We are two gay men in our fifties and we travelled with our girlfriends we play bridge with.
We had upgraded a week before departure to two balcony cabins on Deck 10 and from the start it was the best cruise we've ever done.
Check-in was very quick and we were meeting our cabin steward, Jun, within about an hour of arriving at the wharf. Unlike other cruises we've done, he didn't ask us if we wanted our queen bed turned into two singles! He was smiley, charming and helpful from day one to day twelve. He even let the girls know where we were if they came around and we weren't home! The cabin was kept beautifully clean and tidy and he varied his cleaning times to suit us. I tipped him when we first got on the ship, halfway through and at the end. I asked him if we could have a bucket of ice brought to the cabin at about 3pm everyday and, sure enough, there it was. Extra glasses, more towels, whatever we asked, nothing was too much trouble.
The balcony cabins on deck 10 have the metal bit from the railing down and although this blocks the view somewhat, we all still loved having our own piece of deck. We left the door open at nightand all you could hear was the slashing of the waves on the side of the ship. Heaven! There is plenty of cupboard space and the bathroom is also a good size.
I had continental breakfast each morning in the cabin while my partner went up to the buffet - I just couldn't face the pig trough (as my partner called it) that early in the morning! The cabin breakfast is a great start with plenty of good coffee, hot chocolate, orange and apple juice, pastries, toast and honey etc.
Most days we braved the buffet for lunch and I was really pleasantly surprised at the standard of the food, particularly the salads, fresh and crunchy. They also had what was probably the best beef madras curry I've had anywhere in the world on one day and on another a delicious NZ lamb stew. The staff were constantly replenishing and restocking and it was always piping hot. An issue in the past has been the lack of seating but as La Luna was open we usually took our trays in there but never had a problem finding a vacant table.
We ate in the Waterfront Restaurant most evenings and as we preferred to eat later never had a problem booking the day before for a table of 4. Most of the dishes were delicious with some real standouts. The staff were unfailingly welcoming and charming and the service was efficient and timely, even though they were, as usual, really busy. The dishes arrived at the table at the right temperature and in the right order. The steaks were cooked perfectly but on one occaision I ordered a rump steak from the daily specials menu and it was so tough as to be inedible....just bad luck, as the others were all lovely.
On night 2 we had our first experience of Salt. Yes, the food is good, yes the service is great, but not really the standout experience I thought it would be. Maybe I'm odd but I thought 5 waiters swooping on our table at once bringing our tapas starter was a bit over the top - there were arms and hands everywhere! The best part of the whole experience was Charmaine the maitre'd - what a lovely lady!
On night 3 we ate in La Luna. Now this really was a great experience. The food was EXCELLENT! The staff were fabulous! And they worked together like a well-oiled machine. Charmaine is in charge here too and as one of the waitresses said to me they are like a family and it showed. They were all fun, efficient, knowledgable about the food and just great to be with. We were lucky that they changed the menu half way through the cruise, not because we were tired of the food, but because we ended eating there 4 times! On the last night we had a wonderful time with them all - a great ending.
We missed Isle of Pines due to bad weather but the captain kept us all informed and these things happen.
Mystery Island was beautiful with great snorkelling but Wala was a little disappointing - the locals were nearly begging, hated seeing the poor turtles in those little dish-pans and the snorkelling was ordinary. But saying that we also ate some great fruit and met some lovely Ni-Vanuatu.
At Luganville and Port Vila we hired a vehicle and drove around both islands which was great - finding our own out-of-the way places. Champagne Bay was fantastic - and we were the only ones there. We met locals, toured one of their schools as we has a teacher with us, and went to a cattle ranch and got a guided tour as we have cows back here.
So, to sum up, great staff, great food, great ship, great value for money. We've already booked our next one in October!
Well done P&O!