TRAVEL REVIEW: Royal Caribbean 8 day Cruise New Caledonia and Vanuatu (MUST READ BEFORE YOU BOOK!)


This travel post is long over due, in November 2016, we aboard the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I have only previously been on P&O cruises and the experience wasn't pleasant  - a combination of drunks and being sea sick. The Royal Caribbean and a luxury feel as soon as we boarded the ship.

THE CRUISE - ROYAL CARIBBEAN


I loved every moment we were on board. Photo above is a picture of the dining room, you had the option of eating at a dinning room or buffet - both are included in the cost of your fare. I personally thought the food was great.

We were extremely busy on board with breakfast, lunch, dinner, movies, games, shows and the occasional gym.

TIPS:

- Costings on board are in USD
- Alcohol costs.... a lot
- Remember to return your towels or you might be charged
- Examine your statements thoroughly, you might find obscure charges here and there. We were charged several hundred dollars after we got home, apparently this is a normal occurrence, after a week or so the charges were dropped with no money taken out of the card.  
- Ensure to line up for your dinner at least 10 minutes beforehand, it gets very crowded 
- Get a room with a balcony, it's worth the extra cost.
- A stateroom can sleep 3 people, it can get a little bit crowded especially if everyone wants to use the bathroom!
- We paid approximately $1200 give or take pp. for 8 nights.
- There was a 24/7 café that is covered under your cruise fare, the buffet and main dining hall is open at certain times. There are also several restaurants you need to pay for on the cruise... but what's the point? The buffet is HUGE.
- There are heaps of activities to do on the cruise, you will receive a daily schedule the evening before. We saw performances each night (from cabaret to magic shows), movie screenings in the evening, there's a bar with late night disco, physical activities such as rock climbing, archery and tossing bean bags, trivia + karaoke, there's a gym or you can chill with paper craft session. It wasn't until the last couple of days where we got a bit bored, otherwise lots of activities. 


MARE, NEW CALEDONIA


Mare was our first port.. and dare I say my favourite.

TIPS:

- You will need to take a tender from the cruise to the port, this is free of charge
- You will need to pay approximately 20USD per person to take a shuttle from the port to the beach. It is not within a walkable distance. There are no alternative transport to the beach so, I highly recommend buying tickets on board because it's one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been too... even with an overcast. 
- There will be small stalls selling various local foods on the beach, highly recommend you to try them!
- There are a lot of wild dogs at the port.
- There will be people selling souvenirs at the port, be aware that these are not hand made and mainly imported. The sarongs are probably the only pieces that may be worth while.
- The water at the beach is SO clear you can see the fish without goggles.
- There are no pre-booked activities at Mare






MYSTERY ISLAND, VANUATU


  • I got my hair corn braided here, it was inexpensive... approximately 15-20 dollars based on your hair length. There are fresh coconuts on the island, food... not so much
  • We went on the Turtle watching tour with the locals and boy they found a sea turtle and put it on our laps.
  • You can pre-book activities at for Mystery Island, but locals will have activity stalls such as snorkelling and turtle watching. However you must be aware that locals santise their snorkelling gears their own way via sea water.
  • Mystery Island is uninhabited, apparently the island is haunted so people only visit the island during day time for tourism purposes.
  • Stalls available on the island - lots of them. 
  • Beware of footwear. The sand on the beach is mainly comprise of sea-shells, I wore thongs to begin with and my feet were so sore so I just took them off. 


NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA


  • Once you dock, there will be a stall section where locals sell either imported or hand-made items. I purchased a hand make clay necklace of turtles. The prices are not cheap and often in USD and AUD.
  • Some of the shops will take AUD - however if you venture into the town the shops will only take FRANCs and speak French. However, there are locals who are fluent in English.
  • You can go on the infamous Choo-Choo however, it is expensive!!! We just took a 3hr coach tour for a fraction of the price, this was purchased at the stalls where local tours groups compete with. We went to a couple of cultural sites, a church and a look out point. Following the tour our fare included the hop on hop off coach.
  • Duck Island is recommended, we didn't go there but there are some strange statues on the island.
  • Snorkelling is available, however I find the water in Mare to be MUCH clearer.
  • I believe Noumea contains 75% of community housing, Noumea is tiny, you can probably explore the everything in a couple of days. 
  • There are nice restaurants along the coast, we didn't have time to go to the mall. The buildings along the coast looks nice but things look more run down further away from the coast.
  • I find people to be warmer in Vanuatu - but that was my personal experience.



Overall, I had a really good time. I didn't get sea sick or experience an upset stomach on the cruise or when I ate home made local foods I purchased from the stalls on the islands.

Would I cruise again? Hell yes.

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