Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pacific Dawn - Tuesday 13 February, Debark day

And we're back in Brisbane! No sleeping in today as we have to be out of our cabin by 7.30am. We had planned on going to the Waterfront for breakfast but were too late so ended up at the Pantry, which I didn't mind at all.

Pastries and muesli with a view

Big brekky and a hot chocolate from Charlies
We both enjoyed the cruise and would certainly do another but 3 nights just isn't enough! 

I'm not sure if the standard of food, especially in the main restaurant, has fallen or if it's just a short cruise thing. I think this is the first time I've not been that impressed with the food, don't get me wrong I still had some yummy meals but just had a few not so yummy meals which has been a rarity on other cruises. Hopefully it was just a one off and the chefs were having a bad day (cruise) and the food will be back to it's usual delicious self the next time I'm cruising. I'll definitely have to have another cruise to check it out.

The entertainment was awesome and I really love the new makeover the Dawn received. It looks a lot fresher and modern and having the waterslides, is an added bonus especially when they are included in the fare and not an extra like the Edge activities are.

Waiting in the Promenade Bar for instructions on when we could leave the ship
 Our meeting place before getting off the ship was in the Promenade Bar, no sooner had we sat down than we were told we could leave. Down to deck 5 and just as I was about to get my cruise card scanned for the last time I hear miss 18 call me, she couldn't get off the ship until she'd finished her drink. Apparently you can't take it off the ship. I'm not really sure why seeing as we got it from the ship and we hadn't been anywhere except for Brisbane, maybe it's a rubbish thing? No matter, miss 18 finished her drink and then off we went.

Finding our bags was easy and the shuttle bus was there so we were back at the car by about 8.30am. Siri took us to a dead end on the way to the Gateway Bridge but once we turned around, and noticed another car doing the same thing, we found the right road and were on our way back to the everyday.

This cruise was a nice little getaway now where to next?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pacific Dawn - Monday 12 February, 2nd sea day

Our last day of our cruise, I could definitely stay on for another week! I've been surprised how many families with kids are on this cruise being that it was promoted as a food and wine cruise, although aren't all cruises! It was a great atmosphere on this cruise, really relaxed, busy but not annoying busy, a good mix of ages I think.

This morning started slowly, what's the rush really, I headed up to the Lido for a cup of tea then went back to the Atrium to enjoy it. It was so hot up on the Lido already.

We thought we'd go to the Waterfront for brekky as miss 18 had spied that Eggs Benny was on the menu! It is lovely being waited on :-) I had a very nice omlete.

Eggs benny!
Logo trivia was on in the Atrium so we headed there and with an eagle eye miss 18 found us a table. We rocked it with our Logo knowledge but another team rocked it better, so close! After logo there was general trivia so we thought we'd stay for that. In between the two trivias they did have speed sudoku. I'm not a sudokua but thought I'd have a go, I didn't win and miss 18 also pointed out that I was doing it wrong. I'll know for next time! Trivia started off ok and then the table near us, who we'd swapped our logo sheet with, ask us if we wanted to join them as apparently they had a much better chance of winning than we did! Spoiler, they didn't come close to winning and for the record we killed them at logo trivia! It was a father and son and another couple, the father wrote down every question and answer and even has a special book he takes with him to all trivia's. He even said he studies them back at home, wow. I think he needs to study a bit more though.

After trivia we went back to our cabin and changed into our swimmers, the waterslides were calling us! 

Near the bottom of the Disco slide

Waiting for the slide
FUN! I went on the Disco slide which has music pumping, lights flashing and then the last bit is complete darkness, the water's slightly heated which is just how I like it. The other slide is clear.

We went to go up again so we could swap slides but one of the staff members stopped miss 18 as she was wearing a necklace. I told her we'd just been on it but she still said miss 18 had to remove it. I didn't feel comfortable leaving it with our bags while we were on the slides so we didn't bother. Later on miss 18 would go on the slides again, I just spectated this time.

Miss 18 had spied people with baskets of prawns so she went in search of them, they were at the Mexican station in the Pantry. Delicious.

The sun was HOT which must mean it's COCKTAIL time! This time we were determined to find a cocktail miss 18 would enjoy and this is exactly what we did! Frozen Margarita. I went with a frozen Rose, yum.

Enjoying a frozen margarita in the Dome

Got a new P&O cocktail glass
After our cocktails we headed to the Pantry for a bite to eat, Ramen Noodles! 

Seeing that this was our final night we had to get our suitcases packed and out between 5pm and 8pm so after lunch and another frozen cocktail we headed back to the cabin to pack, rest and then get ready for dinner. This time we had a table for just the two of us. The meal was a little disappointing again, we even asked to get another main meal for miss 18 as her first choice, crusted cod, was not very nice at all. The waiters were happy to replace it for us with no fuss at all. My meals weren't too bad, I had a fish cake type thing and a vegie lasagne, nice but a little lacking in flavour. We decided to splurg and order all the desserts (there were three on the menu) and the fruit platter. Again, a bit disappointing. They looked good just didn't have much taste to them sadly.

All the desserts!
No show for us tonight, it was a comedian which we had thought we might go to but in the end we both decided our beds were calling us. Our cruise is almost over, 3 nights is just not long enough.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pacific Dawn - Sunday 11 February, 1st sea day

After a leisurely lie in we headed up to the Pantry for brekkie, of course. Pastries and muesli were on my radar, miss 18 headed for the hot selections. We found  table outside not too far from the drinks station. Breakfast was good, best meal so far.

Brekkie from the Pantry
Our daily Good Times said that here was going to be 'grand opening' of the Pandora store, I think they must have a grand opening on every cruise as I'm sure it's been on the Dawn for awhile now, anyway there was a free raffle so why wouldn't we go there. The Atrium was busy so we had to keep an eagle eye out for a seat, miss 18 was on the ball and snagged one after we'd got our raffle tickets. Well you wouldn't believe, we certainly didn't, we won the raffle!! Weehee - a ship charm, limited edition as you can only get them on the P&O cruise ships! Unfortunately miss 18 already had this charm as I had bought it for her a couple of years ago when I was on the Jewel for their 'grand opening' of Pandora. That's ok though as miss 18 has a few friends with Pandora bracelets so guess what they're getting for their birthday!

We dropped our prize back at the cabin, handy as it's just up from the Atrium, and then headed back for TRIVIA! We didn't win, so surprising.

Miss 18 getting our trivia sheet and pencil
This was a different sort of trivia as after each question you had to hand in your answer, unfortunately we were up a level so had to throw our answers over the edge, many didn't make it. We weren't the only ones who had to fling their answers over the edge, hard to win when every second answer ends up under the table, stuck on a ledge - not that it would have mattered really I think every second answer we had was wrong! Fun anyway.

Next up we thought we'd give Bingo a go, seeing as we'd won the raffle we thought for sure we'd win something at bingo. We were wrong, no prizes for us but one of the girls just in front did win a game which was around $200, not bad at all. Matthew the assistant cruise director was doing the Bingo calling, he's hilarious! Almost worth the $30 to play bingo ;-)

We decided to try the Waterfront restaurant for lunch today, the menu is a lot bigger than the dinner menu. Lots to choose from. I went with Mexican, yum. Can't remember what miss 18 had but she enjoyed it.

It was Gatsby/Cocktail night tonight so after a bit of relaxing on the Lido we headed back to our cabin to get all zshoozed up and then up to the Promenade for a cocktail. I opted for a glass of wine and miss 18 had a yummy chocolate based cocktail although she found it a bit rich for her. Better luck tomorrow with her cocktail choice, fingers crossed. So many people wore their Gatsby inspired outfits, many feathers and tassles!

Our dinner companions where really nice, two older couples who'd cruised before. It ended up being quite a nice evening although we did miss dessert as the service was a bit slow and we wanted to see the 9pm show. We were a few minutes late for the show but still found good seats.

Gorgeous miss 18
 The show tonight was the Velvet Rope, I'd seen it on a previous cruise and really enjoyed it so was happy to see it again and show miss 18. The two main singers have amazing voices and the dancers were really great - highly recommend seeing this show!

The Gatsby party was in the Atrium so we hung around there for a bit and then back to the cabin for us.

We had another roomie when we got back to our cabin:

Mr Penguin

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pacific Dawn - Saturday 10 February, Embark day!

Today's the day! Our check in time states 1-1.30pm but I have never known P&O to follow the check in times so we'll see what happens when we get there.

We left at 10am NSW time (9am Qld time) and were at the terminal not long after 11am - found the parking station easy (Portside Parking) hopped on the waiting courtesy bus (even though the cruise terminal is only a few hundred metres away - there's quite a bit of roadworks so trying to get across the roads made it easy to bus it, plus it was HOT).

Dropped out bags off, heading inside the terminal an filled out our health cards then lined up to check in. No check in times were asked, maybe because we were early and boarding hadn't yet started it's easier for them to process everyone that's already arrived than make them wait until what their boarding time is. With a short wait we had our cruise cards in hand with no 3 as our boarding number. We probably waited about 15 minutes or so before being called to board and by about 12pm Qld time we were in our cabin freshening up and ready to hit the Pantry (what use to be the buffet).

Cabin 6189 - Outside
The Dawn has had a refit since we last cruised on her, mainly the public areas, the cabins looked pretty much the same. We were on deck 6 in cabin 6189 right near Turtle Cove, never heard any noise from the kids but it did make it easier to find our cabin.

Pantry - drinks station

Seating in the Pantry
I love the new modern fresh look of the Pantry, I do prefer this to the tradition buffet but miss 18 said she likes the old style buffet better, you don't have to talk to anyone, ha!

I opted for a small lunch of mexican chicken buritto but ended up with pretty much a bit of everything from the Mexican station. Miss 18 had some pasta and a few slices of the massive roast beef, it was huge!

First meal of our cruise!
After lunch we went exploring and checked out all the new things since the last time we were on the Dawn. Planning on hitting the waterslides sometime during our cruise and will definitely hang out in the stylish Dome - looks awesome.

We headed back to the room for a quick lie down before grabbing our life jackets and heading to the Marquee Theatre for the compulsory muster. Once this was completed we dropped our jackets off and headed back up to the Lido ready for sailaway. 

Sailaway - pretty much everyone's up here as we head off on our cruise to nowhere
One of the pools was transformed into a kids splash park
Spinning around on the Brisbane River
It was so hot so a cocktail was in order, the main bar on the Lido was busy busy so we headed into the Dome where it was much cooler and less crowded. 

Pretty - the pink one was very dry.
We dropped some raffle tickets off at the Spa down on deck 2 but before you could do that you had to do a tour of the Spa where they try and sell you their treatments. It was nice to see all the different areas, I think it must have had a refit because it look quite new and modern. The treatments are so expensive, I'm amazed how many people do them. PS: we didn't win the raffle prize so no free treatment for us. I was planning on getting rid of all my wrinkles and miss 18 was going to get acupuncture and a massage.

Back to the Pantry for a predinner dinner. We'd gone down to the Waterfront to make our dinner reservations, it's always a bit of a palava to book the restaurant on the P&O ships, and had hoped to get a 7pm sitting but all they had left by the time we got to the front of the line was 5.30pm (way too early) 7.45 and 8.15pm. We took the 7.45pm on a shared table, no table for 2's left although she was able to arrange one on our last night. We had the same time for the 3 evenings we were on board.

We hung out in the Promenade Bar before dinner and then went back to the cabin to freshen up and get ready for dinner. It was pretty quiet in the bar with only a handful of other passengers in there, everyone else must have either been eating or still partying on the Lido. It was Bianco/White night tonight and quite a few people, us included, had their white gear in. The other special night was Gatsby/Cocktail evening which would be tomorrow.

Our first meal in the Waterfront was ok, nothing to rave on about. Our table mates were a youngish married couple and two teenage girls. We all pretty much kept to ourselves. The married couple left early as I don't think the lady was feeling very well.

Meatballs and pasta - no sauce so was a bit dry
I had grilled fish which was quite nice. Forgot to take photos of our entrees and dessert but so far we weren't that impressed with the food which is a first for me. The dessert was meant to be a fudge brownie but ended up being a very dry chocolate cake. Hoping tomorrows meal is better.

After dinner we had a bit of a wander around before heading to our cabin, miss 18 was a wee bit tired after a big night the night before. I'm just old so didn't mind not staying up too late. I think we were in bed by 9.30pm (which technically was 10.30pm nsw time!)

Our cabin was a tad chilly so we used the skinny decorative throw as a blanket. We never did get our cabin to warm up even with the temperature set to the highest setting.

Friday, January 26, 2018

3 night cruise is booked!

It's been a whole year since we have been cruising, how did that happen?? This time last year we were on the Ovation of the Seas! I haven't stopped looking for bargain cruises they just haven't come up at the right time, until now!

It's only a 3 nighter to nowhere but it's still a cruise and it's on our very first ship - the Pacific Dawn! We haven't been on her since she had a bit of a facelift including getting The Pantry and waterslides, should be awesome.

It's only the two of us but instead of mum coming along with me, she has other plans (go Hull!!) my gorgeous niece is joining me.

We leave on Saturday and get back Tuesday morning. Just got our cabin allocation and we're on deck 6 (Emerald) so nicely placed I think - anywhere on a ship is nicely placed really!

Just need to book the car in, I'll probably go with Portside Parking, we've used them before and they're really close to the cruise terminal. I think it's about $45 for the 3 nights. Not sure what to pack but apparently there will be a Bianco party and a Gatsby evening so something white and something with feathers??

Our check in time is scheduled for 1pm but not sure if P&O stick with these times or it's just every man for themselves. Every other P&O cruise we've done they've never gone by check in times, hopefully it has changed and they do use them. It does make for a much easier and faster way of checking in and boarding.

I've printed off our luggage tags and eticket and as it's only a cruise to nowhere we don't need a passport just a photo id, like a drivers licence.

Looking forward to a few days away from the everyday, hopefully the weather's lovely and the sea's calm!

Two weeks to go!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where to Next?

We've been talking about our next cruise, like we ever stop talking about our next cruise, and would really love to do a cruise to new ports. This most likely means we will need to fly somewhere as we have pretty much seen all of the ports leaving from Sydney or Brisbane. Obviously there are a few left, especially the ones further out which mean a longer (and more expensive) cruise. We definitely wouldn't rule them out, we don't rule any cruise out. We wouldn't mind doing a Queensland coast cruise either or an around Australia or part way round. There's still Tassie and the south island of New Zealand so I guess we still have a few things to tick off our list before heading further afield!

One of the draw cards to cruising is not having to face airports (for the most part) or the added expense of flying somewhere and staying a few nights. We have done a couple of cruises where we did stay overnight in Sydney and one where we stayed two nights but that was our choice and not a necessity really. It's definitely something we need to factor in if we ever do a cruise from overseas. We have been so fortunate to have done so many cruises and it's hard to pass up a bargain when it comes along but maybe we need to so we can do different cruises and see other countries. I wish we could either win lotto or my business would really kick into high gear and start bringing in decent money!

A few cruises that have caught our eye are:
plus a couple of cruises ex Singapore look good, particularly the Sapphire Princess ones. Oh to dream!

Another one that's been added to the watch list:
Edited to add: The Ovation Singapore to Sydney cruise is currently (11/4) $1670pp quad share in a superior balcony (RCI website, Ozcruising was slightly more). Airfares from $239pp. Still approx $2500pp twin.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ship Comparisons - Do I dare?!

It's so hard to rate and compare cruises and ships as they all have something different to offer. Our very first cruise in 2010 was on the Pacific Dawn and we just thought it was the best thing ever, still do! Now that we have been lucky enough to cruise on a few different brands we can see the difference between them plus the similarities.

Now price plays a big part on what you get and what you should expect. I would expect Princess and Royal Caribbean to be better than P&O in the sense of style and look of the ship as well as the facilities on board. I also think Carnival should be a step up from P&O but I would still expect them all to provide value for money, from food to cabin to facilities. All of the ships we have been on have lived up to our expectations, generally they exceeded them. Yes, even P&O. I hear so many people run P&O down but in our experience we have never had a bad cruise on a P&O ship. I've sailed on the Dawn, the Jewel and the Pearl and loved them all - they all have their similarities and their difference. To start with the Dawn was my favourite just because she was our very first cruise ship but now, having been on the other two P&O ships I'm leaning towards the Pearl. :-)

Food is such a subjective thing so what I like someone else may not but I have to say we have never had a bad experience with cruise food on any of our cruises. Sure you'll have the odd meal that wasn't brilliant or something could have been hotter or cooked a little less or more but overall we give the food a big thumbs up. From P&O to Royal Caribbean, the food is amazing. We did notice a step up in the quality and style of the food from P&O to Princess - the meals on the Dawn Princess in both the main restaurant and the buffet were just superb! Although, in saying that, the pastries and danishes on all three of the P&O ships cannot be beat! On the subject of food, well places to eat, we always found the P&O ships a real pain to get into the main restaurant for dinner. This was very noticeable when there were only 2 or 3 of us. You can't make a booking for the whole of your cruise so have to line up every day or ring up and then you generally only have the choice of really early, 5.30pm or too late for us 8.30pm. As you could book on the way out after your dinner I am guessing that is why all of the decent times were already gone by the time we tried to book. I also think they just don't have enough staff dedicated to the dining room as whenever we have been in there it is generally only half full, even though it's supposedly always booked out when you try to make a booking! You also have to sit with other people which isn't always a bad thing but sometimes it would be nice to be able to have the option of having your own table. This was our main gripe with P&O as we loved being able to dine in the main restaurant for dinner each evening and for the most part we never did this with P&O. The buffet food was still great but it is nice to be waited on :-) All the other cruise lines we have been able to make a booking for dinner for the whole cruise - so much easier. If we decided to not eat in the restaurant we would just pop in and let them know.

The P&O ships are looking a bit dated and tired compared to the Carnival Spirit and the Ovation of the Seas (obviously nothing is going to beat the Ovation seeing as it is only about 1 year old!) but I still love their atmosphere and layout. We found the Spirit to have a less user friendly layout of all the ships we've been on and it did seem a bit darker and not as easy to get around as the other ships. Although mum found the Dawn Princess hard to navigate and was always getting lost. I think having the restaurant in the middle of the ship through her - all the other ships generally have the main restaurants at the back. The Dawn Princess also had its buffet at the front as apposed to the other ships who have it at the back just to confuse mum even more! This isn't a good or bad thing just something to get use to plus by getting lost you burnt more calories trying to find your way ;-)

Hands down the Ovation of the Seas is the most well laid out ship of all the ships we've been on. It is by far the BIGGEST ship we've been on. It is MASSIVE but we never got lost, not once. I was so surprised! I thought for sure I would never find out cabin or take hours trying to get to our restaurant each night but nope, easy peasy. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into the placement of everything from the lifts and stairs to the main promenade and atrium and even the casino. For the most part decks 6 through 13 are just cabins so you really only use the deck your cabin is located on and needn't go to the other ones so it minimises the potential for getting lost.

I have to be honest and say it might be a bit hard going from the Ovation of the Seas back to a P&O ship as the contrast is so big. The newest and biggest ship in Australia to the oldest and smallest ships but I think I could manage! I don't think I would take the kids on a P&O or Princess ship just for the main reason of kid friendly activities offered. Princess seems more geared towards older people and P&O only offer a limited range of on board activities but these are an additional cost. A P&O cruise would be great for the family if we found an absolute bargain and just wanted a week away doing not much but I think if we do another cruise with the kids it will have to be on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean ship.

I could ramble on and on and on so for now I'm going to list my ships (not cruises) from favourite to not as favourite (because I love them all!).

1. Ovation of the Seas - 9/10

2. Dawn Princess - 8.5/10

3. Carnival Spirit - 8/10

4. Pacific Pearl - 7.5/10

5. Pacific Jewel - 7.5/10

6. Pacific Dawn - 7.5/10

The Jewel and the Dawn are the same really but I preferred the buffet on the Jewel (the Pantry but the Dawn is getting this as I type) and the Dome on the Dawn (although they have made the Jewel's Dome a bit bigger and it was lovely).

I also have to note that we had balcony cabins on the Ovation and the Dawn Princess so that did make a difference :-) All our cabins (inside, outside, balcony, obstructed) have been great but obviously having a balcony is a little bit special :-)

Cabins are very similar across the ships with a few differences with layout and size. The Dawn Princess was the smallest but we did have a balcony, the Ovation was the biggest and the other cabins were pretty similar in size but the Spirits layout was better (on our first cruise in the obstructed view inside room) and the bathrooms were bigger with a great layout.

Something else to note is the price. P&O cruises have always been the cheapest. We generally have paid around the $50-$60/day where as on our last cruise on the Ovation we paid $129/day. SO perspective needs to be taken into account when comparing ships and cruises. Of course there are all the extras on board but you choose if you want to spend money or not. In reality you don't need to spend a cent once on board! If you do just budget this in before you go.