A short cruise Auckland to Sydney on " Arcadia " February 2011.
We took this short cruise as a very pleasant way to get to Sydney instead of sitting in a metal tube and hanging around airports.
Embarkation; at Auckland was OK, but there were 3 cruise ships in port and we embarked via tin shed 10 on Queens Wharf. It was alright for the 150 getting on in Auckland but would have been stretched for too many more.
On boarding we were "greeted" by the standard photographer and a girl who asked" do you know where you are going ? " Not exactly the best way to present your ship !
Accommodation; we had booked an Outside but had an upgrade to a DB Balcony; the cabin was really nice and was a decent size. Bathroom was also of a reasonable size although we felt the mini tub was unnecessary and would prefer a shower cubicle. The cabin had an excellent verandah, spacious and furnished with traditional cushioned steamer chairs, ideal for a long cruise. Nice little touches like electric jug and tea/coffee making facilities; air con.was easy and reliable to control. Cabin steward was excellent and nothing too much for him.
Public rooms; a mixture of really nice and very ordinary; it didn't seem to have any " flow" with various spaces here and there. DEcor was low key but quite nice but we did think the lack of an atrium as the centre point of most ships was lacking and let down the overall impression. Lovely theatre but back up , The Globe, was miniscule and did nothing for us. So pleased they didn't appear to have the crappy "art auctions" that most other ships have, but a very pleasant art gallery with really original works on display. The ship could really do with a secondary theatre of a decent size for smaller shows .
Dining; Main Meridian restaurant appeared quite pleasant on 2 levels and didn't seem to be as noisy as many we have struck. Food here was generally good and a decent choice.
The Belvedere Buffet was disappointing; breakfast was your standard English breakfast offerings with little in the way of "extras" to tempt one; and why have the cereals and fruit at the stern end when 80% of passengers enter from the centre of the ship ! Lunch was very poor; a standard choice daily with no attempts at variance; and have you ever seen beverage dispensers with notices "Fruit Juices only available from 6 a.m to 12 noon ?? " It is a big area and plenty of seating, but service was almost non-existent with few attempts to clear and clean tables; could do with a brush up all round ; perhaps the largely British passengers preferred the dining room ?
We also tried the alternative venues; Arcadian Rhodes was very nice and the food excellent; but service again almost non- existent, had to ask for wine list, and appalled when staff were clearing tables around us before we had finished, and locking away the liqueur trolley offerings in a cupboard as if to say "let's get out of here ". ( and it was only 9 p.m. )
The Orchid ( up top on deck 11 ) was a different matter; with an Asian influence, excellent staff and altogether an extremely pleasant evening, the 10 GBP cover charge being well worth it. Would go back there in a flash.
Drinks policy ; we applaud P&O for what was a lesson to be learned by a lot of other cruise lines; prices everywhere., bars and restaurants were extremely reasonable and one could also purchase spirits to "take away" to your room at duty free prices and drink at your leisure ; so no need to "smuggle" bottles on board like some ships and a policy that should be seriously looked at by other operators; people will always buy ships stock if its properly priced , have a very pleasant experience, and not feel ripped off or under suspicion of having something in your bag you shouldn't have.
Entertainment; in our short time on board we came to the conclusion that shows were very good; we had the funniest man on one night and again being interviewed the next afternoon, Tom O'Connor, who had everyone in stitches without a single smutty reference of swear word; well done. Production show on the last sea night was excellent; but the so-called Australian Cultural show on the in-port Sydney night was an embarrassment, and the company should know better. The cruise staff were so-so, seemed to be there because they had to be. We liked the idea of the big main pool up top with the opening roof ( that actually opened ! ) and the slightly smaller one outside on the after deck; and also very much liked the fact that all the outside decks were teak planked and not plastic covered. There was no space in the ship that would accommodate the numbers of people for trivia or bingo that are so popular on "Princess" ships, but once again its horses for courses and probably not the same type of crowd.
A small note, full marks to P&O for the daily newsletter "Horizon" ;very professionally produced and knocks spots off the "Princesss Patter "
Itinerary; we obviously did not experience the full offering but we did feel that the World Cruise itinerary was sparse to say the least in ports visited., would have wanted more ports to see on the way. It was a pity for the 850 round trippers on board that the weather in Auckland and the 2 days in Sydney was poor but one can't control that. That said, what a superb location the Passenger Terminal has at Circular Quay
Disembarkation; we stayed on board overnight in Sydney and disembarked on Sunday morning; a lot of people wanted to get off on Saturday but were not allowed, presumably because it would have needed extra Customs and MAF attendance but did seem rather officious and unnecessary.
Overall. A very pleasant experience, and as we said a great way to cross the Tasman; we would use the ship again given the right itinerary and the right price, but like everything in life there were pluses and minuses and all these come into account when making the final choice.