In case you have been hiding under a rock, Vivid is on in Sydney at the moment. This festival of light is a major attraction for families every year, and this year is the first time the Little Munch fambam have ventured in to see what all the fuss is about.
A few months ago I booked us a family pass on a Sydney Harbour Tall Ship via Cudo (one of those bargain websites). I paid $120 for our family of 4 and the apparent value was $243.00. The family pass was valid for 2 adults and 2 kids (aged 4 - 14 yrs). So yes kids under 4 years are free. The cruise voucher included a buffet dinner and unlimited drinks, so I thought this was a pretty good deal, as we would get to see Vivid, and also pretend to be pirates at the same time.
Our cruise departed from near Pier 2 (Hickson Rd), on the western side of the Harbour Bridge at 5.30pm. We had to be there 15 minutes before departure and the cruise was due to return at 7.30pm. When we boarded I was a little disappointed (and nervous) to see so many people crowded on to the ship. There were people of all ages, including families with strollers. The access for strollers isn't great when the ship is choc a block full, so I would advise that you wear your little people in some sort of carrier. This will also help little kids to be able to see the view from the ship and also prevent them from getting lost, as it is very dark (and slippery) on-board the ship. The parents with strollers were actually asked to fold them up and the crew stowed them away.
There is some bench like seating along each side of the ship, and this was all taken by the time we boarded the ship. So we manoeuvred ourselves right up to the front of the ship (the bow) and stayed there the whole cruise. The boys did have to stand on their tippy toes to see the lights, or we had to hold them up as well, so bear this in mind when booking tickets for the whole family. The other thing to bear in mind, is that it is freezing out on the Harbour! So rug up my friends - coats, beanies, gloves etc - you will all need them.
The staff on the Tall Ship were all super friendly. The majority are young backpackers who live on board! They bunker down with each other at the end of the night, which I'm sure is loads of fun when you are young and care free. An older chap ran the show and he was really helpful if you needed any assistance - like where to find the toilets for example!
Of course we had to use the latrine several times during the cruise - what is it with cold wind and boys?? They are to be found down in the hull, which means you have to navigate through the other passengers and go down some steep stairs to find them. There are 2 small loos on board. If you do need to change a nappy, you will find somewhere down stairs where you can lay your little one down to do it.
Now when I booked, I read on Cudo that the menu for night would consist of some starters (chorizo slices + cheese & spinach triangles) and then a buffet would follow. The buffet was to consist of a choice of hot pulled meats on bread rolls accompanied by a selection of yummy sounding salads. To finish off we were to be served chocolate brownies for dessert.
To me that sounded all quite delicious, and I knew that both the kids and us would be able to eat most of those things. Unfortunately on the evening quite a few of those dishes did not transpire. When we first departed, crew members wandered about with platters of the chorizo slices and also the triangles and they were yummy and warming on such a cold night. About half way into the cruise a call went out that the buffet was ready - we missed this call, as we were at the other end of the ship where it was hard to hear any of the announcements that were being made. So when I saw people returning with plates, I went and found the queue to join.
The buffet was being served on one side of the ship. And it wasn't really what I was expecting (perhaps I had been naive). There was a bowl of green salad, a bowl of overcooked vegetables and also a bowl of rice. So you helped yourself to those. Then you shuffled up to a chap who was in charge of dishing out the hot food from the bain marie. You had 3 choices - meatballs in tomato sauce, butter chicken or Asian pulled pork. And you only got a scoop from the dish that you chose. This was fine for the kids - but not for a ravenous adult male (or female for that matter) on a cold night. There weren't any bread rolls and there weren't any of the yummy salads that I was led to believe were going to be available.
The meal was tricky to eat, as we were all standing up. A warm roll full of meat would be a lot easier to chow down on, especially for little people on a moving boat. There was some seating downstairs, but that had been nabbed early on by the older generation on-board. Towards the end of the cruise the brownies were brought around and the boys gobbled quite a few of these up, so thankfully they had full bellies.
Whilst dinner was a little disappointing, I was actually impressed with the bar service. The bar was open the whole time and there was beer, wine, bubbles, soft drinks and water available. The crew weren't stingy with how many drinks you ordered, and you could keep going back as many times as you wanted. If you hadn't purchased the package deal like we had, all of the alcoholic drinks will cost you $6.00 each.
It was a wonderful experience being on board a Tall Ship. We were fascinated as the crew climbed up and down the masts to do their "stuff" with the sails etc. The cruise went down as far Garden Island and then came back up past Luna Park to Darling Harbour and back again. It was great to see all of the lights come on at the Opera House and the Bridge, but from a distance they don't look as amazing as they do up close and personal like you see in all of the photos buzzing around the internet at the moment. The boys were most thrilled with the lights of Luna park (but I think they are permanently on). The other passengers on-board were great fun too - it was a real party atmosphere, and it is probably one of the best family nights out we have ever had.
Just to let you know we stayed in a hotel for the night. I had read too many FB comments about how crazy the traffic, parking and public transport were, so I booked a room via Wotif for the night. We had walked to the cruise terminal from the hotel, and then at the end of the cruise we jumped into a taxi to get away from the maddening crowd! My advice is to do the same or go mid week (which is not always easy when you live out in the burbs) x
If you don't fancy doing a dinner cruise, check out our list of places to eat at during Vivid: