(8:10 a.m. AEST) -- Seeing Pacific Adventure docked at Circular Quay in Sydney feels like meeting up with a good friend after many years apart. And that friend looks fabulous.
Previously sailing as Princess Cruises' Golden Princess, Pacific Adventure has undergone a multi-million dollar refurbishment and is ideal for those whose love of the finer things in life is larger than their cruise holiday budget.
With an array of glamorous bars, sophisticated for-free speciality dining venues, attractive public spaces and first-class musical entertainment, this well-priced ship over-delivers in many areas, especially if you pick up a discounted fare. And nothing beats cruising out of Sydney Harbour.
On the ship's second cruise, a quick run from Sydney up to Moreton Island for a day of fun in the sun and back again, there was plenty to love onboard despite the occasional glitch due to a new crew who were still learning the ropes. Some dining venues like Luke's Bar & Grill and 400 Gradi weren't open on our short sailing, but this will change once they're up to speed.
After four nights on Pacific Adventure, here's our take on P&O Cruises' newest ship:
If you've sailed on P&O Cruises' other ships like Pacific Dawn or Pacific Explorer, a lot of what you'll find onboard Pacific Adventure will feel comfortably familiar. The Pantry offers a hot and tasty take on the traditional cruise ship buffet, the onboard vibe is casual and upbeat, and the ship's decor is contemporary and welcoming. However, this ship isn't just familiar, it is also arguably better.
With a larger vessel and multiple earlier incarnations of P&O Cruises' "new" look cruise experience under their collective belts, the designers have taken the best of the previous ships and improved on them in multiple areas. The public spaces are larger and more spacious and the bars are bigger so more passengers can enjoy them. You'll also find passenger favourites that have been removed from other lines, like a library with comfortable seating and a good selection of books, onboard this ship.
Suites on Pacific Adventure are impressively large and come with a spacious bathroom with a separate shower (minus the dreaded clingy shower curtain) and a bathtub with spa jets that's big enough for two. The fold out couch can be separated from the main sleeping area with a privacy curtain, a bonus for families sharing a room. There is also a balcony with loads of space to move around, even with a dining table for four and two sun loungers.
Additional benefits include two bottles of complimentary water and some soft drinks, free laundry service, an in-room Nespresso coffee machine, room service breakfast, priority dining and show reservations, and priority disembarkation. Bryon Beach Club access is also included, making this room category excellent value for the extra spend, particularly for those travelling with a child.
We were very impressed with the staff at the Club who went out of their way to ensure guests of all ages had a wonderful time. The service here was superb throughout our cruise with a personal touch and "nothing is too much trouble" attitude that was more in keeping with a high end cruise line.
Entertainment is a fundamental aspect of this ship, from the giant-screen movies on the lido deck to live shows, themed parties, ziplining and daily games for children and adults. The activities team expertly handle the daily routine of keeping everyone happy, with activities to please every age group and plenty that can be enjoyed with friends or family members.
The genuine enthusiasm of the activities staff is contagious and takes the onboard activities from good to great. During our lively game of shuffleboard on the final sea day, we stayed to watch the fun and cheer the other players on long after we got knocked out of the competition.
With talented musicians and groups playing everything from jazz and blues to rock, R’n’B and piano tunes, there is music to suit every mood. Performers frequently switch venues which ensures every night offers a slightly different experience. We started each evening moving from bar to bar to catch our favourite musical acts and kept discovering new ones during our cruise.
After successfully using -- and loving -- the P&O Cruises app onboard Pacific Encounter a few weeks earlier, we were ready to make the most of it on this sailing. However, like many other passengers, we had trouble getting the app to work properly and it had limited functionality. For example, we could check the Good Times program (although this didn't always match the paper version in our room which caused the occasional problem) but not log in to check our bill. Hopefully this will be fixed on future sailings as the app is terrific when it is working well.
When you are surrounded by such upmarket surrounds, it is easy to forget this ship is 21 years old, except perhaps when you are inside your cabin. Aside from new carpet and bed linens, the accommodation has not been renovated and still features Princess Cruises' rather old fashioned decor and artworks that don't match the ship's otherwise contemporary look. Cabins also have none of the modern conveniences like USB ports or interactive TVs which are standard on newer ships.
Pacific Adventure offers an affordable and enjoyable cruise experience on a welcoming ship that overdelivers for the price. Families in particular will love the ship, especially the pool deck which has been refurbished and now includes a (large) family pool and two new water slides that let you race against the clock.
It's worth noting this ship is virtually identical to Pacific Encounter, aside from its waterslides and the P&O Edge Adventure Park which aren't being added to Encounter until March 2023. For this reason, families may prefer this ship in the short term (and those sailing without children may prefer to sail on Encounter, at least for now).