The Pacific Dawn cruise in Nov 2010 from Brisbane - Noumea - Lifou - Vila - Brisbane was our 7th experience on-board a mix of ocean and river ships. It was the first time that my wife and I had taken the plunge of spending a bit more and deciding to enjoy the delights of an up market Mini Suite. It even came with a $150 credit toward the cabin on-board account. We were looking forward to this for many months and if our past experience was anything to go by, then the extra room size would be greatly appreciated.
I don't intend to cover off all the topics recommended by the Cruise Critic guidelines since many people have given their valuable insights already, but I would like to warn fellow travellers against making the same major mistake that my wife and I made. We thought (foolish people I hear you say) that paying for an upgraded cabin - top floor, deck 11 or Aloha deck, no less - would come with all the benefits of luxury cruising. Not so.
The Cabin. The suite (and Pacific Dawn generally) is a bit tired. If you are a fan of marble slabs, then the bathroom is right up your alley. For me, it was too 1960'ish to be impressive. Plugs that don't work and shampoo sachets that are seldom replenished just don't cut the mustard. The 14 inch LCD TV was okay since we had bought our binoculars with us (the 2 adjoining cabins had 32 inch LCDs). The cabin decor is dull and uninspiring with black stains (probably gum) scattered around the carpet. I found some strange pills just under our bed on day 3. So when did they last give this place a real clean? All in, we would have taken these minor glitches in our stride, apart from a fairly significant problem - NOISE.
The Noise. The cabin, A165, is starboard side and located directly under the entrance to the main free dining restaurant. Unfortunately, it is also under the table tennis table and conveniently under the snack bar that sells chips and other hot snacks until late in the evening. The deck above is also the main pool deck where a number of significant social activities are conducted at various times during the cruise - all very boisterous but none of these were any cause for concern and in fact, while we heard a little distant music it never reached the level of being disturbing. So what was the problem? Well, the decking above is wooden and is probably glued very solidly to the metal sheets comprising our ceiling. P & O, bless their cotton socks, then thought it was a good idea to place plastic chars and tables on this wooden deck. The resulting scraping of the legs of both table and chairs vibrated very clearly right through the deck into the cabin with the same effect that a boom box would have. This noise started at about 6.30 am and lasted until early next morning - every fine day of the cruise. It was to our saving grace that the first 4 days of the cruise were wet and miserable, so we were spared this torment until Wednesday. But then along comes Thursday and Friday, both fine and fair.
Wednesday evening I was able to take a sleeping pill and finally dozed off to sleep about midnight with the scraping going full bore upstairs. Thursday night, rang the reception about 12.30 am and was told that the duty manager would look into it - and that she may visit my cabin to listen to the problem. Hadn't arrived by 1 am, so went up on deck to see the duty manageress having a nice chat with the drunk revellers. At 2.30 am the party goers went home and I dozed off to sleep. Friday night I began a 15 minute interval call to reception to complain from 10.30 pm onwards. Last call at 11.15 pm seemed to have some effect as the noise died away at that point.
The Lesson. Don't pay good money for a Mini Suite on the Pacific Dawn - go budget and get a good nights sleep. Better still, don't go P & O.
What could and should have been a very reasonable cruise was significantly spoiled by having to suffer from insufficient sleep in a cabin that promised much but gave little. The management were not overly helpful and needed significant prompting to resolve a routine complaint. I did not want to stop people having a good time, I would just have preferred that they did it on top of someone else's cabin - like the Captain's for instance - not mine.
Will we recommend P & O - not on your life. Had 6 other cruises with other lines and enjoyed every one of them, and will cruise again, but never ever with P & O, thank you.