My mother and I recently attended one of your "FOOD & WINE" cruises out of Sydney on the 29th April 2011. I had booked this last July 2010 as a surprise for my mother for her 60th and was very excited to give this to her for her birthday January 2011 as I know how much she has enjoyed previous cruises she had been on with other companies. I knew it was a large amount of money to save and since we are from Perth I would have to book air fares and accommodation as well. So January came around and I finally got to give her this as a gift and she was so excited and told me about the other cruises she has been on with Rhapsody of the Sea and Virgo. By now I knew I had spent my hard saved money on a gift my mother would truly love and what a way to celebrate her 60th with.
The afternoon on the 29th we boarded the Pacific Jewel and were very excited. We went upstairs for the opening party and enjoyed a few cocktails. We were very excited about leaving the dock so we could see the stunning harbour as we left and this being my first time in Sydney I thought how lucky I was to be able to see it from a ship leaving on a cruise. We didn't sail when we were supposed to - I believe there was an announcement that said we would be sailing a little late. I think "a little late" was around midnight - this was disappointing because I wouldn't see Sydney Harbour and the Opera House - one of the best views I believe from any Harbour in the World - but at the time I thought - I'd probably see it coming in - but guess what - we docked in the wee hours of the morning so we didn't even get to see this.
We thought we would try one of the restaurants for dinner, so we went to the Waterfront Restaurant on our first night and were seated very fast. I was excited to see the menu and we started to look at the wine list, then another two ladies (travel agents) were seated at our table. I had no problem with this as I am a very social person and it was lovely to meet new people. The waiter then came over to ask if he could get us anything to drink, we let the other two ladies order first and half way through ordering a bottle of wine the waiter walked away and said hello to other people on another table. We all were a little shocked at this behaviour and thought it very rude. While waiting for the waiter to return back, if he was coming back, the ladies informed us that the main restaurant Salt Grill with chef Luke Mangan had been booked out for the whole weekend. We were shocked to say the least as the boat hadn't even left the harbour and the restaurant was booked out for the next 3 days. At no time were we advised the need to book restaurants in advance or at least when we arrived at the wharf. Eventually the waiter came back to our table and took our food and wine orders. The food was very average but I thought maybe this was just one of the less popular restaurants on this "FOOD & WINE" cruise. I said to my mother we will try another restaurant tomorrow night.
We went and had a drink in the bar which was nice and then watched one of the entertainment shows provided on the ship. We decided to call it a night as we were both tired and thought we would have a busy day the next day enjoying all the food & wine activities. By this time we still hadn't left the dock. I did wake up around 12 that night and noticed the ship was moving and I thought now our cruise had begun.
Next morning eager to start the day with some activities that were in the program. We went downstairs and tried to book in to a few different activities but got informed that all the functions we wanted to attend were booked out. We were so confused how everything seemed to be booked out so quickly and it was only the first morning of the cruise. So with no activities to do for that day we decided to go and have some lunch but the only place we could get in was the buffet. I do enjoy my fine food and wine hence the "Food and Wine" Cruise. The idea of eating a buffet was not thrilling but I thought its one meal and we had a couple of other nights to eat at nice restaurants.
That afternoon we walked up to another restaurant on the top deck called La Luna to try and book in for that night and once again we got told they were booked out. While we were there we decided to try and get in Sunday night so we could have a nice meal on our last night, we got told again that it was booked out on Sunday too but we could put our names on a waiting list. Frustrated and our positive attitude dwindling my mother and I agreed to be put on the waiting list.
With nothing to do in the afternoon again we decided maybe we should go down to reception and see if there was anything they could do to help us. They told us they couldn't help us with any of the activities but to go down to the reservations to book in for Sunday's activities first thing Sunday morning. I'm not sure if they were trying to fob us off but they gave us a phone number for reservations for the restaurants. We went back to our cabin and tried to book into a restaurant. My mother tried for at least 30 minutes getting the engaged signal and finally got the ringing tone and held on for 40 minutes before the phone rung out. After trying for about 4 hours we decided to give in and just go back to the restaurant we did on our first night.
We got in straight away which was quite a shock and were seated and our orders were taken promptly. Our entree came out as we ordered the same thing which was a beetroot & apple salad, being on a "FOOD & WINE" cruise one would think there would be a certain standard to the food - well I kid you not this salad came out 1 slice of tinned beetroot cut in half and two slices of apple. My mother and I just looked at each other and I was at the point where I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. To be honest I couldn't even tell you what I got served for a main after this as I was just stunned. Here I was on the other side of Australia with my mother who I was trying to spoil for her 60th. It was a joke, never in my life have I felt so let down. After whatever you call the meal we were served our outlook on the cruise was crushed so we decided to go to bed. We had spent so much time in this cabin that I said to my mother if at any point this boat had docked I would of packed and gotten off the ship and she agreed with me. Whilst my mother was appreciative of my gesture of organising the cruise we both agreed it was a costly learning experience and we would never book this liner again!
On Sunday morning we decided to go and register with some of the activities to try and get something out of this cruise. We were informed again everything was booked out. This time we saw red and went straight to reception again and complained. Once again they couldn't do anything to help us and informed us that we should just hold on the reservation line as it would just keep ringing until someone picked up. We tried to explain again we did that yesterday and it rang out after considerable time, they then advised us there was nothing they could do so we had to walk away let down and frustrated AGAIN.
We decided to walk to where one of the wine tasting functions was being held and they informed us they had some spots left so we paid for this which is fine but I do wonder what my initial charge for the cruise actually covered. We enjoyed the wine tasting, the wine was ok and the gentleman that owned the winery was quite a character. So we thought at least we have been able to participate in something! Then we decided to walk over to the cheese tasting once again we got in even after being informed by reception it was booked out, so we paid our money and were seated. Everyone on the table was asked if they would like something to drink and then when it was our turn to order the waiter didn't ask us and walked away AGAIN. I had to ask people on the table if we were invisible. Finally I got a waiter's attention and we were able to order some wine. We had a discussion with other people on our table what they thought of this cruise. Their comments were they felt highly let down as well, but felt extra sorry for us because we had travelled from Perth to experience this. I do remember seeing the two ladies we had dinner with from the first night and they were both travel agents. We asked them what they thought of the cruise so far and they were highly disappointed and in no way would they ever suggest this cruise to one of their clients.
Around lunch time we were hungry again but realised our only choice was to go to the buffet again but by now I almost felt like I had eaten from Sizzler for 3 days straight. What was meant to be the best present I have ever purchased for my mother was fast becoming our biggest nightmare. So back to the cabin for the afternoon as we couldn't get into anything else. By this stage we were praying to get off the ship! Dinner came around again and once again our only option was the buffet. I think I ate a few lettuce leaves as I was so sick from eating from the same place. We decided to go back to our room go to sleep and wake up and get off this ship! Before we get to sleep the phone rings and we are told we didn't turn up for our booking at La Luna. By now we see red!!! No one informed us we actually had a booking. I have had ENOUGH.
Morning comes and we are so excited to get off this ship. We had another day and a half in Sydney but seriously we were so confused as what just happened for the past 3 days we didn't really have fun celebrating. It took us about a week to get over what this "FOOD & WINE" cruise offered us. Absolutely nothing - where the possibility had been huge. I asked my mother would she recommend this cruise to her friends - she has said "no way - quite the opposite - I'll warn them never to go on a P & O cruise with high expectations".
This letter has taken me awhile to write as I have been so mad and to actually sit down and think of everything that happened it was not something I wanted to go through again. I am thinking of posting this letter on Trip Advisor and any other travel forum I can find. While to be honest if anyone ever asked me what I thought about P&O cruises I would tell them how disgusted I am. This was my first cruise and will probably be my last based on the experience I had with your Cruise Pacific Jewel.