This P&O Cruises review featuring a family cruise to Papua New Guinea is by Dawn Nicholson at www.5losttogether.com. Dawn loves travelling and blogging about her adventures and living overseas with her three kids (ages 6, 8 and 10 years old) . Dawn has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas.
P&O Cruise Review – A Family Cruise to Papua New Guinea
Our kids have been bugging us for a couple of years now to do a cruise, but it wasn’t until we found P&O’s Papua New Guinea cruise itineraries that we finally booked one. The kids had seen cruise ships throughout our travels and were absolutely taken with the on-board activities and luxurious ships. When I discovered that we could cruise to Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country I never thought we would ever visit, I was hooked.
I grew up with an intense interest in other cultures. I devoured National Geographic magazines, took anthropology classes in University and sought out remote areas on our travels. The idea of visiting untouched islands with rich, tribal cultures straight out of those anthropology textbooks was incredibly alluring for me. Especially since we could do that AND experience our first cruise together as a family, making the kids happy too.
Why Cruise to Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea is actually quite close to Australia and yet it is only just coming on the scene as a cruise destination. It’s beautiful tropical islands with white sand beaches and near pristine underwater world make it an amazing destination. Add in the opportunity to visit remote islands and learn about the tribal ways of life and you have a really unique holiday.
We have visited over 50 countries on our travels and PNG was absolute magic. We felt incredibly welcomed by the local population and feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit. Read our top 8 highlights of our cruise here.
Why Choose a Family Cruise?
One of the things I love about cruising is it allows you to see a wide variety of places on your holiday. It is so exciting to wake up each morning to a new destination to discover. You get all the features that you would at a luxurious resort, but every day is a new place.
There are so many fun things for kids to do on cruise ships and our kids loved meeting friends at the Kids Club. We had lots of time together as a family, but we also had some nice quality couple time together as well. The kids had a fantastic time participating in the P&O Edge adventure activities, ordering their food each evening in the restaurants and enjoying the nightly shows and entertainment.
We loved being pampered with good food and entertainment, the excellent service from our room stewards and that feeling of waking up to a view of the sea each day. It was the perfect blend of relaxation and activity.
Ports We Visited
We sailed with P&O on a 7-night cruise on the Pacific Eden, out of Cairns, Australia. We visited four ports in Papua New Guinea and we have such wonderful memories of each of them. From the minute we disembarked at the first port, we knew we had made a great decision booking this cruise. Children and adults in traditional attire greeted us and welcomed us to their island. It didn’t take the kids long to wonder why the big smiles they saw were accompanied by red teeth. Chewing betel nut is central to life in Papua New Guinea and this was one of the first cultural lessons we learned.
Read my full post of tips and the different ports we visited.
Two of the island we visited were remote islands in the Trobriand Island. These islanders on Kitava and Kiriwina have lived a life untouched by modern society. There is no electricity, almost no communication with the outside world and a unique matrilineal culture. Almost the whole island came out to meet the cruise ship with the beaches lined with villagers selling handicrafts and offering to tour us around. School children sang and danced as we were warmly welcomed. We were shown around the villages, visiting the simple schools and learning about village life.
We had come prepared with donations for the schools and the kids really enjoyed handing out pencils and balls to the children we met. It really is quite apparent how little material possessions the locals have and they were so excited to be given these simple gifts. It was also magic to watch our kids interact with the local children and realize how good it felt to give, even in a very small way.
Another one of the highlights of visiting these islands was the chance to sail in a traditional outrigger. The hand carved and simple sailing vessels reminded us of the boats in the movie “Moana” and were a thrill to ride.
The islanders are renowned for their carving skills and there are so many beautiful items available to purchase from bowls to necklaces to intricate fish carvings. The prices are incredibly low and yet this income means so much to the communities. We came back with so many beautiful mementos of our trip.
Our last port of call was the Conflict Islands, an uninhabited group of islands with pristine marine life and gorgeous beaches. We think this was the best snorkeling we have ever done. The diversity of coral and fish was absolutely incredible and we spent hours in the water.
What Makes P&O Cruises Kid-Friendly?
P&O Cruises offer so many kid-friendly features. There are triple and quad staterooms, as well as a limited amount of inter-connected cabins, perfect for families.
The Kids Club is divided into four age groups, Turtle Cove for 2-6 year olds, Shark Shack for 7-10 year olds, HQ for 11-14 year olds and HQ+ for older teens. Every day there was a great schedule of activities for the kids to participate in and our kids were eager to go to Kids Club every day once we returned to the ship. They did crafts, played basketball on the outdoor courts, completed scavenger hunts and had dance parties in the evening. At the end of the cruise, there was a kids’ performance and it was so neat to see the friendships that had formed. We used the opportunity a few nights to go out for a date night dinner, which was such a treat.
Another feature we loved on the P&O ships is the Edge adventure activities where the kids got to zipline across the pool deck, walk the plank and do a high-ropes course at sea. These activities are an additional cost, but you can buy a pass which allows you to complete all the activities.
Our kids loved choosing what to eat each day from the Pantry food stations and there were lots of great kid-friendly options like fish and chips, Asian noodles and of course they had to have jelly at every meal! They also enjoyed the opportunity to eat at the sit-down restaurants with us where we tried to instill some table manners on them.
Cruising with a Family of 5+
I get asked about this a lot and many families aren’t sure how cruising will work for a larger family. Most cruise cabins can only accommodate four people in a room. The most ideal solution for larger families is to book the inter-connected cabins. Since we booked our cruise at the last-minute, these were all booked out. Instead we had cabins side-by-side and one parent slept in each cabin with a couple of kids. We actually found that we were so tired from the port days and all the ship activities, that we usually went to sleep at the same time as the kids, so this worked just fine.
Is Papua New Guinea Safe?
Papua New Guinea is a developing country and many people have concerns about safety on the islands. We felt very safe on the islands we visited and had no concerns at all walking around. P&O Cruises have chosen ports that are smaller and very welcoming of visitors. Our first port of Alotau is the regional centre of Milne Bay province and the largest town we visited. We felt very comfortable visiting the markets and walking the streets.
The Trobriand Islands of Kitava and Kiriwina are small, tribal islands we felt extremely comfortable in. The last port in the Conflict Islands was uninhabited and a great last stop on our cruise.
What about Sea Sickness?
We sailed on the Pacific Eden, which is a smaller ship with only 1,200 guests. Since it is a smaller ship by cruise ship standards, you did occasionally feel the movement of the boat. On our crossing from Australia to PNG there was a lot of movement and some guests did feel a bit motion sick. We have spent a lot of time on boats and didn’t have any problems, but I did bring some tablets just in case.
Tips for Planning Your Trip?
Visiting PNG on a cruise is a perfect blend of cultural immersion and resort-style relaxation. We were so impressed with both the itinerary and the P&O experience. These itineraries offer a very authentic way to experience PNG within a small-scale and sustainable tourism model.
Here are some tips for those interested in going on a cruise to Papua New Guinea.
- Bring the local currency (Kina) since locals often have no way of exchanging foreign currency.
- Bring items to donate to the communities. Useful items are school supplies, fish hooks, clothes and sandpaper for woodworking.
- Interact with the locals. By hiring a guide to show you around, you are contributing to their small economy and you will learn so much about their way of life.
- Bring snorkel gear. There are so many fantastic opportunities to explore the crystal-clear waters of PNG.
- Support the locals by buying the beautiful carvings and handicrafts they have for sale. The prices are so low and the workmanship beautiful. We had no trouble bringing the carvings back to Australia through Quarantine.
As I am sure you can tell, we absolutely loved our P&O cruise to Papua New Guinea. It is rare that you have an opportunity to visit such an untouched region and we were so impressed with how thoughtfully done the itinerary was. These cruises are perfect for parents looking for an exotic destination to visit and make a wonderful family holiday.
Want to read more adventures from Dawn and her family? Check out their inspiring travel blog here – 5 Lost Together and don’t forget to check them out on social media too! Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest
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