In August this year, Rachel McKeich and two friends took a short, three-night wine cruise aboard the Pacific Jewel, departing the port of Auckland and returning three days later.  All three were excited to be travelling together, enjoying a mini-holiday, and they’re still enjoying the great memories.

I think the excitement had started a couple of weeks earlier, so as we boarded our flight from Christchurch to Auckland we were already buzzing. On our arrival, we caught the Skybus to the city, exiting just around the corner from where our ship was berthed. A short walk, and we were on board, ready to have a great time – no kids and no commitments, just good friends, good food and wine to come!

One of our trio had previously been on a comedy cruise from Auckland to Sydney so she knew what to expect, but V and I had never even been aboard a cruise ship.  We weren’t sure what to expect or how we’d feel, but while it felt like a great adventure, it was reassuring to know that we were still in NZ waters.

One of the big attractions of the Pacific Jewel was the range of indoor and outdoor activities and entertainment, different bars and places to eat. We didn’t try to jam everything in, but it was a problem deciding which ones to do!

We had booked a Wine & Cheese Tasting Course – well, why wouldn’t you? So, there we were, on our first day, tasting four wines, each with accompanying cheeses and breads. We all really enjoyed sharing the experience with new people too, in fact that was one of the (many) fun things about the cruise, everyone on board was there to enjoy themselves and you got to meet new people every day.

Another thing I enjoyed was that the ship was ‘cashless.’ You just loaded money onto your room card, and then all you do is use your card, no need for a handbag! Great!

For me, the highlight of the cruise would have to be Gatsby Night. We all made our own fascinators, glammed up in sequins and feathers, and danced the night away to 1920’s music!

The crew were amazing – just there to make sure we all had a good time, including doubling as very polished performers! They put on a fantastic show for us, singing, playing guitar and dancing. I was amazed at how talented they were!

Two of our group decided to take the Cocktail Making Course, which was heaps of fun. It was held in the Captains Lounge, which made it a little bit special.

The beauty of cruising without children is that you have the freedom to simply do nothing, just relax and enjoy the company. It doesn’t happen often.  Would I do it again? Most definitely! Next time I’d like to go on a cruise that has stopovers on beautiful islands – like a Caribbean cruise. Advice to self: Don’t think about it – just do it!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.