First time cruises we alwways travel independently - but my partner's health made cruising an option to PNG - which is hard to get to otherwise. We are ballroom dancers so we chose Cunard.
I was highly intimidated by the dress code snobs online before we cruised - it appeared you needed a different dress for every night -and that if you didn't pay a lot of money for clothes comments will be made!
This wasn't true. There were women in long beautiful gowns on gala nights - but they were the majority. The rest of us wore cocktail length dresses or evening black trousers with a glittery top. I saw someone else wearing a a $20 glittery number which I bought for a gala nigh from Millers (cheap Ozzie chain).
Jackets are optional for men on smart attire nights in Australian season - and few wore them except on galas. Most took them off to dance or in Britiannia MDR which was pretty warm at night in the tropics., and we were late sitting.
Also on gala nights there were a number of men wearing white dinner jackets and apparently that was fine too - despite what the code says. I did see someone wearing shorts in the Commodore Club after 6 refused service.
During the day sandals and shorts were the norm - though in places the ship was cold a extra layer was useful. 4 gala thems were advertised online before hand - but only 2 actually happened - the other galas weren't themed.
The food was fantastic - we ate quite a lot in the MDR at night but only once (each) for lunch and breakfast . Although service is efficient its just too much sitting around for us. The service was subtle but not in your face. There was no feeling of hands out for tips. We didn't want to deal with the whole handing over cash at the end so we left the auto-gratuities in place and we didn't feel pressured.
The entertainment was a bit hit and miss. One of the guest speakers wasn't good - he had an interest in Conflict Island and seemed totally under-prepared. The astronomer and the pilot were both fantastic. The shows by the ship's company were excellent - as was the NZ tenor. We heard the comedian was racist and sexist but didn't go.
The dance professional couple were superb teachers for beginners - very impressed with them. Their demos were good too. The dance hosts were a mixed bag - 3 men one woman - the woman was excellent lead and follow - one of the men was dreadful, one was good and one was an OK social dancer. The music was pretty good. The sequence dancing had quite a bit of Australian New Vogue - which despite the music lady having no idea what it was she found the right music tempi.
Now to the bad. The embarkation was a debacle - we waited 2 hours in a line to get on. After comparing notes it appeared that every passenger had been given the same check in time 11pm! We finally got on board about 2:30pm. No water was provided and frankly I'm pretty fit and I was tired of standing by the time we finally got on.
The internet appears Victorian - but not in a good way -payign for a minute and requiring a logout is incredibly last century. Its the biggest negative for us as I have to stay in contact.
The ports were good - didn't get into Rabaul because of local politics. Alotau we booked a local operator with a new bus. Some of the info given onboard was misleading suggesting Cunard had the best buses - yeah nah - some of theres were no-AC - and it was HOT, Conflict don't bother paying the over- the-top prices -snorkeling of the beach is amazing. Bring your own gear.
Cairns timing is unfortunately - all aboard was 3;30pm -which meant if you were doing an excursion - you really need to do a ships tours because you are pushing it to get back on time.
The ship was gorgeous and we enjoyed it all - always immaculate - as was our cabin.
Really nice cabin - it was much bigger than we expected. The bathroom was small but functional. The storage was good - though I never really figured out what you were supposed to do with the bags
Met friends - the dock is a long way from down town. There is a free shuttle not that Cunard advertised this in advance
Visited with friends - the port is a long way from the centre of brisbane . There is a free shuttle - unadvertised
There is not much to see in town - you need to get a guide to explain what you are seeing and the culture and history is fascinating
Pay a local to show you around Bring Kina with you - we got rid of must of ours by changing Australian notes AND COINS for locals who can't get a bank easily. Don't be ugly tourists make the effort to take their currency with you available in major Australian cities
Were refused permission to disembark due to the policits of corona virus
Fantastic beach and swimming - the water is incredibly clear. Bring your own mask/snorke