As I crossed Sydney Harbour Bridge and saw P&O’s Pacific Explorer waiting for me (and a few others) at Circular Quay, my spirits rose, despite the wet and cold day. My home for the next three days awaited me and I was ready to escape.
Sydney is my home and I hope to never lose the surge of emotion that rises in my heart when I fly in for a visit and see the Bridge and Opera House waiting for me. But 15 years ago I relocated to Brisbane in Queensland and as Dorothea Mackellar said in My Country, these days Sydney is a place “I know but cannot share it, My love is otherwise”. Queensland is my new home and in 2020 the Pacific Explorer will make that transformation as Brisbane becomes her home.
As I approached the Pacific Explorer for the Comedy Cruise, I could not help but notice the numerous kids boarding. Now I know there are many of you who, like me, prefer their holidays, particularly a cruise, without children. Recently, however, a friend went sailing with her family, children and grandchildren, some of the latter only pre- and early-teens. What many people do not understand is that we Baby Boomers aren’t all the same. I congratulate P&O for recognising this and making ships like the Pacific Explorer family-friendly.
What does that mean for me, the person who wants peace and quiet, not the joyful screams of the kids in the pool? Fear not, we haven’t been overlooked. There are numerous adults-only areas, including a pool, spa, bar and relaxation area. Furthermore, there are areas where our generation is not welcome such as the various clubs for travelling teens and pre-teens. I never saw kids at breakfast, lunch or dinner, never had to fight for a place in a lounge nor put up with noisy kids. I did, however, see a number of littlies on the floor of the atrium armed with paper and crayons having a wonderful time as they created art masterpieces. Is there a more joyous sound than the delighted squeal/giggle of a young child enjoying life?
Our three-day cruise happened to include Father’s Day and it was heartwarming to see the number of family groups enjoying a very special time with Dad. Our cabin stewards also acknowledged the day by giving us special towel art.
I would like to share the whole experience with you. I need to use a walking stick, which impacts the distance I can walk. As soon as I stepped out of the taxi, I was greeted by a P&O employee asking if I needed assistance. After a brief discussion about the difficulty I might face boarding, I was comfortably seated in a wheelchair, taken through the registration process and then wheeled aboard in grand style. I was also advised where to wait when disembarking. The people who assisted me were unfailingly pleasant.
I arrived somewhat in advance of boarding time and consequently, our cabin was not ready. Rather than telling us to “wait there”, we were directed to The Pantry to enjoy lunch and advised that our cabin would be ready no later than 2pm. What a way to wait! A great fresh lunch with a view of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House is on my itinerary at any time!
I don’t know if our cabin was ready at 2pm because we decided to explore the decks. Awesome idea, except that this was the day mother nature decided to turn on winter for us northern dwellers and the wind was strong and the temperature low. Nonetheless, yours truly and her intrepid companion (the long-suffering Grumpy/Gorgeous Old Man) walked aft of the ship to look at the Harbour Bridge and the Rocks. Despite the attraction of standing on the open deck to sail past Sydney’s icons and beautiful harbourside suburbs, it wasn’t long before we found a more protected area and ordered a hot warming coffee.
Suffice to say, sailing on Friday and Saturday was not for the faint-hearted, there was a pronounced roll and the odd wave seemed to hit quite high on the ship’s sides. Surprisingly GOM and I both have quite stable sea legs and weathered the storm (pun intended) with no ill effects. Our cabin was warm thanks to adjustable air-conditioning and the beds were so comfortable, I wanted to pack the pillows in my already overstuffed luggage. There was plenty of storage/hanging space and the compact bathroom was more than adequate for our needs.
On Sunday the sun came out, fur coats were discarded in favour of bikinis and those suffering from seasickness discovered cruising was fun after all. Had the most delightful lunch sitting in the sun; typical humans, we were now trying to find shade!
When we arrived in Sydney on Monday morning the sight of sunrise, with the sun sitting just to the left of the Opera House reminded me again how beautiful Sydney is.
I truly wanted to stow away and sail to Tangalooma later in the day, or even longer to the islands. I can assure you, it won’t be long before GOM and I do just that, particularly when the Pacific Explorer relocates to Brisbane in 2020. Having now experienced a cruise where kids are actively encouraged, whilst remembering that some people would prefer peace, I see that with good design, creating, dare I say age-appropriate spaces, all generations can enjoy their holiday their way. I finally understand how my friend went cruising with her two generations of descendants.
Sincere thanks to my hosts and to the awesome people who went out of their way to ensure their guests, including me, thoroughly enjoyed the Pacific Explorer Comedy Cruise.
You may notice I’ve only skirted around the food — well that is a whole other story — watch this space.