Pacific Dawn's principal theatre is The Marquee on Deck 8 with tiered seating and two upper balconies and waiter service for drinks. The venue is used for a range of activities including a pre-tender muster station, all manner of demonstrations, daily bingo, destination lectures, and evening entertainment/production shows such as Seven, a musical based on the Seven Deadly Sins, and The Velvet Rope, which is set in the 1930s and features contemporary music from artists such as Pharrell Williams, Rhianna and Christina Aguilera.
Entertainment is available throughout the day, with activities including making bead bracelets and necklaces to bingo, family trivia games, beanbag throwing competitions, mini golf putting, Sudoku games, dance lessons, cocktail-making sessions, wine and whisky tastings, art auctions, card games, battle of the sexes Pictionary, talent shows, teen jams, table tennis, word games, and family scavenger hunts. Craft workshops are well-priced and often themed for the next party, such as Gatsby-style headband-making. There is also a racing car simulator on Deck 8, which costs $20 for 15 minutes.
A huge outdoor movie screen on Deck 12 shows movies and music videos during the day and also a blockbuster movie every evening at 9.30 p.m., so it is a place the whole family can hang out and enjoy together. Besides the main bars -- where there is a revolving range of shows, contests or singers entertaining the crowd, there is live entertainment most days on the Lido stage starting at in the early afternoon, as well as a band or duo playing in the Atrium from 6 p.m. till late. The casino on Deck 8 is non-smoking with plenty of pokies, ranging from 1 cent to $1. Keeping your cruise card inserted in the machine will earn you benefits with the Southern Cross Players Club. Table games include blackjack, roulette, pontoon, three-card poker and Texas Hold'em poker. Complimentary lessons are offered, along with raffles, theme nights and tournaments. The casino opening hours are subject to international gaming regulations, so it is closed when the ship is in port and only open when sailing in international waters (a few kilometres off the Australian coast).
Interior bars and lounges on Pacific Dawn have been given a Hollywood-worthy facelift with the addition of new furniture, contemporary artworks and chic, modern decor. Each venue looks superb, with a theme that caters to different passengers. One of the most versatile spots onboard is the cafe and bar known as Charlie's in the Atrium foyer on Deck 5. The greatest concentration of bars, however, is on Deck 7, with the small and intimate Ocean Bar, the Orient Bar and The Promenade 'Piano' Bar. If you head into the Casino on Deck 8 you will also find the small Players Bar. On Aft Deck 10, seek out the outdoor Oasis 'sun lounger' bar -- perfect for late afternoon cocktails. Up at the Lido on Deck 12 is where you will find the well-stocked and lively outdoor Lido Pool Bar as well as The Cafe and a small bar at The Pantry. Finally, for those late-night parties, head to the Dome Bar on Deck 14, which stays open to at least 2 a.m.
Charlie's Bar (Atrium Deck 5): Open for coffee and snacks from 7 a.m., and for alcoholic drinks from 10 a.m. until midnight. The main lobby of the Atrium has lounge seating for those who would like to enjoy a drink, watch the entertainment or wait in comfort for a shore excursion. Even though the bar is relatively small it has a good range of spirits and a few select wines.
Ocean Bar (Atrium Deck 7): This bar has seating for 24 people including six bar stools at the tiny horseshoe-shaped bar. It's popular from 5 p.m. onwards for pre-dinner drinks. Note: There are 20 additional lounge chairs surrounding the Atrium balcony, plus a couple of mint green chaise lounges for those who want to take their evening relaxation to a new level.
Orient Bar (Deck 7): Ocean Bar is light and airy, with crisp peppermint and white decor and an atmosphere that has more in common with a living room than your average bar. A stage hosts musical acts in the evening, and trivia games and craft classes are held here during the day. Live music starts at 7 p.m., with a focus on crowd-pleasing tunes and conversation.
Promenade Bar (Deck 7): Sometimes known as the 'piano bar' because of the grand piano that is its permanent centrepiece, this bar hosts popular Mix Academy cocktail making classes during the day. It's a quieter, more sophisticated option than the lively Orient Bar next door. In the evening, low-key musical entertainment is provided by either a solo guitarist or pianist. The fully-stocked semi-circular bar has nine stools at the counter, with grey velvet couches, cocktail bar lounge seats, and settees dotted throughout the room.
Casino Players Bar (Deck 8): This bar is not the quietest place to sit and enjoy a cocktail, once the pokies and the tables get crowded, but it does provide lounge seats to relax in with large screen televisions that often feature sporting events. For gamblers wanting to drink and have a flutter, there are the usual croupier tables, as well as electronic Keno and two electronic Blackjack and Texas Hold'em tables. Far and away the biggest attraction are the 70 pokies machines that dominate the room.
Oasis Aft Sundeck Bar (Deck 10): This little spot on Deck 10 is the place to escape the kids and relax in a peaceful outdoor environment. It offers large comfy lounging settees and an assortment of tables and chairs with its own private bar that also has a chaise lounge waitress service and access to Deck 11. Food from The Grill can be ordered and delivered to your sun lounger.
Cafe Bar (Deck 12): At the opposite end of the Lido Bar is a cafe that also doubles as a small bar, primarily serving a range of coffees from 6.30 a.m., but after 10 a.m. you can also order a cold beer or glass of wine. The crisp decor and comfy couches make it a lovely place to relax and unwind at any time of day up until 10.30 p.m.
Lido Bar (Deck 12): This is the biggest bar on board the Pacific Dawn and also one of the most popular. Beer, wine, spirits and cocktails are served to groups of sun worshippers from 10 a.m. onwards until late in the evening. Not surprisingly, many of the outdoor activities are right here on the Lido Deck where parents can keep a watchful, if slightly wonky eye, on their charges. The atmosphere is casual, beach-like and playful with a range of seating that includes chaise lounges, soft-foam benches and even some swinging hammocks.
The Pantry Bar (Deck 12): At the rear of The Pantry there is a small bar serving red and white wines, soft drinks, a few spirits and espresso style coffee. It is not a place you hang around but is convenient for diners wanting a beverage with their meal.
Dome Bar (Deck 14): During the day, this venue hosts laser tag, trivia and the occasional edutainment talk. In the evenings, it is transformed into a late-night entertainment venue, with adult-only shows such as the Sit Down Comedy Club and a DJ until at least 2 a.m. The Dome is open for alcoholic drinks every day at sea from 10 a.m., but remains closed on port days until 3 p.m. This bar comes to life on party-theme nights with the fun continuing until the early hours of the morning.
On the Lido Deck 10, there is one small all-ages swimming pool located alongside an elevated, canopy-covered, chaise lounge deck that doubles as a live entertainment platform. There are also two hot tubs available on the Lido Deck. While the kids now have a fabulous waterplay area, with water cannons, a tipping bucket and fun galore, installing this new feature involved removing one of the two original pools on the Lido Deck. This didn't cause any issues on our cruise as it was too cool to swim, but we suspect this lone pool will struggle to cope during the busy summer cruise season. While there is no longer an adults'-only pool, grown-ups can enjoy a relaxing soak in one of the two 18+ hot tubs on Deck 10.
Two fully enclosed slides were installed above the Lido Deck during the 2017 refurbishment, offering free fun for youngsters (and the young-at-heart) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Sliders need to be over 120 cm tall and weigh less than 120 kg to ride. We loved the Disco Diver, which pumps out hits like 'Rock Lobster' as you zip down a darkened slide surrounded by strips of flashing lights. The Super Slider is (slightly) slower and lets in more light if your kids (or you) aren't fond of 'dark slides'. To ride for hours with no waiting, pack sunscreen and a pair of swimmers in your embarkation day carry-on bag. Don't leave this new attraction to the kids; it's just as much fun for adults (including those travelling sans children).
There is no end to the activities that are available aboard the Pacific Dawn, but some come at a price. The P&O Edge program ranges from $19 for adults and $14 for kids for slackline surfing to as much as $49 for adults and $44 for children for a Segway introduction/obstacle course combination. It can be better value to buy a Bronze ($99 adults/$89 kids), Silver (adults $139/$119 kids) or Gold (adults $165/$129 kids) pass for the Edge, as you can do favourite activities multiple times, including premium options such as Laser Tag and Segway rides if you buy a Silver or Gold pass. Other P&O Edge activities onboard Pacific Dawn include abseiling, walking the plank, the bouldering wall, climbing wall, crows nest, flat line, flying fox (zipline), high ropes, low ropes, bow ladder experience, aft funnel rock climbing, sphere climb, Titanic experience, bungy trampoline and Segway rides. The Edge activities are entertaining and good value (particularly if you are travelling with kids and buy a pass), and run by an engaging team of enthusiastic and experienced activities staff.
The back deck of the ship is the place to head to if you want some adults-only peace and quiet. On Aft Deck 11 you will find more than 30 sun loungers and two adult-only hot tubs, which are constantly in use. Drop down below to the 18+ area on Aft Deck 10 where you'll find even more serenity, away from the hubbub of the main Lido Pool area. There is a combination of hard-backed chairs around tables and soft fabric, laidback sofas as well as wavy-shaped sun loungers. On Deck 10 there is a bar, plus snacks from The Grill can also be ordered and delivered to your sun lounger.
Although there is no designated card room or library, bingo is played in the Marquee Theatre. There is a heavy emphasis on gift shops selling duty free items, jewellery, watches, designer bags, tourist knick-knacks, beachwear, candy and chocolates. On the Lido Deck 12, the Aqua Hut sells a range of swimwear and stock a range of fins, masks and snorkels for hire purchase. Passenger services include a shore tour and passenger services desk in the Atrium on Deck 5. There are two self-serve laundry rooms on Decks 5 and 10 -- each with 10 washing machines and 10 dryers along with four ironing boards and irons. If you fancy a full makeover before a big party night, take the elevator down to Deck 2 where the Hair & Beauty Salon is located.
Tucked in one corner of the casino on Deck 8 are five computers offering Internet access once you have purchased a package. Wireless Internet is also available throughout the ship, including in the cabins, but reception is stronger in some areas than others. Prices range from an unlimited Platinum Voyage Plan ($99) to a Bronze 100 MB Data Plan ($19) or Social Media Plan ($10 per day), which includes unlimited access to popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
Located opposite the fitness room on Deck 2, the Aqua Spa offers a Thermal Suite, which can be used by those having treatments. A Thermal Suite cruise pass (single $149/couple $199 pass) offers unlimited access to the sauna, steam room, relaxation room, heated ceramic beds and tropical shower room throughout the cruise. Spa lovers can sign up for Triple Your Indulgence, which allows you to choose three of your favourite 'signature' treatments with 10 per cent off the first, 20 per cent off the second and 30 per cent off the third treatment. A full range of services is available including massage treatments (from $149 for 50 minutes), facials (from $149 for 50 minutes), nail services ($63 for a manicure), hair salon (shampoo, cut & blow dry for $74), hair treatments (Rescue Remedy for $62), brow bar (shaping for $15) and waxing services (from $20 for a lip or chin wax).
If you want to have a massage with your partner, Aqua Spa offers a massage for couples from $286 for 50 minutes. There is also a men's barbering service with an Express Shave priced from $57 for 30 minutes. While the spa is looking rather worn in some areas, talented therapists do their best to ensure treatments are worth the spend. Note: a mandatory five per cent gratuity is added to all spa/salon and fitness services.
There is a complimentary fitness room on the Deck 2 that is effectively in the bowels of the ship with no portholes. If you are not enthusiastic about going to the gym at home, this dreary room is not likely to inspire you to workout. Professional staff hold external fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga and there are five treadmills, three stationary bikes, and three stair runners with one each of the following machines: leg extension, leg pull down, leg press, weight bench, lower back and abdominal and a multi-press machine. Passengers using the gym must be 16 years and over, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is also a jogging/walking track outside on the uppermost deck with views into the main pool complex or out to sea. Climbing the stairs to the waterslides also provides a cardio workout for those who enjoy a little fun with their fitness.
The Pacific Dawn aims its programs and accommodation squarely toward families, with 20 connecting cabins in total and enough four-bunk rooms to make up the numbers if parents want to share with their kids. There are also enough activities to keep both tweens and teens occupied on a daily basis.
There are three rooms that are used for the three respective age groups: two on Deck 6 and a joint room split in two for the older children on Deck 12. The minimum age to attend the daytime kids' clubs is 2 years and children must be toilet trained. Youth centre staff cannot change nappies, bottle-feed, administer medication or provide meals.
The ship has a qualified team of youth and teen counsellors who offer a range of age-appropriate activities from face painting for youngsters to special dress-up-themed parties for older teens. Each day, the daily youth centre program lists a schedule of activities. If you are travelling with kids, the daily program for each age group will be delivered to your stateroom the night before.
Ages 2 to 6 Turtle Cove (Deck 6): Specialising in the needs of the ship's youngest cruisers, Turtle Cove offers everything from art and crafts, TC & Skipper Island Adventure, games, parties, Sleepyheads storytime movies and much more, including a Duplo play area. Children under the age of two are welcome in Turtle Cove if accompanied or supervised by a parent or guardian (under twos do not need to be toilet trained to visit Turtle Cove).
Ages 7 to 10 Shark Shack (Deck 6): This is the place to keep your seven to 10 year olds entertained with activities such as PlayStation 3, scavenger hunts, a large Lego play area, TC & Skipper Island Adventure, talent shows, dance classes and games. Children aged 8 and over are permitted to sign themselves in and out of the program with parental permission.
Pacific Dawn offer an exclusive children's dinner for those aged between three and 10 years at 4.30pm each day, with highchairs available if required. Baby food and infant formula are not available on the ship, but may be taken onboard.
After-hours babysitting is available from 10.30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for children ages 3 to 10. The charge is $5 per hour per child, with reduced rates for additional siblings. Pacific Dawn does not offer private babysitting onboard.
Ages 11 to 14 HQ (Deck 14) and Ages 15 to 17 HQ+ (Deck 14): HQ and HQ+ is the place older kids hang out with like-minded peers to socialise and enjoy games and events in rooms with comfy couches, a jukebox, Foosball, air hockey, movies, karaoke and the latest video games. Both rooms are decked out with the latest gadgets, have plenty of space and are located far, far away from the little kids; all of which make Dawn's HQ clubs a major hit. As part of the 2017 refurbishment, a new Sony Virtual Reality video gaming experience was added to HQ and HQ+. According to our teen tester, this high-tech gear is "absolutely awesome"a and the staff at HQ and HQ+ are fair and fun, ensuring everyone gets to have a turn.