Embarkation: 1st July, Tahitian Treasures, embarkation easy as always.
Food: Was delightful. Always hot, tasty and something appealing on the menu. For the most part dined at Waterfront and found the food here to be amazing, the only minor complaint we had was that some portions were quite "gourmet" so to say (small) and expensive meats were used less frequently then other lines such as Princess, but that is to be expected with the price difference.
The Plantation restaurant always had plenty of variety and the food was always hot when I dined here. The selection and variety of teas was astounding, I never even knew that many teas existed till this cruise! The single line format was occasionally annoying when you wanted one thing at the very end and had to line up right the way for it... hmmph :P
Chefs Table ($75 cover charge) : VERY recommended. It was a 7 course degustation menu which included the most amazing food ever, wines to match the course, pre dinner drinks and capapes, tour of the galley in a peak time and 4 portrait photos. Absolute must! Great atmosphere and service here.
Salt Grill ($40 cover charge): We did this after the Chef's Table and well expected a lot more from how much people rave about it. It's probably because the food in Waterfront is prepared to such an exceptional standard that the Salt Grill food just seemed... average. Definitely do the Chefs Table over the Salt in my opinion.
The Grill: Was yum, but the food was a bit hit and miss with heat sometimes.
Service: What a friendly, warm and accomadating crew this ship has. Our dining room waiter was the best we have ever experienced by far, so friendly and obliging. The barstaff on this ship were the most down to earth and genuinely friendly bunch of people out!
Entertainment: No surprises here, left Princess and Royal Caribbean for dead. Stage shows were superb. Guest entertainers were often average but I think they catered to the older crowd on this cruise.
The magicians/comedians were great, James Galea was the highlight of the entertainment.
Public areas/the ship itself: The ship itself is of quite an age but P&O have really snazzed her up. It is comfortable and modern without been too over the top or glitzy which I really liked about it. The bars on this ship were another highlight such as connexions, the orient, the dome, swim up bar and oasis bar. All very well and no other cruise line does them this well.
The Oasis is now free of charge and has two really nice spas and for sailaways there is an acoustic singer which makes sailaways something really special and memorable.
The room: Is old fashioned and creaked abit but that was compensated by the amount of space it had. Our room steward was pleasant and made towel animals for us but wasn't the best at actual cleaning. P&O should replace the old bed stands as they are starting to sag, other then that beds are really comfy.
What could have been done better: The cocktails/drinks!!! They had such non-existent amounts of alcohol in them and they now use really dodgy cheap house spirits in them unlike Princess/Royal Caribbean. Watching them pour the cocktails you notice how stingy they are with the already stingy spirits been used.
I found normal spirits overpriced heavily e.g. Smirnoff and cocktails with "real" spirits e.g. the ones at mix also very overpriced. Beers were a bit on the steep side as well.
I also thought it was ridiculous they charged you extra for whatever you mixed with your spirits, no where else on the planet does this, including cruise lines. Also just a hint, Pepsi is used as the mixer on this ship but Coke is given if you ask for a cola... strange. So if you like Coke as a mixer with your whiskey going to have to byo.
The tendering on this ship was really slow, I understand they operated all of the tenders onboard but somehow something just wasn't working for them, it often took 3 hours from when you collected a ticket to get off the ship.
Overall: I would definitely cruise with P&O and Pacific Pearl again, the ship iteself is my favourite liner so far as it has such a great layout and the outside decks and tiered back are simply great!
There were whingers on this cruise often whinging "wah wah wah Princess has a 24h buffet, wah wah wah I've been sitting here on deck for 20 minutes Princess would have offered me a tea or coffee" and in the end I got sick of them and blatantly said "well this is P&O not Princess, if you wanted Princess you should have cruised Princess, there's a reason they cost more!!!"
After experiencing Pacific Pearl myself and how amazing it is alongside the whingers, I would have to say the people that did not enjoy themselves on this ship are just ungreatful people. They certainly seemed that way on this cruise.
Granted Princess do have some nice extras and really go that EXTRA mile, but this ship offers similar levels of service, a genuinely friendly crew (that don't seem fake looking for tips)and gives you the absolute time of your life or holiday of a lifetime.
Having cruised P&O, Princess and Royal Caribbean I would put the Pearl a notch under Princess and on par standards as Rhapsody of the seas, if anything maybe a tad better.