Pacific Eden has just returned from a multi million dollar refurbishment, mainly of the public areas. The results are stunning. Fresh and vibrant colours and quirky but interesting artworks. I was expecting something of a much lower standard (which would have been fine as it is a P&O ship, not Princess or Cunard after all). Upon first boarding it was hard not to say "wow- that is nice" upon entering every new public area.
Boarding in Cairns - efficient (although we had priority as a suite guest, the queues were well controlled and moved quickly)
The Suite (10011) - the largest most spacious cabin I have ever been in. Plenty of room around the beds, coffee table that converts to a dining table inside and balcony dining table for 4 as well as two loungers, Large ensuite with spa bath, new looking carpet (the rest of the furnishings were still a bit dated but this did not bother me as overall the impression was good).
Public areas (bars, lounges, dining rooms, auditorium, atrium) - all refurbished and a delight to be in and to walk around (pictures attached)
Food - generally of good standard. I can see some people would complain about certain specific meals but if you choose wisely from the menu the quality was generallly great with just a few misses. The specialty restaurants were all great but hard to get a booking for some unless you are a suite priority booking passenger or prepared to queue at 6.30am each day. No need for bookings at the main restaurant Waterfront. We just rocked up and got a table straight away when we did not have bookings elsewhere but recommend you do so at 5.15 or 7.15pm which is the two main sitting times (although it is available at any time during the dinner and breakfast and is open for lunch on sea days.
Chef's Table - I would highly recommend, especially early on in the voyage as this then introduces you to the chef and maitre' d and can unlock doors for the rest of the trip. 7 course degustation of very high quality food and wines with generous pours (virtually bottomless top shelf wine for the whole 3 hours) at just $99 pp. There was room for plenty more Chefs table bookings on our cruise - it is held subject to 12 bookings per night but was only held on about every 2nd night due to lack of demand on our voyage
Entertainment - the 3 main musical acts we frequented were all fantastic and played often in a variety of venues. Highly Strung (similar to the Coors), Willowspeak (solo accoustic guitar with a wide variety of pop songs and a great personality), and Karowayova (sp?) a Kiriwina local who has moved to Australia and has the most divine singing voice and some great songs she wrote herself. The ship's singers and dancers and band were also very good - better than most cruises I have been on.
Alotau - Least favourite of the stops but still interesting. It was Commemoration day public holiday so the shops and markets were closed until midday but still plenty of things to see within an easy walk of the ship. Hundreds of private tour operators touting for business just outside the wharf, a few nice bars to sit and relax nearby in the resorts.
Kitava - unfortunately turned into a sea day due to poor weather
Rabaul - Great stop. We did a private prearranged snorkel tour with Rabaul-Kokopo Dive. We were picked up at the ship, had a high speed boat trip close past the volcano to a dolphin area (35 minutes) to be towed beside the tenders amongst the playing dolphins with supplied snorkel and mask, then taken to a sunken WWII Japanese zero plane wreck still in good condition just below the surface. Some of the clearest water and most interesting unspoiled coral you will find anywhere. Dropped off at their HQ for lunch at Rapopo Resort and we stayed relaxing at the resort until a tender took us back to the ship just before final boarding. Others in our group took a half day bus tour with them to see the highlights of Rabaul. If you have nothing planned, again there are hundreds of private tour operators touting just outside the terminal
Kiriwina Island - Due to the steep drop off from the fringing reef, we anchored about 100 metres from shore. An impressive sight with the ship so close to the beach that the ship's wifi even still worked fine on the beach. A large friendly local community greeted us warmly with local markets, performances, escorted village walking tours etc and again great snorkeling on the edge of the reef in crystal clear waters. This was the best stop for picking up a wide variety of crafted souveniers (although we missed Kitava which could have been equally as good). Best to use Kina and if you have too many Kina remaining for the remainder of the itinerary, they were very eager to exchange Aussie Dollars at a very good exchange rate 2:1.
Conflict Islands - this would have turned into another sea day due to the strong SE wind, but the island has just completed a new floating 320 metre pontoon jetty on the Western side out over the coral reef, and we were the first ship to try it out. A big thanks to the captain who positioned the ship off the jetty with the bow and stern thrusters all day (too deep to anchor) and gave us the chance to experience this amazing coral atoll island. It is privately owned by an Australian conservationist, so they preferred Aussie Dollars (exchanged for vouchers to buy food drinks, etc when you step ashore). Great beaches, plenty of shade, a nice walk around the whole island (about 5 KM) where we got to see how rough it was at the Eastern wharf and why we would not even be there were it not for the new Western wharf. Food was so-so (purchase BBQ, stale buns etc) but purchase drinks readily available and lots of extra activities to purchase if you were looking for other things to do.
Doini Island - Much smaller than Kiriwina so a more intimate setting with very friendly locals selling their (more limited) wares. Lots of school children performing dances and singing with a pleasing very generous amount of donations coming forth from the cruise passengers (last stop so a chance to offload any remaining Kina). Well developed bar with toilets and a small gift shop at the tender wharf for resting and listening to a local band playing. Good snorkelling off the easiest access beach of the cruise (no fringing reef to get over, just a lot of isolated bombora reefs, mostly unspoilt and close to the surface)
Disembarkation - The Cairns terminal is very small so baggage claim can be congested, and due to the large number of passengers buying wooden and shell artifacts, customs was very busy with a long queue. It is fine to bring wood and shell products back into Aus as long as they are clean and free of any visible signs of insects.
The largest most spacious cabin I have ever been in. Plenty of room around the beds, coffee table that converts to a dining table inside and balcony dining table for 4 as well as two loungers, Large ensuite with spa bath, new looking carpet (the rest of the furnishings were still a bit dated but this did not bother me as overall the impression was good). Bar fridge in room very effective, 2x Aussie AC outlets next to bed (mounted upside down), Nespresso machine with a good selection of pods, tea bags, milk in fridge, free laundry service, priority tender boarding (do not queue, just turn up at front of the boarding line and you will be ushered through with your VIP tickets), priority retaurant bookings (worth a lot given others kept experiencing the specialty restaurants booking out early), excellent wifi reception with a wifi unit right outside front of cabin
Fast embarkation, long queues at customs on disembarkation
Was closed for public holiday so on our visit not much to do other than walk around and small market stalls
Pick up from ship by fast dive boat, swimming with spinner dolphins (towed next to tender with snorkel and mask amongst hundreds of dolphins all around), snorkelling over WWII plane wreck and ultra clear water and reefs, lunch at Rapopo resort and relaxing afternoon at resort beach before return to ship by fast tender. Highly recommended must book in advance, no deposit required (pay after all activities completed). They also do a half day highlights tour in the afternoon if you wish to do a bus trip instead of stay at the resortView All undefined undefined Reviews
Unspoilt authentic villages and friendly natives, plenty of variety for artifacts, souveniers etc. Great views, great snorkelling on fringing reef.
New floating jetty improves chances of visit not being cancelled due to wind direction. A true coral cay with coconut palms, 5km walk around perimiter, lots of organised activities, payments in Aussie Dollars (via vouchers purchased on arrival)