Cruising Insights

Time to share a few more onboard cruising insights.


Absolutely adore the sense of humour our cabin stewards have had. Treat the staff with respect and they will brighten your day, every day! These beautiful people generally work the first three months on board of 12 hour shifts, seven days per week at sea, for board and lodgings only. Yes they are unpaid. After the trial three months, they are paid a salary- usually not a big salary. For most of the cabin/hospitality crew, their earnings are sent home to their families. Depending on contracts, crew can be on board for 3, 6, 8 or more months at a time. That’s why you become their family.

On the Christmas cruise last year all the different staff were excited about finishing work on Christmas Eve and heading back to the crew deck for secret santas and a Christmas party for each crew area, except the cabin stewards. We were told by our steward it was left to the manager of each crew area to organise the party for their staff. Unfortunately cabin crew missed out.

Spare some time for your crew. Most of these people, especially cabin & hospitality, think and treat the cruisers like royalty, no matter which cabin you are staying in. They generally love to interact, and will do anything to make your cruise memorable. We have never had bad service on three cruises. We have however observed some people treat staff with disrespect , there are some amazingly ignorant people in this world.


Atrium Christmas Markets on board Pacific Dawn. Look carefully and you can see the fake snow. There is duty free shopping and a variety of shops onboard. No doubt you are looking for a bargain. After a few days on board there will probably be a sea day with markets. These are popular, and you can find some good buys here. Keep in mind though, there will be more, and sometimes better specials later in the cruise. Often the last few sea days before you return home, is the opportunity to pick up a bargain, as they roll more sales to tempt as many cruisers as they can.

Most South Pacific cruises will include a stop at Port Vila. Onboard, they will tell you the duty free alcohol is cheaper than Vila. It’s not. They will also tell you that if you buy onboard then find it cheaper in Vila, take a photo and bring if back to ship then they will match the price. Well good luck taking a photo- you are not allowed to take a photo in Vila’s duty free. I can assure you though the alcohol etc is much cheaper there than the ship. Much cheaper!

Yes you pay for your alcohol on board, however, you can still come across some palate soaking freebies! Art auctions, normally held over a few days, attend these, enjoy the free bubbles… you view the artworks, always a fantastic selection of memorabilia and art. The champagne waterfall…more free bubbles! Attend a whiskey tasting or cocktail making class or a wine tasting. It might cost you the price of a couple of drinks but for that you’ll get to taste or make at least double that. Keep an eye out in the daily newsletter, check all the listings for the next day, you can have a great time on board for quite cheap. Enjoy!

Whiskey tasting, yes water supplied but you also have the opportunity to taste some very expensive whiskey. Well worth it!

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La Piazza Waterfront Restaurant, Runaway Bay, Gold Coast

Andreas, along with his wife, owns and operates this delightful restaurant. While his wife cooks up a storm in the kitchen, Andreas mingles with the customers, assisting with wine and food choices as well as socialising.

The restaurant is roomy, with interesting additions everywhere. Here you don’t have to lean up against the big semi circle bar. There are comfortable tables and stools placed at spacious intervals around the bar. Allowing you and your party to enjoy pre dinner drinks, simply sliding your glass onto the bar for a refill.

The food here is absolutely divine. Menus were offered, however so was the opportunity to leave the meal choice to Andreas. We opted for the latter, which saw us receive cleverly designed entrees including, seafood, stuffed olives, gourmet meats and general tapas.

Main meals consisted of the specialty slow cooked beef which when tasted, was an amazing tender meat, accompanied by lightly flavoured vegetables designed to tantalise the taste buds, Croatian style.


If you’re seeking something more personalised than a dinner out in Runaway Bay, be sure to pay Andreas a visit. The staff will be more than happy to assist with your lunch or dinner requirements. Should you feel like indulging in some entertaining conversation to accompany your meal, be sure to ask for Andreas. This personable character loves to mingle with his customers.

Definitely worth a visit!

Sanctuary Cove Boat Show

Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, morphs into a bustling mini metropolis for four days, near the end of May every year, for the boat show. Maybe you’re interested in boats, related services or parts, or you want to dream. Either way, you will find something to satisfy you at the boatshow.

Here you are offered the opportunity to board and explore anything from small to multi million dollar vessels. The $ value of all these vessels at this show is mind boggling. Everything is on display, even the accessories – slippery slide anyone? All you need is the boat to go with it!


This show is not limited to boats, if you have a spare $800k plus you too could drive away in this beauty


Or if you feel that’s a bit much to spend on one vehicle, try a Maserati, after all this was only half the price of the Bentley!


This year the weather was fabulous, making very hot days. When it’s like this, going early in the day to beat the crowds is a smart idea. There are huge marquee tents housing the dealer display stands. Always a good place to escape the sun, however when the crowds build and the day heats up, they too can become stuffy.

George’s Paragon is just one of the permanent restaurants based at Sanctuary Cove. Alongside the permanent shopping/dining precinct, there are many pop ups for the four days. Giving you plenty of choice for everything.

Pre purchasing your show tickets, allows you to travel free on all public transport. A seemingly endless stream of shuttle buses transport visitors from different locations, to the boat show. Unless you are an exhibitor or resident, you cannot drive into Sanctuary Cove. However shuttle services are continuous with generally not a long wait until the next one.


360 Restaurant Bar, Labrador, Qld

Located in the Grand Hotel, Labrador on the Gold Coast, this bar/restaurant was our choice for an late afternoon meal.
Camembert and pork belly tapas. Both were delicious, pairing together very well. Mains were salmon and their 360 signature steak dish which was a massive steak and seafood meal. Both meals were beautifully presented and cooked to a very high standard. The menu here is extensive, with plenty of variety to choose from.

Service was excellent. All staff were friendly, helpful, with very good menu knowledge. Prices are more restaurant than pub based, however the quality of the food and service made it worthwhile.

This is a pub, with the pokies located behind restaurant. With the broad water located directly across the road, there is an abundance of things happening. A busy broad water full of boats, jet skis, provides a constantly changing landscape.

Plenty of restaurant choice in this area, with another restaurant located in the same hotel. A big plus for this area is the easy access from the Pacific Motorway. Enjoy your meal !

The Grand Apartments – Labrador, Gold Coast Qld

Enticing? Nice view from the 9th floor balcony. Looking down to the pool:

Lovely place to sit with an evening drink and watch the world go by. Plenty here to watch with the broad water area full of activity.

Apartments are open plan, neat, tidy and, depending on when/ who you book with, they can be good value. Some are under $150 per night, sleep four, without any additional costs.

Fully self contained with laundry and kitchen facilities, all you require is a few groceries- don’t forget the laundry/dishwasher powders! Towels, blankets etc are all provided, however it may pay to bring your own beach towel or cop a $5 charge to use theirs.

Main and second bedrooms share a big bathroom, includes a separate bath. Second bedroom is a little strange with the louvred wall leaving a gap between itself and the ceiling. Maybe not the best for a family with young kids trying to sleep while adults watch tv in the evening. However it does allow for good circulation from the air conditioner.

From here, you are close to all the theme parks, major shopping centres and surfers central. Around 15-20 min drive max to most.

With the hotel down below it can get noisy so be sure to ask for a higher floor. Ninth floor was extremely quiet, very easy to sleep. No traffic, people or neighbourhood noise up here !

Secure locked car park has one space for each apartment, however there is an undercover/outdoor area which is patrolled by security, for any second vehicles.


Make the most of this area, once the cruise terminal goes ahead, the whole look and feel of this area is going to change.

Restaurant Lurleen’s – Sirromet Winery, Mt Cotton, Qld

Here you can visit the cellar door for tastings, take a tour of the winery or partake of simply stunning meal. Two choices for dining at this winery, you can order from the Tuscan Terrace where all meals are under $30, and choose a picnic table with umbrella to savour your food, or fine dining at Restaurant Lurleen’s.


Today however was a lunch treat at Restaurant Lurleen’s. The restaurant is huge, plenty of room around the tables, excellent staff, attentive service plus an extensive menu. Excellent vistas all around, generally a beautiful place to dine.

A delightful complimentary little appetiser was delivered to the table straight after our orders were placed. Sourdough bread rolls were our first choice, proving to be interesting. There was a pumpkin flavoured roll as well as a white roll. The first was topped with a variety of seeds, including pumpkin, while the other was covered in poppy seeds. All the seeds were delighted to be released from their particular buns, with seeds exploding onto the plate and table. Well worth it though as the buns were very tasty.

Two Cauliflower & scallop soup entrees were enjoyed. The creamy cauliflower soup base, complimented the scallops beautifully, with a hint of walnuts to add a little crunch. A superb dish.

Apparently this seafood chowder is now at the top of the list of hubby’s favourite seafood chowders. Topped with pumpkin curls and packed with seafood, this chowder was a sensational mix of flavour. The other entree was Grilled Rock oysters, also deemed definite favourites.

Snapper anyone? Two of these meals were ordered, savoured and declared fantastic. An interesting mix was the mandarin which I’m told married perfectly with the snapper. I myself enjoyed the herb crusted Milly Hill lamb loin, another dish creating a delightful explosion of flavours in the mouth. The clay pot seafood dish absolutely enchanted hubby with the massive prawns, bugs and so much seafood on each layer.

It was a struggle to the finish, however when you are presented with such beautiful dishes, all big meals, you want to savour every morsel, making it difficult to stop. We didn’t know how we would fit it in, however finishing with a dessert seemed the perfect finish to the lunch.

The trio of chocolate ice cream filled truffles above, along with the chocolate tasting plate, were shared by all, thank goodness as they were big desserts, and proved to be a excellent finish to a beautiful delayed Mother’s Day lunch.

A big thank you to Bree who waited our table and all the other staff who constantly filled water & wine glasses, cleared plates and provided such an excellent high standard of service. The chefs deserve a mention for the creation of such beautiful combinations.

I look forward to returning for a wine tasting, which unfortunately we just couldn’t fit in this time after such fabulous food.

Cruising – what you need to know

Flash back time… Let’s take a look at the life of cruising. We have taken three cruises out of Brisbane…my opinion – we need more ! Time to answer the questions of those who haven’t yet cruised.

Best place to book through? Check out every site you can find. For instance, P & O Cruises, Oz Cruising, Cruiseabout. What are you looking for? Compare the prices remembering to check if you receive some cabin credit, that can be a big plus. If you feel safer going through a travel agent then do so, it may be a similar price.

Booking early is usually an advantage as prices do increase periodically. By early I’m talking 12 months. Keep in mind, you pay $100-200 per person deposit usually, with the balance not due until around 75 days prior to sailing. To avoid credit card fees, ask for the EFT details, that way you can direct deposit into their account. Although make sure you include the correct reference details or you may end up paying for someone else’s cruise….! This is also a great way to pay your cruise off bit by bit. Each time I processed an EFT, I have always rung the booking agency to let them know.

If you’re willing to take a chance a few weeks out, you could be lucky as they sell any unbooked cabinets cheap. An excellent option if you’re not locked into dates. You too could wake up to these views.

Which cabin is better? Well what do you want to do? Suggestion .. If you’re there to party opt for the cheaper inside or outside cabins. After all you only want somewhere to sleep and shower. Usually these cabins are lower in the ship. Not a bad choice if you’re worried about seasickness. The most balanced cabin on the ship will be the lowest level in the middle of the ship.

On the other hand if you want to relax and have some quiet time consider a balcony. Check the options carefully, the balcony cabin could well be close to the same price as a mini suite or even suite. Check the extras for each to decide what is most likely to be an advantage to you. Keep in mind, suites are generally close to top deck, towards the front of ship. However stabilisers do mean you barely notice the ship movement, unless it’s a very rough day. The beauty of being higher up the ship- you are closer to the pool deck.

Can you book an inside cabin and be upgraded to a suite? No. Even if it’s your honeymoon, anniversary etc, are you aware how ,many others are on the ship celebrating?…..It won’t happen. You may be upgraded from one level to another on your first cruise in a similar cabin or it may be the next grade up. Once the company establishes your spending pattern, plus if you’ve booked very early and paid before payment was due, the next cruise may see you upgraded to the next cabin level, only if it is available. Free upgrades are not generally advised in advance, you will be told on check in.

What is the attraction for cruising-? To be honest we have stayed here and there but when we cruise you unpack your bags on the first night then wake up to find you’ve arrived in different ports most days. Twice a day, no matter which cabin you book, your steward cleans, tidies and finally turns your cabin down. Food is included and supplied, a seemingly endless supply. Buy a bottle of wine in the cheaper bar then you can take it from bar to bar or back to your cabin, no need to worry about who is driving here!

Food, an important and major decision for my hubby each day. There is the buffet, which to be honest we prefer. Eat when it suits you plus you can choose your own tables. Whereas fine dining, you either eat with the same group of people every meal or you are placed at a random group table.

Our preference was buffet or the specialty restaurants on board. The fine dining was mechanical, rushed and definitely not as enjoyable as the other choices. However this is simply due to the volume of people they have to push through the dining room each sitting. The food on the other hand was superb, I would say that after three cruises we have never had a bad meal on board.

The main fine dining restaurant plus the buffet are included in your cruise price so no more to pay here. There are always a couple of specialty restaurants on board where you will pay a per head surcharge. A surcharge we were willing to pay to enjoy a smaller more personalised restaurant and service. For instance an eight course quiet evening at the Asian restaurant attracted a $20 per head surcharge, definitely worthwhile.

If you want to avoid the crowds on the pool deck, wait for in port days, head back to the ship before the main groups do and enjoy a chilled out time.


Are cruises over run with kids? No, mainly due to the fact that under maritime law, there is a maximum of each age group, ie under 5 years etc, for each cruise. Plus kids clubs are awesome and any kids we did meet were usually rushing off to their next kids club activity. This applied on the Christmas Cruise we went on too. Yes the pool deck is a popular area for families, there generally is however an adults only bar, sun and pool area.

When first boarding your cruise, visit your cabin to work out your location in the ship and unpack if you like. For this first afternoon only, always take your lifejackets with you as you make your way round orientating yourself to where to find everything. The reason, there is always an emergency drill which everyone on board, including crew must attend. Generally this happens just before the ship sails.

Once this is over, ditch the life jackets in your cabin and head on up for the farewell party on the pool deck. Tip- send one person back to the cabin while one or more head up to secure your table on the pool deck.

Or if you’re not into crowds, pick one of the other quieter bars and chill out with those first cocktails ! No cash anywhere, your cruise card pays for all those extras, feel free to have reception print you off your account every few days to keep track of expenditure. On P & O it’s only your drinks and on board shopping with maybe a few extras here and there that you pay for. If you have kids, they receive their own cruise card. Make sure they understand that yes if opens the cabin door and pays for shopping and things but you still have to pay at the other end! We met some people who had trouble spending their on board credit, so if you’re a non drinker or on a budget you can cruise just for the cost of the cruise.

Different destinations will reviewed over coming months. Happy to provide more information if required. Leave a comment here or like Dine Live Travel on Facebook to send a private message.


The Hangi Pit – Springwood Qld


Raw fish above was deliciously tender with a sprinkling of parsley sprigs, shallots and capsicum. The Hangi Pit is an extremely popular place with the queue out the door for takeaway on both occasions we have visited.

A Hangi meal is definitely worth trying, especially if you have never tried a hangi. The meat falls apart easily, with delicious vegetables all light tasting, not hidden in a sea of herbs and spices.

This is not just an ordinary fish and chip shop. The menu is popular Kiwi Kai. Corn fritters, oysters, scallops mussels, paua patties, fried bread, just to name a few. Then you’re stuck with the decision to crumb or batter. Seafood portions are very generously sized, with a couple of battered oysters an entree in themselves!

Pottles of trifle and custard steam pudding, are on display in the chiller should you feel the need for a sweet dessert to finish. Drinks, sweets, packets of Kiwi chips, this is a NZ culinary experience.

The place is popular, however the constant queue doesn’t appear to bother any of the regulars, many of whom were happy to strike up conversations with their neighbours in the queue , obviously considering the wait worthwhile.

If you’re not hungry, then this isn’t the place to go. On the other hand if you’re looking for a taste of NZ in Australia, this is the place to go.

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Jupiters – Gold Coast

A recent conversation with friends, turned into a night out on the Gold Coast. The Jupiters Hotel & Casino constantly run scoupon deals, which we decided we would try. Value wise, this one was a good deal purchased a couple of months before we stayed. $139 for two in a standard king room with $60 of vouchers. $40 could be used for anything in the hotel complex, the other $20 were massage vouchers. Free wifi, free under cover parking, all in all a worthwhile package.

Most definitely not the place to go if you’re after a quiet weekend away. Jupiters is glitzy, ritzy, bright lights and never closes. Very easy to lose track of time as no matter what time of night it may be, the bright lights are deliberately designed to trick your body into thinking it’s still early. Seven restaurants, bars, casino, shops, show rooms, this place is like a small city in itself. If you’re seeking the Vegas feel, you’ve found it!

Check in was probably the worst experience we have ever had at any hotel. 45 minutes in the queue, however the bar staff did circle the queue with glasses of complimentary juices. Even those checking into the executive rooms, which advertise no waiting to check in, were standing in their line for around 20 minutes on average.

One thing you have to get used to at this complex is queuing for everything. It’s part of the territory here with a constant stream of people ensuring everything is continually pumping. There are quieter days , however weekends are generally peak times.

Rooms were well appointed, clean, tidy with fabulous views of the pool area and Surfers Paradise. The small room bar has a decent sized fridge if you’re wanting to take anything of your own. The only thing lacking was a balcony. Then again you haven’t come here to relax, although there is a pool bar and plenty of seating areas around the pool, if the bright lights, noise and people become too much or you’re simply wanting to escape outside for a while.

High rises pierce the sky as you check out the view from your room.


Time to decide on the Restaurant for dinner. Now we thought Food Fantasy. This is the buffet of your dreams. Food abounds here, masses of variety, catering to all tastes and dietary requirements. Only problem on this occasion was the endless queue. This sent us checking out other restaurants, with the PA Pub the shortest queue.

Meals were very generously sized, nicely presented, tasty and very good value for the price. Even with the pub bursting at the seams with a sea of people, there was plenty of room at the table and meals arrived in a very reasonable time frame, a lot quicker than one would have expected given the crowds.

The huge copper vats above the bar were impressive.


Dinner preceded trips to different bars plus checking out the casino. Everywhere we went, staff were professional, helpful as well as those who had a sense of humour. Security guards, bar, restaurant, cleaning, reception staff, all were fantastic. Most especially the grinning security guard who cheekily asked for my ID, then laughed along with us. Even wandering through the wide passage ways of the hotel, staff would smile greet you, and throw in a short conversation if there was time too.

Retiring at the end of the evening, we found the room well insulated from the noise levels. You could have been in a completely different hotel.

Breakfast was a buffet brekky at Food Fantasy. The variety is incredible, from many fruits, including a fruit/ vege fresh juice maker, through to a chef making omelettes to your taste, even a selection of ice creams! You can stay for the whole brekky service if you want, however you may eventually find the noise levels are constantly high, causing you to crave a bit of quiet time.

Checkout was much better than check in, straight up to the counter with the finalities quickly dealt with.

If you’re looking to party on through the night on the Gold Coast, you will find Jupiters the place to be.