Wouldn’t it be great, spending ten days visiting islands in the Pacific, exploring new towns and countryside? Without having to visit airports to get to each island. Without having to move between hotels. You go to sleep one night, and the next morning you are arriving at another island. I had the chance to make this a reality on the Sun Princess on the 16th of February 2017.
It can be a reality for you to when you choose to take a cruise. You board the cruise ship, and you get to visit ports without having to pack and unpack bags. You have all the food you need, all the entertainment you could want and an amazing journey ahead of you.
10 Nights onboard Sun Princess
A cruise is just what I have been up to over the last 11 days of February. On the February 16th, I boarded Princess Cruises, Sun Princess, and set sail for the Islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The cruise finished on the 26th of February, and it was a great experience. Below is just a little bit of an overview of the whole trip.
Day 1 – Brisbane Embarkation
The particular appeal for this cruise was embarking in Brisbane. Unlike the other cruises I have done, this cruise was a simple matter of driving to the terminal. My previous cruises have all involved no less than two flights or more before boarding.
Portside Cruise Terminal
Embarkation for the cruise took place at Portside Cruise Terminal in Hamilton on the Brisbane River. While I have visited the terminal area many times to see other cruise ships in port, this was my first time boarding a ship here.
Originally boarding was listed as starting from 12:30 pm, however, this was adjusted to 5:30 pm. The reason for the change was due to the presence of norovirus throughout parts of the last two cruises. The cruise line allowed additional time while in port to sanitise both the terminal and ship after passengers disembarked. It might be unfortunate for the delay, but I would prefer the delay to getting sick.
A delay in the embarkation process consequently results in a delay in departing from Brisbane. Originally we were to sail away around 5:30 pm, but with the delay the sail away time was pushed back to 9:00 pm. It would have been nice to see the sun set over Brisbane as we departed. But instead, we got to see Brisbane shining brightly at night.
Day 2 – At Sea
Being such a late embarkation yesterday, it has fallen on the first sea day to explore and learn my way around the ship. The two most important stops for the morning included the International Cafe and the Dining Room for breakfast.
Eating in the main dining room this morning turned out to be a very similar experience to other cruise ships. The total time for breakfast was around 90 minutes; this is from being seated through to leaving the dining room at the end. Possibly why this is only the second or third time I have had breakfast in the main dining room.
While listening to some music in the afternoon and having a drink with a friend onboard, there was an announcement of “Man Overboard” from the bridge. The announcement occurred around 3.30pm on board, and the passenger was recovered around 4.30pm. That was incredible work by the crew to get the ship turned around and found the passenger so quickly. You can find more information on the incident here.
Day 3 – At Sea
The second sea day for the cruise turned out to be a great chance just to relax. There was nothing that needed doing, nowhere specifically that I needed to be.
There was a chance to enjoy two movies on the big screen on deck 12 over the midship pool. The first was Finding Dory in the morning before enjoying lunch in the buffet. The second movie was the latest Jason Bourne movie after dinner.
Day 4 – Noumea, New Caledonia
Noumea is the first of the five ports on this cruise and the only one which I have visited previously. Today turned out to be a little different to my last visit to Noumea. The previous visit the ship docked at the passenger terminal while today it docked at the cargo port. There were buses to ferry passengers from the ship to the terminal.
Walking The Town & Geocaching
After getting to the passenger terminal, I had one particular thing I wanted to get done. That was to find my first Geocache in New Caledonia. The Geocache that I started with is Graffiti de Noumea #01 (GC63VBW). It turned out to be a total of around 20m from where the shuttle bus dropped off and was a relatively quick and easy find.
From here I walked around the central park in the middle of Noumea. Before heading up to a lookout over the city. It is not a bad view up here at all.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
After the walk, I still had a significant part of the day to do some more exploring. Although walking to the east along the waterfront had potential, I opted for the Hop On Hop Off Bus to save a little of the walking. For $20 which could get charged to my cabin on the ship, there is a total of six stops. The stops included a market, shopping centre, Lemon Bay, & Aquarium.
I opted to take the bus along to Lemon Bay and explore the area a little. There are some cafes and restaurants in the area. They all look out across the road to the beach and the crystal clear water of the bay. I walked a little further east around the bay before returning to a restaurant for lunch.
After lunch, I decided to walk back to the passenger Terminal to catch the shuttle back to the ship. Along the way, I collected another four Geocaches bringing my total for today to five finds.
Day 5 – At Sea
If you were to look back at my original post about the cruise and the itinerary, today we should have visited Mystery Island. The Sun Princess end up getting within about 2km of Mystery Island. However, the captain considered the conditions and made the decision it was not safe for the Sun Princess to operate tender services. With the wind-force over 25knots it was not safe to enter the bay and the swell over 2 metres it was not safe to tender from outside the bay.
So it looks like for me at least Mystery Island will remain a mystery. With today as such becoming a sea day, and the ship continued towards the next port of call, Port Vila, Vanuatu. I won’t share too much about onboard activities here since I am looking to sharing this in another post.
Day 6 – Port Vila, Vanuatu
The weather as the Sun Princess arrived in Port Vila was not promising. There was a combination of some rather heavy rain, and even without the sun, it was already quite a hot day. Thankfully before the announcement that passengers could go ashore, the rain had stopped. Most of the cloud disappeared, and the sun came out, making a hot day, very humid.
Even with the hot and humid weather, I made the decision to walk from the ship through town and make a stop at a Geocache. I opted to make a stop at a cafe along the way on the walk, which was a welcome break in the heat.
The walk is roughly 4km from the ship to the start of town, and approximately another 1km to the Geocache. After missing Mystery Island, the Geocache in Port Vila was one of only three potential options near to where I would be. So I wanted to ensure that I found this Geocache if possible.
I recovered roughly the same steps on the way back to the ship. I took a look inside one or two of the duty-free shops, but even though the alcohol is rather cheap. There is no point buying any since I very rarely drink much else besides coffee and water.
The port call in Port Vila is also the first time that I have visited Vanuatu. Vanuatu is the 32nd country that I have visited now; the setting is quite idyllic with some beautiful scenes over the harbour.
Day 7 – Champagne Bay, Vanuatu
It is rather difficult to describe in words just how beautiful the area of Champagne Bay is. Champagne Bay itself is horseshoe shaped bay, surrounded by cliffs and mountains. The area is thickly covered by trees and scrub in many places down to the waterline. There are numerous pristine white sandy beaches scattered around the bay.
Champagne Bay is a tender port, meaning that the ship puts down anchor in the bay. Then some of the lifeboats are used to ferry people from the ship to shore. As you walk off the tiny pier, you can follow around under the trees, where the locals have some market stalls set up. Alternatively, a small turn to the left puts you right onto the white sandy beach.
I have a mixed bag of photo’s from Champagne Bay as I opted not to carry my camera off the ship. Instead, I chose to take minimal items with me and just took the waterproof GoPro.
Day 8 – Luganville, Vanuatu
Luganville is the last port of call before the Sun Princess sets a course to return to Brisbane. I am a little disappointed in Luganville. However, most of this does very much relate to the considerably limited assistance Vanuatu receive’s since becoming independent.
The infrastructure and general look and feel of the area is quite run down. There is one thing that I noticed both in Port Vila and Luganville, the friendly nature of the locals. I did not feel threatened at any time while walking between the ship and town. In fact many times I was greeted by the locals as I walked, either with a smile or a quick hello.
While the overall look of the town and area is run down, they are building a new terminal building at the port. It will help to improve the first impression for cruise ship visitors. But it is also only a small part of a much bigger puzzle. My greatest challenge today was jut finding a coffee shop for a cup of coffee. I am glad that I found one, and it was quite a good spot, but something that seems to be lacking here.
Day 9 & 10 – At Sea
After a few big days in port with a significant amount of walking in two of them, I was happy for a break. Being at sea on a cruise ship does often have a lot of activities going on. But it is also an excellent opportunity to relax as well.
I did not take advantage of to many of the activities in these last couple of days. But there is something for just about everyone when you are onboard.
Day 11 – Disembarkation in Brisbane
The last day of a cruise is always a little sad; you become a little attached to the ships you cruise on. Unlike staying in a hotel, on board a cruise ship you become a little attached. You get used to visiting different places each day and coming back to the same room each night. The consistency of always finding a hot meal without having to search out a good restaurant nearby.
Either way, it seems that you are disembarking the ship all too soon. I suppose it does not help that you must vacate your room by breakfast time. Also often departing from the ship before most hotels early checkout times.
What An Adventure
I must say I quite enjoyed cruising the South Pacific Islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Even though we missed Mystery Island, there was still plenty of adventure in the other port calls. The Sun Princess even though the oldest in the Princess Cruises fleet is still a beautiful well-appointed ship.
Probably the thing I noticed most was the landscape of many of these islands. With just a day in each port, there was so little time to explore these islands thoroughly. However, I could easily imagine some of the hidden gems if you had the time to explore on a deeper level.
Although there was some negative news around the Sun Princess with the cases of norovirus, it did not diminish my cruise. I thoroughly enjoyed cruising onboard the Sun Princess and would be very happy to join the ship again tomorrow given a chance.