This was our first cruise. We took our two adult daughters to visit Port Vila, Lifou and the Isle of Pines and were expecting lots of interesting activities, lovely cabins, good food and great service. The good points were the Waterfront Restaurant with 5 star food and service and attentive, friendly waitstaff. Our waitress remembered our names from the very beginning, no matter where she was working, and was an absolute delight. When one of us was sick, she put together a plate of cheese and biscuits to take back to the cabin. At the end of the cruise, she hugged us all as we said goodbye. She was an absolute asset to P & O, as was the cabin steward and other waiters. The food in the buffet was a bit hit and miss - lovely breakfasts but pretty ordinary food the rest of the day. My rating of 3 for dining is really an average between the Buffet and the Waterfront Restaurant.
The evening productions (musical theatre and circus performances) were outstanding and we enjoyed the trivia quizzes, however unfortunately there was very little else of interest and we struggled to 'fill in' the day. There is only so much reading you want to do for 6 sea days! There were very few movies for adults and unless you got there 30 minutes before they started, you couldn't get a seat. Many of the activities cost extra or were talks designed to sell the ship's products or services, such as the spa. How often do you want to listen to what to do about your wrinkles and puffy eyes? This talk seemed to be on every day. If you like gambling at the casino and playing Bingo, that could have occupied a lot of your time but if that's not your thing, then there wasn't much else. Bridge was on at 8am each day and unhosted - so if you turned up and three other people did at that crazy hour, you might have a foursome for bridge. Dancing classes didn't happen for the first few days and then started on the days people were on shore. There were no interesting talks as on other cruises we've heard about, e.g. on the history and culture of the places we were visiting. There seemed to be a big emphasis on making money from the expensive alcohol (apart from the cocktails which were cheaper than bars at home). We spoke to quite a few people who had cruised on that very ship or with other P & O ships and all of them said that the standard of this one was disappointing compared to other cruises. They all said that the number of activities had really reduced, there wasn't enough to do and things that were previously free now cost extra. Some also said the emphasis seemed to be more on drinking alcohol "because that's where they make all their money". The ship was in need of refurbishment in many areas where it looked 'tired' and 'old'.
Our cabin, 11150, was a mini-suite with balcony on Deck 11, the highest level of cabin on the highest deck, so the most expensive. Our daughters were in a cabin with window down the passage from us. Although our cabin was a good size with a very comfy bed and good quality linen, the carpets were stained and the tiles in the bathroom were badly cracked. However the greatest problem we had was the noise of the cabin. I can't believe that I just read a review of a cabin on the same deck written in April 2011 complaining of the same noise for the same reason! I wish I'd read it before leaving. Obviously this hasn't been addressed in the last two years. 11150 was under the open deck with pools. Every day and night we heard deck chairs being moved for long periods of time while staff stacked them and put them out, or people dragged tables and chairs around. We mentioned this to Reception but they were completely disinterested. On top of this, we heard all the music from the bands playing on deck which wasn't too bad until one night when the noise was reverberating off our walls and ceiling. Fortunately it stopped at 11.30 pm but not too good with sick members of the family. It appears that the ceiling wasn't insulated at all. We also had an excessive, odd noise in the air conditioning for about 2 days and one night: the incessant 'beeping' overnight prevented sleep altogether. Fortunately it righted itself and the maintenance staff did investigate. The cabin also creaked and groaned all night with the swell!
Our daughters' cabin further up the passage (11196) had no noise from the deck above (they were under the restaurants) but the air conditioning fan appeared to be on 'high' for the entire cruise. They were told that all the cabins had air conditioning like that, which obviously wasn't true. We spoke to several other passengers who had lovely quiet cabins and normal air conditioning in lower decks and those who were experienced cruisers told us never to stay on the top deck. What a shame, considering it was also the most expensive.
We also found it difficult to get a refund for a shore tour when one of our daughters was too sick with a virus to get out of bed for an entire day. We were told we couldn't get it without taking her to the doctor on board and that person agreeing that she was sick enough not to go. She didn't need a costly medical consultation, but just needed to sleep. We had given 3 hours' notice that she would not be going but the inflexibility and lack of concern of the Reception staff was unbelievable!
It was such a shame to have these negative experiences and we would never sail on the Pacific Jewel again or even with P & O. Fortunately the good points I mentioned above are things we will always remember happily but the negatives will stick with us too.