The primary dining venue is the Waterfront, located on Deck 7 aft, which has the appearance of a contemporary restaurant, rather than a traditional cruise ship dining room. A colorful and airy space with touches of blue, lavender and pink, it has plenty of cozy nooks and crannies, with tables accommodating two to 10 people. It also has a space called the Wine Room, with groups of tables flanked by impressive display cases filled with bottles of wine and Champagne.
Meal times vary from sea days to port days. Breakfast is from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on sea days and 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on port days. Lunch is from noon to 2 p.m. on sea days, and it's only served on selected port days. Dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. every night. There are no traditional seatings; it operates on a Your Choice Dining basis, allowing you to choose who you dine with and when.
For breakfast, you can choose between a variety of a la carte dishes, including cereal, yogurts and bakery items like toast and Danish pastries. Healthy options include fruit, cold cuts and eggs served in various ways, and there are daily specials like Eggs Benedict. Lunch has plenty of variety also, with options ranging from steak sandwiches and big salads to sausages and mash. The dinner menu has a selection of entrees, pasta, mains, sides and desserts available every day, as well as selections that change daily. There are plenty of local dishes like pork and ale stew, combined with a choice of international favorites like Asian stir-fry noodles, and if you get friendly with your waiter, you can ask for extra steamed vegetables.
Local ingredients and producers are also a focus across the fleet, including items like cheeses from the King Island Dairy in Tasmania and Australian grass-fed beef. In its onboard cafes, Vanuatu-grown Tanna Coffee is available, an initiative that financially benefits the communities and famers on Tanna Island. There are also options for kids, which change daily, including family platters at Waterfront for everyone to share. Examples are a tasty lamb shoulder and roast chicken, and there is a tapas menu during dinner for an informal dining experience.
The casual dining option is the Plantation Restaurant, located aft on Deck 12. It also has a bright and airy decor featuring warm wood, with beige and flashes of green highlights, and it has the bonus of a large outdoor area with plenty of seating -- ideal for hot-weather cruising. The large buffet is open for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on sea days and 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. on port days. For lunch, it's open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on sea days and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on port days. It's open for dinner from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
Breakfast is a hearty affair with a wide range of hot and cold selections to choose from. Options range from simple scrambled or fried eggs with bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms to fresh fruit, bread rolls and cereal. For lunch, there's usually a choice of two premade deli-style sandwiches and a variety of hot dishes like pasta, curry, chicken, fish, a daily roast and vegetables. Salads are a bit thin on the ground, however, with a focus on greens and no tomatoes, cucumber or raw veggies. Dinner offerings include selections similar to whatever is on offer in the Waterfront Restaurant, with a better of choice of salad and more desserts.
Pacific Pearl was the last ship in the fleet to receive a Salt Grill by Luke Mangan restaurant. A stylish space forward on Deck 12, the venue has the same decor as its counterparts on Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn, featuring a highly polished wooden floor and accents of purple and silver throughout. Lunch and dinner offer the same menu, with the only difference being the cost; lunch is A$30 per person, while dinner is A$49. Menus change from time to time, but signature dishes include the chef's famous Glass Sydney crab omelet and dishes from Mangan's shore-based venues, such as Salt and Pepper Prawns with Thai Salad and Cajun-spiced Spatchcock. It's a popular venue, and it's easier to get a booking for lunch than dinner. Salt Grill isn't open on port days. A new addition is afternoon tea, which can be enjoyed on sea days for A$20 a head.
Unfortunately, Pacific Pearl doesn't have an Asian-fusion Luna like its siblings; as a result, the only other dining venue is The Grill on Deck 12, an "Aussie BBQ," which serves basic casual fare like grilled sandwiches during the day. Most items are included in the fares, but some incur a charge after 5 p.m.
A new addition to Pacific Jewel's dining lineup is the Chef's Table experience, which costs A$95 a head and is limited to 14 people. Reservations are essential, and it's restricted to once per passenger, per cruise. The evening begins with a cocktail reception and canapes hosted by the executive chef, followed by a galley tour. Then passengers are seated in the Wine Room in the Waterfront Restaurant for a degustation dinner paired with wines.
Room service is also available, but it has a limited menu, and items are charged a la carte; a Caesar salad is A$8, while an Aussie Outback Burger will set you back A$9. The bonus, however, is that you're not at risk of tripping up on many dirty trays and plates in the cabin deck hallways. Passengers can now have pizza delivered to their cabins between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for A$9.50, following the recent installation of specifically designed pizza ovens. Pizza can also be delivered to the top deck if you're watching a movie or sports on the big screen.
If you follow a special diet, such as gluten free or vegetarian, let your travel agent know in advance -- or the cruise line if you book directly. A la carte menus for dinner feature at least one vegetarian (without meat or fish) dish, and there are usually plenty of options available in the buffet for lunch. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can request gluten-free bread and pre order a specially made dish for dinner a day in advance.
Generally service is attentive and offered by an enthusiastic and well-trained international crew, these days largely hailing from Indonesia, the Philippines and India.
P&O Australia Pacific Pearl Ship Stats
- Crew: 700
- Launched: 1987
- Decks: 11
- Passengers: 1,800
- Registry: London