yes, This is not the QEII.
it is a bit like going out to dinner at the local bistro at the pub or an RSL.
yes it caters to a lower socio economic class. not that this is a bad thing, just be prepared. the price reflects this, it is very good value for money.
treat the experience as being on an overnight ferry to a destination rather than as a cruise per se. there are many things to do on board whilst you are en route. you will be able to do whatever you want and if this means sitting doing nothing then great, reading then great, eating, playing in the naff activities etc all good.funnily enough the casino was muuuuuch better than the casinos you get in australia i.e nowhere near as much kitsch and flashing lights etc.
Ports of call. I loved noumea and port vila. mystery island is dull and not worth it. Pentecost island was ok but all a bit staged, the best was getting away from the crowds and wandering away for a bit.
food is excellent for the price. the crowd expects quantity and they give that. sure it is not the top quality but you are at the floating equivalent of a pub bistro and you are paying a low price because of it.
drinks. i cannot stand companies that impose restrictions on what you can consume/take on board/etc. it is a nannying way to do things. BUT having said that with the crowd on board it would have become extremely boozy and i reckon as aggressive as a drunk cricket crowd if there was bring your own alcohol. it wasnt too expensive i dont know where everyone buys their drinks perhaps at the rsl or leagues clubs but really, compared with melbourne city (and i suspect sydney as well) prices it was very reasonable.
staff are all great. they are an international staff (canadian entertainment, romanian croupiers, indian bar staff, filipino wait staff and english and italian in charge of the ship) and the standards of service are higher than that you often get in australian pubs/bistros/casinos etc.
Embarkation. p and o were fine despite the chaos at the dock. security in australia were ridiculous. asking people to go through metal detectors to get on an enormous ship is absurd. once you are through you find your own way which i thought was good. i do not want to be hassled forever by staff and this is something that p and o were good at - ie leaving you be. compare that with being on any aircraft with constant nagging by staff.
summary - if you want a "cruise" in the sense of a romantic/high quality/olde world type experience, don't go on P&O. if you just want a cheap holiday without the hassle of getting on an aircraft etc, with plenty of food and things to do or not to do, then treat the ship as a ferry and enjoy yourself. that's what we all did and had a pretty good time.