This was my first ever cruise, which was recommended to me my family members & friends who had also been on one.
Before we had even left our trip to Poum got cancelled and replaced with Luganville. The travel agent called me to tell me and that all was fine.
Embarkation seemed to be pretty easy with no major waits to get on and it was organised well.
The cabin, although old, was clean and fairly well appointed. I was impressed with the bathroom. The TV was awful & never seemed to work properly. The bed had a big ridge in the middle but otherwise was decent.
Our cabin steward was great and always had the room looking nice & clean. He was very friendly and helpful but as with all staff on board, seemed overworked and in need of a day off.
The first 3 days were sea days and were fairly boring, the entertainment on board is very much aimed at drinking and gambling (although the Bingo was quite fun).
We finally made it to Luganville, which was an extreme dissapointment, Honestly why do they even bother going here? As soon as you get off the boat you are harrassed by taxi drivers. P & O staff stand idly by and dont tell them to back off or anything. We took a taxi into town and left immediately, there is nothing there to do. We asked him to take us to a beach (which was Millionaires point). It is covered in broken glass but is otherwise quite nice. The taxi driver ripped us off on returning to the ship. Although we had negotiated a price this suddenly changed. The less said about Luganville the better.
The next day was at Champagne Bay, which was beautiful! Tendering is used here and I thought they handled that pretty well, no overly long waits.
After that we visited Wala, which again was beautiful. However I was very sad to see a large number of people standing on or trying to break pieces of coral off at the beach. Again P & O seem to do nothing about this. They briefly mention not to do it in the Pacfic Daily (which is always full of typos BTW) but dont seem to care enough to montior this on the beach. Soon there will be no coral gardens there at all thanks to these ships, I imagine.
We were meant to visit Port Vila the next day, however during the night we had experienced gale force 9 winds and were unable to get into the port. Instead we endured an exremely rough day at sea which saw a lot of people sick/dropping food everywhere. Really it was awful. One thing that I didnt expect was the amount of creaking we experienced in our room. I did not sleep that night between the shuddering of the ship as it plowed into huge waves, extremely loud creaking and weird vibrations. It was quite scary. There was no compensation offered for this missed day and the only change to the itinerary was that we got "Celebrity Heads" to play. What an absolute joke.
As the weather was still bad we had to forgo Mystery Island and that was replaced with Isle of Pines, which pretty much saved the trip for me as it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Again though, after warnings not to stand or touch the sacred rock there I saw plenty of people on it and some even using it to dry their towels. These people seem to have no respect for the places they were visiting.
Last stop was Noumea, which was also lovely but as we visited on a Sunday everything was closed. Why they go there on a day that everything is closed, is anyones guess.
Finally we were headed for home, I was excited to be there at last when the ship broke down just outside of the Manly Heads. I was woken by very strong chemical fumes coming into the room via our air conditioning. This meant we had to be tugged in by 3 tug boats and we finally got off the ship about 3 hours later than planned. Again there was barely an apology for this.
General comments about the Cruise:
Ship - Nicer than I expected although obviously old, public areas were clean and looked after and for the most part colourful.
Dining - The buffet food was 90% disgusting, often cold, same salads & fruit every day. By the 8th day the idea of eating here was actually making me sick.
Waterfront - Slightly better food but not by much, everything seemed to be microwaved pre-made dinners. Food was very bland. Fish always overcooked and sticky. Gross. The desserts were a joke, some cheap puddings or awful cakes were served but made to look like real restaurant food. Service was generally average.
The Grill - Always seemd to be cold although it was cooked on a BBQ, no idea how long that stuff was sitting there. Avoided it.
Salt Grill - While definitely better than the others, still wasn't that great. You pay $40 per head for a meal here but nicer things such as Oysters and Lobsters have a surcharge which they seem to neglect mentioning. The restaurant and service were great though.
Anytime dining - Touted as being able to eat when you want, with whom you want. Actually you are stuck on a very strict deadline and you sit were they tell you too. If you ask to sit anywhere else (ie next to a window) you are hit with a barrage of excuses (all rubbish) about why you cant. Some of the staff who seat who you are very rude and seem to have no idea what is going on most of the time.
Spa - We paid over $300 for a couples massage that lasted 50 minutes. It was good (no idea if the price was reasonable as it's not something I usually do) however at the end they go into a very hard sell for the products they have just used. It was a great way to ruin any relaxation I had just experienced. Which leads me to selling...
Selling - I have never experienced selling like I did on this ship. Bingo was once stopped for 10 minutes for them to offer us a "deal" in the Spa. The duty free is so expensive!! The booze seemed fairly cheap, but everything else was very pricey. Much more expensive than on land. Anything on board that was any good cost extra. You dont even get soft drinks included in the cost of the trip. Ads are put in your room every night, usually for the spa. Not sure if this is because I used it once or what but it became very annoying.
Communication - Awful, When Port Vila was cancelled we had little idea what was going on. We didnt find out until a few hours later that we were now sailing for New Caledonia. You never know where the boat is because there is no tracking system like on an aeroplane. There is a navigation chart which was never updated to reflect our new plans. When the ship broke down it was probably about 2 hours again before anything was mentioned. Yes it was early, but if there had been an emergency I'm sure people would of rather been prepared.
In summary, the islands are nice, if you are get there but I came home wishing I hadnt bothered.
Oh and why is P & O so obsessed with Country and Western Music, it was on about 80% of the time and it was always really loud. It was HORRENDOUS.