On the 30th of April 2011, I stepped foot onboard the pacific dawn. Would I do it again? OF COURSE! It was a fantastic cruise. Of course there were negatives but this in no way ruined the cruise. From the food to the crew to the people on board it was just excellent.
Embarkation was easy, picked up a tag, tagged my bag put on the conveyer belt and off it went. Try to remember to bring a pen as not many are supplied at all! That process took maybe 5 minutes at most! Then go inside where you will be amongst hundreds of other humans, though a little daunting it seemed to run quite smoothly. Collect a Green card and go into the line. Fill out the card while you wait too save you some time. When you get to the front of the line you will go to up to a desk and get checked in. Here you show your passport and your cruise card (Cabin key and how you pay for everything on board). They also take your picture so when it's scanned they know who you are...This is where you set up your credit card to the cruise card. Then you will receive a ticket saying when you will board. When it's called you just go to the customs area and have the green card.
After this I went to the cafe too eat before my boarding number was called, the food there was quite good! I had the steak and eggs. Also there is an IGA next too it so you can grab some last minute things...I would grab some potato chips and some small snacks to keep in your cabin. Also you should buy a lanyard for your cruise card or bring one from home. I brought my own as I read about it before. There was a guy on the street selling some for $5 and some stores had them for $6-$8. You can buy them on the boat as well for $8. Don't get one with a plastic sleeve in my opinion as you have to take it out to get in your room and what not. They also have a hole already for the lanyard. I read that they did not have it before, now they do.
Customs was a joke compared to an airport. When it's your turn you go through and hand that green card to some guy near the entrance. Then you are asked to wait in line to go through the metal detector and the x-ray for your onboard bags. You walk through and you are good to go! There was no sniffer dog; the bags were barely looked at so you could probably bring anything on board. She glimpsed at the x-ray monitor for less than a second when me and my brother went through.
From customs you will walk through to the boat going up some stairs which I tripped on because my brother was in front of me and walking too slow, there will be a photographer to take your picture there against a blue backdrop. I read that photos cost about $20 on board so I decided not to. I regret it now because you get a free 1Gb USB stick which has a little ball with water in it with a cruise ship inside...so it moves! I loved it! Sadly you can only get it for the first two days and you have to buy the Embarkation photo. Then you will just walk up a ramp and get your card scanned to say that you are on board. This is where that picture of you from earlier is used. So make a funny face too try and make them laugh :)
Then just find your way to your cabin. I was on deck 8. I went up the lift and looked at a map and figured it out quite easily. This boat is so dam easy to navigate you can't get lost! I got to my cabin and my luggage was there. My brother's was not yet there. Scanned my card and I was in my cabin. It was quite large, bigger than expected. We had a twin cabin that could be a 4 person cabin. It was an obstructed view it had one of the life boats in the way, but you could see 80-90% of everything out of the window. The TV was a little too small in my opinion it was about a 19 inch flat screen. There was a mini fridge but it didn't really keep anything too cold. We cranked up the dial to max and it still was not super fantastic for a cold drink but it kept it colder than room temperature which was good I suppose. We had a look at the TV channels they offered. There were three movie channels which repeated the same movie on the channel it's on over and over for the day. Then a channel which had sitcoms and other TV shows on it. For example how I met your mother, Glee, Cake Boss (which I fell in love with) and late at night they showed discovery channel type things. The other channels were a mix of kids channels, they had cartoons and other type of shows. Some days they would play a kids movie on one of them none stop till the next day. There was also a news channel but it was crap. Something like fox news but more "puffed up" news stories. I was probably the first person on the boat to hear of Bin Laden death. There was ESPN which played all day, don't expect any Australian sports. There was also a channel showing a camera which was on the front of the boat as well as channels with some information about the cruise and what not. The bathroom is very small, I hated the toilet as I am quite large and it was tiny. I clogged it twice. The 2nd time someone had to come fix it. I guess if you do big poops you should flush multiple times. The shower was alright and a decent size for what it was.
Then we met our room cleaner Danzil or something like that. He was a young dark skinned guy did not speak to him much. He was telling us about the safety procedures and what not. He shows us the life jackets and what not. We had to go down at 1:30 to have a safety drill. The alarm went off and we went down with our life jackets. We had to line up single file, people who got their earlier got seats, we did not. The just explained what the rings mean and how to put the jacket on. Probably could of just stayed in cabin and they would of never have known no role checks were taken or anything.
Then the sail away deck party started, there were some entertainers and drinks going around. You could also buy a plastic cocktail cup to take home for $5. They claimed they did not have any regular cocktail glasses but the next day they happen to appear on the boat. Cocktails were $9.50 and Carona's were about $7.70 and a gin and tonic was $6.50. I recommend everyone try the strawberry daiquiri and pacific island ice tea with red bull. Soft drinks were all $2.00, coke was only 330ml sadly, but you could buy regular 375ml Pepsi for the same price. The Pepsi was from Australia but the coke was imported from some Asian country. Carona's were from Canada. Most drinks are not from Australia thus they had a different taste to what you may expect.
We first ate in the buffet, we ate there quite often. It was great food. You would line up sanitize your hands and get a tray with your knife and fork. I recommend grabbing two plates, one for salad and dessert and another for your meat or hot food. Then you go slowly around to the salad then the deserts then the meat/hot food. The salads were fantastic on the first day however the tomatoes were green. This greatly upset me as I love them! This improved after the first day however. The best thing on the salad section was the Caesar salad dressing. It was amazing; it had a strong taste of garlic and is just to die for. Best dressing for salad I have probably ever had! The salad bar contained all kinds of salad from cold Cous Cous to just plain lettuce.
Moving on from the salad bar was the desert bar. This normally contained a tart which was filled with cream and some fruit on top often kiwi or rock melon. Then there were 2-3 different types of cakes some were great some just average, never bad however. Jelly was also available here. The jelly had some sort of fruit in it and was just to die for. The jelly was fantastic it was also available every day. Then you had bread rolls, which are baked daily. Though they are rather empty they are crisp on the outside and soft on the side. They were very nice. Sometimes there were other kinds of breads. Butter was provided with the bread as well.
Next was the awesome part, the MEAT. I'm a huge meat eater. Too review everything that was there would take me forever. But here are a few things that were available throughout the cruise. Chicken schnitzel, roasted potato with skin on or off, creamy potato bake, beef pot pie, shepherd's pie, fish grilled, seared, fried, steamed etc, roast chicken, roast pork, lamb shanks, lamb skewers and much much more. There was also soup but I never tried it. There was a new soup every day. However people told me it was hit and miss, but it was normally good. This was the same for the fish, the first two days the fish was great other times just rubbish. At the end of the meat line there was a guy cutting fresh pieces of some meat, this could have been roast chicken or roast beef, it changed daily. Often this was fantastic. I only ever came here for lunch and dinner. They were pretty much the same sort of style all the time. I never woke up on time for breakfast; however I was told breakfast was amazing. On the last day I was brought some pancakes from there and they were too die for. I regret not waking up for breakfast now.
Now for the dining room option, I only went here twice. Both times for lunch, I had the chicken focaccia as a starter and the rump steak and chips as a main and the apple crumble for desert the first time. The chicken focaccia was alright, a little plain but was nice, the steak was alright perfectly cooked but was a little dry, just not as tasty as it looked, and the sauce was very good. The apple crumble was small and it was nice just not enough of it. The second time I had the Caesar salad as a starter and it was quite a small amount maybe 3 or 4 cos lettuce leaves with some parmesan and crotons as well as the sauce. The sauce makes it worth it! Then I tried the cheese burger and chips, I took one bite of the burger and just stopped. It was horrible did not like it at all, almost a rotten taste. I skipped desert after trying the burger. I tried to come back one night for dinner but I was wearing shorts, they would not allow me in. So I never came back. I was wearing fairly presentable shorts they were quite long and black, very modest shorts, not like swimming shorts. Other things I should mention was that the food was never hot, it was just warm, I don't like that at all, I prefer nice hot food. When you order all three things they will bring all three of them and just replace it when you finish. They hold it over near your table where they stack the dirty plates to return. This is probably why it's not hot. Also the place is quite noisy as the waiters are always around you stacking plates and what not, they do it in little stations around the room and my table was right next to it. This was not a very nice experience.
I never went to the Salt Grill as it was $40 per person and I just wasn't up for it. I did however go to the Asian banquet called La Luna which was $20 per person. It was not fantastic it was 7 or 8 courses of food. It was very spicy and I felt a lot of the food was leftovers from the night before in the buffet. Some of it was very nice like the pork belly and prawns; otherwise it's not worth going to. I will note that it was extremely spicy for some of the courses, to an extreme level where you are gasping for air.
Then there was the grill, this was a late night food place which cost extra. The steak sandwich was AMAZING for $15 a kilo of chicken wings was $8.50, a kilo of prawns was $28, Chicken kebabs were $11 and there were chips but I am not sure how much they were...they may have been other things as well but they were not listed. The chicken kebab was the only real rip off. It was really just roast chicken shredded and put in a pizza pocket with some salad and tazaki sauce. The wings and prawns can also be purchased in half kilos at half the price. They were very nice. The prawns are completely peeled apart the tail and are cooked.
Room service was $3 for delivery and they would get you salads, soups, sandwiches, pies and cakes as well as a few other simple things. All the items ranged from $5-$8 and were all quite tasty, I tried the cheese cake and Caesar salad. My brother tried the potato beef and bacon pie. There is also a complimentary breakfast for $3 which is toast, pastries, hot chocolate, juice and other such simple things. BUT I never got it. I ordered it on the first day but it never came nor did I receive another card to order it again. I just didn't bother was a little upset over it.
Entertainment on the cruise was fantastic, motorcity town was fantastic, it was a show with Motown music. It had a lot of singing and dancing and it was pretty much the most memorable Motown songs you know of, so singing along was encouraged. Amazing performance I wish I watched it twice. I am also 18 and it's not remotely my type of music but I enjoyed it. Pirates of the pacific was also quite a good show, it was a lot of pirate music and it was fun as it got the crowd on stage and involved them in what happened. Was quite funny all families will enjoy this. I missed watching so you wanna dance. I did not hear anything about this so I assume it was not as fun. I also missed most of Boogie Shoes, I watched the last two or three songs. I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the others at all. Then there were three comedians on board. These shows were hilarious! One was all ages and two were 18 years and over. They were all quite rude to some level. But the one which was all ages also sang. He sang like frank Sinatra and it was a great show. The other two were extremely funny; you should bring two or three diapers it's that funny. There was also two laser shows and they were amazing, these were held in the atrium over viewable by three decks. Then also in the atrium there was acrobatics by some group from Columbia. When they were supposed to perform the ship was moving too much so it was cancelled and replaced by a laser show. They performed when we were docked at an island. They were just amazing. This is something everyone should see. Just breathe taking. Other entertainment was given to you in newsletters delivered to your cabin daily, these included trivia, jeopardy, cooking demonstrations, ping pong, dance parties and lots more. Most were quite enjoyable. The singing and dancing crew were just amazing, the girls were just gorgeous and everyone had some real talent. Also there is a show called pacific pop star where passengers qualify to be in through karaoke completions this was fun and hilarious. A guy I played poker with won it singing what a wonderful world. Also in the showroom they sometimes showed movies around 10:30pm and sometimes during the day at 1:00pm
The casino was quite small there were two roulette tables which were $1 chips, three or four blackjack tables, an ocean poker table, a three card poker table, a Texas hold em poker table and a crap ton of slot machines. I was mainly playing poker. The table is also electronic and is $1/$2 blinds. The casino also takes a cut of how much you win in the pot. You play with other players on the table not a computer. It was fantastic I could have stayed there the whole cruise. The people I played with were hilarious! The casino does take quite a lot from you however when you play. Tournaments were also organized in the newsletter, it took a minimum of six people to start one but normally you had ten players. Entrance was $30 the entrance fee is the reward for 1st and 2nd place. The casino takes $5 per player in these tournaments. With ten players the rewards are $175 for first place and $75 for second place. I came second in one. It was great fun. Also on one night of the cruise the dealer for blackjack will show BOTH his cards to you before you decided to hit or stay with minimum bet of $5. I did not play however. Bingo is also on board and at the end there was a massive $6,800 price pool for one game. Full tickets are $30 for 5 games. The guy who won the prize pool was a bit of a downer. He wasn't happy or excited at all and he was under 40! The worst thing on the cruise to me was the casino bartenders and waiters. The never came to the poker table to ask what you want to drink they also never cleaned it up until you left. There would be 20 bottles and glasses on the table and not a single one will be taken off. Also when you asked for a Carona with Lemon they would give you with lime. When you ask for a lemon they say there are none left, when someone just got one on their drink. When you complain enough you'll get the lemon.
The first place we visited was Noumea this place well just ....sucked! It's a French city and is VERY VERY expensive. Expect it to cost more than Australia! This city is home to the world's largest lagoon. It had some amazing waters. When you get off the boat you will enter the terminal and you will find many local market stalls, don't buy anything! It's expensive and you will find it cheaper in Vila. Here you will also find tour guides. Do not book the Noumea Experience Bus. It is rubbish! You go on a bus and get picked up where ever you want in Noumea but the overload the bus. They say a new bus comes every 20 minutes but when we went we had to wait over 50 minutes for the next one. We request a refund and just went on a small mini bus type thing and it was just as good. Lemon bay is a great place to visit. We had a look around and weren't really impressed. Local's aren't that nice and may just ignore you if you try speaking to them. But what do you expect their French. I got a fruit smoothie from a store it cost me $9 and it had the longest straw I have ever had, it was over 50cm long! Was amazing to me. You will see a lot of pretty girls here as well; my jaw was dropped almost the whole time. Don't bother going to the casino it's about the size of a living room and is just slot machines.
The next place was some island, I did not go here, you had to catch a tender boat to get there and I was a bit lazy to go, I also woke up a bit too late to go anyway.
Next was Vila! This was a fantastic place. It's so cheap for anything you want! Once you get off the ship you will be hit by a huge amount of heat. It's hot very very hot. Then local taxi drivers will call out to you from a hill trying to get you to go with them. You have two options a bus or a taxi. The taxi's aren't your usual taxi's they are small little cars. They can be anything you could get into a corolla or a swift. They cost you $10 to get into town for how many people you want in there. A bus is anywhere between $1.50 and $3 per person to go. They aren't your normal bus either they are just vans. I heard that normally they wait till they get full before they go. But we just left straight away so maybe it's not the case. We paid $3 each to get to town and when we came back $1.50 each. Also there are no seat belts and no driving laws so expect a fun ride! Spare underwear is recommended. Also before the taxi's there is a huge market, try not to spend too much time here because the same things are found in town and are probably cheaper. You can also get a tour of the island for around $80.
When in town you can visit duty free stores and other random stores, there is a lot to see and do. Duty free is fantastic. I got 1.1 liters of Jim bean for $11! Cigarettes are cheap as well if you don't mind rolling your own you can get 250 grams for $21 otherwise a carton is $35 or so. You can also find pirated dvd movies for around $5 each, not really worth it but you may want to bring a few home. Give the kids selling newspapers a dollar or two it'll make them very happy. The people are extremely friendly it has been voted happiest place on earth quite a few times. It's a very nice place. You can find billabong shirts for $10 and bags for $17. Also there are many nice shoes around for $20-$40. You really may want to buy something while here. Also there are fireworks around. They are so hard to resist try to not think about how to smuggle them onboard! If you get lost just as for help and the people will help you! Also I recommend you try kava, a local drink which makes you "happy".
When you are going back on board you pass through a metal detector and your things get x-rayed again not much attention on the x-ray is noticed here.
All crew members were fantastic apart the casino waiters and bartenders. On the deck it was fantastic they asked if you wanted a drink and gave recommendations and then got it for you. They would also clean your table when things are finished. You felt you were respected and treated well by all members of the boat.
Getting of the cruise was like getting on, you go through customs and what not it was easy and quick. They did not even check my carryon luggage at all; you could probably bring some extra bottles of alcohol if you put it in your carry on. No sniffer dogs again and was very quick to get off
The cruise was fantastic I would defiantly go again, however I would like to experience other cruise lines as well to compare them. So though I enjoyed it I will probably not be back for some time as I want to see other ships. It's also very cheap so it's a great escape; there is a lot of kids on board as well. I went the week after the school holidays and still there were many people of all age groups. I hope my review has helped you pick P&O cruises.