Pacific Jewel Norfolk Cruise September
Well this was the cruise that missed Norfolk Island due to the severe weather in the Tasman Sea. I have endeavoured to be objective in the review and hope that it may be of interest and even assistance to those considering cruising on Pacific Jewel.
Boarding at Wharf 5 Due to the intended redevelopment of the area the perfectly good terminal has been demolished and a temporary terminal installed further along the wharf. The terminal is quite adequate for the task and as usual P&O carry out the boarding of passengers in an efficient way. It is surprising how quickly almost 2000 passengers can be processed and boarded.
Cabin This time we were in an obscured cabin on deck 8 (midship). The fact that we had a tender outside the window was no problem at all as far as light and yes we still had a view. The only small fault was that on tender days there was some noise as the tender was initially lowered. Room in the cabin was excellent for two even with the king-size bed. Cabin service was adequate but I would admit not to the same standard as we have had on previous cruises. This really is dependent on the Cabin Steward.
Departure from Sydney This in my opinion is always one of the highlights of any cruise as it really is a wonderful harbour to sail out or in to. On this occasion we trailed Pacific Sun for some time before overtaking her.
On Board Entertainment The entertainment on board was good and in many cases excellent. One has to bear in mind that you are not going to a Broadway Show Theatre, and that the entertainment staff have a limited area to work in and perform shows. There was as always plenty of entertainment and activities in all areas of the ship and to cater for virtually all tastes.
On Board Speakers/Lecturers Again there was a good variety and on this cruise there was included a full set of lectures on Norfolk Island and the Bounty Mutiny. There were speakers on writing, along with dance lessons, craft lessons, and bridge lessons. The Destination speaker delivered a comprehensive presentation with photos and maps on the ports of call full of details needed to enjoy the days ashore. This was separate to the Tours Office presentation on what shore tours were available. All in all the presentations were good but my highlight was the History Speaker along with the Destination Speaker. These were excellent.
Shopping on Board There are several outlets on board covering a wide range of items and let's face it you are not at "Westfield" you are on board a ship. Prices can be expensive for some items and most will be dearer than in the ports such as Villa or Norfolk Island but who just takes a cruise to shop on board??
Food on Board Okay so we all know that on a cruise you are sure to add a few kilos. This cruise was no different. You have to remember the number of people being catered for each day and that you are not dining at the 'Ritz'. You would really have to be a pretty picky eater if you found nothing to eat. Breakfast in the Plantation Buffett was great as you had plenty of time and a good variety to choose from. At times there seems to be confusion in the Plantation Room with averyone trying to get what they want to eat but a little patience and there is no problem. The Waterfront Dining Room served a more sophisticated and leisurely breakfast for those that wanted restaurant style dining. Lunch was again good with a great variety to choose from. Afternoon Tea in the Waterfront was a wonderful experience where you had a chance to eat from a small selection of cakes, scones, sandwiches with waiter service. Dinner is where the real choice has to be made. Plantation Buffett provided good food and a good selection. The Waterfront was for fine dining although the standard of service depended on where you were seated. For anyone wanting to celebrate a special occasion with a few friends try to book the Wine Room in the Waterfront. It is a terrific section for a small private function. The Salt Grill was another experience that I consider worth the $30 surcharge, but be careful some of the dishes have additional charges attached. Service excellent. The La Luna Asian Restaurant is truly an experience not to be missed. The surcharge of $20 is worth every cent. Eight courses and approx 2 hours for this taste of Asia. Best service on board. Of course there is the 'Grill' on the Lido Deck where you can purchase prawns, chips, wings, and Pizza. Also the Chocolate Cafe where again you can purchase light snacks, ice cream, juices, cookies etc: The coffee bar on Deck 5 in the Atrium has terrific coffee. Overall the service is acceptable although at times the service in the Waterfront is slow and some of the staff uncommunicative. If I was on shore it would have been cause for complaint as I would have paying much more and expected much more. Bars The 'Lido Bar' on Deck 12 caters for the pool area. There is the 'Casbah' on Deck 7 for a quiet intimate drink. 'Connexions' also on Deck 7 is much larger and also the scene for many activities. There is a bar in the 'Marquee' on decks 7 & 8 that provides drinks during shows. There are also other smaller bars scattered about the ship.
Tea/Coffee Plenty of outlets providing tea and coffee. If you just want plain coffee for free there are machines on the Lido Deck that run 24/7. We always take out thermos travel mugs so we can slip up and get a hot drink and take it to the cabin, or the open deck 7.
Extras Ok so there are areas and facilities that are not included in the fare. The Oasis, with a nominal daily charge that makes it well worthwhile if you are seeking a little rest and relaxation. The Aqua has great gym equipment but if you are not a fitness junkie use the $20 day pass for the steam, sauna, relaxation, and aromatherapy rooms, I found this well worth while.
The Attic So it is not the Dome, but we found it a terrific little spot.
The CD One of the most difficult posts to fill on any cruise ship is the Cruise Director. On Jewel for this cruise was Zoltina J. I know there are some out there that don't like her but in my opinion she fills the role with ease and certainly does the job with flair and passion. The same goes for the Assistant CD Bobby, and for all the Entertainment Department Staff. They all work their butts off to give you a great time on board. Just bear in mind that many of this department are working way after you retire and well before you awake each and every day.
The Ports Noumea, One or two places in the town are well worth visiting. The Chocolate Shop, The Patisserie (both close to the terminal), and the Museum in the square has a wonderful WW1 exhibition along with a beautiful diorama scale model of old Noumea. For culture it is difficult to go past the Tjibaou Centre outside of Noumea. Port Denarau, Always a favourite when on the itinerary. Plenty to see and do in the area, including Nadi, and the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Then again you just browse around the shops or dine at the marina. Dravuni Island, A great stop for relaxation. The climb to the hilltop is hard but the view makes the effort worth while. This climb should only be done if you are fit and do not have mobility problems. Otherwise just stroll around the village and relax on the beach. Suva, The capital of Fiji and it has changed over the years. There is still plenty to do and see around the area and there can be some good buys in the shops, although prices have risen in the past couple of years. The market is an experience that stays with you. Nice to see the return of the greeting by the Police Band on the wharf. And the farewell from the band with the strains of Isa Lei drifting to the ship is something very special. Nukualofa, It is a long walk from the wharf into town, but it is an interesting one and there are plenty of shady spots to rest along the waters edge. The town is small in terms of shopping but again there can be some good buys if you look. I suggest you take a taxi into town $5. Vavau, I always enjoy a visit to this Tongan Port. The town has grown even in twelve months and there are some great eating spots. Shopping here can be good, particularly in the Duty Free shop in the middle of town. Port Villa, This was the unexpected stop in place of Norfolk Island. It was the first time I had visited Villa at night by ship. The shopping in Villa is well known; unfortunately the shops close early on Saturdays. Never the less there was shopping available and the markets opened up under torchlight. I understand that in no small way this was the result of intense emails between the Destination Speaker on board and the Chairman of the Shop Owners Assn. Certainly it was a very successful visit for the shops that opened. As the ship arrived even earlier than expected it took awhile for shops to open but as the night wore on several opened up to the delight of the passengers. The main reason for this unscheduled call at Villa was to replenish the Fire System Water Supply that was to be done during the Norfolk Island stop, hence it was never planned as a port stop in the normal sense.
Disembarkation Again this is handled well. This time as in the past we opted for "Self-Assist" disembarkation that had us off the ship by 8am and on our way home shortly after. Beauty of this is that you still keep your bags with you on the final night for that last minute packing.
Summing-up This was a most enjoyable cruise. The Jewel is a different ship to the Dawn. They may be the same to look at but they operate differently. It is unfair to compare one with the other. It is even more unfair to compare the Jewel with Princess Line, or the like as the fare cost is totally different and so is the style of cruise. After fifty years of cruising I would be more than happy to step on board Jewel at any time. Having travelled on some of the largest and most opulent liners in the world I consider that P&O offer great value for dollar on the fleet out of Australia. It is still the best value holiday you can get.