I really can't understand how anyone would not have had a very good time on this cruise. The Pacific Pearl was good value for money. The crew were always very genuinely pleasant and forever smiling. The stateroom (we had an outside cabin on deck 6) was much bigger and much better designed than the Rhapsody of the Seas, which we cruised in November 2010.
We dined at Salt Restaurant 6 times (yes, it was that good!) and at the Chef's Table twice: both were absolute dreams. In comparison, we preferred the Plantation to the Waterfront as you could walk along the line and see what you were being offered prior to getting in the line. There was only one evening that we considered that the food was below our standard (so we dined at Salt!).
In comparison to other reviews, we had no problems with the standard of the public facilities. The two pools were sparkling clean and always filtered. The big screen was a terrific distraction and a great way to keep up to date with happenings on board. The on-board exchange rate for currency conversion was also very good: e.g. 95 Pacific Francs for a AUS$1 as compared to 80 in Papeete. We also enjoyed the shows, particularly the laser light shows and the acrobatic shows. We spent most evenings listening to the great Paul Roxy in the Mix piano bar.
Disappointingly there was only one laundry operating instead of two - apparently the laundry on Deck 6 had been closed for about 3 cruises. People should remember to take wire coat-hangers so you can hang things up to dry in your cabin. On one day at one of the shops, there was a genuine 50% sale off Billabong and Rip Curl clothing, which obviously was very popular!
In regard to the ports of call:
Sure it was disappointing not being able to disembark at Norfolk Island but understandable due to safety reasons.
In Nuku'alofa the "Fua'amotu swim and snorkel" tour was disappointing probably due to the rough weather for a week before we arrived (although we did see a lot of interesting countryside) but others told us that the "Oholei Beach and Hina Cave" tour had excellent swimming and great snorkelling. However, the young girl on our tour gave us a great insight into the relative poverty of the country when she told us what she ate for dinner: Monday to Sunday chicken soup and then a roast on Sunday - she said the family really looked forward to Sunday!
On Vava'u, the "Nuku Island and Swallows Cave" tour, for us snorkellers, was absolute magic - plenty of fish and coral. On an independent tour, a couple did some whale watching and got to swim with some humpback pods!
At Raratonga, the "Muri Lagoon Cruise" with Captain Tama was very entertaining and excellent value - highly recommended. The circle island trip on the local bus for NZ$7 was also very good. We also bought our Black Pearls here in anticipation of higher prices in Tahiti.
In Papeete, we didn't book any tours but did the round island tour offered at the tourist information centre for $45 - it was very enjoyable, although the extra $3 entry fee to the Gaugin Museum was a bit hard to justify after seeing it. As the ship had arrived on a day (Tuesday) where there were no cultural shows, the "OTahiti-E" show on board was arranged and it was fantastic - how those grass skirts stayed up was a miracle!
At Moorea, we thought that the "Motu Islet Beach and BBQ" tour was a bit too long and didn't leave sufficient time for other activities, although it was good to see the sting rays up close. We also saw 2 'Crown of Thorns' starfish, which was a bit disconcerting.
On Bora Bora we did an independent tour with "Patrick" and his daughter, comprising swimming (up close and personal!) with black-tipped reef sharks, sting rays and snorkelling in the Coral Gardens - a truly unique highlight of the trip. It was disappointing that we only stayed to 2 pm in Bora Bora.
On SavuSavu, the "Koro Sun" Day Tour was the major disappointment of the whole cruise - to be avoided.
Denarau Island had a very longer tender of about 40 minutes ship to shore. We received extremely good reports from a number of people about the "Beachcomber Island" tour - very good value and a lot of fun. Those who did the Oolala Savala Island cruise were less enthusiastic. We had a great time visiting all the resorts on the Fiji$7 (about AUS$3.70) all day hop on hop off Bula Bus. The Golf Club has free WiFi internet. Fiji has a 20% tax surcharge which you should take into account when ordering lunch!
Dravuni Island - great scenery, although the sea was a bit rough on our visit. Population of about 200 being invaded by a boat load of 1800 - what annoyed me were tourists on probably a conservative 100 times the annual salary of the natives "bargaining" prices down by a few paltry bucks which meant absolutely nothing to them but a great deal to the poor native guy behind the stall trying to feed his family from a boatload of tourists every couple of weeks. Sometimes people should put things into perspective before opening their mouths.
Isle of Pines - if you like snorkelling, don't miss the Natural Aquarium, a 20 minute bus ride from the wharf. Lots of fish, coral and clams (and a sea snake or two) in crystal clear water.
Noumea was good value for duty free (perfume and alcohol) and a lot cleaner than we remembered from November 2010. The arrogant attitude of the staff on Duck Island really spoiled our visit there and we would not recommend going there at all - certainly don't eat at the snack bar! You also have to pay for umbrellas and beach lounges.
This was a really unique cruise due to its length and the number of ports visited. Understandably things don't always go according to plan but overall it was a great experience and one we could recommend.