Kane's New Caledonia holiday aboard the P&O Pacific Explorer
Mai-Wel's Leisure Links participant, Kane, hit the high seas with his support worker, Reece, for the holiday of a life time aboard the P&O Pacific Explorer bound for New Caledonia. He loved his holiday so much he put pen to paper and wrote all about his holiday. Have a read!
From 20 to 28 May, my support worker, Reece, and I went on an eight day holiday cruise to the country of New Caledonia on P&O's beautiful Pacific Explorer; a cruise liner which was formerly owned by Princess Cruises as the ‘Dawn Princess’.
When Reece and I bordered and checked in, I knew that I was going to forget about my stressful days at work and at home. The Explorer had it all;
- the famous top deck containing a cocktail bar,
- the big screen where movies and sports (eg. basketball and rugby league) were broadcast,
- two large swimming pools as well as various spas if you wanted to relax,
- two waterslides, one of them having a disco theme with colours changing rapidly as you slid down, culminating with sudden darkness followed by a huge splash,
- a casino filled with sports memorabilia on the walls,
- restaurants such as The Pantry where you could go back for more dishes such as fish and chips, burgers, wraps, salads, Indian, Asian, Mexican etc.
- The Waterfront which is a three course restaurant for when you're feeling a tad fancy and want to avoid the loud noises of The Pantry,
- Angelo's, a well prepared three course Italian restaurant which contains various fancy Italian delicacies such as arancini (which are rice balls filled with beef and cheese, covered with pasta sauce) and a variety of Italian cakes such as tiramisu and cannoli,
- Dragon Lady which is a Japanese restaurant filled with mythological Asian folklore where I had such tantalising szechuan crumbed chicken wings with Asian mayo and a tempting peanut butter cheesecake to finish with for dessert.
The first night began with a Sail Away party where I had numerous mocktail Pina Coladas (with the help of the unlimited drinks package!) and had a selfie with the Sydney Harbour Bridge as The Explorer sailed past by "the giant coat hanger".
The first day at sea began with a breakfast of Eggs Benedict followed by spending the majority of the afternoon trying my best to win the big jackpot in bingo. Spoiler alert - I didn't win. The booklet must've been broken!
We spent the second night watching one of the various stage shows that were showing at The Marquee. The stage show that was showing there was ‘Seven’, an anthology of seven performances set to songs based on the seven deadly sins. To end the night was a side-splitting stand up performance by comedian, Bev Killick, who joked about motherhood and midlife in an explicit way.
Two fun-filled days at sea later (with one night ending with
a performance by Fem Belling, a singer and violinist from South Africa), we had
finally arrived at New Caledonia. Our first stop was at Noumea which is the
Reece and I went on a shuttle bus that stopped at various locations beginning at the Morning Markets near the city where I bought the first of three coconuts from a street vendor who cut the coconut open with a machete and placed a paper straw inside it. I also bought a mini sailboat made out of a Coca-Cola can and a "Nouville Caledonie" t-shirt. We then later stopped at a supermarket which sold various products such as jambon and lait (ham and milk in french respectively) as well as my new favourite drink, Orangina which is France's answer to Fanta and Sunkist.
Our next stop in Noumea was the Aquarium Des Lagons, an extremely beautiful aquarium which housed many endangered, delicate tropical fish, sharks, stingrays, sea cows and turtles where the latter were residing at their own pond. I even got to have a photo with one of the turtles, gladly taken by Reece. For lunch, we later stopped at one of the cafes. Reece had a burger with french fries whilst I had something more appropriate to Noumea's French culture which was a scrumptious chocolate banana crepe covered with whipped cream and silvered almonds with a side of hot chocolate (Chocolat Chaud), cest magnifique!
Our second last stop was at the Bilbiotheque Bernheim Institution, which housed a college and a library, and I had a go of reading one of the books published in French. My French may have been a bit rusty at the time of my holiday but I definitely understood what was going on. Last but not least was a wonderful walk, a sunbathe and an ice cream at Lemon Bay, a beach famous for its still waters and where tourists visit to swim, relax and snorkel. The ice cream vendor was a very nice person as my French language skills came to the rescue (Une Glace Au Chocolat, S'il vous plait!).
The next stop at New Caledonia was a day out at the Mare Islands where we spent two hours sunbathing, sipping on another coconut, snorkeling, admiring the beautiful colours of the ocean and the delicate inhabitants of the coral filled, Briny Sea. This unfortunately ended abruptly when I received a nasty bite from some sea lice on the upper right side of my face. Ouch! The day ended with the Blanco Patty which was a themed party where everybody had to wear white clothing and it was filled with dancing, loud, boisterous music and some laughs. Also going on at the top deck at the same time was the NRL game between the Newcastle Knights and the Sydney Roosters with the Knights hammering the chooks 38-12. I watched the game with a couple of Knights supporters from Nelson Bay and we cheered the Novocastrian side with a drink of Pina Colada or two.
Our last stop at New Caledonia was at the Isle of Pines, a beautiful island which was given the nickmame ‘the Jewel of the Pacific’ filled with a lush landscape of white sands, breathtaking lagoons and lofty Araucanian Pine Trees. We did a tour exploring the ruins and a cemetery which was once occupied by the French penal colony in the 1870s. Between 1864 and 1897, The Isle of Pines used to house convicts consisting of the "Transportees" (convicts of common laws) and the "Deportees” (convicts committed of war crimes or any other serious crime). It was teeming down with rain as I was trying to enjoy my tour of the island, and trying to not get bitten by leeches. Our Tour also consisted of visiting the Christian church built by the convicts that were residing in a village known as Vao in 1860. Despite the people who had built this church were convicted of many heinous crimes, they did such a tremendous job building this beautiful monument on a cliff by the sea.
Finally, it was time to leave New Caledonia but it wasn't complete without one last coconut drink! I really enjoyed visiting New Caledonia and I could tell all my friends that I had visited France! Well, a part of it!
But my time on the Pacific Explorer hadn't ended just yet. We had games of Scattergories, Shuffleboard, Name That Tune, just to name a few and seeing a few more parties and shows such as a magician with a kinky female assistant and ‘Let's Misbehave’ which contained songs and dances through a 1930s setting which happened on the same night of the Gatsby party where everyone dressed up in old style clothing and danced to old time music. I had such a blast and I gleefully had such a hullabaloo, ending my night with some champagne and a Calzone Al Forno with a side of mozzerella from 400 Gradi on the top floor of the ship.
On our final day on the Pacific Explorer, I desperately had to end it in style with a daring glide through the top of the ship on the flying fox at P&O's Edge Adventure Park which was located above Luke's Burgers outside. I was gliding through, laughing whilst watching the basketball on the big screen for ten adrenaline filled seconds of fun as Reece kindly videoed my ascent to the other side of the ship.
Our final night ended with a satisfying viewing of ‘ROCK-Anthems of The Ages’, an energetic show filled with covers of songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s such as 'Power and the Passion’, ‘All fired up’, ‘Money for Nothing’ and ‘Thunderstruck’. The farewell party was Rock N Roll themed with songs from the 50s and 60s as I partied to my heart’s content, using the rest of my money on my cruise card to buy a cocktail or two and a packet of peanut brittle fingers from Darrell Lea. I mingled with some of the performers of the shows who were very kind and I thanked them for their performances on the shows as they "killed it out there!"
And sadly, my time on the Pacific Explorer was over. I really wanted to spend a lot more time on the ship and make even more friends, but I had to go back home with my family and back to reality. Pretty dull, huh? Here's hoping that I'll be back on that beautiful ship again in no time when I save up. I had such a blast over the eight days that I won't be able to experience again for a while…until next time.
That's my review!