On Friday 12th February 2016 my Husband our 2 children (aged 4 ½ & 7) and my parents started our 4 night cruise from Brisbane to Hamilton island on the ‘new’ P&O Aria and back again. We were first time cruisers, my parents had been on one other cruise (Celebrity Solstice) 2 years ago. I had read both negative and positive reviews before going on the cruise. I tried to cancel our cruise after reading some of these reviews however if we had have cancelled we would have lost 50% of our money so decided to still go ahead and make up our own opinion. We stayed in Suite 10018 and my parents stayed in Suite 10026.
Boarding the boat was a very smooth and speedy process, we were very happy with this side of things.
Upon embarking the boat and after looking around the different areas the décor and furnishings in the main areas were lovely. Our room was very spacious, with a large dressing room and a decent sized bathroom. Some of the furniture was a little tired (ie scratches on the wooden arms of the furniture, showing signs of wear and tear), however overall we were happy with the room. We were very happy with the size of the balcony also. We did notice a fair bit of corrosion around the boat which looked like it had just been patched up with paint.
First night we put the children into kids club which they loved. One word of warning the kids club is on a first in first served basis, you cannot book. One of the parents we spoke to said on one morning they had to turn away children as they were full. We did not experience this because on all occasions we just got there 10 minutes before they were due to open and we were only ever 3rd in the queue. One other thing to mention is they will not provide water and will not feed the children in kids club, you need to take your own bottle and take them out for meals. On the first night we ate out at Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill, this got us off to a very good start. The food was 5 star, we all were very happy with the quality and execution of the dishes served.
Unfortunately after dinner we went back to our room to discover there had been some sort of a major leak (fire water pump cupboard was right next to our room and we saw some men in the cupboard trying to stop the leak) whch had affected the room next door to us. There was so much water that it looked like a minor river running along the carpet when the people next door opened the door to their room in order to get out. The boat personnel needed to get an industrial sized vacuum cleaner to vacuum up the water (which was very noisy in the middle of the night) and then had an industrial sized blower in the hallway outside our door which went all night (and another day and another night at least) to try and dry it all up. I felt sorry for the people next door, I don’t know what happened to them as the carpet in their room would have been totally drenched. In the middle of the night I noticed that the carpet in our room just outside our bathroom was drenched along with the carpet on my side of the bed near the bedside table (the water must have run from the room next to us into our room). I spoke to the men trying to fix the water leak problems outside our door and they supplied us with towels to put on the floor for the interim. Then the next day and for the next couple of days they had a blower in our room trying to dry it all up. Unfortunately this meant that the door to our room was left wide open in order to get fresh air in there and we felt quite compromised privacy and security wise. We complained about this to reception and they gave us $200 credit.
On the second night my Mum and Dad had issues with their toilet which had blocked up. My Mum not knowing what to do pressed the button hoping to clear the problem however pressing the button made the toilet overflow. Mum called reception asap as she didn’t want anything overflowing onto the carpet, luckily the boat personnel came down promptly, fixed the problem, cleaned up the mess and disinfected everything in their bathroom.
We ate at Waterfront Restaurant (ok, but nothing to rave about), Angelos (quite good would rate this as being better than Waterfront), we did not eat out at Dragon Lady so cannot comment in regards to the food here.
The new ‘Pantry’ is a great idea, we found this really good food option for the children, however from our perspective we found the food ok, there was not too much variety from day to day and a lot of the muffins/pastries ect tasted the same. My husband had a really good soft burrito at the Mexican stand which he quite liked. We also ate at the little eatery near the main pool area. They had a very limited menu only selling pizzas, hotdogs and the like, you pay extra for this, however the pizzas were really good and our children really liked the hotdogs. It is a shame that there was no free icecream for the children, you had to pay extra for this.
We booked in for the Chef’s table degustation experience with matching wines , this was quite good. It was really interesting getting a tour of the galley kitchen and seeing how everything works on a big boat. We enjoyed the dinner, however if we were to pick the best food of our trip it would definitely be Luke Mangan’s Salt grill.
Unfortunately for my Mum and Dad the toilet issues were not over. They had one more blockage on our 3rd night out which was rectified promptly before any overflow. However on our last night/morning of disembarkation at 3.30 am their toilet blocked, they called reception said they were sending someone to fix it however this did not happen so my Mum had to wander around the ship to go to a public toilet at 4am in the morning. The toilet issue was not fixed before we disembarked at roughly 7am, so they had to use the public toilets until then. My Mum and Dad complained to reception after the first overflow situation and nothing was offered in compensation. They just said unfortunately ships toilet systems are very sensitive and sometimes these things happen. I asked Mum and Dad whether anything like this happened on the Celebrity Solstice, they did not have anything like this happen to them on that boat.
On the last night of our cruise there was also another issue outside our cabin. There was water dripping from a light fitting with a bucket underneath to catch the water.
Staff overall were really lovely, happy and accommodating. We only encountered a couple of staff that I would say were surly/unhappy towards customers. Our cabin stewards Bonoir & Nincia were just wonderful, nothing was too much trouble for them during our trip and they always were happy and friendly.
Disembarkation was also a speedy and smooth process.
On the whole we were very disappointed with the whole experience. Unfortunately we did not book at the last minute and get a good deal. This holiday was not what we would consider a cheap one for us over $5000 for 4 nights on the boat. We were expecting 5 star, as this was how P&O have been promoting these ‘new’ ships. I would rate the entire experience 2.5. I would not consider going on another P&O cruise in future. If we were to consider another cruise we would look at going on a boat that is more modern and doesn't have plumbing issues that this boat seems to have. I would have thought that all of these plumbing issues should be sorted before a ship is commissioned/launched. Saying that “the toilet system is sensitive” is not acceptable. P&O really need to look seriously at fixing these issues, otherwise their reputation will be in shatters if it isn’t already.
Very comfortable bed, large room with large balcony, suite had a fridge. Shame we couldn't sleep for 2 nights of the trip as blowers were on right outside our door trying to dry out wet carpet.
We didn't do any of the planned onshore excursions. We decided to do our own thing on Hamilton Island. They had free buses that leave quite regularly on the island so you can get around and stop where you want when you want quite easily.