We booked the cruise on a whim ... from an email with prices just too good to ignore. Then we looked at Cruise Critic reviews. Hmmmmm ... We determined we were going to enjoy ourselves, no matter what. We went for the cruise itself, rather ... Read More
We booked the cruise on a whim ... from an email with prices just too good to ignore. Then we looked at Cruise Critic reviews. Hmmmmm ... We determined we were going to enjoy ourselves, no matter what. We went for the cruise itself, rather than the destinations.
It wasn't an auspicious start, I must admit. Fremantle Passenger Terminal was a schemozzle; chaos reigned supreme. Despite booking a time to board, we still had to join the mob, and sit on the floor, for two-and-a-half hours. Apparently the computer facilities afforded by the terminal were not compatible with the ship's systems, so everything was dog slow. And Fremantle Ports Authority needs a boot up the backside for the lack of facilities. One coffee machine; one poor overworked lady on bar duty, for 2000 passengers? And $18 for a glass of wine and a pre-mix can? Really?
Anyway, at last we walked up the gangway, past the usual photographers, and onto the deck. We found our cabin easily enough, and after some of the reviews I've read we were somewhat pleasantly surprised -- even if they had got the bedding wrong (we specified double, not twin). It was spotlessly clean, airy, with huge amounts of storage space compared to other ships we've been on. Minuscule TV didn't impress, but then we weren't there to watch TV. A quick exploration, compulsory lifeboat drill and back to the cabin where our fabulous steward was already rearranging the beds.
Geraldton (tendered in) was just ... Geraldton. For us it was an opportunity to buy the essentials we had forgotten in our haste -- cap, reading glasses, body wash, sunscreen ...
Broome was quite strange. Because of the tides, we berthed about 3.00 am, and left about 2.00 pm. There wasn't much time to "see" the town. This didn't worry us because we go there two or three times a year, but some others were less happy. The jetty is, so they say, a "working jetty", so you are not allowed to walk down it. (There was absolutely nothing else berthed at the jetty other than us, so God knows what "work" they were doing.) Shuttle buses were laid on and took people into Chinatown. We walked around, had brekky, saw our friends and then went back to get on the bus to the ship.
P&O cocked this up completely. It was 37° C and people were lining up, in the car park, for up to an hour. Many older people were visibly distressed. Kudos to the Roebuck Tavern and Broome tourist people who ran a constant stream of water and ice to those waiting. We sat in the bar and had a couple of drinks until the crowd thinned. Three buses arrived, we climbed on, and headed back. When the three buses reached the ship, people were not let out until the bus in front was empty and had departed. So we sat in a bus, locked up, in the sun, without air-con for 20 minutes. People were NOT happy! Once on board, the Captain came on to tell us there was to be a slight delay as two people had not come on board. It went something like this:
"Normally, we would leave without them. However, they are members of the ship's entertainment cast. I am told they are comedians. I am not laughing." Classic.
Anyway, that was the worst part of the cruise. From then on we had few problems. Lombok was interesting. We took a bus tour to the southwest coast, Cocotinos Beach. We enjoyed that. I'd suggest Lombok is working hard to be the "new" Bali, but Bali as it used to be when it was more laidback and less frenetic.
Benoa (Bali) we didn't bother with -- both been there many times. Apart from which, I'd crashed with some sort of flu virus, as had many, many people on board. Very debilitating but, in my case, short-lived. Dearly Beloved came down with it two days later -- and is only just recovering now. Consequently, we didn't go ashore at Komodo, either. (You can't disembark unless you're on a tour anyway.) The three days at sea travelling back to Fremantle we spent doing precisely ... nothing! Just what we wanted.
The weather was fine; the ship barely moved apart from a gentle "throbbing" occasionally. We had no rain, despite a threatening tropical low moving across the top of Australia.
The Jewel is well worn but she has worn well. Forget the gym; three people would be a crowd in there! Most of the for'ard space is taken up with the usual beauty spas etc. (Money, money, money.) Unlike others, we never once experienced any bad smells inside though once, at the very stern on Deck 9, we did get a whiff of garbage. Perhaps it's stored back there? We had two alarms while cruising. The first one was a fire in the galley ... one of their mixers caught fire. The second was a of more concern -- there was a major rupture of a steam pipe in the stabiliser flat. Fortunately, there was no fire. Even so, the ship was forced to drop down to about 5 knots while engineers waited for the flat to cool enough to go inside. It took a few hours to fix, but the ship was finally able to get all generators back online and resume normal cruise speed. In both cases, the Captain kept us all very well informed.
We only ate once or twice in the buffet (which we nicknamed "The Zoo"). Watching people elbow others aside to pile more on their plates doesn't really do it for us. We ate in the reastaurant and found the food to be very palatable and the staff very pleasant. we simply booked a table for the following night as we left. We also ate once in Luna, the Asian specialty restaurant on board. It was the Thai menu and I have to say it was to die for! Eight courses, each presented artistically on white china, with immaculate service and cooked superbly. If I sound like we were impressed, we were! It was a highlight.
Drinks are, by Perth standards, reasonably priced -- $7.95 for a beer (some good draught on tap, too), $8.95 for spirits, $10 for a cocktail or martini. I thought it a bit rude to charge for water in the cabin, though -- $4.95 a bottle. There's a terrific little coffee shop off the pool deck where they really know how to make a good double espresso -- with chocolate -- for $3.50! I'm used to paying half as much again for a coffee in Perth. And no chocolate! When buying drinks, it pays to choose your bar with care, because prices between bars vary significantly. Our favourite bar -- and one of the most reasonably priced -- is the Orient, just near the main dining room.
I'm not big on shows, so most nights after dinner I'd wander into the casino and tear up some $50 notes. (May as well have done that -- I couldn't win a fat lip in a fistfight!) One night I did watch a couple on guitars who I thought were extremely talented ... they did "Rhiannon" so faithfully to the original it made the hair on my arms stand up.
Disembarkation was like any other. We were through the Customs and Immigration bit in maybe 20 minutes at most.
We heard some people on the ship complain, "It's not Princess, is it?" Well no, it's not -- but it's damn sight better than we were led to believe it would be. We'd certainly cruise with P&O again. Read Less