Updated: May 18
After over 9 months of planning, prepping and counting down, we were all super excited to be embarking on our very first multi generational holiday!
Helloooooo drinks package!
The date is November 2022,
and after 3 long years of not travelling since the pandemic began,
we are finally breaking out our new passports,
and are ready to tackle the world again!
This time, we are delighted to be travelling with our kids, and grandkids,
plus a couple of great friends who randomly booked the same cruise as us. Suckers!
Haha, not at all. We are very good friends, and were about to embark upon just the best time.
(Being a public blog, I'll just keep the grandkids' faces out for privacy reasons.)
...the rest is open slather!
QUANTUM of the SEAS was our chosen vessel to take us on our fourth cruise to the
South Pacific... Happy to sail again with Royal Carribean, and this is the largest ship we have cruised on yet. We chose this mainly for the activities for the kiddies to play on, as it was their very first cruise, and of course we wanted it to be special, and most of all - FUN!
And look at what we read in the Escape section of our Sunday paper upon return,
and after I had written this blog. It could have easily been penned by me, lol:
S N A P !!
An easy (for a change) drive to Brisbane from the Gold Coast,
and afterparking our mini convoy of cars at the Portside Parking,
it was time to board the bus
to take us to the cruise ship terminal. The littlies were already really excited, and perhaps us 'oldies' were as well.
After pretty ridiculously long lines and protocols due to needing to prove Covid vaccinations and a negative test, we finally made it onboard mid afternoon. That's the best feeling, and one I had been looking forward to for ages. Actually walking across the final gangway onto the ship.
You see, I had come down with Covid only three weeks prior to this day, so even though isolation protocols have eased a great deal, I did my very best to isolate myself as to not pass it onto to any of our travelling family. Imagine being turned away at the dock???!!! ARGH.
Didn't happen. Woo-bloody-hoo!
Yeay Trev, we all made it!
And yes, we all had cruise t-shirts which I made them wear to board ;
'It's a Watson thing. You wouldn't understand.' This definitely became the catch phrase for the trip, and our group photo of this
is going to remain a private one. Dags, as we are... Hehe.
Whilst sailing out of the mouth of the Brisbane River is never going to compare with the glory of leaving Sydney Harbour for instance,
the sense of gratitude and sheer delight after all these years of not travelling,
border closures and city lockdowns, was palpable,
and we were enjoying it like it was our very first cruise - with all that wide-eyed appeal and anticipation of the fun times ahead.
With the sun setting behind the hills in the west, off we sailed under stormy skies,
knowing we were in good hands,
with loads to look forward to over the following ten days.
Our beautiful friends, Lisa and Paul, booked the same trip as us, without knowing it. What a bonus!
Never normally one for enjoying continuous days at sea,
(as I'm always eager to explore new ports of call), this trip was different from the get go.
Exploring the ship through the eyes of our grandchildren was a fun new experience for us,
as well I know, the kids' parents all loved it even more.
The evening meal in the main dining room each night especially turning into a highlight of everyone's day, as we recalled our adventures and ordered even more cocktails
(and bowls of ice cream) from the amazing wait staff onboard.
These waiters remembered our 'choice of poison' and had our favourite drinks in our hands even as we were being seated. Not saying we were ever drunk, but we all enjoyed the freedom of an ultimate drinks package - never having to sign for anything. It made everything so simple, and the boys all made the most of their time off from their businesses and gruelling work schedules.
Also, Trev and I enjoyed ordering our favourite cruise ship appetiser - escargot. Every. Single. Night.
Only time we ever get to indulge in that herby, buttery, garlic delight. Even Trev's son Aaron eventually caved and tried them, stating that he really wanted to
NOT like them... but alas, they were a hit!
The front of this ship had probably the best adults only pool area
we have experienced on a cruise .
A beautiful, plant filled solarium with cascading levels of pools and hot tubs,
even with lounge chairs in the water,
and waiters always swinging by to grant your
wishes like genies.
(Seriously, I still can't find the right spot to look at...)
Just a footnote to say that this pool bar was open earrrrrly.
'A friend' told me about the four bloody Marys he would enjoy - before every breakfast. Yikes!
That said, and no judgement, hehe, I did order my first espresso martini before lunch,
as I didn't like their coffee on board. Had to get my caffeine in somehow you know!
We now had two and a half days to enjoy exploring the ship before arriving in Noumea. (Still by the end we hadn't seen it all...) The onboard shows were pretty decent,
but our favourite entertainment was their resident band 'Supernova',
a group of amazingly talented Brazilian boys who played everything you could think of,
and very well indeed,
as well as Carlos playing guitar very energetically
in the Harp and Horn pub till the wee hours, when we finally would let him go!
He had us all singing along at the top of our voices with the typical pub songs,
and both these entertainers even had Lisa and I up there on the dance floor,
cutting some moves like no-one was watching. Trev loving the fact I have a dance buddy, letting him off the hook to chat with Paul
and watch the 'show'.
Well, maybe not quite like that, haha...
Proudly, after staying up past 11 or 12 most nights,
I still managed to wake at 4am (some mornings...)
to enjoy some spectacular sunrises,
and I snapped these shots just straight out on our balcony
with my trusty iPhone.
Actually, that's all I ever use these days.
Even my morning walk around the top deck of the ship, offered great photo opportunities. I love this time of day onboard. Soooo quiet.
Formal night saw us throw on the glad rags, and grab a couple of pics whilst avoiding the pro photographers' set ups. We still just prefer the random, happy,
no fuss selfie.
The capitol city of New Caledonia is Noumea, and was going to be our only port where we could berth, without having to tender ashore in the lifeboats.
This actual 'tendering ashore' proved to somewhat of a headache to a lot of people later on, as so many people are on a ship this size, and the logistics of getting people on and off this way is a little problematic.
Ah, still grateful.
We knew from past visits here, that the Aquarium in Noumea is a great place to visit,
so after waiting forever for a taxi,
we decided to jump on the ever reliable 'On/Off' doubler decker bus.
It was absolutely searing hot, so the air conditioned comfort on board was welcomed
by young and old!
Our daughter Brittany was especially looking forward to this, as she is such an enthusiast for such attractions, and was in her element at this place, as well as all the others.
Many of these following photos were taken by Britt.
The grandkids loved seeing the sharks, huge sea turtles, seahorses, jellyfish, moray eels, and the one exhibit they are famous for here - the Nautilis .
These creatures who live in the very recognisable shell, have survived relatively unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, and are often considered living fossils.
Not easy to photograph with a phone, as the exhibit is in darkness due to them being
deep sea creatures. We did see many of them connected to each other in 'some' sort of play...
which was quite mesmerising.
My favourite was the octopus.
The video I took of her was gorgeous.
They truly are exquisite creatures.
Well worth the visit, and only $30 AUD for the unlimited bus stops and entry in.
Another day well spent.
The following morning was the day we were all waiting for.
The beautiful and ultimately tropical, white sandy atoll, Mystery Island, Vanuatu.
These two photos were taken 6 years apart. Left, when we travelled in 2018 with friends, and today, Trev re-enacting the photo.
And Sharr, from her cabin.
We were all lucky to be on the side of the ship with the best view to wake up to.
No need to book anything...(just get an early ticket for the tender boat), and go ashore and enjoy paradise.
We had never enjoyed such pure, clear seawater.
Lisa and Paul joined us all in the water, and we literally stayed in until we were prunes.
Even a few spits of tropical rain wouldn't deter us.
'This too, shall pass.'
And it did.
The photos say it all.
Paulie, Lisa and Trev.
Aaron and Brodie
Tayne, kids, and Sharr.
Needless to say, there were a few sunburnt bodies coming onboard, and definitely they were suffering for a few days. We slathered on the sunscreen, and half our group anyway tan like they were born for this climate, so all good on the Watson front.
Another amazing day to chalk up to the memory banks.
Back onboard we had a booking for the North Star...the capsule that goes high and over the boat, but annoyingly, they wouldn't let our 1 year old on, even though she was in the arms of a parent, so poor Aaron just had to watch this one.
The views over the boat and island with the setting sun were just surreal,
and as we were still onshore, it was a freebie.
Next morning, Tayne, Trev and I were up super early to watch the round 16 of the
World Cup Football, and saw Australia play Argentina. Amazing to sit around a pool and watch it on the big screen, off the islands of Vanuatu. Yeah, Australia lost, but, in a sense, as a family, we won. Another great moment in time shared.
Another sea day ahead, and then Port Villa, the capitol of Vanuatu, for an overnight stay.
Finding things to do on a ship is never a problem for us. Sometimes its just all about finding a day bed with a view...
Okaaaay, Trev's legs, not mine...! ;)
...or sometimes it's time to get the grey matter active.
Let me just say:
Trev and I love trivia.
Hardly ever play it in our own lives at clubs,
but that said, our 'Movie theme night dinners' with friends at home
are most competitive, and may end up with a fight to the death over the trivia trophy.
We don't die.
NOW, we have the smarts of others to help us!
Britt is amazing with her vast knowledge, particularly scientific stuff,
and can name almost every animal,
so she won that 'What is this animal?' game - twice,
getting them all correct, and the fastest to do so.
She got to bask in the glory of winning highlighter pens.
Trev's fortè is most definitely 70's and 80's music, and yup, another yellow pen came home.
Sharr came along and nailed some pearlers in the GOT trivia,
whilst Aaron is always good for some tricky random answers,
and his funny retorts are always worth hearing. He cracks me up.
Needless to say we bombed in the Harry Potter quiz.
Always a fun thing to do over a morning espresso martini - oops, I mean coffee. Or did I?
Even comes with morning tea...
Last stop, was the Vanuatu capitol, Port Villa. Having been here a few times before, Trev and I were a little complacent
about going ashore this time. It was sooooo hot!
Yes, we were fortunate to have already done the jungle zip lining, native village tour and a helipcopter flyover, so, as it was gruelling hot, we kind of decided to bludge onboard an empty ship (how refreshing) and just go ashore in the cool of the afternoon with Britt, Tayne, Sharr and kids, to browse through the local markets and buy some trinkets.
Aaron, Brodie and kids had made last minute plans, and well done them!
They went ashore, and, amongst the myriad of taxi drivers and local 'dudes' offering all sorts of cheap rides and tours, they noticed one guy, sitting next to his very nice mini bus,
just reading his phone.
Meet, Uncle Alan, with all our lads...(the next day)
SUCH a sweet and considerate guy, we would happily recommend him as a tour guide
to anyone visiting here.
Irangai Tours and Transfers. Make a note if you are travelling here. :)
He even sang a lullaby over and over, to get the baby to sleep. It worked!
They organised a whole afternoon of touring - to visit the exotic Blue Lagoon,
then over to the water cascades, then the turtle feeding,
before being dropped back to the port for a free shuttle to the nearby island for
fire dancers and fireworks. For like, $100 for them all, and they were gone for nearly 9 hours.
They ended up having what they reckon as the best day of their lives!!!!
Uncle Alan was amazing with the kids, taking 4 yr old Dax by the hand and being a true carer and helping in the swimming lagoons.
Not that Dax needs help, but someone there the catch him as he launched himself into the water was a godsend.
A special moment for Aaron and Dax.
These guys finally made it back onboard by 9pm,
with the last tender to boat being 10.
A HUGE day for them.
Before getting on, and just before the last tender boat came back to the ship, Aaron managed this one last boat shot. Wow.
Then the fireworks started.
Fireworks photo credit: Julia Pakoa.
Next day was Aaron's wife's, Brodie's, birthday.
Back to the Blue Lagoon. This time we all joined them!
Sharr, bless her, strung up decorations over their door,
and Aaron organised decorations for the room.
Not many times you get to have a birthday on a ship! Drinks all round! Oh wait, I think we have that anyway! S W E E T!
But first, we had another day at the Blue Lagoon to enjoy!
We had texted 'Uncle Alan' that we all were coming down, sans Britt, so once we hit the road, first stop was for ice...and beer and snacks. These guys know how to travel. Except, today is Sunday, and it's sacred to them here, (and law to not drink), therefore Alan couldn't drink beers with the boys, so they made sure he had some to take home with him.
Two, four...(six eight, dive in, don't wait..)
The locals, enjoying a family Sunday, showed us how it was done.
The kids and grandkids all had a blast, jumping off the rope swing, the overhanging branches and just the deck too.
Well, my turn turned into a typical Mandy move. So I thought I was good to go on the rope swing.
I forgot about my dodgy shoulder that has little strength under duress... So I swung...a little, and unceremoniously fell, did my shoulder, broke a nail, lost an earring and scraped my knee on a rock.
So typical. I come up smiling though!
NO PHOTO PROOF thankfully.
The kids were way more elegant!
Dinner that evening was a hoot, as a couple of days earlier Trev and I had seen the head waiter serenade a young guest with his ukulele, so we knew we had to organise this for Brodie. Knowing full well she'd hate it, but secretly love it too, I hoped.
When the time came, he crept up and sang 'You are my Sunshine' followed by
'Happy Birthday' .
It was hilarious, and Aaron was completely in the dark about it too, which made the reactions even more fabulous.
Happy Birthday, Brodes!
More shows, more pub sing-a -longs, and perhaps a few more cocktails.
We are going down swinging!
(Oops, careful saying that on a ship these days, lol!)
And a couple last selfies!
The grandkids all did the ifly, (indoor skydiving) and absolutely loved it. Aged 4, 4 and 7, they looked so adorable in their flight suits and helmets. They smashed it! Darling Hearts.
And one last shot for us...back of the ship is always our favourite place.
So that's it!
10 days of family fun, eating, drinking, swimming, playing and bonding. Something we'll never forget, and hopefully we can do again next year.
Maybe New Zealand?
Watch this space. And this time we'll have our youngest son, Kaeci, along for the ride. Sadly, he missed this one as he couldn't make it. He was sorely missed.
(Oh, Maldives and Singapore next, in Feb,
then a Himalayan trek to Everest Base Camp and mountain climb in April - May, and UK in September.)
We're baaaaack, baby!
But now, it's home in time for Christmas. Great. More food.