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The Innocents Abroad

John always loved to travel but until recently most of that has been within Australia. A recent cruise has ignited a flame to see more.


Introduction: Just Somewhere to Begin

Everything has to begin somewhere, all essays and articles need an introduction, and so never let it be said that I was the one to break that mold. Hence, here is my introduction to "The Innocents Abroad."

OK, I know you have heard that title before, and so I credit it to Mark Twain, but I will talk more about that later under the heading "Off the Shelf." This essay or travelogue, however, is about a recent South Pacific cruise embarked on by my wife Kathy and I.

In fact, this started off as a poem and I had written ten stanzas of it before I decided poetry was the wrong direction (in reality I thought it was crap), and so I scrapped the poem and chose to write this piece of prose instead. I hope that was the right move, and am confident it was.

Some of you will remember my Cackleberry Farmer series. Well, if I was still on the farm I would have called this 'The Cackleberry Farmer Goes to Sea.' That has a ring to it don't you think? I did continue that series after I moved to town as 'The Lamb Street Chronicles' but 'The Lamb Street Residents Go to Sea' just lacks something or sounds downright silly.

Anyway, enough for the introduction. Let's move on to my account of the actual cruise. I must warn you that when I am not writing poetry or flash fiction I do tend to get a little verbose. I will try my best to not go 'overboard' (please excuse the pun).

  • I originally intended this to be just one stand-alone article however due to its length (1700 words at last count) I have decided to make it two instalments. I thought it best to let you, the reader, know that here at the start rather than the end, and find yourself disappointed.

Spontaneous ... Who Me?

My wife says I am never spontaneous enough, that I rarely do anything on the spur of the moment, or off the cuff. Well, I must admit she is right. I am a planning kind of guy. I like to know what is happening a week or so ahead and have times and dates marked on a calendar. I rarely say, "Ok, Honey, jump in the car or bus and let's go.... to the moon or wherever," so it was quite a surprise to her when I said, "I have booked us on a cruise for a second honeymoon."

A little background information may be helpful here. Our first honeymoon was 36 years ago and somewhat of a disaster. Apart from a great first night in a plush hotel in Brisbane called the Crest International where we stayed in a honeymoon suite and were served complimentary lobster and champagne, the remainder of the week didn't exactly go to plan or could be remembered as the dream romantic getaway.

We planned a road trip to the Carnarvon National Park to camp and bush walk for a few days and to visit friends and family before and after who were unable to attend our wedding. The whole trip would incorporate about 2000 km.

Well, as we drove to the Carnarvons it began to rain. We had gone too far to turn back. The dirt roads were black soil which becomes slippery and muddy when wet and the despite my best efforts the car slid off the road and became bogged. We managed with one of us pushing and the other steering to get back onto the road and made it to the camping grounds, only to have to struggle to erect a tent in the pouring rain.

To make it worse the tent leaked and we were flooded out. We had planned to stay two nights but needless to say, those plans were scrapped. The rest of the journey was uneventful and not worth recounting here, though we did meet the family as planned.

So, booking this cruise was my chance to make up for the disastrous first honeymoon and plant new more pleasant memories in my wife's head, and I think it worked. I may have to try this 'spontaneity' thing more often.

Booking and Planning the Cruise

I had always envied others who said they had been on a cruise but, for some reason, always thought they would be too expensive for my budget. My father had always promised my mom to take her on a cruise 'one day' but they had never gotten there.

One day a friend told me that they had just returned from a cruise along the coast of Australia and had an amazing time. They said it wasn't that expensive if you book ahead and that I should check out an Internet site called Cruise Sale Finder.

Well, I did as my friend advised and found that by booking three months in advance that there were some great deals available. Some had on-board spending money or drinks packages included for free, but the one I chose gave me two passengers for the price of one, so a saving of over $1000 AU on the regular fare.

The cruise I chose was on the P & O ship 'The Pacific Aria' and was called the Pacific Island Hopper tour, for seven nights, leaving Brisbane and Visiting Noumea and Lifou Island in New Caledonia and Port Vila, Vanuatu.

I arranged travel insurance, booked one shore tour for Noumea, and arranged for my wife to be wheelchair assisted onto the ship ... all through the website. After that, it was just a waiting game that grew in excitement as the departure day came closer.

The Itinerary

  • Day 1: Brisbane

  • Day 2: At Sea

  • Day 3: Noumea

  • Day 4: Loyalty Island (Lifou)

  • Day 5: Port Vila

  • Day 6: At Sea

  • Day 7: At Sea

  • Day 8: Brisbane

Waiting at Brisbane Port Terminal

Waiting at Brisbane Port Terminal

Day One. Bon Voyage

Well, the time actually flew, and before we knew it the departure day had approached. Bags were packed, luggage labels printed and attached, and passports in hand, so we drove to Brisbane to stay at our son's home overnight before boarding the ship the following day. A point to note is that you need to have at least six months remaining on your passport (after departure date) to be able to book a cruise. Fortunately, we both had nine months before expiry.

Embarkation went smoothly as the port terminal staff very efficient. It actually helped that Kathy was being wheelchair assisted because after checking in our luggage we just waited for a wheelchair to become available and were ushered past the lines of waiting voyagers and straight onto the ship, drama free.

The Ship

In a previous life, The Pacific Aria was called the Ryndam, part of the Holland America Line fleet. However, once guests step on board Aria, any signs of the Ryndam will be long gone.

Both the indoor and outdoor decor was given a major face-lift, or in some cases completely replaced, during an extensive refurbishment in 2015. The renovations brought the vessel up-to-date with modern cruise trends.

With a 1,500 passenger capacity, the P&O Pacific Aria is slightly smaller than other cruise ships in Australia. Measuring 720 feet in length and spanning across 12 decks, she is the perfect-size vessel for short to medium length trips.

P&O Cruises Australia is a British-American owned cruise line with corporate headquarters at Carnival House in Southampton, England and operational headquarters in Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia. It has been awarded the award 'Best Cruise Operator in New Zealand' for four years running 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and also 'Australia's Most Trusted Brand' 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Reader's Digest. (ref: cruisesalefinder.com.au and pocruises.com.au)

All Aboard: the Ship Sets Sail

This article is already over the 1000 word mark and by the end of this text capsule, I will have passed HubPages recommended maximum of 1250 words. if I had gone with my initial idea of writing it as a poem it would have been over and done in just 400 words and you, the reader, would have moved on to other hubs or articles.

I haven't even begun to describe the cruise itself yet so I doubt I am even halfway to completing this article, but I have come too far to turn back now, so brace yourself, the seas may get choppy.

Once on board, our first task was to find our room so armed with our onboard card which serves as room key and means of paying for everything on the ship and shore tours (it can be linked to your credit card or you can top up with cash with as much money as you think you will need), we took a lift to deck six where our room was located. Fortunately, room 6175 (I shall remember that for some time) is located very close to a set of elevators.

Our plan was to find the room, check if our luggage was there intact, then head off for lunch. The room itself was compact but fine as we didn't plan on spending a lot of time there other than sleeping. On a cruise ship there is no maximum luggage allowance, unlike the airlines, so unless you have to the port the ship leaves from, you can take as much luggage as you can fit in your room.

Unfortunately, one of my suitcases wasn't in the room, but we had been told to give it a couple of hours before worrying. We decided to go for lunch so we went to deck 11 to a food court type dining area called The Pantry. Well, there were probably a dozen food outlets serving multicultural fare from Indian, Mexican, Asian, French, Australian, as well as dessert and fruit bars etc.

Then, more than satisfied with our first sampling of the ship's cuisine we did a quick tour of the ship before walking along the deck back to our room. Voila, still no missing suitcase. So, I phoned reception and they informed me that there were a number of suitcases at the desk and I should come to check if mine was one of them. That I did, and yes it was. The luggage label had gone missing so they had no idea who it belonged to.

Now, with all our possessions intact we proceeded to unpack, then made reservations for dinner at the restaurants included in our tour price for the next three nights (The Waterfront, Angelo's, and The Dragon Lady), before taking a short rest to prepare for the evening and voyage ahead.

As this was our very first cruise we truly were two 'innocents abroad.'


Off the Shelf

As a writer, it would be very remiss of me to not produce something about a recent South Pacific tour, and I had already planned to do so. That said, I can't really claim that the book titled 'The Innocents Abroad' by Mark Twain inspired this article.

However, as that book is in my collection I thought it was a perfect accompaniment to use as part of my 'Off the Shelf' series.

I HAVE FOUND OUT that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

— Mark Twain in 'Tom Sawyer Abroad'

The travel book called The Innocents Abroad was published in 1869 and was the result of a voyage to Europe and The Holy Land undertaken by a young and then relatively unknown Mark Twain.

Under his real name Samuel Clemens he had worked as a printer's apprentice and later a journalist/reporter for various newspapers and magazines. In 1856 he dropped everything to pursue a dream of becoming a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. He spent four years at the hem, learning every bend and snag in the river before the Civil war put an end to all river traffic.

In 1861 Clemens went to Nevada to prospect for silver but failed to make it rich other than a fortune in good yarns. Then in 1863, he joined the Virginia City Territorial as a reporter. Soon after, he began signing all his pieces "Mark Twain" after a riverboat cry used to announce water two fathoms (twelve feet) deep.

Soon after this, the now Mark Twain was sponsored by two newspapers, as a reporter, to cover the first ever chartered steamboat tour on the Quaker City to Europe and the Holy land. The letters he sent back to his sponsors were edited to meet the standards of "proper book" readers and resulted in the publishing of The Innocents Abroad. It is often called the book that launched Mark Twain's career.

In fact, The Innocents Abroad became the most popular travel book ever written by an American, and netting it's author around $300,000 dollars, a very princely sum at that time.

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

© 2018 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 26, 2018:

Yes, it was great, Lawrence. I can't recommend it enough. Thanks for the feedback about length of article too.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on November 26, 2018:


The cruise sounded like a lot of fun. I've crossed a couple of seas on a Ship, but not done a cruise before, maybe one day!

As for the 1,200 words, I wouldn't worry too much about it, an article takes as many as it takes.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 16, 2018:

Haha Diana, there are three chapters all published already. Check them out and I hope they make you decide in the affirmative. It is a great experience.

Dianna Mendez on November 16, 2018:

We are thinking about taking a cruise one of these days. I will look forward to your sharing on your trip. I may be a deciding factor for us. No pressure, right?

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 16, 2018:

It's never too late, Genna.. either to read one of my articles or to go on your first cruise. It was the best holiday I could have wished for. Yes, full- time work does make it difficult to keep up with reading and writing here.

Glad you like that song too. I have always been a Huey Lewis fan.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 16, 2018:

It's never too late, Genna.. either to read one of my articles or to go on your first cruise. It was the best holiday I could have wished for. Yes, full- time work does make it difficult to keep up with reading and writing here.

Glad you like that song too. I have always been a Huey Lewis fan.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on November 16, 2018:

Hi John...

Sorry I'm late to this installment series about your cruse. How thoughtful to book this as 2nd honeymoon. The deck outside your cabin looks so spacious and inviting, with the waters flowing by.

This is so swell written, John -- an enjoyment to read. I will be back over the weekend to read the subsequent installments. (Working six days a week has its ups and downs; after reading your intro I'm ready for my own cruise. I've never been on one. ) :-)

And I loved the Cruisin with Lewis and Paltrow from "Duets." Perfect; perfect. (They were wonderful in that film.)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 11, 2018:

Thanks, Chris, It was our first and a once in a lifetime experience...well until the next one :)

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 11, 2018:

This is so much fun, John. I've never been on a cruise, so I will be interested in seeing how this turned out for you and Kathy.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 09, 2018:

Thank you so much PoetikalyAnointed. Yes, the cruse was amazing.

PoetikalyAnointed on November 09, 2018:

Hi John,

This is a lovely essay so far. I'm sorry that your first Honeymoon went south but glad that you guys had a re-do. Cruises are the Best and perfect choice for such a celebration. Seeing the pics and reading the article made me reminisce of my own experience, which was just Awesome!

I can't wait to read the rest of your story.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 06, 2018:

It is never too late to read my article, or go on a cruise, Chitrangada. It was an amazing experience for both of us. Thank you for reading. I am glad it inspired you to consider a cruise in future. Yes, I have already published two more parts.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 06, 2018:

Interesting article about your first honeymoon trip and the most recent one! I really enjoyed going through your personal experience.

I am a bit late in reading this one, but eager to read the next one, which I believe you have already published.

I haven’t been on the cruise, but your article is inspiring me to do so in future. Lovely pictures, especially of both of you.

Thanks for sharing!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 31, 2018:

Haha you got it Manatita. I am a bit frugal and methodical I must say. I agree with you on Clemens and Whitman too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

manatita44 from london on October 31, 2018:

I think that without doubt, he is one of America's greatest and most loved writers. Whitman is more vesatile and perhaps spiritual, but Clemens is fun.

Good for you and the wife. Sorry that your first holiday did not go so well.

Now you are a bit like Bill. Frugal ... methodical ... I am the opposite. I guess I follow my aquarian spirit. Much love.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 31, 2018:

Yes, it was wonderful thank you, Devika. I didn’t realise what I was undertaking to write about it however. I have almost finished part two but it is even longer than the first part so now I will need to make it three chapters to capture everything. I hope my readers don’t get bored.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 31, 2018:

Hi Jodah sounds like you had a lovely time on the cruise. I look forward to part two.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 31, 2018:

Sean, thank you for such a kind and encouraging comment. I am working on the second part but it has already exceeded the first in length and I still have a lot to write. Glad you didn't find it boring, and I hope to publish part two soon. Yes, I will certainly read 'The Hammer' as soon as I can.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on October 31, 2018:

My dear brother John, I am so glad that you changed your mind and instead of a poem you gave us this excellent opportunity to follow you in this cruise! We have never had a cruise, but it was always one of our dreams.

I have told you before that I love the way you write and now you just have made something that it could be a boring description, to a story which I am looking forward to reading its second part! And you have enriched it with beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing!

My prayers embrace you and your beloved ones!


PS: I would love to read your opinion about my short story "The Hammer." Of course, if and when you have the time and the will.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 30, 2018:

Thank you miss Dora. The second part is on its way. No, a few mishaps are to be expected and it didn’t attract from the enjoyment. Glad I managed to hold your interest too. Oh they say in the tourist blurb that Vanuatu is very similar to the Caribbean. I will have pics in the next article so maybe you can tell me if there are similarities.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 30, 2018:

Thanks for taking us on the cruise, beginning with the booking. Useful information and details which keep our interest. Little mishaps hardly distract from the enjoyment of experiencing new people and places. The explanation of the title is also interesting.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 30, 2018:

Thank you for reading this and commenting, Joni. Mark Twain had a wonderful mind and was so witty. I am currently working on part 2 but it is longer than I expected. Hopefully will be finished soon/

Joni Bryant on October 30, 2018:

Love this! Your stuff inspires me to get "back in the saddle".

Can't wait for part two also. I really enjoyed your tip of the hat to Mark Twain. He's one of my favorites.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 30, 2018:

Hi Rinita. Now you know why I haven't been active here for about a week. I have heard that Goa is a beautiful part of India. Glad you enjoyed reading about our cruise and I should finish the second part tomorrow. I'm glad you like longer articles because the second instalment is shaping to be much longer than the first...could end up around 4000 words. take care.

Rinita Sen on October 30, 2018:

Hi John, it's been a while, and now I know why. I am glad you guys enjoyed the cruise. I have never been on a cruise myself. Oh wait, there was this one-evening cruise in Goa (a beach state in western India), which I went to with my college group, with DJ on board and all, so that doesn't count. Anyway, so it's really great to travel alongside you guys through your articles.

I am glad you chose to be verbose. I am really tired of reading articles that have been deliberately shortened to meet contemporary standards or whatever. I mean, if you always focus on catering to attention deficit readers, when are you ever going to write for real readers? I guess that's why we have HP, so that we can 'write' our work, not 'sell'.

Anyway, I am done ranting. I just wanted to tell you that I eagerly await part 2, and meanwhile, will dash to re-read some old Mark Twain favorites.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 30, 2018:

Hi Linda. I am the same as I like to read other people's travel experiences of places I may never get to visit. At least we gain knowledge about them. Should have the next editioned published by tomorrow.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 30, 2018:

Hey MizB.Thanks for the kind comment. I am about halfway through the final instalment.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 29, 2018:

This article is interesting and enjoyable, John. I'm looking forward to the next edition very much. I'm unlikely to go on a cruise myself, so I love reading about the experiences that other people have had.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 29, 2018:

John, this is such an interesting account of your trip. You and your wife are making such wonderful memories. I eagerly await the rest of your story. You really are a great writer of prose. Please do more.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

Mary, thank you. I am sure Bob the Builder will have an incredible time. I was a little nervous up to the time of boarding, but also excited, as this was my first cruise. As soon as I was on board I felt at ease and it was the most amazing journey of my life so far. I intend to go on many more.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 29, 2018:

Your hubs always intrigues me with its connection to a book you've read. Our friend, Bob the Builder, is going on a cruise to the Caribbean and we so look forward to his stories when he gets back. I hope, like you, he will find it the best vacation ever of his life.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

Hi Linda. Honestly, it was by far the best vacation my wife and I hav ever had. We appreciate determined to try to save enough to take a different cruise every year. A friend of mine in Australia wants to go on a cruise to Canada and Alaska but doubts he can afford it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

You are right Shauna. Poetry just couldn’t capture it without sounding trite. I did try but I wasn’t at all happy with the result. I will try not to take too long to publish the next and final instalment.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 29, 2018:

John, I'm looking forward to the next installment. My husband and I went on an Alaska cruise about 20 years (or more) ago and it was wonderful. Everything was perfect.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 29, 2018:

John, I'm so glad you chose prose over poetry this time around. Although you're a wonderful poet, I don't think we'd get the full benefit of following along on your excursion had you chosen that medium.

I'm really looking forward to the next installment!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

Flourish, it's always good to see you. I shouldn't take any notice of word counts either but I am used to writing poetry and not getting anywhere near this. As long as the subject matter is interesting the length shouldn't matter but I also have a lot of photos to include so I think it will be better as two parts...though HP won't usually let us link them and knowing my luck one will make a niche site and the other won't. Give me two days at most to finish the next.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

Hi, Bill, thanks for reading this. I should have the second instalment completed in a couple of days at the latest. I look forward to your answer to my question too.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2018:

Thank you, Liz. I debated whether to complete the whole tale in one article but two parts won out. Maybe I should just ignore the word count, but I know some readers are turned off if a piece is too long. The next instalment shouldn't be far away.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 29, 2018:

I pay no heed to word count. I write what I must and let Google do the rest. I’m looking forward to the next installment. I hope you don’t keep us waiting long.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 29, 2018:

Well done, John! Looking forward to more. And the question you sent me...thank you. Look for it next Monday!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 29, 2018:

This is a fascinating account. I am looking forward to your next instalment. I also struggle to keep the word count down and actually prefer reading a more detailed account.

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