Pacific Dawn Entertainment
When it comes to keeping busy, Pacific Dawn offers something to suit all ages and interests. Daytime activities range from martini mixology classes and whiskey-tastings to quilting and salsa dance classes. You can also 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 has also proved to be a big hit. It's largely used for broadcasting movies, full-length concerts and live sport like rugby league AFL during the season.
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 Show Lounge 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.
Many of Dawn's public areas were refreshed in the 2012 upgrade, but a major change involved the ship's bars. The Promenade Bar on Promenade Deck (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 post-dinner 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 and easy chairs, a stage and 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 has an impressive cocktail menu, it's 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 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 is a quiet oasis during the day with 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.
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 lineup is undoubtedly Pacific Cirque, an acrobatic troupe hailing from South America. This collection of highly talented young people put on a spectacular show, featuring a heady combination of juggling, fire-eating and daring acrobatics in Cirque du Soleil style. In fact, it's so popular that we found some passengers bagged the prime viewing spots up to an hour before the start of the performance!
A small casino on Dolphin Deck (Deck 8) doubles as a sports bar with limited seating and two large screens that were popular when live sports were broadcast.
Theme nights, which are also popular among passengers, tend to not only encourage people to dress up, but also to get involved in activities and have silly photos taken. Whatever the theme -- from country and western to 1960's rock 'n' roll -- there's always plenty of music and dancing to help wile away the evening.
When it comes to shore excursions, there's a decent number of options on offer in each port, covering a gamut of interests from adventure to culture and making good use of the islands' natural sights. Some of the more unusual excursions on our cruise included an Isle of Pines tour that let you snorkel the "Natural Aquarium," a traditional fish reserve on the edge of a pine forest that's hidden away from the rough ocean waves. And in Noumea, you can take a gourmet tour to sample the island's culinary offerings in New Caledonia's top restaurants.
Pacific Dawn Public Rooms
Reception and the shore excursions desk are located on Plaza Deck (Deck 5), an impressive space with a sweeping staircase, plants and plenty of comfortable seating. Above, on Emerald Deck (Deck 6), duty-free outlets sell beauty products, perfume, jewelry (including the popular "inch of gold"), and alcohol and tobacco products. Another collection of shops on the next level up, Promenade Deck (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, an Internet cafe is located on Dolphin Deck (Deck 8), port side, just before the show lounge, 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, but it's a stuffy, windowless room that we found we couldn't use for long, especially in rough seas. The ship does not have Wi-Fi throughout, but if you bring your own computer, you can get a signal on Plaza, Emerald and Promenade Decks, especially near the center of the ship.
On the same deck is a library stocked with a range of classic and contemporary titles and some board games. Self-service laundries with coin-operated machines, irons and ironing boards are located on Baja Deck (Deck 10) and Plaza Deck (Deck 5).
Pacific Dawn Spa & Fitness
There are two small, square-shaped pools located on the Lido Deck (Deck 12), one of which is for adults only, and both of which are six feet deep (1.8 meters). 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, including rugby league matches.
A new addition to the Lido deck is a New Zealand Natural ice cream parlor, serving ice cream at a cost of A$5 for one scoop, A$6.50 for two scoops and A$7.50 for three. The Oasis, added in the 2010 refurbishment, is an intimate outdoor retreat for adults only, aft on Baja Deck (Deck 10). It has luxury sun loungers, comfy couches and chairs for relaxing, as well as a bar that's open all day. The only drawback is the lack of shade plunge pool and hot tub; if you want a dip or a relaxing soak, you have to go to the Lido Deck above.
The Sun Deck (Deck 14) at the very top of the ship is where you'll find a jogging and walking track and a sports deck with activities that include 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 that features four treadmills, stationary exercise bikes and a couple of elliptical machines, together with 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 like Pilates and Boot Camp sessions (for a fee).
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, 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.