The general layout of the ship (Pacific Aria) was pretty great, just about every detail of the ship could not have gone unnoticed even if you tried (it was all very well thought out and looked stunning, basically) - very lovely wait staff, we loved loved LOVED going to bed with a new literary full of a huge variety of activities to look forward to for the next day. The entertainment in terms of the shows we witnessed on board were below expectations unfortunately - It was a bit disappointing to see the same performers recycled into most of the shows and we heard nothing new in terms of vocal talent or range (except from the two main male singers) within those shows mainly from the female lead singer - she just did not suit all of her roles except one which was for the lyrical dance show. It was super cringeworthy watching her sing huge ballads like Adele and Whitney Houston as it was nasal sounding and generally off-putting. I left most of the shows just as disappointed, if not more, if I were on land watching a show at QPAC expecting it to be of a stupendous standard - except I spent hundreds of dollars to sit on a ship and watch what I watched. All criticisms aside, I can certainly appreciate all the work, choreography practice and singing practice that went into each show - not to mention all the back stage crew, sound, lighting, everything. Really taking a moment to appreciate those elements and everything that goes on behind the scenes is truly inspiring. The comedic acts and the puppet performer were pretty good too - I wish that there were a comedy night every night - provided it wasn't the same comedian being recycled over and over every night - that would have been awesome. We also experienced an incompetent security "officer" on the night of the Gatsby Party in the Mix Bar who pulled my partner aside to wrongly accuse him about offering alcohol to an underage girl - pointing to me and making incorrect assumptions - he was rude and unapologetic for his treatment toward my partner and this will not go unnoticed as we will make sure to place a complaint against him. Aside from that negative experience, the general crew on board were very friendly and accommodating. Our cabin stewards were very lovely and treated us very well. However, the food could have been better in terms of the selections of onboard inclusive restaurants. In Dragon Lady, the food service was just crap in our experience. The food portions were TINY and the food was something we probably could have grabbed from the Pantry on the other level of the ship. It was not "Asian fusion" at all as they describe themselves - to put it bluntly, the food was no way near as fancy as the restaurant/decor looked. Angelo's described themselves as Italian but the simple spaghetti bolognese I ordered tasted like home brand Woolworths spaghetti in a can. It actually did. The tiny meatball serves in the dish tasted like dried variations of left-over meat, I felt sick afterward. I understand that when you're on a ship for a week, there's only so much you can do with meals - but come on, if that's what it's going to be like, you may as well just have one big buffet so we don't get our hopes up with the super fancy restaurant layouts, promising a delicious non-buffet style meal - and yet, we could have felt a lot more satisfied had we dined at the buffet Pantry anyways. The Waterfront did prove to be the best of the restaurant selections - however the one and ONLY time we dined for breakfast was a dreadful experience, we ended up going to the pantry straight after for a proper fulfilling breakfast. We ordered a cinnamon porridge - how can you get something so simple wrong?! The oats were hardly visible in the copious amounts of water (literally drowning in water) and there appeared to be no cinnamon added - It was just tasteless. Even after we spoke with the waiter about it, I was served a new bowl of cinnamon porridge - but it was the exact.same.thing - not even cinnamon was going to save that, and believe me, we tried! The other food selections from the menu were literally that of what we could have ordered from the Pantry but twice the waiting time, which was a huge disappointment. Definitely did not put us in a good mood for that day of our holiday. Thankfully, we noticed the lovely waiter took the criticism of the food seriously and wrote a note to send to the chef, which we greatly appreciated. An extra brownie point would have been awarded to P&O if they had have provided actual OJ for breakfast at The Pantry - Not going to lie, my heart broke a little when I had that first sip. I felt like I had been cheated on. On that note, more beverage choices would have been nice aside from the free water (I know right, FREE WATER! Don't bother paying for that bottled water crap it's literally the cheap branded water anyways just go to the buffet ya'll) Aside from the mediocre food and drinks on board (but lovely desserts nonetheless) we enjoyed our time off the boat. In terms of off-shore activities: Don't be fooled into thinking you have to book all your activities with P&O - Just REMEMBER! You have paid X amount for the CRUISE... That's right, so don't think you HAVE to fork out an extra $$$$$$$$$ to ensure you have a good time off shore just because you have some sort of FOMO (fear of missing out, FYI). On our first stop at Noumea, New Caledonia, we didn't bother booking any tours because 1. P&O off shore tours are pricey and I heard that it's so not worth what you're paying for - 2. When we arrived at Noumea it was a Sunday and if you know anything, Noumea is the capital city of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia. Basically, the Europeans close up shop on Sundays. So it was practically a ghost town. Not to mention the fact that you'd be lucky to get a cab out there as there was ONE taxi rank in the city center of Ghost Town. To add to that, when we ended up discovering one end of Noumea to the other (literally, we walked all the way to the other side of the island to see some resort) we were lucky enough that this resort was fancy enough to call a taxi and that ONE taxi man took forever to get to us. I mean, we could have walked to the other side of the island and back before he finally turned up - and he was a super douchey cab driver, too. Not that that is P&O's fault though. Mare, New Caledonia was beautiful - we did book through P&O cruises considering it was by far the cheapest "activity" and really.. One of the only things you CAN do in Mare. We visited the stunning Yejele beach. It looks just like it did in the photos. That's how you know it's good. The people were lovely and it was just a good time. I suggest bringing your own snorkel gear and maybe a little shade tent so you don't have to pay for second hand over used snorkel gear and chairs and what not - but then again, that's part of how they make their money so I wouldn't want to take that away from the people of Mare. So maybe don't listen to me... Port Villa, Vanuatu was great as well but once again, we didn't book with P&O either. We, alongside many other passengers, winged it because once you hop off the boat, there are HEAPS of locals with their cars, mini busses and boats to take you around port villa. You can barter with them on a decent price for what you want to do/where you want to go and then you go! Always be weary though, but people were generally nice in Port Villa. We met a family before we got off the boat and they booked privately for a tour all around with all inclusive local food, activities, etc. Only $85 per person which got you a tour all around Port Villa, some pretty indepth and interesting story telling about Vanuatu, fresh fruit platter and lunch, a stop at the duty free shop, the markets, the water fall, blue lagoon and the turtle sanctuary! So much fun! Aside from waking up on our last morning to this beastly cockroach that managed to escape past customs and onto the ship and make a home in our cabin, our first cruise experience was one we would remember because of the lovely people we met, the activities we did, the lovely accommodating staff and all the fun we had. We would still recommend a P&O cruise for those very reasons. It's certainly an experience!
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