Our friends Max and Jenny Williams recently picked up a killer deal on a short comedy cruise from Melbourne to Tasmania. Today, Max is excited to tell you all about their experience.
Imagine yourself locked in a bubble for three days with your normal life duties put on hold, and where you can relax and overindulge with not a care in the world. I am describing our recent experience – a weekend Comedy Cruise with P&O out of Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory and return via Tasmania.
Jenny and I are retirees who love travelling and who have the philosophy that our ‘healthy’ travel time is limited. So, joined by a group of like-minded friends, we decided to take a weekend off from our grandparent duties (though Jenny and I have no grandkids yet) and other mundane responsibilities, to hit the high seas.
Of course, our decision was prompted by a great promotional deal from Scoopon. At $738 for an upgraded Oceanview cabin for two persons, this was a bargain. We also had something to celebrate during the cruise as Davo, from our group, was turning 70.
The comedy flowed throughout the cruise from PG ratings to R18+, and most of it was hilariously clever. There was a comedy workshop with audience participation, a session where questions could be asked of the comedians, a gong show, and a number of gala shows where the six comedians strutted their stuff. The comedians were of high quality and included Rebecca De Unamuno, Bev Killick, Bob Downe, Elbow Skin (the Ernie and Dave duo) and Hung Le.
There were heaps of activities onboard, suitable for all age groups. I reckon the age demographic spanned about 70 years, with parents and their young kids, singles, retirees and a lot of middle-aged parents who had left their kids home with the grannies to enjoy a weekend getaway.
Our ship, Pacific Eden, is an older ship that was stylishly refurbished in 2015. It’s not your five-star cruise liner but it is very comfortable and has some nicely decorated bar areas. This medium-sized liner (1500 guests and 600 crew) has everything that one expects on a cruise.
What a delight to see the rocky coastline, from the southernmost point of the Aussie mainland to the famous Wilsons Promontory lighthouse, and then to sail south across Bass Strait almost to Devonport in northern Tasmania. For most of the cruise we sailed through gentle one to two metre swells, and it didn’t take long to get our ‘sea legs’, although one person in our group suffered some minor discomfort with motion sickness.
Service was satisfactory, and staff were pleasant and accommodating (a nice touch was a staff member bringing out a cake and singing happy birthday to Davo at dinner one night). I must say the king-sized bed (two singles pushed together) was divine and the very gentle rocking made for a great sleep – or was it the alcohol and late-night partying?
Activities were endless: one could choose a zumba dance class; a dip in either of the two pools and spas (cool breezes over the three days made this activity less popular), sipping a cocktail at one of many bars; hitting the casino, working out at the expansive gym, golf chipping, riding the zip line at the top deck adventure park, bingo, duty-free shopping, enjoying the live music from jazz to rock, partying and dancing into the wee hours, or just sitting in a quiet spot by a window with the sun streaming in and reading a book.
There were a number of restaurants, catering for all tastes. Our group had fortunately booked in to the ‘included’ restaurants for dinner as soon as we arrived on board. There were long queues later. The three-course servings were generally small but that was not an issue because you couldn’t possible go hungry at any time during the cruise.
The Pantry was the main buffet style fare, sort of like a Food Court. However, it’s a very good option for families with young children, those in a hurry, those with healthy appetites, or those who don’t want the a la carte options. Overall, the quality of the food was good.
If you are a coffee drinker (most Melbournians love their morning hit with a good latte or ‘cap’), then I’d suggest you miss the fairly ordinary brewed – or should that be stewed? – coffee provided. There are a couple of outlets onboard that serve the ‘good stuff’ (you have to pay for this): but the queue is long in the mornings.
If you want a fine dining experience, there are two restaurants onboard. The Salt Grill restaurant provides a Luke Mangan menu. However, this will cost you $50 each. One thing P&O doesn’t enforce is compulsory use of the hand sanitiser, which was available at the entry points to all restaurants. This should be of concern, as I think back to the outbreak of the dreaded norovirus aboard the Sun Princess recently.
What about the onboard cost for drinks? Although a soft drink package was available on this short cruise, no alcoholic beverage package was on offer. Drink prices were generally reasonable. Cocktails were $12, draft beer schooners for $6, stubbies for about $8–9. Bottles of house wine (sparkling, red and white) for $27 could be purchased at any of the bars, and taken into the restaurants. The wine selection in the restaurants was good but not extensive. The prices started from around $30. Of course, you can’t take alcohol onboard. Both checked and carry-on luggage are x-rayed. Any alcohol is confiscated until you disembark.
A nice touch was the availability of drinking water at various locations on the ship. Like all cruises, there are no cash transactions – you are given an ID card with a credit card linked to it, and a statement is provided at the end of the cruise. There are no service charges (unlike most overseas cruises where 15% is the norm), nor any pressure or compulsion to pay gratuities on this cruise.
So was this cruise value for money? The answer is yes, absolutely. I can’t speak highly enough of it. What a wonderful way to spend a few days with friends, or just chill out by yourself. We were truly entertained, able to find our own space and do our own thing, or be involved in the cruise activities on offer. Anyway, time to leave the bubble and get back to reality.