Before this cruise I had been on only one previously, on the Legend of the Seas. I was keen to find out how this would compare. Unfortunately, the holiday did not get off to a good start, as the engines broke down on the previous cruise and the ship was a day and a half late returning to Brisbane. This led to changes of the itinerary, and the news that we would not get to Vanuatu which was disappointing. This was unfortunate, and I can't speak for everyone, but the group I was with did not let this dampen our spirits. When we finally boarded almost two days late, but after a very smooth check in, the party began. There was a band playing up on the deck all night - in fact it seemed as if there was always music around the pool regardless of what time it was.
We got to our room, and they were significantly larger than they had been on my previous cruise. Talking to the stateroom attendant, who I must complement for his exemplary service, he said they were the largest of any ship he's been on. We went to the buffet for dinner on the first night, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. The food was good but not great, and the ques were massive. The following night, when we went to the dining room, we enjoyed excellent food, brilliant service and a far nicer atmosphere.
Especially on the first night, it seemed that everywhere you looked there was someone trying to sell you a drink or souvenir. This was great if you were thirsty, but not if you didn't want to pay $9 for a Corona. This was one one of my main criticisms of P&O, that everywhere you looked they were trying to take money off you. Bottled water, which was free on Legend of the Seas, was very expensive on Pacific Dawn.
Entertainment on Pacific Dawn was great. There was very few times when I wasn't doing anything; in fact I often had to miss activities as there is simply not enough time in each day. Shows in the theater during the day were the highlight of entertainment, along with the late night comedy shows. The shows in the theater provided some brilliant moments of entertainment. For example, when they had a cooking demonstration the cruise director was busy eating the first dish and didn't see the chef pour a bowl full of chili into the second dish. All eyes were on her as she took a mouthful and then ran from the stage to get a drink.
Hopefully, if P&O want the Pacific Dawn to keep cruising in the long term, they will do something to fix her engines. Ive seen plenty of reviews about where they have broken down, and they are also very loud when you're in the dining room if the ship is going quickly.
One thing I found liked was that on the last sea day we were able to go on a tour of the ships kitchens and also the backstage area of the theater. It was interesting to see the conditions that the staff have to work in.
There were five key things I liked on Legend of the Seas that Pacific Dawn did not have. 1) A deck enabling you to stand up the front. The Pacific Dawn sort of had a deck like this, but it was closed half the time. 2) A lounge where you can sit on the highest deck and watch all four directions. The Dome is the Pacific Dawns version of this, but shutters were lowered at 6pm each night, ruining the view. 3) A rock climbing wall and mini golf course. I don't necessarily want these exact features on every ship, but something other than a pool up on deck would be welcomed. 4) Everything was contained on four decks; 2 down the bottom and 2 up the top. On the Pacific Dawn everything was spread everywhere, which complicated finding things at times. 5) Soft drink packages. For a couple of dollars a day you got unlimited soft drink on Legend of the Seas. P&O needed a drink package of some description.
Of course, the Pacific Dawn had features I liked about it that the Legend did not have. Finding a drink waiter was never a problem. There was much more in the way of entertainment and the ship had a nightlife, whereas the only nightlife on the Legend was in the casino. The laser show on the Pacific Dawn was also very entertaining.
Overall, the Pacific Dawn is a beautiful ship, and is a cruise well worth going on. Make sure you're in the mood to party, as it is perhaps more aimed at a younger age group than other ships are. There was certainly never a dull moment, and I would not hesitate to go on this ship again.
The original itinerary for our cruise was Noumea, Lifou and then Port Vila. However, due to the delayed start to the cruise it was changed to Noumea and Divine Island. Noumea was an interesting place to visit. Everything is very expensive there, except for duty free alcohol. We got a litre of Jack Daniels for about $20. If you want to go on a tour of Noumea, don't bother booking it on the boat. As soon as you get off the boat there are plenty of tour operators who will give you the same tour for half the price. We took this option, and went on a tour of Noumea. There were three main things I noticed. 1: It is very hot. I'm glad the bus was air conditioned. 2: Noumea is made from hills. Its not hard to get a good view of the surrounding area. 3: Taking the Tchou Tchou train is not a good idea because it broke down halfway up a hill due to its engine overheating. Apart from going sightseeing, there is not much to do. Activities such as go karting etc. are available, but they are no cheaper, in fact some are more expensive, then Australia. For lunch we went to a local bakery, and bought some Noumean beer. The beer we had is called Number 1...and I might give it a miss next time. However, they do make another called Manta which is apparently nicer. After this we got back on the ship and that evening we headed off to Divine Island, with a band playing to farewell us.
If you looked at a cross section of Divine Island, you would see ocean, sand, forest, sand ocean. The only things on the island are a couple of huts. The ship brought over a bar so you could have a drink on the beach (at ridiculous ship prices). We were told the snorkeling would be good, and it was reasonable, but unfortunately it was too close to the surface and I found it difficult to snorkel in 40cm of water. In addition, it appeared quite lifeless, at least compared to what I saw when I went snorkeling in Vanuatu. We got onto the island at about 10:30, and left at about 12:30 to get back for lunch.