Saturday, 23 March 2013

P & O Pacific Dawn Cruise Ship

Pacific Dawn
7 days Pacific Island Hopper Cruise

Port Vila

If you've been on an ocean liner before you’ll understand the excitement we experienced going on one for the first time.  And if you've never been on a cruise before I strongly suggest that you give it a try at least once in your life.  I think you’ll be hooked.

We were looking for an amazing Food Trek Adventure, and we sure found more than we bargained for when we decided to try ocean cruising.  Kelly and I have never been on a cruise before and so lots of research was needed to be prepared.  The P&O website is fantastic and each cruise has its own Facebook page, which was great for asking experienced cruisers’ questions and getting to know other passengers’ before we even got going.  Planning your cruise is a huge part of the fun and we were planning this one for twelve months.
Outside Brisbane terminal

Up until actually departing I had never even been up close to a cruise ship, and the Pacific Dawn is massive.  When you’re standing on the dock looking up it’s hard to believe something so big can move at all.  I have to admit it was love at first sight.  The Dawn is a mechanical marvel and a thing of beauty.  The ship is 242 metres long and weighs in at over 70,000 tons, 14 decks with 795 cabins and suites.  There are pubs, a night club and comedy club and bars all over the place, a casino, a huge theatre for brilliant nightly shows and daily activities, restaurants, a pizza and burger bar, an ice cream parlour, beauty spa, a gymnasium, cafes, an internet café, a library, swimming pools and Jacuzzis and a giant flat screen for outside movies day and night, and a jogging track.  It’s a floating holiday resort that takes care of everything and doesn't miss a beat.

One of the two pools on the Lido Deck

                                                                    The Atrium.  Three stories of shops and shows.

                            This is the life for us.

We were lucky enough to be upgraded from a deck five windowless cabin to a deck eight cabin with a window.  We had a beautiful view of a life boat.  Of course we had the least expensive cabin but it was lovely, as good as any hotel room with its own bathroom we have stayed in.  For the whole cruise we had a wonderful cabin steward who looked after our every need.  Twice a day our room was made immaculate and we always found a chocolate on our pillow and a cleverly folded animal made from a bath towel.
Besides all of the different activities on board, the food is of utmost importance to just about everyone.  Some people we met go on cruises just for the food.  If you wanted to, you could eat just about nonstop.

The view from our cabin
                       Towel folding demonstration

Fruit and veg carving demonstration
Your fare includes all meals at the Plantation restaurant buffet and the Waterfront a la carte restaurant.  That’s right; you don’t have to spend a cent on food the whole time.  The food is of a very high quality and I will focus on the menus and service in upcoming articles.  For a fine dining experience there is celebrity Chef Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill restaurant.  For a nominal fee of $40 per head, you will be treated to three courses of superb dishes.  With a panoramic view out the rear of the ship is La Luna restaurant which offers Asian fusion delights of eight courses for only $25 per head. 
We smiled like this the whole time
                  Kelly and Michael go formal
Of course Kelly and I had to try everything so we could tell you about it, but I have to say that even though the food at the fee charging restaurants was amazing, it would be a pleasure to take every meal at the buffet.   The Plantation buffet is two buffet lines that cover every taste and dietary need.  There are so many different dishes on offer that it’s hard not to over eat.  Most of the time my lunch plate had six different dishes on it and I was still tempted to go back for more.

Our daily routine always started with exercise.  Kelly did the morning boot camp with a personal trainer and I hit the treadmill and weights in the gym.  Lots of people told us we would put on a stack of weight while cruising and we were determined not to.  After a shower I would relax at Charlie’s café with a cappuccino while I planned my day with the daily newsletter that listed all the different activities from martini making classes to dance lessons.  Then, on most days I would meet up with Kelly for breakfast at the Plantation buffet and then off to a dance lesson or bingo or a sauna and steam, or to just walk the deck and relax.
In the evenings we would dress up for dinner and then catch an eye popping show in the Marque theatre.  After the show we could chose to have a drink in the piano bar, play trivia for prizes, watch a live band or sing karaoke.  Later on there is a sit down comedy club followed by the nightly party in the night club.  There is also a new release movie on the Lido deck where you can lay back on a deck lounge and sip a cocktail while enjoying a movie with friends.

Coconut Park Noumea
                Roadside markets Port Vila
                                                                 Coconut juice on Lifou Island

Days thee, four and five saw us coming into Noumea New Caledonia, Lifou Island, and Port Vila Vanuatu.  French Polynesia and Vanuatu are tropical wonders with shore tours to please every taste, from gentle sightseeing to more adventurous adrenaline junkie tours.  Our son Michael explored coral reefs teeming with beautiful sea life with a snorkeling tour while Kelly and I sought out French and local restaurants and native markets. 
                          Vila fruit market

P&O Pacific Dawn
On Noumea we found genuine French chocolatier and in Port Vila we ate a local coconut crab.  We saw how other cultures live and met some really friendly beautiful people.  Our seven day cruise was an amazing adventure that made it possible for us to relax, have a ton of fun and discover an abundance of fabulous dishes.  Future article will take a closer look at each dining experience while on the cruise.  We are already planning our next cruise some time in 2014, and I think it will have to be longer than seven days, don’t you?


  1. Karl, glad to hear you have caught the cruising bug! We have just returned from a 14 day cruise on the Dawn to New Zealand. I can attest to the wonderful food and even better service. We ate most meals in the a la carte (free) restaurant and can tell you we did not get to try one of everything in the 14 days. Of course, we did check out the buffet a few times and indulged, especially the day they had fresh prawns for lunch. Also tried Luke Mangan's Salt restaurant. Overall, a very fine dining experience. But as you say, that is not all that cruising has to offer!
    Stephen Wilson

  2. Beautifully written Karl. Well done, captured the whole whirlwind experience. Shh, while reading I had a bit of a laugh remembering sitting on deck 12 discussing the finger points of autopsy.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your beautifulluy written review Karl. We have been on several cruises, but sail on Pacific Dawn (and with P & O) for the frist time this July. So I have been reading reviews & blogs to get some tips & so forth. We have booked a package that includes a meal for 2 at Salt Grill. Looking fwd to that. I hope you sail again, and if so, you must try & get to Champagne Bay in Vanuatu, where the locals catch lobsters & keep them in pots in the rock pools. You can buy them & they cook them fresh for you right there on the beach & serve them in banana palms. They also have tubs of beer on ice for sale. Just wish they had champers in those tubs as well!!! Cheers