Firstly, I'd like to say that myself and my partner (both 26) were travelling on this 14-day tour of the south pacific islands for our honeymoon. As a bit of background we both enjoy music (playing and listening), theatre shows, dancing, and partying as well as relaxing with a good book. So we thought this cruise would provide the perfect honeymoon as a mixture of relaxation, beach fun, musical and theatre entertainment and some partying too.
Ship: Pacific Jewel
Cabin No: 11212
Cruise: 14-days around pacific islands - Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia
Well it provided the beach fun and relaxation.... but thats about it. I'll elaborate more on the reasons why and what we did and didn't like about it later on.
The main reason for writing this review is to inform others on what you will actually get on this cruise as we were very disappointed with the on-board entertainment and would, as a result, never cruise with P&O again and would NOT recommend it to honeymooners, 20-30 year olds, or anyone wanting to be entertained on board. Sea days (6 in total) were boring... which is a lot of time to be bored on what isn't a cheap holiday. Definitely a cruise for the lazy or those who literally want to do nothing when on ship... this may be suitable for some but was unacceptable to us.
As I said we were on honeymoon. I booked it myself through the P&O website and was vigilant for anywhere I could use to let them know that it was our honeymoon, I had heard that on other cruises they would make you feel special, which I wanted for my new wife as she deserves it, and had also heard they would have a 'honeymooners club' with get-togethers on ship for all those on honeymoon - sounds good, right?. Finished booking... nowhere did it ask for additional information or special circumstances. Ok maybe I'd have an opportunity later. Forgot about it until less than a week before the wedding and my mother-in-law asked if I had let them know that it was our honeymoon. I had not... dammit! So she called and emailed P&O about it - they said "unfortunately we need to be informed at least 8 days prior to departure". We asked if there was anything that could be done - P&Os response "no"..... Right, well a little effort would have been appreciated but ok. So I decided to just let our room steward know on arrival to our room after embarkation. We let him know that we were on honeymoon, he congratulated us with smiles and enthusiasm (which was nice) and put some balloons and a sign up on our door to show it was our honeymoon..... that was the extent of 'special attention' given to us by P&O. Now I never expect special attention for anything but this was our honeymoon! Pretty disappointing - they didn't even organise a catch-up for other honeymooners despite seeing at least 5 other 'honeymoon' signs on other doors during walks around the ship.
Moving on - we were originally booked in for an outside cabin located midship on level 9 (we picked it specifically) and asked NOT to be upgraded. Somehow about a week before the cruise we were informed of an 'upgrade' to deck 11, one cabin from the back of the ship.... definitely NOT an upgrade. but the midship cabins are easier to sell so they 'upgrade passengers from those to accommodate last minute sales. Not happy but didn't complain as it was 1 week away and we didn't have time to think about it with our wedding coming up.
We were in room 11212 and ended up wit 'restricted view' out the window. Luckily for us we didn't have the 'chair scraping' issue that other cabins on deck 11 seem to have as we did not have any area of useable deck above us so for that reason it was quite good. It was also very close to the plantation restaurant (deck 12 directly above) and the oasis bar (below on deck 10). Cabin was clean and the cabin steward was very nice. On three occasions (over 14 days) we received towels in the shape of different animals.
After only being on the ship a few hours it was clear that the average age of passengers on this cruise would be around 60! Also, putting it as delicately as possible and really trying not to offend anyone... a very large percentage of the passengers would be classed as obese! Whilst this is fine and has nothing to do with us it did, without exaggeration make navigating hallways and elevators very difficult. This is not a reflection on P&O as its not something anyone can help but it is something to consider! It could be very uncomfortable at times as we were the ones expected to get out of their way.
Now you may think I have been quite negative so far but as reviews are generally viewed to get a sense of the negatives associated with the topic I will mainly focus on those and mostly summarise the positives at the end.
The embarkation process was fast and easy, welcoming onto the ship was good, all the stewards, waiters, bartenders etc were very friendly and always helpful.
The layout of the ship wasn't bad. The decor was simple, nothing opulent, and the common areas seemed a little cramped. The top deck consisted of a single common area with 2x small pools, 2x 6 person spas (for 1500+ passengers), a bar and 100+ lounge chairs with a balcony on the deck above overlooking this area.
Food on board was either at the main buffet (Plantation restaurant), Waterfront restaurant (no charge), Salt Grill ($50pp) or La Luna ($40pp) as well as a cafe and a grill place for pizza, chips or anything deep fried.
Buffet was reasonable. Food was very similar each day with small changes in variety of food supplied. Pre-made salads and baguettes/sandwiches weren't very nice at all. Had heard they do seafood buffets during the cruise - not once was this provided, which was disappointing. Some of the hot food was ok and was happy to try most things for lunch. Breakfast food was better than what was supplied for lunch or dinner.
After 2 days of buffet food we ate at the Waterfront every day for lunch and dinner. Service at the waterfront restaurant was very good but was highly dependant on the waiter that you were allocated - we were very lucky. Ours were very friendly and between dinner courses would do magic tricks, tell us riddles or jokes, or made us intricate objects/animals out of napkins! The food was quite good considering there was no charge and we always got 3 courses, and sometimes extras if we were particularly hungry and asked them.
We didn't eat in Salt Grill or La Luna so I can't comment on their service or quality.
Food in the cafe or pizza place cost extra and were reasonable.
Cocktails were very well priced at $9.50! We liked going out to the oasis bar on deck 10 and relaxing on the lounges with a pina colada! :) Considering the next topic this was about all there was to do during sea days.
Entertainment - now this is a very important aspect of a cruise considering we spent 6 full days at sea, not to mention being at sea every night. So as far as we were concerned there needed to be enough entertainment to keep us interested and of good quality. We were extremely disappointed with most aspects of entertainment. When looking at the 'Pacific Daily', which is the daily schedule of activities, it would seem that there is a lot to do... but on closer inspection we found it hard to find 2 things per day to go to. We were MOST DISAPPOINTED with the quality of the musical theatre productions on board. The pacific entertainers (the dancers and singers on board) were absolutely terrible, we get better entertainment from our local scout groups annual performance - which is really saying something. The singing was average at best and the acting and dancing was uninspiring. We usually enjoy all forms of musical and theatre entertainment, so it might sound like we're being picky, but these performances were terrible and each night less and less passengers came to them. We only continued to go out of sheer boredom - it was either go to that or go to bed (at 9:30). The on-deck parties (I think there were 3) were an absolute joke. The pacific entertainers were unenthusiastic and failed to really interact with the crowd, seeming bored with being there at all. Rather than trying to improve the feel of the party they seemed resigned to the fact it was losing momentum (at 10pm). Bands on board were talented but failed to judge the crowd well and played the wrong songs at the wrong times - for party music they failed to get the crowd going.
Now in all honesty this could have been due to the fact that 80% of the cruise passengers seemed to be over 60 years of age. Having said that P&O still should have made an effort for those who did want to say up until past 10 and enjoy some night time activities. Sigh... very lame.
Dance classes - 2x salsa and 1x jive. Hardly extensive.
Lots of bingo, at least once per day. Karaoke heats every day. Casino open most of the time. These seemed like the extent of regular activities- none of which i was interested in... sigh.
During Sea days I did enjoy some of the on board 'adventure' activities (extra costs) including rock climbing up the rear funnel. These activities cost between $20 and $60 per turn but can be purchased as a package if you think you will use it often.
To cut this review short and summarise:
- Entertainment => Poor
- Food => Reasonable
- Service => Excellent
- Ports => Great
Not recommended for anyone under 30 or maybe even 40. Even young families may find the on-board activities lacking. Most activities have additional charges and they are NOT cheap. Even the pensioners we talked to on the ship were disappointed and the entertainment seemed to be directed towards them.