This was our 4th cruise and having had 3 other cruises which provided us with much better basics, we were very disappointed in this P&O cruise. The crew and staff were all friendly and attentive, no fault could be found with them, but that can't make up for mediocre food and humdrum entertainment. We took this cruise expecting to relax in a semi-pampered atmosphere, thus we booked the balcony cabin. We were VERY impressed with: the embarkation procedure (organized, quick, painless) the way in which staff encouraged all diners to use the hand-cleaning dispensers (politely insistent) and were observed frequently throughout the day to be cleaning handrails and "touchable" surfaces in their admirable efforts to maintain healthy levels of cleanliness in that regard. However, the food selection at the Plantation restaurant for dinners and lunch were abysmal. Having 3 "different" leaf salads to choose from, the differences being the addition of one or two ingredients, seemed to stretch the term "selection". Just offer lettuce and allow guests to choose from a large variety of add-ons please instead of P&O picking the add ons. All too frequently the meats offered (lamb, beef, pork) were tough. Even in casseroles like the sweet & sour dish the pork was unpleasantly chewy. And who would enjoy a daily choice of three different flavors of gelatin for "dessert" options? Granted there were a few cakes and once I saw fruit tarts of some sort offered. But in an effort to impress the "pretty" cakes that were available often sat around as they were not necessarily tasty. Choices of simple flavors of chocolate, vanilla etc. would have probably gone over much better. And what about biscuits (cookies)? Nary a one the whole time. I am sure that there would have been plenty of folks wishing a small portable sweet to savor later. No puddings. No ice cream. Even a simple soft serve yourself machine would have been nice. But that brings me to another sticking point, the fact that P&O believes that a "nominal price" for a single scoop of ice cream is $5.00! My last criticism of Plantation was the substandard breakfast buffet which included slightly warmed bacon with fat mostly uncooked, VERY dry scrambled eggs, fried eggs that were too gelatinous from sitting under hot lights, and pancakes of inconsistent quality. The only day they were edible beyond a first bite was the day we left the cruise (Wednesday). The lowest point was being asked what kind of toast I wanted (wheat) and being given 2 pieces, both of which had 25x50cm of MOLD on them.
We expected more from the Waterfront restaurant because it was going to be a proper sit-down dinner. However, the service was sub-standard which resulted in: not getting our orders correct, not being brought bread or butter until the meal was served or we asked for it, not getting drinks in a timely fashion, and finally food arriving only slightly warm. The best meal I had was one where I asked to have the salmon/ dilled potato entree (one slice of fish over a half cup of potatoes). Not being very hungry, and not wishing to waste food, I asked this to be served to me as my main an chose the chicken broth with vegetable wonton as my entree. When the salmon did arrive (at twice the size!) it was more cold than hot. I knew this was not correct as another diner at my table had this item as their entree and it arrived hot for them. Breakfast seemed to be a repeat of the selections at Plantation with the difference being that it was served individually. We did not dine at La Luna though we had a look at the menu and that evening there were only two non hot/ spicy options. As for Salt Grill, that WAS worth spending extra money on! Maria and Danny took care of our table and are to be commended for their professionalism and attention to detail. Both of them helped make our dining experience stellar that evening.
I have NO issues with bar bills for various soft drinks or alcohol, but I found it annoying to be forced to pay for something to eat if I was feeling peckish or, in future, to know that I would have to bring my own snacks along on the cruise unless I was not going to be bothered by paying $6.95 for a small tube of Pringles.
Enough about food, onto entertainment.
According to what I read on the P&O website: The best cruises bring you unforgettable entertainment. As the stars sparkle in the night sky, so do the stars on stage. Every P&O Cruises ship features a choice of dazzling entertainment for your exclusive pleasure. Spectacular shows you won't see anywhere else.
Actually I found it to be forgettable entertainment. Though clearly they tried, the quality just wasn't there. Perhaps there wasn't much to choose from at the time of booking but sadly the fact is that the stage performances were not even as good as some high school productions I've seen. I was struck by the lack of creativity, innovation, sophistication that I had previously enjoyed on other cruises. I do not need or desire anything so "high brow" but over-used humor, and high school antics, with a dose of double en tendres to "spice" things up seemed more suitable for a less intelligent adult audience.
I found it unfortunate that there were two shows offered as a one time only option and those occurred during day tour times. Having seen a preview of the "magician" (who was predictable) it was of no great loss to have missed him. However, I feel the acrobats were performers that should not have been missed. And it would have been nice to have added another booking of that show during the time we spent outside of Noumea, given that many people did not disembark due to the lateness of our arrival hour.
Having said all that, had the food and entertainment not been so abysmal we would have remained for the duration of the trip, rough seas aside. As it was, we did not take the tour we had paid for in Port Vila, and instead booked a flight back to Brisbane.