Papua New Guinea Island Encounter
We'd taken a cruise on Aria earlier in the year and due to poor cabin selection had a horrible time. As a result of the complaint we made we were offered, and took, $1200 credit with P&O as compensation. PNG had always been somewhere that had interested us so we used the credit to book a suite on the seven night PNG cruise out of Cairns. Six weeks after we'd booked, at what we thought was a fair price, P&O had another sale. Booking cruises is luck of the draw. If we'd waited we would have paid $1300 less for the suite and received $350OBC plus beverage package for two of us (we travelled with a friend). $2000 is a BIG difference :(
Anyways, to the cruise.
We flew up to Cairns from Brisbane on the morning of departure. As we'd booked a suite we were able to check-in right on 11. First warning. If you have any issues walking up steep slopes then you might have a problem walking up the gangway. My partner had an operation on his knee the week before and the long steep ramp was very difficult.
We were able to go straight to our cabin - 10054 - where we were met by our cabin attendant Myron. After the Oz Day cruise disaster I was very careful with the cabin selection and 10054 was perfect. It was mostly under the overhang of the pantry. We're not sunbakers so this suited us perfectly. Myron showed us everything in the room. Priority tender tickets were in an envelope with explanation on how to use them. There was a full size bottle of bubbles in the fridge. Fruit basket. We didn't have three of everything - glasses, cups etc but they were there when we came back from lunch. He explained that they would put the sofa bed out each night while we were out.
The suite was really nice and a great size. Easily enough room for the three of us, even with the sofa bed folded out. It's tired though and needs a refresh badly. The arms of two occasional chairs in the room were covered in that ingrained dirt that builds up after 20 years of hands rubbing them. Yuk! The veranda furniture is pretty nasty for a suite. The cushions were dirty, the table corroded. Time to be replaced P&O. The bathroom had a full size bath and it was super clean - I've seen pictures of grotty silicon and grout but ours was spotless. Shower temperature was an issue the entire cruise. It was very difficult to have a warm shower. It was usually cool, with a burst of scolding every now and then. We talked to a couple of neighbours and we all had the same issue. Our suite also had an 'extra' safe. There was a small one in the wardrobe but also a newer larger one attached to the cabinet right next to the tv. Very weird!
Alotau - we are not ship's shore tour people but it was too hard to go private so we booked the Milne Bay Historical tour. Expensive for a couple of hours but super interesting. Each minibus had their own guide. Ours, Fabian, was a great guy. Very proud of the history of Milne Bay, something he didn't know much about until P&O started to cruise to PNG. It was a common theme everywhere we visited - P&O was bringing great benefit to PNG. Our friend and I left the tour at the war memorial in town (my partner went back to the ship as he worked all week) and we walked back to the ship.
We are fairly intrepid travellers but I didn't feel hugely safe in Alotau. Lots of groups of men, youths and boys sitting around pretty much doing nothing that aren't giving off the most friendly vibes. I suppose I wouldn't like thousands of people descending on my suburb either. We spent a couple of lazy hours at the Alotau Waterfront Lodge before heading back to the ship. During the late afternoon a cultural group performed on the dock - drumming, singing and dancing.
Kitava - The priority tender tickets worked a treat. Hint - if you have them, walk down the hall to the embarkation steps, not force your way down the steps thought the people who are waiting. If you don't fit at the end of the tender queue your first on to the next. Most of the tenders in the morning were greeted by a large pod of dolphins that was hanging around in the channel right near the jetty.
The locals have set up an endless row of stalls in the shade behind the beach. They all sell pretty much the same carvings and baskets but it is all quite nice. There were a number of little enclosures with groups of children in them singing and dancing. They were from local schools or churches. Each one had metal drum in front for donations - goods or money. I took a boat over to Uratu to snorkel. It was 5 kina each way for whatever boat you got on - sailing or paddled. The water was beautifully warm but the snorkelling was pretty ordinary. It was a beautiful day so I didn't really care. One of the small sail boats capsized and seven passengers ended up in the water. My partner was in the tender that picked them up. No injuries, just wet people. It was a nice place to just hang on the beach. Long, hot tender queue to get back to the ship.
Kiriwina - Another spectacular day and a gorgeous place. The ship anchored very close to the jetty. Cliffs along the coast in one direction, stunning white sandy beach in the other. We didn't race off here so need to use priority tickets. Similar to Kitava along the beach but behind it is a large 'oval' and then a short walk away a village. A local - John - started talking to us while we watched the performance by a large group of young guys (very funny, the locals were screaming with laughter, all about fertility with some very obvious phallic references - warning to those easily offended) and kind of hung around most of the day. He watched our bags when we went snorkelling. Eventually the sell happened and we bought a couple of carvings. Who knows if they were a good price. We didn't care. He was a nice guy. I gave him a Wheels magazine I had with me and he as very chuffed. John said his son would love it. Long hot tender queue to get back to the ship.
Conflict Islands - After we left Kiriwina the captain asked us all to do an anti-rain dance as the two forecasts he had for the Conflict Islands weren't too flash. It was fine when we arrived but as windy as forecast. They sent a tender in to check the jetty on the island. It was borderline but they decided to get us ashore with the exception that anyone with mobility issues couldn't go. It was just too bumpy getting on and off the tenders. I decided to go over early in case it eventually got too windy and again flashed the golden priority tender ticket.
We were the first Eden cruise to land on Conflict Islands and the first to visit all four ports.
The atoll and its islands are privately owned. Panasesa, the island that you visit, is very manicured and every comment we heard was that it was the favourite visit. I'm going with it was because there was no-one trying to sell you something. I did a circuit of the island and then took a tender back to the ship. The skipper of the tender took four goes t get us alongside. I've taken a lot of tenders, in some very ordinary conditions and never seen anything like it. He was hopeless. We gave him a round of applause when we were finally tied up alongside the tender platform.
The three of us pretty much went straight back over. Our friend and I had booked the snorkelling trip and my partner just went over for a walk around and a swim. The snorkelling trip was great. We both wish it had been longer. We took a very wet ride in a small skiff to a larger boat from where we got into the water. It had a platform that lowered down into the water to make it easier to get on and off. They offered hot and cold drinks before and after we got in the water. The snorkelling was pretty good - some ok coral, plenty of fish, warm water.
The rest of the cruise.
Food - we ate everywhere but Chef's Table.
The Pantry - we like the concept of The Pantry but agree that the seating in the space needs to be rethought, especially the low tables. They just don't work. We tried most outlets and have no complaints. The Mexican was a hit as was the sandwich station. My poached eggs were perfect each time I had them. For anyone who complains they have to remember they are on P&O, not Celebrity.
Dragon Lady - as advised when we were boarding the ship we booked three restaurants straight away. Dragon Lady, Salt and Angelo's. You were limited to three. I saw no evidence of any priority for suite guests as advertised. The serving sizes in Dragon Lady are even smaller than they were in January. We said it then and I'll say it again - it's a good idea that hasn't got the execution quite right. Soggy sweet potato chips. A brulee that was more like a mousse. Nevertheless we enjoyed it enough to make another booking as we left as the menu was changing mid-cruise.
Salt - a very strange experience. We arrived and got a very strange greeting. Did we have a reservation? Sure did. I looked at the list on the desk and pointed to our reservation that had been marked off. Someone else had come in and said they were us! Having an extra table obviously threw them. Service was weird. We had multiple people asking the same question. When my medium rare steak arrived it was well done! They took it straight back but by the time the second steak arrived the others had finished their mains. Then despite saying that I didn't need more vegetables or mash it arrived. At least we didn't get charged twice!
Angelo's - what a let down. We liked Angelo's last time. Not this time. Sat in table right at entrance. Rushed through our meal like nothing any of us have experienced before. Servings so small they wouldn't even qualify as tapas. The cheese 'platter' was hilarious.
Production shows - the only one we didn't like was Twice Upon a Time. It was weird. We like dance but the dancing and singing left us cold. We didn't go to any of the other shows.
Lounges and bars - we liked the duet that played around the ship and The Edens who played in the Blue Room. We thought Alter Ego were terrible (were they just crew members moonlighting as a band?) and did not get Spencer Chester at all. Was his act that he couldn't sing or couldn't play piano? Obviously plenty did get him as the bar was full every time he played.
Myron and Michell kept the cabin spotless. Made very good use of the unlimited bottled water. Loved the officer's cocktail party - we talked to the Staff Captain for the whole event - super interesting guy. I've never commented on a captain before but Gavin Pears was great. Very visible. Was always stopping to have a chat. It was very obvious that the crew really liked him. Embarkation and debarkation were both painless. We didn't make use of the suite lounge in Salt and just sat out by the pool until we left the ship. It took longer than we'd thought it would getting off - an hour from walking down the gangway to getting in a taxi. By the time we got to the airport they were calling our flight.
We really enjoyed the cruise. Eden is a nice ship but is already showing wear only after just a year. The cushions on the loungers around the Oasis just look dirty. The cabins need refurbishing. Get rid of the dumb spa baths and replace them with proper big showers. The verandah furniture on suite balconies looks lost, and cheap, in that huge space.
We enjoyed it enough that we're now investigating a Solomon Island's cruise with P&O.
Our suite was really nice and a great size. There easily enough room for the three of us, even with the sofa bed folded out. A huge amount of hanging and drawer space. It's tired though and needs a refresh badly. The arms of two occasional chairs in the room were covered in that ingrained dirt that builds up after 20 years of hands rubbing them. Yuk!
The verandah is huge. We liked the partial overhang that 10054 has. The veranda furniture is pretty nasty for a suite. The cushions were dirty, the table corroded. Time to be replaced P&O.
The bathroom had a full size bath and it was super clean - I've seen pictures of grotty silicon and grout but ours was spotless. We have used Elemis products on other lines and like them. Shower temperature was an issue the entire cruise. It was very difficult to have a warm shower. It was usually cool, with a burst of scolding every now and then. We talked to a couple of neighbours and we all had the same issue.
Our suite also had an 'extra' safe. There was a small one in the wardrobe but also a newer larger one attached to the cabinet right next to the tv. Very weird!
We'll definitely consider booking a suite next time for both the space and the benefits it gave us.