Pacific Dawn

Cruising holidays can be a terrific option for people with disabilities, whether cane assisted or in a wheelchair. Everything on a ship is handy with lift access to all floors and most cruise ships have access cabins modified for passengers with disabilities.

In this section:


Why Cruise?

Cruising is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry, with clients around the world enjoying holidays afloat in ever greater numbers each year. There are more operators, more cruise ships and more destinations. This section is more an overview on cruising the Pacific – we are also currently building a dedicated Disability Cruise website.

With the massive increase in cruise numbers, cruise lines are introducing many different options ranging from extravagantly luxurious over the top cruise ships, relaxing family cruises & adventurous expedition itineraries to exotic faraway lands & fascinating ports of call. No matter what your budget, there will be a cruise for you! The beauty of unpacking once & waking up to a new destination every day, makes cruising appealing to everyone, young & old, able and disabled.

Cruise Liners

P&O Cruises Australia

Since the first cruise from Australia in 1932 three million people have travelled with P&O Cruises which remains the number 1 choice for Australian cruise passengers today. With the arrival in late 2010 of their latest superliner, Pacific Pearl, which joined Pacific Jewel, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun and with sailings from various home ports in Australia, P&O Cruises now offers more variety than ever before. P&O Cruises have it all – incredible inclusions, no hassles or worries, travel to amazing destinations including the Pacific Islands and fun for the whole family. With Australian dollars on-board, Australian designed entertainment and the only cruise line with an Australian chef – Luke Mangan, a P&O Cruise is the holiday of choice for Australians.

Princess Cruises

Cruisers haven’t escaped completely until they’ve experienced a voyage with the destination experts, Princess Cruises. Guests will feel instantly refreshed as they explore the comfortably elegant surroundings of their relaxed, rejuvenating retreat at sea. With 3 ships based permanently in Australia & many more sailing in range of destinations around the world, Princess Cruises offer an itinerary that will suit your needs.

Carnival Cruise Lines Australia

Guests can discover the world’s most popular cruising experience with Carnival Cruise Lines. On-board Carnival Spirit there is something new to experience every day from exploring tropical islands and whisking through the ocean on a jet boat to riding the steepest waterslide at sea. Guests can also indulge at the Day Spa, laze by one of the pools or sit back in one of the 16 bars and lounges. Carnival Spirit started sailing from Sydney and Melbourne from October 2012 to enticing destinations in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand.

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International are the leading global cruise company with a fleet of 22 ground-breaking ships including the world’s largest and most innovative superliners, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas & now the now amazing newly commissioned Quantum Class of ships including the Quantum of the Seas (Due to be finished by 2014) & it’s sister ship Anthem of the Seas (due to arrive in the fleet in 2015). They visit more than 280 destinations on six continents including Asia, the Americas, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East and have three superior ships based in Australia in 2012/2013. Aboard Royal Caribbean, it’s not just the ports of call that keep guests entertained for hours, with ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, mini golf & open air cinemas (on selected ships), the ships themselves prove to be a destination in their own rights as well!

Celebrity Cruises

The more upmarket brother to Royal Caribbean International, guests can discover modern luxury with Celebrity Cruises and embark on an unforgettable holiday where they’ll feel like the world revolves around them. With exceptional staff and impeccable attention to detail, every moment exemplifies the Celebrity Cruises tradition of superior service and outstanding design.  Celebrities have also announced that a second ship will be calling Australia Home over the 2013/2014 Summer Cruise Season making it even easier for the Australian Cruise Market to experience all that Celebrity Cruises have to offer!

Azamara Club Cruises

The highest standard in the Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Cruises family, Azamara Club Cruises is a boutique cruise line of distinction. Azamara’ s smaller ships reach unique destinations larger ships can’t, with longer and more overnight stays to truly experience them. Azamara offers gracious accommodation, fine wines and dining and a host of complimentary amenities.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line has graceful mid-sized ships with a generous amount of personal space. Guests are treated to award-winning service, with nearly one crew member for every two guests. They can choose from quality dining options as diverse as the enrichment programs, and on-board activities that suit their every whim. Holland America are the only company to have Grandfather rights in the world famous Alaskan Inside passage, allowing you to get closer to the majestic glaciers & beautiful ports of call in the region!

Following is information on the various ports of call in the Pacific, things to do on shore tours and a cruising checklist but first, a bit on specifically cruising with a disability – thanks to P&O for the info!

Disability Info

Each P&O ship has disabled cabins and access to public areas (bars, restaurants, casino, entertainment lounge etc) is easy.

In a nutshell:

  • Cruising towards sunsetAll ports are wheelchair accessible.
  • P&O Cruises will make every effort to accommodate passengers with disabilities.
  • P&O must be notified of wheelchair usage and/or any special needs at the time of booking.
  • They have wheelchair-accessible cabins on all ships, subject to availability at the time of request (10 cabins with disabled facilities).
  • If you require a mobility device, you must provide your own. When taking a wheelchair, we highly recommend collapsible wheelchairs, as the width of cabin doors may vary. Some P&O Cruises ships have areas that are not wheelchair accessible.
  • It is important to note that access to tender ports may be restricted and this may limit tour options or restrict access to these ports. If you cannot get off the ship, there are still plenty of activities on board.
  • Interior Cruise Ship LoungeA number of shore tours are suitable for people with limited mobility. However, access to tender ports may be restricted. The shore tours staff can suggest suitable tour itineraries to accommodate passengers with mobility needs. Any additional costs incurred are the responsibility of the passenger.
  • If you are taking medication or have any medical condition, that should be advised at time of booking. If you will be taking medication on board, take enough for the cruise duration plus a couple of days, in case of a delay on return.
  • Each ship has a medical centre staffed by registered doctors and nurses, who are available during scheduled times. They also offer 24/7 assistance for medical emergencies.

Cruising Checklist

Before looking at the destinations, ports of call and sightseeing options, here’s a cruising checklist that pretty much covers everything from passports to pregnancy to photography to prohibited items…

You will need to carry your cruise documents, passage contract, passports and policy details for medical/travel insurance. These have to accompany you in person, not in your packed luggage.

Generic Australian PassportPassports
All passengers need a passport with validity at least six months from the date of the cruise return.

Are not required for Australian and New Zealand passengers (or most nationalities – but email us to check if in doubt).

As they say, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Because you are travelling outside Australian or New Zealand waters you are not covered by those country’s health systems. Apart from health, travel insurance can cover cancellation, delays, valuables and personal effects. It is important to check if your policy covers you for extreme sports like diving, parasailing etc if you think those types of activities may interest. Here is a link to the insurance company we use.

Boat Tip JarTipping
Tipping is a very personal thing but it is expected on board. The cruise ships have a system where a nominal amount, currently AUD$5.50 per day (passengers over age 13) is added to the bill and then spread amongst the staff. You can ask the purser to direct this to specific staff or you can request to not have this service and tip as you see fit. Tipping is not part of Melanesian culture (nor is haggling) so don’t worry when you go ashore in Vanuatu.

Contact at Sea
Friends and relatives can contact you at sea via phone, fax or Internet (and vice-versa). Contact details will arrive with your documentation.

Ship Dress FormalDress Code
During the day lightweight summer casual wear is fine. Pack a jacket or cardigan for the evenings. Decks can get slippery so low-heeled shoes are recommended along with comfortable walking shoes for shore trips. Singlets, shorts and thongs are not permitted in the dining rooms or lounges after 5:30pm. Shoes must be worn in the restaurants. Swim wear is only permitted around the pool and open deck areas.

For smart casual evenings, Skirts/dresses, pants, and blouses for women and Long trousers and a polo or collared shirt for men. For formal nights, evening or cocktail dress for women and dinner jacket and tie, or suits for men. There may also be theme nights (you will get notification prior to the cruise so you can plan ahead).

All luggage will be x-rayed prior to embarkation. Luggage items must conform to less than 140cm x 60cm x 40cm. Before going on board make sure you have your name, contact details and cabin number attached to all items. Try to pack sensibly as you want as much space in your cabin as possible.

Bag overflowingWhat to Pack
Pretty much go by the above two notes – try to fit what you think you will need in one suitcase and one carry on bag. Remember to pack sun block, insect repellent and a small first aid kit (see Health below). The usual rule of travel works here – put on the bed what you think you will need and then halve it and do the reverse for spending money.

There will be a safety deposit box in your cabin for valuables. When going ashore for the day, best leave valuables here (spare cash/credit cards/jewellery). While the destinations are safe, things happen wherever you go on the planet.

Prohibited Items
All luggage (hand and carry-on) is screened for drugs and alcohol and, of course, fireworks, weapons and flammable liquids are prohibited.

Duty Free AlcoholAlcohol
Passengers under 18 years of age are not permitted to purchase or consume alcohol on board. Passengers are no longer allowed to take any personal alcohol on board. Duty-free and personal alcohol purchased shore side, must be surrendered at embarkation or prior to boarding in any port (the Duty Free alcohol in Port Vila is very inexpensive by the way). Duty and tax-free alcohol is also available for purchase on board and will be held under bond with shore side purchases and returned at disembarkation in the final port of call. All luggage, both hand and check-in will be x-rayed at embarkation and disembarkation. You must declare to Customs all amounts of alcohol in excess of the local Custom limits. Strict action will be taken against any passenger engaging in ‘excessive behaviour’. Passengers engaging in excessive behaviour will be disembarked with no refund of their fare. Similarly, any passenger exhibiting excessive behaviour at embarkation will be denied boarding.

If you are travelling with medication, take it in your hand luggage. Also take a basic first-aid kit for convenience – headache tablets, antiseptic powder or lotion, small bottle Hydrogen Peroxide in case of coral cuts (these should be washed in the peroxide, dabbed with antiseptic and covered). While the water in Noumea and Vanuatu is safe to drink, bottled water is the best way to go (keep the fluid up in a humid environment). Berocca may be handy for some.

Vaccination NeedleVaccinations
It is generally recommended that travellers have Hep A, Tetanus/Diphtheria injections although a Tetanus shot can be given after the event. An influenza injection may be handy. You won’t be visiting any areas where malaria is, even though Vanuatu is listed as a ‘malaria’ country. Best to take insect repellent for comfort though.

The cut off period for cruising when pregnant is 24 weeks.

Sea Sickness
While cruise ships are stable, you can feel a tad wonky when you go ashore. If motion sickness is a concern, probably best buy some tablets from the chemist before travelling (they do sell sea sickness medication on board).

Smoking can be a contentious issue these days. While smoking is permitted on deck and in designated areas of bars, it is not permitted in dining areas or show lounges.

Ship Kids ClubChildren
Children must be over 12 months of age at the date of sailing and there are organised activities for those aged 3 to 17 only. There’s a range of baby food (junior/strained/formula) available at no charge. Children under 13 aren’t allowed in public lounge areas after 9:30pm (there are activities for them) and must be accompanied by an adult in the show lounges. You have to be over 18 to gamble or buy/consume alcohol.

Special Diets
P&O cruises cater for vegetarian and special needs (gluten-free etc) but they must be notified well in advance of sailing.

While it can be fun to capture parts of your holiday in video format, be aware of other passengers who may not want to be recorded. Capturing live entertainment shows on board is prohibited.

Okay… All aboard!

Ports of Call

Cruise Ship Docked in Sydney


  • Port Vila: Vanuatu’s capital, this is a colourful, cosmopolitan port with fine restaurants, duty free shopping, diving, fishing, eco-tours and excursions like Hideaway Island and Mele Cascades waterfall. Weddings can be arranged here – just drop us an email.  The ship docks at the wharf so easy access disembarking.
  • Champagne Bay (Santo): With a turquoise lagoon and rainforest-fringed beach, the bay is named after the effervescent bubbles that rise from the ocean floor.  Beach access by tender.
  • Luganville: Vanuatu’s second largest city on the island of Santo is more like a country town from another era. The wreck diving and snorkelling nearby is superb. Ship docks at the wharf.
  • Outrigger Canoe on Santo Beach VanuatuMystery Island: Also known as Aneityum, there are no roads, electricity or vehicles – just white sandy beaches, swaying palms and crystal clear lagoons. Access by tender.
  • Wala: Known for its natural beauty and brilliant coral gardens, old custom is evident in the local Smol Nambas tribe (literally means ‘Small Numbers’ in Bislama, referring to the size of the penis sheathes – there is also a Big Nambas tribe).  Access by tender.
  • Lamen Bay: On the island of Epi, the snorkelling here is terrific and the welcome from the locals is warm – you may even encounter the resident dugong.  Make a small donation to the local school?  Access by tender.
  • Pentecost: Another island where time has stood still. In April and May the daring Naghol (land dive) is performed as part of the yam harvest.  Access by tender.


  • Noumea: A little piece of France in the Pacific. New Caledonia’s capital combines European boulevards with blue lagoons and white, sandy beaches.  The ship docks at the wharf so access is easy.
  • Isle of Pines New CaledoniaIsle of Pines: Simply a beautiful island with its white beaches framed by Araucaria pine trees. Snorkel around the big rock at Kanumera Bay but don’t climb as it’s considered sacred.  Access by tender.
  • Emerald Bay (Poum): The Bay and the village of Poum are at the tip of the mainland with great beaches. Ideal for mountain biking and hiking.   Access by tender.


  • Lifou: Lifou is panoramic with a laid-back lifestyle, pristine white sands and a quaint little village.  Access by tender.


  • Suva Markets FijiSuva: This scenic harbour city has a mixture of British Colonial and traditional Fijian architecture. Good for duty free shopping and a wander around the Handicraft Markets is a must. Access onto the wharf.
  • Dravuni Island: The main beach is framed by tall palms with a delightful village beyond.  Access by tender.
  • Yasawa-I-Rara: The largest of 20 volcanic islands, this remote paradise offers isolated beaches and lagoons, rocky cliffs, vivid coral and marine life.  Access by tender.


Sights Ashore

Following are overviews of some things you can do in Port Vila, Noumea and Suva.

Ekasup Cultural Village SpiderIn Vanuatu we can recommend tour operators for attractions like Mele Cascades Waterfall, Hideaway Island for snorkelling, Club Hippique for horse riding, Ekasup Cultural Village (photo) and Around Island tours etc.

There’s diving, fishing, snorkelling or parasailing, the Cultural Centre, markets and handicraft shops (no haggling), great duty free shopping (and pirate DVDs and computer games) or you can hire a scooter or a car (driving on the right hand side of the road). You might like lunch in a bustling restaurant or a quiet lunch for two in a romantic setting (yes, it is possible even when there are 1400 other passengers in town!).

Tjibaou Cultural Centre NoumeaIn Noumea, there’s also a lot to do: Hop on the fun Le Petit Train for an orientation tour, take in the Tjibaou Cultural Centre or a discovery tour; head up to Parc Forestier (the Botanical Gardens Bird Sanctuary and Forest Park), have a leisurely lunch at one of the many great restaurants along the strip at Baie des Citrons – from there it’s only a walk to the Aquarium or the beach at Anse Vate for a swim or to catch a boat to Ilot aux Carnards (Duck Island). Because Noumea is French, topless bathing is de rigueur but it’s a no-no in Vanuatu. You can start from Place des Cocotiers (Coconut Square) in town and do a walking tour of the town (Saint-Joseph Cathedral, the markets, the shops etc) or you might want to hire a car and get out of town to explore on your own – car hire is surprisingly inexpensive – about the same cost for a haircut as a day’s hire.

Kava Ceremony in FijiThe principal cruise stopover in Fiji is Suva – it’s not on our list of favourite holiday spots but it can be interesting to explore for a day. It’s one of the few places in the Pacific where the buildings are higher than a coconut palm. It’s the business capital of Fiji (about 170,000 people live there). There’s no beach in Suva so head to the bustling markets for food, kava and souvenirs, you’ll find some good restaurants and bars, for nature, head to Colo-I-Suva Forst Park, the Fiji Museum has a lovely garden and outstanding exhibits and, if you want to get off the beaten track, head to the Rewa River town of Nausori (19km from Suva). If you visit the markets in Suva, the Fijian ladies serve great fruit juice and the Indian men will undoubtedly try and sell you a boat with your name carved in it or a similar souvenir. Unlike Vanuatu, where there’s no bargaining or tipping, you can haggle here as much as you like!