As is the case with many reviews, this review will not cover competing brands or make comparing or contrasting comments relative to any other cruise company. Ive only ever cruised with P&O - hence the point of my review title.
Ive been on cruises P&O in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012 on the Sky, the Star and the Dawn respectively, as time has gone on, the experience has become progressively worse. Bearing in mind, i am making comments fully aware of the bargain basement price of $700, hence my 5 Star rating for "Value for Money". When it comes to spending $700 and getting as much as you do and going where you go, it truly is an unbeatable holiday proposition. However, therein lies the problem for me.
My first cruise was relatively expensive in comparison to the one i went on last week on the Dawn. It had a high proportion of middle-aged families and pensioners - which for me (at the time) - was a total nightmare in terms of the fun police making permanent and constant patrols of the buffet and the cinema aisles. The service level was fantastic, theme nights were fun and you were made aware them in advance, BBQ's were set up on the beach at the islands visited and you could enjoy the pleasure of having roasted, grinded and strained coffee beans rolling over your tongue without a price tag that would collapse a small banana economy. Now, i have taken into consideration i may have found this new found floating utopia even more awesome because id never been on one before - but im forced to dismiss this logic as ive come to realisation all the little, minor things that really made the cruise as good as it was, have somehow gone missing of late. Wheres the BBQ on the beach? Wheres the warm welcome and happy farewell from the dining room waiters? Wheres the bar tender with character? Wheres the relaxed atmosphere? Im sure they exist somewhere, just not on the Pacific Dawn.
The ship is; aged and tired, the gym is tiny, everything costs (a lot of) money, there isnt much to do on sea days, anything you ask for will amount to an issue of some sort and the sales tactics get a bit tiring after a short amount of time. For example, photographers in your face every day taking photos trying to get you to buy them, not making theme nights definitively known before you board the ship but coincidently selling theme night related stuff during the day, peddling poor quality plastic strobe cups and the list goes on.
Nothing can be done outside the boundaries of the rules on P&O anymore. You cant modify a meal, ask for a change in something, ask for help with anything. You seem to receive some sort of South East Asian cold shoulder that would send a chill down the spine of a frozen fossil if you would dare ask for a side of chips. I do believe that this phenomenon of pathetic service stems directly from P&O relieving the cruises of set dinner times. Which of course, meant you sat at the same time on the same table and shared stories with the same waiter. They built repport, you made a familiar relationship and the result was a kind thanks and some legal tender to go with it. It gave the people who helped make your cruise more enjoyable an incentive to make it just that little bit better. The new way; sitting anywhere, booking whenever, wearing whatever (seriously) and speaking to the waiters like trash has resulted in them losing their service mojo. You can see it in their eyes that they would rather be dragged through a chilli farm than have to serve another Australian bogan that wont let the moths out of their wallet.
Lets not forget to mention the two "tough" security guys that spoke a mother like she was a total moron because she (unbeknowst to her) attempted to walk into the "nighclub" with her child in an attempt to find her husband after 10pm. Lucky you were there lads... Who knows what would have happened...
I could really go on in length about how much the quality of the cruises have declined, but that would be in direct corrolation with their subsequent decline in price, so what can you expect?
I wont go on another one. Which is shame, because i have some fantastic memories of P&O when they really put in the effort on the little things. The decline of quality (and its breakneck pace) has resulted in P&O being the JetStar of cruise lines; you get the ticket and some "food" and literally everything else (even a pen for Bingo) has to be paid for. Id rather pay a decent amount up front and have a "real" stress free holiday with exceptional service.