Pacific Encounter joined the P&O Cruises fleet in 2022 and cruises year round from Brisbane. Pacific Encounter was previously sailing as Star Princess for Princess Cruises and has been given a chic, new look. From the smart striped loungers on the pool deck to the classy black and white photographs lining the walls of Angelo’s, the Italian restaurant on Deck 6, Pacific Encounter looks impressively luxe for a mid-priced cruise experience.
P&O Cruises new Byron Beach Club also makes its debut, featuring a private outdoor pool deck with whirlpool spas and upmarket seating plus other suite-only perks. It’s true the suite benefits onboard Pacific Encounter are not as comprehensive as those on some other lines – you’ll still have to pay for your alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks - but fares are priced accordingly. Whether you’re soaking up the sunshine at the private Beach Club or enjoying an exclusive breakfast at Angelos, the Byron Beach Club is a welcome addition to the local cruise scene.
Pacific Encounter is a ship that over-delivers in many different ways, especially if you pick up a discounted fare. With upmarket bars, multiple fee-free restaurants, affordable speciality dining, a great choice of family cabins and first-class musical entertainment, this is an affordable and enjoyable cruise experience for all ages.
The Pacific Encounter deck plan has a focus on fun in the sun and drinking, two things that tend to be a hit with the ship's predominantnly Australian and New Zealand clientele.
The crowning glory is the Altitude Nightclub hanging over the rear of the ship, a popular late night party venue. The are loads of pools onboard, with a designated family pool and large main pool on Deck 14 and the popular child-free Oasis on Deck 12. It's the perfect set up for a ship based at a port that’s famous for fun in the sun. All that's missing is the line's popular waterslides which will be added in March 2023, along with the P&O Edge Adventure Park.
Deck 7 is where you’ll find most of the bars and other drinking venues. Strolling from one end of the ship to the other on this level makes it all too easy to drop into another bar along the way instead of heading back to your room. Deck 5 is also known as the lobby and is the hub of Pacific Encounter. This is where you’ll find several cafes and plenty of places to sit and take in the ocean views. If you enjoy socialing with other guests, it’s a great spot to hangout and make new friends.
The number of Pacific Encounter family cabin choices is impressive, with spacious cabins that are well laid out. Quad-share cabins with one bunk bed, a single bed and a sofa bed can be booked as interconnecting if you’re travelling with a tribe. Also available are triple berth cabins with a single sofa bed and double bed. An 8 berth family suite with two separate bedrooms, a spacious living area and a balcony is a welcome addition for a line that’s so popular with families.
*Tip: If you want one of the larger rooms or suites, it is important to get in early as these cabins are usually the first to go. *
Along with all of the popular family cabin categories, the Byron Beach Club rooms are also in hot demand. Benefits include access to an exclusive Byron Beach Club Retreat pool deck, daily private breakfast in Angelos, priority tender tickets, turndown snacks and a bottomless fruit basket, and Byron Beach Club branded flip flops that are yours to keep.
Cabins are looking smart thanks to a soft upgrade when the ship transitioned from Princess Cruises to the P&O fleet. As part of the move to Australia, 3-point power plugs and lamps with a built-in USB charging port were also added to all room categories on board.
If you're not a sun worshipper and/or value your privacy, you may prefer to avoid the balcony cabins along the sides of the ship on decks 9 and 10. These have no cover overhead and therefore no shade plus passengers staying in the cabins above can see you when they look over the balcony.
The dining onboard Pacific Encounter is generally very good, from the impressive choice of tasty dishes in The Pantry to the fine dining ambience of Luke's Bar & Grill. Whether you can afford to splurge on multiple dishes from the a la carte menu at the latter or would prefer to stick to the free ‘specialty restaurants’ like Dragon Lady (Asian) and Angelos (Italian), it’s easy and affordable to have a memorable -- and delicious -- night out that feels like a special occasion. If you're staying in a Byron Beach Club room, don't miss the daily private breakfast in Angelos which features classy dishes not available anywhere else on the ship. With so many excellent (free) choices for lunch, it's hard to justify paying for the two casual dining options on the pool deck, Gradi Pronto and Luke's Burger Bar.
Before embarking, P&O passengers are required to show proof of vaccination and undertake COVID testing. The company has instilled rigorous health protocols for passengers and crew. Passengers are encouraged to download the VeriFLY app and upload their vaccination certificates and fill out the health questionnaire. Passengers are also required to undertake a RAT within 24 hours or PCR test within 72 hours of embarkation. The results are to be recorded on the VeriFLY app. The system relies on the passenger to be honest as no other proof is required.
Masks are mandatory during check-in and embarkation and debarkation. Once aboard, masks are not required to be worn by passengers except in the theatres and when lining up to enter the restaurants. It is also recommended to wear masks where physical distancing is not practical.
During the entire cruise, all crew wore masks and there was constant sanitizing. At the entrance to The Pantry, passengers were asked to use the wash stations. Many hand sanitisers were readily available throughout the ship.
* Cabin and daily cleaning and turndown service
Daily meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- in the The Waterfront, Dragon Lady and Angelo’s, and The Pantry (buffet)
Access to main pool deck
Daily activities, including trivia, lawn bowls, table tennis
Entertainment -- stage shows in the main theatre, live music in various venues
* Beverages, including soft drinks, cocktails, wine, beer, premium coffee and milkshakes
Spa and beverage gratuities
Byron Beach Club (for non-Byron Beach Club guests)
Use of the thermal spa
Activities, including The Edge after it is added to the ship in March 2023
Select stage shows such as Blanc de Blanc
Photos and artwork
P&O cruises are not marketed overseas, so the predominant nationality is Australian, or at least Australian residents, followed by New Zealanders. The ship appeals to families but you don't need kids to appreciate the lively-yet-laid-back onboard atmosphere. Whether you are in your 50s, travelling with extended family or twenty-something party people, Pacific Encounter offers plenty of fun. Unhosted LGBTQ+ gatherings are available daily and there is choice of accessible cabins.