Our initial impressions weren't great. There was a lot of queuing up to get through before we boarded. Then we got a terse note in our cabin to say our luggage had been 'confiscated' and we had to go and queue again, like naughty schoolkids. By this time, we'd really had it with queuing! It turned out we had a pair of scissors (which we'd taken on many cruises before) that were an inch or two too long for P&O. Why they couldn't have delivered the bag to our cabin and then asked us for the scissors (which I wouldn't have minded), I don't know. Presumably it would have cost them an extra few cents in crew payments and, as we found out, saving money and skinning their passengers seems to be a major focus for P&O.
It's possible that the cruise line depends on having a lot of first-time cruisers - who don't know any better - on these trips. So, from having sailed on a few ships, here are a few observations...
1 Many ships have, say, seven restaurants and you may have to pay for one of them. Pacific Dawn has 7 restaurants and you have to pay for FIVE of them. The restaurants you don't have to pay for are the buffet, which was dire, and the Waterfront, which was better but no more than 'OK'.
Oh, and the 'you pay' restaurants and cafes weren't exactly cheap. You even had to pay for a burger and chips by the pool and it was at least as expensive as eating ashore.
2 If you've cruised before, do you remember how nice it was to go to afternoon tea and have a cuppa and a cookie or cake while a string quartet (as on Princess ships) plays? Well, forget that on PD. The free restaurants seemed to be closed outside main meal times although, of course, you could still get a cuppa and cookie if you were prepared to pay for it!
3 Remember how you got other goodies like ice cream free of charge on other ships? Well, not on PD. One scoop in a cone cost $A5.
Besides the charges for what's usually free, there were silly signs of cost cutting. For example, there were no tissues or bottles of body lotion in the room. These are minor irritations but they add up.
And so it goes. There were good things about the cruise - the crew all did their best and the disembarkation was very efficient (no doubt because it's in P&O's interests to get people off the ship quickly) - but the overall experience left a sour taste in our mouths. We won't travel P&O again and, if you're a first time cruiser, it would pay to look around and see if you can pick up a cruise from, say Royal Caribean or Princess.