When travelling it's best to throw yourself in amongst things and enjoy the ride, writes Shandelle Battersby

I don't think I ever really appreciated the saying "when in Rome" until I spent a few days on board a cruise ship sailing between Christchurch and Sydney.

This version of Rome was Nanaville, and my friend and I, two of the youngest passengers on board, had to get used to the idea of "organised fun" pretty quickly, much of which was pitched at the older demographic.

This ranged from exercise classes of every persuasion to pub quizzes, craft lessons, wine appreciation nights, and even jigsaw puzzle and knitting groups.


There are two ways when travelling that you can approach this sort of carry-on - you can either roll your eyes and resolutely refuse to take part in it or you can embrace it and get stuck in — even if it's a bit naff or slightly odd — and enjoy a few experiences you may never encounter again.

It helps if you have a partner in crime — I was on the ship with a friend who has a great sense of fun, which made it easier to throw ourselves into everything we could, from cooking classes to shuffleboard to a very educational seminar on how to make the hilarious towel animals left on our beds each night by the stewards.

We got dressed up in pirate clobber and danced to Lady Gaga for the ship's Halloween Ball, and drank cocktails out of plastic coconuts.

I've just returned from a grown-up's visit to Disneyland, where I went on every ride possible, ate huge Mickey Mouse pretzels and lined up for 20 minutes to have a photo with Goofy, because, well, that's what you do at Disneyland isn't it?

A (married) couple I know just got back from Japan where they traipsed around the "colourful" Dotonbori and Ame-mura districts in Osaka to find a "love hotel" to stay in, just because. After a few Lost in Translation moments with the automated room menu and vending machine (clean undies or other "acoutrements" for your evening's entertainment are a mere button-push away) and several awkward encounters with guests in the lobby, they settled for a huge room at "Rose Lips", which came with a lot of chrome, two 50-inch TVs, a spa bath and swimming pool, all for $130. They didn't, ahem, inquire what the price was by the hour.

I wrote in this publication recently about my visit to an animatronic show depicting notorious Australian bushranger Ned Kelly's last stand in the Victorian town of Glenrowan.

Much-mocked by Bill Bryson in his book Down Under, the show was every bit as bad as promised and every minute of it was a hoot. There were animal noises, creepy voices, crashes, bangs, flashing lights, whizzing clocks, crying babies, figures swinging from the ceiling. The legend of Ned Kelly for me will forever be associated with that half-hour of roll-on-the-floor hilarity.

So whether it's enthusiastic karaoke at the pub on Stewart Island, Kiss-themed glow-in-the-dark mini-golf in Las Vegas, or three courses of fondue served with red wine in baby bottles in a chaotic restaurant in Montmartre, Paris, embracing the naff or just plain weird can make for some of your most memorable travel experiences.


If nothing else, it makes for a good story when you get home.