On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be a first time cruiser on P&O's newest ship, the Pacific Aria. As someone who has never thought of cruising as her ideal style of trip, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. And although it was only a short 2 nighter from Brisbane to Sydney, there was a perfect mix of activities and relaxation. Ship: Now, when I say new ship, I mean a new ship for P&O Australia.
The Pacific Aria was actually Holland America's MS Ryndam up until November 2015 when it underwent a full refurbishment for its new identity. On 25 November 2015, christened its two new ships, the Pacific Aria and the Pacific Eden. The Aria's official godmother is Jessica Mauboy, the singer. These ships are slightly smaller than the rest of P&O's fleet with a capacity of only 1500 passengers.
Cabin: As a first time cruiser, I was concerned about the size of the room and how claustrophobic I would feel. I was surprised to see the room, an oceanview category OF cabin 5039, was spacious enough and even had a lounge chair and desk area. I must admit the bathroom was tiny, but I think all cruise ship bathrooms are! To be honest, I think I would have even been happy with an interior room.
Entertainment: There are plenty of things to do, especially on sea days, of hich we had 2! Each night, the cabin stewards leave a copy of the Pacific Daily which details the following day's activities. These include: cocktail mixing classes, comedy, bingo, wine tasting, yoga (which I did) and karaoke. In the evening, we saw the late show after dinner called Sideshow Alley which was a fantastic combo of Willy Wonka and Moulin Rouge. If anyone is worried they won't like cruising because they get restless, there is more than enough to keep you entertained each day and night.
Relaxation: The first morning we had on the ship, I woke up early for a yoga class in the gym. Whilst halfway through a downward dog, the instructor told us all to come to the window as there were wild dolphins jumping alongside the boat. What an amazing experience! As I was on the ship for travel agent training purposes, I thought it was my duty to try out the spa also so I had my first ever manicure with a lovely beauty therapist from South Africa. Again, there were great views of the water whilst relaxing!
Food: There were many options for food on the ship but below I will detail the main restaurants:
- The Pantry: the new version of the traditional buffet, a casual dining experience with different stations including Mexican, Indian, Fish and Chips and a salad bar.
- Salt Grill by Luke Mangan: this is the only speciality restaurant that charges a fee but it is totally worth it for the celebrity chef food quality and service. It is only $39AUD for lunch and $49AUD for dinner.
- Dragon Lady (pan-Asian) and Angelo's (Italian): Both of these speciality restaurants are free on-board and I can attest the food at Dragon Lady is unique and to-die-for.
- Chef's Table: at only $95AUD for a full 7 course degustation including matching wines this is great value! The chef picks local and fresh ingredients and experiment with the menu to produce an unmissable event for up to 14 guests.
Tips for First Time Cruisers:
- Take it from a travel agent, make sure you have travel insurance! Did know, even on domestic cruise you must take out an international policy to cover you for the medical centre on-board which is technically in 'international waters'.
- Pack essential items in your carry on as sometimes your bags may not be delivered to your room until later in the afternoon.
- If the cruise line gives you the option, always pick the earliest possible boarding time so you can check out the ship before it is full of people. Especially as a first time cruiser!
Are you a first time cruiser or serial cruise fanatic? A lady I work with has been on over 23 cruises! I would love to hear your good and bad cruising experiences below.
Check out P&O cruises here for some great last minute deals and more on the Pacific Aria.