The Marquee is a two-deck, 600-seat theatre with full audio-visual staging, where the main entertainment is held twice a night. The theatre features a mauve colour scheme, with Tiffany-style lamps and brass handrails. Sightlines can be an issue, particularly on the top deck, so arrive early if you want a good seat. The stand-alone seats at the front of the stage offer some of the best views, provided you are game enough to sit near the front.
The shows have been created by an Australian production company with two headliners -- Sideshow Alley, an all-ages musical about the wacky characters behind the scenes of a circus, and Twice Upon A Time, an original lyrical dance piece set in a post-apocalyptic world -- both of which are only available on Pacific Eden and her sister ship, Pacific Area. Showtimes are 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., and bar service is provided.
On other nights, there are three music shows, Off the Charts, The Velvet Rope and Life As We Know It, or game shows, a magician or comedians, who often do an all-ages gig early in the night, followed by an adults-only show. This late-night show is a lot of fun but it is rated R18+ for a reason, so not for those who are easily offended.
On some mornings, the theatre is used for lectures and future cruise talks, and in the afternoon it's time for Snowball Jackpot Bingo. If a port day is canceled, you will likely find additional shows or entertainment options here, to help pass the time at sea.
There are least two activities happening at any given time onboard. As is often the case, those associated with the spa often involve a sales opportunity, but it is easy to avoid the hard sell and keep your focus firmly on fun. On top of the usual bingo and trivia that you find on cruises, there are also cha-cha dance classes, mindful colouring sessions, shuffleboard games, meditation, speed Sudoku and live music on the top deck. Craft workshops are often themed for the next party, such as Gatsby-style headband-making. Sports include table tennis, three-on-three basketball, volleyball, half-court tennis, quoits, boules, golf putting and pool games. Check the What's On program in your cabin for details.
Aside from drinking in the bars and seeing a show in the theatre, Pacific Eden has theme parties such as Bianco, where everyone wears white, and a Gatsby night for some 1920s glamour. Live music takes over most of the bars and lounges, from jazz to funk to piano melodies; karaoke kicks off late, and the adults-only comedy club is deservedly popular.
The casino on Deck 8 is a glitzy, nonsmoking space 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).
The entertainment in Pacific Eden's bars is impressive, with talented musicians and groups playing everything from jazz and blues to rock, R'n'B and cocktail piano tunes. With bars to suit every mood, it is tempting to start early and stay up late, moving from bar to bar to catch different acts. Musicians often switch venues -- and bands -- making it easy to lose track of favourite performers. Ask the bar staff who will point you in the right direction.
If you see a trivia activity featuring live music, don't miss it. You'll be dazzled by the musicians' talent, and probably laughing uncontrollably at times, as the cheeky one-upmanship between rival band members is a sight to behold.
Blue Room (Deck 8): Featuring a smooth instrumental jazz quartet in the early evening and late-night funk or R'n'B, the Blue Room can get packed, particularly from 10 p.m. onwards. Perch on one of the velvet couches facing the stage, or join the crowd around the perimeter of the room, where people stop to watch the show on their way to other parts of the ship. It can get loud, but the Blue Room is one of the most elegant and lively venues on the ship.
Mix Bar (Deck 8): Located midship, this bar is home to a traditional cocktail-style piano, with barstools around the edge, and plenty of other lounge-style seating. When there is a musical act at Mix Bar, it can get busy, but otherwise this bar remains fairly quiet, making it a good bet when other venues are full. Away from the piano, there is an adjoining area catering to sports lovers, with a television behind the bar showing local football games when the ship is in satellite range. If you want to sip and shop, Pacific Eden's onboard retailers are located directly opposite this bar.
Ocean Bar (Deck 8): Ocean Bar is light and airy, with peppermint-striped wallpaper 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 that are regularly held here. A row of green chaise lounges provide the perfect spot to relax with a good book and a coffee or glass of wine, particularly if the weather precludes spending a day on deck. Live music starts at 7:30 p.m., with a focus on acoustic tunes and conversation.
Cellar Door (Deck 8): You can't visit this cellar door at sea for a drink, however a Hunter Valley's Glandore Estate Wines representative conducts tutored wine tastings at various times throughout the cruise. Passengers are guided through two tasting menus ($14 and $18), with the option to purchase a bottle. The wines are also available for purchase off the wine list at some of the restaurants.
Salt Grill Bar (Deck 8): With red, white and black decor, a grand piano and elaborate winged chairs, this is one of the most visually striking onboard bars. It's also empty most of the time. During the day, it's a good spot to get online as the bar is near a Wi-Fi hotspot. Cocktails, using fresh ingredients, are a specialty, but you might be the only person enjoying one, even when the Salt Grill restaurant is open next door.
Monkey Bar (Deck 8): Officially called The Bar, but best known for its monkey motif wallpaper, this is the place to book in person for Angelo's, Dragon Lady, Chef's Table and Salt Grill. While you can sit at the bar and have a drink, you will likely be distracted by the steady stream of arriving and departing diners.
Oasis Bar (Deck 10): The child-free Oasis has an outdoor poolside bar for grown-ups looking to relax while watching the sun set or gazing out over the ship's wake. Poolside drinks service is also available at peak times.
Pool Bar (Deck 11): The midship pool has a bar with a few barstools, but most of the seating can be found around the edge of the pool deck. The retractable roof and covered areas along the side enable open-air drinking in all weather. A difference from other P&O ships is the entire pool bar is nonsmoking.
The Dome (Deck 12): At the front of the ship, this lounge has ocean views and an eye-watering purple and orange colour scheme. By day, the lounge area is used for classes and seminars; but late at night, the party people take over. From 8 p.m. the venue hosts themed parties such as the Back to School Party, first for teens and then for the grown-ups from 9:30 p.m. From 10:30 p.m. onwards, it transforms into a dance club. In 2017 its decor was refreshed with a blue and white nautical theme, new curtains and soft lighting.
With its wooden decking and navy-and-white-striped sun lounges, this pool deck is reminiscent of a chic French Riviera hotel. A retractable roof means this area, which also includes two hot tubs, is useable in all weather, although you might have to fight it out with the kids for a spot in the pool. The whole pool area is nonsmoking.
Things can get a little crazy in the main pool when there are lots of kids onboard, so the adults-only pool, on the Oasis deck, is a welcome addition. Located at the stern, it has stunning views of the ship's wake and a peaceful atmosphere. You can relax, unbothered by children or loud music, on the 80 sun lounges, four day beds, two cabanas and hanging pod chairs. There isn't much shade so remember to slip, slop, slap and watch out for those comfy, contoured lounges: We saw more than a few sunburned passengers who confessed to falling asleep in their soft, stripy embrace.
Sports can be found on the top deck, which has tennis and basketball courts and the P&O Edge Adventure Park. P&O Edge comprises 14 activities such as walk the plank, ropes courses, flying fox, laser tag, funnel climbing and abseiling. They're billed as "blood-pumping" but most of them are relatively tame. You can buy a Bronze ($99 adults/$89 kids), Silver (adults $139/$119 kids) or Gold (adults $165/$129 kids) pass for the Edge, for up to two activities per day. The more expensive passes include premium activities such as laser tag and Segway rides. Complimentary activities such as golf putting, quoits and Ping-Pong can also be enjoyed portside on Deck 6. Staff organise family sports such as dodge ball, touch football, boules and pool games, so keep an eye on the daily program. The ship does not have a jogging track.
The two spaces to sunbathe are the all-weather midship pool on Deck 10 and the adults-only Oasis on Deck 11.
The ship has a guest services desk, shore excursions desk, photo, video and LIFE studio for professional portraits, meeting rooms and a medical centre (Deck 4).
The shopping area, adjacent to the Mix Bar and casino, offers tax-free and duty-free prices on jewellery, watches, fragrance and cosmetics. The line's new Pandora store cuts 10 percent off the recommended retail price of bracelets, charms and other jewellery, and has an appealing selection of nautical charms. Duty-free alcohol and cigarettes are also sold onboard. Other stores include Chocobloc chocolate and lollies shop, and Essentials for toiletries, cruise-friendly clothing, sunglasses and souvenirs.
Decks 5, 6 and 9 have self-service launderettes with coin-operated washing machines and dryers, which cost $3 to use (including detergent). For an extra charge, a laundry service is provided. Just leave your dirty clothes in the laundry bag in your cabin before noon and it will be returned clean and pressed within two days. An express ironing service will have your shirts back in 30 minutes.
Wi-Fi is available in cabins and throughout the ship, using your phone, tablet or laptop, for an extra charge. Six computers are set up for passengers on the lowest level of the atrium but most people use their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
All cabins have a satellite phone, which costs $7 per minute; however, it is free to call another cabin or any of the passenger services onboard. Your phone will work when at sea, but your provider will charge all calls, texts and data at global roaming rates, so it is advisable to switch off your mobile data or put your phone in airplane mode.
The first Elemis spa on a P&O cruise ship, Elemis at Sea (Deck 11) offers a range of facials using the brand's high-end products, as well as many types of massages, body wraps, pedicures, manicures, acrylic nails, waxing, lash enhancements, brow tinting and shaping, and treatments that claim to offer detoxifying and slimming effects. (Charges apply; discounts are offered if you purchase more than one treatment.) There is also a full range of hairdressing services, men's grooming, acupuncture, teeth whitening, dermal fillers and wrinkle injections.
A thermal suite is set up for quiet relaxation with five heated benches, sauna, steam room, hot tub and monsoon showers. As only five people can sit on the coveted sea-facing lounges, you may not get to use the room immediately before or after your treatment. A limited number of thermal suite passes are also sold to use the facilities without booking a treatment.
In prime position at the front of the ship, the gym on Deck 11 has treadmills, exercise bikes and strengthening equipment that passengers aged 16 and older can use free of charge. It is a large area for a ship of this size, with quality machines and a recent refurb. There are daily complimentary fitness classes, such as stretching and abs workouts, as well as fee-based Pilates, yoga, indoor cycling, personal training and a body sculpt boot camp. The room, which is spacious enough to exercise comfortably, has floor-to-ceiling windows so you can workout with an ocean view.
Despite its chic new look, this P&O ship is still aimed at families. Kids and teen clubs, divided into age groups, are free of charge and staffed by qualified youth and teen counsellors. Some youngsters we spoke to were disappointed the kids' areas on Pacific Eden were smaller and 'not as fancy' as the ones they had enjoyed on other P&O ships. However, those who had access to it loved the P&O Edge Adventure Park. If your children are active and adventurous, an Edge pass could be money well spent, particularly for tweens and teens.
For some family bonding, family sports and craft activities are organised by the crew. Some of these, like T-shirt painting, are at an additional cost. This is noted in the Pacific Daily, but not printed on the kids club program, which could catch some parents out when they arrive at the venue with their kids, ready to participate (but not necessarily to hand over extra cash). Selected shore excursions have reduced prices for kids aged 2 to 12. And when it's time to sleep, interconnecting cabins allow up to eight people to spread across two rooms.
All kids clubs are located on Deck 12 aft (behind the sports courts).
Turtle Cove, ages 2 to 6: Young cruisers are entertained with art and crafts, the TC & Skipper Island Adventure show, games, parties, movies and Sleepyheads Storytime. Limited numbers are permitted in Turtle Cove, so book early if you are planning on doing a shore excursion that isn't suitable for little ones. Infants under the age of 2 are also welcome in Turtle Cove, provided they are supervised by a parent or guardian.
Shark Shack, ages 7 to 10: Older kids can enjoy talent shows, movies, arts and crafts, Wii tennis challenges and outdoor activities such as scavenger hunts and water balloon soccer.
Opening hours depend on the day. On a sea day, Turtle Cove and Shark Shack open between 9 a.m. and noon and again from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The kids clubs close for lunch.
After-hours babysitting is available from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for children ages 3 to 10 only. The charge is $5 per hour per child, with reduced rates for additional siblings.
HQ opens from 9 a.m. to noon and HQ+ from 10 a.m. to noon; both are then open from 2 to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Children aged 8 and older are permitted to sign themselves in and out of the program with parental permission.
The minimum age to attend the daytime kids clubs is 2 years and they must be toilet trained. Youth centre staff cannot change nappies, bottle-feed, administer medication or provide meals. Baby food and infant formula are not available on the ship, but you can bring your own supply.
This age group is split in two, with separate areas for each. HQ is for ages 11 to 14 and HQ+ is for ages 15 to 17. These supervised clubs are where teenagers hang out although the HQ area, in particular, is extremely small. Most of the older kids seemed to prefer meeting up with friends and making their own fun elsewhere, although the gaming consoles were popular. Activities include Teen Jam music sessions, dress-up parties, mocktail parties, karaoke, video games and movies. The Broadshorts program is a great initiative that teaches them to make a short film using Stop Motion Pro technology. Outdoor activities are also organised by the youth staff. Both teen clubs were revitalised during the ship's dry dock in August 2017.