We'd previously done the Pacific Islands Cruise on Pacific Dawn with P&O and wanted a cruise departure from Brisbane. Papua New Guinea wasn't even on our radar but the dates aligned and we thought 'why not'? We booked our first balcony cabin and we wont go back to ocean view again. With school holiday pricing it was not a budget cruise like our first one but it was nice to treat ourselves. It's so nice to have extra space in the room as well as the deck which had 2 chairs, sunlounge and small coffee table. Our room (9070) had a great queen sized bed while our daughter slept on the converted sofa. She loved having her own space. There's loads of hanging and drawer storage too, though large suitcases wont fit in cupboards (tip..they will fit under the bed if left opened which is great for shoe storage) Our room had a bar fridge (other rooms don't). We were able to take our own soft drinks which was great given we didn't opt for a drinks package this time and saved a heap of money.
The bathroom was fitted with spa bath which we loved. The toilet looked new and the shower pressure and temperature control were great. Our room stewards were brilliant as always and it was great coming back after lunch to an immaculately presented room.
Aria is an excellent ship. Just the right size with good facilities and heaps of restaurants and bars to choose from. The decor is great and beautifully fitted out. The lounge are in the Atrium on level 6 is great for playing games or reading. There's always organised games here too and some cool prizes to win.
We always found room by the pool on the sun lounges. The pool and 2 spas were crowded with kids but being school holidays that's understandable. The sliding roof is brilliant and the lounge areas to the side of the pool are very popular. We didn't get to go to the adults only area as our daughter decided HQ was not for her. (one day!!)
The gym is amazing with great panoramic views. My wife is quite the gym junkie and she found everything she needed. She also indulged in a massage at the spa which we paid more than we should (the same massage was offered on the last day for much cheaper) Our daughter also got a great hair cut which she is busily instagramming everyone about.
Food was generally good. The Pantry is a great concept and the food is better than the old buffet style with lots of variety. Some hit and misses but great breakfasts! Angelos Italian was very disappointing. Flavourless and bland. Dragon Lady was above average. Salt grill was sublime. The Waterfront is a beautiful restaurant but the service has gone down hill. I don't know if P&O are pushing for more business like service from their waiters but many have little personality and aren't friendly. Very robotic. There were of course some exceptions. The menu feels very limited and my daughter struggled to find anything on the main menu.
Entertainment was good. Its very cabaret in style which is not to our liking but the movie theatre was great and the TV in the room had some good shows and movies. There's also a massive DVD library. We picked 2 but they were never delivered.
Ports of call for PNG are hit and miss. Alatou was not very pleasant and not much to see if you don't do a planned tour. Kitava was missed due to weather. Kiriwina was good. Very cultural with heaps of markets and great beaches to swim in. The locals are very friendly and we enjoyed our outrigger canoe ride across the reef. The highlight though is Conflict Islands. Its paradise in one easy to navigate small island. Sublime beaches and snorkelling. Tip- take your own snorkel gear and make your own way to eastern tip of the island. Save yourself $100 in excursions which happen off the same beach. It's a beautiful walk along the beach or through the middle of the island. Weirdly this island doesn't use money, rather a voucher system. You have to buy the vouchers from a kiosk (long lines) and then use the vouchers at the bar, gift shop, water activities kiosk or restaurant. Food is pretty good and the bar is well stocked with local and international beers.
There were no issues with gastro on board that we knew of. Disembarkation took us about 15 minutes, we were home in 45.
Great room, great balcony. Lots of area to sleep and relax in for 3 people. Great spa bath in bathroom and awesome shower. Heaps of storage. Very comfy beds
Muddy and literally nothing to look at other than a war memorial. Centre of town is just a run of bars and supermarkets all selling the same stuff.
Kiriwina was nice enough. Very friendly locals but an oversupply of markets..hundreds of stalls all selling the same kind of thing. Beautiful hand crafted timber carvings and baskets/ bags. Great prices. The beaches are beautiful with reefs not far from shore for snorkelling. Find a local kid to take you on an outrigger canoe for 5 Kina ($2.50 Aus) Well worth it. Remember to take some money for donations to worthy causes and some basic school supplies (exercise books/ pencils etc)
Stunning private tourist island (no permanent residents) with some of the finest beaches and snorkelling in the Pacific. Tip: take your own snorkelling gear and head to the south east corner of the island (a 10 minute walk) and make your way out on the sandy point. This a waist deep family safe beach on one side ideal for swimming and snorkelling with the reef not too far from the shore. You'll only be 100 meters away from those who forked out $100 to do the same thing. This island uses vouchers instead of currency so you have to buy them at the kiosk before using them at any of the other shops/ bars and restaurant. Food is okay. Bar is well stocked. Prices are good considering this is a resort style island.