Pacific Encounter has two feature performance spaces, the large Marquee theatre at the bow and Black Circus at the stern. The main theatre shows offer plenty of sequins and feathers and a great mix of classic and contemporary hits. But the hottest ticket onboard Pacific Encounter is Blanc de Blanc at Black Circus. This new risqué, Parisian-inspired show incorporates, burlesque, comedy and circus routines and is for grown ups only (so much so, there’s an 18+ age limit). The VIP Experience includes a bottle of high-end Champagne and front row cocktail seating and is worth the splurge.
There are least two activities happening at any given time onboard. As is often the case, those associated with the spa often involve a sales opportunity, but it is easy to avoid the hard sell and keep your focus firmly on fun. On top of the usual bingo and trivia that you find on cruises, there are also dance classes, meditation sessions, and live music on the top deck. Craft workshops are often themed for the next party, such as a free Gatsby-style headband-making class. Sports include table tennis, three-on-three basketball, volleyball, half-court tennis, quoits, and pool games. The Good Times daily program is left in your room during turndown or go high tech with the free P&O Cruises app which can be used to create your own customised online daily program. Nightlife on Pacific Encounter
Pacific Encounter is a ship that knows how to have a good time, with the perfect mix of low key entertainment options and party vibes. Many guests who want to get the most out of their evening hit the bars early and dine early to take advantage of the shows in the main theatres and then party on into the night. If you prefer something more chilled, catch a guitar duo in the Blue Room or Encounter Hotel early in the evening. Funkier bands take to the ship’s stages after dinner plus there’s the Altitude Nightclub for party people and those who like to stay up late.
Gaming affeciandos can head to the casino for slot machines and gaming tables but this was not a big drawcard on our sailing with only a couple of the tables in action each evening.
With nearly a dozen bars on board, the key factor that determines the popularity of the ship’s different drinking venues comes down to the time of day. Some bars and lounges are popular at sunset and the early evening, and then change to either a party venue or a secluded lounge bar later in the night. Others like the Encounter Hotel are busy throughout the day and night.
For chilled out tunes: The Blue Room features live guitar duos in the early evening and a relaxed and intimate ambience. Get in early for a good seat and sit back and enjoy the tunes before dinner.
For the party people: Head to the bar at the Altitude Nightclub which is known as ‘the spoiler’ as it hangs over the rear of the ship. If you’ve had a few drinks, skip the moving walkway at the entrance.
For classy cocktails: The Bonded Store is small and intimate with limited seating that gives it an air of exclusivity. The cocktails here are several steps above those found in other parts of the ship.
For exclusivity: If the weather is good, Byron Beach Club guests should head straight to the private bar in the retreat, where the drinks and the fun bartenders are equally cool.
With five swimming pools, and nine hot tubs, Pacific Encounter offers enough watery fun for everyone. A dedicated adults-only pool, the Oasis, can be found at the back of the ship and there’s the Byron Beach Club pool for the suite set. Unlike the Oasis, kids are welcome here. The main pool on Deck 14 has loads of deck chairs and a separate full size kid's pool with a sliding roof. The ‘secret’ sunset pool on Deck 16 has an adjacent kids pool for little ones. In March 2023, twin speed slides are being installed to keep the young and the young-at-heart entertained.
One great aspect of Pacific Encounter is the abundance of sundecks and deck chairs spread across multiple levels around the ship. Deck 15 above the main pool area also has sun lounges plus a great view of the outdoor cinema screen. Deck 16 is tucked away and has yet more sun lounges.
For a splurge: The Byron Beach Club is the place to be on Pacific Encounter with its exclusive bar, pool and pool deck area for suite guests. This space also has dedicated staff and padded sun lounges with cushions and views out to sea. Sunsails provide protection from the sun. Two large cabanas are also available for extra shade and are ideal for groups wanting to share a drink or a (for-a-fee) pizza.
The ship has a guest services desk, photo desk and LIFE studio for professional portraits, meeting rooms and a medical centre. The shopping area offers tax-free and duty-free prices on jewellery, watches, fragrance and cosmetics. Other stores have snacks available for purchase, plus toiletries, cruise-friendly clothing, sunglasses and souvenirs.
Decks 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 have self-service launderettes with coin-operated washing machines and dryers. A laundry service is also available for an extra charge.
Wi-Fi is available in cabins and throughout the ship for an extra charge for using your phone, tablet or laptop. Computers are set up for passengers in the atrium but most people use their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop. Three different Wi-Fi packages are available and must be purchased as a full cruise plan and not for a single day or individual days. The Wi-Fi isn't fast enough for those wanting to work at sea but it’s fine for light use like checking social media, provided you’re patient as images can sometimes take a while to load.
The P&O Cruises app is free to use and works well. We found it especially useful for creating our own pocket Good Times guide featuring the events we wanted to attend the following day.
The Elemis at Sea (Deck 15) offers a range of facials using the brand's high-end products, as well as various massages, body wraps, waxing, lash enhancements, brow tinting and shaping, and treatments that claim to offer detoxifying and slimming effects. (Charges apply; discounts are offered if you purchase more than one treatment). There is a separate area for pedicures, manicures, acrylic nails and the like. Hairdressing services are offered inside a dedicated salon with sea views. Teeth whitening, dermal fillers and other medi-spa treatments are also available.
Pacific Encounter’s gym is located on deck 15 and has wraparound sea views and a large range of free weights, weight machines and cardio equipment including treadmills. The latter are popular with keen walkers and runners as there is no dedicated jogging or walking track on the ship. In a sectioned-off area, you’ll find the group fitness area with free classes like stretch and meditation, plus some chargeable classes like F45. Each morning a Walk a Mile guided fitness walk takes place on deck 7 (and up and down some stairs) for anyone after some fresh air and exercise.
With plenty of family-friendly spaces (and a few that are adults only), kids and their parents will find a lot to love onboard Pacific Encounter. When the Edge Adventure Park and Twin Racer waterslides are added in March 2023, the ship will be an even bigger hit with families.
There are plenty of cabins large enough to accommodate multiple children, provided you get in early as these sell out fast. Family suites also come with free laundry, a bonus when you’re travelling with kids.
On Australia and New Zealand sailings, children must be at least 6 months old. International itineraries require children to be aged one or above. After-hours group babysitting is available for $5 per child for children aged 3 to 10. Pacific Encounter does not offer private babysitting. Kids must be toilet trained and out of nappies in order to take part in water activities onboard. Age, weight, and size limits apply to waterslides and other activities.
Families have access to a fully supervised, complimentary kids' club program, run by qualified youth staff and separated into four age groups. Activities range from arts and crafts to video games and having fun in the club’s adjacent outdoor play areas. For some family bonding, family sports and craft activities are also organised by the youth staff.
The minimum age to attend the kids clubs is 2 years. Children do not have to be toilet trained but staff cannot change nappies. Parents of little ones who are not toilet trained must remain onboard and contactable at all times. Youth centre staff also cannot bottle-feed or administer medication. Tip: Space in the kids club is capped which means not all families may be able to secure a spot for every session, especially on cruises with a lot of children onboard. Arriving as soon as the kids club opens will increase your child's chance of attending.
Turtle Cove is designed for kids aged between two and five years. The daily program comprises arts and crafts (such as drawing and origami); inside and outdoor games, and free play with plenty of toys, as well as a couple of video consoles. Night-time entertainment usually involves supervised games, storytime, or a lie-down movie night at 8.30pm. Apart from swapping in different games and arts and crafts for others, the structure of the daily program stays the same.
The program for Shark Shack for ages six to nine years doesn’t differ much from Turtle Cove but this doesn’t stop the kids enjoying the dance parties at night, video game consoles to play, balloon stomping, bead-making and other arts and crafts activities.
Teens are divided into two groups and are allowed to sign themselves in and out of the kids club. HQ is for the younger group aged 10 to 13 years and includes scavenger hunts around the ship, listening to music, playing video or board games, and participating in activities on the sports deck. For older teens in HQ+, there’s a lounge plus video consoles and board games but most of them tend to meet here and then go and hang out around the cruise ship.