We enjoyed ourselves with a relaxing holiday and made the best out of the what we were given. It was a good family holiday but we were expecting more with the hype.
We attended the cruise leaving Sydney on the 9th of Jan 2010, which ventured to Noumea, Lifou, (new Caledonia); Vila and Wala (Vanuatu).
All the staff where very helpful, friendly and fantastic in their areas of expertise, however didn't show this until half way during the cruise. The decor and refurbishment of general areas and cabins was splendid and theme the ship. Ports selected in Vanuatu were brilliant and featured a culture like no other. Tours in Vanuatu ports were also excellent. The casacdes tour in Vanatau was absolutely brilliant and honestly well worth seeing. If in Vila, book the tour to Mele waterfalls. The WALA tour, which was not connected to PnO and run by locals on the island themselves, was the best tour by far (and also the cheaptest). The chocolate bar was wonderful, a quite place to chill out and staff were lovely. Room size, bathroom size and cabins overall were slightly above average. Luke Mangan's restaurant was absoultely the highlight of our stay onboard, divine food, presentation and layout, and service in there was exceptional. Entertainment was above average, I wouldn't agree to say broadway but it was very good. Cruise director was pleasant, down to earth and funny.
Unfortunately this cruise was a slight disappointment, especially since it's only one month old. Service in the waterfront restuarant was poor. Service was slow and table seatings at awkward hours. Our company actually moved tables the third day. It was a fantastic decision because we met a brilliant group of waiters and waitresses, who did their upmost to accomidate us and our large crowd.
Menu was repeitive, although portion sizes were decent. The buffet was a disappointment, as the menu up there similiar everyday. The ship, sadly, wasn't aimed towards the Australian market dispite their efforts. Unlike pervious PnO cruises, there was no BBQ, no theme nights, no Aussie music, no staff from Australia. It is important that cruising in Australia and on an Aussie ship can be relateable and this was not the case with no entertainment staff being Australian. Our bathroom toilet became clogged the third day; it was fixed instantly however a newly renovated ship shouldn't have these hiccups. Also, many toilets around the ship were often out of order, especially ones needed regularly on deck 12 (pool deck).
Lack of staff in bar areas, we found ourselves at the bar ordering drinks for most of the cruise. Obviously costs cut meant removing needed staff. Leaks from the ceiling in the dining room. Biggest downpoint was the air conditioning not working until the day we got off the ship. From previous cruising experience, (this was our tenth cruise), we know the ship should be constantly cold with air conditioning working. This was not the case here. Room air con didn't work either. After being on a cruise with 2000 people (crammed into crowded areas) and after visiting such humid ports in the middle of Summer, air con was NECESSARY!
There was a smell that came most nights after 10pm in the corridors that resembled sewage. Tours were limited in Noumea and Lifou, and these two ports were not very appealing and unattractive ports on our itinerary. It seemed like the passengers on board, especially with young families, thought PnO was a good babysitting serivce and at every opportunity let their children run riot. Shows often disruptted by kids jumping on seats, talking loudly, screaming (and I'm not referring to innocent babies, more like 5 to 12 year olds).
The onboard circus seemed a definite highlight however during one of the shows a female performer fell 3m from the hoop in the air face first after not being harnessed. It was dealt with professionally and in a respectful manner, however why wasn't there a crash mat or harnesses attached to the stage? Not good Occupational Health & Safety, especially for an Aussie ship. Basically a floating RSL.