This was our first cruise under the P&O flag out of Auckland and my eight cruise in total over several years. We are both in our early 50's.
From the time that we arrived at Prince's Wharf to the time we stepped foot in our cabin it was just under 30 minutes. One tip is to grab a Customs departure card from your travel Agent or next time you are at the airport and fill this in before leaving home. This will save you time and prevent you having to move out of the line to fill in, as several people had to.
Our cabin was 11174 an Outside cabin on the 11th deck (A deck). Slightly rear of mid ship. The first Outside cabin past the Balcony cabins. It was a good position, only about 20 metres from the Aft stairwell and lifts and only one level below the Plantation restaurant and pool deck. Although immediately below the pool deck we didn't hear much noise, only a couple of times did we hear tables being dragged on deck. Our bed was a queen configuration. Comfy mattress on a slat base. our empty suitcases just fitted underneath. Our room stewart Jomon must not have been use to Duvets as it was pretty well tucked in at the bottom for the first few days, only bringing it to half way up your chest. On one side of the bed you have a small set of four draws and a lamp. on the window side is the desk that also serves as the bed side cabinet with another four draws. All the original furniture from the Ocean Village apart from the TV. The desk would be about 1.4m long with lamp and phone. this is where the one and only power point is for the room. the only other power point is above the TV, but is English. So be sure to pack a double adaptor. The window is a good size. I would guess just over a metre square. The TV is a ViewSonic 22" flat screen and has AV (RCA plugs) along with PC, HDMI and USB connections. The picture quality of the in-house TV feeds is not that great. Other furniture in the room is a single armchair and a desk chair and a small round coffee table.
The walk in wardrobe has a good amount of hanger space with 14 wooden coat hanger provided, but no spring clip pants or skirt hangers. There is eight draws about .8m wide with a cupboard above that houses your safe and life jackets. There is a good amount of space above the coat hangers for bulky items or even bags. Opposite the walk in wardrobe is three side by side full length mirrors which gives a good impression of lots of space. Between the main cabin area and the wardrobe is the small built in fridge and cabinet for glasses and supplies. the fridge is a clever design in that you can stand up a tall bottle of water or wine inside it, with enough room for cans to sit behind it. Below the fridge is a locked cupboard. Not sure what it contains. Above the fridge cupboard is a couple of well spaced glass shelves that house your pool towels.
The bathroom/toilet is well laid out, but certainly a one person at a time job. The shower is about 1.5m long and .8m wide. The shower rose comes out of the corner, so a little strange. The water pressure is just OK. It has a single mixer control. Has a built in shampoo and conditioner shelf. The ship provides a combined shampoo/conditioner dispenser. It is a shower curtain and not a door, but the shower seems big enough that the shower curtain doesn't cling to you at all while taking a shower. Not too much vanity area around the sink, but has mirrored cupboards both sides of the main mirror. The they three shelves in each each. All the same height, but not just high enough to hold tall cans of hair spray/deodorant. Lighting is OK, but not fantastic. One thing I liked about the bathroom was there wasn't a big step or lip to get into the room. The actual toilet is angled off the corner, but has enough leg room. the entire bathroom appears to be one moulded unit.
The WiFi internet connection was good in our room.
This was located on the 6th and 10th floor and had eight top loading washing machines (on the 10th floor one) which operated on a AU$2.00 coin. Some were a little tricky and you had to open a small compartment on top to trigger the reset switch to make it start. The load took approx 30 minutes on a normal cycle. The clothes driers were free, a 30 minute cycle just doesn't get the clothes fully dry if you have a full load.
The Lounges and Bars
This is where you can see that P&O has spent a bit of money.
The Orient (Deck 7)
This has an English pub feel to it, so not too sure why it was named The Orient. Lots of nice timber panels and earth tone fabric with a variety of seat types. this bar is used a lot for the Trivia sessions and accoustic artists. The port side has a corridor, but the starboard side corridor blends into the room which is a nice idea. Tap beer is available at this bar.
Connexions (Deck 7)
This neighbours The Orient, but would be nearly double in size. More popular with the younger cruisers that the Orient. Home of the Karaoke and the dance style bands. Also used during the days for the lectures and demonstrations. A lot of cane furniture used in this area. Once again uses the starboard side of the lounge as the corridor.
The Atrium (Decks 5,6 & 7)
A busy area of the ship with housing the photo gallery and shop. Duty Free shops, Shore Tour office and Reception. Charlies coffee shop and the Mix Bar (formerly Blue Bar).The three levels are used for the Laser light shows which are worth a look at. Pacific Cirque will also perform a few smaller shows here. Pre-dinner Piano music is also played here. One slight design fault is that the Shore Tour desks are besides the Reception so you get long lines going across the front of reception for the Shore Tour booking desks, they also need to look at putting in a third desk for the busy days. Also the Sold Out Tours board needs to be displayed where people line up rather than behind the desks where the brochures are.
The Marquee (Deck 7 & 8)
This is an area I'm sure they will change the design of with-in the next year to 18 months. Great size stage and fantastic new giant LCD screens that they can do wonders with for stage backgrounds and to act as stage sets. But the seating layout is crazy. Upstairs the balcony rail is right at the level of the stage sightline. They have gone for lots of individual movable seats and curved three seater couches. This cuts the capacity down to around 500 maximum I would guess. The bar at the rear of the theatre has a large amount of open area in front of it which does seem a waste of space. It also has two semi spiral staircases from level 7 to 8 which takes up valuable seating space. Once the theatre fills up (which seems to be earlier and earlier as the cruise went on) passengers stand in the corridors which blocks the views of those sitting in the back. Some of the bar stools have missing foot rails and in one case has a missing seat pad. Not a major to fix, but stayed like that for the entire cruise. The sound and lighting is very good, especially with the full height LCD screens.
The Dome (Deck 14)
This would be my favourite venue, both day and night. Fantastic views, great wide open feeling. Very comfy seating. Nice colouring and a good size bar. Generous size dance floor on a slightly lower level. A good venue for the late night comedy and other smaller shows.
Top Decks (Decks 12 & 14)
Home to three swimming pools and Pacific Cirque stage area and the giant 7m LCD screen. The pools were always in use, it did take a few days until the warmer weather for the adults to start using the swim up bar pool. However the water did look a little murky for the first couple of days. I'll cover the Pacific Cirque show later on, but great viewing advantage points from several points around decks 12 and 14. There is new decking and artificial grass on both levels and new coats of paint, but some areas have missed having a touch up altogether. An example is the Splash Bar has nice new tiles on the wall behind the drinks, but if you look up at the ceiling above the counter, the paintwork hasn't even been touched, with lots of stains and marks.
The Oasis (Deck 8)
We got caught out here on our first visit to this area at the rear of the ship. After we sat down on the very nice padded cane sun loungers, we were asked if we would like to book in for a half or full day session. The charge is AU$10 for 4 hours or AU$20 for 8 hours. That was the first and last time we visited the Oasis.
The Gym and Spa (Deck 2)
Not being Gym bunnies we didn't use the Gym, but we did go and have a noisy and spoke to a few people at dinner that did use it. The comments were all very favourable and that the equipment was all brand sparkling new. However the Steam room did play up a bit and was not operational a few times. As with all cruise ships the Spa and Salon prices were very expensive. Example of one of the specials. AU$139 for a 20-20-20 sampler. 75 minute Jewel Facial AU$275, Couples Seaweed Massage AU$399 for 75 minutes
The Entertainment and the Entertainment Staff
We have been on five previous cruises mainly on Princess and Royal Caribbean and would have to put the quality of the entertainment as some of the best we have seen. There has been a great variety in various venues. Some of the entertainment offered was Peter Byrne (Neil Diamond) Centre Stage(The Pacific Entertainers) James Galea - I Hate Rabbits (Magician)Bobby Dennis (Comedian) Clint Paddison (Comedian) Pirates 2 (The Pacific Entertainers) Acrobatic Show (Pacific Cirque) run Away To The Circus (The Pacific Entertainers) and the normal Game Shows involving the passengers. Zoltina J. was the Cruise Director and did an excellent job. She fronted all the main shows and lead the charge when it came to getting the passengers up and dancing. Her band of staff had their own strenghts and some weaknesses, but put a lot of energy into their roles. The Hit Machine were the party band on board and played a lot of the good party hits, although they didn't look old enough to be up as late as they did.
We have been spoilt in the past with a huge variety of food at the buffets on other ships and did find the selection a little dull in the Plantation restaurant. The was never hot in this restaurant, in fact the fried eggs on the last morning were stone cold. However, if you hadn't cruised before outside of the Pacific you would be very happy. It never seemed a problem to get a seat in the Plantation restaurant. Only had one lunch meal at The Grill and wasn't impressed. The meal was stone cold, but heard some great feed back from others about the quality and variety. We had all our evening meals at the Waterfront Restaurant, the lunch menu was very good. Once again you can see where they had spent their money on the refurbishment. Very nicely decorated and laid out. We sat in a variety of areas and at a variety of size tables. The service standard did vary a bit and you could tell the experienced wait staff.
The Pacific Cirque
It is nearly worth the cost of the cruise to see these guys perform. They were top standard and caused lots of grasps from the audience. Their show on the open deck was packed out, so get their early to secure a deck chair, however because of the height of their performance all areas on deck 12 and 14 are great viewing points. Their alternative show in the atrium combined with the laser show was also excellent.
The cinema on the Ocean Village was taken out to make room for the new Casino. The new 7m wide LCD screen on the top deck is a good alternative when the weather co-operates.
Some of the movies played were:
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE
ICE AGE 3
LETTERS TO JULIET
SHREK: FOREVER AFTER
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
MAO'S LAST DANCE
Other activities on the big screen included Playstation and Wii competitions and a Special Bingo Game, plus a few concerts.
As I said at the start, we have been spoilt by having been on a Royal Caribbean and a few Princess cruises so we were always comparing to those cruises. If you had not cruised before you would be over-whelmed. We did enjoy the cruise and met some great people and would mostly like do another P&O cruise again at some stage, but for the money we would first look at what other cruise lines had to offer.
The NZ Customs and Ag Department boarded the ship in Noumea. Customs clearance was processed in The Dome on the 2nd to last day with a set appointment time. It took about five minutes if that and was a breeze. We were able to walk straight off the ship in Auckland, collect our bags and go.