#LauluCruise2017

I only just realised that I hadn’t written about my first cruise ever. Tl;dr – it was amazing.

Along with going on an amazing six-week holiday with Miss Kate, I had another holiday to go on only a few months later. Daddy wanted all of my family to get together and go on a family holiday – our last official family holiday was in 2011 – so not only was it going to be a great bonding experience for everyone, but it was going to be my first time going on a cruise.

On February 14, my family and I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, ready to spend the next eight nights on board. Not only was my immediately family attending – myself, my two parents, two brothers, two sisters, two sister-in-laws, a niece and a nephew – but we also had extended family and other friends with us, so in total, there were about 30 of us on board.

Instead of going through my days in chronological order and listing what I did daily, I’m just going to tell you everything I had done on the cruise in general.

First of all, it’s important to mention for anyone with a beating heart that food is free (with the exception of some specialty restaurants, but honestly, why would you pay to eat when almost everything else is free)! The only time I ever paid to eat was when I ate at Johnny Rocket’s, which was only a $7USD surcharge fee, and then everything on the menu was yours for the taking.

Each morning, I would go to the Windjammer Marketplace for breakfast, which is the Explorer’s version of a buffet. I can’t tell you about the variety of foods they had there for your first meal of the day, because I only ever ate hash browns and croissants; if I was feeling a bit adventurous, I’d chuck a tub of yoghurt on there as well.

While everyone in my family were free to do whatever they wanted during the day and night, we always got together at 6pm in the Sapphire Dining Room for family dinner. this was the Explorer’s version of fine dining. I’m not a fan of fine dining, really; I prefer a burger and fries over some overpriced salad that takes up a quarter of the plate. But God damn, the Sapphire Dining Room was outstanding! The food was great – and there was always one or more choices for vegetarians – but what made this dining experience really great was the service. My family had the absolute pleasure of dining with our waiters Ikomang and Imade, two lovely gentlemen from Indonesia who spared no expense in making sure our time with them was always 11/10.

The types of activities on board cater to everyone also: there is trivia and gallery viewings for the more introverted; there is ice skating and rock climbing for the physically adventurous; and there’s karaoke and outrageous game shows for the attention hogging types (me). I can’t even begin to describe the amount of fun I had on board, from playing putt putt with my nephew and niece, to playing as Novak Djokovic on Virtua Tennis in the arcade, the Explorer of the Seas had almost limitless amounts of activities to do. There were also different shows available, with ice-skating extravaganzas taking place on the ice skating rink, and broadway style shows in the Palace Theater. And if you were confused as to what you wanted to do that day, they gave out day sheets for everything that would be running that day.

I can’t speak for the other types of rooms available on board, but my two sisters and I shared a room with a balcony – because we can’t not have fresh air in our room. How gross. The room was pretty small, and the bathroom and shower left no room for me to effectively shave my legs, but when you consider the amount of time you would actually be spending in the room as opposed to everywhere else on the ship, then it was worth it. My sisters had the double bed whereas I had a hidden bunk bed that appeared from the ceiling. Great use of space, Royal Caribbean!

The island visits were also amazing! On my cruise, we were able to visit two countries and three islandsNouméa, New CaledoniaMystery Island, Vanuatu; and Maré, New Caledonia. Nouméa was beautiful in its own different way; it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but then five minutes down the street, it was… if that makes sense. My siblings all had ice cream from this place – which they said they had imported from France – and said it was the best dessert they’ve ever had, so there’s that? (I opted not to buy anything because why would you when the food on the ship is free). Mystery Island was actually paradise: the ocean was crystal clear and had this amazing shade of azure blue that it looked like I was staring at a postcard; the natives who visit the island to greet tourists were so adorable and friendly and had several goods and services for sale; and the sun was beaming down on the island as if we were the only place on earth. Admittedly, I didn’t get off at Maré, because I was too damn burnt from Mystery Island and everything hurt everywhere.

And finally, if you have read this far, there is the nightlife on board (yes there is nightlife on a cruise). Depending on which drink package you get – if you even choose to get one at all – then drinks on board can either be pricey, or already paid for.  The alcoholic drink package, which is around $45USD a day, guarantees virtually unlimited alcohol for the entire duration of your cruise. I suggest that if you’re a big drinker, or even if you can go through at least five cocktails a day, then this package is for you. The Explorer had several options for you if you were nocturnal or just liked a good night out – there was the casino (don’t ask me about it, I have no idea how to gamble other than playing Blackjack terribly), the Star Lounge (which was like a fancy music-playing bar) and Dizzy’s (the nightclub). Having experienced the latter two, I can say that the nightlife on the cruise was pretty damn good. And when Dizzy’s shut, you were free to head to the pool deck where the drinks would continue until the early morning.

The people you meet on board are pretty amazing as well, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll take some friends away from your short trip. Everyone… meet my new little brother Alex.

Oh, and there was also a gym on board.

If you’re interested in doing a cruise – or you’ve done one with another company – I highly recommend cruising with Royal Caribbean. It was a pleasant 10/10 experience for everyone in my family, and I am more than excited to do another one with them.

– by Noah La’ulu

Character Profile: Jordan McMahon

To make The Heart Wants What It Wants a bit more accessible and interactive, I have constructed profiles on the main characters from this novel for your entertainment.

It is important to note that these picture bases of the characters are the most accurate physical portrayal of the character out there and not the actual character. Without further ado, here is the third character profile!

Jordan McMahon
“New Girl in Town”

Full name: Jordan McMahon
Age: 24*
Date of birth: April 24, 1990
Star sign: Taurus
Height: Five-foot-seven
Weight: A lady never reveals her weight!
Hair colour: Dark, almost black
Eye colour: Green
Occupation: Full-time carer for my grandfather Joe
Notable physical features: I have my ears pierced, and I wouldn’t mind getting a small tattoo or two if they had a special meaning.
Hobbies include: I know it sounds childish, but I LOVE playing arcade games! You could leave me at an arcade, work 9-5, come back, and I will still be there. I love spending time with my immediate and extended family, and I love doing cute things with Jase.
One day I wish to be: A mother. What girl doesn’t?
Favourite food: I LOVE Mexican food. Have you ever been to Pablo’s? AMAZING. The spicier, the better. Also, choccy milk. Can’t go wrong with choccy milk.
Least favourite food: Seafood. Or strawbee milk. Who drinks strawbee milk over choccy milk
Favourite movie: Clueless. It’s a must have for every girl’s collection.
Least favourite movie: I can’t stomach horror movies. Blood and guts… yuck!
If I could be someone else for a day, I’d be: Audrey Hepburn!
Favourite musician: Ariana Grande
Favourite song: Bang Bang by Jessie J, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande
Favourite book: The Harry Potter series for sure! I’m in Gryffindor and my patronus is a flamingo.
Favourite TV series: Pretty Little Liars
Likes: Playing games, having fun, not taking myself too seriously! I love spending time with my family and extended family, and I love listening to my grandfather’s stories! That man has lived, let me tell you. Also… choccy milk.
Dislikes: I hate conflict! That is not to say that I won’t engage in some if it’s needed, but I think every situation can be resolved without the need of conflict. Plus, it just makes me uncomfortable watching two people fight. Oh, and strawbee milk.
Quote to live by: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself is ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn

To purchase The Heart Wants What It Wants, click this link here for several e-book purchasing options.

– by Noah La’ulu

*Age at the time of this novel

Yes, I Am High-Maintenance and I Deserve To Be

Here’s how I turned an intended insult into a huge compliment.

For those that know me well, then you would already know the fact presented to you in the headline. And for those of you who don’t, let me catch you up to speed in the quickest way possible… I am precious: I physically cannot stay at hostels (3.5 stars are my absolute minimum for accommodation); if you don’t reply to my message within five minutes, I’ll be the first to complain about it, and will effortlessly flood your phone or inbox with messages until you do; unless it is cosplay or pop culture accessories (love my Harley Quinn Puddin’ choker), I refuse to wear jewellery that isn’t from Tiffany & Co.; and sometimes I call my father at work just to see what he’s doing.

I am high-maintenance af, and others have picked up on it. Some may intend it in a nice “but we love you anyway” kind of thing, but some people mean it as a form of insult, as in I need to change the way I am to suit them. I admit, being high-maintenance or needy isn’t necessarily a great quality to have, but I am proud of every intricacy of my personality, whether that is being bashful, loud, blunt, or high-maintenance.

As I sat down and thought to myself why others view me that way, I realised that when people call me high-maintenance, it is actually a huge compliment to my parents and their efforts in raising me to the best of their ability.

Thanks to two individuals, these siblings have lived a great life, including the addition of two sister-in-laws.

Contrary to what some may believe, when I was first born, my family didn’t have a lot. We usually wore hand-me-downs (FACT: I still have a jumper that my sister wore when she was in high-school so-and-so years ago), and we lived in a small three-bedroom house with seven humans and one canine, but I never saw the financial struggle that my parents must’ve faced, because to me, I had it all. I had somewhat loving brothers and sisters who each year grow closer and closer together; I had food on the table every morning, arvo, and evening, with plenty to spare for tomorrow’s leftovers; and we had a load of board games and a couple of gaming consoles that kept us kids entertained for days.

My father is Samoan, so we practice a tradition called “fa’a Samoa” (which you can learn more about at this link), which is loosely translated to “The Samoan Way”. I might not be completely familiar with the practice, but what I do know is that in this Samoan tradition, you give everything you have to family and friends, even the shirt off your back if you have to – especially in important times like funerals and weddings. While we weren’t rolling around in our riches, my parents often gave everything they had and much more to different family and friends, whom we often had over for dinner several days a week, to the point where I was accustomed to having up to 20 people at my dinner table on a weekly basis.

My father and mother raised me well, and gave me everything that I needed and most often, what I wanted. That is why, several years later as a 24-year-old, I can safely say that I deserve to be high-maintenance, because my needs were always met as a child, and my desires were given to me should I be deserving of them. My parents afforded me the luxuries of staying in nice hotels and enjoying the finer things in life.

So the next time someone tries to take a shot at me by calling me “needy” or “high-maintenance”, I am going to turn around and thank them for acknowledging the stellar job my parents did with me in raising me to be the man that I am today. And I am not ashamed of it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go straighten my seven-coloured-hair, because I can’t go out in public unless my hair is straightened and styled to the left.

– by Noah La’ulu

Why Uncharted is One of the Best Video Game Series Ever

And not just because Nathan Drake is a fox, either.

I have recently played through the entire Uncharted series – I’m still technically playing it if you include Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End extremely fun multiplayer mode, which I will delve into later – and I can safely say that this is probably one of the best game series I’ve ever played through.

All four PlayStation exclusive games are in the action-adventure genre with elements of platforming and third-person shooter. All of those elements are blended into captivating storylines that really tugs at your heart strings.

I’m going to get into the most appealing part of the series, and the main reason why I decided to start playing it in the first place: Nathan Drake. Not even from a physical perspective – because the character himself is one good looking fella – but from an overall standpoint, Nathan Drake is a great character. The game designers did what most others can’t do; they made him human. Nathan is flawed: he stresses out, and he isn’t that morally clean as most other standard male protagonists in action-adventure games. But that’s what makes him great. He isn’t unreal. On top of being human, he is really funny with stellar comedic timing, adventurous, fearless, brave and someone you can really get behind because you want to see someone this likeable succeed.

Deadset fox, isn’t he?

The supporting characters in the series also supply some great moments. My personal favourite secondary character is Chloe Frazer, a feisty Australian jewel thief and fast-and-furious car driver who is so confident in her femininity and sexuality that you can’t help but love her. Along with Chloe is the old-timer Victor “Sully” Sullivan, Nathan’s long-time confidante, friend and father-figure who travels with Nate on his extraordinary historic adventures, and really comes in handy because he smokes.

The flexibility of the playability between casual gamers and the more extreme kind also makes this series one of the best. I’d like to think I’m a good gamer, but truth of the matter is my hand-eye co-ordination is pretty slow, and I have a naturally slow reaction time to things, so unfortunately I’d rank in the above-average casual gamer. In saying that, this game is great because no matter how unco you may be, this game is quite easy to navigate. The storyline is generally linear, and the gameplay is easy to understand and quick to master. On top of that, the platforming and puzzles in the game brought a real sense of enjoyment to me because it was fun, yet also challenging. And if you’re like me and you keep dying because you thought that ledge was much closer than you thought, or you didn’t see the gang of cronies behind you violently shooting at you with an AK-47, don’t fret, because you can just restart from a checkpoint and correct your errors. It’s like Run Lola Run except more adventure, and less red hair.

The visuals in all four games are stunning – which they would have to be considering all the places and lost cities Nate visits – and they all look so realisitic and aesthetically pleasing. There’s a cool little Easter egg in the fourth game, but when Nate says “These graphics are pretty good”, that would definitely apply to his own game series. The only issue I would have with the graphics – or appearances, more likely – is Chloe’s damn low ponytail. Urgh. So atrocious.

In some areas of the game – you MOSTLY control Nate, but I won’t spoil anything for you – you will have a partner character or partners following you and fighting with you, but majority of the time, you’ll be by yourself, and the isolation from safety will really ignite your adrenaline. The struggles Nate faces in all four games just reiterates the statement I made beforehand: you really want to see Nate succeed. And the challenging storyline and gameplay will leave you in your video-game-playing-groove for hours on end.

Probably my most favourite feature of Uncharted – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to be precise – is the multiplayer feature (which should be played after finishing the main campaign, otherwise you might spoil the story for yourself). It compares elements of first-person shooter games like the Call of Duty series, with a third-person perspective shooter like Resident Evil 5, and mixes it together. If you suck at COD like I do, then you’d be pleased to hear that Uncharted multiplayer is much easier to get. It’s so pleasing to note that I don’t actually suck at this kind of multiplayer. Plus, you get to play as your favourite characters – Nate, Chloe, Rafe for me – and dress them up in cute outfits with cute bunny ears and you can make them twerk over your fallen opponent.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you buy these games and see what all the fuss is about. And if you’re an XBox user… well…

PS4 currently has Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection which features the first three games on the one disc, which you can then follow up with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The trilogy is quite cheap considering, while the fourth and final installment is a bit more pricey considering its recent release – and the fact that it’s a bloody good game.

Happy adventuring, fam!

– by Noah La’ulu