We did a B2B the first cruise was 10 days to PNG and the 2nd was 7 days along the QLD coast but due to bad weather we went south overnight Sydney and the Newcastle and Tangalooma.
Embarkation was quite drawn out mainly because of staggard check in but also because of the demographics of the cruise. On the 2nd leg embarkation was a breeze with little to no lines. On the first leg the baggage drop off line was approx 200 pax long.
The demographics of the two cruises was markedly different. On the first leg were mainly more mature passengers whilst on the 2nd leg was the standard family crowd. This made an interesting contrast as a substantial number on the 1st cruise were what I refer to the Princess crowd, who had difficulty adjusting to the P&O routine especially with regards to booking/confirming your dinner time in the MDR. We had no issues as we knew the routine, but many evenings I noticed a large crowd in front of the MDR to book their next evening meal. The routine is that once you have booked on the first night they will pencil you in for the following evening at the same time, but not necessarily the same table.
Sail away unfortunately was a bit of a dud due to no crowd engagement. The 2nd cruise was a bit more energised but I have seen a lot better crowd participation. It needs to be said though that I found both cruise Directors we had boring.
The cruise overall was still good fun although we missed out on the last two stops due to bad weather. Our first stop was Alotau, we just walked to town and experienced it. I also found a Westpac Atm and withdrew some local currency. The bank also had established a point at the pier to exchange money. Taxi back to the the ship was only five kina.
The next stop was a tender stop but due to bad weather many people stayed on board. We hoped off and the local people were very friendly.
Our third stop was Rabaul. This place is amazing, it had so much history that you can not take it in in one stop. We organised a tour and I look forward going back again. If you have a chance go to the Japanese submarine base and snorkel there if the water is calm.
The next two stops had to be cancelled and we had 4 sea days in a row, which were quit relaxing. The shows and guestperformers were very good, one of the guest performers was from PNG. The ship also had two clergyman on board who held several services to commemorate the fallen during WWII.
We travelled with five boys 14, 12 , 8 , 6 and 3 . The oldest was a cabin potato and did not engage but all the others went to the various kids club and had a great time. P&O still has the best kids club we have encountered so far at sea.
We ate most of the time in the MDR for breakfast and dinner. It is a la carte, however you can mix and match and order more than one entree or main course or dessert if one desires. Not that I did this as I was trying to loose weight.
The gym on deck 2 is small and basic, certailnly not as good as on other ships and the running and walking track on deck 14 is good, however many other passengers are oblivious to your presence and will just stroll in the middle of the track or walk in front of you, so be aware.
Cabin service is still good, however they no longer have an evening turn down service, which is a disappointment.
We attended the chef,s table which was superb, well worth the $95 for an 8 course meal plus all your wines and La Luna - Thai, which was very good too for $29 meal only.
On the 2nd leg the hotel manager realised that we were B2B cruisers and we received suite standard service incl bathrobes and slippers, invite to the senior officers cocktail party and afternoon drinks with canapes brought to the cabin on sea days and priority tender tickets and disembarkation. Our two youngest boys also received a special mention at the captains club having sailed 9 times with P&O and Princess.
Overall a very good cruise, the Pacific Dawn is a family ship and whilst some people are critical of it I find for the money we pay it is good value. I certainly plan to do more B2B because it is so much more relaxing.