It’s a rare opportunity for Melbourne folk to cruise from their doorstep to the South Pacific. However, this summer three ships will ply these waters on a handful of cruises from Melbourne: P&O’s Pacific Jewel and its sibling, the newly rechristened Pacific Eden, along with Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess.
The smaller Pacific Jewel is a veteran of island cruising and has been treated to a stylish makeover. It boasts a new dining concept, The Pantry, which replaces the former buffet with individual “nooks” serving fish’n’chips, Mexican fare, Indian cuisine and Asian street food. Another addition is the Gatsby Party, a fun-filled night for those who love to frock up. Hop aboard on January 11, 2016 for a 13-night cruise to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Leaving Melbourne in your wake, there are three days at sea to settle in and explore the ship before arriving at Noumea. The little French city offers good food, colourful markets, great shopping and beaches just a bus ride away from the wharf. Jewel cruises on to tiny Lifou and Mystery Island, where there’s little to do but flop on the beach and snorkel. In Vila, shore activities range from the adventurous (abseiling and diving) to the cultural, where 4WD tours visit authentic villages. The cruise rounds off with visits to sleepy Mare and the stunning Isle of Pines.
Pacific Eden joins the P&O fleet in November 2015, fresh from a total bow to stern refurbishment. Melburnians have the chance to sample the new mid-size Pacific Eden when the 55,820-ton ship heads out to four New Caledonian ports on February 22, 2016. Carrying just 1500 passengers, the ship offers plenty of room, especially on its wide teak promenade deck and in its new array of bars and restaurants including the Blue Room jazz bar and the gourmet dining haunts Salt grill and Dragon Lady. From Noumea, Pacific Eden sails into the Isle of Pines, considered by many to be the pick of the region. Those in the know head straight to the natural aquarium of Oro Bay where the waters are clear and the marine life abundant. The Loyalty Islands of Mare and Lifou also offer great snorkelling and swimming and lazy days spent strolling deserted beaches. Pacific Jewel offers this same itinerary on February 2, 2016.
The 108,865-ton Golden Princess will call Melbourne home for several months and offer passengers four swimming pools, seven dining options, the adults-only Sanctuary relaxation deck and luxurious Lotus Spa. Golden Princess makes one trip to the islands this summer, heading out on March 8, 2016. Along with visits to Mare, Mystery Island and Vila, there are two calls on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. In gorgeous Champagne Bay the water literally bubbles up from the seabed like the famous French beverage, while from the main town of Luganville there are tours to the renowned blue swimming holes, a favourite outing for those who love an adventure in a pristine “jungle” setting. It’s the perfect finale to a great holiday.