Instructed to show up at 11am, we expected a gentle progress suggested by the red “Priority” notice on our E-ticket. It seemed everybody had an 11am date and 1500 people were trying to progress through registration, border control and security. Someone took pity on us and we were probably the 300th couple to board.
Sold as a “suite”, our room was twice the size of standard balcony rooms and while having an en-suite bathroom, had no separation of bedroom and living space. Nevertheless it was pleasant, had loads of storage space and a little wardrobe – dressing room. It also had a Nespresso machine and a fridge. The balcony was large and populated by 2 sunbeds in disgusting condition and a relatively decent table and 4 chairs. We were greeted by our splendid room stewards Aime and Joshua who produced a bowl of fruit and bottles of water.
The Pantry offers a variety of dishes from little “stalls” and we were able easily to find a table at which to enjoy them. We discovered subsequently that when in a port, the main “Waterfront” restaurant closes so The Pantry becomes the only lunchtime venue. On these occasions the whole place is hugely overcrowded and lunch becomes a bunfight.
A large and nice room aft, it is the main restaurant on board. At mealtimes there is a queue stretching past the lifts to get in. From our observations this is not because they are short of tables, but is a scheme intended to ease the workload of the wait-staff and galley. We found that by going straight to the Maitre d’ and saying we only wanted a table for 2, we were admitted immediately. The menus were interesting but the dishes themselves were only a chef’s impression of what the dish should be. Probably about 7 out of 10.
Angelino’s and The Dragon Lady
Respectively these are the Italian and the oriental themed eateries. No queues at the restaurants, but long queues to make the required bookings at the “Monkey Bar”. More intimate than the Waterfront we had some really good meals there. Probably 8 out of 10
This is the Luke Mangan inspired venue and is charged to one’s account. We went for a dinner and a lunch – the menu is the same but lunch is cheaper. We enjoyed our meals there and would give it 9 out of 10.
Public spaces and bars:
I thought the décor was generally of the Leagues Club meets RSL style. The Blue Room was the closest to “cool”, but it was occasionally spoiled by an entertainer with more volume than talent. The bar staff are competent and charming but are hindered by P&O’s strict cocktail recipes that deliver very watery drinks. Having tried the cocktails we stuck mainly to wine. There is a “Mix Bar” where one can get real cocktails, but at an exorbitant price.
We took the $69 “Drinks Package” because we didn’t know better. This came to $138 per day or $1,380 for the trip. Outside of the Mix Bar “cocktails” are between $11 and $12 each, beers are between $5 and $6 each and most glasses of wine are between $9 and $11. The package only allows drinks up to $12 but does not allow one to buy bottles of wine. We could have saved money by putting bottles of wine – between $27 and $40each on our shipboard account; spending - say $90 per day – and stashing them in our fridge when not in use. Anyway, you do the arithmetic for your typical usage.
Because school was out there were quite a few children. Those we saw were well behaved but most were squirrelled away on the top deck and cared for by professionals. The Oasis Deck on 10 aft was barred to kids – very good idea. There were a lot of folk of pensionable age and a significant number of obese (some morbidly) people. P&O aim for the bottom of the market with very cheap accommodation and it shows. The somewhat slack dress code meant many blokes wore jeans , or worse – shorts after 6pm. On the other hand, most women made an effort. Don’t look for “cool” if you go P&O.
The drain in our bath/shower was probably blocked by 22 years of hair and soap, so one was ankle deep in dirty water by the end of a shower. This was reported twice but totally ignored by the maintenance crew.
The crew name badges were in a font so tiny that normal people could not read them. What is the point of P&O asking for crew plaudits if we had no idea who they were?
Decent glasses of wine in the restaurants were priced beyond the $12 limit of the Drinks Package
We took the cruise because it departed and returned to the wharf opposite our flat. I am not sure that would be sufficient reason to do it again.