6 Sydney (Australia) to South Pacific P&O Australia Pacific Dawn Cruise Reviews

We have done 8 cruises up till now and thoroughly enjoyed them, that is until the last one on the Pacific Dawn. Embarkation was straightforward and relatively quick. We had a balcony cabin on deck 11 and although the cabin was ... Read More
We have done 8 cruises up till now and thoroughly enjoyed them, that is until the last one on the Pacific Dawn. Embarkation was straightforward and relatively quick. We had a balcony cabin on deck 11 and although the cabin was smaller than we were used to on other cruises, it was adequate. The ship had been refurbished recently and the buffet resturaunt on deck 12 had the seating/table arrangement changed, unfortunately for the worse. The new seats and tables had a lot of "breakfast bar" high stools and benches which were very difficult for the mainly older passengers to manage. Some of the tables/benches had sharp formica edges on which a number of passengers had cut their arms when knocking against them. We found the food flavours very repetitive, although the names of the dishes changed every day the appearance and flavour was very similiar and after all the food is one of the attractions of cruising. The entertainment was, at its best, mediocore, during the 14 days there was only one performer we would rate as good. The service from the stall was excellent, probably the best we have exerienced during 8 cruises. Our biggest problems were with the medical centre and the on board watch and jewellery shop. The day after we boarded my wife developed a chest infection. She is a registered nurse with 50 years experience so she knew exactly what was wrong having had a chest infection before. She went to the medical centre to get some antibiotics for the infection only to be told that it was a common cold and given medication which was the opposite to what she should have had. The result of this was she spent the next week either in bed or in the cabin. Second week was a bit better and able to venture out but the trip was ruined. It was not until we got home and went to our own doctor and put on antibotics that she recovered, a month too late. For this visit she was charged $229. We disputed thi with P&0/Carnival to no avail. A couple we became friends with had a similiar experience of very high medical charges and wrong diagnosis The watch/jewellery shop was advertising Invecta watches as 70% off marked price and then a further 10% off. I know this sounds too good to be true and when you looked at the marked price you could see why. A watch that you could buy in Australia for A$157 was marked at A$875 in the shop. With the discounts this came down to A$229 still considerably dearer than you could buy it from Invecta in Australia Cannot comment too much on shore trips as my wife was not well enough to go on them, did go on one to see a turtle rearing facility whic was well worth the trip Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
As is the case with many reviews, this review will not cover competing brands or make comparing or contrasting comments relative to any other cruise company. Ive only ever cruised with P&O - hence the point of my review title. Ive ... Read More
As is the case with many reviews, this review will not cover competing brands or make comparing or contrasting comments relative to any other cruise company. Ive only ever cruised with P&O - hence the point of my review title. Ive been on cruises P&O in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012 on the Sky, the Star and the Dawn respectively, as time has gone on, the experience has become progressively worse. Bearing in mind, i am making comments fully aware of the bargain basement price of $700, hence my 5 Star rating for "Value for Money". When it comes to spending $700 and getting as much as you do and going where you go, it truly is an unbeatable holiday proposition. However, therein lies the problem for me. My first cruise was relatively expensive in comparison to the one i went on last week on the Dawn. It had a high proportion of middle-aged families and pensioners - which for me (at the time) - was a total nightmare in terms of the fun police making permanent and constant patrols of the buffet and the cinema aisles. The service level was fantastic, theme nights were fun and you were made aware them in advance, BBQ's were set up on the beach at the islands visited and you could enjoy the pleasure of having roasted, grinded and strained coffee beans rolling over your tongue without a price tag that would collapse a small banana economy. Now, i have taken into consideration i may have found this new found floating utopia even more awesome because id never been on one before - but im forced to dismiss this logic as ive come to realisation all the little, minor things that really made the cruise as good as it was, have somehow gone missing of late. Wheres the BBQ on the beach? Wheres the warm welcome and happy farewell from the dining room waiters? Wheres the bar tender with character? Wheres the relaxed atmosphere? Im sure they exist somewhere, just not on the Pacific Dawn. The ship is; aged and tired, the gym is tiny, everything costs (a lot of) money, there isnt much to do on sea days, anything you ask for will amount to an issue of some sort and the sales tactics get a bit tiring after a short amount of time. For example, photographers in your face every day taking photos trying to get you to buy them, not making theme nights definitively known before you board the ship but coincidently selling theme night related stuff during the day, peddling poor quality plastic strobe cups and the list goes on. Nothing can be done outside the boundaries of the rules on P&O anymore. You cant modify a meal, ask for a change in something, ask for help with anything. You seem to receive some sort of South East Asian cold shoulder that would send a chill down the spine of a frozen fossil if you would dare ask for a side of chips. I do believe that this phenomenon of pathetic service stems directly from P&O relieving the cruises of set dinner times. Which of course, meant you sat at the same time on the same table and shared stories with the same waiter. They built repport, you made a familiar relationship and the result was a kind thanks and some legal tender to go with it. It gave the people who helped make your cruise more enjoyable an incentive to make it just that little bit better. The new way; sitting anywhere, booking whenever, wearing whatever (seriously) and speaking to the waiters like trash has resulted in them losing their service mojo. You can see it in their eyes that they would rather be dragged through a chilli farm than have to serve another Australian bogan that wont let the moths out of their wallet. Lets not forget to mention the two "tough" security guys that spoke a mother like she was a total moron because she (unbeknowst to her) attempted to walk into the "nighclub" with her child in an attempt to find her husband after 10pm. Lucky you were there lads... Who knows what would have happened... I could really go on in length about how much the quality of the cruises have declined, but that would be in direct corrolation with their subsequent decline in price, so what can you expect? I wont go on another one. Which is shame, because i have some fantastic memories of P&O when they really put in the effort on the little things. The decline of quality (and its breakneck pace) has resulted in P&O being the JetStar of cruise lines; you get the ticket and some "food" and literally everything else (even a pen for Bingo) has to be paid for. Id rather pay a decent amount up front and have a "real" stress free holiday with exceptional service. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with only 8 previous cruises with which to compare. This cruise was offered to us by email 3 weeks prior at a great last minute price. Back in the 80's & 90's we had cruised ... Read More
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with only 8 previous cruises with which to compare. This cruise was offered to us by email 3 weeks prior at a great last minute price. Back in the 80's & 90's we had cruised to some of these islands. Embarkation: This is the first cruise to which we didn't have to fly as we live near Brisbane. The shuttle service offered by the nearby car storage was efficient. Embarkation went smoothly with lines moving quickly. The wait for your number to be called was reasonable considering we were early. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went exploring, followed by lunch. The ship left on time at 2 pm. One of our suitcases took until late afternoon to appear. The Ship: Built in 1991 this ship was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. As it was originally the Regal Princess there was similarities to that line. There was some rough weather on this cruise with some seasickness experienced by other passengers. Perhaps a more modern ship would have handled the waves better. Cabin: Our ocean-view cabin was very pleasing and surprisingly large. With the bed head on the side wall the window view was quite good. The bed was comfortable with 4 pillows supplied. This was the first time our suitcases couldn't fit under the bed but there was a space on both sides of the window behind the curtain where we could stow them. We liked the open style walk-in type robe which had good hanging space. The shower was a generous size. One of the things changed during the refurbishment were new flat-screen TVs (a bit small). The small fridge was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Our only disappointment was that the floor had obviously not been vacuumed and the plug was jammed fast in the basin. When we pointed this out to our cabin steward he apologised profusely and immediately rectified the problems. He seemed very efficient at his job. Food & drinks: Overall we found the service in the main dining room (Palm Court) to be fine but the standard of food was inferior ' maybe they were hoping more people would use the extra-charge restaurants (which we didn't use). There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish ' not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was happy with the quality). We were pleased with being able to choose side vegetables on the menu. Although you were supposed to book each night for dinner, we sat with a lovely couple from our Cruise Critic roll call and they were able to organise the same table and dining time for the whole cruise. It is relaxing having the same dinner companions and the same dining room staff got to know our preferences. After experiencing the long lines at the buffet (Caf' Del Sol) the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast every other morning. The food seemed better and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We did use the buffet for lunch but wished there were separate food stations as on other ships ' trays are still supplied. Some times the line stretched almost out the door! There were rolls and French fries available outside on the deck. Food at the buffet is not available 24/7 as on Princess ships and the times varied between sea and port days. Disappointedly burgers, prawns and ice-cream were only available for a price (except vanilla ice-cream was available in the MRD at night). The only exception was on the last day at lunch when prawns were offered at the buffet ' maybe they hadn't sold enough! Coffee and tea was available 24/7 but there were no cookies at any time ' except by buying them from the coffee shop! Also we missed the freshly made waffles for breakfast offered on some other ships. There was no drink packages offered ' a can of soft drink was expensive at $2.75. Wine choices and price were similar to other cruise lines. Room service was $3 for delivery. We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet. Also the public toilets had the main door open and/or paper towels supplied to open them. Staff and service on board: Generally the staff were friendly and polite. The service was as expected for a 3 star ship. Entertainment: We enjoyed the shows in the main theatre as we have done on other cruises. These are the highlight of our evening. The lighting and costumes in the production shows were spectacular and the performers on the stage worked hard to entertain. The other entertainers were good as was the Cruise director. Also in the atrium on 2 nights an acrobatic group from Columbia performed - they were just amazing. This was viewable from three decks with the only downsize was the lack of seating provided. The program of activities from which to choose was fine. Some of our highlights were the humorous culinary demonstration in the theatre & the passenger singing competition. We did miss not having the informative enrichment lectures offered my other lines. At the open games/card venue offered by the ship, we found 3 lovely passengers with whom we played cards every day. Shore Excursions & Destinations: We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive. On this cruise we were happy to do our own thing. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise, we easily explored ourselves. Three of the 4 ports required using tenders and the delays with these were reasonable. As the weather was very wet at the 1st port, Isle of Pines (and we'd been there before), we stayed on the ship. At the next, Mystery Island we walked around the island and snorkelled. The 3rd stop was Port Villa, the only docking port where we did our own walking tour followed by shopping ' duty-free alcohol was the only thing cheap there (e.g. 2L bottle of Jim Beam for $20). The last port, Lifou Isle was disappointing as the lovely snorkelling beach (Jinek Bay) was difficult to access as the steps were washed away last year and still not replaced ' don't forget they're on island time!. The only means of accessing the beach was by a primitive ladder that had slippery and widely spaced rungs. My DW did not want to risk it. Disembarkation: Being one of the last groups to leave the ship, we were delayed way past the scheduled time of departure. Maybe disembarkation was delayed by customs. Anyway, we weren't in any rush as we only had to collect our car from storage and drive home. Conclusion: As we paid $72 each per day for an ocean-view cabin which is less than half the usual promoted special price for this cruise, we certainly had value for money. Anyone paying the usual price may have felt different. This is only rated a 3 star ship by P&O and as such is not to the usual standard of Princess or Holland America which are owned by the same company, Carnival Corporation. Australians are a bit of a captive segment as until recently P&O had no competition here. In the present economic climate this has changed but Carnival still requires Australians to book through the local agent thus missing out on discounts offered to Americans. Also P&O doesn't have a loyalty program like its sisters' lines. Being retired we could take advantage of the late special. Anyone with children would need to book early as there were 300 children on this cruise and it wasn't school holidays! In our opinion the ship, service and entertainment are generally satisfactory but the quality of the food could have improved for seafood lovers. We would recommend P&O at the right price and would sail again with them. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
All in all I enjoyed the cruise on the Pacific Dawn. It was very relaxing, but I did spend more time in my cabin than I thought I would. This was probably more due to roughish seas and overcast weather than anything else, but I do have to ... Read More
All in all I enjoyed the cruise on the Pacific Dawn. It was very relaxing, but I did spend more time in my cabin than I thought I would. This was probably more due to roughish seas and overcast weather than anything else, but I do have to note that the Australian passengers were often a miserable lot. A lot of people walked around with faces like smacked a*ses, which is always a bit depressing on a cruise. We visited Noumea, Port Vila and Lifou on the cruise. Embarkation was fine. No problems whatsoever. Noumea: We came off the ship to discover it was a public holiday in Noumea, and therefore all tours etc were useless as attractions were closed. Luckily we had booked none as we were intending to see the city sights, unluckily they were also closed. It seems Noumea takes its public holidays very seriously. The city was run down looking and empty and a bit eerie - I'm sure it would be a much nicer city with everything open and people everywhere. We ate some crepes at a place near the docks, but basically just wandered around took photos and boarded early. I have to say that none of us had any idea it was a public holiday. I would have thought there'd be some info somewhere, like when we docked or something. Lifou: We didn't do much at Lifou except walk around in the heat for half an hour, hire some ratty old snorkelling gear and snorkel for most of the time there. We snorkelled where we were tendered and it was decent snorkelling - we saw turtles and many fish. It was a beautiful little island. I would have liked to see more of it - there had been a big storm that ruined the steps to a place we wanted to snorkel and people said it was too slippery to climb down to, so we just hung around the tendering point, which was lovely anyway. Port Vila: Really enjoyed Port Vila with it's market near the dock and it's low prices in town. We went into town, ate, hired a driver to take us to the waterfall, which was fabulous (wish we'd been more prepared and spent more time there) and then went on a shore excursion to do some snorkelling. It was all good, I would definitely return to Port Vila. Cabins on Dawn: We had 2 ocean view cabins. Really decent storages. The teens had their cabin toilet flood pretty badly. I had heard there could be problems so I was expecting this as they are ridiculous with the toilet paper. Poor cabin steward. The problem was fixed reasonably quickly and I was very happy that one of our teens was old enough that we could get a separate cabin. We had no problems with our own cabin - it was nice and comfortable and we liked our ocean view. There weren't any real perks to the cabin - we used our own toiletries and shampoo and conditioner and soap as their offerings were non-existent or poor. Service: Had decent service all over the ship. Great cabin steward but I think he came to hate our teenagers. I don't blame him. Food: The main dining room was fine in terms of food but very annoying in terms of booking systems. It certainly wasn't Celebrity in this regard. I liked it but it wasn't great, and eating in the buffet was pretty horrible due to crowdedness and lines and all those smack *rse faced people. Entertainment: I enjoyed the entertainment. Some of the shows were pretty lame but I liked the circus style shows and final karaoke night. Teens club: Mr 15 tried the club and spent a bit of time making new friends. He said it was often pretty boring. Ms 17 was not so keen on the whole scene and preferred activities like making beaded things and going wherever we went. I thought it was a cruise with some good destinations and we were lucky to get great weather for those destinations. The sea days were always a bit cloudy and the seas were a bit rough. It was overall a pleasant experience but I don't know about booking on Dawn or with P&O again. One last thing - we got great prices which helped make it nice. If I'd paid full price I'd have been unhappy about quite a few things. LOL Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Background I have done 24 cruises and cruised on P&O on 3 previous occasions, with all the rest of my cruises with Princess. This cruise was a very last minute thing, booking only a week prior to the cruise (I was desperate for a ... Read More
Background I have done 24 cruises and cruised on P&O on 3 previous occasions, with all the rest of my cruises with Princess. This cruise was a very last minute thing, booking only a week prior to the cruise (I was desperate for a holiday). Unfortunately, there were no Princess ships in Australian waters at this time and this cruise was the only cruise available that suited price and timing. Itinerary The cruise was named Week Fantastique, Voyage W120 and was for 7 nights on the Pacific Dawn. It left Brisbane on a Saturday afternoon, had a day at sea, then arrived in at Noumea mid afternoon on Monday departing at 11.00pm that night, then the next day at Lifou, followed by a day at Port Vila, then 2 days at sea arriving back at Brisbane at 6.00am the next Saturday. Embarkation Like most cruise lines, it was drop your baggage at the front of the terminal. If you had printed off your baggage tags from the internet prior to arriving, it was super quick. Otherwise, a rather lengthy wait entailed to obtain blank luggage tags. Once in the terminal, it was queue up to receive your cruise card, provide credit card info, passport inspection and customs. P&O do not have a Past Passenger Program in place so it is join the queue for everyone. People who have cruised with P&O many times queue up with people who are first time cruisers. The Only exception was people who had booked suites or mini suites who had their own express check in. From time of dropping off suit cases to time we walked onto the ship was just short of one hour. Stateroom We booked an ocean view cabin and were on deck 6. The cabin was right opposite the lift well, so we had lift foyer noise and often could hear conversations outside, including in the middle of the night which was annoying. The cabin itself was adequate and more spacious than Princess cabins. Plenty of clothes storage and hanging space. Bathroom was the usual compact size, but only soap and shampoo provided. No conditioner or moisturiser provided like Princess do. Aqua Spa The Aqua spa on board provides access to a gym, spa treatments and a thermal room consisting of a small sauna, a small steam room and 2 tiled hot beds and a relaxation area consisting of 6 lounges and complimentary fruit and chilled water to relax after spa treatments. However, for some unknown reason, the Aqua spa is situated on Deck 2 mid ships, yes that's right....deck 2, below the actual water line!!! It don't get much lower than this on a cruise ship and is certainly the lowest I have ever been!! There is no natural light and whilst sitting in the thermal room or in the relaxation area, all you can hear is the mechanical clunking of the workings of the inner bowels of the ship. Not very inviting I am afraid. The Aqua spa is well appointed and nicely colour toned, and is obviously an addition at a recent dry dock renovation, but why they couldn't have put it somewhere else is beyond me. There is a kids centre up on deck 14 (above the buffet) which surely could have housed the Spa and the kids centre could have gone down to deck 2. Would be much more attractive and inviting and much easier to get to. I just want to touch on the costs of the Spa. As with all ships, the spa treatments can be quite costly. Well, the Pacific dawn is no different. I always enjoy a sauna and/or steam at the end of the day on a ship, something I don't have access to at home. Well, the only sauna and steam on the Pacific Dawn is in the Thermal room and they charge $99 for the privilege of using it for a 7 day cruise. No pay as you go or daily rate, it was $99 or nothing. Sure you have unlimited use and they throw in one "free glass of champagne" after each time you use it to enjoy whilst laying in the relaxation lounge. So, after the first day, I thought I could do without it, but into the second day, I was longing for a "sweat" so I went and signed up. The sauna and steam were quite hot and served their purpose, but no where worth the cost. And to obtain your "free glass of champagne" (Now I was going to get my money's worth!!), you had to go to reception and ask for it, which became quite uncomfortable the second time around. And on the second time, the champagne they served up was flat, dead flat, and I had to ask for another glass. I didn't ask nor was I offered for champagne again. They sold a maximum of 20 couples spa passes per cruise (that's 40 people) and it became very crowded in the thermal spa at times. Late afternoon was always popular and there were a couple of occasions when people came in and literally could not fit in. The spa treatments on the Pacific Dawn were, in my opinion, quite expensive. An example follows...on most ships I have been on, they offer a sampler of 20/20/20 which consists of 20 minutes of different spa treatments of your choice, a sampler of each. For the one that you like, you can come back and get the full treatment. The cost of this on the Pacific Dawn was $139, with a 15% discount on port days. We have seen this as low as $99 on other ships on port days. On our day on the ship in Noumea, my wife decided to have a facial. She rang up and enquired. They could fit her in in 15 minutes and the 15% applied. The facial was very nice and when she went to pay for it, she got over charged by $30. When she queried the price, they said she had had a facial and another treatment, bringing the total to $30 more. She complained and they then charged her the initial agreed price. Dining The one and only dining room was very spacious and quite nice in decor. It had a high ceiling which gave it the "more space" look. You had to book and could not just walk up and be seated. They stated you could only book on the day of the meal, and no matter what time you rang or personally attended to book, the only time available was 8.00pm or 8.15pm. I found out on the last night of the cruise that some passengers had permanent bookings each night. I don't know why this wasn't offered to all. The menu in the dining room was the same every night. The lunch menu was also the same every day. However, it was vast and provided lots of choice and the meals were very nice. Staff were not friendly and not attentive. On one night, we were not given a menu for 40 minutes after being seated. At lunch one day, we arrived at 1.45pm and were told to "order quick" as the dining room was closing. We did eat in Luke Mangin's Salt Restaurant one night and would highly recommend it. One of the nicest meals (I had the steak) we have had in long, long time and well worth the cover charge. Book early as it does book out. We were fortunate enough to have Luke travelling on our cruise for the first couple of nights and he was in the restaurant the night we ate in there. Waiter attention in here was excellent. The buffet was dual sided and plenty of eating space. It is not open 24 hours, only for meal times. Quality of food was average. Afternoon tea was below standard and the worst I have been to. Waiter service was atrocious, Drinks Alcohol was very expensive on this ship. The cheapest glass of wine was $8, and that was bar prices. It was dearer again in the restaurant. In the bars, they do not print on the wine list what the cost of wine is, which was very strange. They just list what sort of wine they have in one sentence. When you asked the waiter the cost of a glass of Shiraz or Riesling, the waiters did not know and you were surprised what the cost was it arrived. A drink that costs $9.85 on Princess ships cost $13.80 on this ship. Coffee was also more expensive on this ship than Princess ships. Coffee cards are not available, which are so handy on Princess ships. At afternoon tea, you had to buy your cookies, whereas on Princess ships, they are free. However, with every cup of coffee you purchase, you receive a free chocolate, which was a nice touch. Entertainment Entertainment was good. The circus acrobats in the Atrium were very good. On the last night, they had different entertainers/musicians gather in the Atrium and they would sing or perform whatever they wanted. This was excellent. Very low key and informal, but excellent entertainment. Ship The Pacific Dawn is the old Regal Princess from the Princess Fleet. I was a bit sceptical about what condition she would be in, but I was not disappointed....truly a magnificent ship and in very good condition. The makeover she would have had prior to joining the P&O Fleet has certainly beautified her. There were 5 main entertainment areas, the Bengal Bar, the Promenade Lounge, the Show Lounge, the Dome and the atrium. The Bengal Bar was host to most of the game shows and trivia during the day and the Promenade Bar was the piano lounge, which had perfect ambiance at night with candle lights and soft lighting. The Show Lounge is badly designed I think and could be better done. Unless you are sitting in the first few rows directly in front on deck 7, the view elsewhere is not that good. The seating incline in not that great so you are always looking at the person in fronts head and the side seats actually side behind the action, so you can't get a front on perspective. The seats on the upper level (deck 8) you have to look over/under the safety barriers. Seats at the side on this level have the same level as below. The Dome is the Night Club on board and was well attended by many passengers, dancing their cares away until the early hours of the morning. Got extremely crowded on occasions. The Atrium spanned over 3 levels and was very comfortable. It hosted the acrobats performances and some informal music renditions. Ports Itinerary was good, although we didn't bother to get off the ship at Noumea. A case of "been there before and done that" (a few times) and the day we were in Noumea was a local public holiday with nothing open. Many passengers were disappointed with this port. I know there are valid reasons why cruise ships visit Noumea, but it is not high on our "bucket list". Expensive, streets are dirty and uninviting and the locals are not that welcoming. Lifou was just divine. One of the reasons we went on this cruise was to go snorkelling at J??? Beach, which we did. This would have been our 4th time at this port and it did not disappoint, although the amount of fish is diminishing, as is the coral. Each time we visit this beautiful island, the amount of coral dying off is noticeable. Last time we were there (late 2010), there was a wooden staircase there that led people down into the water. Although very slippery, it served its purpose. However, on this occasion, the stairs had been destroyed. Nothing left but a small viewing deck. In its place was a ladder about 3 metres high and made from local trees and tied together with vines. It was just leaning up against a small cliff and people had to climb up and down it to get to the water. EXTREMELY dangerous. How nobody fell off it and seriously injured themselves is beyond me and how long it lasts is anybody's guess. Why the locals have not built something more reliable here I don't know. They could easily charge every person swimming at this beautiful beach $1. With the amount of cruise ships calling in and people visiting this port, over a 12 month period, they would easily accumulate enough cash to build something permanent and substantial. Suggestion - P&O hire out snorkel gear for $49.95 on board the ship. You can hire it for the day for about $20 AUD on the beach here. If this is the only place you plan to snorkel on this trip and don't take your own gear, this is a much cheaper option. Suggestion - If you can, take French francs with you. The locals charge for their services and wares in both AUD and French francs. However, the change over rate is somewhat vast. Some asking prices are 1000 francs or AUD15, others are asking 1000 francs or AUD20, where in fact the official change over rate is roughly 1000 francs = AUD10. Port Vila - This port just gets better every time we visit it. We just love it. The choices increase more and more and is becoming a great place to visit for a week, not just the day off a cruise ship. The weather gods were on our side and we were able to do what we planned to do if the weather was nice and that was visit Hideaway Island. This little gem is one of Port Vilas little secrets as cruise ships no longer run shore excursions there. Although, I think the secret is out as there were many people on the beach here with the blue and white striped towels, a dead give away for cruise ship passengers. The snorkelling here on this day was the best I have seen it. As the tide was low, we had to swim out a bit to find the fish in mass, but we were not disappointed......it is on par with the amount of fish we experienced on our Shark Boy tour in Bora Bora.....aquarium sort of stuff. After Hideaway Island, we did our obligatory duty free shopping at Wing Fei (the last shop on the left of the main drag when heading out of town) and the prices were super cheap and as usual, much cheaper than on board the ship. The duty free shop on board had a sale and guaranteed that they were cheaper than on land, which sucked a lot of people in (including me unfortunately!!), but alas, they are not. DO NOT BUY ON BOARD.......Port Vila is the only place to get your duty free grog and cigs. Don't be tempted to buy anywhere else. Costs in Port Vila Taxi into/out of town - AUD5 for 2 people is a good price (Most taxis offer AUD10) Taxi to Hideaway Island - AUD50 return for 2 people (pay the lot at the end of the day to ensure the driver returns and picks you up) 2 Bottles of Gordon Gin (1 litre) at Wing Fei - AUD20 for both!! Carton of 250 cigs at Wing Fei - AUD35 Disembarkation Was well organised and spaced out. As the area where the luggage is collected is very small, only 5 colour codes of luggage could be displayed any given time. As one colour code luggage is collected, it is replaced with the next. If you decide to disembark before your colour code is due, your luggage won't be there for collection. Taxis were plentiful and waiting Overall Remarks P&O do things very differently to Princess. After cruising for so long with princess, it was hard to get use to the P&O ways. You definitely get better service and value for money with Princess. I would not cruise with P&O again I am afraid. If you don't drink alcohol, plan to not do any spa treatments and get mediocre service and attention, then this ship is for you!! PRINCESS FOR ME!!!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
yes, This is not the QEII. it is a bit like going out to dinner at the local bistro at the pub or an RSL. yes it caters to a lower socio economic class. not that this is a bad thing, just be prepared. the price reflects this, it is ... Read More
yes, This is not the QEII. it is a bit like going out to dinner at the local bistro at the pub or an RSL. yes it caters to a lower socio economic class. not that this is a bad thing, just be prepared. the price reflects this, it is very good value for money. treat the experience as being on an overnight ferry to a destination rather than as a cruise per se. there are many things to do on board whilst you are en route. you will be able to do whatever you want and if this means sitting doing nothing then great, reading then great, eating, playing in the naff activities etc all good.funnily enough the casino was muuuuuch better than the casinos you get in australia i.e nowhere near as much kitsch and flashing lights etc. Ports of call. I loved noumea and port vila. mystery island is dull and not worth it. Pentecost island was ok but all a bit staged, the best was getting away from the crowds and wandering away for a bit. food is excellent for the price. the crowd expects quantity and they give that. sure it is not the top quality but you are at the floating equivalent of a pub bistro and you are paying a low price because of it. drinks. i cannot stand companies that impose restrictions on what you can consume/take on board/etc. it is a nannying way to do things. BUT having said that with the crowd on board it would have become extremely boozy and i reckon as aggressive as a drunk cricket crowd if there was bring your own alcohol. it wasnt too expensive i dont know where everyone buys their drinks perhaps at the rsl or leagues clubs but really, compared with melbourne city (and i suspect sydney as well) prices it was very reasonable. staff are all great. they are an international staff (canadian entertainment, romanian croupiers, indian bar staff, filipino wait staff and english and italian in charge of the ship) and the standards of service are higher than that you often get in australian pubs/bistros/casinos etc. Embarkation. p and o were fine despite the chaos at the dock. security in australia were ridiculous. asking people to go through metal detectors to get on an enormous ship is absurd. once you are through you find your own way which i thought was good. i do not want to be hassled forever by staff and this is something that p and o were good at - ie leaving you be. compare that with being on any aircraft with constant nagging by staff. summary - if you want a "cruise" in the sense of a romantic/high quality/olde world type experience, don't go on P&O. if you just want a cheap holiday without the hassle of getting on an aircraft etc, with plenty of food and things to do or not to do, then treat the ship as a ferry and enjoy yourself. that's what we all did and had a pretty good time. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Pacific Dawn Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 3.7
Dining 3.5 3.3
Entertainment 3.5 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 3.6
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.1
Family 5.0 3.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.2
Enrichment 3.0 3.0
Service 4.0 3.7
Value For Money 4.0 3.3
Rates 3.0 3.4

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