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P&O Pacific Encounter - Cruise Review - 13th Oct – 20th Oct 2023 – North Queensland


Ozwoody
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Cruise Review

Preamble

Hi, this cruise review is provided to give people who have not travelled on a P&O Australia cruise ship, a review of what we experienced on our cruise on the Pacific Encounter for the 13th Oct North Queensland cruise.

 

We have previously cruised on the Encounter November 2022, which was our first cruised with P&O Australia.

On that cruise we travelled with my wife’s sister and her husband, unfortunately it was not to be the cruise we had hoped for.

Due to few minor glitches at the beginning, nothing major, but then my wife came down with Covid.

The protocols imposed by the Covid mandated for cruise requirements, had an unfortunate influence on that cruise.

So, we have venture forth again on The Encounter with a fresh attitude and anticipation of a new enjoyable cruise.

 

I have tried to be balanced, and fair in this review, but it is from my prospective, as a senior aged cruiser.

How be it, with a fair few cruise seadays experience under my belt.

 

Hopefully it will be helpful and give a fair evaluation of our P&O experience.

 

I have decided to break the review up into the following sections, and will post them each individually, both for easier reading and so if a particular section is of interest, it can be skipped too, relatively easily.

 

Section 1 – The Ship

Section 2 – Dinning

Section 3 – Menus

Section 4 – Staff/Service

Section 5 – Itinerary

Section 6 – Summary

 

Please comment if you like, or ask questions if needed, regards Ozwoody

 

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Section 1 – The Ship

General back Ground Knowledge

The ship is an old Princess ship called the Star Princess, and served with that line from 2002 to 2021.

With a capacity of approximately 2600 passengers.

Launched in 2001, that makes her 22 years old.

She was transferred to the P&O Australia fleet in 2021 and re-christened Pacific Encounter.

She was one of the grand class ships that had the winged venue over the rear deck, generally used as a night club venue.

P&O gave her public areas, an extensive re-fit out, to suit their market knitch. Which appears to me to be a Budget Line aimed at families, and the younger party adults.

Although, there were plenty of the more senior travellers as well.

 

Embarkation

We arrived at the BICT at 10:55am, with a scheduled boarding of 12:30am.

Parking in the P1 Parking area.

The car park was lightly used with plenty of shaded parking close to the terminal.

On approaching the terminal, there were a large number of people sitting around, similar to our last cruise on the encounter, so expect a similar long embarkation.

The dropping off our cases at the bag drop of was quick and smooth.

We then approached the P&O line steward and showed them our tickets and to our pleasant surprise we were waved straight through to check in.

Check in process was very smooth, well organised, and very friendly, and we were on board by 11:20am.

Checking our dinning plan in the cabin, (which is advisable to do as soon as you can if travelling in/with a group, to ensure you are all in the same dining rooms, and at the same time), again pleasantly surprised to find that P&O had got our dinning arrangements correct with our family members all linked to the same early dinning schedule, a big improvement over the last time, in which we were spread over different time slots and dining rooms.

 

Accommodation

Cabin was pretty much like our previous cruise, room shows signs of aged deterioration and is quite shabby in presentation.

A pity the balcony did not show any signs of love, signs of advanced corrosion and lack of a decent repaint, and a varnish of the hand rail, where bare wood was showing through.

I think it’s a pity P&O has not put any effort into sprucing up their accommodation side of their ship.

The balcony was in the poor condition, can only describe it as very, very sad.

 

The shower floor tiles were the worst part of the ships neglect. It was heavily moldy which is not only disgusting, but a real health issue. This issue is a big RED X in ship presentation.

 

This is not the fault of the room stewards, its way outside their abilities to fix, as in my opinion the grouting needs to be removed and replaced and sealed, as the mould is deep into the grouting.

Note also the affect the mould is having on the shower curtain at the bottom.

 

Exploring the Ship

Spent the rest of the day exploring the ship and re-familiarising ourselves of the ships layout.

All the public areas are excellent, clean, and modern.

The ship is a bit of a rabbit warren, and can be a bit confusing at first, but if you spend a little time familiarising yourself with the layout, you will be a sailor in no time.

As a venue I liked the Blue Room, it was very comfy and cosy, pity that the bar only seemed to be open for evenings, but still it was a nice place for quite time during the day.

The Encounter Hotel area looks and operates just like any city bar, and was just as busy and crowded.

It was obviously kitted out for the demographics they are catering for. It was very popular every night. One of the acts there, (an older guy) was partially good, I enjoyed his singing and music.

There was plenty of entertainment all round the ship, most of it very, very good.

 

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Section 2 – Dinning

Breakfast Meals (Pantry)

Arrived most days at around 6am.

The Pantry was only lightly busy, with plenty of tables generally available, except on the tender day and the last day, both understandable considering. But we still managed to find ourselves a table by just standing ready for a max 5 minutes then pounced on a vacating table.

 

Meals were pretty much the same each day. It seemed to me they had a three-day cycle with a very limited menu.

Cooked Foods Available

Baked beans, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, small sausages, tomato pears in sauce, roast potato wedges, and white or brown toast. Every day. with some rotating options, like a bean casserole or something similar.

 image.png.6430f91f9dc7764dffb8e998c469e69a.png

Baked Beans & Tomatoes Bar                                       

image.png.d345923a5b59fa94f527f1bd0557129e.png

Bacon & Eggs & Sausages Bar

 

Cold Foods Available

Now this was a mixed bag, it didn’t change to any extent, every day there was, oatmeal porridge, rice crispies, whole grain chocolate flavoured serial, brand flakes, milk (full cream), and milk denatured (skimmed), sliced peaches, Prunes, fruit salad, plain yogurt, Bircher muesli, yogurt with granola sultana & almond with raspberry or some other topping.

I think the main change each day was something called a “Congee” which it seemed everyone except me has heard off.

The Congee changed daily, and my wife assured me it was very nice. (Unfortunately, it’s name sounded to me, too similar to a name of a marine growth, I use to dig of ocean rocks for fish bait. So gave it a miss.)

In addition, the Sugar Bar also supplied toast and butter and jams, and some miscellaneous buns and muffin thingies.

All in all, not a great selection, but what was served I was happy with the quality and quantity, sometimes I had a hot meal, sometimes a cold brekkie. (um maybe sometimes both ).

Let’s face it most people have the same breakfast every day at home, so were probably getting a reasonable selection compared.

 image.png.a91feef5707667d3499c1ec1ccaf62b5.png

Serial & Milk Bar

 image.png.8247620b18902b588bfe3bf147749f9e.png

Yogurts & fruit Salad Bar

image.png.840d42b1d79995996fbec16cfa8cc2f9.png

Congee & Oatmeal Porridge Bar

 

 

Lunch (in the Pantry)

Now we come to P&Os version of a buffet, except they call it “Shop Fronts”, their blurbs tell you they have nine shop fronts to serve international meals.

And I quote

THE PANTRY

9 DELICIOUSLY DIFFERENT VENUES

Bye-bye buffet! The Pantry is unlike anything you’ve seen on a cruise before. It offers

interactive dining with a range of stylish, individual outlets offering contemporary

Australian and international cuisine. Night or day, there’s something for everyone in

The Pantry.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

The dining options are:

Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Tex Mex), Hook’s Fish & Chips (Australian), Stix (Asian), Fat Cow (Roasts), Nic & Toni’s (Italian), McGregors Garden (Salads), Kettle & Bun (Buns & sandwiches & soups), and the Sugar Bar (Sweets).

 

All sounds good hay!

Well, it’s a bit like their breakfast, they have their staples, and rotate through some variable of the same theme.

There does need to be some clarification on some of those “Shop Fronts”

Basically, on the Endeavour at least, its just the same buffet, just given some loose theme names’

Nic & Toni’s I missed the first few times, could not find it, it’s basically a small, (approximately 800mm wide) window wedged between two other “shop fronts”, I only ever seen it display one dish at a time, and a sign to say gluten free meals were available by request.

And for me and a number of people I have spoken to, McGregors Garden was a disappointment, as it was very lacking in salad choices, just the very basic stuff.

The Kettle & Bun, and the Sugar Bar, also in my opinion were also not partially great either.

Rated them as adequate but that’s about it.

How ever all the other so called “shop fronts” I felt provided generally very edible meals. I had no complaints with any of my meals.

     image.png.f2c9d2ffe7fa59eea20d2a21614da7bb.png

 Mexicana Shop Front  

image.png.3d44211f613fd33cb1cd1869da06de67.png

Curry House Shop Front                        

image.png.b2034d6e96e6ec57b5d62ff432abd652.png

 Nic & Toni’s Shop Front     

 image.png.538529f2d484ad76ee302ff4771c4b79.png

Hooks Shop Front   

image.png.8faeb8d8cd3fced7573e65c6aee974e0.png

Stix Shop Front

The Fat Cow Shop Front was located between Nic and Hooks shop fronts, unfortunately each time I tried to take a photo of it, a bundle of people would flood in front of me.

 

As far as the sweets went most seemed to be based on a cake mix base.

The puddings which changed daily with vanilla custard, were nice, only comment was that the custard was always a too runny.

Had a couple of the bun type sandwiches from the Kettle & Bun, they were ok, average sandwiches shop stuff, nice quick meal if you were in a hurry.

 

However, even though it’s an interesting alternative to the standard cruise buffet, I still do not really like the pantry concept, I’m sure a lot of people probably would like it, and give it a big green tick, but not this little black duck, I’m sorry did not really grab me at all, preferred a standard buffet.

 

One good thing about the shop fronts, the staff served you your meals, much better health wise, which can be a problem on a cruise when passengers fail to use basic hygiene, like washing hands, and not handling the food.

 

Dinner (We tried all three MDR’s, Angelo’s, Waterfront, and the Dragon Lady.)

We dined in Angelo’s the 1st & 4th Nights and in the Waterfront on the 2nd & 5th nights, and in the Dragon Lady for the 3rd & 6th nights, then decided we preferred the Dragon Lady for the final two nights.

 

The Waterfront MDR, venue is pleasant and equivalent to most modern restaurants.

We found that the Waterfront was a little hit and miss with food presentation, we had fish that was dry and tough, other mains that were not served hot enough, quite luke warm. So, after second meal there, decided to skip them for reminder of the cruise. Most of our meal were really good just a couple that let them down.

 

Angelo’s had a nicer ambience to the Waterfront, and the meal were mostly excellent, we enjoyed it there, but we really like the Dragon Lady, so settled on going there for the last two meal. If there had been a longer cruise probably would have returned to Angelo’s.

 

The Dragon Lady ambience was excellent, felt it was intimate and cosy, and I enjoyed the dim lighting.

It is I think an immersion experience, the whole ambiance is like travelling to Asia, the décor is a very tasteful Asian restaurant with subdued lighting, but I like it, it felt comfortable to be sitting there.

However, there was a few grumbles from people in my group saying they found it difficult to read the menus.

I personally managed ok, but if your eyes like bright light around you all the time, the Dragon Lady may not suit you. Maybe I’m a bit of an old romantic, but I found it really nice in there.

 

Pantry at night

We never tried the Pantry for an evening meal, might have on a longer cruise, but not keen on buffet meals for diner meals.

 

Coffee Shops

The Avalon Café, get a big shout out for its coffee and hot chocolate. My wife is very fussy with her coffee, and she says the Avalon staff, make the best coffee she’s ever had at sea. Full marks to them.

And I will give them a good rep for their hot chocolate as well.

 

Ice-cream Bar on Pool Deck

The hot chocolate from here was just as good as the Avalon’s.

Did not partake in any of their other wares, as I’m a bit of a cheap skate, and refused to pay $5.95 for a single cone of ice-cream, let alone $7.95 for a double, or $9.95 for a triple.

 

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Section 3 – Menus

For general information

I found there was a serious lack of menus available at venues around the ship.

Below are a number of menus that I found were available around the ship, to give you an idea of the costs, and what is available.

image.png.b77d62361dfcec478b49dc3768dac08c.png   

 

 image.png.28f88fc276587f64e9f596aea07a9345.png

 

image.png.309ed469714033c6ea91908fb0046eb8.png

 

image.png.a0a9b624963fec3e6998bd77f2e5397f.png

 

image.png.53d66392faefcac9b83c14c46d15b4c5.png

 

image.png.1327775caedc65d37c0c426bdd7e97ca.png

   

 image.png.b9eac32d9ea68f0e61fe375e0aebd325.png

Not sure where this one was       

image.png.0d2667e36e334c330c125f062665266f.png

Ice-cream Bar on Pool Deck Menu

 

 

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Section 4 – Staff/Service

Dinning Staff

All of the dinning staff, breakfast, lunch, & dinner, were excellent, and tried to accommodate all requests, with in their limits. Unfortunately, P&Os policy of charging for everything, limits them, a request by my wife for some salad with a particular meal instead of the French fries, incurred an extra charge of $5. That sort of gouging thing, does leave me a bit grumpy with the management side. Just seems mean.

 

Cabin Staff

The cabin staff were excellent, very friendly, remembered your names, and your cabin preferences.

Did feel that they were a little under staffed, but it’s probably the economic times were living in at the moment.

 

Staff over all

All the staff we came in contact with were diligent and pleasant, and efficient.

The only thing we felt was that they were not enough of them, for instance, the que lined up for coffee at the Avalon Café was quite often snaking around the room, felt like we should take a cut lunch when we lined up to get coffee.

 

Also there does not seem to be staff moving around the ship preforming maintenance, like we have been used too on previous voyages. Maybe it still taking a while for the cruise lines to get back to full operating levels, hopefully its not the new normal.

Lack of staff performing general maintenance would explain the poor room conditions.

 

Must say dining room desk staff were excellent, and were very accommodating as to our changing wishes as to dinning preferences.

Service in general was fine but at busy times drink waiters seemed difficult to catch as they were constantly very busy.

Information desk was generally well run, very busy at times but still maintained their pleasant smiles and demure.

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Section 5 – Itinerary

The itinerary was very basic, and ideal for the type of cruise we were after, which was laid back, relax and enjoy no pressure.

There was the necessary sail by Willis Island so the cruise qualified to sell duty free. (Supposedly international waters you see). Then onto Cairns for a two day stop over, then finally Airlie Beach for one day, then head on back home.

Suited us just fine.

 

Cairns

We docked right next to the city, and would have to be in the same group for convenience as ports such as Sydney’s circular quay, Auckland City, and New York Manhattan. Not as large obviously but definitely good for convenience.

 

We went for a walk around Cairns CBD, visited the Cairns Art Gallery, Excellent, art is displayed over two large floor areas, and well worth the visit.

 

That is, with one cravat, one room displaying an American so called artist, was a disgrace to be included as art IMHO. To cut up cardboard packing boxes and randomly stick the pieces to a wall and call it art, or to open a small square cardboard package, turn it upside down on a table and call that art, or to paint the top of an A4 sheet orange and the bottom green, then cut a large square out of the middle and hang it as art, has got to be a hideous joke. That’s MHO anyhow.

 

Also visited the Cairns Museum, and again definitely worth a visit, well laid out over three levels.

You take a lift to the top level and work your way down, warning the floor areas are extensive, and it will take you a while to work your way around and down.

 

Next day we went for a long walk circumnavigating most of the CBD area of Cairns, the city is a gem of historic building architecture, with some of the most classic building of its heritage still on show, to enjoy.

Hope they continue to preserve them. The foreshore areas were also wonderful to stroll around.

 

After several hours of exploring, we made it back to the ship in time for a very late lunch.

 

Airlie Beach – (Tender Port)

Our tender ticket was for 11:50am, a bit late, (Took me some time to work out how the tender ticket app worked) but Airlie Beach is not that big so were happy enough, with the time slot allotted to us.

 

Day looks a little grim, we were advised that it was likely to rain, we’re not fussed, quite happy to veg out on board.

A lot of people went ashore, and evidently had a good day.

Shuttles from ship were two large catamarans each capable of holding about 2 ½ to 3 life boat shuttles each, in much better comfort, and travelling at higher speed making the, each way trip much faster, and smoother.

Excellent co-ordination with P&O and the local council, well done, took a painful tendering process and made it a breeze. Resulting in very happy Vegemite’s.

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Section 6 – Summary

Final Thoughts on our P&O Aust Cruise 13th Oct 23.

 

Check in organisation.

Excellent, very smooth, we turned up early expecting to have a long wait till our nominated boarding time. However, we no sooner dropped our bags off, and a staff member was immediately directing us into the small que in front of us. From arrival at the BICT until we were on board, check out our cabin and dinning schedule, and heading for the Pantry for lunch, was less than 30 minutes. Definitely could not fault their check in procedures at all, it could not have been smoother.

And the dinning schedule was exactly as we hoped for.

A big double tick to start our cruise.

 

Demographics On Board

I know that P&O Aust has positioned its self as a budget cruise line for families and for younger adult’s party cruising.

But when we booked for non-school holiday period, did not expect the cruise to have huge numbers of kids on the cruise, but this cruise was packed with them.

They were not in general badly behaved, in fact the kids were mostly well behaved, just kids having fun.

But boy can kids having fun, can be noisy!

They did not spoil the cruise, but as being in the older age group (Grumpy old buggers), do prefer the quieter cruises with an older general demographics.

 

Feel of the ship

Over all, in general the cruise was quite good; staff great, food in general good.

It was the little things that has put me off cruising with P&O Aust again.

They may be the budget cruise line, but everything is continually “Up Saled”, everything costs extra, even extra chips or a salad with your main meals cost $5 each. If you just want a nibble for back in the cabin, it costs $3.50 for two biscuits. Which all of, would be free on Princess.

Selection of basic salads, cheeses, and other breakfast/lunch/dinner items was very limited, to what I have been use too.

Another little gripe is the chips served on board were only those skinny French fries, like those served at MacDonalds. Served with a Maccers’ burger they may be fine, BUT to serve them with main meals like beef, chicken, and fish, in restaurant meals, is totally gross. Thats in MHO.

 

About the ship itself; the public areas of the ship are excellent, a delight to roam around and enjoy the ambiance. Places like the Avalon Café make the best coffee at sea from general consensus of those who we spoke to on board, and also attested to by my wife, who’s really fussy with her coffee.

 

But step into the residential areas, and you sadly enter a shabby 22-year-old aged décor begging for a spruce up. Maybe as cruising picks up and the lines bottom lines start to fill out a bit, maybe they will budget some sprucing up in a future drydock visit. I hope so, because its not a great look at the moment.

I would rate the accommodation at about 2 stars at best.

But would not say the shabbiness was a cruise buster, bit tired but not bad enough to complain about.

However, with one alarming exception, the extent and advanced state of the bathroom mould on the floor tiles.

They gave us rubber mats to lay on the floor, but what is really needed, is a full-on scrub and bleaching and replacing the tile grout. The mould was black and raised. See attached photos above.

 

Would I travel on P&O Australia again?

If it was a destination I really wanted to see, or someone wanted to cruise with them, (and I really liked them).

Yes, I would, most probably.

 

Would I recommend others to cruise with them?

Yes, if:

They wanted a cheap cruise and it suited them.

If it’s a family, and they wanted to do a short cruise.

If they where youngish and wanted a party cruise.

There was an itinerary that they liked and it was not available on another line.

They just wanted a quick cruise.

 

P&O Aust has found a knitch in cruising they cater for, and they do a good job in that knitch, if you have never been on a P&O Aust cruise, do it, it maybe your thing.

 

To quote an old advertising add.

You’ll never, never know, if you never, never go!

 

Regards

Ozwoody

 

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9 hours ago, Fayjay said:

Thank you for this comprehensive review.  It certainly convinced me that despite the cheap offers, I’m definitely staying with Princess.

Your welcome.

But their not bad, just different, we were spoilt by Princess, but then again you are paying for it with higher fares on Princess.

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Just read your review, & yea, don't think be back on board again - Unless its a long cruise & need passports. I agree with food wise too. Having just had our 5th cruise with them, must say the last time  things "dropped" on board. The next cruise after ours  had 500 kids !! like they should be in school.  Parent take them out of school for various reasons during school time. We select non school holidays to have peace, but its not so. Anyway, if you want cheap, you will find it here. If fact they are not cheap anymore now. However they are the only ones in aus all year round. 

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Thanks for the review John.

We just got off her and did the same itinerary (changed from the islands due to the cyclone). We would agree with your review.  However, check-in took 2 hours in many long queues, so that was different. We tried to stay away from the Panty and went to the Waterfront for most breakfasts and lunches - always the same menu.

One of the waiters was very sick and should not have been working or at the very least he should have been wearing a mask. Twice we came across him, coughing over the food - gross. The bosses just moved us away from his area and we didn't see him again!

Definitely for families and young adults, but a good break away for us.

I did a blog of the trip if you are interested (over three pages): http://brizzy.dscloud.biz/blog/#param=id_2259

Thanks again, David

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34 minutes ago, Brizzym said:

Thanks for the review John.

We just got off her and did the same itinerary (changed from the islands due to the cyclone). We would agree with your review.  However, check-in took 2 hours in many long queues, so that was different. We tried to stay away from the Panty and went to the Waterfront for most breakfasts and lunches - always the same menu.

One of the waiters was very sick and should not have been working or at the very least he should have been wearing a mask. Twice we came across him, coughing over the food - gross. The bosses just moved us away from his area and we didn't see him again!

Definitely for families and young adults, but a good break away for us.

I did a blog of the trip if you are interested (over three pages): http://brizzy.dscloud.biz/blog/#param=id_2259

Thanks again, David

Thanks David, great blog.

You both look well.

 

We had a 12:30am embarkation time, at the car park around 11am, and was onboard before 11:30.

We always turn up early prepared to wait, but most cases we seem to get on board early.

Regards

John & Hilary

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On 10/29/2023 at 1:57 PM, Ozwoody said:

Section 1 – The Ship

General back Ground Knowledge

The ship is an old Princess ship called the Star Princess, and served with that line from 2002 to 2021.

With a capacity of approximately 2600 passengers.

Launched in 2001, that makes her 22 years old.

She was transferred to the P&O Australia fleet in 2021 and re-christened Pacific Encounter.

She was one of the grand class ships that had the winged venue over the rear deck, generally used as a night club venue.

P&O gave her public areas, an extensive re-fit out, to suit their market knitch. Which appears to me to be a Budget Line aimed at families, and the younger party adults.

Although, there were plenty of the more senior travellers as well.

 

Embarkation

We arrived at the BICT at 10:55am, with a scheduled boarding of 12:30am.

Parking in the P1 Parking area.

The car park was lightly used with plenty of shaded parking close to the terminal.

On approaching the terminal, there were a large number of people sitting around, similar to our last cruise on the encounter, so expect a similar long embarkation.

The dropping off our cases at the bag drop of was quick and smooth.

We then approached the P&O line steward and showed them our tickets and to our pleasant surprise we were waved straight through to check in.

Check in process was very smooth, well organised, and very friendly, and we were on board by 11:20am.

Checking our dinning plan in the cabin, (which is advisable to do as soon as you can if travelling in/with a group, to ensure you are all in the same dining rooms, and at the same time), again pleasantly surprised to find that P&O had got our dinning arrangements correct with our family members all linked to the same early dinning schedule, a big improvement over the last time, in which we were spread over different time slots and dining rooms.

 

Accommodation

Cabin was pretty much like our previous cruise, room shows signs of aged deterioration and is quite shabby in presentation.

A pity the balcony did not show any signs of love, signs of advanced corrosion and lack of a decent repaint, and a varnish of the hand rail, where bare wood was showing through.

I think it’s a pity P&O has not put any effort into sprucing up their accommodation side of their ship.

The balcony was in the poor condition, can only describe it as very, very sad.

 

The shower floor tiles were the worst part of the ships neglect. It was heavily moldy which is not only disgusting, but a real health issue. This issue is a big RED X in ship presentation.

 

This is not the fault of the room stewards, its way outside their abilities to fix, as in my opinion the grouting needs to be removed and replaced and sealed, as the mould is deep into the grouting.

Note also the affect the mould is having on the shower curtain at the bottom.

 

Exploring the Ship

Spent the rest of the day exploring the ship and re-familiarising ourselves of the ships layout.

All the public areas are excellent, clean, and modern.

The ship is a bit of a rabbit warren, and can be a bit confusing at first, but if you spend a little time familiarising yourself with the layout, you will be a sailor in no time.

As a venue I liked the Blue Room, it was very comfy and cosy, pity that the bar only seemed to be open for evenings, but still it was a nice place for quite time during the day.

The Encounter Hotel area looks and operates just like any city bar, and was just as busy and crowded.

It was obviously kitted out for the demographics they are catering for. It was very popular every night. One of the acts there, (an older guy) was partially good, I enjoyed his singing and music.

There was plenty of entertainment all round the ship, most of it very, very good.

 

Blue Room was our favourite, too, John and Hilary. It was our 'go to' every night after dinner or after a show. Did you try the Bonded Store? It was always very quiet and John, the bartender, is very knowledgeable and always up for a chat. We first met him on Pacific Dawn in 2016!!! I agree that some of the cabins could do with a refresh/refurb. (Our friends had a balcony cabin on Deck 10 and although clean, was looking a bit drab and dated). We were happy with our Byron Mini Suite, but that had had a soft furnishings makeover to update to the Byron livery (new carpet, curtains, etc). The bathroom hadn't been updated but it was very clean and the only fault we could find was a chip out of one of the tiles in the shower wall.

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On 10/29/2023 at 2:02 PM, Ozwoody said:

Section 2 – Dinning

Breakfast Meals (Pantry)

Arrived most days at around 6am.

The Pantry was only lightly busy, with plenty of tables generally available, except on the tender day and the last day, both understandable considering. But we still managed to find ourselves a table by just standing ready for a max 5 minutes then pounced on a vacating table.

 

Meals were pretty much the same each day. It seemed to me they had a three-day cycle with a very limited menu.

Cooked Foods Available

Baked beans, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, small sausages, tomato pears in sauce, roast potato wedges, and white or brown toast. Every day. with some rotating options, like a bean casserole or something similar.

 image.png.6430f91f9dc7764dffb8e998c469e69a.png

Baked Beans & Tomatoes Bar                                       

image.png.d345923a5b59fa94f527f1bd0557129e.png

Bacon & Eggs & Sausages Bar

 

Cold Foods Available

Now this was a mixed bag, it didn’t change to any extent, every day there was, oatmeal porridge, rice crispies, whole grain chocolate flavoured serial, brand flakes, milk (full cream), and milk denatured (skimmed), sliced peaches, Prunes, fruit salad, plain yogurt, Bircher muesli, yogurt with granola sultana & almond with raspberry or some other topping.

I think the main change each day was something called a “Congee” which it seemed everyone except me has heard off.

The Congee changed daily, and my wife assured me it was very nice. (Unfortunately, it’s name sounded to me, too similar to a name of a marine growth, I use to dig of ocean rocks for fish bait. So gave it a miss.)

In addition, the Sugar Bar also supplied toast and butter and jams, and some miscellaneous buns and muffin thingies.

All in all, not a great selection, but what was served I was happy with the quality and quantity, sometimes I had a hot meal, sometimes a cold brekkie. (um maybe sometimes both ).

Let’s face it most people have the same breakfast every day at home, so were probably getting a reasonable selection compared.

 image.png.a91feef5707667d3499c1ec1ccaf62b5.png

Serial & Milk Bar

 image.png.8247620b18902b588bfe3bf147749f9e.png

Yogurts & fruit Salad Bar

image.png.840d42b1d79995996fbec16cfa8cc2f9.png

Congee & Oatmeal Porridge Bar

 

 

Lunch (in the Pantry)

Now we come to P&Os version of a buffet, except they call it “Shop Fronts”, their blurbs tell you they have nine shop fronts to serve international meals.

And I quote

THE PANTRY

9 DELICIOUSLY DIFFERENT VENUES

Bye-bye buffet! The Pantry is unlike anything you’ve seen on a cruise before. It offers

interactive dining with a range of stylish, individual outlets offering contemporary

Australian and international cuisine. Night or day, there’s something for everyone in

The Pantry.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

The dining options are:

Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Tex Mex), Hook’s Fish & Chips (Australian), Stix (Asian), Fat Cow (Roasts), Nic & Toni’s (Italian), McGregors Garden (Salads), Kettle & Bun (Buns & sandwiches & soups), and the Sugar Bar (Sweets).

 

All sounds good hay!

Well, it’s a bit like their breakfast, they have their staples, and rotate through some variable of the same theme.

There does need to be some clarification on some of those “Shop Fronts”

Basically, on the Endeavour at least, its just the same buffet, just given some loose theme names’

Nic & Toni’s I missed the first few times, could not find it, it’s basically a small, (approximately 800mm wide) window wedged between two other “shop fronts”, I only ever seen it display one dish at a time, and a sign to say gluten free meals were available by request.

And for me and a number of people I have spoken to, McGregors Garden was a disappointment, as it was very lacking in salad choices, just the very basic stuff.

The Kettle & Bun, and the Sugar Bar, also in my opinion were also not partially great either.

Rated them as adequate but that’s about it.

How ever all the other so called “shop fronts” I felt provided generally very edible meals. I had no complaints with any of my meals.

     image.png.f2c9d2ffe7fa59eea20d2a21614da7bb.png

 Mexicana Shop Front  

image.png.3d44211f613fd33cb1cd1869da06de67.png

Curry House Shop Front                        

image.png.b2034d6e96e6ec57b5d62ff432abd652.png

 Nic & Toni’s Shop Front     

 image.png.538529f2d484ad76ee302ff4771c4b79.png

Hooks Shop Front   

image.png.8faeb8d8cd3fced7573e65c6aee974e0.png

Stix Shop Front

The Fat Cow Shop Front was located between Nic and Hooks shop fronts, unfortunately each time I tried to take a photo of it, a bundle of people would flood in front of me.

 

As far as the sweets went most seemed to be based on a cake mix base.

The puddings which changed daily with vanilla custard, were nice, only comment was that the custard was always a too runny.

Had a couple of the bun type sandwiches from the Kettle & Bun, they were ok, average sandwiches shop stuff, nice quick meal if you were in a hurry.

 

However, even though it’s an interesting alternative to the standard cruise buffet, I still do not really like the pantry concept, I’m sure a lot of people probably would like it, and give it a big green tick, but not this little black duck, I’m sorry did not really grab me at all, preferred a standard buffet.

 

One good thing about the shop fronts, the staff served you your meals, much better health wise, which can be a problem on a cruise when passengers fail to use basic hygiene, like washing hands, and not handling the food.

 

Dinner (We tried all three MDR’s, Angelo’s, Waterfront, and the Dragon Lady.)

We dined in Angelo’s the 1st & 4th Nights and in the Waterfront on the 2nd & 5th nights, and in the Dragon Lady for the 3rd & 6th nights, then decided we preferred the Dragon Lady for the final two nights.

 

The Waterfront MDR, venue is pleasant and equivalent to most modern restaurants.

We found that the Waterfront was a little hit and miss with food presentation, we had fish that was dry and tough, other mains that were not served hot enough, quite luke warm. So, after second meal there, decided to skip them for reminder of the cruise. Most of our meal were really good just a couple that let them down.

 

Angelo’s had a nicer ambience to the Waterfront, and the meal were mostly excellent, we enjoyed it there, but we really like the Dragon Lady, so settled on going there for the last two meal. If there had been a longer cruise probably would have returned to Angelo’s.

 

The Dragon Lady ambience was excellent, felt it was intimate and cosy, and I enjoyed the dim lighting.

It is I think an immersion experience, the whole ambiance is like travelling to Asia, the décor is a very tasteful Asian restaurant with subdued lighting, but I like it, it felt comfortable to be sitting there.

However, there was a few grumbles from people in my group saying they found it difficult to read the menus.

I personally managed ok, but if your eyes like bright light around you all the time, the Dragon Lady may not suit you. Maybe I’m a bit of an old romantic, but I found it really nice in there.

 

Pantry at night

We never tried the Pantry for an evening meal, might have on a longer cruise, but not keen on buffet meals for diner meals.

 

Coffee Shops

The Avalon Café, get a big shout out for its coffee and hot chocolate. My wife is very fussy with her coffee, and she says the Avalon staff, make the best coffee she’s ever had at sea. Full marks to them.

And I will give them a good rep for their hot chocolate as well.

 

Ice-cream Bar on Pool Deck

The hot chocolate from here was just as good as the Avalon’s.

Did not partake in any of their other wares, as I’m a bit of a cheap skate, and refused to pay $5.95 for a single cone of ice-cream, let alone $7.95 for a double, or $9.95 for a triple.

 

We only ate at The Pantry when the ship was in port and nothing else was open for lunch. I'm not a fan, but will admit that the baked ham I had was excellent.

We didn't mind The Waterfront, but Angelo's was our absolute favourite. Dragon Lady was also good (we managed to read the menu but if you're having trouble use the torch on your phone😉). Over 7 days I think we dined at the Waterfront twice for dinner (had lunch there most days) and enjoyed it. The rest of the cruise we dined at Angelo's and Dragon Lady and first night out at Luke's Bar and Grill (which was worth every cent for the specialty dining). Overall, we had no complaints about the food.

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On 10/29/2023 at 2:02 PM, Ozwoody said:

Section 2 – Dinning

Breakfast Meals (Pantry)

Arrived most days at around 6am.

The Pantry was only lightly busy, with plenty of tables generally available, except on the tender day and the last day, both understandable considering. But we still managed to find ourselves a table by just standing ready for a max 5 minutes then pounced on a vacating table.

 

Meals were pretty much the same each day. It seemed to me they had a three-day cycle with a very limited menu.

Cooked Foods Available

Baked beans, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, small sausages, tomato pears in sauce, roast potato wedges, and white or brown toast. Every day. with some rotating options, like a bean casserole or something similar.

 image.png.6430f91f9dc7764dffb8e998c469e69a.png

Baked Beans & Tomatoes Bar                                       

image.png.d345923a5b59fa94f527f1bd0557129e.png

Bacon & Eggs & Sausages Bar

 

Cold Foods Available

Now this was a mixed bag, it didn’t change to any extent, every day there was, oatmeal porridge, rice crispies, whole grain chocolate flavoured serial, brand flakes, milk (full cream), and milk denatured (skimmed), sliced peaches, Prunes, fruit salad, plain yogurt, Bircher muesli, yogurt with granola sultana & almond with raspberry or some other topping.

I think the main change each day was something called a “Congee” which it seemed everyone except me has heard off.

The Congee changed daily, and my wife assured me it was very nice. (Unfortunately, it’s name sounded to me, too similar to a name of a marine growth, I use to dig of ocean rocks for fish bait. So gave it a miss.)

In addition, the Sugar Bar also supplied toast and butter and jams, and some miscellaneous buns and muffin thingies.

All in all, not a great selection, but what was served I was happy with the quality and quantity, sometimes I had a hot meal, sometimes a cold brekkie. (um maybe sometimes both ).

Let’s face it most people have the same breakfast every day at home, so were probably getting a reasonable selection compared.

 image.png.a91feef5707667d3499c1ec1ccaf62b5.png

Serial & Milk Bar

 image.png.8247620b18902b588bfe3bf147749f9e.png

Yogurts & fruit Salad Bar

image.png.840d42b1d79995996fbec16cfa8cc2f9.png

Congee & Oatmeal Porridge Bar

 

 

Lunch (in the Pantry)

Now we come to P&Os version of a buffet, except they call it “Shop Fronts”, their blurbs tell you they have nine shop fronts to serve international meals.

And I quote

THE PANTRY

9 DELICIOUSLY DIFFERENT VENUES

Bye-bye buffet! The Pantry is unlike anything you’ve seen on a cruise before. It offers

interactive dining with a range of stylish, individual outlets offering contemporary

Australian and international cuisine. Night or day, there’s something for everyone in

The Pantry.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

The dining options are:

Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Tex Mex), Hook’s Fish & Chips (Australian), Stix (Asian), Fat Cow (Roasts), Nic & Toni’s (Italian), McGregors Garden (Salads), Kettle & Bun (Buns & sandwiches & soups), and the Sugar Bar (Sweets).

 

All sounds good hay!

Well, it’s a bit like their breakfast, they have their staples, and rotate through some variable of the same theme.

There does need to be some clarification on some of those “Shop Fronts”

Basically, on the Endeavour at least, its just the same buffet, just given some loose theme names’

Nic & Toni’s I missed the first few times, could not find it, it’s basically a small, (approximately 800mm wide) window wedged between two other “shop fronts”, I only ever seen it display one dish at a time, and a sign to say gluten free meals were available by request.

And for me and a number of people I have spoken to, McGregors Garden was a disappointment, as it was very lacking in salad choices, just the very basic stuff.

The Kettle & Bun, and the Sugar Bar, also in my opinion were also not partially great either.

Rated them as adequate but that’s about it.

How ever all the other so called “shop fronts” I felt provided generally very edible meals. I had no complaints with any of my meals.

     image.png.f2c9d2ffe7fa59eea20d2a21614da7bb.png

 Mexicana Shop Front  

image.png.3d44211f613fd33cb1cd1869da06de67.png

Curry House Shop Front                        

image.png.b2034d6e96e6ec57b5d62ff432abd652.png

 Nic & Toni’s Shop Front     

 image.png.538529f2d484ad76ee302ff4771c4b79.png

Hooks Shop Front   

image.png.8faeb8d8cd3fced7573e65c6aee974e0.png

Stix Shop Front

The Fat Cow Shop Front was located between Nic and Hooks shop fronts, unfortunately each time I tried to take a photo of it, a bundle of people would flood in front of me.

 

As far as the sweets went most seemed to be based on a cake mix base.

The puddings which changed daily with vanilla custard, were nice, only comment was that the custard was always a too runny.

Had a couple of the bun type sandwiches from the Kettle & Bun, they were ok, average sandwiches shop stuff, nice quick meal if you were in a hurry.

 

However, even though it’s an interesting alternative to the standard cruise buffet, I still do not really like the pantry concept, I’m sure a lot of people probably would like it, and give it a big green tick, but not this little black duck, I’m sorry did not really grab me at all, preferred a standard buffet.

 

One good thing about the shop fronts, the staff served you your meals, much better health wise, which can be a problem on a cruise when passengers fail to use basic hygiene, like washing hands, and not handling the food.

 

Dinner (We tried all three MDR’s, Angelo’s, Waterfront, and the Dragon Lady.)

We dined in Angelo’s the 1st & 4th Nights and in the Waterfront on the 2nd & 5th nights, and in the Dragon Lady for the 3rd & 6th nights, then decided we preferred the Dragon Lady for the final two nights.

 

The Waterfront MDR, venue is pleasant and equivalent to most modern restaurants.

We found that the Waterfront was a little hit and miss with food presentation, we had fish that was dry and tough, other mains that were not served hot enough, quite luke warm. So, after second meal there, decided to skip them for reminder of the cruise. Most of our meal were really good just a couple that let them down.

 

Angelo’s had a nicer ambience to the Waterfront, and the meal were mostly excellent, we enjoyed it there, but we really like the Dragon Lady, so settled on going there for the last two meal. If there had been a longer cruise probably would have returned to Angelo’s.

 

The Dragon Lady ambience was excellent, felt it was intimate and cosy, and I enjoyed the dim lighting.

It is I think an immersion experience, the whole ambiance is like travelling to Asia, the décor is a very tasteful Asian restaurant with subdued lighting, but I like it, it felt comfortable to be sitting there.

However, there was a few grumbles from people in my group saying they found it difficult to read the menus.

I personally managed ok, but if your eyes like bright light around you all the time, the Dragon Lady may not suit you. Maybe I’m a bit of an old romantic, but I found it really nice in there.

 

Pantry at night

We never tried the Pantry for an evening meal, might have on a longer cruise, but not keen on buffet meals for diner meals.

 

Coffee Shops

The Avalon Café, get a big shout out for its coffee and hot chocolate. My wife is very fussy with her coffee, and she says the Avalon staff, make the best coffee she’s ever had at sea. Full marks to them.

And I will give them a good rep for their hot chocolate as well.

 

Ice-cream Bar on Pool Deck

The hot chocolate from here was just as good as the Avalon’s.

Did not partake in any of their other wares, as I’m a bit of a cheap skate, and refused to pay $5.95 for a single cone of ice-cream, let alone $7.95 for a double, or $9.95 for a triple.

 

I'm with Hilary, Avalon's coffee was exceptional.

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28 minutes ago, ceeceeDee said:

Blue Room was our favourite, too, John and Hilary. It was our 'go to' every night after dinner or after a show. Did you try the Bonded Store? It was always very quiet and John, the bartender, is very knowledgeable and always up for a chat. We first met him on Pacific Dawn in 2016!!! I agree that some of the cabins could do with a refresh/refurb. (Our friends had a balcony cabin on Deck 10 and although clean, was looking a bit drab and dated). We were happy with our Byron Mini Suite, but that had had a soft furnishings makeover to update to the Byron livery (new carpet, curtains, etc). The bathroom hadn't been updated but it was very clean and the only fault we could find was a chip out of one of the tiles in the shower wall.

Unfortunately we did not get to try the Bonded Store, as the couple we were traveling with tended to like meeting at the same place for pre dinner drinks.

 

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On 10/29/2023 at 2:08 PM, Ozwoody said:

Section 6 – Summary

Final Thoughts on our P&O Aust Cruise 13th Oct 23.

 

Check in organisation.

Excellent, very smooth, we turned up early expecting to have a long wait till our nominated boarding time. However, we no sooner dropped our bags off, and a staff member was immediately directing us into the small que in front of us. From arrival at the BICT until we were on board, check out our cabin and dinning schedule, and heading for the Pantry for lunch, was less than 30 minutes. Definitely could not fault their check in procedures at all, it could not have been smoother.

And the dinning schedule was exactly as we hoped for.

A big double tick to start our cruise.

 

Demographics On Board

I know that P&O Aust has positioned its self as a budget cruise line for families and for younger adult’s party cruising.

But when we booked for non-school holiday period, did not expect the cruise to have huge numbers of kids on the cruise, but this cruise was packed with them.

They were not in general badly behaved, in fact the kids were mostly well behaved, just kids having fun.

But boy can kids having fun, can be noisy!

They did not spoil the cruise, but as being in the older age group (Grumpy old buggers), do prefer the quieter cruises with an older general demographics.

 

Feel of the ship

Over all, in general the cruise was quite good; staff great, food in general good.

It was the little things that has put me off cruising with P&O Aust again.

They may be the budget cruise line, but everything is continually “Up Saled”, everything costs extra, even extra chips or a salad with your main meals cost $5 each. If you just want a nibble for back in the cabin, it costs $3.50 for two biscuits. Which all of, would be free on Princess.

Selection of basic salads, cheeses, and other breakfast/lunch/dinner items was very limited, to what I have been use too.

Another little gripe is the chips served on board were only those skinny French fries, like those served at MacDonalds. Served with a Maccers’ burger they may be fine, BUT to serve them with main meals like beef, chicken, and fish, in restaurant meals, is totally gross. Thats in MHO.

 

About the ship itself; the public areas of the ship are excellent, a delight to roam around and enjoy the ambiance. Places like the Avalon Café make the best coffee at sea from general consensus of those who we spoke to on board, and also attested to by my wife, who’s really fussy with her coffee.

 

But step into the residential areas, and you sadly enter a shabby 22-year-old aged décor begging for a spruce up. Maybe as cruising picks up and the lines bottom lines start to fill out a bit, maybe they will budget some sprucing up in a future drydock visit. I hope so, because its not a great look at the moment.

I would rate the accommodation at about 2 stars at best.

But would not say the shabbiness was a cruise buster, bit tired but not bad enough to complain about.

However, with one alarming exception, the extent and advanced state of the bathroom mould on the floor tiles.

They gave us rubber mats to lay on the floor, but what is really needed, is a full-on scrub and bleaching and replacing the tile grout. The mould was black and raised. See attached photos above.

 

Would I travel on P&O Australia again?

If it was a destination I really wanted to see, or someone wanted to cruise with them, (and I really liked them).

Yes, I would, most probably.

 

Would I recommend others to cruise with them?

Yes, if:

They wanted a cheap cruise and it suited them.

If it’s a family, and they wanted to do a short cruise.

If they where youngish and wanted a party cruise.

There was an itinerary that they liked and it was not available on another line.

They just wanted a quick cruise.

 

P&O Aust has found a knitch in cruising they cater for, and they do a good job in that knitch, if you have never been on a P&O Aust cruise, do it, it maybe your thing.

 

To quote an old advertising add.

You’ll never, never know, if you never, never go!

 

Regards

Ozwoody

 

Great review John. Very balanced and I agree with most of what you had to say (and for reference, we were on the same itinerary in May/June this year). Unfortunately, most cruise lines are nickel and diming these days with their upcharges for various items that used to be included (judging by comments on the various forums). However, we managed 7 days without paying extra for food except Luke's Bar and Grill and hamburgers from Luke's burger bar and of course coffee from Avalon. However, we had generous OBC included so that covered all of the above, so we didn't actually spend anything above what we paid for the cruise. Would we go on P&O again? You betcha. We're booked for Christmas 2024 on Encounter.

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On 11/2/2023 at 9:10 AM, Ozwoody said:

Thanks David, great blog.

You both look well.

 

We had a 12:30am embarkation time, at the car park around 11am, and was onboard before 11:30.

We always turn up early prepared to wait, but most cases we seem to get on board early.

Regards

John & Hilary

Same, John. We arrived at least an hour before our scheduled embarkation time (and were quite prepared to wait) and were waved straight through.

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1 minute ago, ceeceeDee said:

Great review John. Very balanced and I agree with most of what you had to say (and for reference, we were on the same itinerary in May/June this year). Unfortunately, most cruise lines are nickel and diming these days with their upcharges for various items that used to be included (judging by comments on the various forums). However, we managed 7 days without paying extra for food except Luke's Bar and Grill and hamburgers from Luke's burger bar and of course coffee from Avalon. However, we had generous OBC included so that covered all of the above, so we didn't actually spend anything above what we paid for the cruise. Would we go on P&O again? You betcha. We're booked for Christmas 2024 on Encounter.

Bit the same actually, we had $400 OBC, bit of a flurry on the last day, to spend the last of it.😂

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4 minutes ago, Ozwoody said:

Unfortunately we did not get to try the Bonded Store, as the couple we were traveling with tended to like meeting at the same place for pre dinner drinks.

 

That's a shame. It's quite classy and you would have enjoyed the quiet ambience

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Thanks John for the very balanced review that covers everything.

I have had one cruise each on the Explorer and the Adventure since the restart but have not been on the Encounter which you wrote your review about.

I agree with all your comments above as they certainly applied to the two cruises I went on. I had much the same experience but I will add that I did find that the lifts on the Explorer were painfully slow for anybody thinking about sailing on this ship.

We did eat in the dining room for breakfast and on the Adventure the menu was very limited and exactly the same every day, there were of course a couple of eggs dishes which you had to pay for if you wanted something different. On our cruise on the Explorer a year earlier June 2022 the breakfast menu in the dining room was fantastic and we were disappointed a year later that the menu on the Adventure was totally different. We don't know if it was because of the different ships or more likely it was a change of menu across the board as a cost cutting exercise.

In regards to entertainment my husband and I were very impressed with the production show called Seven and thought it was equivalent to Princess which we usually sail on.

All in all we would sail with P&O again in our non cruise season if the price was right as we would not pay the same per day as a Princess cruise for example.

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  • 3 months later...

Thank you fir your review.  
 

We have just booked on Encounter, our first P&O cruise after cruising with Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.   
 

We understand this is a more basic level of cruising, but cruise options in the Australian winter are very limited.   Travelling from our home port is also very attractive.  
 

We go with an open mind and plan to enjoy ourselves.   

 

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1 hour ago, Marjan1 said:

Thank you fir your review.  
 

We have just booked on Encounter, our first P&O cruise after cruising with Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.   
 

We understand this is a more basic level of cruising, but cruise options in the Australian winter are very limited.   Travelling from our home port is also very attractive.  
 

We go with an open mind and plan to enjoy ourselves.   

 

Hi Marjan1

I'm sure you will enjoy your cruise, we all tend to think the standard we have experienced on previous cruise is the basic to expect, however, if your use too  4 star motels and you end up at a 2 star one you may blink, but then you stop and think I'm paying a lot less for this room what did I expect?

 

P&O Aust. may not be exactly like Princess or other line you have been on, it is still a nice cruise line to cruise on. Just expect that some things will be little bit different. 

 

Have a great cruise

regards

John

Edited by Ozwoody
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