We chose this cruise as a fun school holidays kick-off for ourselves, our 9 year old son and 3 other families with similar age kids. Was meant to be a Comedy cruise - but, for us at least, it was more of a family fun cruise.
We've been on one cruise before - earlier this year on the Norwegian Sun in Alaska. We were pleasantly surprised by that cruise. This one not so much. I was expecting P&O to be a bit more 'budget' than the other major cruise lines - it is.
The ship is definitely older and a bit worn. Mostly clean and the crew seem to try to keep her tidy. The Pantry (buffet remade as a 'food court') and the Waterfront restaurant (only free sit down restaurant) seem to be recently updated but the rest of the ship is definitely dated.
Our cabin was a 4-bunk with a window on the 9th floor, towards the rear of the ship. It was fine. Bunks were comfy. Shower was huge (compared with shower on the Sun) but looked a bit grotty and worn. It was fine for us and 2 x children (we had a child from one of the other families in with us).
Dining got a bit boring after 3 days. The "Pantry" buffet was always crowded. Breaking up in to types of food (Indian, Asian, Salad bar, roast station, etc) is good because it's easier to get around, but if you want more than one type of food you have to stand in 2-3 lines. Overall quality of food was pretty average (think mid-range buffet). Everything has to be served by staff - you can see the food behind glass. I don't mind this - I think it is more hygienic, but they are not particularly generous. You have to ask for 2-3 spoonfuls sometimes. Salad bar was just basic (I love salads so nothing special - no nuts, extras) and desserts were not worth it at all - jello and bland cakes. The only other free option was The Waterfront where staff seemed overworked and food was limited both in choice and quantity. I'm pretty sure the 'roast chicken' I had one night was literally the same food from the buffet. We went back and forth whether it was worth just standing in line yourself versus slightly better atmosphere but then less choice (3 entrees and 3 mains most nights). Desserts at Waterfront were MUCH better than the Buffet - we had a beetroot and chocolate torte one night that was excellent and the next lunch's Tiramisu was very good.
There is a NZ Ice cream stand by the pool - with $5/ 1 scoop ice creams. Yum. NO ice cream on offer at Buffet, but you can get some small scoops of sorbet-type ice cream at The Waterfront.
We tried to get in to Salt or Luna (top up restaurants) once we got bored with the free offerings - booked solid. No opportunity to pre-book via Cruise Control.
We didn't really go to many of the shows - didn't start till 9.30 or 10pm and we all had kids with us. The Zipline was fun for the kids but not really that exciting. We all played Laser Tag one morning (in the Marquee theatre) which was entertaining. These are all extra fees. Didn't make it to the Gym but apparently there is one. Not very interesting classes. Pool was ok but lots of rules - no jumping or diving. Hot tubs could have been hotter and only 2 for whole ship - crowded. We had one day of lovely weather and all happily hung out in the sun next to the pool. Next day bad weather so lots of playing cards inside.
Kids club - ours went to Shark Shack up on deck 14 at the back. It was fairly spacious and well run. Our son was definitely keen on the PS4s but rarely got to play - they were either taken or 'banned' (when there was an activity on). Half the centre is for younger kids. Children 10+ are able to opt to go to the teen centre "HQ" which is down on deck 2 (yes, 2!) so our son was just on the cusp and unable to join some of the slightly older kids in our group. 10 is the cutoff - he turns 10 in a few months.
Drinks at the bar didn't seem too pricey but we wound up with a pretty big bill at the end. It's a bit funny - you have to sign for a $3 nachos at "The Grill' but you can happily zip through $40 rounds of drinks repeatedly on your card and unless you ask you don't get a receipt. I'd probably get receipts next time - if for no other reason just to realise how much the drinks are adding up to.
Unfortunately the weather for us was not great - as it was a 3 day 'cruise to no where' we didn't really have any port stops. We seemed to be floating around out near Great Barrier, mostly anchored. It got pretty choppy and the weather turned and it was downright horrible - gale force winds, people getting sick with the constant motion. Not much fun.
Embarcation and debarcation was fine - no fuss, no trouble. Lovely to just take a taxi to the ship and taxi home (we live in Auckland so was a quick 15 min trip and then we're away).
So, overall it was fun, especially with a group of families. We made our own good time. Would we do it again? Probably not - got a bit boring on the ship after a day or so, especially with bad weather. Would we take this ship for a longer cruise? Probably not - just not enough choices for food and stuff to do. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if you were off the ship at different ports each day, but still just a bit old and tired. But fine for a one-off booze up with friends 3 days max.
Fine, nothing special.