Well we only chose to use P&O because we wanted a friend to be able to travel with us and she had a limited budget. Having previously cruised with MSC, Holland America and Princess, I had been warned that this would be a big step down but I was pleasantly surprised with P&O in almost every respect.
The cabins were spacious and our cabin steward Velinton was wonderful, in fact all the staff were excellent. The food was very good most of the time. The Waterfront restaurant food was of course superior to the buffet, sometimes not hot enough for my taste but on the whole very good. It was a pain to have to book every morning though if you wanted to dine at the Waterfront. Why not just go back to the old "early" or "late" sittings permanently booked?
The entertainment was very good, the shows were professionally done and there was plenty going on most days. I had been worried about seasickness as I am quite susceptible and have only cruised on the Mediterranean previously as it is always so calm. There was certainly some rocking and rolling but it wasn't too bad at all.
I suppose my only real disappointment was that the "clientele" on the ship seemed oblivious to the usual etiquette on formal nights. This was probably because P&O did not make much of a big deal about it. It was only that I searched the daily newsletters looking for the dress code each day that I was aware when it was "cocktail". I saw kids in the main dining room on "cocktail night" in hoodies, and people coming from the "captains cocktail party" looking like they had been to a BBQ. Seriously, I know Aussies are an informal bunch but I enjoy a little bit of glamour on a cruise. Very few seemed to make much of an effort and it was more like a tattoo festival at times and a bit much "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!". Having said that, (do I sound like a snob?) it was a friendly atmosphere and we met some really great people.
Shore excursions. We did the Ocean Rafting/snorkelling at Airlie Beach. This was a great day and a really fun trip. Sadly due to previous rain the visibility was not that great for snorkelling but it was a sunny day and the lunch at Whitehaven Beach was yummy and it was the most beautiful spot.
At Cairns/Yorkeys Knob we did the White Water rafting, something off my bucket list. I can't speak highly enough of this trip, it was fantastic and the absolute highlight of the whole trip. I was worried I might be too old and fat but no problem, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
At Port Douglas (what a delightful town) we did a crocodile safari then to the Sheraton for lunch. The crocodile safari was a big disappointment as all we saw was something that they said was a crocodile's nose under the water but it could have been a log for all we could tell. Oh well that's nature I guess but we felt a bit let down as the blurb promised "the crocodile infested river". The lunch was delicious. I could have happily stayed at Port Douglas an extra day, it really was charming.
All in all a great trip. Would I travel with P&O again? Possibly not as most of the itineraries involve crossing the wild pacific ocean to the islands, and as mentioned previously I am not a good sailor, however for a budget cruise line I think they did a surprisingly good job.