Move over Noumea and Vanuatu, there's a different cruise destination in the Pacific that is wowing Aussie cruisers. Papua New Guinea delivers with pristine beaches, colourful local culture, a warm welcome and strong historic ties to our country. With P&O regularly sailing to PNG's islands from Australian ports (such as from Brisbane on Pacific Aria), there's never been a better time to read our top tips for the ultimate PNG cruise.
1. Experience the local culture
Take the opportunity to try shore excursions that explore the unique local culture and take home more than a great tan. P&O has worked together with traditional communities to come up with shore excursions that include village festivals, cooking classes, war history trails and adventure sports. The Instagrammable moments are endless.
2. Slip, slop, slap
The sun's rays are especially harsh in this part of the world, and sunburn should be protected against, even on overcast days. While you're packing the sunscreen, throw in some seasickness remedies.
3. Brush up on your history before you go
Read up on the fascinating World War II history that forever links Australia and PNG. Onboard lectures will get you up to speed on the importance of the Pacific War and the massive part Anzacs played in PNG to ensure Japanese troops did not advance south to Australia. During the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942, an Australian Digger was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery. Local PNG people are generally proud of the part their citizens played during this strategically important military operation and of the bravery and kindness shown by 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels'.
4. What to buy
War-themed memorabilia is popular with souvenir-hunters, as are wooden carvings and woven baskets. In general, hard bartering is discouraged, though it is acceptable to ask for a small discount. Everything you buy will be inspected for creepy crawlies by Australian Customs on the way back into Australia. Most items pass muster.
5. Currency matters
Here's a simple way you can make a huge difference in the lives of local Papuan people: change your dollars into the local currency, kina, before you visit remote islands where access to banks and currency exchange is not available. The local people will accept your Aussie dollars when you buy souvenirs, but it's much better for them if they can be paid in kina. An inter-island trip to the bank to change over dollars might take them half a day and cost them much-needed funds. P&O offers a currency exchange service on board its ships. Better rates may be found at Australian banks.
6. Love rugby?
Choose your side: most Papuans are passionate rugby fans who wouldn't miss watching State of Origin matches. Expect to be asked this question many times: "Blues or Maroons?".
7. Popular port stops
The remote Conflict Islands are often named the best port stop on a PNG cruise for the clean white sands, pristine lagoon water and sense of serenity: in short, it's the idyllic coral island we all dream of being marooned on for a few days. Be aware though, this scheduled port stop is sometimes cancelled due to unfavourable ocean conditions and high winds. You'll still have a great cruise to the islands of Alotau, Kitava and Kiriwina.
8. Onboard dining to savour
If you're sailing to PNG with P&O, do yourself a favour and book a table at celebrity chef Luke Mangan's Salt Grill onboard restaurant. There is a nominal charge, which is well worth the delicious fresh cuisine you'll be served. Perfectly cooked steaks and barramundi, tasty shared plates and Luke's famous crab omelette and licorice parfait are just some of the choices. Bon appetit!
9. Activities at sea
Expect plenty of adventure and thrills on-board as well as ashore. P&O Edge Adventure Park takes cruisey entertainment to a new level with zip-lining, laser tag, Segways and abseiling at sea.