After living in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, my husband and I decided do a cruise there to visit other areas we had not seen. This cruise left from Brisbane to Papua New Guinea and back to Brisbane.
The cruise terminal at Brisbane is archaic and extremely hot in summer, especially when you are lining up for ages, which we did.
The smaller ship experience on the Sea Princess was great. We had a balcony cabin and the bed was fantastically comfortable - best I have slept in on a cruise ship - well done Princess. The bathroom was very small, and the door opened onto the wardrobe door when opened, a few bumps there between me and my husband. Clothes storage was more than adequate for us for the length of the voyage and I have never seen so many coat hangers in one place. Our suitcases stored neatly under the bed. TV was large with good reception - but I wish they had movies on demand.
We did 5pm dining with a table of ten. We enjoyed ourselves immensely with the other diners. The food was delicious, and the service was excellent. We also had breakfast in the other dining room for the majority of the cruise and lunch there as often as possible. Always sharing a table for lunch, where we met interesting people.
We dined once at the Sterling Steakhouse and I have to say the steak was tender and cooked to my exact requirements - worth the cost of $35 each.
The only meals we were unimpressed with was one breakfast in the dining room and the English Pub lunch. We went up to the Horizon Court for a couple of lunches when at ports and found the variety of food to be poor on those days.
The waiters at all dining venues were attentive and helpful, including at The Horizon Court, but we found it frustrating finding a table there.
Staff were spot on with ensuring you washed your hands and/or used the hand sanitiser. Huge improvement on our cruise two years ago.
Enjoyed the nightly entertainment at the Princess Theatre. We sat and listening to music played in The Atrium and other areas of the ship. We joined in for Trivia and other activities which were fun.
Whenever you go ashore, take bottled water with you as it is hot and humid. Princess had water available in cups on the islands near where you disembarked/embarked. This was a very welcome service.
For Alotau, Kitava, Rabaul, Kiriwina Island you are best to take currency in Kina. If you can obtain lower dominations of Kina, it makes it easier to buy smaller items from the markets, stalls etc. The Conflict Islands accept Australian Dollars and you change your money for tokens - I was under the impression there were no refunds for tokens. It may pay you to scout around first to see what you want to pay for and then do your transaction. It's easy to find the building where you exchange money for tokens.
Our ports of call were good fun. Out of the five ports, three were available by tender only. And we were blessed with good weather for tendering and were lucky to visit all three picturesque islands.
We only did one Princess excursion for the entire voyage and that was at Alotau (first port of call) where we attended The Alotau Cultural Festival for an hour or two, and it was enjoyable watching the traditional dancing. The people of Papua New Guinea were delightful and welcoming. There were stalls where you could buy wooden items, cloth, clothing, shells and other bits and pieces, a cafe and little museum. You were able to photograph there, but I always asked if it was okay to do so.
The next stop was Kitiva, my favourite destination. There were no excursions here, you just walked around while mingling with the local population. You could snorkel, swim and take boat and canoe rides etc. There were a few spots where you paid a small fee to visit - we did so to support the Islanders. Plus, there were also traditional dancers, including many children. We were befriended by a lovely local man who told us all about the Island and its people. Again, you could buy carvings, shells, baskets etc. We saw a demonstration of how they smoked their fish. They were pretty well self-sufficient. A most memorable visit.
Gliding into Rabaul's scenic harbour was a highlight too. We docked there. Princess had a lot of excursions going but we found a local tour company that sold us a short tour of old Rabaul and its airstrip that were destroyed by ash from two volcanic cones (Vulcan and Tavurvur) erupting in 1994. Our minivan was rather old, with windows for air conditioning and a guide and driver. The roads were filled with potholes, some could nearly swallow a small car! But it was a pleasurable excursion and we also visited Tavurvur, the active stratovolcano and the hot springs there. You could see steam flowing from it. We asked to be dropped off at the local marketplace at the end of our tour and then made our way by foot back to the ship, not a particularly long walk, perhaps a kilometre, but it was hot and humid. The tour guide would drop you back at the ship if you preferred. The locals lined the street leading to the ship selling their wares and it was fun walk.
Kiriwina was next, one of the world's most intact island cultures. It is also the largest of the Trobriand Islands. A beautiful place to visit. Again, no excursions but you saw dancing, beautiful beaches, could swim and snorkel, travel in canoes etc. Just be aware that you may be asked for money when you photograph people and certain areas there - as experienced by myself. We walked around looking at items they had for sale and visited a small village where we were asked for a donation towards a generator. We were happy to oblige. Thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
The Conflict Islands were breathtaking with their sensational sapphire blue waters. Princess had excursions here and you could scuba dive, do a private beach picnic, reef snorkel and also see the turtle conservation. We just meandered around soaking up the scenery. Again, an amazing destination.
We had brilliant weather for the voyage back to Australia. It was an outstanding holiday where we could get off the ship to visit interesting places and also kickback and enjoy ourselves on the ship.