Pacific Jewel Review
- Recent major refurbishment
- Interconnecting staterooms ideal for families
- A New Zealand Natural ice cream parlor
- Great facilities and entertainment for kids
- Outdoor top deck circus stage for acrobatic performances
- New departures from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth
By Joanna Hall, Cruise Critic contributor
Pacific Jewel is the seventh ship to cruise under the P&O Australia brand and another to have enjoyed many past lives with Carnival-owned companies. It was originally ordered by Sitmar but was absorbed into the Princess fleet when the company was taken over. It launched in 1990 as Crown Princess. The ship remained in the fleet for 12 years, and then, from 2002 to 2004, it enjoyed a brief stint as A'Rosa Blu, then AIDAblu through to 2007. Pacific Jewel then spent another two years renamed as Ocean Village Two when the new but short-lived brand was established. When Carnival shut down Ocean Village in 2008, the ship was transferred to P&O Australia to make its debut in Australia in 2009.
Ahead of its formal launch, Pacific Jewel underwent a major multimillion-dollar refurbishment. Besides a change of livery to P&O's classic white and blue, the ship was also outfitted with a number of new features, including Pacific Jewel's signature restaurant, Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. It was the first in the P&O Cruises' fleet, operated by the internationally renowned Australian celebrity chef. There were other local "firsts," including the new oceanview Aqua HealthSpaFitness, which was dubbed Australasia's largest spa at sea. Also new are a chocolate cafe and a stage for circus and music performances on the ship's top deck. Since then, Pacific Jewel's last big refurbishment was in August 2013, with major enhancements and new additions including interconnecting cabins, a new nightclub, laser tag, an expanded Oasis retreat and a new chocolate shop, as well as new carpet, artwork and furniture.
Although it's an older ship, Pacific Jewel offers a better experience than it used to, thanks to the evolution of P&O's style. Standard cabins have enjoyed much-needed overhauls to bring them up to date and remove all traces of past lives. Interconnecting cabins offer more choices for families and groups, and the ship's culinary offerings have also been improved, offering more choice and flexibility. If there's one good thing about the ship's age, it's that it is pretty solid; it can handle the temperamental swells of the Tasman and South Pacific well.
There are still shortcomings that may disappoint some cruise fans, however -- in particular, tiny pools for a ship of this size. Also, as with its sister ships, you can incur many extra charges on a Pacific Jewel cruise, with P&O resisting drink and dining packages; costs for individual drinks and specialty meals can add up on longer cruises.
Overall, however, if you're looking for a low-key, affordable high-seas holiday with casual Australian style, Pacific Jewel is worth considering.
Pacific Jewel Fellow Passengers
As Pacific Jewel now operates seasons from various departure points -- including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth -- there will be a larger number of people from New South Wales, southeastern Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia at different times. When it comes to age groups, Jewel attracts a healthy mix of younger couples, groups of friends, families with kids and teens, and seniors, although this varies according to the seasons and itineraries. For example, there are many more families and up to 700 kids during school holiday cruises, with fewer kids on shorter themed cruises.
Pacific Jewel Dress Code
The daytime dress code is largely the same across all P&O ships: extremely casual by day, with most people enjoying swimwear, shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. After 5:30 p.m., however, the line asks for "smart casual" attire in public lounges and restaurants. There are one or two "cocktail" nights per cruise, where suggested attire is cocktail dresses for women and suits with optional ties for men.
Like its siblings, Pacific Jewel also enjoys regular theme nights, such as country and western and '60s rock 'n' roll, although they do change according to where the ship is cruising. P&O has expanded these to shorter cruises; they were previously only on cruises of seven nights or longer. Although dressing up is optional, these nights go hand-in-hand with a host of associated activities regarded as part of the P&O fun. If you do fancy dressing up but don't have your own gear, you can buy clothes and accessories from the onboard shops.
Pacific Jewel Gratuity
Tipping is an optional practice in Australia, so P&O dropped compulsory service charges back in 2010. Passengers don't have to tip but, they are welcome to reward a crewmember if they feel he or she has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
We wanted to go to the Melbourne Cup and thought cruising would be a convenient way to go. P&O had two ships leaving for the cup and our ship departed from Whites Bay. We booked P&O shuttle transfers to/from the airport and they were ...continue
I guess we knew what we were in for while we were still in the check-in hall. Hundreds of loud bogans yelling at each other, pushing and shoving and making us think we had made a big mistake.
Yes, we had made a mistake but we did the best ...continue
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This will be our 4 cruise (3 with P&O Australia) in 4 years. We embarked in Brisbane for a 4 day cruise to Airlie Beach and back. Embarkation was slick, but a little late starting at 13:00. We had a deck 11 balcony room that was will ...continue
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