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Pacific Aria Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
314 Reviews

Too many faults accompanied by poor service; how could they get it so wrong?

Pacific Aria Cruise Review by billy_the_cruiser

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Nov 2015
  • Destination: Australia & New Zealand

For a company with the resources and experience of both P&O and all those under the parent company Carnival Cruises, the introduction of newly refurbished ships to the line should go like clockwork. After the two shakedown cruises prior to arriving in Brisbane one would think that most of the bugs would have been ironed out – not so. I found it hard to believe that every conversation with a stranger on board seemed to start unprompted with a complaint about P&O, the food, the crew, the restaurants and other problems on board. The only reliably positive things to be said were about the comfortable beds, roomy cabins and very good cabin attendants.

Although we had a reasonably enjoyable cruise it was more to do with what we made of the few good aspects of the ship and the camaraderie with fellow sufferers than about what P&O contributed to our holiday. The ship is far behind the quality of service and food provided by the Pacific Dawn or other ships.

Where to start with the problems?

Life boat drill set the scene for the cruise. Crowded onto the deck in the sun for 30 minutes, elderly people needing chairs, general confusion, poor audio, little room to even get your life jacket on.

FOOD:

The Pantry

You have to queue at multiple counters to get even one course eg cereal and fresh fruit requires 2 queues followed by toast, bacon, omelet with French toast requires 3 more queues. Light breakfast starts at 6AM and full breakfast at 6:30AM so staff were standing waiting for 6:30AM to serve food that was already in place 15-20 minutes earlier but they were not allowed to serve it hence by 6:30 you can imagine what the hot food was like. I wanted some fresh cut fruit with my cereal at 6:10AM but no you can’t have it as advised by the serving staff who were just twiddling their fingers while guarding the fresh fruit bowl.

The food is often ‘tired’ with chewy bacon etc. I actually saw an attendant gripping onto the roast beef with his gloved hand while he desperately tried to hack off slices of overdone meat with an obviously blunt knife while someone else commented that the same area one day appeared to have a huge roast (probably enough for the whole sitting) to cut into so it would have been cold by the end.

The whole area just appeared crowded, shabby and dirty. Have you ever tried to eat breakfast sitting on a lounge – no choice when other tables/benches are full. Best to avoid the pantry if possible.

Yes, as per other reviews, the Pantry still has at times dripping water from the ceiling falling onto patrons and their food.

The Waterfront restaurant.

Arrive early or you have to long wait or you are given a buzzer. It all seems very haphazard in the way they serve people and congestion and confusion appeared to reign at the serving points. Over about 7 meals eaten here none were ever served hot with at best luke warm (the most common passenger complaint). The steak on the last night, that took an hour to appear despite attending early, was not only underdone but actually cold and I had to chase my plate as it slid around the table due to no tablecloths. Eggs benedict at breakfast – almost hard boiled.

Angelos and Dragon Lady.

Get on the phone early at 8AM to book – they were free for this trip but I gather a future surcharge will apply. The meals we ate at these were mostly better than the other venues (still not hot) with the exception of a risotto my wife had – tasty but undercooked and there answer was a serve of fish no options given. I had to change deserts one night as my order still had 30 minutes to bake.

Salt Grill

$49 premium. OK food but I question if the premium is really worth it. Certainly not up to the standard we expected. They did not even know if the dukkah was gluten free (and therefore would not serve it to a coeliac) as no-one had bothered to ask Luke Mangan this fundamental question!!

BARS:

We liked the many nooks and variety of bars and entertainment but you nearly froze in the vicinity of the Mix Bar and surrounding shops. I really enjoyed the range of beers on tap from Matilda Bay at two of the bars but a long way to go from the Dome or Waterfront for a decent beer. Staff at the Ocean Bar had difficulties serving what was ordered (3 wrong beer orders) and even forgot the key ingredient of one cocktail (ditto in the Dome).

POOL AREAS:

Adults only pool on level 10 a great idea but much more shade needed for the Australian tropics.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Varied from excellent (Carpe Idiotous and the main band) to woeful (moustached comedian). Plenty of variety of good entertainers at the various bars when they were performing.

Unlike other ships where if the party is going well the band plays on or the DJ keeps the party going, P&O motto appears to be that the party shuts down when the entertainment director says so – typically 11PM. At the White Night, Gatsby night and the last night at the start of the functions the ships dancers and staff would dominate the dance and nearby bar areas, take over the dance floor and strut their stuff, not interact with the audience or make any effort to gain participation in partying then abruptly exit leaving a flat party at around 11PM latest.

The final night band jam session in the dome was great but just as everyone was up and dancing and having fun it was shut down by the entertainment directress leaving the woeful DJ who did not seem capable of stirring anyone up to dance or have fun. The only time anyone got up was when he conceded to play a request. I saw a passenger expressing their views to a senior staff member but this discussion was abruptly ended by the crew member turning their back on the passenger and walking away leaving the passenger obviously fuming.

TV:

How in this day and age can a cruise company be incapable of even telling you what programs/movies are on let alone tell you when they were on. You just had to watch a channel until you fluked the start of a program or movie (the solution that was instructed to me by their staff when I requested a program).

STAFF:

The brightest and happiest staff that always made our day were the two cabin staff Mae and Nincia. They understood customer service and were always cheerful and pleasant. Many people commented that the cabin staff were the only happy ones on the ship despite working incredibly long hours. Some other staff were good but the service and attitude was very inconsistent.

The Captain and senior officers were never seen walking the ship (commented on by several people) – I suspect too ashamed to do so.

Smokers beware:

I am not a smoker but they were treated poorly with no seating and only given a filthy old paint tin as an ash tray – not a pretty sight.

Air Conditioning:

You cook in the dome even at night and in areas of the pantry and you freeze in other areas. We had a suite with supposedly personal air conditioning control – it did nothing and left you at the whim of the AC system so temps varied from 20 – 25C over the day so difficult to sleep comfortably with bedding provided.

Other:

Lifts often out of service and are very small so get used to the steps. Leaking from the ceiling outside our cabin. Others commented on various leaks or problems around the ship.

EXCURSIONS:

Reef Excursion Hamilton Island:

Why offer cabin service for breakfast when you can’t deliver. After assurances that you could still order in cabin breakfast a number of people went hungry on the reef tour as breakfast failed to appear at the requested time. I must admit that based on past performance those affected should have known better as room service was erratic at best. The Pantry 6:30AM opening time for a full meal really only gave you 10 minutes to gulp down a meal in order to get to the 6:45AM departure point. The tour itself was well worth it and the service provided (compared to Aria) was excellent.

I gather the Hamilton Island tender to shore process was a debacle due to the very long cycle time of over an hour round trip for only 2 or 3 tenders so why not have more tenders in service?.

Cairns:

Great to stop somewhere overnight and get 2 days ashore. Also great to eat off the ship and get some great meals but at personal expense. I gather some missed organized tours due to delays in getting the very steep gang plank in place.


billy_the_cruiser's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Cabin SA suite 10018

Suite accommodation:

Very roomy but a bit dated. I think the bathroom had several layers of tiles on it so the toilet was very low to the floor. Water pressure for the shower could be better. I pity any elderly person trying to get in and out of the high sided but narrow spa tub. Beds were comfortable and a great range of pillows. The provision of a Nespresso machine and bottled water was great as was the priority embarkation/disembarkation.

I was disappointed by the fact that advertising for the suite stated ‘fully loaded IPod with docking station’ – many excuses as to why we didn’t have it and it never eventuated. I even had my IPod player to plug into their docking station in case their content was not to my liking. The binoculars provided half way through the trip were old and faulty.

DVD player was provided but no DVDs available to play.

Cocktails with the Captain and staff.

A rushed photo (no effort made to take a decent photo) with a disinterested Captain followed by a brief cocktail party. Some staff made an effort to involve guests in conversation while quite a few made no effort and just stood to the side and left some guests just sitting alone.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Cairns

Great food and restaurants particularly the Ochre.


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