--by Joanna Hall, Cruise Critic contributor
Pacific Dawn is a veteran cruise ship, sailing with a new name and a new lease on life. Designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, the ship began its career back in 1991, cruising originally as Regal Princess. As the Princess fleet grew, however, the ship was sold to P&O in late 2007 to make way for newer and more modern ships. It later 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. It was 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, age and a design from a bygone era were evident. Compared to newer ships, Dawn had fewer balconies, a small spa buried on Deck 2 and no alternative restaurants to whet the appetite.
As a result, Pacific Dawn had a further makeover in 2010, including the addition of the popular Salt Grill by Luke Mangan dining venue. Its 2012 refurbishment has given the ship some much-needed style and nudged it further into the modern era. Although it still has the same few balcony staterooms and the same stuffy spa, the modernized accommodations and updated public venues have given this veteran vessel a new look and a more confident attitude. Standard cabins are up to scratch in terms of decor, and the new interconnecting cabins offer more choices for families and groups. Dawn's culinary offerings have also been significantly improved, with more choice and the type of flexibility many cruisers demand today. 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 quite well.
Shortcomings remain, however, including a lack of open deck space and small pools for a ship of its size. And with the lack of drinks and dining packages that are becoming so popular, you can really rack up a large number of additional charges. However, if you are looking for an affordable, no-fuss, high-seas holiday that's very Australian in style, Pacific Dawn is worth considering.
Pacific Dawn Fellow Passengers
Although the ship cruises exclusively from Brisbane, passengers hail from many other parts of Australia, including Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The largest contingency, however, is ultimately Queenslanders, with a healthy mix of younger couples, groups of friends, families with kids and teens, and seniors.
Pacific Dawn Dress Code
By day, the dress code is extremely casual, with swimwear, shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops the norm. After 5:30 p.m., "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 optional ties for men.
"Theme" nights from country and western to 1960's rock 'n' roll are also slotted into the itinerary and regarded as part of the fun. Although optional, they usually feature on cruises of seven nights or longer, and if you don't fancy bringing your own gear, you can accessorize with all manner of themed goodies available from the shops onboard.
Pacific Dawn Gratuity
Tipping is regarded as an optional practice in Australia, so P&O dropped its compulsory service charges of AU$7.50 a person in late 2010. As a result, passengers don't have to tip; however, they are welcome to reward a crewmember if he or she has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
We've been on seven cruises with four different lines and this was disappointing in comparison. Pacific Dawn - 7 nights, Queensland tropical coast.
WHAT WE LIKED
Staff were obliging, had great English, and were diligent. From the cabin ...continue
This was our 4th cruise and having had 3 other cruises which provided us with much better basics, we were very disappointed in this P&O cruise. The crew and staff were all friendly and attentive, no fault could be found with them, but that can't ...continue
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Just came back from 7night cruise to South Pacific Islands... Pacific Dawn is a fun ship to be on as it has entertainment all hours although some shows don't start till 11pm which was too late for us in the first few nights.
The good points was ...continue