PACIFIC DAWN REVIEW
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70,285 tonnes 2000 passengers 2 swimming pools
Pacific Dawn is not a new ship, but it gives Australians the chance to experience a luxury cruise at very reasonable prices.
It features all the traditional highlights of a South Pacific cruise with P&O, a tradition that has been maintained and enhanced over the years since the days of the original Oriana and Fairstar.
Most cruise ships are similar in style these days. It is a mixture of relaxation, entertainment, good dining, friendly service and lots of things to do.
Pacific Dawn has elegant public rooms and there always seems to be seats and tables to spare in the bars.
Predominately Australian passengers, the Dawn has that Aussie feel about it…everyone out to have a good time in a very casual atmosphere.
It is rated as a middle-of-the-range ship which means you don’t get the over the top luxury and service of the brand new ships. However most people I chatted withy were very happy with the ship and its crew.
A good selection of bars and public rooms make it easy to find a spot to relax indoors.
Our favorite room was the Dome which is set right at the top of the ship overlooking the bow. Drinks are reasonably priced with beers from $5.50 and cocktails around $14.
At night you will find the various bars alive with music and people having fun.
The Lotus adult’s only spa area is popular and there is a fully equipped gym.
Kids have Pacific Cove (3-6), Shark Shack (7-10) and the Children’s Centre (11-17)
Our cabin was an Outside View layout. It was not opulent, but was very livable, clean and had plenty of storage space. There was a large picture window and the bathroom was small but once again it worked well with plenty of shelf space. There was a walk-in wardrobe area and a generous deck area which doubled as a dressing table. The room was soundproof with no noise from outside.
Passengers ranged from families with young kids, to teenagers and adults of all ages.
Dress code was casual during the day and smart casual at night. Formal nights were a real mixture with most people making an effort to dress correctly and others ignoring it altogether.
The service on board was good with individual staff members going way out of their way to impress. Our evening dining room waiters were excellent and really made our dining experience so much more enjoyable. The cabin stewards were also extremely friendly and helpful.
Three a la carte meals a day are provided in the dining room if you so wish. However most people go to the Horizons smorgasbord for breakfast and lunch. There are queues at the busiest times, but I never waited more than five minutes. If you have breakfast and lunch early, you will avoid the crowds.
Evening meals consisted of five courses although most people seem to settle for an entrée, main course and desert. I found the food to be of good quality, equal to a middle of the road Australian restaurant. The waiters in the dining room are excellent.
The pizzeria is a good alternative for a casual meal.
We undertook a number of shore tours organized by the ship. Our favourite was the day trip to Amedee Island in New Caledonia. Having been to Noumea many times, we decided to forego the city visit and head out to the island instead. It included a leisurely cruise, Polynesian style entertainment and an excellent meal. We even went shark watching after lunch.
Tours are certainly worthwhile in the ports like Vila, Suva and Noumea because they get you out of the city.
We organized an early sitting for dinner which allowed us to take in all the shows. The stage shows with singing and dancing in Broadway style were exceptional…amazingly professional. There was also a selection of comedians and entertainers. P&O ships entertainment in Australia is often better than the big overseas ships.
It is a good idea to head for the auditorium straight after dinner to ensure you get a good seat.
Excellent entertainment was also provided in the public rooms and bars and there really was something for everybody.
During the day there were regular shows such as Know Your Partner which was hilarious, Trivia, Bingo, Shore Tour talks and a session with the captain.
The disco was excellent according to the teenagers we talked to.
DAYS ON DECK
Deckchairs were in high demand on the main deck area around the pool. In the quieter areas and on the top deck overlooking the pool it was easier to get a deck chair. A lot of people reserved their deckchair early by leaving a towel or book on it and then headed off for the day. This was annoying.
Waiter service was good on deck and there daily pool games such as netball and even a belly flop competition. The pools were never crowded and a lot of people never used it
VALUE FOR MONEY
Pacific Dawn is excellent value for money. If you had to pay for all the meals, transfers, island stays and entertainment involved in an island cruise you would be up for tens of thousands of dollars.
Some people don’t like crowds and find the numbers of people on this type of ship to be daunting. However even they can find quieter areas in which to relax and if they time their daytime dining correctly will avoid the queues.