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.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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

P&O CRUISES

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.

KATH­LEEN KINNEY

Soft sand, sun­shine and clear wa­ter – our day at Tan­ga­looma Re­sort on More­ton Is­land didn’t dis­ap­point.

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