Like other cruise critic folk I read many reviews prior to my cruise. 95% were negative, thus I had reservations going in....
First thing I'll say to all those 'haters' is you get what you pay for! Don't expect to pay a total of around $1k for a 12 night cruise with all you're accomodation and food provided and expect 5 star everything. If you want that go to a high end resort - pay the standard $1k per NIGHT (not including food!) and you'll get you're 5 star experience. P & O clearly states they are a 3 to 3.5 star cruise.
Boarding the ship was seamless in consideration of the volume of people. As we stayed in a suite - yes I paid the extra! I will agree that our 'priority' checkin didn't seem to count for much but we were there early anyway so found ourselves on board approx 1.5hrs after arriving at the Brisbane wharf. All good here.
Our room was fantastic (again - what you pay for), it was clean, spacious, had plentiful storage, comfortable king bed, nice balcony, etc. paying the extra we also received many extras. Refer to their website for the long list. The less you pay the greater the likelihood of not as good of an experience. Such is life. Our room attendants were 1st class and did a fantastic job under adverse conditions. I work with people who put in less than half the hours you guys do each week and they are constantly tired, whingy, and generally depressing to be around. You were both like a breath of fresh air. Thank you!
Again, I disagree with the negative food reviews on board. Starting with The pantry - the variety is more than sufficient. Does it really hurt you to have to maybe consume the same thing twice during a cruise?? The quantity - if they don't give you enough the first time go back for more. It's all you can eat! Also the quality is not as atrocious as what people make out. It's average and what you would expect for the layout.
Waterfront - didn't go much as we were happy with the pantry but always had good food and friendly service. Dragon lady - didn't try it. The grill - when you're craving a pizza or burger it was always great. Salt grill - incredible experience all around. Can't fault the food, service and nice quiet ambience. No it's not expensive as some people have stated!! For a 3 course meal like that you'll be paying 3 times as much at other fine dining restaurants around Oz. There were always many spare tables too because people didn't seem to want to pay/get dressed up a bit. Also for those that said they were somehow still hungry after a marquee performance - room service is available 24/7. Pay the measley fee and eat that in the comfort of you're own room....without pants!!
Public areas are all very modern and inviting. Love how there are little 'escapes' for couples. Shopping options good, entertainment a plenty. Don't understand how people can be bored or have nothing to do!! They have thought of everyone from a 1 yr old to an 80 yr old. At the end of the day I went on the cruise to see Vanuatu and Fiji - the ship came second in order of priority but you can't complain of the numerous things to do onboard...it's what you make of it. Sure beats sitting in a plane or car.
All staff very friendly, welcoming and generally nice. Considering the time they spend working away from home and family averaging 12 hr days, it's truly incredible.
Issues I had were sleep! I'm a fairly light sleeper so I was always sleep deprived. Kids running around on the decks till all hrs of the night was the main reason. I don't think this is P&O's fault more just bad/lazy parenting. People slamming cabin doors....again not P&O's fault just selfish people not thinking of others. Spa prices were too high! Massage and facial for my wife and I cost over $600. It's a shame because I would of loved to get more done but the costs of all treatments I just couldn't justify. A few rude tourists whinging about small things also annoyed me. Be grateful you are able to have this cruise experience where many around the world are not.
Lastly, I found the ship quite rocky even on calmer days. Just a heads up if you struggle with sea sickness!!! Otherwise all good!! Fantastic experience both on and off the ship, I feel blessed to be able to have done it.