It is always a good start to see how you are treated as you arrive at a cruise terminal for a holiday. P&O Brisbane do this well at the easy-to-use terminal at Hamilton, a short drive from Brisbane Airport. We arrived using the City Cat (catamaran ferry) service and, seeing the distinctive profile of the Pacific Dawn, which was designed by world-renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, from the river added to the excitement.
At the terminal are a number of restaurants, a small supermarket and various other facilities.
Check-in was fast and efficient, and we were given a boarding time three hours before departure, so plenty of time to settle in. Boarding was quick, with Australian Immigration being efficient and pleasant, so we started in high spirits.
We were directed to our cabin, which was well prepared, and immediately greeted by our cabin attendant, John, who made us feel very welcome and at home. John was from the Philippines and had been with P&O for many years; a science graduate who had become a father for the first time just a few days before. Such is life for these workers, that it would be some weeks before he would see his first born son. Most of the crew were from India or the Philippines, with the captain hailing from Italy and the entertainers from the United Kingdom, so quite a multicultural mix.
Lunch was available, although not expected, so we went directly to the buffet and ate too much! My eyes were bigger than my stomach! How could we keep this going?!
Departure was on time and was a full-blown party with acrobats, live music and cocktails as we passed under the Gateway Bridge … just! It was amazing to watch the sunset over the Glasshouse Mountains on the Sunshine Coast before we turned east to the Pacific Islands, leaving our pilot to motor back to Mooloolaba.
We did not avail ourselves of the excellent buffet for the rest of the cruise, instead choosing to switch to the excellent Palm Restaurant with table service, an excellent menu and daily specials to choose from. Each day we booked a time for the next night, so we rotated around many other couples, and soon realised that cruising is for all ages and all backgrounds. For many, it was their first cruise but there were others who seemed to be always cruising.
Food is a feature of most cruise holidays and turned out to be highlight of the trip, which, of course, it should be with a fully cooked breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, all beautifully cooked and served each day. If you become bored with the P&O offerings, there is an alternative: The Salt Grill is run by celebrity chef, Luke Mangan, but does cost a little extra. Everyone we met raved about how good it was, so that, by the time we went to book, all tables had gone for the rest of the cruise. Lesson of the day: book early for the extras!
Entertainment was well organised and there was lots to do. Very popular seemed to be a demonstration of how to prepare and shake a martini, as well as bingo. On the last day of the cruise, it seemed that everyone had entered to win the prize of over $7,000; we tried but failed. There were also talks on a diverse range of topics, one of which gave me the opportunity to improve my photography skills, so something very useful for a cruising holiday.
The functions organised for the International Show Lounge ranged from a pirate extravaganza, where the author was selected as the guy to be dressed as pirate! The previous evening, I had been dancing with Pacific Islanders, where I had to remove my shirt and compete with the muscled New Caledonian dancers! Late night, adult comedians held in the Pacific Dawn’s signature Dome, along with music and themed dances, were all held together by the energetic Cruise Director who worked hard to ensure everyone felt involved and of course “happy”.
Do check before you go on the themes, as dressing up is a cruise thing. I did put in a tie but no suit, so was less than formal. Ladies would need to bring cocktail wear. And on our cruise, a pirate’s outfit would have won the night for the pirate evening!
There was time to catch up on sleep, sun and books and we discovered a very quiet part of the deck at the stern that overlooked endless calm seas. For others, the pools, spas and live music made days on the ocean pass quickly.
The cruise was one week long and stopped at Noumea, Lifou and Vanuatu, each being very different. Noumea the most sophisticated and we took the quick city tour and then opted to walk back along the promenade to the boat. We did not pre-book the tour but arranged it on arrival.
Lifou is all about snorkelling and you have to use the ship’s tenders to reach the shore.
Vanuatu has lots of options and, after walking around the city of Port Vila, which does not have much, we went out to the Cascade Waterfalls. These were impressive and involved walking in the river and, for the brave, sliding down the waterfalls or even climbing up them with ropes.
All food on board is included in the price of the cruise so, in effect, once paid then there are no costs, but there are plenty of bars which do add to the bill. Prices for these were equivalent to mainland Australia bars and restaurants.
The cabin we had was high up and had a sea view, but no balcony. It was typical of a smaller hotel bedroom; all very clean and comfortable with our room attendant looking after us well. There are 184 balcony rooms available, with the ship’s total capacity being 2,020 guests.
Communications home are possible with mobiles working and the internet available, but not cheap and best to wait until arrival at a port.
For a couple of regular runners, exercise was a challenge on the Pacific Dawn, but it does have a jogging track on the top deck and a fully equipped gym. Other facilities include a spa and beauty salon, library, casino, pattisserie, nine bars and lounges, restaurants, duty-free shopping, children’s entertainment rooms and a medical centre.
We do rate the Pacific Dawn out of Brisbane as a good value cruise holiday and one that we would recommend to anyone wanting a relaxing easy vacation. From Brisbane, the Pacific Dawn mainly does seven to twelve day cruises of the Pacific Islands and short trips to New Zealand. It also offers a three day break with no ports of call, simply departing from and arriving back at Brisbane.
If you have been on the Pacific Dawn cruise ship let us know about your experience below in the comments.
To view more photos of this cruise ship visit our eGuide Travel photo gallery on Flickr.
Pacific Dawn review by David from the eGuide Travel Team.Write a Review