My family (wife, 4 boys, mum & dad) enjoy cruising and were on the lookout for a good deal on the new addition to australian shores the Jewel.
This cruise Noumea, Vila, Lifou & Wala.
Check-in was effecient, usual photographers getting in the way and holding up progress, they get a bit shirty when you refuse a photo you could take yourself and have no intention of purchasing.
We have sailed previously on the Pacific Dawn twice, but no others to give comparison.
The rooms (inside quad) were as expected, luggage delivered efficiently, quite clean, no complaints other than one cupboard under the fridge required a folded up piece of paper to hold it shut due to a broken lock. This was not fixed and with twin 4 year old boys it proved a bit of a pain keeping it closed as it is in the entrance to the room, it wasn't a problem for the cabin steward as it wasn't in his room. Our steward was well mannered and polite, did what was required but nothing extra, on our first cruise we were spoiled with the most wonderful steward and maybe compare others too much to him. My parents shared the other room with my two older sons. The top bunks have mattresses only suitable for children, I slept two nights up top and paid for it with a very sore back. As the rooms were not adjacent they had another cabin steward who I would describe as similar to ours, nice but not worth tipping (which I don't understand why they wouldn't strive to excel as they could more than double their meagre wage with gratuities). In the jewel the top bunks don't fold down as they do on the Dawn, they pull down under tension, you need to apply quite some force to pull them down. One night my 8yr old son returned to his cabin about 9.30 only to find his bed not pulled down so he slept in the lower bed (my mothers). When my parents retired after a late show they were unable to pull down the bed, so being unassuming country people who don't complain, mum had an uncomfortable sleepless night sharing a single bed with my son. When my father mentioned to the steward about the bed in the morning he said 'I couldn't pull it down', he seemed unconcerned but polite and needed my father to suggest he organise a maintenance person to look at it whilst wondering what value he received out of the $20 he gave this person on the first day. On the dawn we had ice buckets in our rooms that the stewards would fill every day, this was not practised on the jewel and seemed too hard for these stewards, so we got our own, I had to get my own glasses almost every day for the room if you removed them from the room and had staff clear them in some other part of the ship. Most of these are minor things but contribute to enjoyable cruising.
The food in the dining room was excellent as was the service, we ate dinner every night there, I saw no need to pay for dinner in other parts of the ship when food of such quality was available with no charge. We mostly dined there as well for lunch, good servings, enough variety and very good quality. Didn't dine there for breakfast, preferring less formal atmosphere of the buffet where food was mixed generally not hot enough but plenty of choice to satisfy most. I wish the cooks would learn that most prefer bacon closer to crispy than raw.
The entertainment was good, sports co-ordinator excellent only complaint periods of nothing happining then three things I would like to do at once.
Reception staff cold, bar staff excellent albeit a long wait to get a simple bottled drink when all are making cocktails.
Wine basic but very expensive, cocktails reasonable, tap water sometimes tastes like they got it from a swimming pool, softdrinks expensive, watered down orange juice only available in thimble sized cups lukewarm at breakfast, what do they expect children to drink on a hot day? - Take drink on board with you.
Captain is a true professional, you always feel well informed and in good hands.
Kids club staff excellent, kids club poor, very poor when compared to the Dawn.
I went for a sauna every day on the Dawn (complimentary) the Jewel wanted $140.00 - no thanks. The Jewel has replaced an airy comfortable multipurposed area in prime position top floor front of ship ie the Dome on the Dawn with a gym and massage parlour where you can treat yourself to a $300.00 massage. This obviously is used but I never saw people queued up three deep to use these facilities, don't know too many people who go to the gym for the view.
The Dawn had a late night movie on just about every night in the show lounge - one on the Jewel in 10 nights.
P & O have one hand reaching for my wallet the whole time on the ship, I paid for my ticket and its inclusions, make shopping, art auctions, glamour photos etc available but dont shove them in my face or pressure me to spend money. Shore tours are outrageously expensive. Providing adults only areas is good but charging for them is greed.
We stopped at Wala a beautiful island with equally friendly lovely people who live very basically but are proud of their home. I was a bit disappointed at P&O's hungriness for cash by setting up stalls on the ship flogging softdrinks for people to take ashore, whilst the same drinks are available on shore with locals selling them out of eskys, surely on a non commercialised island with no shops and a local people of little means they could let the local people make a few more dollars, if they any sense of fairness they would give them the drinks to sell for allowing us to share their beautiful home.
We had a good holiday, the sister ship the Dawn offers more to us as a family but now sails out of brisbane offering repetative 'done it once dont need to do it again' cruises. Will we go the Jewel again? Only for a real, real good deal on a cruise offering different destinations. Will probably look at some visiting ships in the near future