Aria review 25 November 2015
We booked an inside cabin for this two night inaugural cruise from Sydney to Brisbane. Inside cabin 5020 was really large, much bigger than we have had before. This was our 18th cruise overall, and third time on P&O, and we usually have a balcony (we have had an inside on Pacific Pearl and Voyager of the Seas).
The inside cabin had lots of storage/wardrobe space, a three seater lounge, and a good sized bathroom with a large vanity. The bedding arrangement was twin beds, which we would normally have a queen. But having the twin beds gave the room even more space, so having the twin beds was good. The mattress and bedding was all new and very comfortable. All of the other furnishings were in good condition. The only item needing maintenance was the make up mirror. Our room steward and his assistant were both very friendly and helpful, and our room was spotless. It was also a quiet room. We didn't watch a lot of TV, but there was news, sport and a movie channel, plus some others. Reception was good.
Embarkation for us was 12.30pm, but when we arrived the staff advised there was going to be a delay in boarding. And there was, but only about 5 minutes. It went very smoothly, and the Sydney staff were very friendly and helpful.
The muster drill was a shambles, we were all crowded onto the outside area of deck six, under the lifeboats. We couldn't hear the announcements, passengers were talking and continuing to chat even though the staff were asking them to be quiet 'so we can hear the announcements' but they didn't stop talking. We were on Port so we were in the shade but it was still uncomfortable. Our friends were on the other side in the sun. Not nice.
The 5 ship spectacular concert was amazing! Our ship had four bands playing, including Jessica Mauboy. All were fabulous, and the fireworks and sail away past the other ships was just incredible. We danced for hours. They gave away souvenir hats and lanyards. Best sail away ever! Well done P&O!
We had drinks in the upstairs bar in The Dome. Service was very good, our drinks waiter there was Raymond. Very friendly and professional, with quick service. Cocktails were around $11 or $12 and they had a large range. Views from up there are amazing. All bars and restaurants have been refurbished and looked like new. We also had a drink in one of the downstairs bars the second evening and the service was slow. The bar was busy and short staffed. The staff there did what they could, but it was obvious they needed more people.
We ate at The Waterfront Restaurant for lunch both days, breakfast both days, and dinner once. We waited in a long queue for breakfast the first day, there were plenty of tables but not enough wait staff to attend to them. Waiting in the queue, and seeing the empty tables, was making people angry. After a few minutes an officer arrived and the line started moving. I think they started to sit people even though the wait staff were already stretched. Once seated, service was good. Some people were obviously training and the others were trying to show them the ropes. So a lack of staffing impacted on something that should have been routine, and this was poor planning on behalf of P&O. Queues for dinner the second evening formed after the show was finished, however we managed to get there just before this. We only ate at The Pantry once, and this was just to grab some dinner and go back out to the concert. The food was good, and the area was clean, and the service was good too. Friends of mine had breakfast there the second day and said the floor had not been cleaned since the day before. Another staffing issue I would imagine.
Zoltina J was the entertainment director and she was fabulous. We attended trivia sessions and Zoltina was very funny and interacted very well with the crowd. She is an asset to the ship. We also used the duty free shop, service was okay.
Disembarkation was delayed as we came into the dock late. The staff kept us informed and it was no problem. Instead of catching a taxi into the city, we walked about 200 metres in front of the ship to the ferry dock, and caught the ferry into the city, for about $5.80 each. What a great way to enter the city, much better than being on the roads. The ferry docks right in the heart of Brisbane, and it was an easy walk to our hotel.
So overall we had a good time, the ship is smaller than we are used to but that was nice. It was easy to find your way. Some areas had not yet come on line such as The Edge outdoor area, and the machines that give you your account. There were some teething problems but the biggest issue was the lack of staff. P&O emailed us apologising the teething problems and offering a discount off a future cruise. We were offered $112.25 each, and my friends (who had a balcony) were offered $149.75 each. This is a nice goodwill gesture, and amounts to about 25 per cent of our cruise price. We have 18 months to use it, I am sure I will have no problem putting it toward another P&O cruise.
Cabin was large, quiet, clean and comfortable.