P&O Cruises Australia
OnboardP&O Australia offers a lively, mainstream experience with a friendly international crew that's used to dealing with the congenial and fun-loving Australian crowd. The atmosphere is more Carnival than Princess, with a focus on budget and value for money, rather than luxury.
That said, the line is popular across the generations, from singles and families to seniors; children are well catered for in good kid clubs staffed by qualified teachers and childcare workers. In fact, the line has won accolades for its family-friendly atmosphere.
Culinary choices include primary dining rooms and informal buffets, as well as a casual deck grill and alternative dining for a fee, including the renowned Luke Mangan Salt Grill. A while back, Pacific Dawn introduced to the Australia market the concept of "Your Choice Dining," with no reservations required in the dining room during dinner hours (although you can make reservations if you want to). The food has been improved over the years, and generally it receives favorable ratings from passengers, although some complain the buffets could pay more attention to variety and detail, especially where salads are concerned.
Onboard activities both day and night are far ranging, and they include fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, mixology classes, live bands, dancing, game shows, table tennis, casino play, cabaret shows, karaoke, deck parties, spa treatments, trivia quizzes, in-cabin movies, shuffleboard, Bingo, dance classes, themed nights and parties, talent shows, enrichment lectures and port talks.
The ships no longer have formal nights; they've been replaced by "cocktail" nights, usually one or two on a one-week cruise. (Check your itinerary.) On these evenings, men can wear a jacket without a tie, although the jacket is optional, and women can wear cocktail dresses or similar attire.
The Australian dollar is the onboard currency. As enforced tipping isn't an Australian custom, gratuities are no longer added automatically to passengers' onboard bills, leaving them to tip only if they wish.
About P&O Cruises AustraliaP&O Cruises Australia has the only cruising fleet permanently based in the Australian cruise market. The company, which is owned by Carnival Corp., operates three ships cruising Australia and the South Pacific, with itineraries featuring New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
P&O Cruises Australia's history dates back more than 75 years, and the P&O connection goes back even further. British-based P&O first visited the island nation in 1857, playing an important role in the Royal Mail, wartime assistance and the surge of immigration to Australia. On the leisure front, P&O Cruises Australia pioneered pleasure cruising in the waters off Australia in 1932. The first cruise was with 23,000-ton liner Strathaird, which sailed from Sydney to Norfolk Island with 1,100 passengers and offered such niceties as ballroom dancing, live theater and elegant dining. The idea caught on. Today, P&O Cruises Australia carries more than 100,000 passengers per year.
P&O mostly sticks with what it knows -- Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific -- and since the popularity of cruising Down Under is growing, so is P&O. What's been added to the line's itineraries lately are new destinations within Australia, as well as more themed cruises like those for the Melbourne Cup, wellness or food and wine.
P&O Cruises Australia FleetAll the line's ships hail from other brands within Carnival Corp. They received refurbishments and Australian touches before joining the P&O Cruises Australia fleet.
Pacific Dawn, the line's first superliner at 70,310 and carrying 2,020 passengers, was built in 1991 and joined P&O Australia in 2007. It underwent a major refurbishment, including the addition of more interconnecting rooms, suite upgrades and an ice cream parlor.
In 2009, Ocean Village's Ocean Village Two became Pacific Jewel. The 70,310-ton, 1,950-passenger ship currently makes roundtrip cruises from Sydney to the South Pacific and New Zealand, although from 2014 it will spend more time homeporting from Melbourne and Brisbane.
In 2010, 63,500-ton, 1,800-passenger Pacific Pearl -- the former Sitmar FairMajesty and original Ocean Village ship -- joined P&O Cruises Australia. The ship features the line's first-ever celebrity chef, Luke Mangan (who has added his touches to the menu in the Salt Grill restaurant), a giant outdoor LED big-screen, an outdoor circus arena and a large Marquee Theatre. A recent refurbishment has seen the addition of 10 pairs of interconnecting staterooms and a new New Zealand Natural ice cream parlor.
Fellow PassengersPassengers come mostly from Australia and New Zealand, with some ex-pats from Great Britain. P&O welcomed its three-millionth passenger in 2011, reflecting the incredible growth in the local market.
P&O's cruisers range from children to seniors; 30 percent are families with kids, 45 percent are couples and 20 percent are friends traveling together. Looking at age groups, 31 percent are 29 or younger, 49 percent are 30 to 59 years old, and the remaining 20 percent are 60 or older. The average age is around 42, which is younger than that found on many American and British lines, and the fleet has a loyal following, with a repeat cruiser rate of more than 40 percent.
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