Dining on Diamond Princess

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Whilst we were on the Diamond Princess in January this year, we experience a different dining options compared to the other cruises we have been on. It seems each cruise company has different dining experiences for their cruising customers to enjoy, from set dining times, to anytime dining, from one large dining room (that is normally two levels), or several dining areas that you are allocated to one for your entire cruise or a roster of different restaurants that you go to each night.  As new and exciting ideas are implemented in different cruise companies or only in cruise classes, cruise enthusiasts get to experience a range of different dining experiences whilst at sea.

With the Diamond Princess we had a set dining time of 5.45pm in the International Dining room located Deck 6 Aft.  This was the 1st seating, the 2nd seating was at 8pm which is too late for us. Generally pick the set dining option as we do enjoy the experience of having the same waiters and dining companions.  We have found when we have done anytime dining which has it’s perks of eating when you want, you do have to tell your life story over and over again as you get to meet different people each night.  On a longer cruise this can get a quite bothersome plus sometimes you don’t like who is at the table and you are wishing for your dinner to hurry up so you can leave.  Also another reason why we like the set dining experience is that I have a dietary requirement – Gluten Free and I like not having to explain my situation each time I sit down. The head waiter Raj was so good from the first night onwards he always made sure I was looked after. I remember once we went for breakfast at the International Dining room and he was working the breakfast shift, he saw me and told the waiters on my table that I was Gluten Free. I was so impressed that he remembered me from all the other diners.

When you have dietary requirement you are normally presented the next night’s menu after you finished your meal and you order what you would like for the following night so they chefs have time to prepare your meal according to your dietary requirement.

We also like to have a bit of familiarity each night, as we tend to cruise by ourselves it is nice to have the same faces at the same table each night of the cruise.  Plus your waiters get to know what you like and will preempt your preferences without you asking first such as Andrew and I like to have an English Breakfast tea after dinner with milk, so out this would come as our desserts were being served. Those little things that make you feel special are one of the reasons why we keep cruising. With the Diamond Princess as it is a larger ship it does things a little different, as there is no large two level dining room. It has five dining rooms that guests are allocated to instead:

  • Savoy Dining Room Deck 5 Midship available for Anytime Dining 5.30pm-9.30pm
  • Vivaldi Dining Room Deck 5 Midship available for Set Dining 1st seating 5.4pm-8pm and 8pm-9pm
  • Santa Fe Deck 6 Midship available for Anytime Dining 5.30pm-9.30pm
  • Pacific Moon Deck 6 Midship available for Anytime Dining 5.30pm-9.30pm
  • International Dining Room Deck 6 Aft Set Dining 1st seating 5.4pm-8pm and 8pm-9pm

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However with dining on a cruise ship you have option to do what you want and when it suits you as remember it is your holiday! Other options you have are the speciality restaurants of where you pay a surcharge, however the surcharge is very reasonable compared to what you would pay on the land. Plus you get to eat different cuisines that you might not get the opportunity to try elsewhere.

The speciality restaurants available on the Diamond Princess are:

  • Sabatini’s (Italian) Deck 7 Midship $25 pp
  • Kai Sushi (Japanese) Deck 7 Midship priced a la carte
  • Sterling Steakhouse Deck 14 Aft $25 pp

On our cruise we had dinner once at Sabatini’s which was so worth the money, the food was delicious. We run out of time trying the other restaurants. As there are other complimentary food options to try out as well:

  • Horizon Court (Buffet) open from 5am to 11pm Deck 14 Aft
  • Trident Grill (snacks chips, hotdogs, burger on pool deck) Deck 14 forward
  • Pizzeria Deck 14 Forward
  • Swirls (Ice cream) Deck 14 Midship
  • Small selection of snacks – cakes or sandwiches located at Lobby Bar Deck 5 Midship

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The last option mentioned was the Lobby Bar, this is where you can purchase your morning, afternoon or all day caffeine hit. On some of the Princess ships there is the International Cafe which sells coffee, tea and would have a larger selection of snacks which change throughout the day i.e. cakes in the morning, sandwiches at lunch time and biscuits in the afternoon. There is afternoon tea on every day at the International Dining room if you can fit it in at 3.30pm-4.30pm unfortunately our stomachs couldn’t fit in this meal. We had to get a coffee (latte) each day and something that Princess did really well was to offer a coffee card for $32 which gave you 15 speciality coffees which included – Espressos, Cappuccinos, Iced Coffees, Macchiatos, Lattes and Coffee blends.  Plus any used coffees are redeemable on your next Princess voyage.  We thought this was great value, as we normally don’t go for any of the drinks package, as unless you will drink the required amount each day you probably won’t get your money’s worth.

Plus most cruise ships allow you to buy a bottle of wine at dinner and if you don’t drink it all in one sitting they will put this away for you and bring it out the next night. However you think you would drink enough to warrant the price per day of the drink’s package then they would be well worth it the expense as you wouldn’t have to worry about your drink purchases on your cruise account at the end of the day.

We really enjoyed the food on the Diamond Princess, it was one of the best that we have tried.  Plus it is always nice to get a menu and pick your dinner and someone else cooks and cleans up for you.

If you get the chance go on the Diamond Princess it is coming back to Australia in 2018 or it sails full time in Japan, you will not regret it and your stomach certainly won’t !!

Happy Cruising

MelK xxx

 

 

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The Sparkling Diamond Princess

We went on our eighth cruise in January this year, leaving from Sydney to Tasmania for 8 days.  It was a nice change not to have to endure a long plane ride to reach our cruise departure destination as from Brisbane to Sydney is only around 1 hour away. We spent one night in Sydney prior to the cruise as it is always better to be at your departure port at least a day prior to the start of the cruise.  As it would be awful to miss your cruise due to flight delays, and I don’t think I would enjoy the stress of being late when you are trying to start your holiday feeling relaxed and chilled out.

On the morning of our cruise we checked out of our hotel and went to the Overseas Passenger Cruise terminal at Circular Quay in Sydney CBD via taxi.  As we arrived we looked up and saw our beautiful ship the Diamond Princess.  We gazed in awe of the size of her and our excitement grew a little bit more.  We dropped our bags at the designated spot and joined the 11.30am check in line.  As Princess cruises had been sending us text messages to let us know when we should arrive, it has been the only cruise line that we have been on so far to send us text messages to keep us up to date.

We got through the check in process pretty quickly and soon we were on board.  It was now time to find our cabin B415 located on deck 11, mid ship. We walked in and took a good look around and check out everything. The room was really nice, and one of the many surprises we were about to experience was we had walk-in-robe that was next to the bathroom. This allowed us lots of room for our clothes, it was a nice change from the wardrobes with doors that some of the other cruise lines have in their cabins. It is a small thing but had a major impact as you had more room to move around and it was easy to access your clothes. The bed was comfortable and the balcony was roomy. Once we dropped of our bags and put our important things in the safe. It was off to explore the ship and have some lunch.

We headed up to level 14 and to check out Horizon Court which was the buffet restaurant and after lunch we decided to check out the ship and take our photos of the ship before there was too many people walking around.  We walked along the decks 14 and 15, and found the range of pools and bars that the ship offered. We found the atrium which is located on decks 6, 5, 4 and from there we saw the Crooner’s bar, the library, the Internet cafe, the shore excursions desk and main reception, the Club Fusion which is cowboy theme bar, the Explorers lounge that is an Egyptian themed area, the Princess theatre plus we found the International Restaurant where we are having dinner. We also saw the Kai Sushi and Sabatini’s (Italian) specialty restaurants.

To find out what happened next on our first cruise day check out the next post….

Further Information
Diamond Princess
Guest capacity – 2706
Number of crew – 1100
Inaugural cruise – 13 March 2004
Last Refurbished – March 2014
Number of Decks – 18

Check out the ship for yourself – Diamond Princess

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx

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The Sanctuary of Truth

The Sanctuary of Truth

On our second day in Bangkok on our South-East Asia cruise in January originally we had booked a shore excursion online before we left. However we had changed our mind after checking out the shore excursions presentation on the ship, we decided to do a half day excursion and to see The Sanctuary of Truth. You may be wondering what is The Sanctuary of Truth and why we were compelled to visit this monument…  Well first things first, we got off the ship (Holland America Volendam) and got onto our bus for the day.  Meet our tour guide Vit who first took us to the seaside town of Pattaya which was 20 minutes away from the port.

The first stop was a lookout to see the seaside town and the bay of Pattaya. After taking some photos, we got back on the bus to see the highlight of the day – The Sanctuary of Truth. Which is this huge wooden building that has carvings of Buddha’s, Hindu and Chinese figures totally covering the entire structure. The decorations  don’t  just covered the outside they are inside the building as well.  Every time you turned your head you saw something else to look at and take a photo of.  Your vision senses were over dosing on this incredible inspiration of one man. His name is  Lek Viriyaphant  who was a Thai businessman and he initiated the project in 1981, sadly he has passed away.  However his family continues his monumental project and they believe it will be completed in 2050!!

 

Since the building is still class as a construction site we had to wear hard hats as we walk around, and everywhere we looked there was something magnificent to take in. It was quite amazing as they didn’t use any nails and there was 400 workers working non-stop.    As The Sanctuary of Truth was located near the water, the workers had to constantly maintain the structure and decorations from sun and water erosion.

Want to discover The Sanctuary of Truth for yourself:
Location – 202/2 Moo 5, Soi Naklua 12, Naklua, Banglamung, Chonburi 20150
Websitehttp://www.sanctuaryoftruth.com/index.php
Ticket prices – 450 THB Adult and 225 THB Child (Height is between 110cm to 140cm)

We are so glad that got to experience this amazing building and it was a fitting end to our time in Thailand.

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx

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Revisiting places you have been to before.

The Hermitage Musuem, St Petersburg

Do you have a list of places you want to revisit again after being there once before? We do, in 2009 Andrew and I went on a 12 day cruise to the Baltic Capitals.  It was amazing, the ports that we visited still captivate and inspire me to visit them again. Due to the ports we visited St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Tallinn, and Copenhagen have a rich history and there are some wonderful palaces and museums to visit. Plus on the cruise you don’t always get a huge amount of time in port so you only get the opportunity to see a little taste of what is on offer.

Another cruise to the Baltic Capitals is on the list of future cruises for sure.

What is on your list of places to revisit?

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx

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A day in Bangkok, one day to remember.

On our recent South East Asia cruise our second port stop was Bangkok. We spent two full days in Bangkok however since most cruise ships can’t actually berthed right in Bangkok our cruise ship Holland America Volendam was berthed two hours away from the city.  So we got up really early this day as we were on a full day tour of Bangkok, as we had never been to this location before we wanted to see as much as possible.

Our tour group was not too large which was wonderful as with more people it takes longer to get to each stop when you are waiting for others to return to the meeting place.  As we drove along the main highway to get to the city we saw many strange sights.  Such as lots of motorbikes and cars using the shoulder of the road that is normally out of bounds for drivers to use this as another lane. We saw so many vehicles using this extra lane even police cars were doing it.

Once we were in the city our first stop was the Metal temple – the official name is Wat Ratchanatdaram Woravihara (Loh Prasat).  The roof had metal decorations and inside there were several corridors of Buddha shrines.  Right in the middle of the temple was a spiral staircase that as you climb there were more levels to see more Buddhas and shrines.  As you climbed up each level there was more to see.  Unfortunately we had only limited  time so we could climb up all the levels as we wanted to take pictures of the outside buildings as well.

After we had a look around it was time for our Tuk Tuk ride that was included in this shore excursion, two people got into one Tuk Tuk each and the drivers took us around the city. It was a fun way to see the city from this view and to see how the Thai people would be going about their lives. We saw lots of pictures and bill boards of King Bhumibol Adulyadej he is very much honoured in Thailand, we also saw lots of yellow flags around.  As this symbolises the colour of the day he was born which was Monday.

Our next stop was (Wat Suthatthepwararam), there was a large sitting Buddha in the middle of the temple.  Around the outside of the temple was a row of sitting Buddhas, each Buddha would looked after by different people who would donate their money for the upkeep. Sometimes their ashes would be kept there also. The row of Buddhas were covered by a housing and there were pictures of the different meridians of the body to show how the ancient Thai people would learn how to do the famous Thai massage.

At the main temple the roof was adorned by red and gold and it was very beautiful. Inside there was a Buddhist ceremony happening, it was very peaceful and serene to witness it.  We were quite blown away by the beauty of the temples in this city and how many there are in Bangkok – over 400!

After we spent time looking around the temple and taking many photos, we got back onto our bus and headed to the restaurant for lunch. It was a lovely hotel on the river in Bangkok where we saw long cargo boats going across. We got to eat some very yummy Thai food, the staff brought out lots of dishes such as green curry, crackling pork, chicken salad, Thai fish cakes such to name a few.

After we had full stomachs we went to the famous reclining Buddha temple (Wat Pho), as we were walking around to find the entrance we saw a cute little squirrel on the tree that the tourists could have a photo with (for a fee!).  Then I saw something else that you could have a photo with, a man was pulling out of a crate a huge python.  Well when I saw what the animal was coming out of that crate, my legs picked up speed very fast!!

There was a lot of people inside the temple complex as this temple is one of the “Royal Temples” and lots of visitors make sure they visit this temple on their travels. When we went inside we saw very long reclining Buddha – 150 feet in fact. You had to take separate photos of each section as it was very hard to get the whole Buddha in one photo, plus the amount of people in the temple made this hard as well.  The Buddha’s feet had pearl shell inlay with lots of decorations on it. It was very beautiful.

 

Outside of this temple but still in the complex there was several pagodas made from tiny pieces of porcelain, similar to mosaic.  They were very decorative and stunning to look at. By this time it was time to get back on the bus and head back to the port.  However we accounted so much traffic, something Bangkok is famous for.  It took us about 3 hours to return to the ship.  It might have been a long time stuck in traffic but the day will always be memorable.

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx

 

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Cruising through South East Asia – Koh Samui

We recently went on a cruise on the Holland America Volendam for 14 days cruising through South East Asia, it started from Singapore stopping in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and then reaching Hong Kong.   Our first port stop was in Koh Samui, a favourite island destination for travellers a like.  This port stop was a tender stop as we were on a shore excursion we headed to the designated meeting area which was the ship’s lounge and waited for our shore excursion to be called out.  Once we got off at the tender boat we hopped onto mini bus number 7, our tour guide was called Nong.

Our first stop for the day was to see a coconut demonstration, to see how the locals would open up the coconut and extract the milk out of the flesh.  We had seen this already in the South Pacific but it was still interesting to see how the locals would open up the coconuts very efficiently without wasting anything.  We got to eat some of the coconut meat that tasted very fresh.

We got back onto the bus and headed to our next stop which was the local fishing village. This was one of highlights of the tour, as we walked through open air markets that were selling all types of fruit and vegetables some of the types we had never seen before.  Next we saw the meat market which had cuts of meat laying on the table without any refrigeration. We also saw lots of fish and seafood in buckets. It was interesting to see how the local people lived but at the same time it was a little disturbing.

There were a lot of mopeds that you had to keep watch so you didn’t get run over, however the Thai people were so polite.  They would give you a little honk on their horn just say they were behind you and to move to the side.  There was no aggression at all.  As we walked through the streets we saw at nearly every house, a spirit house.  A beautifully decorated wooden house on stilts that would be positioned in the front garden to provide shelter for spirits of the land.

Our next stop we went to a photo stop over looking one of the most famous beaches in Koh Samui and we saw this coconut ice-cream van. Some other tourists were eating this delight and we asked them what it was.  They explained it was a coconut shell and the lady would shave off some of the coconut meat in the shell.  Next she would scoop in some coconut ice-cream and then topped it with fried bananas.  It looked so delicious and we were quite hot from the steamy weather.  So we decided to order some, it was so yummy and something quite unique to Koh Samui.

The next place we went to was the Big Buddha that stood up on high pedestal that took us 76 steps to reach the top. The Buddha was gold and the landing there was bronze bells that people could bang.  There was monks giving blessings to people and all the decorations around the temple was very beautiful. We spent a bit of time at the top looking at the view and the ornate decorations of the buddha.

After we spent time looking at the Big Buddha our tour was over and we headed back to the tender port.  There was quite a long queue to get on the tender boats but were very lucky to get on the tender boat that we did, as it started to rain once we got back onto the ship. For the rest of the afternoon we relaxed as the next port of a call was Bangkok.

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx 

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The State Hermitage Museum

After our morning at Catherine’s Palace are next destination in this lovely city was The State Hermitage Museum.  A place the conjures up feelings of old world and romance. Something both Andrew and I were looking forward to visiting, whilst waiting in line Andrew bartered with a local to buy a Russian Army hat with Russian pins adorning the fabric.  He had seen it on the ship at the shops but wasn’t going to pay the high price they were asking for. Andrew paid for the hat in US dollars as at the time of our trip we couldn’t get any Russian currency as none of the banks had it.  The locals had no problems taking the US dollars.

When we walked into the museum and marvelled at the gold decorations encasing the ceiling and the walls.  We spent hours gazing at the paintings and the unique sculptures that originated all around the world.  As we had already witnessed in the other palaces we had visited on this trip the gold was plentiful and everywhere you looked you saw some more.  Quite beautiful.

The State Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world.  It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been opened to the public since 1852. The collection of the State Hermitage includes more than three million works of art and artefacts from all around the world.  Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprises of over three million items.  Which includes the largest collection of paintings in the world.

The collections are spread over six buildings along the Palace Embankment includes Winter Palace (former state residence of the Russian Emperors), the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya and the Eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centres abroad.

Of the six buildings of the main museum complex five are named – the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre are all open to the public.  The collections consist of European paintings, sculpture and applied art from the 13th to the 20th centuries.  You can view it in 120 rooms on the first and second floor of the four main buildings.  The other collections that are available to view are:

  • Egyptian antiquities
  • Classical antiquities
  • Prehistoric art
  • Jewellery and decorative art
  • Italian Renaissance
  • Italian and Spanish Fine Art
  • Knight’s Hall
  • Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque
  • German, British, Swiss and French Fine Art
  • Russian Art
  • Neoclassical, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art

As you can see this is not a place that you could run out of things to see. You would literally need to spend many years viewing every item to capture it all in.

If the State Hermitage Museum is available as a shore excursion on your next cruise, I would highly recommend taking them up on this offer.  I would suggest to do a tour as you get to first hand knowledge on what each artefact is and the historical significance.  If your ship has a port call at St Petersburg it is difficult to get off the ship without you booking a shore excursion with the ship.  As they have quite strict rules of you entering the country plus where the ship can dock it not an area that is easily accessible by walking or public transport to the city.  You would need to remember the language can be a barrier as well, booking a shore excursion for this place is a must.  Hope you all get the opportunity in your cruising travels.

Happy Cruising!!

MelK xxx 

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Catherine’s Palace – a day being an Empress

When Andrew and I ventured on our Baltic Capitals cruise in May 2009, we spent full two days in St Petersburg.  What a wonderful place to visit, so much to see, so rich in history and a little taste of what Russia can offer.  One of the places we visited was Catherine’s Palace which is located in the town of Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) that is 25 kms southeast of St Petersburg.

It was the summer residence of the Russian Tsars. The residence originated in 1717 when Catherine I of Russia (Catherine the Great) engaged the German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein to construct a summer palace for her pleasure.

In 1733 her daughter Empress Elizabeth wanted to expand Catherine’s Palace and she didn’t like her mother’s style thought it was outdated.  She commissioned Mikhail Zemtsov and Andrei Krasov to expand the palace and in 1752 her court architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli replaced the old structure with a much grander edifice in a flamboyant Rococo style.  This construction lasted for four years and on 30 July 1756 the architect presented the brand new 325 metres long palace to the Empress.

More than 100 kgs of gold were used to gild the sophistication stucco facade and numerous statues erected on the roof.  It become out of favour from the Russian monarchs in the later years instead preferring the Pavlovsk Palace.  In World War II the palace faced destructions from the German forces. After the siege of Leningrad they intentionally destroyed the residence leaving only the hollow shell of the palace behind. Luckily before the war Russian archivists managed to documented a fair amount of the interior, which proved of great importance in reconstructing the palace.

Now the palace is open to the public for everyone to enjoy, it is one of the rare palace’s that you can take your own photos inside.  If the opportunity presented to yourself to visit the beautiful palace take it with open arms you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

Happy Cruising!!

 

MelK xxx

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Spending a day in Helinski

Helsinki, the capital of Finland is one of the farthest places people visit especially on a cruise. However we can cross this city off our ‘bucket list’ as we had the opportunity to visit Helsinki.  We went on a Baltic Capitals cruise on the Norwegian Jewel in May 2009 and Helsinki was the second last port.  We decided to go on an introduction to the city shore excursion to give us the feel of the city and it’s sights.

Helsinki city centre

Helsinki city centre

 

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Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is an Evangelic Lutheran Church which was designed by architect Carl Ludwig Engel in 19th century as part of the empire style downtown Helsinki area. It was completed in 1852. It was an impressive building with its white structure and green domes.  As you can see there were numerous steps you must climb to reach the top and once you got there you were rewarded with a clear view of the city centre.

 

After the Helinski Cathedral we visited the famous Olympic stadium that was built in 1938. It hosted the summer Olympics in 1952.  Outside the stadium is a statue of Paavo Nurmi a famous Finnish long-distance runner who was nicknamed “Flying Finn”.  He set many official world records and participated in three Olympic games – 1920, 1924 and 1928.

Andrew with the Paavo Nurmi Statue

Andrew with the Paavo Nurmi Statue

 

The Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

The Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

 The next place we visited was the Sibelius monument which is situated in the Sibelius park.  The Sibelius monument celebrates the life of the famous composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), the monument was created by Eila Hiltunen which was unveiled on 7 September 1967.  It consists of organ pipes that is made of welded steel with the bust of the composer on one side.  It is 8.5 m high, 10.5 m wide and 6.5 m deep.  It has over 600 pipes and weighs 24 tons.  It was an interesting monument to visit which was a bit different to the normal statue you see.

 The last place we visited on this shore excursion was the Temppeliauko (Rock church), it was quarried out of the natural bedrock. The interior walls are created naturally by the rock.  The church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969.  On the day we were there, graduating children and their parents were waiting to get inside the church.  We had to wait until their ceremony was finished before entering.  It was a different church compared to the more traditional Helsinki cathedral as we had visited earlier in the morning, it gave you different feel as you walked in.  The rock walls  gave you the sense of feeling you closer to the centre of the Earth.  As you ventured inside you would have expected to feel closed in, however surprisingly the interior space was large and when you looked up to the ceiling you saw the unusual copper dome roof.

At the end of this shore excursion day we went to the speciality restaurant Cagney’s steakhouse.  We relaxed and ate wonderful food, I throughly enjoyed my Alaskan Snow Crabs as it is something I can’t eat at home.  Overall we really enjoyed the experience of visiting Helsinki something off the beaten path for us and it was a lovely city to visit.

Happy Cruising!!!

MelK xxx

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Spending one day in paradise

On our recent cruise – South Pacific Crossing we spent one day in paradise – Dravuni Island in Fiji.  Dravuni Island is a picture perfect tropical island that ticks all the boxes of a relaxing day. When we saw the island from our cruise ship we hopped onto the tender boats to reach the island of paradise. The friendly crew were waiting for us when we reached our destination with cold drinks and cold face washers.

We walked to the beach and found a good spot to spend the day, then we hit the warm water to swim, we snorkelled for the first time and saw beautiful colourful fish.  We relaxed on the beach, we felt the warm sun hitting our faces whilst looking up at the palm trees blowing slightly in the warm breeze. You could feel the stresses of your fast-paced life melting away. It was a perfect day in Dravuni Island paradise, a place we would love to visit again!!

 

Happy Cruising!!!

MelK xxx

Posted in Cruises, Cruising, Dravuni Island, Fiji, Holidays, Holland America, Travel, Vacation, World | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment