Pacific Aria - 8 Night Vanuatu Cruise Review - ex Brisbane My 10, 2018 - Page One

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Page One


Please Note

Although I am a Cruise Reviewer, be assured that I and operate on a 100% non-Commercial basis and

therefore, I always pay our full fares through a travel agency; otherwise, my reviews would be, well have a bias & be compromised!



In addition

Photographs in this review were mostly taken during this cruise, whilst several were

taken during a previous cruise, by myself and Mr. Eng Tan and are © Copyright 2018.                                                                        


For my many regular readers, you will note that although I have written a number of previous Pacific Aria cruise reviews, I have decided to commence this one somewhat differently with an introduction to our First Day. In fact I commence from our arrival at the Cruise Terminal and our baggage disposal, checking in with P&O, next boarding the ship as well as our time aboard until late that night.

I am sure that you will also find many other new changes as well as a very special Pacific Aria news item in this review, which will be of great interest to those who have sailed on her previously!

And as my regular readers will know, because I am completely non-commercial and have no arrangements with any shipping or cruise company, and that includes any travel/cruise agencies, I pay our full fares. In relation to the review, I do not just base ratings on my personal experiences, but as I tend to speak with countless passengers on board and receive their feedback, I take all this in hand in order to make accurate judgements and thus provide ratings based on my conclusions combined with those of other passengers.

Just for interest, on May 15, my friend and carer Mr. Eng Tan and I dined for the very first time at Luke Mangan’s “Salt Grill” and I will cover this later in the review. Also believe it or not, it just happened that during this cruise my birthday happened, something I generally never celebrate, but more on this later.

I trust that you will enjoy this new 2018 Pacific Aria cruise review.

Reuben Goossens.


Day 1; Thursday May 10, 2018:

Upon arrival at Portside Brisbane’s International Cruise Terminal, our two suitcases were quickly taken from us, and we then headed for the “Priority Boarding” entrance. As soon as we entered we found that the Terminal staff were extremely efficient and most helpful on every level, in fact they could not do enough to make arriving passengers at ease and ready for their cruise vacation. Check in was fast and efficient and service was excellent! I felt that the entire experience from the moment of arriving at the terminal and reaching the ship was beautifully organised. Well done team, even the emigration officers proved to be rather pleasant, and that was a nice change from the occasional previous experiences, for we have seen some grumpy individuals on duty who it seemed just did not want to be there at all. But today, they were amazing, may it always like this!

The Boarding Experience was rated: 9.5 out of 10!

Pacific Aria is seen alongside Portside Cruise Terminal

Boarding the Pacific Aria for our shorter than usual cruise, being just an eight day “Vanuatu Cruise”, proved to be a delightfully smooth affair, for we were aboard the ship and in our regular Suite N° 10058 very rapidly! The P&O staff on board were very friendly as usual, as well meeting a number of wonderful officers and admin staff we have sailed with in the past, thus the moment we stepped on board it was more like a welcome home affair.

Within ten minutes after having arrived in our suite we received a good number of visitors, The Maitre d’, the House Keeping Manager and others, all of whom were very helpful, considering we are regulars in this special needs Suite and due to having sailed on the Aria many times before, and I also have a number of advanced bookings because there is just one special needs Suite and it needs to be booked early. At least that is better than on the Sea Princess and her sister which are based in Brisbane, for they do not have a single special needs Suite whatsoever, and there is just one only Mini-Suite with the relevant facilities. It was wonderful that our suitcases appeared in our room reasonably rapidly and thus were able to unpack early, well before lifeboat drill at 1.30 PM.


Above & below: This is our usual Suite made up as a twin bedded configuration and the Lounge can be seen below

There is also a large bar unit, with a fridge, and there is a spacious dressing room, which I also use as my office

an office chair is kindly provided for me. The bathroom has a fold down seat in an exceptionally large shower and

there is also a fold down arm rest beside the WC. As there is just one special need suite, I book it well in advance!


Later I spoke with a number of other passengers and they mostly agreed that their boarding experience had been really very good and that it had run smoothly, most said that they found that the system worked very well and that …

“It seemed such a friendly affair the moment we arrived at portside.”

I also asked about their first lunch on board the ship that day, and the general rule was as follows;

“We had a great lunch and the service could not be faulted, everyone was so friendly!”

Some dined at the ships main restaurant, being the “Waterfront” on Deck 7, whilst others enjoyed the variety cuisine that was available at “the Pantry” on Deck 11. I will further cover “the Pantry” later in this review.

This is the slightly raised central area of the wonderful Waterfront Restaurant, although we sit just to the right near the forward wall



Above & below: This is the wonderful and popular “the Pantry” seen early at lunchtime


At 1.30 pm it was time for lifeboat drill, where every passenger has to participate and has to head out on Promenade Deck (6) under their allocated lifeboat number (which is shown on their cruise card, on the back of their Stateroom door, as well as on the lifejacket) and listen to the safety details, etc., after which they will put on their lifejackets, having been shown how to do this correctly. The elderly, or disabled in wheelchairs or on scooters, we are permitted to gather in the Atrium Lounge area on Deck 6 and there they can also hear the instructions and staff are on hand to show the lifejacket demonstration and assist those that required some assistance.

Then just after 2.00 pm, Pacific Aria slowly pulled away from her berth and did a complete turn around in the Brisbane River, whilst the “Sail Away Party” commenced on Deck 11. She slowly headed towards Moreton Bay and having passed the Glasshouse Mountains and later Fraser Island she headed out to sea, and the cruise had now really commenced.

Dinner Time:

In the evening we enjoyed our first evening meal at the “Waterfront” where we met our wonderful Indian steward Raj who hails from Goa. Raj looked after us throughout the cruise and he proved to be most efficient and attentive, not just to us, but to all his guests at his allocated tables. We were delighted to have this excellent steward with his amazing smile who continually offered the finest hospitality and the best in service. Obviously we were delighted with Raj as well as a wonderful team in the restaurant, such as; Restaurant Managers, Rio, Bond, Micelle, David, and our remarkable Maitre d’ Mr. Edison Fernandes whom we have come to know from previous cruises!

View from our table 149 to aft of the Waterfront Restaurant; note the restaurant’s popular, but very efficient “Joker.”


The author at his table for lunch and the wonderful Raj!

Cuisine on Board:

In regard to the meals served in the Waterfront”, as well at “the Pantry” etc. We found, especially on this cruise that meals were better than ever, there were new recipes, and the food was of a very high standard and certainly delicious! For this I have to give credit to Executive Chef Mr. Benjamin (Ben) Frankitt who is without a doubt one of the finest’ Chefs we have ever experienced on a P&O ship, for his skills proved to be simply outstanding. Speaking to many past passengers, all said that the food was very good, and that their meals was well above their expectations, compared to past experiences. I know from my own past experiences food had been good, but this time it proved to be “outstanding”.

Left to Right: Chef Benjamin (Ben) Frankitt, Hun-Eng Tan, Edison Fernandes & the author seated

The photographs above & below were taken on the final evening of our cruise on May 17, 2018 by Raj & the author


Ben Frankitt the best Executive Chef we have ever found on any P&O ship, including P&O UK!

Of course credit also needs to be given to Ben’s fine staff, for obviously there is a great deal of preparation and cooking to be done, and food travels down a line, but it has to reach your table in perfect condition, and it did arrive in a high standard, and a top quality meal! Congratulations to all in the Galley!

Our Waterfront during our cruise experience is rated: 9.9 out of 10!




Tonight we headed to the “Marquee” Showroom to watch the “Welcome Aboard Show” (WAS), mostly because one of Australia’s greatly loved and well known TV star Maggie Scott being one of the guest artists on this cruise. “WAS” opened and closed with the ‘Pacific Aria Entertainment Team’, presenting two excellent vocal/dance acts.


Above & below: Two views of the opening and closing acts


They were followed by the first guest artist, being; Matt Elsbury, a comedian who was mainly booked to do the “Sitdown Comedy Club” (R18+) show at 10.15 PM for another evening, and although he attempted to keep his comedy clean on this evening he was indeed a very funny man. However, with a number of children present in the venue and these being in sight of him, he still dropped some very smutty clangers, which I found to be completely unnecessary and very sad indeed. Please Note: His rating is low, mostly due to his language in the presence of these youngsters during this show.

Matt Elsbury was rated: 4 out of 10!

Next was Humphrey James a so-called comedic magician, whose patter was more pathetic than his magic, I am sorry, but nothing more need to be said about this person as he was a total waste of our time. The person responsible at P&O Sydney should be ashamed of themselves for hiring a lame act like this!

The Humphrey James was rated: 1 out of 10!


The last of the Guest acts was outstanding Maggie Scott, and did she sing, what an incredible voice, and a comedienne supreme!

She commenced with one of Australia’s old favourite songs, “I’ve been everywhere”, with a whole new take on it, for she turned that song into with the theme related to the countless illness she has had, when the doctor asked the question if she had any sicknesses in the past, and believe me, it was simply hilarious!

This was followed by two further items, which were outstanding. The audience loved her, for she proved with her three numbers that she was and always will be a fine Australian Star, and will for a very long time to come!

Left: Maggie Scott is seen during her amazing show, “Life’s a Lemon”.




Maggie Scott was rated once again: 10 out of 10:


Looking Back at our First Day on Board:

Our first day on the Pacific Aria was very much like a wonderful homecoming, just like it was for so many other past passengers who had sailed on her. There seems to be such a special relationship between regulars, the staff and the crew, because Pacific Aria is such a happy and a friendly ship, and her wonderful crew, her officers, restaurant managers, the Maitre d’, as well as the senior administration staff are just a wonderful group of people, and combined they make their passengers feel right at home. I have heard it said, “It is like being on holiday with friends and family.”

To be honest, if I had to rate the officers and crew on the Aria during this cruise, well I can say with complete honesty, I cannot fault them; the hospitality to their guests is simply a delight to watch! In all their departments, I note their efficiency and they will do anything to assist where there is a need, and the stewards smile and always ready to help and their smile and caring nature is 100% genuine!

The Staff & Crew of Pacific Aria is rated: 9.5 out of 10!

As we were about to lose an hour tonight and all too soon it was 11.30 PM, and it was back to our suite and relax for a while, before retiring and I had a peaceful sleep.


Day Two; Friday May 11:

After a restful sleep in my very comfortable bed I woke at 4.20 AM. Then having readied myself, I left the room just before 5 AM and went down to Promenade Deck (6) and took a spin on my scooter along the deck. It was such a beautiful day weather wise, with ultra smooth seas and no wind. I ended up chatting with a few people I knew from previous cruises, on Pacific Aria and other ships, and before I knew it, I knew that it was my early morning coffee time.

Around 6 AM I headed to the Ocean Bar being my regular location on all my cruises on the Aria for a delicious Barista made long black coffee. I must give a special mention to the staff at the Ocean Bar, 1. Thank you Annaliza for making the best cup of coffee at sea. 2. The wonderful service that was given to me, and all guests for that , by Lizzing a delightful young lady from Vanuatu, who always had that warm and wonderful smile and greeting that is always genuine. 3. And I have not forgotten the delightful “slim” Debbie the Bar Superintendant, who during our previous cruises was in charge in the Ocean Bar and made my early morning coffee. A special mention must also be made to the delightful Food & Beverage Manager, Mr. Ricardo Soares who is an outstanding man in every possible way, and a very, very nice man to boot!

The Ocean Bar, its Coffee and Staff rated a worthy: 10 out of 10!


Above & below: The delightful Ocean Bar, which is not just the place for the perfect coffee and drinks

but the lounge also provides daily entertainment as several bands perform there during the day & night


Having finished my coffee around 6.30 AM. I head aft along Deck 8 on the starboard side to the delightful intimate “Grill Lounge” being just aft of amidships. Here I take a seat near the window in one of the high domed chairs and read one of my mystery books.

Whilst I am happily reading in the “Grill Lounge”, my friend and carer Eng Tan, heads up to the Elemis studio (Gym) up on Deck 11 (far forward), where he participates in the daily 7 AM “Stretch and Relaxation”, followed by the 7.30 AM “Abdominal Conditioning” sessions.

Around 7.45 AM, I leave the lounge to wash my hands to ready myself for breakfast, then head one deck down to the Waterfront Restaurant arriving there at 8 AM with Eng usually arriving around the same time, give or take 5 minutes.

The domed chair marked with an X is the one I used each morning as the light tends to be perfect there for reading

At the Waterfront Restaurant as I may have mentioned earlier, we have a pre-arranged table, which is most suitable for my scooter and my rather poor mobility these days. This being table 149 located far forward in the restaurant corner on the portside. We have Breakfast here each morning at 8 AM, Lunch at 12 Noon, and Dinner at 6 PM. When the restaurant is closed on certain port days, we dine in our Suite at our own dinning table.

We have this same table on each and every cruise as it is convenient for parking the scooter



But now a Pacific Aria News Update:

In August 2018, the Pacific Aria will be heading for Singapore where she will enter dry dock and she undergoes an extensive refit. 1: All cabins will be updated and refreshed. 2. The Dome on Deck 12 will be completely redecorated, with new furnishings and art added, and it will be like a brand new venue! 3. New carpeting will be laid in all cabins and many other sections of the ship. 4. New soft furnishings & upholstery throughout as required. 5. The ships hull will be scraped, cleaned and then fully repainted and then P&O’s new Australian flag will draped (painted) along her bow.

This is Pacific Eden’s recent new bow, and the Aria’s new bow will be identical

Thus if you have booked to cruise on her late in August or after August 2018, you will be sailing on a delightfully new look and a refreshed MV Pacific Aria!


A Short Tour of the Ship:

But now, let us discover what makes the 55.820-ton MV Pacific Aria such a beautiful, as well as a friendly and an intimate style of ship! Should you board her for the first time she will provide you with some wonderful décor surprises as she is one of the most delightful ships in the P&O fleet!

However this time, unlike in past reviews, I will not look at every facility on board, but I will keep to the ships major Passenger facilities, being Deck 6, 7 and 8, and I will commence from the forward part of the Ship and slowly head aft. But I will include The Pantry on Deck 11 later.

Decks 6, 7 & 8:

Atrium 7 associated venues:

On the lower level of the Atrium you will find a very spacious venue that has a spacious and comfortable lounge area with luxurious armchairs glass topped tables. There is also the “Internet Café” located in the very centre of the Atrium that is open high above looking up to Deck 8. The venue features floral style blue carpets and dark blue curtains that rise up high with the golden stairs running along the Atrium walls. Some marble covers a wall below the lower stairs and white pottery is part of the décor. The computer systems sit on raised desk complete with comfortable high bar type seats all located on a floor of black tiles. On the aft wall of the Atrium Lounge, besides superb furnishings, there is a showcase set into the wall and it is filled with the most amazing collection of fine pottery you will ever see! On both sides of the ship are doors that will take you out to the wide and spacious open but covered Promenade Deck.

Deck 6: Atrium lower level with Internet Café with a Lounge on the Starboard side

Note the golden Grand Stairwell heading up to Lounge Deck (8)


Here we see a small part of the starboard lounge and an ATM for cash withdrawals


The Pacific Aria has a spacious covered full-walk-around Promenade Deck

Far forward on Deck 7 you will find the lower level of the ships large Showroom, the “Marquee” the location of all the production shows, and the Guest artists, etc, as well as other concerts, and even BINGO! Just aft on the port side is the Photoshop where you can see all the photographs that have been taken on board by the ships photographers. Then there is the middle layer of the Atrium with the Reception Desk and the Shore Excursion Desk on the starboard side as well as a fine lounge area.

The Marquee:

The massive multi level Marquee Showroom is seen here during the day


And at night there are great productions shows, including; “Off the Charts”

Above at the “Welcome Aboard Show” you shown glimpses of parts of other shows


The Atrium:

Deck 7: Here is a view from above down towards the Reception Desk and the Shore Excursion Desk


Deck 7 does has not just have the Reception Desk, but also a comfortable lounge area and the

 Excursion Booking Desk, just aft is the Cinema, a Wine Cellar, and several meeting rooms

We have now arrived on Deck 8, the top level of the Atrium, and this is where we will find the majority of the ships wonderful public venues. Again far forward is the upper level of the ‘Marquee’ Showroom, and as we head aft and pass the forward lift well and stairs, we arrive at the wonderful Ocean Bar and a number of shops on the portside.

A view to the starboard side and we see the much loved Ocean Bar Lounge, with bandstand and a dance floor


Being the top level of the Atrium, here we can look down all three of its levels


One of the three shops located on the portside of the Atrium area

I will now continue to describe some of the other venues located on Deck 8 that has Duty Free shops, Pandora’s, the Casino, the amazing MIX bars, both having a small band stand that has individual artists nightly. On the starboard side is the Grill Lounge and Luke Mangan “Salt Grill”, whilst port side you will find the very popular music venue the Blue Room, with it amazing long Bar! Far aft are two speciality restaurants, one Italian, the other Pan Asian and both are available at NO additional cost!

I have already covered the Ocean bar, thus I will continue with the other venues.

The Mix & Casino Duty Free Shop:

An early morning view of the Duty Free shops (left) and The MIX Bars


Here we see a photo taken later in the day that includes the Casino on the portside


The MIX Bar that specialises in Spirits


And this The MIX is the Martini bar

Grill Lounge:


Above & below: Two further views of this fine elegant and intimate venue, which is complete with a grand piano!


Blue Room:

The Blue Room is in reality three rooms, the two aft venues are the more intimate rooms and are much loved during the day for those who like some quiet time, or just read a book. But the forward venue is the large room with a band stand along the forward wall, and here you will find music galore! This style of venue was first created by P&O for the Pacific Aria and her sister the Eden, and now all P&O ships have a Blue Room, due to its amazing popularity! Music played here has a vast variety, from soft Blues and Jazz, to Rock and Pot and a good numbers of really great bands have performed on the Aria when we have cruised on her. However, I will cover the bands and other musicians on Page two.

The delightful Blue Room seen during the day, at night this room will be full with good music lovers


The Blue Room, looking forward towards the bandstand


The Bar is just aft of the Venue seen above; this photo was taken from hallway that runs from the Grill Lounge area to this Bar

The above shows us the main venues on the Pacific Aria, although I have not revealed the Dome topside, as that great room will be completely refurbished and most reading this will see the new look Dome when they cruise on her after August this year, just as I will in November 2018.

However as you will have seen, the Pacific Aria is a very beautiful ship with a wide range of amazing lounges and bars, as well as other facilities. There is a huge Gym, and a Sauna on Deck 11, a fine Pool amidships on that same deck with a number of Jacuzzis, and there is a huge glass sliding roof that can be either open or closed pending the weather conditions. And for the ladies a fine Beauty Salon, for your hair, nails or facials, etc, and then there is the magnificent Elemis Day Spa, where you can be pampered with signature therapies and beauty treatments

Thoughts on the cruise in General:

In this part of the review, I will cover a good number of fellow passengers I spoke with during the cruise regarding their thoughts about their cruise experience, and of course as well as our own thoughts about this Vanuatu Cruise. The itinerary was from Brisbane on May 10, and sailed to ‘Noumea’, the Island of ‘Maré’ (New Caledonia), then we headed to that most loved island in the Pacific, ‘Mystery Island’, and finally to the capital of Vanuatu where we berthed at ‘Port Vila’ and then returned to Brisbane arriving back on May 18.

Pacific Aria is seen at anchor within the lagoon off Mystery Island on May 14, 2018

In brief, according to passengers I spoke to, the overall feeling regarding this cruise was that it was great success and generally everyone thoroughly enjoyed the ship and its facilities. But the highest praise was for the exceptionally friendly service, the wonderful and varied menus and food, and the amazing weather we enjoyed throughout the voyage, and of course the ports of call. The only disappointment for many first time cruisers was arriving 3 PM in Noumea, being rather late and not to popular. But then again, not too many seem to like Noumea as a port of call, and the majority of past passengers, as well as first time cruisers, said, “If we never see Noumea again that will be fine!”

The Cruise in general was rated by all those I spoke with 8.9 out of 10:

Port Photographs:

Noumea - New Caledonia

A view of Noumea as we arrived in the afternoon, the structure with the metal tent like roof is the Cruise Terminal


A Local ban playing shipside at the Noumea Cruise Terminal


Maré - New Caledonia

Pacific Aria taken from the tender whilst heading to the Island of Maré


Maré locals fishing and looking at the Pacific Aria at anchor


Mystery Island - Vanuatu

Mystery Island is surrounded by these white beaches, and you can walk around the island under 30 minutes


Although uninhabited, these locals come by small boats from a neighbouring Island


I am sure she would be tender for a good soup, but they are no longer cannibals and let her go after her photo was taken


Obviously, this is an Island of sheer delight, and every passenger, first timers and those who

had been here many times, all say “Mystery Island is the most heavenly destination of them all!”


Port Vila

Pacific Aria seen berthed at Port Vila, Eng took this from the water taxi to town


Still on the water taxi passing Iririki Island Resort close to Vila


The waterfront walk in Vila where there are many fine restaurants



Above & below: The Downtown markets and the shipside markets


I trust you enjoyed this brief look at the port we visited, and for interest, all photographs taken off the ship were shot by Mr. Eng Tan, as these days, I get on at Brisbane and get off at Brisbane, and no longer get off at any ports. And lets face it, with well over 250 voyages/cruises behind me from a mere 8 days to 106 in duration; I have pretty well been to most ports cruise ships visit, more than once to say the least. Also, I love the shipboard life, as I am a sailor at heart, and I am happiest being on board a ship, especially such a fine ship as the Pacific Aria!

This brings me to the end of Page One, and Page Two will cover our dinning experience at Luke Mangan’s “Salt Grill” as well as something I normally never celebrate, and that is Birthdays, but the Aria family decided that was going to change big time!

Use this link to go Page Two of this Review


In addition, you can read my Cruise Review - PNG Cruise November 14 - 2017

This review also has a special three page “The Papua New Guinea Experience” Feature

This feature is packed with countless exciting photographs taken by Mr. Eng tan!



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