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Eat, get pampered, eat again: 48 hours on a cruise ship

 

The day begins like any other; you’re startled awake by an offensively loud alarm, which is promptly snoozed to allow for an extra 10 minutes of snuggling under the covers.

But your sleepy brain soon remembers it’s not just another day, and you manage to drag yourself out of bed in time to catch sight of the rising sun’s dazzling gold rays shining low over calmly rolling ocean waters.

No land is in sight.

Are you planning your next vacation and looking for a quick midday daydream?

Read The New Daily’s 48 hours onboard a cruise ship for a different lens on holidaying.

Day one

Morning

A buzzing doorbell announces the arrival of the pre-ordered breakfast, and that’s how I spend the first half hour of my morning eating fruit, pancakes and a pain au chocolat on my private balcony while watching land slowly encroach on the sea as the ship pulls into port.

Breakfast tastes so much better with an unobstructed sea view. Photo: TND

Later, guests make their way to go on an excursion into New South Wales’ Hunter Valley. I strike up a conversation with an older couple holidaying from America (it soon becomes apparent this is a common theme among the ship’s passengers).

After watching a crew member hurry back and forth amid requests for headsets that fit over hearing aids, guests finally disembark and are ushered onto a waiting bus.

The tour guide talks about Newcastle’s history and main exports.

Beyond the city’s borders, “On your right!” and “On your left!” rings out as everyone clamours to spot kangaroos on the fields lining the increasingly winding and bumpy road.

Upon disembarking, the prospect of a wine tasting perks everyone right back up, and guests head inside to try everything from a light sparkling Chambourcin to a honey-thick-and-sweet Muscat dessert wine.

A friendly debate between the Australian winery staff and American visitors over corked versus screw-top wine bottles is followed by an even-friendlier grape-stomping competition.

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A winning bottle of freshly foot-stomped grape juice. Photo: TND

We vigorously take part, slipping and sliding over the icy grapes slowly turning to mush.

There are cheers from the victorious team as everyone lines up, feet still sticky and covered in juice and the odd grape skin, to await their turn to be hosed off.

Next on the to-do list is pavlova making, with the meringue beautifully browned on the table in front of us before we’re allowed to dig into the sugary sweetness.

Afternoon

By the time the bus makes it back to the cruise ship, guests are all long past ready to eat, and room service is happy to oblige.

An American-style hot dog and fries hits the spot, followed by a decadent chocolate brownie – because everyone knows desserts don’t count on a holiday.

Then it’s a race to take advantage of the ship’s Nordic spa before the crowds set in.

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The Nordic spa features a steam room, snow grotto, hydrotherapy pool and hot tub.
Photo: Viking Cruises

Within seconds of settling into the steam room, beads of sweat well up all over my body; a few minutes later, the oppressive heat and steam makes it hard to open my eyes.

Before I can melt to become one with the room’s wooden bench, I swap the steam room for the ‘snow grotto’, an almost-identical room filled with snow, and revel in the refreshing cold.

The world gently sways as the ship leaves port.

I switch between the hot and cold rooms twice more before taking a swim in the hydrotherapy pool and hot tub – both of which are equipped with jets so powerful I am left feeling boneless and jelly-legged when I can finally drag myself away.

Night

It’s not every day I get to indulge in a degustation menu, and there’s no reason not to tonight when there’s an obliging restaurant onboard and the cost for all meals on the cruise is covered by the ticket.

Guests can enjoy five consecutive dishes and accompanying wine pairings; the lychee foam topping the lemongrass and red chilli granita is my favourite, strongly reminiscent of the white foam topping the black waves visible through a nearby window.

After dinner, I wander through the atrium and pick up one of the (oddly-specific number of) 1003 books placed around the ship, and lose myself in a story as a string duo plays classical music nearby.

For more lively entertainment, guests head to the jazz lounge-style club, where velvet-voiced singers belt out everything from Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl to Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.

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Holidaying couples enjoy a late-night dance. Photo: TND

After desperately trying – and failing – to avoid eye contact, I am dragged onto the small dance floor by an older lady determined to get every woman up during a rousing rendition of Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

One more drink, and I call it a night, leaving slow-dancing couples to fill the space behind me.

Day two

Morning

A dazzling ocean sunrise and surprisingly not-too-salty ocean air rewards those willing to tear themselves out of a warm, comfy bed early in the morning.

Source: TND

A buffet breakfast is enjoyed outside on the ship’s deck, and is made even better when a new friend from yesterday’s sauna experience sits down to join me.

As the cruise ship makes its way through the Tasman Sea, we head up to the sports deck for a game of ping pong – but end up battling the ocean winds more than each other.

Back downstairs, a spirited game of cornhole rages on, but I bypass it in order to spend the next hour floating in the deck’s infinity pool, tempted to jump the clear panel barrier separating me from the ocean.

Reluctantly passing an assorted buffet offering of cakes and gelato, I head for the pool grill and demolish what might be one of the best burgers ever made, featuring a thick, juicy beef patty and perfectly caramelised onions that put all fast food joints to shame.

It feels like you can jump right in. Photo: Viking Cruises

Afternoon

The afternoon kicks off with a 50-minute Nordic facial, as every afternoon should.

The Swedish aesthetician expertly examines my skin, then gently subjects me to almost an hour of heated towel wraps, pore cleansing, moisturising, facial cupping, and massaging.

The pampered version of me that leaves the spa mentally erases buying a house off my wish list in favour of hiring a live-in facialist, because how on earth can I go on not having that experience every day?

By now, I am far too relaxed to worry about my complete lack of artistic talent as I wander in to join fellow guests in a watercolour painting class.

Playing with paint can quickly bring out your inner child. Photo: TND

Somehow, I emerge with a piece of work that surprisingly resembles the golden wattle we had been tasked with recreating, though my hands are covered in paint like a toddler coming home from a hard day’s work at kindergarten.

I spend some time fruitlessly trying to help put together a slightly-worn 1000-piece puzzle that the ship’s passengers are collectively working on throughout the cruise, before giving up and meeting friends for high tea that features the works; scones, finger sandwiches, tiny desserts and a dizzying selection of teas to choose from.

Night

A necessary lesson about an Australian legend. Photo: TND

After a pre-dinner (let’s pretend that’s a thing) of swordfish sushi and lobster, the cruise ship’s theatre puts on a heartwarming lecture on Australian national treasure, the late Steve Irwin.

Then it’s on to an Italian restaurant, where guests seriously ponder the menu before realising everything can be ordered in half-portions so more dishes can be tasted.

As I wonder who I need to speak to make this mandatory in restaurants across Australia, my friends and I enjoy everything from truffles to zucchini-wrapped tiger prawns, topping it all off with a classic tiramisu.

The night is wrapped up on a private balcony, gazing into the inky blackness of a night sky unmarred by city lights, and watching otherwise calm water transform into swathes of white foam and mist as it’s pushed out of the ship’s steady path.

The New Daily journalist travelled as a guest of Viking Cruises

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