Pacific Dawn Activities
- Multimillion-dollar update
- Interconnecting staterooms are ideal for families
- Giant outdoor movie screen
- Upgraded suites and mini-suites
- Great facilities and entertainment for kids
- Expanded itineraries include Papua New Guinea
- Sails exclusively from Brisbane
Pacific Dawn Entertainment
When it comes to keeping busy, Pacific Dawn offers something to suit all ages and interests. Daytime activities range from a martini mixology class and whiskey tastings to quilling and salsa dance classes, and you can find karaoke, trivia and bingo almost every day. On sea days in particular, the daily itinerary is packed with activities, which can make finding a quiet spot tricky. The new big-screen on the pool deck forward has also proved to be a big hit, largely used for broadcasting movies, full-length concerts and live sports, including rugby league and AFL (Australian rules football) during the season. Major international sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup, are also shown onboard.
Evening entertainment is largely standard cruise ship fare -- a mix of lively Broadway-style production shows and guest entertainers from the worlds of song, dance, magic and comedy. In the refurbishment, the already impressive two-level Marquee theater received new carpet and upholstery, as well as a huge LED screen wall to enhance live productions. On our cruise, the best shows included Motor City, a big production show capturing the sounds of legendary Motown performers, as well as a Neil Diamond tribute concert from legendary Irish-Australian singer Peter Byrne. But shows have now been expanded to include Pirates of the Pacific, a fast-paced, interactive show for all the family, taking you on a virtual pirate voyage, and DisConnected, featuring music from the past few decades and a storyline revolving around how communications drive our lives.
Many of Pacific Dawn's public areas were refreshed in the 2012 upgrade, but a major change involved the ship's bars. The Promenade Bar on Deck 7 used to have TV screens showing old Fred Astaire movies, with Frank Sinatra hits playing quietly in the background. Although it hasn't changed much in style, it now has live music at night, which, albeit top quality, was intrusive if you were only after a quiet pre- or postdinner cocktail.
Also on Deck 7, the former Bengal Bar is now the Orient Pub, although you'd be hard-pressed to see what's really changed, except for some of the artwork. It does, however, have a comfy mix of Chesterfield-style couches, easy chairs and a stage. It's a great bar with plenty of beers on tap. If you're not into trivia and karaoke, however, you'll have to whet your whistle elsewhere at certain times. New to the lineup, and to Deck 7, is the Mix Bar, a small cocktail bar above the Atrium. Although it had an impressive cocktail menu, it was flanked by some of the shops on one side and the photo gallery on the other, resulting in it being a bit of a thoroughfare.
The huge Dome Bar at the very front and very top of the ship is a contemporary venue and one of Renzo Piano's signature design elements. As long as a Zumba class isn't being held on the dance floor, it's a quiet oasis during the day, offering delightful views of the ocean. At night, when the blinds are lowered, it takes on a new personality, transforming into an entertainment venue with live music and video hits. After 10:30 p.m., it evolves into a nightclub.
Pacific Dawn's bars have live music entertainment nightly, ranging from a guitar-playing and singing duo to a crooning pianist. A highlight of the entertainment programming is undoubtedly Pacific Cirque, an acrobatic troupe hailing from South America. This collection of highly talented young people puts on a spectacular show, featuring a heady combination of juggling, fire eating and daring acrobatics in the Cirque du Soleil style. It's so popular that we found some passengers had bagged the prime viewing spots up to an hour before the start of a performance.
A small casino on Deck 8 doubles as a sports bar with limited seating. It boasts two large screens that are popular when live sports are broadcast. In-room TVs feature a range of channels, including news, ship safety information and a selection of first run movies. You can also find out what's happening onboard that day on P&O's Splash TV.
Theme nights, popular among passengers, tend to not only encourage people to dress up, but also get involved in activities and have silly photos taken. Whatever the theme -- from country and western to '60s rock 'n' roll -- there are always plenty of music and dancing to help spend the evenings. Theme cruises have also grown in popularity, usually two- or three-night jaunts to nowhere with a focus on music, fitness, comedy or food and wine. They generally have a different program of activities and sometimes entertainment, such as boot camp classes or comedy workshops, as well as guest speakers and special presentations.
Pacific Dawn's itineraries mostly focus on the South Pacific, and there's a decent number of shore excursion options on offer in each port. They cover a gamut of interests from adventure to culture, making good use of the islands' natural sights with a few unique opportunities thrown in for good measure. On our cruise, an overnight stay in Port Vila allowed for touring on both port days. A new excursion we tried on day one was a three-hour Toast to Vila tour. It took in four popular watering holes the city, including a glass of beer or wine at each, a chance to meet the locals and enjoy some scenery. On day two, we enjoyed a well-priced helicopter flight; we went up in the air in groups of four for a scenic flight over Port Vila and the surrounding area.
In the other islands, examples of some of the more unusual excursions include a chance to snorkel "the Natural Aquarium" in the Isle of Pines and a visit to a traditional fish reserve on the edge of a pine forest and hidden away from the rough ocean waves. In Noumea, you can take a gourmet tour sampling the culinary offerings of some of New Caledonia's top restaurants.
Pacific Dawn Public Rooms
Reception and the shore excursions desk are located on Deck 5, an impressive space with a sweeping staircase, plants and plenty of comfortable seating. Above, on Deck 6, there are duty-free outlets selling beauty products, perfume, jewelry (including the popular "inch of gold"), and alcohol and tobacco products. Another collection of shops on the next level up, Deck 7, sells resort and beach gear, P&O memorabilia and souvenirs like ship models and T-shirts.
If you need to stay in touch with the outside world, there's an Internet cafe located on Deck 8, port side, near the Marquee, but it has no IT manager. If you have any problems setting up an account and logging on, you won't get help. There are plenty of computer stations, however, but it's a stuffy, windowless room that we found we couldn't use for long, especially in rough seas. There are several time plans to choose from, starting at 100 minutes for A$55, or you can pay as you go for A$0.75 a minute. The ship doesn't have Wi-Fi throughout, but if you bring your own computer, you can get a signal on decks 5, 6 and 7, near the center of the ship.
On the same floor, on the other side of the ship, ahead of the show lounge entrance, is a library stocked with a range of classic and contemporary titles and some board games. There are also self-service laundries with coin-operated machines, irons and ironing boards located on decks 5 and 10.
Pacific Dawn Spa & Fitness
There are two small, square-shaped pools located on the Deck 12, one of which is for adults only, and both of which are 6 feet (1.8 meters) deep. A large outdoor stage with an awning separates them, along with two decent-sized hot tubs. The Lido Deck is also home to the impressive new outdoor LED big-screen, which is used for showing full-length movies, concerts and sporting fixtures popular in Australia.
New to Deck 12 is a New Zealand Natural ice cream parlor, serving ice cream from A$4.50 a scoop. The Oasis, added in the 2010 refurbishment, is an intimate outdoor retreat for adults only, aft on Deck 10. It has luxury sun loungers, comfy couches and chairs for relaxing, and a bar that's open all day. The only drawbacks are a lack of shade and no plunge pool or hot tub; if you want a dip or a relaxing soak, you'll have to go to the deck above.
On Deck 14, at the very top of the ship, you'll find an AstroTurf jogging and walking track and a sports deck with activities like deck quoits and table tennis.
The Aqua HealthSpaFitness facility is located as deep as you can get on this ship -- Deck 2 -- and it can only be accessed by the center stairwell and elevators. The fitness center is on the small side, although it has good-quality cardio equipment: four treadmills, stationary exercise bikes and a couple of elliptical machines. There are also some free weights and weight machines. Besides having no view and being somewhat stuffy, with the air-conditioning appearing to struggle, it was also very busy, particularly on sea days. There is a water fountain, and fresh towels are provided free of charge. The fitness center is also the place to sign up for complimentary health seminars or fitness classes for a fee. Pilates and yoga, for example, cost A$13 a class, while a Boot Camp program will set you back A$55.
Aqua also features a spacious beauty salon if you are looking for a manicure or to have your hair done for cocktail night. The spa is located in the same area, and it has a good range of Elemis treatments, from massages to facials, as well as acupuncture and teeth whitening. Besides high prices, however, there were other issues, largely due to the spa's location next to working parts of the ship. During what should have been a relaxing facial, I could not only hear a conversation between workers on the other side of the wall, but also what sounded like a generator firing up repeatedly.
Pacific Dawn Ratings
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