Pacific Pearl Dining
The culinary lineup on Pacific Pearl is slightly different from that of its siblings. Although the primary dining venue has the same name and location (the Waterfront on Deck 7, aft) as the ones on Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel, it has the appearance of a contemporary restaurant, rather than that of a traditional cruise-ship dining room. A colorful and airy space with touches of blue, lavender and pink, it has plenty of cozy nooks and crannies, with tables accommodating from two to 10. Services include breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., lunch from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., without traditional sittings. Instead, it operates on a Your Choice Dining basis, allowing you to choose who you dine with and when, and allowing the option of making a reservation at a time that suits you.
For breakfast, you can choose from a variety of a la carte dishes, including cereals, yogurt, bakery items like toast and Danish pastries, and healthy options that include fruit, cold cuts, and eggs served in various ways. There are also daily specials such as Eggs Benedict or a Mexican Omelette filled with spicy ground beef and green chili peppers.
Lunch has plenty of variety, from quiche or steak sandwiches, to bangers and mash or Irish stew. The dinner menu has a selection of entrees, pasta, mains, sides and desserts which are available every day, and selections that change daily. There are plenty of local dishes -- such as seared Tasmanian salmon and homemade pot pie with lamb, combined with a choice of international favorites like Indian butter chicken curry and Asian stir fry noodles -- to whet the appetite. If you get friendly with your waiter, you can also ask for extra steamed vegetables of the day.
If you are following a special diet, such as gluten-free or lactose-free, you will need to let your travel agent know in advance, or the cruise line if you book directly. A la carte menus for dinner feature at least one vegetarian (without meat or fish) dish, and there are usually plenty of options available in the buffet for lunch. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can request gluten-free bread and pre-order a specially made dish for dinner a day in advance. Strict diets can only be catered to in the Waterfront Restaurant.
The casual dining option is Plantation Restaurant, located aft on Deck 12. It also has a bright and airy decor, featuring warm wood with beige and flashes of green highlights. It has the bonus of a large outdoor area with plenty of seating, ideal for hot-weather cruising. The large buffet-style restaurant is open for breakfast between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. until late.
Breakfast is a hearty affair with a wide range of hot and cold selections to choose from. Options range from simple scrambled or fried eggs with bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms to fresh fruit, bread rolls and cereals. For lunch, there is usually a choice of two types of pre-made sandwiches, as well as a variety of hot dishes covering pasta, curry, chicken, fish and vegetables. Salads are a bit thin on the ground, however, with a focus on greens and no tomatoes, cucumbers or raw veggies. Dinner offerings are similar to those at lunchtime, minus the sandwiches, and with a better choice of salad.
Pacific Pearl was the last of the fleet to receive a Salt Grill by Luke Mangan restaurant, ahead of its debut in Sydney under the P&O Australia brand. A stylish space forward on Deck 12, the venue has the same decor as its counterparts on Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn, featuring a highly polished wooden floor and accents of purple and silver throughout. Lunch and dinner feature the same menu, with the only difference being the cost: lunch is A$30 a head, while dinner is A$40. Succulent offerings include prawn toast with smoked corn salsa, kingfish sashimi, Mangan's famous Glass Sydney crab omelette, and fish and steak mains. By all accounts, it can be easier to get a booking for lunch, although Salt Grill isn't open on port days.
Unfortunately, Pacific Pearl doesn't have a La Luna restaurant, the Asian-fusion for-fee restaurant found on its sister ships; as a result, the only other dining venue is The Grill on Deck 12, which serves so-so casual fare -- grilled sandwiches, for example -- during the day. The best places for a specialty coffee or tea are the Cafe on Deck 12 or the Mix Bar on Deck 6, both of which have top-quality baristas. Room service is available, but it has a limited menu, and items are charged a la carte; a Caesar salad is A$8, while an Aussie Outback Burger will set you back A$9. The bonus, however, is that you're not at risk of tripping up on many dirty trays and plates in the passenger accommodation hallways.
When it comes to service, across the board it's attentive and offered by an enthusiastic and well-trained international crew, these days largely hailing from Indonesia, the Philippines and India.