P & O Pacific Sun by jwfhunts Australia August 12, 2009
On a cold winters evening, whilst glancing through some cruise brochures, I came across a cruise in P&O Australia's brochure on board the Pacific Sun, departing from Brisbane in August 2009 for an 17 night cruise visiting North Queensland and the Northern Territories, visiting such places as the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
Now these are areas that I had always wanted to visit and this cruise gave me the opportunity to visit these places on the one trip.
Research indicated that whilst the Pacific Sun was an older ship, in 2008, she had undergone a multi-million dollar renovation programme.
I had previously sailed on the ship when she sailed as the Jubilee in 2001.
Being from the UK, I telephoned P&O Cruises in the UK to book this cruise and was advised that they were unable to do this and I would have to contact P&O Cruises in Australia to secure the booking.
I contacted P&O cruises in Australia to be told that they could not accept my booking as I was not a resident of Australia or New Zealand and to contact P&O in London. I explained to them that they had referred me to Australia. They advised me to contact a Travel Agent in Australia to book this cruise. So much for the great Carnival Corporation of which both companies are attached to.
Nevertheless, not to be deterred, I booked the cruise though a company in Western Australia and received great service from them.
On the day of sailing, I arrived at the Cruise Terminal in Brisbane - check-in and boarding arrangements were excellent, staff was professional in their approach and friendly. Final disembarkation arrangements were excellent as well.
I had some time to spare, so I wandered around and went to view the ship from the quayside. Well, can I say what a disappointment at first sight? The ship was covered in rust - obviously it had been some considerable time since any painting had been done to the ship.
On embarkation, I was directed to my cabin, which was an inside cabin on deck 7. The cabin was spacious with crisp white bed linen. The cabin was bland, no pictures on any of the walls and seemed quite clean and fresh. The cabin was equipped with a television, light wood furniture, a hairdryer, ample storage space. Lighting was poor and the air-conditioning was working and adjustable. There was a reasonable sized en-suite with soap and a shampoo dispenser - no other toiletries were provided.
There were bathrobes and slippers available for hire.
So to explore the ship -
The main entertainment areas are located on decks 8 and 9. My initial walk around these areas showed that they were dark and gloomy, and then on to the outside decks - wow what a disappointment - they were absolutely filthy - more about that later.
These were the initial observations.The ship sailed and the cruise started.
There was a full and varied entertainment programme provided catering for everyone. I found that most of the headline shows were excellent, as were the singers and dancers. The musicians on board provided a good selection of music but this became repetitive after 17 days. I found in the main Theatre - The Atlantis Lounge, many of the seats had poor views of the stage, owing to support poles, also the seats were very uncomfortable.
This was similar in the Terraces Lounge, the additional entertainment lounge.
The energetic Cruise Director and his staff were highly visible throughout the ship, most were very friendly. Loud music blasted around the main pool area from early morning until late at night.
There are 2 main Restaurants on board the ship and a casual buffet. At night the library converts into a Steak/Seafood restaurant, at a supplement. The food in this restaurant is excellent.
The 2 Main Restaurants serve dinner and the same menus -
The Burgundy - open seating restaurant also serves breakfast and lunch. There is an excellent choice for both breakfast and lunch. Unfortunately service was very slow in this restaurant. Seldom did you get what you actually ordered. A wait of 45 minutes is totally unacceptable from having your order taken at breakfast until the first delivery of the breakfast - the fruit juice - is unacceptable - this occurred on more than one occasion. The waiters/waitresses in this restaurant seemed to lack experience and some, not all certainly had an attitude problem and were argumentative.
The Bordeaux - Reservations only restaurant on the other hand was completely different. Excellent services, with a smiling and most helpful staff - obviously the best staff are deployed here.
Dishes were well presented and hot food was indeed hot.
Both of the dining rooms have low ceilings, thus they tend to be noisy as sound travels - there are some tables for 2.
The Lido Buffet.
Here coffee and tea can be obtained on a 24 hour basis and at no extra charge - one of the few things available free on this ship.
There are 2 main serveries, a cold salad counter, a desert/fresh fruit table, a pizza station for which there is a charge and an area for specialist items. Food and menus were varied and reasonable well presented. This area too has low ceilings and is fairly dark. Difficulties were experienced especially on sea days in getting a table or finding one that needed to be cleared from previous occupants.
I found drinks to be expensive though the quality was good. Cocktails mainly were not dressed - this depended on what bar tender was preparing the cocktail.
Shore Excursion Programme.
There was a large number of shore excursion programmes available at the various ports of call. Whilst these on the whole were excellent in content - they were very, very expensive. On some occasions we joined up with others who were not passengers on the ship and who joined the tours independently paying only a fraction of the cost.
In Townsville, the meeting place for tour departures was just off the pier and was like a cattle market with the Cruise Tours Manager trying to herd passengers on to coaches using a loud hailer.
Do note that P&O (Australia) charge for all shuttle bus services at a rate of $7.00pp - on many occasions a taxi from the port into town is cheaper especially if 4 people can get together. Also in places where we had overnight stops, the shuttle operation ceased at 5.00pm.
A limited Room Service menu is available for a charge. There is also a delivery charge is you wish to have Continental Breakfast in your cabin.
As I have said, the cabin was spacious, with ample storage. Bed Linen was crisp and fresh. The mattress on my bed was sagging and after much difficulty, I managed to get a bed board support which helped me to get decent nights sleep.
The drainage in my sink was slow, sometimes taking up to 30 minutes to empty. Almost on a daily basis the toilet did not flush. My toilet was out of commission for over 24 hours just prior to leaving the ship and the only was to dispose of refuge in the appliance was by use of the shower head.
The Cabin attendant did a reasonable job in keeping the cabin tidy, but there was evidence that on some days, such cleaning was at a minimum. It was also a constant struggle with her to get fresh pool towels and ice - she said that she always forgot, with a little snigger.
On the ship, there is a spa, several shops, a casino, photo gallery, art auctioneers corner and an Ice Cream outlet. These facilities gave the usual cruise services.
There is a beautiful outdoor relaxation area to the front of the ship -spotlessly clean and with comfortable loungers - The Oasis - entrance to which is by means of payment.
The staff were always well presented and well turned out.
This was a 17 day cruise; the majority of passengers being towards the upper age limit and to me the security on board was over-the-top for this particular cruise. Some of the Security Staff were most rude and totally ignored you if you wished them a simple Good Morning or Good Afternoon. There are CCTV cameras everywhere. Let me state, I am in full support of any security measures that senior management employ in the interests of all, however is it necessary for security staff to be walking around the ship with their handcuffs dangling by their sides, or is it necessary for these same staff to walk through the restaurant at dinner - 3 in the space of 5 minutes? This is not a criticism; there may be reasons for this, but merely a comment and observation.
It would have been helpful if these members of staff had have, rather than just stood and watched taken action of passengers jumping and diving into the swimming pool, which is clearly marked "No jumping and Diving".
Disembarkation at Ports of call and tender operations are poor and a new strategy formulated.
I had been advised that this ship had a multi-dollar make over in 2008. It certainly does not appear to have been spent in the main public areas. The inside of the ship whilst reasonably clean, was dark, gloomy and tired. Furniture needs to be updated and replaced.
The interior is badly in need of painting and varnishing, especially handrails on the staircases and brasses need polished.
The public toilets were a disgrace.
Problems were experienced when all the public washing machines broke down. Elevators broke down in-fact one was not operating for the duration of the cruise.
Now to the outside of the ship - where do you start? Plastic plants abound!
Good points - Well there were plenty of sun beds mmm there were 2 swimming pools.
Rust abounded everywhere, as did the dirt - windows had not been cleaned for what looked like months. Some passengers even commented that they had paid for outside cabins, but could not see out of the windows.
The decks were washed daily, but cold water and a mop will not remove stains and grease from food and suntan oils - they need to be scrubbed. I only saw the electric polisher in operation once during the entire trip.
The only time that there were signs of any real cleaning being carried out was after two Gentlemen wearing suits and carrying clip boards, boarded the ship at I think Yorkies Knob and walked around the ship followed by a very red faced Hotel Director. Painting also followed this visit of the ships rails and the outside of the ship in the days following when we were docked in the various ports.
Perhaps if the Senior Management on this ship cared to walk through the public areas of the ship on occasions they would see for themselves the many problems on board re maintenance, fixtures and fittings.
Overall I enjoyed this cruise.
I liked the itinerary. I loved the ports of call.
I enjoyed most of the headline entertainment and the singers and dancers.
I enjoyed the meals and service in the Bordeaux Restaurant and looked forward to my evening meal in that restaurant each night.
I met so many nice friendly people, some who will remain friends for life.
P&O Cruises (Australia) need to decide are they going to be serious about cruising - Their brochure is wonderful and magnificently presented, but someone seems to suffer an overdose of imagination. So are they going to continue to be a party like cruise line, offering the basics as they do now and charge for everything, and they are not inexpensive even at their lead-in price? It is interesting to note, that three of the MAJOR cruise companies, with ships of 4 and 5 star standards will be located in Australia and New Zealand in the near future. Whilst the lead-in prices for these cruises are more expensive - from previous cruises on all three of the lines - you will get far more for your money with them.
How would I describe the ship?
"Like an old inter-island ferry, in need of a good clean and total refurbishment with enhanced dining and a sprinkling of entertainment."
I have tried to attached photographs to this review to support my views and observations but alas the system will not let me do this.