Pacific Aria Cruise Review - 18 Day South Pacific from Brisbane - August 15 to September 2, 2016

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Please Note: Cruise-Australia and my other related maritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any of the cruise companies nor any travel or cruise agencies, etc! The author has been in the Passenger Shipping industry for a very long time and although now semi-retired, but I am delighted to share all my knowledge with those who love to take their vacation by sea! Thus I continue to write on worthy Cruise Companies and their wonderful Ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure, but more so to ensure that you, my wonderful reader will make the best-informed choice possible!

 

Please Note: Photographs in were taken by & © 2016 Reuben Goossens and Hun-Eng Tan

Exploring the Ship ~ Page One

If you have arrived at this page directly from a server and have not read Part One of this special three page Cruise review and ship tour, I strongly suggest that you first read part one first as it contains a great deal of detail and my main part of the review of the cruise. You can reach Part One Here.

However, as we continue we are certainly going to discover a very different P&O Cruise Ship, and we should always keep in mind that as we look at the Pacific Aria, we will in fact be seeing her sister ship the Pacific Eden. Although there are some minor décor variations, but in general all the lounges, dinning venues and deck areas are almost identical as are their accommodations, etc!

As my regular readers will well know, I had previous pages online on both the Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which had a many images and photographs of their interiors. However, these were in general provided to me by Carnival/P&O Australia’s Media outlet - “MG.Media Communications,” however, there is nothing better than photographs taken by myself, and therefore these unlike the previous ones, which were mostly illustrations, and images that were photo-shopped, etc. What you will see below is what the venues actually look like onboard!

Reuben Goossens.

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Our Comprehensive Deck Tour - Decks 4 to 8:

With this Deck Tour, I will commence on the lower deck and will always start from the forward of the ship and slowly work towards the aft of the ship; of course I head up deck-by-deck and go along both the port and starboard sides.

For interest; Part Three contains her Deck Plan as well as details of her Accommodations complete with photographs, all these are provided by P&O.

As you will see, our tour of the ship commences on the two accommodation decks below on Decks 4 and 5:

Decks 4 & 5 - Accommodations & Medical Centre:

These two decks are fully occupied by Inside and Outside Staterooms. On Deck 4 almost all outside Staterooms have windows with the exception of 6 staterooms on each side located forward have portholes. In addition located forward on this deck but located inside is the ships Medical Centre. And just for interest Deck 4 is still two decks above the waterline!

On Deck 5 the cabins situation is repeated with Inside and Outside Staterooms with windows. However, once again forward on this deck 4 staterooms on each side have portholes. All accommodations can be viewed on Page Three. Just aft of the forward Lobby on the portside is a Laundrette. For interest, the ship has eight interestingly decorated lifts (elevators).

Deck 6 - Cyber Café & Walk-Around Promenade Deck:

We have now arrived at the lower level of the Atrium. In the middle of the Atrium, a desk surrounds a rather simple off-white pole that reaches up to Deck 8, yet it has several gold bands on it, but it remains a bland feature. The desk on deck 6 contains 6 computer screens with keyboards and this is the ships’ Cyber Café.

 

Above & below: Here we see the lower level of the Atrium and the Cyber Café

Above is looking aft, below is looking forward to the lifts and the stairwell

 

The entire Atrium seems to have its walls covered with dark blue curtains and to be honest it is very dull and not an interior decorators delight! Along the sides hidden behind the curtains there are a number of offices, whilst in the Atrium area there is a delightful comfortable lounge, which is as we can see below, quite separate from the actual Atrium and delightfully decorative.

This is the comfortable forward Lounge on the starboard side of deck 6; with an ATM is available servicing all Australian Banks.

 

Center aft there two comfortable sofas with cushions with some fine glass and

Pottery and art collection above the sofas with two paintings framing the area

Deck 6 offers something more than just the Atrium with a lounge area, a Cyber Café, and accommodations, for this deck also features the ever-popular full-walk-around teak Promenade Deck! Just use any of the fine traditional timber double doors located from forward to aft on this deck and you will find yourself out on this spacious Deck!

From the photograph above you will have noted that the cabins on this deck have large double windows and you cannot look in as all staterooms on this deck are fitted with special one-way glass!

Here we see the stern section of the walk-around Promenade and it goes all the way around the front of the superstructure

Promenades of the Future:

Did you know, but it is really tragic that the vast majority of the newly built modern giant sized cruise ships being built and this will include the new massive P&O ship due late in 2019/20, that these ships will no longer feature a full genuine Walk-Around Promenade Deck, for tragically, Due to Carnival America having created a new monster type of ship, have placed lifeboats on the inside just where the promenade is supposed to be! Therefore enjoy the traditional ships while we have them, for the new ships will offer some new fads, but they will be Giant hotels, come floating resorts or more like Theme parks at sea, transporting countless thousands all at the one time, plus several thousand more crew and suddenly, when you wanted to get away from it all, you will have found yourself on a floating Megacity!

I decided to use a non-Carnival modern ship already built, but Costa Cruises have the as do Aida German Cruise, etc

However, as you can see on this photo there is no promenade deck to be seen, as it is taken up by these lifeboats

Image from the author’s collection

Therefore walk-around Promenade decks are vanishing and many already built do not have one anymore, and the only deck that is available on most ships are those that seem to be at the very top of the ship around 14 floors or decks up. Also, as one maritime classic ship designer has stated, “Should anything drastic ever happed, just pray, for this new system is not the most efficient the previous one worked, and it worked well!”

Deck 7 Forward - Lower Level of the Marquee, Reception, and a Cinema:

Located forward on Deck 7 is the glamorous Marquee Theatre that has a spacious Balcony on Deck 8. Yet, it is an intimate and superbly well-designed Theatre, having tables and chairs near the stage and comfortable sofas that have excellent legroom and good-sized tables for drinks. The sightlines are excellent regardless where you are seated to see the spectacular shows, thus you will see the stage perfectly, and thus this is the perfect venue for P&O grand style production shows.

The forward section of the lower level of the intimate Club like Marquee Theatre

For both the Pacific Aria and the Eden P&O has organised some brand new never seen before shows at sea or in any theatre and believe me they are spectacular, as I have seen a snippet of it. One of these shows is the powerful and grandiose production show, which is mystic but of the most spectacular ever seen at sea, being; Twice Upon a Time and the delightful joyride we enjoyed in “Sideshow Alley.” In addition to these there were others as mentioned on Page One and each were simply wonderful, then there are also guest entertainers and other activities day and at night.

 

Above & below: Two photographs of popular shows performed in the Marquee Theatre

 

Along the portside is the Photo Gallery and Photo Shop, which leads into the Atrium, whilst starboard side there is a passage that also leads directly to the same destination. However both pass the centrally located forward stairwell and the four lift's that commence on deck 3 and go up to deck 12. The Reception Desk is located on the starboard side of the Atrium, together with the Shore Excursions Desk. On the forward starboard side there is a comfortable lounge as well as a long sofa installed along the railing of the Atrium as can be seen from the photograph below.

The Atrium, Reception, and Lounge

Directly opposite the Reception Desk, a white marble stand contains two of the most delightful little black Bulldogs, which seem to guard the area on this side of the side of the Atrium, next to them there are further Asian style blue and white pottery items and glass vases containing Orchards.

A delightful touch, the two dogs, decorative glassware with orchids and some dummy books

As we continue aft we are led via a passageway toward the portside where we find the beautifully timbered Cellar Door along the portside (left) wall as we walk aft. It is here where fine wine tastings are held during the cruise, for individual, or small groups, but larger wine tastings can be booked and are held in the Dining Room.

 

Above & below: two views of the Cellar Door area

 

Directly opposite on the Starboard side is the Torquay Cinema, come Auditorium. It is here where a host of movies are shown as well as various other events, including lectures and also cooking lessons, etc.

 

Above & below: The Torquay Cinema as you can see above there are a number of disabled places for wheelchairs

 

Directly aft there are two other smaller venues that can be used as a Card Room, smaller Lectures or Conference venues, alternatively can also be used for religious services. They are named “Noosa” and “Bondi.

This is the Noosa lecture, meetings, conference room

 

And here we see the Bondi multi purpose venue and used for religious services

Deck 7 Aft - The Waterfront Restaurant:

Far aft on Deck 7 is the completely rebuilt “Waterfront” Restaurant. Although the original venue was a two level Dining Room, however, during The Pacific Aria and the Eden’s refits, this venue was completely rebuilt and restyled into a magnificent new venue. The new Waterfront has a central high ceiling section in the centre and is where the opening was of the original mezzanine which was partially sealed. Above there are two fine new Dining Venues, which are located side by side, and will be described up on Deck 8.

Please Note: Once you have reached the Bondi multi purpose venue as described above, you are located just aft of amidships, but you cannot go any further aft from here, as the rest of this deck right up to the Waterfront is occupied by the ships Main Galley. In order to reach the Waterfront Restaurant, is by the means of the aft Stairwell or the four aft lifts from any deck above or below.

The Waterfront Dining Room’s Décor is delightful, with its more casual atmosphere, with the ample use of pine timber veneer on the upper walls, posts and the huge decorative feature that runs along the ceiling and then down to the floor as room separator in the central section of the venue, which is quite spectacular. Seating is also interesting, if not somewhat unusual, as there are a good number of tables for two and they are round, oblong, as well as square, which is most unusual.

Here we see the central section of the Waterfront Restaurant, there is ample glassware and pottery everywhere to be found

Something very different is that there are no tablecloths for they have completely disappeared. I was told the following when I enquired regarding the tablecloths, as I am used to have a tablecloth, at least for my evening meal; “Reuben, in part of the design in this venue, we included especially decorative table tops instead of old style standard tables with table cloths. Whilst in other venues such as the Italian Restaurant Angelo’s and of course at Luke Mangan’s “Salt Grill” we use table cloths both complementing the design of each of these venues.”

Before I boarded and dined in the Waterfront, I was very doubtful, for I felt that I was lowering my standards, as at home, my table is always set correctly with the best of cutlery (silver on occasions) and fine linen, etc. Bur having now dined on Pacific Aria for almost three weeks, I have found the experience excellent and a change, as it felt like a vacation, not that I will change my habits at home, as that will remain far more formal, thank you, but on this cruise, the meals were a delight as was the new style venue, and the food and the service was to die for!

This is a portside view of the Waterfront Restaurant lower level looking to aft

I know I have said nothing about the cuisine aboard, but all those who have sailed with P&O will know well what is on offer, and I do know that in recent years the menus will have been greatly upgraded! I certainly hope so, for my last cruise on Pacific Dawn in 2014 sadly the food was certainly not great, but I do know that big changes have been made since then and my dear friend, the new President of P&O Cruises Mr. Sture Myrmell has done great things with the company and has been responsible for bringing the Pacific Aria and Eden to Australia. Next we will see the Pacific Dawn receive the most amazing makeover by March 2017, and the Dawn Princess will follow becoming an almost new ship after she is completely transformed into the Pacific Explorer by June 2017.

 

Above & below: Two views from my table, the one above a close up with dinners and below without when we were alone.

 

A more intimate view of a side section of the Waterfront, note the curtains on the corners of the upper level

Deck 8 - The Main Lounge Deck:

We have arrived far forward once again and we will take a quick look at the balcony of the Marquee Theatre located far forward of this deck.

And here is the upper level of the Marquee Showroom on Deck 8

After the show many will head straight for the forward stairwell and the bank of four lifts, and each of the lifts have been given an individual interior feature having been transformed into delightful destinations. Each lift has been given a tropical Pacific, a typical Queensland or an Outback theme, and one even a grandiose huge stairwell from one of Australia’s grand old buildings. And they look amazing especially with their matching floor mats!

The interiors of the lifts feature a variety of scenes here we see a Queensland Sugarcane field and a Pacific style jetty

jutting over into the water, each having carpets made to suit. This photo was taken at the forward lifts Deck 12

Along the port side as we pass the passage you head for the Atrium we arrive at the souvenir shop as well as a general shop offering sweets and other needs that passengers may require during the cruise.

Along the starboard side of the Atrium is the delightful and spacious Ocean Bar that has a long dark Bar along the aft wall and in the middle there is a bandstand and a dance floor. The décor of this venue is simply delightful for it has the feel of an elegant spacious living room, with comfortable chaise lounges and the deep lounge chairs. This Bar certainly offers a glamorous, yet a homely vibe. This popular Bar and Barista Coffee Lounge features live music in the evening and it becomes a popular dance venue. Below are nine photographs of my favourite venue on the Pacific Aria, for this room is without doubt perfection!

 

Above & below: A number of views of the Ocean Lounge and Bar and we see the dance floor and the bandstand below

 

 

 

Large shells, Island neckbands, coconuts & lamps that seem to have the long legs with the feet of cranes

 

Eng Tan having just enjoyed his flat white coffee

 

At the end of the long bar there is a intimate alcove with a wall featuring palms providing

a touch of the tropics falling inline with many of the artefacts around this special venue!

 

 

 

But Sadly:

I do have one negative in regard to the Ocean Bar, and that is that the Entertainment staff uses this amazing Bar for most of the day as an activities venue, for no matter when you try to go there for a coffee, and it is the best place on the ship for one, it is always completely packed to the rafters with people playing Trivia and other games. Now, I am certainly not against games and activities, they are most necessary! However the Blue Room is empty all day for no one wishes to be there during the daytime, as it is most unpopular venue. But I will cover the reason later. In addition, the much publicised by P&O “Ocean Bar” was never named the “Ocean Lounge,” but “BAR,” thus why can the entertainment director not use another venue, especially one that just happens to be empty for most of the day, like the Blue Room or even the Dome, where there is heaps of space! Sadly, the only time we ever managed to get into the delightful Ocean Bar was between 6 and 7 am for our Barista coffee and on port days in the morning, in the afternoon there are actives of course. When this ship was part of Holland America Line, this venue was originally named the “Ocean Bar” was never used for activities for they were always held in the Crows Nest, which is today the Dome! But sadly, our entertainment director has never worked on a 5 Star luxury ship, thus what would she know?!

Continuing aft … : 

Continuing aft along the starboard side we will pass the shopping Gallery, offering all the famed perfumes, watches and crystals, etc., the last store is the fashionable Pandora’s.

Here we see just a part of the Shopping Arcade with Pandora’s next

On the port side is the large Casino with ample tables for various games and countless slot machines to waste your money on. OK, I am not a gambler. Accessible from both the Casino and the starboard passage are two amazing Bars “The MIX,” which I will cover after the Casino photo below.

The beautifully furnished two bars known as “the Mix” is what we may call a specialty Cocktail Bar area, and it is located slightly inboard. Both bars have their own small bandstands, but the Aft one has a grand piano fitted.

 

Above & below: “The MIX” - Here we see the lounge area and the “Spirits and Ales” specialty bar located forward

 

 

 

Above & below: The Bar directly aft is the Martini Bar

 

 

Starboard just aft of the MIX this passage folk just enjoy to relax reading or to look at the ocean glide by!

Then we reach the sensational and popular optional Luke Mangan’s “Salt Grill Bar & Lounge.” The Lounge during the day is a very quiet haven and a number of passengers enjoy hiding away here in this peaceful haven and read their books. It is a most relaxing venue as well being in the most elegant surroundings. However, before meals at the Salt Grill dinners may enjoy a fine glass of wine whilst pursuing their menu.

 

Forward of the Salt Grill is this elegant Salt Grill Lunge, the perfect place for pre dinned drinks

 

Then it is time to enter Luke Mangan’s award winning *“Salt Grill” for their amazing fine meal that will be without a doubt a beyond comprehension experience as this award winning restaurant that has been acclaimed by countless thousands of diners in Australia as well as on the P&O fleet of ships! The Salt Grill is open for Lunch on sea days for A$39, and for Dinner for Just A$49.

Meals in Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill are Legendary, lunch is $49, and an evening meal is $59.

Introducing the Blue Room:

Looking to the portside from the Salt Grill entrance down a dark passage we can see the long Espresso Coffee Bar and drinks bar that borders the Blue Room. This all blue venue is separated into three spaces the forward section, the mid section, and the aft section.

The Blue Room Espresso Coffee and Drinks Bar

The Forward Music Room: This section of the Blue Room has the bandstand and this is where the rhythm and blues, jazz, and South American style of music can be heard in the evenings. However, during the day it is very much like a dessert for no one seems to want to come to this venue! Although when I visited on the day to photograph it, I opened the curtains to let some light in, for it is so dark and a dreary venue to say the least, and a good number of people have told me in these or similar words; “It is so dark and depressing in the Blue Room, we just wont go in it.” Many others have said similar things about this venue but in even worse words, which I cannot repeat here.

Note that the entire centre of the room has just two chairs and the rest is wasted space

The entire 17 days onboard I have not seen one person sit on a bench or that undesirable ottoman!

We have been here in the evening on a number of occasions when there was entertainment and all the sofas and seats are taken, but all long benches and that ridiculous large ottoman are never used, for let us be honest they are the most uncomfortable things to sit on. To be honest, whoever the interior designer was had no idea of what cruise life was all about, for people really do require comfortable seating and be able to lean back and be relaxed when listening to music.

The Middle Room: This is the smallest of the Blue venues and on two walls there are large cabinets that have shelves containing fake books, as well as vases, pots and other items. However this ship in her past life, this same venue was in fact a real library, but sadly, today Pacific Aria and the Eden has no library at all, which is tragic and a big mistake!

The Middle Blue Room and again there are those uncomfortable long benches and just two sofas

The Aft Room: In many ways this is the best part of the entire venue, but if we did not open the curtains, it is like the black hole of Calcutta, just like the other rooms! You may have noticed that each room has different blue patterned carpets, but all have pitch-black ceilings, and they are simply hideous and it makes each venue seem like a Vampire’s cavern!

The Aft Blue Room

Let me explain something; even before I had set eyes upon the Blue Room some 8 couples spoke with me onboard and each of them told me how they loved the ship and that the Dome was wonderful and they adored the Ocean Bar as well as the Mix. However, each of them made it very clear indeed that they really disliked the Blue Room, and six of them said that they just could and would not drink there, for 1. It was always too warm. 2. But more so, the venue was far too dark and very depressing for some reason. Not one of them felt comfortable in the Blue Room and just had to get out as soon as possible.

When I originally saw the P&O’s pre release images of the Blue Room I liked the concept and thought it was a great idea, but sadly, I really do not think it is working as well as P&O had hoped, for I believe that possibly something lighter and more in a 40/50’s Jazz style would be far more suitable.

Beside the Aft Blue Room is the Aft Stairwell, and the other four lifts and each of these, like he ones forward have their individual themes like the two we see below.

This is one of the aft lifts and it looks more like the Grand stairwell of one of Europe’s great Opera Houses

 

Another lift takes a very different approach and it features a Queensland Rainforest

Directly aft of the Blue Room is the elegantly appointed *“Chefs Table,” which has seating for 12 to 14 persons. This is an evening, which is an experience not to be forgotten, for it commences with a cocktail and canapé reception that will be hosted by the Executive Chef and the Maître ‘D Hotel. This is followed by an exclusive tour of the Galley. Then, once you are seated the Executive Chef will introduce you throughout an amazing multi course degustation spectacular menu and with each course comes a highly specialised wine to suit that dish as expertly selected by the ships Sommelier (wine expert). Cost for this evening of evenings is just A$99.

An experience at Chefs Table will offer you an evening you will never forget!

We have now arrived far aft of Deck 8 on the Portside and stretching across the centre is this long Bar servicing both Dragon Lady (Portside) and Angelo's (Starboard side). Besides making bookings per phone, many come here during the day and book direct on the day they wish to dine, and the great thing is that both these restaurants are included in your fare!

The Angelo’s and Dragon Lady Bar

Dragon Lady is a Pan Asian style of Restaurant and it has two different menus, thus it changes every few weeks giving passengers to enjoy something new. The Restaurant has regular seating with tables and chairs, or traditional seating, where you sit on cushions and your legs are in a hole with the table in the middle.

Here we see Dragon Lady with regular seating style

Right next door is the Italian Restaurant Angelo’s” which was named after the famed Italian photographer “Angelo Frontoni,” but the venue is very much inspired by the stunningly beautiful Italian actress Sophia Loren. “Angelo’s” offers traditional Italian cuisine with an undeniable Italian flair and service and the venue comes complete with a bar of course. Besides an elegant understated décor, with dark timber veneer lined walls and beige leather chairs and sofas, the walls are clad with black and white photographs of Sophia Loren and Italian landscapes. It amazes me that dining in this elegant restaurant is included in your fare, for on all other ships you would be paying for such a privilege!

 

Above & below: Here we see the elegant surroundings of the Italian Restaurant Angelo’s, featuring Sophia Loren as you dine in style!

 

This brings us to the end of Part Two - Page One now use the link below to go to “Part TwoShips Interiors” Page 2.”

The Pacific Aria is seen at anchor off Dravuni Island Fiji, with one of her tenders in the foreground on August 28, 2016

 Photograph by & © Hun-Eng Tan

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Part Two - Ships Interiors Page 2

 

Return to Part One Cruise Review

 

Part Three contains the Ships Deck Plan & Accommodations

 

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