The Traveling Steve's

Welcome Aboard the Pacific Explorer!

After spending three days in Adelaide, Steve (DOS) and I headed to the port of Adelaide for our five night repositioning cruise to Perth, Western Australia. Our Adelaide friends Manuela and Jenny were traveling with us on the cruise, and also spending a post-cruise 3 night stay in Perth with us at well. DOS and I had arranged a private transfer to port, while Manuela’s (and our) friend Deanne, had driven her to the port. Deanne wasn’t traveling with us on the cruise, but we gave her a hug goodbye, and while we were unloading our luggage, Jenny came by and greeted us, after already having checked in for the cruise. Big cruise re-union in the parking lot!

Deanne (who wasn’t cruising with us) and DOS in the cruise parking area.

Did I mention, we always overpack for a five day cruise! LOL!

Fortunately Jenny (on right) showed up to meet us with a luggage cart, knowing how much we overpack on our trips!

Deanne (on left) and Manuela on right, bid farewell as Manuela and us are off on the cruise!

We dropped off our bags at the bag check-in area, and proceeded thru security to get our keys and confirm our onboard purchases with a credit card and passport ID. The whole check-in process was quick and efficient, and soon we were aboard the Pacific Explorer, soon to be bound for Perth, Western Australia on our 5 day voyage.

The Pacific Explorer is one of three ships in the P & O Australia cruise fleet, and was formerly the (later) Dawn Princess of Princess Cruise Lines. I had sailed the older Dawn Princess from LA to Acapulco on a 10 day Princess Cruise way back in 1990, but this was a bigger and different ship with the same name. This former Dawn Princess ship, entered service in 1998 and was sold to P & O Cruises Australia at some point, as newer ships entered the Princess fleet. By American standards the renamed Pacific Explorer is a budget cruise ship, but offered us a journey to Perth with a couple port stops in between and a true Aussie-friendly experience. I actually had to call P & O in Australia to book this cruise, as it’s not marketed in the US.

In the US we have a term called “nickel and dime-ing” on some of the cruise ships, but this one takes it to extreme levels; they literally charge for nearly everything extra except for the buffet and main dining restaurant, although they conveniently offer an “up charge” for the more desirable entrees there. Room Service was charged Ala carte, not a flat delivery charge like some American lines have recently instituted. Our breakfast was complimentary for Room Service, but don’t know if that was for everyone or because we were in a suite, but we did get a full hot breakfast each day after the second day and It was very nice.

Our first impressions as we approached the ship, were the ship could use an exterior fresh coat or three of paint, although the interior of the ship was well kept and clean, although showing its age a bit in places.

In a first for any cruise we have ever been on, our luggage was already delivered to the room by the time we got there! We had literally just boarded a few minutes before!

We had a very nice aft-facing Penthouse Suite (9251) which featured a separate living room area from the bedroom and huge bath with jacuzzi tub, walk-in closet, and plenty of drawers throughout the suite to store things for our short 5 night journey.

Having lots of storage drawers and closets was very helpful, as even though the cruise was only 5 nights, we had nearly six weeks of luggage, and the large walk in closet was very helpful for storing our bags.

The Penthouse Suite also offered a huge aft balcony with 2 lounge chairs and outdoor dining table with 4 chairs, with a private balcony arrangement and great views of the ships wake when sailing. The lounge chairs could have used a cushion like the ones at the pool (which we asked for but were told there weren’t any available, but at least we got extra towels for it.)

We did get a bit of the ship’s engine vibration when sailing and coming into port, but it was not a problem for us as we love aft cabins and this is sometimes typical due to the aft cabin’s proximity to the engines. The aft engine soot was also not a problem for the most part as well during our voyage.

We were quite busy on the cruise, so I’m writing this after the cruise ended, and in fact am now in Sydney, as we were busy in Perth as well! (Next post). We’re having quite a wonderful holiday! Here are some miscellaneous photos aboard as we were exploring the ship in the early afternoon before it became crowed with the rest of the holiday cruisers.

Our Pacific Explorer cruise from Adelaide to Perth had two full sea days at the beginning of the cruise, followed by two port days in a row; one in Albany, Western Australia (WA is the abbreviation for Western Australia, and Albany is pronounced Al-benee), and the second and last port in Busselton, Western Australia, where we took a shore excursion to Margaret River and the wineries there. The distance from Adelaide to Perth was quite far and would be comparable to Houston to Los Angeles in terms of distance by ship. ( 1326 miles / 2133.99 km / 1152.26 nautical miles.)

We watched the mandatory safety video in our room, and checked-in in person at our Muster Drill station; no need to bring the life preservers with us for the quick check-in attendance.

We skipped the on deck sail-away party up on the pool deck, in favor of a more leisurely and quiet sail-away on our aft balcony with our sailing friends, Manuela and Jenny. A bottle of complimentary Australian bubbly (Champagne the French would call it; sparkling wine as it’s legally called outside of France) had been delivered to our stateroom, so we shared it with the others, with a toast to a happy and safe sailing.

As it was a holiday Easter sailing, the ship was packed to capacity with families, and was quite crowded. It reminded me a bit of the old Monarch of the Seas we used to take for 3 night cruises out of Port Canaveral, that was also packed with people, most of them first time cruisers. We went to the lunch buffet the first day upon boarding and had to watch for people leaving to get a table for the four of us, so we decided we would try another dining venue the next day as it was way too busy.

Steve (DOS) and I did go to the Easter service on Sunday (the second sea day) which was actually well attended. It was led by a ship chaplain, and it included singing, a message, and prayers for health and safety for both the passengers and crew. I liked that the chaplain was doing another service just for the crew members later that day. The Captain of the ship especially recognized the crew throughout our voyage, even mentioning the crew member’s birthdays each day; very respectful and appreciative to the hard-working crew.

Christ the Lord is risen today! Hallelujah!

For dinner, we went to the Italian Restaurant the first night which was included in the fare and was very nice; like a specialty restaurant. We did order an Australian Shiraz for the table, which was extra, but reasonably priced for a cruise ship.

Our two port calls were very enjoyable, and we booked ship tours for both of them. The first port was Albany WA, and we did a 4 hour tour that included a couple wineries, a windmill farm, and overlook of the beach area, and the war memorial. Albany is a bit off the typical path due to it’s remote destination, and when I was in WA in 1998 or so, I rented a car in Perth, but didn’t make it all the way down to Albany due to the distance, although I did make it to Margaret River and loved it! Here are some of the photos of our Albany port stop.

Our first stop was at Wignalls Winery, a nice boutique winery where we were served several wonderful wines from the owner, Bob. As there were only 7 of us on the tour, it offered a more intimate and personal service.

Our second stop in Albany was an organic winery, named Orange Tractor Wine, named for an old but still working tractor that was onsite in the vineyards. We met the owner, and he gave us a nice overview of the vineyard and its working facilities and standards for creating their wines. The winery showroom also had a large collection of antiques, which we enjoyed browsing thru.

After the tour of two of the Albany wineries, we stopped at a windmill farm which had 18 huge large windmills supplying energy to the community.

Later we stopped by the Australian War Memorial, located high up on the hillside overlooking the sea.

We then returned to the ship after our four hour “whirlwind” tour of Albany.

The next port stop was at Busselton, Western Australia (WA) on our fifth and final day of the cruise. DOS and I took the afternoon “Wineries of Margaret River” ship excursion, which was a five hour tour visiting four different wineries. Busselton was a tender port as the water surrounding the jetty (i.e. very long docking area) was quite shallow.

The tendering process always adds time to reach the shore, but as here we had to tender a couple miles off-shore, the journey itself took about 25-30 minutes, and when you add in the queue time for the 2,400 passengers onboard to debark, we were told to allow 90 minutes to reach the meeting point on land. Suites and handicap do get priority, but it was still a one way trip totaling over an hour 1/4 for us to reach land as the crew had to escort us thru the crew decks via the elevator to level 3, which isn’t accessible to the other passengers. I had my transit wheelchair with me on this trip, as although I can walk (it’s still a bit painful), I am limited by distance and flights of stairs, and on a long day trip it really comes in handy.

As we approached the jetty in Busseltone, we were amazed at how long it was; 1.84 kilometers in fact, and is “the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere” according to their web site. We debarked the tender, and then hurried to our meeting point, only to find out we missed the bus by 10 minutes! Fortunately the on-shore shipboard representative called the driver and he returned to pick us up. A bit embarrassing, but the wheelchair added a bit of sympathy from the waiting passengers already on the bus.

Anyway we were soon on our way to our first of three wineries we would visit in the Margaret River area. Each winery was unique, and as always reflects the decor, characteristics, and lifestyle of the owners. At the first winery, Cape Naturaliste Vineyard, we immediately noticed there were hundreds of photos of dogs posted on the walls of the tasting room! The woman owner who was assisting our group explained they take-in, assist, and/or volunteer for rescue animals in the area, and those displayed were some they had helped, or otherwise “stopped by” the winery to visit the other animals there. She was obviously quite passionate about the rescue dogs, not to mention the wines they make there.

Our second winery was Aravina. The entranceway to Arvina was lush with exotic plants and trees leading to the tasting room and restaurant. This was quite a modern winery, complete with a surf museum and gift shop, and the winery hosts weddings and events in its beautiful outdoor lawn area and decks, overlooking the lake.

We actually had an informal group tasting in the Surf Gallery, which displayed loads of surfing memorabilia thru the decades at Margaret River. Most people, including us, walked around with our glass of vino admiring the surfing gallery, or the beautiful outdoor venue area.

Heading into the Surf Gallery where we had an informal wine tasting among the surfer memorabilia and gift shop.

I felt a little “wined out”, and saw this craft brewing bar they had next to the surf gallery, so I had a small brewski with a couple other people from the tour as a time-out from the vino.

Our third and final winery was Happs Winery, where we had an outdoor tasting on the lawn amongst the colorful trees.

We later went inside the rustic cottage-like shop and had a look around at the display memorabilia and gift items for sale.

After our visit to Happs Winner, we then headed back on the tour bus for the 45 minute ride to the long jetty in Bussleton, where we would catch the tender back to the ship.

The jetty is so long, there is actually a train you can take that runs back and forth on the jetty, although we didn’t take the train as DOS was pushing me n the wheelchair by this point. Fortunately as we were one of the last shore excursion groups returning, we had only a short wait for the 1/2 hour tender ride back to the ship.

The ship departed shortly after we exited the tender, and now sailed off into the sunset for our morning debarkation stop in Fremantle, WA.

Meals Aboard the Pacific Explorer: We went to the buffet for lunch the first day, but it was way too busy for us, and the selection was a bit limited as well, so went to with the Waterfront (Main Dining Room), Luke’s Specialty Restaurant, or the Pizza restaurant for lunches the rest of the cruise, for sit-down table service in a much more relaxed setting.

For dinners we went to the Waterfront Restaurant one night, the Italian Restaurant one night, and Luke’s Specialty Restaurant the other three nights. Luke’s was by far our favorite restaurant aboard, and the individual service was excellent there.

Manuela and Jenny having dinner with us in the Italian Restaurant.
Dining in the Waterfront (Main Dining Room) one night.

Luke’s speciality dining restaurant, was an Ala-carte restaurant located up on deck 12, overlooking the pool deck area. Luke’s was a top notch restaurant, and well worth the price for their steaks, and Ahi-Tuna among other items.

Formal Night dinner in Luke’s Restaurant.

DOS and I also went to the Pizza restaurant a couple times for a late lunch and always enjoyed it. It was $16.50 Aussie dollars for a small pizza, and it didn’t matter if you wanted a pepperoni or a full meat lover’s pizza; it was the same price, which was pretty reasonable we thought. The Pizza restaurant overlooked the main atrium lobby of the ship, and when we went both times in late afternoon it was virtually empty ; perhaps because of the up-charge, or people didn’t know it was there.

Yes, DOS and I shared this pizza, and it’s not really as big as it looks! ????

Shows: We went to three shows onboard the Pacific Explorer, the first of which must have been written by the cast in a late night drinking party in the crew bar on paper towels (as there were no cocktail napkins available except on request anywhere.). The theater was large, but considering the number of passengers aboard and only one show it was way overflowing with people, a couple people even sitting on the floor in the aisles.

The first show was labeled “a musical murder mystery game show”, and the audience was supposed to write down the “clues” (short blips of songs) on their game sheet paper (numbered 1 – 20). The show was actually a ridiculously intentionally poor acted skit that we, and many others in the audience didn’t sit thru to the end. It was actually without a doubt the worst “entertainment” in a theater aboard that we’ve ever seen. We’re thinking “how much is their budget for shows”? Nada, nothing, perhaps, as there were no props and only stupid wigs and poorly time slapstick, somewhat risqué humor at times. We left a bit disappointed as we changed our reservations to 8:15pm (from 7:30pm) to see that travesty of a show.

Fortunately the other two shows we saw were more like production shows, although they weren’t even going to make it to off-off Broadway. One was a Cabaret type show and another was a rock-n-roll type show of oldies hits. At least the second two offered some nice scene props and 3D like backdrops, which really enhanced the stage area, actors, and dancers. The last show actually featured a huge pool at a mansion, and a couple of the actors “jumped” in the pool, creating a splash. Really a cool effect!

All things considered, we had a wonderful time on this 5 night P & O Pacific Explorer cruise. While it’s not a luxury ship, by eating in the specialty dining area of Luke’s most nights, one lunch, the pizzeria, and having a nice suite, plus sailing with our friends, it made for a really great experience. We would take it again, if not for the ship, at least for the itinerary, in this case it saved us taking a flight to Perth, and we had fun along the way!

The last morning of the cruise we had to be out of our cabin by 7am, with our bags out of the cabin by 8pm the night before, so we were well prepared when the early morning hour to vacate our cabin arrived. We took our hand luggage to the restaurant (the only really negative moment, but that’s true on most cruises debarkation day) was the long wait for the elevators. Once in the Waterfront Restaurant (main restaurant) we had a surprisingly great and un-rushed experience, which is not at all typical of many cruise lines trying to get all the passengers off of the ship. We had a full and leisurely breakfast, with a refill or two on our coffee. We then had a short wait in our assigned debarkation area, and were quickly led to the debarkation area by one of the ship’s representatives. As this was a domestic cruise only (unlike in the US where a foreign-flagged ship must visit a foreign port), there was no Customs requirements, and we were quickly off the ship.

Manuela, DOS, and myself waited out in front of the terminal, while Jenny went to Hertz and picked up a pre-arranged SUV, obviously large enough for all of our luggage! (We actually had emailed Manuela and Jenny a photo of our luggage before we left the US!)

When Jenny arrived with the large SUV we loaded up the vehicle, and headed out to our next stop: the Hyatt Regency Perth. It was a great and all too quick cruise!

Welcome to Perth! We had a wonderful time on our 5 day cruise from Adelaide to Perth!

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