Pacific Dawn Review
- Pro: Refurbished in 2017, this well-priced ship feels contemporary and caters to all ages
- Con: Main restaurants struggle to accommodate passengers at peak times
- Bottom Line: A fun ship, especially for families, but expect to pay extra for some activities
Pacific Dawn Overview
Brisbane-based Pacific Dawn was refurbished in March 2017 and is aimed at people who enjoy a fun-filled cruise at an affordable price. With the addition of two new waterslides, a kids' waterpark, new dining venues, teens' virtual reality experience, and a contemporary redesign of the bars and public spaces throughout the ship, Pacific Dawn is looking better than ever. 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 staff expertly handles the daily routine of keeping everyone happy, with activities designed to please every age group.
The pool deck has been refurbished with the addition of a kids' waterplay area and two new water slides. The Super Slider is transparent, so passengers can watch people shooting through its twists and turns, while the Disco Diver has multi-coloured lights and music pumping through it. They look so good that some passengers on our ship mistakenly thought riding the slides cost extra. This is perhaps because the P&O Edge Adventure Park is also available above the Lido Deck, offering 19 activities (at an extra cost), including a flying fox for zip-lining, the Funnel Climb and a dedicated area for riding Segways. Other options include Walk the Plank, which extends off the side of the ship, the high-in-the-sky Crow's Nest for panoramic views, and a boulder wall for sideways rock climbing. Dawn's slides and other adrenalin-packed activities are just as enjoyable for grown-ups, particularly parents travelling with tweens and teens. Why should kids have all the fun?
The main reception area on Deck 5 is part of a three-storey atrium with a wide staircase at one end leading to the upper levels. This is where passengers come to socialise, relax, read and play trivia games. Opposite the reception desk is Charlie's, a small bar that serves coffee and alcoholic drinks. A feature of this area is a grand piano and set area for bands to play once the afternoon entertainment -- think travel trivia and cruise ship games -- has wound up. Drinking spots such as Charlie's, The Orient, The Dome and Promenade Bar have all been given a fresh, new look as part of the refurbishment. Be it sultry and sophisticated or lively and loud (both the decor and the vibe), you are sure to find a bar to suit your mood.
Dining options have also been upgraded, with The Pantry's food-court-style outlets replacing the traditional cruise ship buffet. Passengers who are already familiar with this venue will notice the addition of a new Mediterranean outlet, Nic & Toni's, on Pacific Dawn. At the rear of The Pantry, a new a la carte seafood restaurant, Shell & Bones, opens daily for dinner.
The Lido Deck is where most the outdoor action takes place -- from lounging about watching the kids in the pool, viewing a movie on the outdoor cinema screen or eating lunch brought outside from The Pantry while soaking up the sun. While there is a general sense of fun and games, it can get crowded and is often noisy, particularly around the children's waterpark. There are two hot tubs and a shade-covered, raised stage where DJs spin records in the afternoon or live acts put on a show.
Many passengers on Pacific Dawn are multi-cruise enthusiasts and obviously have their routine and preferences down pat, but for first-time cruisers, the Lido area is either embraced or just used to transit through to The Pantry and back decks. Staff throughout the ship work hard to please passengers and their good humour and enthusiasm contributes significantly to what is already an enjoyable cruise experience.
Pacific Dawn Fellow Passengers
Based in Brisbane, this ship is almost always full of Australians with the odd New Zealander thrown in the mix. It is very much family oriented but also caters to a range of ages from toddlers to middle-aged couples whose children have left the nest, as well as healthy retired couples. Announcements are in English and the onboard currency is Australian dollars.
Pacific Dawn Dress Code
As you might expect on a P&O cruise, casual clothes are suitable throughout the day in most public areas of the vessel, but be aware the guidelines change from 5.30 p.m. (although these are not necessarily enforced). Smart casual means long trousers and either a collared or polo shirt for men and skirts, dresses, slacks and blouses for women. Cocktail is defined as a cocktail dress or similar elegant outfit for a woman and a suit or similar for men, with tie optional. Themed nights are always a popular P&O staple with parties such as Bianco White Night, Back to School and Great Gatsby, adding to the lively onboard atmosphere. The wearing of theme costumes in the restaurants on those nights is permitted. Note: Bare feet, caps, singlets and beach or pool attire are not permitted in the lounges after 5.30 p.m. and are not permitted in the dining rooms at any time.
Pacific Dawn Gratuity
No compulsory gratuities are charged on Pacific Dawn. P&O leaves the decision of tipping to passengers who have experienced exemplary service. If you wish to reward crew, gratuities can be added to your onboard account by filling in a form in your cabin and handing it into the reception at the end of your voyage.