As we were aboard a comedy cruise, the entertainment on Pacific Jewel was all about the laughs. While there was some live music, the focus was on the comic acts, workshops and other activities such as The Gong Show that passengers could take part in. Nightly, there were three shows (comedy act or show), at 7 pm, 9 pm and then an over-18s Sit-Down Comedy at 10.30 pm. Arrive early or you will be standing at the back.
Pacific Jewel also offers the usual cruise activities such as trivia, bingo, shopping events, workshops and the like. Announcements over the PA by the cruise director were few and far between, so if you didn't check your Good Times daily schedule (delivered to your cabin every night), there's a chance you will miss out.
Shows are held in The Marquee, the ship's theatre, forward on Deck 7. It's a traditionally designed space with a bar and plenty of maroon, gold and dark red colours. It has an LED wall and features a variety of shows to suit different tastes including musicals and more contemporary productions. The main show, Seven, is a visual feast based on the seven deadly sins.
Despite the very good light and sound system, The Marquee is in dire need of some love. The seating is unattractive and uncomfortable and often many passengers are left standing at the rear of the theatre due to the lack of seating.
Daytime activities range from a martini mixology class and wine tastings to ballroom dance classes. There is also karaoke, trivia and bingo almost every day somewhere onboard. On sea days especially, the daily itinerary is packed with fun things to do, and the outdoor big-screen, located on the pool deck forward, is where you'll catch movies, day clubs with DJs, full-length concerts and live sports, including rugby league and AFL during the season. Major sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup, are also broadcast onboard.
Evening entertainment is standard cruise ship fare -- a combination of lively Broadway-style production shows and guest entertainers from the worlds of song, dance, magic and comedy.
Another popular entertainment feature of a P&O cruise is the four party concepts that have been rolled out across the fleet. The revamped party nights include the Bianco, a white party inspired by the world's super clubs, hosted on the open deck, or Nero, which is the New Zealand version where everyone wears black. Every cruise of three nights or more will also include the Gatsby party. Longer cruises may have a Back to School night.
For those who wanted to continue into the early hours of the morning, the recently refurbished Dome is the spot to head to. In the dark it was hard to appreciate the improvements, but the atmosphere was fun and passengers enjoying themselves.
Out of all the areas on the ship, the 2018 refurbishment was most apparent in the bars and lounges.
The Atrium (Deck 5, midship): Brought alive by new carpet, soft furnishings, elegant furniture and subdued colours, this is a popular venue to congregate, listen to live music, have a coffee or enjoy a few drinks at all times of the day. As a pleasant area to walk through, it's also a great place to people-watch.
Connexions Bar (Deck 7, midship): The ship's main bar has been beautifully decorated with soft green and earth tones, plenty of seating, tables and decorative touches. The carpet, embellished with palm leaves and other botanical motifs, continues the summery vibe, giving the whole area a relaxed and inviting feel. Definitely a crowd favourite.
The Orient (Deck 7, midship): The warm, bluesy feel of this bar makes it a perfect spot to enjoy jazz; however, most times it was empty and it closes quite early. It would be the perfect lounge for a nightcap as an alternative to the Dome. The new furnishings were tasteful, but due to its location, it played second-fiddle to the adjacent Connexions Bar and its bustling vibe.
Mix Bar (Deck 7, midship): With shiny metal accents, cool bar stools and a well-stocked bar, Mix is a great spot for a cocktail or to muddle up your own. Passengers can take part in Mix Academy (for an extra charge) and learn how to make many favourite libations: Note: get in quick as spaces book out very quickly.
Players Bar and Casino (Deck 8): This bar has limited seating for anyone not in the mood to gamble.
The Dome (Deck 14): The dingy old nightclub is now an attractive venue to hang out by day or night. It has new, plush, high-backed chairs, comfortable cushions and plants. At the entrance is a feature wall adorned with hip vases, suitcases and fashionable framed prints. At night a DJ does his best to transform the Dome into a big party but the DJ needs a few lessons in filling a dancefloor. Playing Kenny Rogers' The Gambler three times in the space of 45 minutes is not conducive to dancing!
Deck 12 is where all the outdoor activities take place. It has two small pools, both of which have a depth of 1.70 metres and are separated by the outdoor stage and two elevated hot tubs. The entire area is open to everyone -- there's no adults-only pool -- with the aft pool close to a large outdoor bar and the forward pool beneath the big screen.
A bowling green has been installed on the ship as part of the 2018 refurbishment. Hidden away on Deck 9 aft, the green is closed in poor weather conditions but a great, secluded spot for lawn bowls (free of charge) on a sunny day.
Pacific Jewel was the first ship to launch P&O Edge, dubbed the world's largest 'adventure park at sea'." Thrill-seekers will enjoy climbing the ship's aft funnel, which takes about 30 minutes. There's laser tag, too, which also runs for half an hour. Other popular options include riding on the flying fox (zipline), which zooms across the pool deck from above the big screen to the forward funnel at the other end. Popular among the romantics at heart is the Titanic Experience, where you and your beloved can pose on the ship's bow, an area that is usually out of bounds to passengers. All of these adventures carry fees, but passes for multiple activities are offered at a discount.
Deck 12, the main open deck, is where all the outdoor activities take place. It has two square-shaped pools, both of which have a depth 1.7 metres and are separated by the outdoor stage and two elevated hot tubs. The entire area is open to everyone -- there's no adults-only pool -- with the aft pool close to a large outdoor bar and the forward pool beneath the big-screen.
The adults-only Oasis retreat is a big drawcard for cruisers aboard the Pacific Jewel. It was expanded in the 2013 refurbishment to cover the aft areas of decks 10 and 11 and has since been given some attention in the 2018 makeover with the addition of new furniture and cushions. The spacious section on the back of Deck 11 offers a combination of sun loungers and cosy cabanas, plus some tables and chairs where you can enjoy food from The Pantry directly above. The section on Deck 10 has sun loungers and a bar. A drawback is the lack of anywhere to cool off while sunbathing as there is no pool or hot tub. But it's still a relaxing spot to unwind kid-free and free of charge, from 10 am to 8 pm on sea days and noon to 8 pm on port days.
A collection of shops, spread around the Atrium on various levels, sell clothing, jewellery, P&O memorabilia, digital cameras, chocolates, lollies and duty-free beauty products, perfume, alcohol and cigarettes. Pacific Jewel was the first ship to have a Pandora outlet offering stylish jewellery at duty-free prices. Also popular with couples and families is the dedicated photo studio, Expression. Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, though it's stronger in public spaces. On Deck 10 is a self-service laundry with coin-operated machines, irons and ironing boards. A guest services desk is located on Deck 5.
The Elemis Spa on Deck 14, front is a lovely, soothing space to indulge in a beauty or health treatment. The hidden gem is the Thermal Suite, which offers passengers an array of sauna and relaxation areas to unwind in. The decor is very dated and gaudy, but the atmosphere is wonderful. Passengers can buy passes for a day or for the entire cruise.
One drawback is the hard sell by the therapists. The last thing one needs -- especially after a relaxing massage -- is to be guilted into purchasing expensive products. This experience almost undid the pampering and could put us off booking a treatment in the future.
The gym is also located on Deck 14. It has four treadmills and four elliptical machines, a few weight training machines and some free weights. There is a water fountain and fresh towels are provided free of charge. The fitness centre is also the place to sign up for complimentary health seminars or extra-charge fitness classes.
Pacific Jewel is a very family-friendly ship for all ages. Numerous activities for kids and teens are listed in the daily newsletter, Good Times, as well as sessions where parents can join in the fun. Toddler's Fun Time is a fun way for mum or dad to get involved; other activities include dedicated family trivia and family karaoke. There are also designated areas for different age groups, with programs specially designed to cater for each group.
The minimum age to cruise is 12 months, and kids' clubs are available on a first-come, first-served basis for toilet-trained children from the age of two. Parents need to get in early to register their children for participation, as there is limited capacity and, during school holiday cruises, there can be up to 700 children onboard. Pacific Jewel's trained Youth Activity Team organises all activities and supervise clubrooms until 10 pm or later.
For adults seeking some alone time late at night, group babysitting is available from 10.30 p.m. to 1 am at a small additional cost.
The clubs include Turtle Cove on Deck 14 at the rear of the ship for ages two to six, offering movies, cartoons, scavenger hunts, talent shows and disco nights, with arts and crafts for a fee. A recent addition there is the LEGO Wall. It's a colourful space that opens onto a recreation area equipped with a paddling pool, tricycles and a netted area for playing. The Shark Shack is adjacent, and it's the place for seven- to 10-year-olds to hang out. There they can enjoy a range of activities similar to those of their younger siblings, with the addition of PlayStation 2 and 3 competitions, an iPad activity program and more.
Turtle Cove (Deck 14, aft): Kids aged two to six are supervised by youth staff in this colourful playroom. Lots of games, toys, arts, crafts, parties and talent shows will keep the younger ones thoroughly entertained.
Shark Shack (Deck 14, aft): Created for older kids aged seven to 10, this room hosts fun but educational activities. Staff also organise scavenger hunts, jewellery-making workshops and dance classes.
To keep teenagers separate from younger kids, there are tailored activities such as teen-only table tennis matches, water balloon soccer and a farewell party. They also get their own clubrooms, split into two age groups, which are also supervised by youth staff.
HQ (Deck 2, Aft): Passengers aged 11 to 14 have free access to HQ, tucked away in the bowels of the ship. This room for 'tweens' hosts live music jams, dance classes, movies, video games and more.
HQ+ (Deck 2, Aft): Passengers aged 15 to 17 can meet each other in the adjacent HQ+, a cool hangout for older teens to chill out or take part in higher level activities such as filmmaking. The lounge space is a great place to make new friends. There are also themed events including a White Party and Prom Night.