I travelled with a friend on Pacific Dawn over the Victorian School holidays (September 08)and it was a last minute decision to book. My friend came from the UK and we decided that it was time for him to experience a cruise.
I have travelled with quite a few cruise companies including: P&O UK, Princess, NCL, RCCL, Seabourn and Swan Hellenic. My last cruise was a month on Seabourn, so I had low expectations for this trip compared to my last.
Embarkation was easy, and straight forward. However once through the immigration and security it was a long wait to actually board the ship. This was due to the photographs that are used in conjunction with the ships security, and not the ships photographers (although they were there!)
Our cabin was A125 which turned out to be a disabled cabin on the inside of A deck. It was spacious compared to other cabins that I saw during the cruise. This cabin needs some work done on the carpeting and the inside and was showing it's age. However saying that, it had two beds, plenty of wardrobe space and a massive shower (for the disabled guests)
I had travelled on this ship previously as Regal Princess and didn't find getting around difficult. It was nice to see that most of the rooms had undergone some renovations, most noticeable was the "dome" where the banks of slot machines had gone and replaced with a small stage.
Our first experience of dining was the buffet on Deck 12, I would never normally use this, as the Palm Court is a much better option. Today was embarkation day so had no choice. The line stretched for ever, and took around 30 mins to actually reach the food.
The food is probably the only major disappointment on the trip. The buffet food is something that you might have experienced at school once. However that evening the dinner in the main dining room was ok. The food never really got any better throughout the whole trip, and was probably the worst aspect of the cruise.
One thing that annoyed me beyond anything else was the constant selling by waiters... did we want a kilo of prawns for $10? Did we want some naff glasses? Did we want to purchase this or that.... It became a joke after the first night. P&O in the UK (well certainly the last time I travelled with them) does not offer this continuous bombardment of selling.
The ports of call for me were the best part, Noumea we took a ships tour and did a jetski around a small island, great fun and worth the $99 we each paid. The other smaller islands were a great opportunity to swim and relax on the beach and to experience some culture.
The drink prices on board were expensive compared to other lines, and unlike other large companies they did not offer a "soda card" which is so useful if you don't drink booze. I had an issue with one of the waiters who refused to serve me 6 cans of coke to take back to my cabin. Eventually he let me, and I made a complaint to one of the bar managers. He basically told me that I was lying and this would have never of happened.
This annoyed me no end.. I don't drink that much, and to be told that I was lying was very unprofessional. However it didn't spoil the holiday, and I forgot about it after a couple of hours.
If you wanted food outside of normal dining hours it was possible, unlike other lines, they charged you for it. I didn't mind paying for the icecreams or at 1am for a hamburger (only once!!) but I found it not as "inclusive" as some cruise companies. We tried the steakhouse once and paid AUD$25 for the meal. My steak was huge, and cooked to perfection, however not worth the money paid.
The cruise as I mentioned earlier was during school holidays, most of the kids were well behaved, although there was a huge youth security and other security guards. Kids did hog the spas and other things, and after 11pm there was no where for them to buy a soft drink. P&O need to look at this very carefully.