Firstly we has some rough weather, actually very rough, apparently very unusual for this time of the year. We were 3 hours late out of Brisbane, 3 hours late into Noumea, we missed Lifou and port Villa, but made it to Champagne Bay, all due to bad weather. But we had a great cruise. To be fair we went on a cruise to be on the ship, not really minding where we went, we hadn't really intended to get off and had no tours booked.
On the Friday before we left P and O made a decision to embark from fishermans island instead of Port Side. Firstly I received a text, then a phone call, then an e-mail and there was a note on the Facebook site. Rumours ran riot as to why. There was a very strong wind warning for Brisbane and this was the reason given. With all the extra effort P & O had to go through for this I don't think it would have been a decision made lightly.
Embarkation - we got to port side around 1.30pm for our 2pm check-in. It looked chaotic, but it actually was very smooth. We had to fill in a health questionnaire and immigration form. We then checked-in. We had our photo taken, given our cruise card and sip information and Pacific Daily, and a boarding number. When our number was called we went through security and onto a bus for a ride over to fishermans island. This was a little difficult as we had hand luggage and had to carry this on our laps, with handbags, etc. when we got to fishermans island it was through immigration (if the immigration lady had a personality it would have been lonely - she was very rude and felt sorry for people from overseas who may have received this treatment from an Australian. Then through security (checked our had luggage for alcohol as I had bottles of mineral water) and onto the ship. We went straight to our room, and our luggage was waiting. Our room steward Peter introduced himself and asked if we had any special requests. So by 3pm we were on board and unpacked.
Even though it was a late check-in lunch was still provided. We ate a snack at the Plantation restaurant (the buffet), which was beautiful. Sail away party on the top deck and we were off.
Cabin - we were in cabin 10163 deck 10, balcony cabin. The cabin was spotlessly clean, well equipped and of a good size. The bathroom was good with a shelf and two cabinets behind the mirrors. There was plenty of hanging space, a lot and coat hangers, and heaps of draws. We stacked our suit cases under the hanging space. There is only one power point so I would recommend taking a power board and we took an extension cord as well as my husband had a C-Pap machine. Our Cain was cleaned twice a day, with fresh towels if you wanted them. We had towel animals, and chocolates at turn down each night.
Food - we ate at the Plantation Restaurant for all of our meals. This suited us, and what we wanted. It was great to be able to try a little bit of everything. I tried food that I have never tasted before and would never order in a restaurant because I didn't know if I would like it our not. Breakfast - there were a large number of cereals to choose from, then cheese and cold meats, juice, fresh fruit (beautiful) , toast, and then Danishes (oh I am going to miss them). Then there was the hot food. Scramble eggs, sausages, potatoes, bacon, porridge, boiled eggs, baked beans, fried eggs, pancakes. Tea, coffee, milk and water was also available. My husband likes his coffee, and was very happy with the (free) coffee, NescafÃ©. There was a large variety of teas. The tea, coffee and water was available all the time. Lunch - there was usually a different theme every day, for example Mexican, Asian etc. you started with salads, individual items, then made up salads eg. Coleslaw, potato salad, and pasta salad. Then there were two different bread rolls made up, followed by cheese and cold meats and fresh fruit. Then the deserts - yum! There was always jelly and an assortment of other deserts. They were small, but I thought this was good as you could have a selection. Then there was the hot food, there was always a large selection. Over the cruise we had different flavoured rice, casseroles, enchiladas, stir fries, pasta dishes, roast meat, and lots of other things I can't remember now. Dinner - again this started with salads, followed by cheese, and crackers, then fresh fruit, deserts, bread rolls and hot food. There was always veggies, pasta, a meat dish, fish, roast meat and a special dish. We found the food always fresh and hot. It tasted lovely and there was a lot of flavour. Most of the time we had no trouble getting a table. Night time was harder as part of the restaurant was divided off for the Asian speciality restaurant, which I didn't think fair. When the weather was good it was nice to eat outside. For the sail away and island night they had a BBQ on the pool deck. We also got some snacks at The Grill, here you can pay for extra things like pizzas, hamburgers, chips etc. we got a late night snack of chips which was $2 for a large bowl. There were also two coffee shops. A coffee was $3.50, iced coffees $4 and large cookies were $2. There was also the New Zealand ice cream - ice cream cones, sundries, milkshakes. At $9.50 for a large (regular really) thick shake it was a bit pricey.
Entertainment - wow. The shows were fantastic. Night 1 was a little show just giving you a taste of what was coming in the days ahead - Pacific Entertainers comedy, and pacific cirque. Night 2 was a Motown performance. This was great, considering how much the boat was moving (I couldn't walk in a straight line) I don't know how they managed to dance so well, with high heals on! Night 3 was the comedian/magician he was really good. Night 4 was the pirate show, this had audience precipitation and was great. Before the show started all the little kids walked through all dressed up like pirates singing a pirate song. Night 5 was the singing game show (you didn't have to be able to sing, just have some knowledge about songs) where you could win a cruise. This was also the night the Pacific Cirque performed this was incredible to say the least. DONOT miss this show. The best spot was deck 6 in the atrium. This was the highlight of the entertainment. Night 6 was the crew entertainment. This was good and ok. The Pacific Cirque and Pacific entertainers performed again and some other acts by the crew. It was really rough so they all did really well. The last night was the final of the karaoke, we missed this, not our thing. All of the shows has a 7.30pm and 9.30pm time slot. We usually got there about 7pm for the early show and had coffee or cocktails. Our entertainment director was Gemma, she was fantastic. Always full of energy, and smiling and happy and loved to tell us a story after each show. I actually spoke to here ashore in Noumea, and even off duty so to speak, she was still happy to have a chat.
Ports - well we were 3 hours late into Noumea due to and weather and it was wet and windy when we got here. All the tours had been cancelled except for the sunset bus tours. Unfortunately by the time everyone got off the ship and the tours got away it was basically dark, then it rained, so there was not much to see. People I knew who went on the tour were not happy and got half their money back. We got off for a walk on "solid" ground. We walked up and around the park and had coffee in a small cafe in the park 'Lannexe' it was lovely, the people were very friendly. They take australian dollars, but no coin and change in given in pacific franc. Coffees were $7 each. We then went to the 'Casino' the local supermarket for some supplies. It was very busy, dirty and very expensive. They take australian dollars, but who new the exchange rate, and change in given in francs. We bought 2 packets of Pringles, two small packets of nuts, and a 6 pack of small bottles of mineral water = $30 australian, a bit much I think. Anyway we know now. Admittedly we only went into the centre of town, but for the short time we had there I would not get off again. The place was dirty, and the people rude. Maybe out of town it was different, but we did not get the chance to see.
We then had Lifou cancelled due to bad weather. The captain decided to head to port villa straight away and try and beat the weather there, unfortunately we didn't get there in time and were unable to berth. Disappointing for some, but not really that bad. I think it was a hard decision for the captain to make, but he had to think of our safety. We then headed to Champagne Bay. Some of the passengers were really happy with this as it is a beautiful spot. A tender port. The water was warm and inviting. Many passengers snorkelled. The locals were lovely and very friendly. They had a marked set up with sarongs, jewellery, and other clothes and souvenirs. The weather was overcast and humid. It was nice on the pool deck for the afternoon and a swim (yes the water was a bit cool).
It was island night tonight with a BBQ and entertainment by the pool, the later entertainment had to be moved into the dome nightclub, a bit disappointing, but unavoidable.
Other Entertainment - there was lots to do or nothing if that's what you wanted. There were exercise classes and spa treatments and the gym, which all cost extra. There was bingo, martini classes, wine appreciation classes, a lot of weight loss and cosmetic classes, trivia, karaoke, origami, dance classes, knitting classes, art lectures and art actions, a virtual bridge tour and a cooking lecture and tour of the galley, there was an afternoon, early evening and late night movie on the big screen on the pool deck, there were also a lot of games on the pool deck, unfortunately most of these were cancelled due to the poor weather, and a lot more I can't think of.
Lounges - we loved the dome. It was great sitting in the comfy lounges looking out over the front of the ship. Hubby even had a nice doze there one morning. We also liked the area outside the orient bar, the oasis (adults only) and outside the coffee shop on deck 5. It was lovely on the pool deck. The pool was open twice, but even though it was a bit rocky you could get out of the wind and sit in deck chairs or at table and chairs and watch everything going on. There were alway wait staff here to take you orders for drinks of coffee.
Drinks - a xxxx Gold (in a can) was $5.50. A corona was $7.95 and cocktails were from $9.95 to 11.95. Coffee (speciality) $3.50.
Duty Free - because we didn't stop in Port Villa there was a rush on duty free alcohol. Some items sold out. It is a lot cheaper than Australia, but apparently cheaper in Port Villa. Some people very VERY upset they had run out of some items, but it wasn't anyone's fault we didn't stop in Villa, and maybe they shouldn't have left their order till the last day. The 'special' market as not that cheep. I couldn't see too much difference in prices. Some must have as there as a lot of 'bad' behaviour here (the older cruise lady can get quite pushy when there might be a discount available). Duty free perfume wasn't that cheep. My perfume is a $20 cheaper in Australia not duty free. There were brand name handbags and surf wear, but I couldn't tell you if this was cheep or not.
Photos - there were photographers taking photos at varies places. The photos are then displayed and you can purchase them or not. There were photos for embarkation, sail away party, getting off the ship in port, and formal nights, island night, cowboy night and pirate night, you get the idea. We took advantage of the portrait sitting and got some beautiful photos. They were $30.00 each or buy 4 and get the 5th one free. The other photos were about $20, but there were a lot of package deals available. I also purchased a lovely 'pacific Dawn' phot from for $12.50. There we two types of complaints in this area, some said they were trying to take your photo ALL THE TIME or there wasn't enough people taking photos. We had outer photo taken as many times as we wanted. Yes they asked if your photo taken but if you didn't you could politely decline and that as fine. They were not pushy or rude. The photography people were great. I had a problem with my own camera and they were very helpful in trying to fix it. Unfortunately it couldn't be fixed, yet they didn't push any products on me.
Shops - there was lots of souvenirs available and they were pricey. There was also snacks, chips and lollies, again pricey. The post cards were 50c which I thought was ok.
Staff - fantastic is the only way to describe them. Our cabin steward was lovely. He was very good and always smiling and happy. He gave us good advice and looked after us. The bar staff were also great. They have fantastic memories and would always remember your drink. They never spilt anything even in the rough seas, I guess they were used to it. The reception staff were great. I think they may have had to put up with a lot of complaints but they were still smiling and happy to serve you. The captain was continually given us updates as to the weather and our situation. The cruise director was lovely and the wait staff in the Buffett great. The whole time we were sailing staff were cleaning, walls, handrails, toilets, floors, tables all being cleaned all the time. We had been told there was a few people confined to cabins on the previous cruise because so illness, but there was no sign of it on our cruise. People were sea sick, a different thing.
We didn't have any children so didn't take advantage of the children's club. Apparently there was 350 kids on board, but we didn't see that much of them.
Disembarkation - this was easy! A few days into the cruise we were asked if we had any special time for disembarkation, we filled in a form, and received a letter telling us of our disembarkation time, and luggage tags. We put our luggage out the night before. We got up in the morning, collected our duty free, had breakfast, collected our carry-on luggage from our room, and met in our designated area. We waited here and then given the ok to leave the ship. We 'clocked' off with our cruise cards, made our way to our luggage, which was all lined up neatly, through immigration and customs (just had to walk through) and we were off. So easy. I think it might have been that easy to embark if we had been able to get on at port side.
In closing we had had a great cruise. We ate, relaxed, were entertained, and enjoyed ourselves. Yes we had bad weather, but you can't control that. We didn't get seasick, we were prepared. We had started taking Avomine two days before we left and every day on the ship. Some people said it did not work, but they didn't start taking them till they were sick.
A few people have made so really bad complaints about Pacific Dawn. I had read them before booking and was really worried. I shouldn't have been. This was a cheaper cruise. Yes the ship is a little tired and yes things on board are expensive - they are on all shops. But the staff were fantastic. We had tissues in our cabin, lots of fresh clean towels, hand towels, face washers and beach towels. The food was lovely, I can't imagine how they feed that many people every day. The food was fresh and inventive, tasty and hot. The ship was also very, very clean!!!
For me I would not bother getting off in Noumea again! Unfortunately it was dark and wet when we got here, but we found the place dirty and the people rude.