There are holidays. And then there are holidays that you can’t stop thinking about.
That’s exactly how I’m feeling several weeks after disembarking P&O Cruises’ Pacific Explorer.
As an international traveller since my early 20s, I’ve done some epic trips in my life. From the pyramids in Egypt to the remote wilds of Lapland, I’ve been fortunate to see some of planet Earth’s most incredible sites over the past 15 years.
However, while all those adventures hold a special place in my heart, my recent voyage on the Pacific Explorer was right up there in terms of memorable experiences.
Now, to start with, this wasn’t your average cruise. Let me explain.
My cruise from Auckland to Melbourne (yes, you read that right) didn’t stop at any ports along the way, tenders weren’t required at all – it was just five glorious days at sea.
I sailed on what the cruise lines call a ‘repositioning cruise’, which is where the embarkation port and disembarkation port are different.
To my surprise, the ship was completely sold-out – with passengers preferring P&O ferry them one-way across the mighty Tasman instead of one of the major airlines.
Yes, obviously a plane would get you to your destination a lot quicker, but does a plane have a spa, casino, or Bob Downe?
The beauty about having no ports of call is that you’re able to enjoy every aspect of the ship to its fullest, and I sure as hell did that!
P&O are the experts in having a good time, so there wasn’t a moment on my five-day cruise that I wasn’t having an absolute ball.
From partaking in Disney-themed trivia with a bunch of strangers to a cocktail making class and a spot of late-night karaoke, I was well and truly in my element on this ship.
One of my favourite things about travelling is trying out new restaurants and bars. To my delight, Pacific Explorer had a whopping six restaurants and countless bars on board to satisfy even the fussiest of travellers.
I was spoilt for choice with the ship’s range of everyday dining venues including Modern Australian fare at Waterfont, Italian dining at both Angelo’s and P&O Trattoria, exotic Asian fusion flavours at Dragon Lady, and just about everything under the sun at The Pantry.
But one of the highlights for me was the seven-course degustation I enjoyed courtesy of one of Australia’s most well-known chefs.
I like to consider myself a bit of a foodie, so when I discovered celebrity chef Luke Mangan had a restaurant partnership with P&O Cruises, I couldn’t contain my excitement!
Not only does he have a specialty restaurant – simply known as Luke’s – on board with picturesque views of the ocean and stunning pool deck, the 53-year-old also has an exclusive fine dining experience called A Taste of Salt.
Created by the Sydneysider, this perfectly paired degustation featured signature dishes and fine wines picked by the man himself. Only available to a small group of guests each night and located in a private dining room inside of Waterfront, A Taste of Salt is a must-do for people that like the finer things in life – like me!
If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie and enjoy testing your limits, the Pacific Explorer has plenty of experiences to scratch that itch.
At the P&O Edge Adventure Park, guests of all ages can dabble in rock climbing, zip down the flying fox, be like Jack and Rose in the Titanic Experience, or even Walk the Plank – like I found myself doing.
Yes, just like the classic pirate ships of yesteryear, the Pacific Explorer has a narrow plank that you can walk down (all harnessed up, of course) and pretend your Captain Jack Sparrow as you overlook the spectacular ocean beneath you.
I was talking about memorable moments earlier, and Walk the Plank is a prime example of doing something out of your comfort zone. It made for great photos too!
Another unforgettable moment for me was watching legendary Australian comedian and entertainer Bob Downe perform his new show ‘Viva Bob Vegas’, which is an old-style Las Vegas lounge show complete with a swinging live band, burlesque dancers, and sing-along retro classic tunes.
I seriously thought Bob had either died, retired, or was cancelled due to the risqué nature of his comedy, but that couldn’t be further from truth with the 64-year-old, played by Mark Trevorrow, in absolute vintage form on the cruise ship circuit. He had audiences in the palm of his hand as if it were the early 2000s – honestly, he was brilliant!
The activities and entertainment on Pacific Explorer was second to none, and there was truly something for everyone. If you get a chance, make sure you check out ‘The Purple Rabbit’ inside the Black Circus lounge.
I won’t give away what this show is about, but it is so ‘out there’ that it must be seen to be believed. It’s billed as a ‘five-star evening of mischief, magic and mind-blowing mayhem’ and it’s certainly worth the admission fee.
I could easily bang out another thousand words about my five days at sea on board P&O’s Pacific Explorer, but I reckon you should just check it out for yourself.
All cruise lines have their own thing that sets them apart from the rest, but one thing I enjoyed about cruising with P&O was everyone was having fun – at all times of the day.
Whether it was the crazy waterslides, awesome themed nights, or the cute towel animals left on your bed, you couldn’t stop smiling – and that, for me, is what makes a holiday so memorable.
Fancy some fun? Visit www.pocruises.com.au to find out when Pacific Explorer is sailing next.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.