Dawn Escape Our South Seas Cruise December 3rd 2011. One of these spur-of-the-moment things we felt the urge to get another taste of cruising. Easy... The Pacific Dawn sails out of Brisbane. No air travel, no accommodation, no complications, so here we are, and having a ball!
We have seen this ship sail by many times before and waved to friends who have been onboard. This was our turn to wave back. Unfortunately, the Murtaghâ€™s were not at home. The curtains were drawn. But we waved anyhow.
Check-in was uneventful and we were pleasantly surprised when we found that we had been given a cabin upgrade. We always book the cheapest (inside) cabin as we treat the cabin as a place to sleep briefly and to shower and change for the next activity. This time we had a window where we could look at the side of a lifeboat. Out on deck things looked good too, nice deck area for music and dancing, and that suited us for the sail-away party as we slid under the Gateway bridge with lots and lots of room to spare. This is a very small, old ship, and lacking most of the things that are standard on the big ships. I wonâ€™t try to compare, as really, there is no comparison. Regardless, we were there for the good times and found plenty of that. Out of the river, across to Tangalooma, and then Caloundra came in view. A stunning sunset showed our Glasshouse Mountains from a different perspective.
So, on with the Shows, the music, dancing entertainment and the food. Actually, the food was pretty ordinary. Not very appetising and not much variety. By the end of the week we were referring to splodge at the cafeteria. The main dining room food was slightly better, but their ‘anytime dining’ arrangement was nothing short of hopeless, and the coffee was undrinkable. It would probably be useful for dissolving barnacles. I don’t know why I am complaining, still managed to gain a couple of kilos. The shows were excellent! The singing and dancing cast were brilliant. Not only did they put on 4 different shows, they gave dancing classes and ran all of the fun activities. We are now expert in Salsa, Cha-Cha, Tango, Irish, and Rap. There was one 3 piece band with a vocalist that provided most of the dancing music. They were good, and the vocalist was a very powerful singer. They soon got the idea of the RnR music we liked, and played accordingly. Other dancers were few and far between so we often added to the night’s entertainment to the expressed delight of the other passengers. Another 3 piece group played more sedate numbers so we were able to get our fair share of the more romantic stuff as well. Another quite elderly couple also graced the floor, and they were always dressed for the occasion. There is a funny story about them towards the end of the cruise. First port of call was Noumea. Not a very exciting town, but we had come prepared with our snorkelling gear, so we jumped on the local bus and headed off to the beach. We had a good swim around but failed to find any beautiful coral or multi-coloured fishes, but the water was nice and we were entertained by a large group of local men playing bolls with a lot of passion. It started to rain so we wandered off to the bus stop, and on the way came across some fellow cruisers who had been snorkelling and seen the most fabulous things. Apparently they were 50 metres out past the sandy bottom and weed beds. We hadn’t gone far enough!
A short overnight cruise took us to Lifou. No dock, brought ashore by tender organized with laughable efficiency. This place is quite unspoiled by development, and very pretty. Lovely beaches and great for snorkelling, but after our experience in Noumea we hadn’t bothered to bring our gear.
Lots of pretty flowers and all the tropical vegetation fresh and green. There was a group of locals building a tiny church high on top of a lookout hill. The only access was up the rough steps of the foot track. They were bagging sand for mixing concrete and carrying them to the top. Cruise visitors were invited to help out and carry a bag. Heavy, hot work, but most of us did our bit.
Snorkelling here was better. Lots of pretty starfish. And the mother of all tropical downpours. We got drenched! So it was back to the ship for the 2 day cruise home. For those of you who haven’t cruised and don’t know about ‘cruise libido’ it is a bit of subtle bragging to have the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign displayed on your door. We thought we did pretty well, but the couple in the cabin next to us had the sign out almost continuously. Wow, what a feat! Must be honeymooners we thought. It was not ‘till the last day that we actually saw them emerging from their cabin, and it was the quite elderly ballroom dancing couple that I mentioned earlier. Maybe there is a message here? So we cruised back to Oz, picked up the pilot from Mooloolaba at 1am and went past Caloundra soon after, just as I put my head down, so missed it. The Brisbane arrival was easy. We only have carry-on baggage so no waiting for anything, and no delays. Next day we arrived at Port Vila. A bit of a grubby dump. We were annoyed by the relentless approaches of taxi drivers who don’t understand “No thank you” no matter how loudly you said it. There is a big market with lots of clothing and nickknacks and a very large undercover fresh fruit and vege market that looked really nice.
Overall impression? Hey, this is not a Royal Caribbean ship, and lacks many of the things we are accustomed to, despite the fact that is dearer. The big bonus is that it is convenient, and so simple to do. The music, entertainment and dancing were just right for us and provided a very enjoyable change of scenery. Yes, we would do it again. (After we have done the ‘Allure of the Seas’)