Nicknamed 'Dora' by loyal cruisers, P&O's Pacific Explorer is bursting with fun activities, restaurants, bars and tasteful public spaces. As P&O's flagship, it features water slides, lawn bowls, a zip line and a newly installed arcade. During the most recent refurbishment, Luke's - celebrity chef Luke Mangan's signature restaurant -- was given a beautiful facelift, upping the elegance of the restaurant.
The outdoor decks boast two family friendly pools and two spas. For the adults, The Oasis -- which features a smaller pool and spa -- has its own bar and plenty of seating. Almost hidden away on Deck 14 is The Sanctuary, another smaller, adult's only covered area with a small pool and plenty of sun loungers.
While the public areas and bars are beautifully decorated, the cabins have not been updated -- except for the inclusion of USB ports. The fittings and furniture are tired and need a refresh.
The ship has a bright, modern feel and is easy to navigate. The numerous restaurants ensure great meals, however some have an additional cost.
While the 77,000-tonne ship features many activities, public areas and 999 cabins, Pacific Explorer does not feel crowded or overwhelming. There is a lot of room on the decks -- and plenty of sun loungers to enjoy the sea breeze. Inside, again, the space is used well to ensure flow and comfort.
The heart of Pacific Explorer is Deck 7. Not only is there a wrap-around deck, a great way to up your step count, but it also features both theatres, Black Circus aft and The Marquee (forward). Sandwiched between the two showrooms are numerous entertainment areas, bars and lounges. These include:
The Blue Room -- a funky, cool live music spot that transitions to the night club after hours.
The Bonded Store -- a speak-easy gin bar, featuring bespoke cocktails
The Explorer Hotel -- a lively, pub-style venue with live music, karaoke and doubles up as meeting spot for trivia and other ship activities.
Ocean Bar -- in the middle of the deck -- is a great spot to listen to the tinkling of the piano, sip on a coffee and plant yourself in one of the wide window seats. A great place to people- watch.
You'll also find a lot of action on Deck 14, which has two waterslides, two adults-only pool areas; The Sanctuary (forward) and The Oasis (aft), and Sky Bar on Deck 14, a great vantage spot to grab a cocktail and overlooks the Pool Deck.
A big screen shines bright over the pool deck on Deck 12, a great place to snuggle with a blanket and watch movies under the stars.
The cabins on the Pacific Explorer are on the smaller side and include older-style finishes and decor.
They were not included in the refurb, and the only new touch you will find in the cabin are new USB ports.
The mini-suites are the most well-liked category. They are a great option for families and for couples who enjoy the extra space and creature comforts that are included in the fare.
Speciality restaurant Luke's was given a significant refurbishment and now features floor to ceiling windows. Previously, the restaurant was alfresco, however this upgrade allows diners to still enjoy the views of the pool deck and be protected by the elements.
The two themed (and included) restaurants on Deck 6, Angelo's and Dragon Lady offer delicious Italian and Asian dishes. Both restaurants are beautifully appointed and are popular among passengers. While both are included in the cruise fare, dinner reservations are required -- and they both book out quickly.
Located on Deck 5 is Waterfront, Explorer's main dining room. Spacious and bright, the menu not only features traditional Australian favourites, but also many plant-based, healthier options.
Pacific Explorer offers inside, ocean view, balcony, mini-suites, suites and penthouse cabins.
The colours are muted and neutral. While all cabins can accommodate four passengers, the cabins to avoid if you are travelling with four adults are the inside ones.
Interior cabins can accommodate up to four passengers, however the comfort level would be low due to the space available. These are located on all passenger decks. Bunk beds configuration available.
Oceanview cabins feature a large window can accommodate up to four passengers.
Balcony cabins all include two chairs and a small table. The standard balconies are not large and quite narrow.
Mini-suites are well appointed and spacious, and include a separate living area, two bed configuration plus a pull-out sofa. The larger bathroom with separate toilet is plus.
Penthouse Suites feature a separate living/dining area, two bathrooms, walk-in wardrobe, separate bedroom and large balcony. The wake views from the Penthouse suite balconies are the best on the ship.
While all cabins offer the basic necessities, the mini-suites are the most well-liked category. They are a great option for families and for couples who enjoy the extra space and creature comforts that are included in the fare.
The food aboard Pacific Explorer is modern, varied and of good to high quality.
There are four free restaurants: The Pantry, The Waterfront, Angelo's and Dragon Lady. A Taste of Salt, (degustation), 400 Gradi, Charlie's and Shell and Bones are all additional. Room service is also available and has an additional cost.
Loud, lively and bursting with neon lights, the new arcade, Level Up, is welcome addition to Pacific Explorer. Previously, there was not a dedicated games area aboard the ship. It does come at the expense of losing half of the 400 Gradi restaurant, however it proved to be a popular addition, especially younger cruisers.
There are the typical video arcade games, plus claw machines and other game tables.
To play, simply swipe your cruise card. It might be prudent to set a limit for your children.
There are loads of included activities aboard the P&O flagship, but do be prepared to fork out for some meals, drinks and of course optional extras such as the Edge activities (flying fox, titanic experience, walk the plank and rock climbing).
Base fare inclusions:
Cabin and daily cleaning and turndown service
Daily meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- in the main dining room, 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 Marquee theatre, live music in various venues
The Edge outdoor activities
Drinks – alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coffees and other hot/cold drinks
Select stage shows – currently Hans The German and Purple Rabbit
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.
Passenger on board range in age and from all walks of life and represent a true microcosm of Australian society. While there were many families on board - with children ranging from 12-month-old - couples, solo travellers, social groups from all age groups were among the passengers. Guests with disabilities are also well catered for, for example hearing-impaired passenger cabins are kitted out with certain gadgets to help with communications.