Embarkation was painless. We arrived at Port Melbourne Cruise Terminal on Friday 16th December 2016 before midday, and joined the queue to get onboard. We were in the first group to be processed by immigration, so got ... Read More
Embarkation was painless. We arrived at Port Melbourne Cruise Terminal on Friday 16th December 2016 before midday, and joined the queue to get onboard. We were in the first group to be processed by immigration, so got onboard without too many queues. Our luggage however, was another story. As we had been upgraded twice after leaving home, all we had to attach to our suitcase was a folded paper label. Previously we have always laminated our cruise labels so they stay attached. But this time the inevitable happened, and it took a full day for the luggage to find us. Thought we were going to have to spend the whole 13 days in the same clothes!!!
Review of the Pacific Jewel:
On boarding this ship we were met by staff singing Christmas Carols, and the Christmas decorations made the ship feel very festive. The large atrium area was extensively decorated, and well set out with a Charlies Bar / coffee shop on one side, and the Pursers desk opposite. Also on the atrium level is a Chocolate shop, a Pandora jewelry shop, and a general tax & duty free shop selling everything from daily essentials to liquor. We were directed to our Stateroom 9190, checked out the room, then headed up to “The Pantry” buffet dining area for lunch. Acquainted ourselves with all the public areas.
The Entertainment Cruise Director was Sandy Cadwallader, who was very professional and approachable. Sandy ran the morning trivia sessions, and these were always a heap of fun, and very entertaining. All of the entertainment staff were very good, and everyone seemed to work cohesively together.
Unfortunately our travel agent did not inform us of the “themed” nights onboard, only that there would be 3 formal nights. So we were not prepared for the “Back to School” night, the “Black & White” night, or the “Gatsby” night. All of these nights were hilarious, and heaps of fun. However, formal nights were not full formal nights, and guys can get by without a suit, only need a long sleeve shirt and a tie with dinner trousers. Formal attire for women was extremely varied, but very neat casual would also fit the bill.
For 1st time passengers on this ship, the “anytime dining option” has to be considered a nightmare. It took us the first 24 hours to realize we could pre book an evening dining time and a dining table, & were assigned table 259. Having sorted that out, we needed to check out how our caffeine addiction was going to be managed. The coffee in the self serve machines in “The Pantry”was semi bearable, but not good. The general coffee offered in the dining room tasted like ground up burnt coconut shells. That takes us to the Café on deck 5, where coffee could be purchased for $4.95 per cup. That was OK, but was going to be expensive over the course of the cruise. P&O have no such thing as a coffee card.
What they offer on Day 1 only is a “Beverage package”. This can be purchased for $25 per person per day, or 13 days work out to be $325 for 1 person. This ONLY included soda, tea, coffee, & juice blends. For the Premium package that add wine, beer, spirits and bottled water to the above list, the cost escalates to $89 per person per day, or $1157 for the 13 nights. Mind you, it does not stop there, for if you want to add Cocktails up to the cost of $15 to the list, you will be up for $105 per person per day, or $1365 for 13 nights. It also has to be noted, that you cannot just buy individual days beverage packages. It is all up front, or nothing, so if you want it, it is only available on Day 1. It can be purchased online before boarding for a slight saving.
So, after getting over the shock of the Beverage Packages, and because I only drink 3 coffees a day, I chose to pay the $4.95 per cup. Being a frequent cruiser, I found these beverages charges exorbitant and unrealistic. You would almost need to have an intravenous line permanently inserted to absorb a premium package worth of alcohol and caffeine.
The meals in the dining room were well presented, although not always hot. Choices were limited, and steak was an optional extra that had to be purchased separately. In comparison to Princess Cruises, the standard was lacking, and choices were not quite as described. As we had finally worked out how to choose a set dining time and dining table, we had a set waiter for the evening dining named Benedictus. We discovered that you could get a special cup of coffee from the small machine in the galley which tasted like real cappuccino coffee. But you had to request that it came from the galley, not the general coffee jug circulating in the dining room. Anyway, Benedictus looked after all our culinary needs for the 12 nights, and always managed to get us the “good” coffee several times each evening.
Breakfast and lunch time dining:
Once again different to Princess Cruises. Choices were “The Pantry” buffet on deck 12, or the Waterfront Restaurant on deck 7.
The menu’s for both breakfast and lunch remained the same for 7 days running, when halfway through the cruise, they varied it slightly for the remainder of the cruise. Definitely have to say the choices were boring. Cereals were not on offer in the Waterfront Dining room, but found after day 7 that the waiter could find us some cheerio’s or cornflakes if we asked. Cereals were freely available up in the Pantry Deck 12. The only good parts about dining in the Waterfront restaurant was the special coffee, and after day 2 we found an excellent waiter with Jeffrey (table 199) who looked after our breakfast and lunch needs exceptionally well.
This theatre was set out over 2 levels with a seating capacity of 750. We have to say the evening entertainment was sensational, and far exceeded Princess Cruises. The enhanced computerization of the back drops for the entertainment group the “Pacific Entertainers” left us totally enthralled, and totally bewildered why other cruise lines like Princess don’t do the same. P&O has to be congratulated with this innovative piece of computerization. Absolutely sensational. The Pacific entertainers presented 4 productions over the 13 nights, plus were involved in quite a few other presentations. The quality of the other entertainers was also quite good.
The public Laundry was huge, with a large number of dryers and washing machines available. Never heard a problem from anyone having to wait for a machine.
Our stateroom was 9190, nicely appointed mid ship, with an ocean view. Unfortunately the window was dirty for the whole cruise, and it was difficult to see out off, but at least it let us distinguish night from day. Our stateroom stewards were Lasono & Virgilio, who were responsible for looking after us for the 13 nights. It was great to return to our room of an evening and occasionally find a new animal on the end of our bed. However, what we did miss was the evening chocolates on our pillows. Only about 5 times in the 13 nights did we see any chocolates left out in the stateroom.
The bed mattresses were comfortable, especially when converted to a king size. However, the linen left a lot to be desired. On embarkation the sheets were “pilled” and uncomfortable, and even though the cabin stewards changed them when I reported the pilling, the new ones weren’t that much better. The towels and face washers were threadbare, and grey. The beach towels are well overdue for being replaced. The pillows in the room were flat and uncomfortable. Luckily we brought our own along with us, otherwise we would not have survived.
A cake of soap for personal use was provided on embarkation, and was made to last for 13 nights (only a scrap left at the end). There was shampoo / conditioner in the shower, refilled once during the cruise.
An internet package was available for purchase on Day 1 only for $89, HOWEVER, the internet service was deplorable. It could only be used in certain public areas of the ship, with absolutely NO coverage in the staterooms. Even in a public area, reception was hit and miss, with most times a miss. Suggestion: Don’t bother wasting your money on the ships internet, instead, you would be better getting additional roaming services on your private phone, and using that.
The Shore Excursions desk is a tiny section at the end of the Pursers Desk, There are 2 shore excursion computers nearby where shore tours can be booked online.
The tender service is a nightmare, however, I don’t know how else you could move 2000 passengers & staff on and off a ship any other way. Queuing for tender tickets, then queuing again when your number was called, tended to take the excitement off getting off the ship at each port. If you fore went queuing for tender tickets, then you had to wait until everyone else was off before you could try and find the exit, and this definitely would cut down your time on shore.
Boutiques on Board:
The Boutiques on board sell a large variety of merchandise, and surprisingly enough we managed to purchase a Mova Globe on the very 1st night onboard. (The last place on earth we expected to find one.) Souvenirs were abundant, as were clothing, jewelry, liquor and personal items.
For all P&O Ships based in Australia, tipping is included in the price of your cruise. We always choose to provide additional tipping to our Stateroom stewards and dining room waiters, depending on the quality of service provided. It is always a bone of contention to tip or not to tip, but if I get exemplary service, it will be rewarded.
This was our first ever Christmas Cruise, and was a highlight of our cruising career. We were definitely not disappointed after running away from home to be on our own for Christmas, for we met many other couples like us doing the same thing. Many thanks to Cruise Director Sandy Cadwallader, & Captain Gavin Pears and all their crew for making our Christmas Cruise so memorable. We had a fantastic 13 nights, and will definitely cruise with P&O again. Read Less