We booked a 14 night cruise on the Pacific Pearl visiting Noumea, Vila and Fiji. We boarded on Friday the 9th of November. The ship departed from Barrangaroo which has a temporary terminal and is fairly basic, something like a huge tent. The boarding process was smooth and we were on the ship in under 30 minutes. Once on board it took 10 metres of walking before P&O's first attempt to sell us something. This first attempt is a lanyard to hang your card from. Why ships don't provide these as part of the cruise package escapes me. If you book through some non P&O agents they give you one of these as part of your sailing package. We proceeded to the lifts which came quickly. Later during the cruise one of the lifts broke down, it was out of order for the remainder of the cruise.
We reached our deck 11 cabin very easily. First impressions were a bit disappointing. The cabin looks like a throwback to the 80's. The cabins are a reasonable size. They seem dark as there is lots of dark wood. Our balcony had an obscured view due to some form of superstructure on one side. There is plenty of storage space, both drawers and hanging.
I should say that this is our second cruise this year. The first was on the Allure of the Seas in February. This is the newest and largest cruise ship around today and a very impressive ship so the comparison was always going to be unfair.
The main dining room on board is The Waterfront Restaurant. We found the food to be on the whole to be very good. Consistently was not great as I order the rump steak on two different nights, the first was great and the second time was not good. Service was pretty average. Just getting your water glass refilled can be an ordeal. This may come back to the fact that there is no compulsory tipping. This incentive for the staff to perform is not there.
The other main eating area was the Plantation buffet. We went there for breakfast and lunch most days. There was always a great selection of food and the service we found to be cheerful. The outlook from The Plantation which is on the top deck is great.
You can get a free cup of tea or coffee in the Plantation most of the day. I am unsure if this is available 24 hours a day. It seems in the past P&O provided afternoon tea, however this is now no longer offered. Compared to other ships where you can get tea, coffee, hot chocolate and snacks 24 hours a day, this service was very poor.
The Marquee Theatre. This is a fabulous example of how not to design an auditorium. Both levels are almost flat. Instead of theatre seating there are lots of individual seats. My guess this is to provide flexibility in seating arrangement. This is not great for watching shows. Being flat, unless you are in the front row, viewing is obscured from almost every seat. It is simply terrible. Upstairs the railing sits at exactly eye level so you need to strain to look over or under the rail to see the action on the stage. The new television screens are huge and were used very effectively during shows. The entertainment on the whole was very good, with the featured performers all good. The in house shows were less entertaining and we left three of their performances as they were unprofessional to us.
There is a big screen television on the top deck. They show news and movies on the screen throughout the day. This makes the weather very important to your enjoyment.
The cruise director seemed to think he was one of the stars. Unless he received a huge round of applause whenever he appeared he would berate the audience and then make his dramatic entrance again. Not sure if it is the passengers responsibility to stroke the ego of the cruise director.
We had a balcony cabin on the Pacific Pearl, one of the few that exist on this ship. The room was dark as there was a lot of dark wood panelling. The bed was hard and we acquired a doona to put under our sheet to soften the feeling. The bathroom was simply substandard. The was a shower curtain on the shower which blew against you while showering which then push you against the cold wall. There was rust on parts of the shower recess. The toilet was uncomfortable low.
There is a knob in each cabin to adjust the temperature of the room. We found this didn't work. When we arrived the room was very warm. We played with the knob for a day and then asked the crew to have engineering have a look. They did and then we had an ice box for a couple of days. It was too cold to stay in the room except when we were sleeping. We had to keep the doors to the corridor and balcony open to create a breeze to warm up the cabin. After more adjustments we finally ended up with a reasonable temperature after 5 days.
Overall I would rate the room as the equivalent of a 2 star hotel. Had this been my first cruise I would probably not be going on another one. My best advice to anyone is to first choose your ship, then choose your destination. If at all possible talk to someone who has been on that ship to gain first hand feedback. And of course, this site is a great source of information. Had I read the reviews here before booking I would have been unlikely to book the Pacific Pearl. There is no chance I would ever travel on this ship again, and it is unlikely I will ever sail with P&O again.