On Board the Majestic Princess: Singapore to Hong Kong

This stage of the cruise is the last 6 days, with 4 days at sea and stops at Phy My (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon) in Vietnam and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. The days at sea are pretty much the same routine that we developed earlier.

Ukulele practice in the Crown Bar and Grill

Our ukulele concert on the day before Singapore was a success on the basis of the crowd and the applause we received. Eric Ripper, our ukulele leader, invited anyone else who wanted to play the ukulele to join up after Singapore. The first day at sea after Singapore, we were flooded with enthusiastic new people who wanted to join up. All the borrowed soprano ukuleles were returned, and the new people were issued with ukuleles before the older hands could get their ukuleles back. Of course, Ian was pleased to hang onto his own tenor ukulele. In the end, I don’t think anyone missed out. We were given new music to learn, and Eric said that we would do a second concert on the day before we arrived at Hong Kong. However, this time we would only have half the number of sea days to prepare, which apparently worried a lot of people.

Numbers at ukulele classes, which again were only held on sea days, quickly dropped off, but Katie and Ian managed to hold onto a core of people, including John from Bowen. At the final concert, a smaller ukulele group played You Are my Sunshine again, as well as Hey Jude and Stand by Me. Again, we came across well. Much relieved, several of us enjoyed a celebratory drink afterwards.

Some of the ukulele group after the second concert. Eric is 4th from the right in the back.

John, Karen and Ian enjoying a celebratory drink

On the evening after our day trip to Ho Chi Minh City, we helped John and Joy from Bowen celebrate John’s 72nd birthday. The crew came out with a small chocolate cake with one candle, and surrounding diners joined in with a chorus of Happy Birthday. We got to know John and Joy a bit better at the dinner. John is a retired dragline operator at a coal mine. They have a caravan, and enjoy travelling around Australia. They also like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and we had two bottles of Nobilo 2017 with dinner. We agreed to try and catch up as we travel around Australia during the rest of the year.

Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Our third and last formal night (on the second last sea day) saw Katie wear her Indian silk dress from Philomena. She looked stunning. The dining room had lobster tail on the menu for the special occasion, and we enjoyed a production show after dinner. Top night, although we did not see anyone we knew.

Katie at dinner on the third formal night
Lobster tail and jumbo prawns for dinner on our third formal night
Katie in her Indian silk dress

We returned to the ship relatively early after our shore excursion in Kaohsiung, in time for afternoon tea. We enjoyed afternoon tea several times last year on the Sun Princess cruise, so we wanted to attend at least once on this cruise. We had a table to ourselves, as usual for afternoon tea, and sampled the savoury and sweet delicacies over a pot of tea. Lovely!

Afternoon tea

We were invited to join Peter and Krystyna and David and Trish for dinner at the Crown Grill and Bar to celebrate Peter and Krystyna’s 39th wedding anniversary. This was on the evening after the day in Kaohsiung, and therefore after a big Taiwanese curry lunch and afternoon tea. It was a tough job, but we felt up to the gastronomic challenge. The steaks were great, and a rendition of Happy Anniversary (very similar to Happy Birthday) was sung by staff and surrounding diners.

Krystyna and Peter
Trish and David

One of the dessert items that we all went for was a dessert sampler—what a great idea after a big meal!

Grown Grill dessert sampler

That night, it was a bit cooler outside, and Ian enjoyed sitting on our balcony with a Boddington Pub Ale while watching the cargo ships pass. We were in a very busy shipping channel.

On the last evening of the cruise we had dinner with John and Joy, although Joy was not feeling well. We finished off another bottle of Nobilo Sav Blanc. After dinner, John joined us for a show put on by some of the non-entertainment crew. John shouted Ian a Scotch, the only one on this cruise for Ian, and it went down very nicely. The crew show was well done, and included Eric Ripper on his guitar singing The Who’s Baba O’Reilly.

We had a final cocktail of the cruise, and retired after a huge day. We kept the balcony door open to hear the water against the ship as we sailed on to Hong Kong.

The ship entered Hong Kong Harbour very early, and we did not wake until we were almost at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. We crawled out of bed to get our first glimpse of the Hong Kong skyline, a bit tired after our last day on board. We had mixed emotions. We had thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, and we were sorry that it was over. However, Katie was eagerly looking forward to catching up with more of her family in Hong Kong. The next leg of our big trip had begun.

First glimpse of Hong Kong skyline from Kai Tak Cruise Terminal
Docked at Kai Tak

Kaohsiung, Friday 12 April 2019

Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan, next to Taipei, which is about 300 km to the north and joined by a very fast train line. Like Singapore, it handles a lot of shipping. However, we understand that when the Majestic Princess visited on this cruise, it was the largest ship handled by the port to date. The harbour has a very narrow entrance, but we squeezed through OK. Taiwan is rarely on the must see list of travellers, and we also understand that this is the first time that Princess Cruises visited this city—it usually stops at Taipei.

Princess was very late in promoting tours from Kaohsiung, and had nothing available when we first looked. After attending an information session on the setting, we decided that $20 per head shuttle bus tickets to the centre of town was the best deal. Again, disembarking was easy, and we were welcomed to Kaohsiung by jolly dragons and drummers.

The shuttle buses had two stops—firstly Central Park and then San Duo shopping area. We rode the shuttle to the second stop, but at 9:30 am, it was very quiet. The major shops do not open until 11:00 am. We wandered around a bit aimlessly at first through some back streets.

A quiet Kaohsiung back street in the early morning

We walked up the main road back to Central Park. There was lots of traffic, especially scooters, but very little evidence of economic activity. However, when the doors opened onto a building that we were walking past, we saw into a room of poker machines with quite a lot of people playing them. We thought it funny that you could not buy a bottle of milk at 10:00 am, but that the pokies were doing a roaring trade at that time.

Motor scooters taking off at the lights

Another interesting thing we noticed was that the traffic lights indicated how many seconds you had to cross the road. What an obvious improvement to pedestrian traffic—why don’t we have this at home?

We walked around Central Park, and found interestingly sculptured trees, and a group of senior citizens enjoying a dancing session. There were also squirrels, which are probably regarded as normal in Taiwan, but like useful pedestrian traffic lights, we don’t have them in Australia.

Sculptured trees
Morning senior citizen dance class in Central Park
A squirrel eating a nut

Having exhausted the range of attractions of Central Park, we walked down to the Love River, which flows through Kaohsiung. On the way we tried Gong Cha, which was promoted on the Majestic Princess. This was new to us, and we understand that it is a typically Taiwanese idea. It is a variety of teas, including a bubble tea with tapioca pearls. We tried a cold tea without sugar—interesting and drinkable, and quite refreshing on what was becoming a warm morning. We also tried some sweet tofu milk, with which we were familiar from Asian supermarkets in Australia. This was wonderful!

We were told that there were cafes along the Love River, like along the Seine in Paris. It was certainly pleasant to walk both sides of the river between two bridges. It was clean, with gardens and a clear love theme, but the cafes had not yet opened.

Love River between the two bridges
Can’t help feeling the love here
Bean tree
Dragon on guard over the Love River
This must have a deep meaning

At the second bridge, we sat down to compose ourselves—it was now hot, there had been very little shade, and so we decided to walk back to the ship. However, the map showed that it was shorter to walk back to Central Park and then catch the shuttle. Back to Central Park we went, and we came across a Catholic cathedral. Katie went inside and said a prayer (that Central Park was not far away)!

Minor Basilica-Cathedral of the Holy Rosary
Inside the cathedral

We had a chance to sit on a grassy knoll in the shade while waiting for the shuttle at Central Park. When it came, we felt much refreshed, and decided to alight at San Duo and find a place for lunch in the large shopping mall there.

On our entry to the food court, we were welcomed by staff of the first restaurant we came to. However, we decided to check it all out, so went for a walk to get a comprehensive look at what was on offer. The food court was characterised by very little writing, but we could tell that some places were clearly offering Japanese cuisine. We settled on the first place we encountered. A couple in the neighbouring table had some interesting food, and they identified it for us on a pictorial menu. We ordered the same, and was surprised by two varieties of tasty, but not too spicy, chicken curry. Ian was also successful in buying a Taiwan beer from a local takeaway shop.

Yuen Hey Currey restaurant
Two types of chicken with mild but tasty curry

When we had finished our lunch, another couple from the cruise came up to the restaurant and asked us what the food was like. We raved about it, and said it was curry, but tasty and very mild. However, they were looking for something very spicy, so they kept on looking.

We caught the shuttle from San Duo back to the Majestic Princess, and arrived back in time for afternoon tea.

That evening, we had dinner at the Crown Grill and Bar to celebrate Peter and Krystyna’s 39th wedding anniversary. More on that later.

Our day in Kaohsiung was an experiment to see how we would go on our own, exploring a potentially strange new place without a detailed plan, and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. It was a complete success! We saw the heart of Kaohsiung’s central business district and the Love River, and experienced some tasty food.

Ho Chi Minh City, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Ian did his morning walk just after sunrise as the Majestic Princess docked at a container wharf at Phu My. Our good friend, Felicia, comes from Ho Chi Minh City, and we hosted her, her husband Nick, and her parents on the night before we left on the cruise. We were eagerly looking forward to experiencing this interesting place, including trying some of its distinctive cuisine.

Berth in sight
Our berth
The buses are ready for us

We had booked the “Do Ho Chi Minh City On Your Own” tour, which involved a 90 minute coach ride into the city, and the return trip in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Peter and Krystyna had arranged a guide to take them around the main attractions in the city, and they invited us to join them and shared the cost.

Arrangements for leaving the ship and getting onto our coach were not as smooth as we had experienced on the Sun Princess. We had tickets that required us to meet at the Princess Theatre at 8:25 am, with instructions not to get there early. However, when we got there only a couple of minutes early, we were directed to the end of a long queue that delayed us for 10 minutes. We then had to wait in the theatre until 9:00 am, so we did not get away until over two hours after docking.

Our city guide, Tin Tin, was also on one of the coaches. However, we were not able to get on the same coach. The trip from Phu My to Ho Chi Minh City involved several tollgates, but the traffic was not too bad. We passed lots of small businesses, including cafes, that were on the main road. We also passed dry rice fields and wet rice paddies. Presumably the wet paddies are being affected by saltwater, which prevents rice from growing. Some of them are presumably now being used for aquaculture. We were told that where we see water palms, it is too salty for rice.

Street scene on way to Ho Chi Minh City

We ended up being dropped off outside the Grand Hotel in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, which is still commonly called Saigon. After using the hotel’s rest rooms, we were met by Tin Tin, who had been dropped off at the Rex Hotel nearby.

Grand Hotel Saigon

We viewed Times Square Saigon, a 6-star hotel across the road with lovely polished blueschist facies metamorphic rocks in the foyer, and then walked up to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. We learned to walk slowly, but confidently across the roads. Somehow, the taxis, motor scooters and bicycles allow for pedestrians who follow this approach, and we did not see any accidents. Unfortunately for Katie, the cathedral was closed for renovation. Peter and Krystyna bought T-shirts and purses from street vendors, and they seemed to enjoy the bargaining process (which Ian detests).

Opera House
Notre Dame Cathedral
Post Office
Street vendors

In the above photo of street vendors, look closely at the old building in front of the new building in the background. This is the subject of a very famous photograph taken on 29 April 1975 of a helicopter on top of the Pittman Apartments evacuating refugees. The iconic photograph (from https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2015-featured-story-archive/the-last-days-in-saigon.html) is reproduced below:

The Vinasun taxis were reliable and clean, but Peter and Ian had to shoehorn their way into the third row of seats, which were designed for children. Scooters were everywhere.

One of our taxis with driver
Scooters galore!

We all got into a taxi and drove to the War Remnant Museum. This museum was amazing and told the stories of the struggles with the French occupation of Vietnam, and the 17-year war with the USA. The latter war was portrayed by the Australian Government at the time as an honourable attempt to keep the communist regime in the north from taking over the southern part of the country. It appears, however, that the regime in the south was far from a competent and benevolent government, despite being anti-communist and backed by the USA and its allies. Of course, history knows that the USA lost, despite the widespread use of dioxin on the local people, or agent orange, and the communists took over the whole country. Vietnam has done relatively well since then, especially since President Clinton removed sanctions imposed by the USA. We were fortunate to have Tin Tin introduce us to one of her friends who is a third-generation victim of agent orange. Presumably, many US servicemen were also affected by this poison. It appears that the last Vietnam war was a disastrous mistake made be the Americans, and Australia perpetuated the mistake. History repeated itself several decades later when the USA, aided again by Australia, invaded Iraq on the pretence of the need to destroy weapons of mass destruction.

We could have easily spent the best part of the day in the war museum, but we had specifically asked Tin Tin for an opportunity to eat some local food. We took a taxi to the Quan Bui restaurant, which is very close to Tin Tin’s university. Tin Tin ordered soup, pork, chicken, vegie dishes and salad. A passionfruit with warm custard was an interesting dessert. Peter and Ian enjoyed a couple of Saigon beers.

Saigon Beer (its special)
Quan Bui restaurant
Enjoying a Vietnamese lunch

After lunch, we took another taxi to the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is distinguished by a helicopter pad and is one of the world’s iconic buildings. There is a 360-degree observation deck around the 49th floor called Skydeck. Peter and Ian were the only ones interested in venturing upwards, and we had a good view of most of Ho Chi Minh City, especially of the Saigon River.

Tin Tin left us while Peter and Ian were on the Skydeck, as she had to get back to her rendezvous with her coach. We walked back to the Grand Hotel, and Ian and Peter managed to have another Saigon beer before our coach arrived. The drive back to our ship at Phu My was smooth, and we arrived back on deck right at 5:30 pm, which was the time for all passengers to be back on board.

Krystyna, Tin Tin and Katie waiting for the boys to return from Skydeck

We were exhausted but elated after a fabulous experience in Ho Chi Minh City. We finished the day with a birthday dinner with new friends John and Joy from Bowen in Queensland. John was 72 today.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, was incredibly fascinating, but we only tasted a tiny sample of Vietnam. We want to understand more of the history of turmoil in this country. It would also be good to see more of the countryside away from the urban pollution. John and Joy, and others that we met on the ship, went on an enjoyable tour of the Mekong Delta where a huge range of tropical fruit is grown, as well as the ubiquitous rice. As Vietnam has a long coast, fishing is also a major industry here. Hopefully we can come back and see some other aspects of Vietnamese culture, maybe with our friend, Felicia.

Singapore, Sunday April 7 2019

Katie was so excited the night before that she couldn’t sleep. It has been a long time since Katie saw her sister, Lucy, and we have not been to Singapore since 1994.

The cruise ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Terminal. Unsurprisingly, we passed many ships on the way to port as Singapore is one of the largest container ports in the world. We appreciated the smooth immigration process that Princess Cruise had facilitated, and we were able to disembark the ship with no delay.

Disembarkation at Singapore

Lucy and her partner, Eric, met us at the cruise terminal, where they had parked their car. We had a short drive around, and our first impression was that Singapore is an exceptionally clean and modern city. We did not recognise the place as it had changed so much in 25 years. There are several major new attractions, and Lucy had arranged for us to experience two of them–Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay.

We had a quick breakfast of coffee and milk tea with sandwiches and toast at one of the food malls at the Marina Bay Sands. Milk tea is tea infused with condensed milk – very sweet and typically Singaporean.


Next, we visited the Sands SkyPark, which is the observation deck on the “ship” that sits on top of the three Marina Bay Sands towers. The “ship” is mostly a hotel. It has an infinity pool, but access is only given to guests. The observation deck is at one end of the “ship”. From it, visitors can get about a 270 degrees view of Singapore. It was very popular when we went up there on a clear Sunday morning. Lucy had also arranged for us to have a souvenir professional photo of our group, and we will treasure this.

Marina Bay Sands in early morning
Lucy & Katie on SkyWalk observation deck
View from SkyWalk of Gardens By the Bay, including the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest Dome and Supertrees, with waiting cargo ships in background
Katie, Lucy and Eric on SkyWalk observation deck

Eric drove us to China Town, where we enjoyed lunch at the Peach Garden Chinese Restaurant. We had dim sum, flat rice noodles with mushrooms, yummy soup with scallops, and interesting sticky rice desserts served in young coconuts. Ian and Eric enjoyed their Tiger beers.

Peach Garden Chinese Restaurant
Signature dish of roast and BBQ pork
Sticky rice in young coconuts
Singaporean Tiger Beer

Our next stop was the Gardens by the Bay on 101 hectares of reclaimed land and opened in 2012. Lucy bought tickets for the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome. These are huge, air-conditioned structures that house plants ranging from cool, temperate climates to tropical rain forests, including Australian plants and olive trees. It is difficult to explain these in words, so we took lots of photos. They have cost billions of dollars, and there is some controversy about whether it is money well spent. An interesting feature of the Flower Dome is the numerous sculptures made from pieces of wood.

Mushroom sculpture
Dragon sculpture
Its cactus
Still cactus
Ian among the olive trees in Flower Dome
Queensland bottle trees in Flower Dome
Waterfall in Cloud Forest Dome
Carnivorous plants in Cloud Forest Dome

To finish off we enjoyed a cool drink and snacks at McDonalds. Lucy and Eric had given us a very full and thoroughly enjoyable tour of some of the best of Singapore in the short time we were ashore. Eric drove the short distance back to the cruise terminal where we said our “goodbyes”. We thanked Lucy and Eric for their time and the generous gift of the Marina Sands SkyWalk photo. We insisted to them that they visit us in the Hunter Valley next year.

We were so tired after our hectic but very enjoyable tour of Singapore and catch-up with Lucy and Eric, that once on board, Katie immediately hit the sack and missed dinner, and Ian had to refresh himself with a Bodington so he could enjoy the Singapore sailaway sunset.

Post Singapore Bodington
Singapore sailaway sunset

On Board the Majestic Princess: Darwin to Singapore

The days at sea are becoming very routine. Breakfast, lunch, ukulele class and dinner provide the main framework around which we fit in our other activities.

Ian at breakfast with a water view

The gym is well equipped, and heavily used. Late afternoon seems to be the best time to work out when there are fewer people there.

On this leg we dined at La Mer French restaurant. The service and the food were top stuff, and our table was located with a view of the sunset and electrical activity in the clouds.

La Mer menu

We started with cocktails, bread, and welcome dishes of polenta chips and olives stuffed with goat cheese. For entrée, we had a lobster bisque with a pastry top, and tortellini stuffed with wild mushrooms and snails in a green sauce. The lobster bisque was wonderful. For mains, we had duck breast in a tasty gravy, and jumbo scallops with more of the green sauce. Both were excellent. Dessert was a beautifully presented chocolate tart and a very light mousse, and again, these were delicious. Ian wanted to taste the French beer, but this was no longer available. Instead, we had a bottle of Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2016, which was full of flavour that went well with the rich food.

La Mer duck breast beautifully presented




La Mer jumbo scallops with green sauce
La Mer chocolate tart
La Mer mousse
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2016

After our French meal, we had an early night and in bed enjoyed the latest doggie movie—A Dog’s Way Home. This is based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron, who also wrote A Dog’s Purpose, which we read last year, and which was also the basis of a movie.

On the day on which we were to cross the equator from the southern into the northern hemisphere, the ship had a Crossing of the Equator ceremony. This involved the ship’s First Officer, the Cruise Director, Neptune (King of the Sea) and his wife, Queen Double-D. Several dozen pollywogs who had not yet crossed the equator were put on trial for various trumped up charges. Of course, they were all found guilty, and sentenced to be covered in spaghetti and several differently coloured sauces. This all took place in the raised area between the two pools. As was to be expected, some food ended up in the pools, that were then closed for a day to enable cleaning. After the food splattering, the pollywogs were deemed to be shellbacks. The First Officer and the Cruise Director were both thrown in the pools, and the King and Queen escaped relatively unscathed by the experience.

Crossing the Equator ceremony with King Neptune
Cruise Director was dunked

We actually crossed the equator at sunset, about 8:00 pm. And a spectacular sunset it was.

Equator crossing sunset

We spent much of this leg practising the ukulele, either in our cabin, in a corner of a bar, or at Eric’s ukulele classes. This was becoming a Ukulele Cruise. Eric announced that we would be giving a concert on the day before we arrive in Singapore, and this spurred us on to even greater devotion. On the afternoon of the concert, there was much nervous tension. We performed in the Piazza, in the centre of the ship. The audience was spread on three levels. We had to stand, and thankfully had some music stands to put our music on. Over the Rainbow was a big hit with the crowd, and we followed up with Yellow Submarine, Brown Eyed Girl and Down on the Corner. For an encore we played Can’t Help Falling in Love. I think we did really well, considering that many people had not played a ukulele before. We did it, and felt both proud of our achievements and greatly relieved. The whole concert was recorded on the Reflections DVD produced on the cruise.

Ukulele concert in the Piazza. Image kindly provided by Eric Ripper.


Darwin, Tuesday 2 April 2019

We docked at what appears to be a temporary cruise terminal. As we now had Internet access via the Australian mobile phone network, we caught up with phone messages and email. We received an email from Scott and Sally Petrick advising us that they had set off on their trip to the Kimberleys a couple of days ago. This was the only time that was convenient for Sally to take time off work. We were very disappointed to miss them, but this freed up our day a little. We will definitely catch up with them in July.

Disembarking the Majestic Princess at Darwin, ready for a day of adventure
Majestic Princess at Darwin Cruise Terminal

We had not booked any tours, but disembarkation was very smooth. We headed for the Big Red Bus and bought a $35 ticket each for the day. There are four double decker buses that travel a loop around Darwin, with 12 stops. Ticket holders can ride the bus and hop on and off as much as they like through the day. The top floor is open where the windows would be, and this allowed great ventilation when we were moving. The weather was warm and humid. Our first stop was at Cullen Bay, where we had a late breakfast at the Boatshed. Never had such a large bowl of muesli in my life! We originally planned to have lunch at Cullen Bay with Scott and Sally, but now we could have lunch elsewhere, possibly in the town centre.

To kill some time before we hopped back on the bus, we walked around Cullen Bay, which is a waterfront medium density housing development. Katie checked out a gift shop, and we immediately found a dress that suited her and will be perfect for one of the two remaining formal nights on the ship.

We enjoyed a long bus ride to East Point, which is a good place to have a picnic sunset. We started marking on our map provided by the bus company all the places we will come back to and spend time when we are back in Darwin in July, hopefully with Scott and Sally.

We disembarked the bus again at the Waterfront. This is just east of where the Majestic Princess was docked. We walked around shops, restaurants and bars, then walked up the Traveller’s Walk into the town centre.

Katie at start of Traveller’s Walk
History of Traveller’s Walk

The hub of Darwin is the Smith Street Mall. After looking at hundreds of watches over the past year on the Sun Princess, in Hong Kong, in Australia and on the Majestic Princess, Ian finally found the watch he was looking for—a solar powered Casio G-Shock digital watch that is water resistant to 100 m. However, our tummies were telling us it is lunch time, so we found Shennanigans—an Irish pub of the same name as the one in Maitland. We had a huge lunch—Katie had Thai beef salad, and Ian had fish ‘n’ chips, which he usually did on Friday lunches when working. The Guinness (Ian) and lemon, lime and bitters (Katie) helped to rehydrate us.

Katie hopped back on the bus and rode most of the circuit back to the cruise terminal. Ian walked back to the mall to reconsider the Casio watch, which he eventually bought for $129. Ian then walked back to the Waterfront across Skywalk and tried some One Mile Brewery Red Ale and IPA as part of his research into craft beers.

Skywalk to Waterfront








One Mile IPA
One Mile Brewery commitment









We met up back in our cabin. We had had a big day in Darwin, and hit the sack early after a quick snack in our room. Tomorrow, we had to get back to ukulele practice, including Brown Eyed Girl. By the way, saw this caravan that made me smile…

Nice van

On Board the Majestic Princess: Sydney to Darwin

We are gradually settling into our cruise, being careful not to burn ourselves out in the first couple of days. On our first cruise—to the South Pacific on the Sun Princess about a year ago—we were overwhelmed with everything. This time, we were much more relaxed as the various aspects of cruising felt familiar. One of the big differences is that we have a private balcony to enjoy on this cruise.

Sunset over the Whitsundays (we think)

After a full day at sea, we docked at Fishermans Wharf in Brisbane. We had booked a tour of nearby St Helena Island directly with Cat o’Nine Tails Tours. However, our tour was cancelled the previous day due to forecast inclement weather. Indeed, it was wet while we were docked, and we did not feel enthusiastic about going onshore. We will rebook St Helena Island for when we are back in Brisbane in early May.

There are lots of dining options, as well as copious bars. We like the dining rooms where we get waiter service, and rarely a bad meal. Sometimes, we go to the buffet or bistro for a more casual meal, but the food here can be a bit ordinary. The beer selection was interesting, with many international brands. Best value beers are probably the 440 ml cans of Guinness and Boddington Pub Ale. Wine is outrageously expensive, more so than on the Sun Princess, so we probably won’t indulge much. We did find a 2018 Tyrrells Old Winery Pinot Noir, se we bought a bottle (wine by the glass is way overpriced).

Butterfish on noodles with bok choy

Every night there are shows, while there are numerous entertainers who sing and/or play instruments in the bars and the Piazza. The Piazza is the heart of the ship. We have seen two shows so far from the production cast from USA. They are leaving us in Darwin and will be replaced by a new production cast. The cruise director, who was also on our Sun Princess cruise last year, told us we were lucky to have two different production casts on the one cruise. He is probably right.

One of the best entertainers we have seen, ever, is Chris Watkins, a classical violinist and frustrated dancer (his words) from the UK. He starred in his own show, and then featured in a larger production show called Encore. We were also lucky to catch him for a short performance one evening in the Piazza. He plays a Swarovski crystal encrusted electric violin. Check out the shoes!

Chris Watkins on fire

Dance classes are available for line dancing and ballroom dancing. The participants certainly appear to enjoy them. However, it is very crowded, and we have not yet been game to have a go.

Ian took his ukulele so he can keep up his fingerpicking and strumming practice. We heard that some cruises had a ukulele program, and by luck, our Majestic Princess cruise did. It is run by Eric Ripper, who is the ship’s videographer. There are 41 toy ukuleles available for guests, but a few people, including Ian, had their own. The first session was chaotic, and Eric did a sterling job of keeping us together on You Are My Sunshine. He has some interesting tunes planned for us, including Beatles and CCR.

Ian playing ukulele with Eric Ripper

We attended our very first karaoke session and loved it. Their motto is “When they’re good, its great, and when they’re bad, its better!” Not sure about the latter.

There are multiple pools and spas on the uppermost levels. The best pool area is the adults only Hollywood Pool Club. This is well patronised because of its outstanding and lavish facilities with little  private suites overlooking the sea for guests to relax and enjoy. Tea and coffee are also served there at breakfast time, and a bar opens mid morning.

Hollywood Pool Club sofas
Ian in Hollywood Pool Club
Hollywood Pool Club lounges
Hollywood Pool Club pool


There are three formal nights on our cruise. The fist one was on the Brisbane to Darwin leg. We had a full night, and didn’t get back to our room until midnight. It started with the Captain’s champagne waterfall cocktail party, which is done near the start of every Princess cruise. The Cruise Director introduced the Captain and his executive team to guests. We were amazed that Princess Cruise has a Director of Environment as well as a Staff Welfare Director. Guests were then invited to pour champagne over a tower of carefully stacked glasses. When the last guest had contributed to the champagne waterfall, to Ian’s horror, the glasses were emptied of their champagne into a bucket rather than given to the guests.

The Champagne Waterfall

It took a while, but Ian tried the gym on day 5, and Katie joined him the next day. The gym is well appointed, and extremely popular.