To give this review some context we are somewhat experienced cruisers having been three times on RCL, twice on Carnival and once on Celebrity, three of those cruises were for nineteen nights and the rest shorter.
Pacific Dawn is an older and smaller ship than most we’d been on but after the refurbishment the interior of the ship is typical of most ships and in good condition. The ship had recently been affected by Cyclone Oma so there were more than the usual signs of surface rust showing, the crew were always painting whenever conditions allowed. Cruise ships are like aircraft they are constantly in use, a docked cruise ship is just eating money, so a quick turnaround is always the norm, this necessitates maintenance being done whilst a ship is on a cruise. Overall, we thought the Pacific Dawn was well maintained and in good condition considering its age.
Our cabin was a suite (SA) on deck eleven, it was very comfortable, the carpets and everything that wasn’t nailed down had been replaced during the refurbishment. That said we aren’t 5 Star travellers, preferring budget airlines and better rooms in 4 star hotels instead of standard rooms in 5 star hotels.
Without question the best thing about this ship are the crew, an amazing bunch of people, they were always, friendly, smiling and helpful.
We ate in both the Main Dining Room and The Pantry as well as room service breakfasts on most mornings, the room service breakfasts were excellent as were some of the meals in the other two venues, however we felt that choices in the MDR were somewhat limited and seemed designed more to impress than please, a lady on an adjacent table received a turkey breast that was so tough she couldn’t cut it and it was replaced by another, somewhat better but still tough. Some of the meals were excellent, barramundi in filo pastry, Italian meat balls and lasagne with quinoa spring to mind, my wife who is less adventurous found most of the meals a bit too exotic and settled for soup and desert on many nights, she was obviously disappointed (her waistline wasn’t!) Here again the staff were excellent!
Our experience in the Pantry was similar with their breakfasts quite good when we ate there but on occasions the food was pretty ordinary, on the first day I had an Asian dish with beef that was very tough, on another occasion they had a lot of cinnamon and sugar donuts which looked lovely but required some serious chewing to eat. On the other hand the fish and chips were excellent, the deserts were variable some good some not so good which pretty much sums up the food generally.
The Pantry is an excellent concept as long as it is well staffed and in our experience it was, there is no doubt that having all of the food served from behind glass will limit the gastro problem as people can’t drop a spoon on the floor and put it back, taste food off the spoon and put it back etc etc as is sometimes seen in the traditional buffets. The eating areas are also divided into smaller areas which avoids that cafeteria feeling of some ships.
We had drinks before dinner most nights in the Cocktail Bar on deck seven overlooking the Atrium, the service was good but they repeatedly ran out of martini glasses and had to serve them in a wine glass and a beer glass was no where to be seen. Pretty poor form for a cocktail bar.
Like all cruises common sense is required if you don’t want to search for a table in the Pantry don’t go at peak times, the same can be said for going ashore by tender, after all it’s a holiday, will another half hour ruin your day?
We didn’t go to any shows but we did go ashore in Alotau to the Cultural Festival which was excellent, didn’t in Kitava because it rained on and off, Rabaul was a fascinating place and really took some getting used to because people would come up to you, introduce themselves and thank you for visiting Rabaul, one of those situations that invariably invokes the “what are you selling response” but these people were genuine and a refreshing change to the usual run of spivs and hawkers you come across on shore visits. We also went ashore in Kiriwina and had a swim as well. All of the islands were worth a visit but be sure to have reef shoes, the coral can be very sharp, even on some of the beaches.
Regardless of the ups and downs we enjoyed our cruise to PNG, there were a good range of people on board, a few children but overall a well-behaved and friendly crowd.
Would we cruise again with P & O? Probably not, but we choose cruises by itinerary and when we booked this was one of few cruises going to PNG, that has now changed.
Large, very comfortable cabin, very clean, the carpet and everything that wasn't a fixture appeared to have been replaced during the refurbishment.The balcony was large and furnished with comfortable but somewhat ageing furniture, the table was replaced during the cruise. Cabin Attendants were excellent.