Our only other P&O cruise had been the last Pacific Sky sailing - Christmas 2006? The travel agent described Pacific Pearl as 'a lovely ship' - so we were quite excited. However, that was short lived. This trip was just a real 'budget' experience.
First impressions were excellent, cabin had a far better layout than Pacific Sky(PS) - one larger wardrobe instead of 3 tiny ones, option of having double bed or twin beds (PS only twin beds) - and the beds bases weren't solid, so being experienced cruisers who bring soft-sided bags, we could tuck them under - a small mini fridge, and a safe !
First disappointment - lunch. Meals not the same standards as before - not the 4-course meals anymore, and the wait staff seemed to be cramped at their stations (confirmed by our waiter, who used to be on Pacific Sun). 'Anytime' dining actually was de fact two sittings, anyway. Tried the Plantation buffet - food very attractively presented BUT two great lines, and not the 'separate islands' serving food outside as for PS. So, long queues for cold food. Also, where were the margarine and ice sculptures that made the PS trip a bit special ? One ice carving - and even then, they carved the ice out on the deck for everyone to see, instead of it being already a centrepiece.
After dinner - a show - NOT !! I am not the only reviewer to say the the Marquee theatre is terrible, impossible, too small, no visibility etc etc. Not nearly enough seating, and what was there often had terrible visibility due to poorly positioned hand rail or pillar. A HUGE disappointment.
So, how about dancing instead ? Uh, no, it seems cost cutting there. The little bars didn't have dance floors, just the DJ who finally put in an appearance up at 'the Dome'. If the age of passengers was a bit lower, it would have been far too crowded. Some of us like to have a drink and a dance before 10pm - alas, not the case this cruise.
Entertainment - again, a disappointment. NO cinema on the boat, no I don't call a 'big screen' outside an acceptable option - I want a cinema ! Apparently there was a cinema prior to the refurbishment, but it is now a large CASINO. I don't 'do' casinos. Also, why would I want to watch a small TV in a small cabin when I have a media centre and a comfy chair at home?
On other P&O cruise, 3pm was afternoon tea. Nothing special - as I recall the coffee had been 'instant', and the cakes or whatever nothing special, but a good excuse to sit down and meet other passengers. Nope, it seems afternoon teas are no longer budgeted for - a pity, they used to be very popular.
Even the 'meet the captain' didn't rate. Prior, a bit of a mix and mingle in one of the bars - this time, everyone just in the Marquee lounge, sitting down. What's the point in dressing for 'cocktails' if you can't see what everyone is wearing?
We had heard from the travel agent about the Oasis, with two outdoor spas. Oh great, I though, that will be nice - PS had just one interior spa. Well, all I can say is, I hope the maintenance crew who check the spas aren't allowed near anything critical on the boat. How does P&O avoid overcrowding in two SMALL spas ? Simple - just have them COLD. Enough said.
So, I'm not going to comment on the ports, etc, just on the boat itself - just compare 'before' and 'now' P&O cruise. Would I cruise with P&O again? Well, maybe in several years time, as the happy people on the boat where those who got 'last minute' deals - (we hadn't, as aren't retirees). But, the cruise was certainly not an experience I would want to repeat in a hurry.