5 o'clock Wine o'clock had slightly early (3.30pm) so that we do not spoil our dinner in Angelos. Roz had bought some cheese and biscuits so we broke them out and had a glass of vino to make it go down better - thats our excuse anyway.

Dinner came and went - not real impressed. We shared a table with Dennis and Margi from Russel Island and Mark and Robin from the Gold Coast. Good company - Dennis had the look and sound of a preacher and, yea verily, he was. A softly spoken JW who was very pleasant and presided over dinner by saying grace first. Bit different but no one objected. He also is voting "No".

The offerings in Angelos did not hit the mark. Both our entrees and mains were overcooked and the dessert was a dry as desert sand. Not a good experience.

Following dinner found a great band in the Blue Room - Alter Ego. A Philippino band of fantastic talent doing all manner of requests. Good antics and patter to go with it, ending up with a set of Queen hits. The lead vocalist was great.

17 September 2018 - Noumea

Smooth sailing overnight and a little warmer. Even got through to 8am with a sleep in !

Usual morning routine with breakfast followed by reading and crosswords.

Arrived Noumea on time at 3pm with the usual welcoming party on the dock dancing and drumming. Unfortunately, Noumea town does not have a lot to offer on a Sunday afternoon - nothing open and streets deserted.

Took the hop on hop off bus ($12 each) to Limon Bay and had a walk around looking for a French cafe / boulangerie with pastries - alas not to be ! A few non descript bars open but nothing that took our fancy so just enjoyednthe stroll along the beach and caught the bus at a stop further up the road.

Back into town and wandered a few streets but it was dead as a doornail - not even a coffee shop open and on the horizon.

Back on board and had our wine and cheese, watching the lights of Noumea come to life.

Sailed on time from Noumea - not too many lights twinkling.

Dinner in Waterfront Restaurant - not many passengers in so service was quick. Food was OK but nothing to write home about.

After dinner we went to The Dome nightclub to follow Alter Ego band. Another good session.

Back to the cabin relatively early for some reading.

18 September 2017 - Lifou

A better day, much warmer and a bit of sun poking through. Arrived on time at 8am in the bay that serves Lifou. A picturesque location with a sandy beach and two chapels visible from the ship.

Back to routine and got out for an early morning walk and some exercise. Breakfast in The Pantry before collecting our tickets to catch the tender ashore. Bit of a bugger's muddle because it took one and half hours to get onto the tender. The ship was only running three tenders and that was by no means enough to get everyone ashore in good time. Shit-O-Gram for P&O coming up !!

While waiting, news filtered through from Meaghan and Todd that their train out of Washington to NYC was delayed 2 hours- originally booked for 2.10pm to get them to the airport in good time for an 11pm departure. We watched and Whatsapped frequently as they arrived at Penn Station, grabbed a cab, checked in and made it to the gate lounge with 7 minutes to spare. The Kibsgaards have now left America bound for London for the next leg of their tour.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we tendered ashore in increasingly windy and choppy conditions. Went ashore and wandered for about 2 hours seeing the market area (very like PNG days) and visited a church I had seen on the last visit. At that time, it was open but this time it was closed. Built in 1898, it has the appearance of still being used to this day ( but not today for the tourists !!). It would have taken too long to walk up to the other chapel on a headland that is very visible on arrival so stomach took over from curiosity and we headed back to the ship in time to get the end of lunch. More than a few folks were snorkelling and swimming off the sandy beach - the water has a beautiful blue/ green clarity.

We are due to sail at 4pm bound for Port Vila tomorrow morning. This will be our last stop on this trip with two sea days on Wednesday and Thursday before arriving back in Brisbane at 6am on Friday morning.

Back on board and headed for Luke Mangan's Salt restaurant for dinner. We have not availed ourselves of this restaurant before and thougt it would be a good place to try. The service and food were great and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening - even if there was a service charge of $49 per person. We would easily pay that for an equivalent restaurant in Brisbane. To top it off, the staff had taken notice of my note to say we were celebrating Roz's birthday this month and came out with a small birthday cake with a candle. Two others in the restaurant were similarly recognized with the obligatory "Happy Birthday" song and three cheers for each of them.

We had taken our time over dinner and it was almost 9.30pm before we left after a nice chat with one of the philippino lady maitre'ds.

19 September 2017 - Port Vila

Another smooth night of sailing and a little warmer.

Docked on time at 8am. The port authorities have cleaned up the dock area since our last visit in 2014 and have reorganised the ragtag dockside markets that used to line the road. Now much more ordered - but, alas, the usual load of cobblers on sale as is the case in dockside markets the world over.

Took a water taxi to the township - price same as three years ago - AUD$5 per person. Our jolly captain of the open runabout kept up a humorous patter all the way in trying to upsell more business, and making sure we all got a good spray over the bow during the 10 minute journey.

We did the gallop from one end of town to the other onthe uneven and potholed footpaths - definitely not disability or infirmed friendly ! Again the usual tourist traps but the best duty free shopping for alcohol as well ! 1125ml of Bundy Rum - AUD $14 - bargain ! Got our requisite 2 bottles per person which is delivered to the ship for pick up just before arival in Brisbane on Friday. Supplies of Xmas pudding ingredients of Grand Marnier and OP Bundy Rum secured for another year !!

We found a French restaurant that Meaghan and Renee went to when they visited for Lisa's wedding - Le Cafe du Village. Looked god but offered too big a meal for lunch so we opted for a lighter lunch in a French Patisserie. Did not quite live up to the rather grand title but adequate for the task.

The township has not changed much but there is still evidence of cyclone damage to a number of the buildings. Traffic is still as chaotic and constant for what is a fairly small population. People are all very friendly and courteous. The place and people remind us of our PNG days.

Getting on toward 3pm and time to get back to the ship. Took a road taxi - same price as the water taxi. A couple of likely and chatty lads at the wheel gave us a good send off from Port Vila.

Sailed into the setting sun at 5pm.

Quiet dinner in Waterfront Restaurant followed by listening to Alter Ego band in the Blue Room and retired for reading and bed around 10pm

20 September 2017 - At Sea

A little bit of rolling and wind over night - talking about the ship - not me !! But a beautiful dawn and the warmth on deck for a good walk around the Promenade Deck at 6am.

Back to the cabin for reading and crosswords and then coffee and toast before getting organised and heading out of the cabin to allow our cabin steward Hilario to do his work.

Not a lot of activity that takes our interest today so will again relax, take it easy and do our reading.

Have been kept up to date with Meaghan, Todd, Lucy and Hudson movements in London. They (Meaghan and Todd) are Harry Pottered out after a full day - the kids really enjoyed themselves.

Vanessa has arrived in Australia to visit her Mum and Dad for a couple of weeks - we will catch up with her when we get back from this cruise. There has been no revolt at the Washington address - yet - and Adrian assures us all is well with getting the kids off to school and meeting them in the afternoons.

Apologies for the belated completion of the blog entries. The vagaries of the internet at sea are sometimes difficult to overcome and frustrations sets in to the point of giving up.

As previously reported, today was a quiet day at sea. A lot of activities on for the little people - they do seem to have a very active program for them and they seem to be well occupied. While their presence is evident, it is not intrusive.

Dinner again in the Waterfront restaurant - somewhat disappointing in terms of its quality.

Following dinner however, the Gatsby party was in full swing with a lot of the passengers dressed appropriately - some more appropriate than others. There are many interpretations of what people thought others wore in the 1920s and 30s but at least they had a god and it was quite colourful.

Again, our interest was in the Alter Ego band which we have now determined is Indonesian, not Philippino ! They led the entertainment in the Mix Bar and really made the place rock and roll. they hammered it for about and hour and then the DJ took over with more of the same. Very well attended and appreciated by a large crowd. Many had attended some classes in dancing 20s style during the cruise and gave a good rendition of it for one particular song. A good night out.

21 September 2017 - At Sea

Woke at dawn to a mill pond of a sea - very smooth and a pleasure to go walking without having to watch my footing. Much warmer.

Not a great deal of difference to the day before in terms of activity except the packing process had to begin again to get our large bags finished and out into the corridor by 8pm.

We again ate in the Waterfront restaurant and for once the meals were quite pleasant. Roz has a Ling fish dish that was well cooked and I had a Korean beef complete with a tasty kim chi. We had the pleasure of the company of a young 10 year old lad - Blyth and his mum Kirsty from Waterford - at dinner. Blyth was a confident young man and willingly participated in conversation with the old folks. It was an enjoyable "last supper" for us.

We took an early night to bed as we knew the ship was to berth at 6am tomorrow and we had to be clear of our cabin by 6.30am to allow the cabin staff to redo all of the cabins for the oncoming passengers. Lights out at 9pm.

22 September 2017 - Brisbane

Woke at 4am to the lights and noise of the Port of Brisbane as we entered the river and despite trying to get back to sleep, gave up and started the morning routine.

We managed to get to breakfast by 6am and to clear the cabin by the requisite 6.30am and move to the Ocean Lounge to wait disembarkation. This happened a lot quicker than anticipated and we were actually off the ship at 6.40am and outside the terminal by 6.45.

We had given Renee a heads up and she was able to pick us up just after 7am.

So - the end of cruise number 13 for us. Perhaps not the best one that we have been on but the cruises on P&O out of Brisbane are what they are and are priced accordingly. It can't be all bad when someone else is washing up, cooking the meals, making the bed and entertaining you !! We did enjoy the trip and particularly enjoyed the relaxation and those that we met.

Next trip - Hong Kong for Xmas and New Year !!

Additional photos below
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13th September 2017

Hope you get this
13th September 2017

Got those !!
Actually got three messages and it does appear I have to "accept" your messages before I can reply
19th September 2017

Thanks Jim and Roz
Another great commentary. Happy you are getting good rest and making use of time to read etc. like the sound of crackers and cheese ar wine time. Will be good to see you home. Love Den and Jim 💗💗

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