My review will be judging this cruise compared to the 20+ other cruises I’ve taken on nearly every other cruise line around the World. The cruise itinerary took us to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. I found it difficult finding ... Read More
My review will be judging this cruise compared to the 20+ other cruises I’ve taken on nearly every other cruise line around the World. The cruise itinerary took us to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. I found it difficult finding cruise reviews for this itinerary, so I hope this helps those looking to do a future cruise to these ports on P&O. I believe the only other large cruise line to visit these ports is Princess.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very good. P&O uses an e-ticket and allows you to select a preferred time range to check-in. It took me less than 15 minutes to complete the check-in process and there were no lines. Disembarkation is similar to other cruise lines. It was organized and totally completed in about 2 hours. Once my category was called, it took about 20 minutes to go through immigration/customs. The only negative was the long wait for taxis. This is not a cruise line issue, but a port location issue. Cairns does not have enough taxis to satisfy a large number of people disembarking the ship within two hours.
The Ship: The Eden is a refurbished Holland- America ship. It has a very similar layout and configuration as a Holland-America ship, but a more modern style and interior. It offers basically the same options as other ships in the 1500 passenger ship range. It does not have the on-board options as the mega-ships like water shows, ice rinks, etc. It simply does not have enough space. It does have plenty to offer including an adventure park with zip-line, climbing wall, obstacle course, pools, sports, games, etc. There are several bars with different themes, Movie Theater and large auditorium for shows.
Restaurants and food: It has the traditional large dining area with open seating called the Waterfront serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was OK and acceptable for a mid-range priced cruise. The dinner menu usually had an ethnic set menu each night like Chinese, Japanese, Australian, French, Italian, etc. In addition, there were several other options that varied each night. The informal "buffet" restaurant was called the Pantry. It included a new concept with ethnic food stations like Mexican, Asian, Indian, European, sandwiches, desserts and American/Australian. The food is served by the cruise staff (definitely more sanitary) so no self-serve buffet lines . I enjoyed the variety of food, but like most cruise buffet restaurants, the food is OK but less than average taste. There are three specialty restaurants, two are free and one requires a supplement charge (AU$49). The Dragon Lady has Asian cuisine and is excellent. Angelo’s has Italian cuisine and is also excellent. Reservations are a must and should be booked ASAP on the first day. They fill up fast. I ate half my dinners in these two restaurants. The third specialty restaurant is the Salt Lick and requires a surcharge. I tried to get a reservation, but it was fully booked. I heard it was really good. My recommendation, try to have your dinners at Dragon Lady and Angelo’s and breakfast/lunch at the Waterfront. I am not discouraging eating at the Pantry, especially if you want convenience in a casual setting.
Entertainment: The production shows had relatively small casts, but were entertaining with good staging. They also had two magic shows and two musicians the other nights, which were well done and entertaining. P&O offered all sorts of activities during the day, more when at sea. Wine, beer, booze tastings (surcharge), spa related, games, contests, movies, lectures and exercise. I would rate the entertainment average for this size ship.
Shore Excursions: I normally do not book cruise sponsored shore excursions. I prefer independent sightseeing when in port, but I decided to book P&O shore excursions for this cruise. I was not familiar with these ports and did not know if there would be independent options available. These ports do not get many cruise ships and P&O has only been visiting these ports for two years. I was happy with the P&O excursions, but some were more pricey than the independent options.
Alotau: P&O arranges a culture festival only available to cruise ship passengers. I would highly recommend this one if interested in the PNG tribal cultures. There were eight different tribes dressed in traditional outfits and included dancing and singing. In addition, there were three war canoes you can ride for AU$10. P&O arranges shuttle buses to/from the cruise ship during the morning in port. You can come and go as you please. There is not much in the town itself. The small fishing port area is colorful and with the adjacent local market. There are also a few war memorials. I took an afternoon excursion to two traditional PNG villages. More costumes, singing and dancing along with lectures on the culture and way of life. I enjoyed both shore excursions. There were also WWII history tours.
Kitava and Kiriwini: We try to tender into Kitava, which looked beautiful, but the seas were too rough. P&O decided to go to another island close by called Kiriwini. This I imagine took some real logistic work by P&O given the short notice and it worked out great. Kudos to P&O and the Captain for making this call. Kiriwini was equally beautiful. No P&O shore excursions offered here. Just a beautiful beach and excellent snorkeling and lots of locals selling food, souvenirs, arts and crafts. The whole island comes down to the beach when a ship is in port. There are a few sights like a skull cave you can hire a local to show you and a few local villages. But the real attraction is the beach and clear, warm, calm water teaming with tropical fish and colorful coral. Local boys will take you on an outrigger canoe rides.
Rabaul: The sail into Rabaul is spectacular. The ship passes several volcano (one active) and into a protected bay surrounded by mountains. There is not much to the town, but it has a colorful market. I took the volcano tour, which was OK. There were independent tour agencies at the dock that charged much less than P&O. The volcano tour goes to the volcano observatory for a great view of the town and surrounding volcano. Then to a village near the base of an active volcano where WWII airplane wrecks are located. The village people (not to be confused with the YMCA guys) dance and had cooking demos. The next stop was near the base of the active volcano and hot springs. The ocean water in this area is very hot due to the natural hot springs. This was the highlight of the tour for me. We made one more stop at a village next to a Catholic church. There are souvenir markets at each stop. P&O also offered a WWII history tour.
Gizo: There were several P&O shore excursion options. I selected the Kennedy Island excursion, which was basically a boat ride to/from Kennedy Island, a tiny remote coral reef ringed island where American President John F Kennedy swam to after his PT boat sank during WWII. This is a great option if you want to snorkel or just relax on a beach and swim. The Gizo hotel built a nice hut with lounge, bar and flush toilets on the island. They also arranged entertainment with local teens dancing in traditional Solomon outfits. You can walk around the island in 10 minutes. It is about a 20 minute boat ride from Gizo. I think it is possible to negotiate a ride to Kennedy Island independently, but I believe most independent boat operators take you to another island much closer to Gizo. Dive Gizo arranges independent scuba and snorkeling excursions. Since I had a P&O shore excursion, I had no issues getting on the second tender to shore and could spend the whole day there. Apparently most of the independent travelers had to wait two or three hours to get off the ship due to rough seas slowing the tender process. In fact, I praise P&O and the Captain for allowing us to go on shore. It was rough enough to make it marginal on the safety side. These tendering delays reduced the amount of time on shore for many.
Upon arrive in Gizo, there were locals dress in native outfits playing music and singing. You can walk from one end of the town to the other in 15 minutes. The main street is lined with shops and a local market. After the Kennedy Island tour, I walk to the end of the town and had a drink at PT109, the name of Kennedy’s WWII boat. It has a deck on the waterfront with a great view and ice cold beer. The Gizo hotel across from the tender dock also has a nice restaurant and bar overlooking the harbor. Independent tour companies had tables at the tender dock, most offering transportation to local beaches for the day. The best beach area is roughly an hour drive from Gizo.
Honiara: This was the only real city we visited on this cruise. I heard they have a McDonald's. I didn’t see it or a Starbucks (thank God). There are several historic WWII sights, a few museums and a large local market that are a short walking distance from the dock. Guadalcanal was the location of one of the most gruesome WWII battles. 7000 American soldiers and 24,000 Japanese soldiers died during a six month period on Guadalcanal. There are numerous memorials and historic sites near Honiara and on Guadalcanal. The WWII war tour was one of the more popular P&O shore excursions.
P&O offered several excursions, I took a culture tour to a local Polynesian village. The tour was excellent. We drove 45 minutes get to it and all the villagers came out to greet us in their native dress. We toured the village and they explain their way of life and traditional Polynesian ways, which included local food and dancing. The village is on “Red Beach,” where the Americans first landed on Guadalcanal during WWII. There are also several nice beaches less than 30 minute drive west of town. Some have WWII wrecks and most have an entrance fee. The most popular is Mbonge beach. I did not see independent organized tours at the dock, but there were several taxis waiting that can be hired for the day. Most independent travelers walked around town. If hungry or thirsty, the Point Cruz Yacht Club is only a few minute walk from the dock and locate on the water.
In summary, I would recommend the P&O Eden and this cruise itinerary. Read Less