Pacific Dawn Review
- Pro: Refurbished in late 2014, the ship feels contemporary and caters to all age groups
- Con: Restaurants struggle at peak times, and some of the food and entertainment could be improved
- Bottom Line: A fun ship, especially for families, but expect to pay extra for some activities
Pacific Dawn Overview
Brisbane-based Pacific Dawn was refurbished in March 2017 and will soon be reviewed by Cruise Critic when we spend a week onboard in April. In the meantime, here is an overview of what to expect.
The ship is aimed at people who like to have a fun-filled cruise on a well-maintained vessel. There are a number of areas where groups can socialise, as well as a few quiet spots to read and relax. The best hidden alcoves are The Dome or the adults-only back decks.
Entertainment is a fundamental aspect of this cruise ship, from the giant-screen movies on the lido deck to live shows and numerous daily games for both children and adults. The activities staff expertly handle the daily routine of keeping everyone happy. There is a long list of what is happening every day for the different age groups, with activities as diverse as air hockey, mini-Olympics, family charades and quoits.
The pool deck has been refurbished with the addition of a kids' waterplay area and two new water slides. One slide is transparent, so passengers can watch people shooting through its twists and turns; the other is multicoloured, with music pumping through it. P&O Edge Adventure Park is also available above the lido deck, offering 19 activities (at an extra cost), including two flying foxes for zip-lining, the funnel climb and a dedicated area for riding Segways. Other options include Walk the Plank, which extends off the side of the ship, the high-in-the-sky Crow's Nest for panoramic views, and a boulder wall for sideways rock climbing.
The main reception area on Deck 5 is part of a three-storey atrium with a wide staircase at one end leading to the upper levels. This is where passengers come to socialise, relax, read and play trivia games. As many of the cabins do not have Wi-Fi, the atrium is also a popular place to have a drink while checking emails. Opposite the reception desk is Charlie's, a small bar that serves coffee and alcoholic drinks. A feature of this area is a grand piano and set area for bands to play once the afternoon entertainment -- think travel trivia and cruise ship games -- has wound up. The atrium, Charlie's, The Orient and Promenade Bar have all been given a fresh, new look as part of the recent refurbishment.
Dining options have been upgraded, with The Pantry replacing the traditional ship buffet, including the addition of a new Mediterranean outlet, Nic & Toni's. There is also a new seafood restaurant, Shell & Bones, available in the evening.
P&O has expanded its onboard options on Pacific Dawn, and the lido is where all the action takes place -- from lounging about watching the kids in the pool and viewing a movie on the outdoor cinema screen to eating lunch in the partitioned al fresco dining areas. While there is a general sense of fun and games, it can get crowded on the lido and it is often noisy around the children's pool area, especially if the sun is shining. There are two additional hot tubs between both swimming pools and, just outside, a shade-covered, raised stage where DJs spin records in the afternoon or live acts put on a show.
Many passengers on Pacific Dawn are multi-cruise enthusiasts and obviously have their routine and preferences down pat, but for first-time cruisers, the lido area is either embraced or just used to transit through to the Plantation Restaurant and back decks for a late lunch to avoid the long lines. Nevertheless, even with a ship that can carry 2,000 passengers, there is enough staff on hand to ensure tables are wiped down and leftovers are removed efficiently. On the whole, the restaurant and bar staff work hard to please passengers -- especially at the peak hours and late into at night. (The Dome on Deck 12 stays open until about 2 a.m.)
Pacific Dawn Fellow Passengers
Based in Brisbane, this ship is almost always full of Australians with the odd New Zealander thrown in the mix. It is very much family oriented but also caters to a range of ages from toddlers to middle-aged couples whose children have left the nest years earlier, as well as a range of healthy retired couples. There was even a wedding party on board, so there was a very diversified crowd sailing into the Coral Sea. After talking to a number of passengers, I discovered Papua New Guinea was the main attraction that enticed them on to this particular cruise. All the staff and announcements are in English and the currency accepted is in Australian dollars.
Pacific Dawn Dress Code
As you might expect on a P&O cruise, casual clothes are suitable throughout the day in most public areas of the vessel, but be aware that the guidelines change from 5.30 pm. Smart casual means long trousers and either a collared or polo shirt for men and skirts, dresses, slacks and blouses for women. Cocktail is defined as a cocktail dress or similar elegant outfit for a woman and a suit or similar for men, with tie optional. Themed nights are always a popular P&O staple and as there were four theme parties on my 10-day cruise (a Vegas Night, All White Night, Back to School Night and Great Gatsby night), the wearing of theme costumes in the restaurants on those nights is permitted. Note: Bare feet, caps, singlets and beach or pool attire are not permitted in the lounges after 5.30 pm and are not permitted in the dining rooms at any time.
Pacific Dawn Gratuity
No compulsory gratuities are charged on Pacific Dawn. P&O leaves the decision of tipping to passengers who have experienced exemplary service. If you wish to reward crew, gratuities can be added to your onboard account by filling in a form in your cabin and handing it into the reception at the end of your voyage.