We did the P&O Explorer Barrier Reef Discovery 10-night trip 30th August to 9th September. It was our first ever cruise, we’ve never done one before. Departing Sydney, stopping at Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas and Brisbane ... Read More
We did the P&O Explorer Barrier Reef Discovery 10-night trip 30th August to 9th September. It was our first ever cruise, we’ve never done one before. Departing Sydney, stopping at Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas and Brisbane before returning to Sydney.
We chose this cruise because it was close to home (we’re from New Zealand) and the dates fitted in with our work commitments. We booked back in late January through our travel agent, our deal included the premium drinks package. We don’t drink alcohol but thought it would be worth it for the espresso coffees and soft drinks. We chose a mini-suite to give us our own balcony and a bit more room. We chose room 10079, as it was mid-ship and fairly close to the foreward lifts.
I was a bit apprehensive before we left as there seemed to be a lot of talk on social media about problems with the sewage system on the ship. However I decided to ignore that and make up our own mind once we got on board – plus there was much excitement and anticipation as embarkation day drew closer as it was something we’d never done before.
We flew to Sydney the day before, and stayed at the Intercontinental in Macquarie Street (recommended by our travel agent). We had a 12th floor room with a view over the harbour and bridge, so we saw the Pacific Explorer arrive just as daylight appeared. It was a magnificent sight and added to the excitement. The hotel was very close to Circular Quay so we walked with our luggage and arrived at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on embarkation day at 10.30am. With a mini-suite we had priority boarding and could board any time from 11am to 3pm.
We dropped off our bags at the bag drop off easily enough. Embarkation was a bit chaotic, as it was not clear which line was for priority passengers. Once we’d checked in we had to wait for a while in the large seating area, then we went through security and before we knew it we were onboard.
We went straight to our cabin. We were really pleased with it. It was very roomy and there was a separate small lounge area with access to the bedroom through an archway. The bathroom had two entrances, from the main cabin entrance a door led into the toilet and handbasin then there was a wooden louvered door which led into the marble shower and spa bath area. The shower was full sized with a glass door. The toiletries were Moh brand. There was liquid soap on the handbasin, liquid body wash and shampoo/conditioner in the shower. Plus we had four little tubes of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion as well. There was no cake of soap, I’m not sure if they had them available or not, I had brought some from the hotel with me. We had plenty of thick white towels. There was a little dressing room/storage area which meant we could hang our clothes and store the suitcases out of the way.
We had a table and two chairs and two footstools on the balcony, which ran the width of our cabin.
While the cabin had not been refurbished, it was very clean and tidy, and the bed and pillows were very comfortable. Our cabin stewards Edward and Jinky were very nice and friendly.
The public areas of the ship had all been refurbished and were very swanky. There were lots of cafés and bars all over the place. There were also lots of different seating areas, so you could sit somewhere one day and somewhere else the next, and feel like you were in a completely different area.
We tried several of the restaurants: The Pantry; Angelo’s; The Waterfront and Lukes. We used The Waterfront for both breakfasts and dinners some days, and The Pantry for all three meals over the ten day period. We dined at Angelo’s three times (it was only open for dinner). The only food we paid extra for was a burger from Luke’s on the pool deck ($5.00 for a nice burger). We didn’t see the need to pay extra for Shell and Bones or A Taste of Salt – we were very happy with the food and service at the other venues. The serving staff at The Pantry were very friendly, as were the waiting staff at Angelo’s and The Waterfront. We thought the food was very good at all venues. Lots of variety in The Pantry. The only thing we found with The Pantry is that on sea days it can get very crowded, but since it’s open long hours you can time it so that you get there when there’s not many others.
There is always lots of things to do on the ship on the “at sea” days.
We did a digital photography session with Ollie from the photo shop. That was very good. He also did a GoPro session later in the cruise, that was so good that we bought one later that day. It turned out to be a very good price, we’re really pleased with it.
We did a couple of the trivia quizzes – they were a lot of fun plus we won one of them and got free coffee and cake! We also joined a group for Pictionary that was fun. We borrowed a couple of books from the library and they also had packs of cards for loan.
Regarding the premium drinks package: it was completely wasted on us as we don’t drink alcohol. Being first timers we were a bit green and would not make the same mistake again. We had thought that we would be able to use the package for our espresso coffees, but they were excluded. I’m not sure exactly what the package cost us as it was part of the deal, but if we bought it prior to the trip it would have been $79 per person per day…that adds up to $1580 for both of us. I realise that the package deal price would be less than $79/day, but it would still be far more than we could drink in soft drink per day. However, we will be sure to look into “deals” more next time.
Let me state that we had NO ISSUES at all with our toilet. A couple of the cubicles in the public areas were out of order, and once or twice we got a whiff of sewage, but only once or twice. I think one of the problems is people putting stuff down the toilets that block it – there are very clear signs saying that only toilet paper from the ship is to be used in the toilet. We were told one person dropped a hand towel into the toilet and tried to flush it – well guess what, it blocked the whole system.
We chose to do no shore tours. There was enough on the ship to keep us busy (or not, the whole idea of the cruise was for us to relax). In fact we didn’t even enter the casino once, though we had thought we’d have a flutter at some stage. We simply didn’t get around to it. On the port days there was hardly anyone around on the ship, it was great.
We only took in one show (“Rave On”, with the talented Jeremy Stanford singing some great Buddy Holly numbers). There were several others that we thought about going to, but we found we enjoyed relaxing in the evening after dinner in our room or out on our balcony. It was lovely sitting outside as the sun went down and the sky darkened. We were blessed with wonderful weather apart from the last day when it was very windy and quite rough.
Disembarking was a breeze. We had breakfast in The Waterfront, then disembarked around 8.30am (we had priority “any time” disembarkation). Our bags, which we had left outside our door the previous night, were easily retrievable from the lineup of other priority bags in the terminal.
So for our first cruise we were pretty happy with everything. We found ten days just the right length of time. We will probably go on another cruise in the next couple of years. Would happily consider P&O again. It will be a matter of booking a cruise which suits our timing and our wallets. We definitely would look for a deal that doesn’t include an alcohol package – it’s just not worth it for us personally. Read Less