It's a funny thing, cruising. And not just because I'm on P&O's three-day comedy cruise.
As someone who swore they'd never be stuck on a floating hotel with no chance of escape, here I am with my family celebrating my sister's 50th birthday. For those hitting the sea, here's my top tips for making sure you're still smiling when you hit dry land.
Take a chill pill
Half an hour before we embark, our party each down an anti-motion sickness tablet (try Kwells or Travacalm) and we have no trouble adjusting to the gentle sway of the ship once we set sail. Others are not so fortunate.
Keep in touch
If you want to maintain contact with the landlubbers in your life, pre-purchase an internet package for about $10 a day - it's cheaper and less hassle than doing it once on board. Also download P&O's free onboard app that allows you to message your fellow travellers, check your onboard account, view the daily schedule and book restaurants and activities.
Food for thought
As soon as you get settled, make dinner reservations for each night of your stay at the ship's free restaurants. On Pacific Explorer, these include Angelo's (Italian), Dragon Lady (Asian fusion) and The Waterfront (fine dining). With 1500-odd passengers, they book out quickly and we meet several people who realised too late that these were included in the deal. The Waterfront also does an amazing breakfast and lunch (no bookings) and there's The Pantry for casual food court-style dining. There's also other eateries for which you pay extra but for our money, it was hard to top the food and service at the three free restaurants.
With so much food on offer, it's easy to overdo it. If you're physically up to it, ditch the lifts and take the stairs - you'll be surprised how many times you find yourself running up several flights to meet up or grab an item from your room. You can use the ship's well-equipped gym from 6am-10pm and there's plenty of classes to get your heart pumping.
Room with a view
If you appreciate a view and fresh air, it's worth paying extra (about $100 per person for this three-day cruise) to get a balcony room. Our room is exactly as pictured in the advertising material, with comfortable beds, plenty of cupboard space to unpack your belongings, a shower with decent pressure and sweet and efficient cabin stewards who turn down your bed and leave chocolates on your pillow.
With a flash of your credit-loaded P&O card getting you anything you desire onboard, it can be easy to forget that's real money being taken from your bank account. A $17 cocktail here and a $14 yoga class there adds up so plan your day carefully and make sure you're not blowing your spending budget. With some careful planning, you can still have plenty of fun while spending little to no extra money.
Get in early
One of the highlights of our trip is a performance by comedian Harley Breen. Thanks to a recommendation by a fellow passenger, we arrive at the Black Circus venue 25 minutes early and line up to get seats on the comfy lounges near the front. Others who turn up at the advertised time are turned away as the venue is overcrowded.
- Narelle Watts travelled on P&O Pacific Explorer's three-day comedy cruise at her own expense.