Pacific Dawn is a veteran cruise ship, designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano. It began its career back in 1991, cruising originally as Regal Princess, but as the Princess fleet grew, the ship was sold to P&O in late 2007 to make way for newer and more modern ships. It debuted in Sydney as Pacific Dawn in 2008.
In the two years that followed, two more ships joined the P&O fleet: Pacific Jewel in December 2009 and Pacific Pearl at the end of 2010. The arrival of these additional vessels prompted Pacific Dawn to relocate to Brisbane, a move that proved popular among Queensland cruisers, giving them a locally based cruise ship to call their own.
Although Pacific Dawn had a much-needed refurbishment in Singapore before its debut with P&O in 2008, a combination of age and a design from a bygone era was evident. Compared to newer ships, Dawn had fewer balconies, a small spa buried on Deck 2 and no alternative restaurants.
In 2010, another makeover included the addition of the popular Salt Grill by Luke Mangan dining venue. Its 2012 refurbishment, however, gave the ship some much-needed style and nudged it further into the modern era. Although the ship still has few balcony staterooms, the modernized accommodations and updated public spaces have given this seasoned vessel a new look and a more confident attitude.
As a result, Dawn now has its own clearly defined personality, with standard cabins coming up to scratch, decor-wise, and the interconnecting cabins offering more choices for families and groups. Dawn's culinary offerings have also been significantly improved, with more choice and flexibility. And if there's one good thing about the ship's age, it's that it is solid enough to handle the big seas of the Tasman and South Pacific.
Shortcomings remain, however, including a lack of balconies, a lack of open deck space and small pools for a ship of Pacific Dawn's size. It's also a ship where you can rack up a large number of additional charges; for example, there are no drink or dining packages available.
However, if you're looking for an affordable, no-fuss high-seas holiday with Australian style, Pacific Dawn is worth considering.
As the ship cruises exclusively from Brisbane, passengers tend to hail mostly from Queensland and occasionally other parts of Australia. There's a healthy mix of younger couples, groups of friends, families with kids and teens, and seniors, although this varies according to seasons and itineraries. For example, there are more families and up to 700 kids during school holidays, and fewer on shorter themed cruises.
By day, the dress code is extremely casual with swimwear, shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops the norm. After 5:30 p.m., however, "smart casual" attire is required in public lounges and restaurants. Cruises of three to seven nights have one or two "cocktail" nights, where suggested attire is cocktail dresses for women and suits with ties optional for men.
Theme nights from country and western to '60s rock 'n' roll are also slotted into the itinerary and regarded as part of the fun. Although optional, they mostly feature on all cruises, even shorter theme cruises. If you don't fancy bringing your own gear, you can accessorize with all manner of goodies available from the shops onboard.