Family fun afloat
Too grown-up for kids’ club, too young for relaxing with a good book. Teenagers on cruises can still find plenty to do, writes Being of a certain age, The Husband and I couldn’t help humming the theme as we walked along the gangway onto the ship.
Family holidays are, by their very nature, a series of compromises – at any given point, someone in the group is doing something they’d rather not be doing, and silently thinking ‘‘how is this a holiday?’’
Now that The Boy has turned into The Teenager, we’re well past the days of continually amusing and placating; but there are still challenges. On the one hand, he’s far too sophisticated for kids’ clubs and that sort of thing, but sitting in the sun with a glass of wine and a good book isn’t an option either. The first part is illegal and the second part is simply not what 14-year-old boys do for fun.
A four-day, three-night cruise on board the Pacific Jewel seemed like an ideal solution. The Pacific Jewel cruises from Sydney to Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island and back, and features the P&O Edge Adventure Park – basically a bunch of ‘‘extreme’’ activities that take place on and around the ship’s main open deck.
We’d never been cruising before, and being of a certain age, The Husband and I couldn’t help humming the Love Boat theme as we walked along the gangway onto the ship.
The three of us shared a room, which made for a tight squeeze. The Pacific Jewel was first launched in 1989, and had a comprehensive refit in the early 2000s. It’s probably time for another, because the cabin decor had all the charm of a mid-range chain hotel, circa 2005. Ours was a balcony room – which we novice cruisers found quite exciting, but as it turned out, the weather was too chilly for us to take full advantage of it.
Once we’d had a nosy around, we quickly headed back to the top deck, where reggae/pop music was blaring and Coronas (or the age-appropriate lemon, lime and bitters) were flowing with abandon as we departed the wharf and sailed slowly past the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and out past the Heads. The Endless Summer Sail-Away party lived up to its name, and the countless groups of hen-, bachelor-, Dirty-30s, Fabulous40s and Fantastic-50s partiers were making the most of it.
The weather began to pack in as we moved toward the open ocean, and the early-morning flight from Auckland meant The Teenager took himself off to bed by nine that night. After dinner at The Waterfront restaurant, Husband and I spent the late evening at the Karaoke Power Hour in the Connexions bar. The aforementioned middle-aged birthday-partiers had migrated en masse and were still going strong, so we stayed until midnight happily amused, watching increasingly enthusiastic renditions of everything from AC/DC to Celine Dion.
After a good night’s sleep in the remarkably comfortable beds, the first day dawned grey, windy and rainy. Clearly, the sundresses and bathing suits would remain in the suitcase.
Plans for sunning ourselves by the pool while The Teenager sampled all the adventure zone activities were off. Luckily, a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship was on the agenda, and this included a visit to the bridge with the captain and chief navigation officers. We were as close to the bow of the ship as we could have been, and when we stepped outside onto the crew-only front deck and felt the wind full in our faces, we all were duly impressed.
The grim weather meant we were forced to look at the indoor activities, and with a full itinerary included in each morning’s ‘‘P&O Good Times’’ newspaper, we had plenty to choose from.
Demonstrations of napkin folding and paper flower making; seminars on anti-ageing treatments and Chinese herbal remedies; family colouring-in contests and ‘‘solutions to foot pain’’ sessions were all nixed, as were the Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament, ballroom dancing class and Martini mix-masters lessons.
Instead, we opted for a steady stream of trivia quizzes and other competitive options hosted by the ever-cheerful activities staff. The Amazing Race-style Selfie Hunt was great fun, as we traipsed all over the boat with cellphones in hand, following a series of clues.
There was plenty going on in the Marquee Theatre, too, including the Marriage Match. Basically a reiteration of The Newlywed Game with passengers as contestants, it was suggested as an ‘‘adult’’ activity, but there wasn’t anything any spicier than you’d see on your typical TV show, and the MC was a real pro. The daily bingo hour was a huge hit, and with the promise of an ever-increasing ‘‘SnowBall Jackpot’’ each day – which topped out at AU$5580 – we were there on both rainy ‘‘at sea’’ days.
Happily, the day we arrived at Moreton Island dawned clear and sunny, and after 36 hours on board and inside, we were more than ready for some outdoor adventuring at the Tangalooma Resort.
Moreton Island, just off the coast of Brisbane, is the world’s largest sand island, and there’s a raft of activities on offer, from a four-hour ‘‘island bus tour’’ to scuba-diving around the wrecks.
With priority passes in hand, we hustled onto one of the earliest tenders, raring to go. We’d selected sledding down the sand dunes and a 4WD safari as our two activities, and there was plenty of time in between for a long beach walk and a leisurely lunch (bog-standard fish and chips and pizza) as well.
The crowd with us for dune-sledding largely comprised small children (a bit too young for the hard slog up the dune), and their parents (a bit too old for the hard slog up the dune); so the two guys running the activity seemed
Four days and three nights on board the Pacific Jewel to Tangalooma Resort was a quick and easy getaway, and ideally suited to travelling with a teenager.
Soft sand, sunshine and clear water – our day at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island didn’t disappoint.