Just before Christmas 2011, my wife (Carolyn) and I planned to travel to Auckland and drive around the North Island for a couple of weeks before taking the Celebrity Century on a 12 night cruise arriving back in Sydney on the 18th January. It was our intention to fly to Auckland, however, on investigating the cruise calendar, we found a Pacific Pearl re-positioning cruise from Sydney to Auckland that fitted the time frame of our holiday.
Now I must say that after following the CruiseCritic reviews on the Pearl, I had not gained lot of confidence to take this option! I have noticed that there has been a lot of bagging of this ship by quite a number of reviewers, and I was a little hesitant in considering this possibility to say the least!
The thing that helped us make the decision to sail on the Pearl to Auckland, was that my wife's brother (Calvin) and his wife (Narelle) had taken the Pearl on an Island voyage back in April 2011 and gave it a glowing report! Ok, they were first time cruisers, and that may influence their perception and experience of the sailing, but we had enough confidence in their judgement that we thought, 'let's take the plunge'! "After all, it's only 4 nights and we should be able to manage that!" When all is said and done, 4 nights cruising has to be better than a few hours flying, and the price was bargain base!!
Our experience of cruising prior to this had only been a couple of times on Rhapsody of the Seas. Now that ship of course sets the bar pretty high in our experience, so we didn't get on board the Pearl with a lot of high expectations. The first impressions at embarkation and locating our cabin were very good. Everything went smoothly and quickly and before we knew it, we were on board dropping our things off in the very nicely appointed cabin and meeting our most helpful and obliging cabin steward.
From there it was up on deck to meet up with Narelle and Calvin who had decided to take the cruise with us when they saw how well priced it was. This was the icing on the cake for us, as now we had someone to help show us around, and they are great travelling companions to-boot!! We expected to have a really excellent experience as we prepared for the Sail-Away party!
The departure day was magnificent and Sydney harbour is always very special on days such as this. P&O provided a great atmosphere for the party and our experience will long be remembered!
Well the departing weather didn't stay long with us, and overnight things turned a little rough in the Tasman. We seemed to meet up with a low pressure system that stayed with us for most of the crossing, causing some discomfort for a number of the passengers. Now I know P&O are responsible for many things on the cruise, however, weather is not one of them!!
All in all, we had a wonderful experience, and the presentation of the ship was top class (Ok, I know it's an old ship but it is presented very well). The crew were most helpful and friendly and couldn't do enough to please! The food was excellent and the meals were beautifully prepared. The Buffet had delicious food that I couldn't find fault with, and the main dining restaurant, whilst not having the opulence of some of the modern ships, had an intimate feel to it, and waiters that provided a service to match any other ship, with the food being top notch!!
Four nights don't take long to slip by (unfortunately) and disembarkation went very smoothly and before we knew it we were all off the ship heading to our hotel. I can only give P&O top marks for a wonderful cruise experience on the Pacific Pearl and we would join her again in a heartbeat!! Keep in mind that I am writing this review after having returned to Sydney on the Celebrity Century, which was also a brilliant experience. Don't write off the Pearl on the say of a few picky reviewers! ' You can't please all of the people all of the time! '