I took the cruise to get a few days out at the end of an incredibly busy and hectic year. It was different to what I expected.
Firstly, I expected a quiet crowd, but instead there seemed to be a lot of 'floating partiers' who took the cruise to spend their time drinking and generally hogging facilities like Oasis, where one crowd spent most of the time drinking and smoking in both pools.
Secondly, every single space had music playing, at an annoyingly loud level. There were few places to just chill and read a book, while watching the ocean. The constant noise was really annoying. The activities were usually sales pitches, but the evening shows had a couple of highlights, and some shockers. The Marquee is badly designed- especially the rail on the upper level.
The weather was rough in parts, but I bought ginger tablets, which worked a treat, and didn't make me drowsy. I also bought ear plugs and a sleeping mask as I was in a hotel in Sydney, so was prepared for anything! The ship creaked a lot, but I slept like a baby.
A real highlight was the cleanliness. The whole ship and cabins were immaculate, and kept so by very hardworking stewards. Although kiwis and Australians do not traditionally tip, it is customary to tip as the wages are very low, and they make their money this way. I decided to round up your drinks purchases to the nearest dollar for 1 drink, or $5-10 for a larger order. I was told this, but am allergic to wine, so only ordered soft drinks. There is also a system where you can nominate good service and there is some sort of incentives scheme for employees. The workers on board work long days, 7 days a week for 10 months, so they can be tired and as the P&O line do not do compulsory tipping, the wages are low.
The food- the Plantation served hot beverages 24/7 and you can choose to have milk (add seperately) or creamer. The first day we had lunch onboard, and it looked like pigs at the trough as we went through the buffet(and I am a large woman saying this) so I avoided it in favour of the Waterfront, which had lovely food, but with long waits and poor service. It would have been easier to have been assigned a regular section, as one could have had the same waiter. You can buy a bottle of wine, and get them to hold it for you, to save on the cost per glass but it can take a while to get it. After 2 days, the rich food tired us, and we moved back to the Plantation for breakfast, so we could go back to toast and tea.
Cruising itself leaves me ambivalent. I was incredibly relaxed - more than I ever remember being when I arrived home. If I did it again, I would prefer something quiet, and with lots of stops and tours. For example, a tour of the Pacific Islands- Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Niue beginning at Fiji rather than Sydney or Auckland. It is a shame nobody is offering this.
I don't think P&O know who their market is- as the activities completely missed the mark for us 35-40 year olds, with no kids. Every presentation seemed a chance to sell something, which had the opposite effect. The comedian was soomehwre below fourth rate, subsitituting tired racist jokes for anything actully funny, and Bingo was a highlight for quite a few passengers. Just think Benidorm...