Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cruise Review

Cruise review

Reading P & O Cruises new marketing spiel about the cruise ship Pacific Pearl one could feel they were listening to a Winston Churchill’s war time speech: Inspirational, motivating and targeted at peoples emotional triggers. In this writers opinion the suggestion that their new cruise ship The Pacific Pearl is New Zealand's first super liner should be read like a Tui’s billboard ad, yeah right. It confirms my honest opinion that Cruise Lines who have a presents in the Australasia market continue to dump their outdated cruise ship on the un-expecting travelling public in an attempt to maximise their shareholder returns. However, as I found on a recent four night life style cruise there are only a few redeeming factors.

The one part that did impress us on our cruise Auckland to Sydney was the check in at Auckland. A few days before departure I received a txt inviting me to call a hotline that advised me that they would be boarding the ship by deck number and that I should turn up at 2:30 pm. To my delight most people did as they were told so when I arrived only my deck was boarding and Monique and I was on the ship within 15 minutes of arriving at the port!

Making our way to our cabin 5111 was easy. What I immediately noticed upon entering the cabin was how dated it was. The good news was it was very well laid out with lots of closet space and a good size shower. There were a number of stains on the ceiling and the rust around the port hole that did not inspire confidence. After unpacking it was time to explore this so-called super liner. At first glance the public spaces which had been refurbished was great, but over the days that followed simple things like the toilets being blocked and the terrible smells did begin to take a bit of the gloss off the whole experience. The lifts were finding it hard to do even the simplest functions like going up and down! The voice that announces the lifts arrival on each of the floors was geographically misplaced and would often declarer that it had arrive on the 9th floor when in fact it was on the 5th! No issue early on in the day but after a few drinks it began to test my own navigational skills.

The theatre was one of the biggest disappointments. The refurbishment of the furniture was beautiful; unfortunately the lay out was uncomfortable and made viewing the show difficult which was a shame as the entertainers themselves were a highlight, especially the comedians.

Actually the use of some of the public space was very poor, and the decision to locate the costly and exclusive Oasis Lounge area just below the children’s outdoor play area was poorly thought through. One of the most astonishing things was the lack of a spa pool, and the fact that pacific pearl does not have a retractable roof over its pools is a distinct disadvantage in poor weather.

The spa/gym facilities were one of the worst I’ve experienced. Buried in the bowls of the ship, there is no ocean view to be enjoyed while working up a sweat. Those looking for the latest in hot benches to relax their tiresome muscles would need to move quick as there were only two for a ship of 1800 passengers.

I’m not a gambling man, but eating on board the Pacific Pearl is high stakes. The food in the main water front restaurant was amazingly good. Unfortunately the food at the Plantation Buffet could only be described as institutional sloop, and whoever designed the two lines that feed into the single meat serving area clearly didn’t think it through.

In general the Pacific Pearl is ok. If you were able to find a last minute special at a great price, it’s worth a go, but if you want a true super liner, keep looking.

Ewan Wilson is a group tour escort and co owner of Grand Journey By Wilsons Tours, and this is his 26th cruise

Monday, July 26, 2010

Well hello again. So since we last signed off, we have visited many a place. After Guernsey our next port was Le Havre, our gateway to Paris. The day started early and the drive long, but seeing the Eiffel tour and the Parisian skyline made it all worth it. Our guide Monique was lovely but not quite as lovely as our driver MoMo (So we had Momo the driver, Meme aka me , Emily, and MooMoo my affectionate name for Monique aka mum ) It was indeed funny having two Moniques!. Our time in Paris was limited so we made sure we saw as much as we could. Our first stop , L'arc de Triumpth, then we did a city tour on the coach seeing some of the splendid architecture that Paris is famous for. We stopped for lunch by the Notre Dame cathedral, you may of heard of it. Despite the heat, we all enjoyed a cruise along the Seine before we made it back to Le HAVRE . Our second day in Le Havre had us visiting the Normanday beaches. An emotionally day as we visited a cemetery where some kiwis were buried, the silver fern standing proud against the white gravestones.

Our next port was the Dutch town of Vlissingen /Flushing. Not too mcuh to see but lots of shopping.

Belguim was our next stop. We visited the beautiful city of Brussels with its spectacular square . Here we stopped for lunch, for the Wilsons it was a waffle each, Ewan was beyond devastated when his last mouthful fell to the ground. Monique kindly suggested that the 3 second rule applied... the waffle was good but not that good to be pick up off the street.

Brugge was lovely and we all enjoyed a canal ride .

Next port was the beyond depressing town of Tilbury! Luckily the town across the river was much more lively, and had a but more history to it. Pocahontus was buried here.

So then onto the big bustling city of London. That afternoon the group was free to explore. Some choose the Hop on Hop off bus. This would have been wonderful had it not been for the London traffic! Our second day in London , again everyone was free to explore.

Day three in London was day one of our 8 day 7 night tour of the Uk and Ireland. Day one we drove to Stratford upon avon to visit the house of Anne Hathaway and Shakespears birthplace . Our guide Gwen was lovely and the author of two delightful books explaining the origins of many phrases we use today.

From Stratford to Leeds . A quick tour of Leeds before visiting the Armoury museum and Harewood house. The drive from Leeds to Glasgow was long but the scenery lovely as we crossed over into Scotland. We made a lovely stop at Gretna Green to stretch our legs and refuel our bellys before continuing to Glasgow, which is where we are now. I am typing from bed , looking forward to tomorrow where we will visit Edinburgh.

Until next time , take care

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Enchanting France

Well here we are in Guernsey. It has been a wonderful journey so far! Our apologies for not posting anything sooner we have simply been having too much fun ( that and difficult Internet access )

Kuala Lumpur was humid and had the typical mid day down pour which luckily didn't dampen our spirits as we toured the city in the afternoon.Kuala Lumpur is really a modern city, with many amazing shopping malls, but really not as many bargains as you would think .

After a long flight we reached Amsterdam . A city that everyone fell in love with. It was great for Ewan and Monique to return to the Victoria hotel, as the staff recognised them!We were all warmly welcomed. To keep us all awake we visited the quaint villages of Volendam and Edam ( yes where the cheese comes from! )
We then had a lovely dinner at a favorite Turkish restaurant, the Ankara. Followed by the obligatory tour of the red light district.It is a worry that Ewan knows that area so well.
The following day we all enjoyed a canal cruise , which showed off some of the incredible architecture that the city has to offer. Then we boarded our home for the next 14 days the Prisindam. This is Ewan and Monique's favorite ship as it is a classic , small and intimate ship, while offering many facilities and activities.

Our first port was Lorient, Britany. Despite rain in the morning we all enjoyed the typical french market of Lamor Plage, many good bargains, with successful shopping.

Bordeaux was an amazing day. Our guide Sybill was wonderful! She brought the history of the area alive and of course we enjoyed the wines of Bordeaux and some typical French fare.

Off to Spain and the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela. Amazing to see so many there who had actually participated in a pilgrimage to this sacred town.

Bilboa impressed us all and our guide Yolanda was wonderful. It is a city of contrast where the old meets creative new. It is a city that embraces the arts and the "Puppy" ( pronounced poopy by the locals ) was a highlight , as well as the amazing architecture of the Guggenheim.

Goes to show the importance of a great guide.

Yesterday was a day at sea and as Ross said a day of recuperation!The bay of Biscay was a bit rocky but not as bad as it is know for.

Today we are on the quaint island of Guernsey, in the town of St Peters Port.

Most of the boys have gone to the military museum and the lady's are no doubt enjoying the many sales!

Tomorrow , PARIS! Monique and myself are just a little bit excited!

We hope to be able to post again soon!

Saturday, June 5, 2010