Well, where to start with this review. I will put things in that I have noticed as I don't want go on and on.
This was our 14th cruise since our first on the Pacific Star in 2008. 12 with P&O, 1 with Princess and 1 with RCI.
Check-in was good, fast and friendly, getting on board was an easy process and all ok as it can be with 4 kids.
No restaurant lunch on boarding day anymore. Disappointing as they do a nice lunch and we looked forward to that.
The vast majority of staff were all great, with the exception of a few surly waiters and a very understandable unhumorous guy working the ice cream bar when it was blowing a cold Arctic blast with a wind chill of about 4deg in a thin wind breaker. P&O need to issue correct attire for staff in NZ waters in winter.
Sandy was the CD and there was a great sail away party. Much better than Zoltina. Thank you Sandy.
I know the morning show is long gone and replaced with Splash TV. Splash TV is a waste of my time watching, what -how many more sales points do they need to have.
The room again was the most roomiest we have had in the 'cheap seats' of any ship. BUT it would be nice to know what movies are playing in the cabin on what day. We used to get a movie and TV guide. Now there is a laminated A4 sheet saying Movies 1 Ch 14 etc. What is that all about?? The room service for breakfast used to be $3.00 for the breakfast. Now it's all priced individually. Small things like postcards are gone as are note paper that used to be in the cabin. Also no information about 2 of the 4 ports, only what was in the daily. Very limited information. These were not available from reception.
Cabin steward, excellent.
Food. Where to start. I would not call the food 'slop'. I would call it cheap, not very well prepared or presented. Some items were undercooked (muffins, and I know its hard to get it right sometimes, but is a professional kitchen, it its not cooked, put them back for 2 minutes), some things over cooked, some frozen and re-heated. A lot was very dry and not good. Both restaurant and buffet.
No restaurant on port days at all or embarkation day for lunch. Cheap. Someone tried a cake from Charlie's – looked wonderful. Was very dry.
They have gone with the cheapest cuts of meat available to them. The sirloin steak was not sirloin, it was thinly cut rump steak. They can not cook steak the way you would like it. The quiche that was potato and bacon was only potato. I asked the waitress where the bacon was. She admitted that the potato and bacon quiche was the same as the potato and salmon quiche (I didn't even ask, she said!). The sauces and dressings were very plain. The breakfast menu did not change. Daily specials are gone. I looked forward to the muesli, I should not have. The muffins were at times not thoroughly cooked. No garnish on the eggs to make them look a little fancy. On the last day the restaurant breakfast was a cut down menu.
The lunch menu portions have gotten smaller. People were saying that the dinner serving portions were smaller. I just noticed that the quality was not as good. I would like to state that I am not into fine dining or I am not a foodie. I like plain, good food. This stuff on offer was not that. It was really cheap all the way.
About 70% of the cakes / desserts were rubbish, plain, dry.
Beef cheeks. Lamb hocks. All ok in itself, but for mains? Really cheap.
There was a very good to share for 4 – 6 people, Roast Chicken, Roast Lamb and some Pork dish. We had the lamb only. Was fantastic. Best meal we had.
Overall the food has really dropped in standard, and it looks like it too. Is presented very poorly.
The offerings at the buffet were poor. Less variety than previous trips. I did not see this time silverside offered for a main. The were some vegetables, they did increase their green vege options last cruise, now its gone again.
The custard has improved a great deal in the buffet.
Fruit: There used be a a variety of fruit in the buffet. Not any more, unless you call Apples and Pears a huge variety. There used to be oranges, kiwifruit, grapes, bananas etc. What happened? yes...it got cheap. The were melons in the buffet, cut up. Everyday, same fruit on offer, melon.
Did not see any watermelons on display daily in the buffet. Ice sculptures are a thing of the past on P&O. They used to do these on deck and get quite a crowd.
Deck 7 on the Pearl, we (and others) have noticed a smell on deck 7 in the past. The first time we encountered it was on our first cruise on the Pearl and some of it have described it as smelling like an Old Wino. We were standing on deck 7, as it was a little rough but the outside deck was not yet closed, we look over the rails and saw the waves, along with what can only be described as a brown coloured fluid being pumped out of the ship, dark brown. We were surprised and wondered if we should ask the environmental officer, but perhaps not as on every cruise (when its a bit rough) we experience the same type of smell. The smell of raw sewerage, if you have not guessed. I did see on the TV in the cabin once someone talking about how they treat the waste before it is released into the sea and its very clean water etc. clearly this is not the case on the Pacific Pearl.
In conclusion, did we have a good time? Yes, we did, but the changes are very noticeable and we make the most of holidays. Will we cruise with P&O again? Probably yes as there are not too many options cruising out of Auckland. We will more than likely fly to Sydney and cruise from there as there are many more options and for the price the services on offer are much greater.