Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 350 out of 500
Accommodation: 140 out of 200
Food: 261 out of 400
Service: 276 out of 400
Entertainment: 72 out of 100
Cruise: 268 out of 400
Overall Score: 1367 out of 2000
Pacific Jewel Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: P&O Cruises (Australia)
Former Names: Ocean Village Two, AIDAblu, A’RosaBlu, Crown Princess
IMO Number: 8521220
Builder: Fincantieri Navali (Italy)
Original Cost: $276.8 million
Entered Service: Jul 1990/Dec 2009
Registry: Great Britain
Length (ft/m): 805.7/245.6
Beam (ft/m): 105.8/32.2
Draft (ft/m): 26.9/8.2
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (24,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 11
Total Crew: 621
Passengers (lower beds): 1,708
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 39.3
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.5
Cabins (total): 854
Size Range (sq ft/m): 188.3-538.2/17.5-50.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 198
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 10
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Australian $
This mid-size ship provides family-friendly Aussie cruising
Overview. Pacific Jewel is best suited to young Australian couples, single travelers, families, and single parent families with children seeking a good-value-for-money first cruise in a large, casual ship setting, with appealing itineraries and destinations and a range of fun-filled activities. The young, vibrant staff makes passengers feel welcome.
The Ship. Originally ordered by Sitmar Cruises, this ship debuted in 1990 as Crown Princess but has since assumed many identities. It was moved to the A’Rosa Cruises brand and, as A’Rosa Blu, began operating cruises for the German-speaking family market in 2002. Two years later, it was refitted and renamed AIDAblu for AIDA Cruises, then became Ocean Village Two for the UK’s Ocean Village brand. In 2009 it turned into Pacific Jewel, specifically for the Australian market.
It has a dolphin-like upper front structure made of lightweight aluminum alloy, originally designed to keep the weight down in line with stability requirements. It was designed by Renzo Piano, the renowned Italian architect behind Paris’s revolutionary Centre Georges Pompidou and Japan’s Kansai International Airport, Osaka. A large swept-back funnel, also made from aluminum alloy, is placed aft.
Facilities are in line with the tastes of young, active Aussie families, single parents with children, and single travelers. The interior layout is a bit disjointed, however. Some innovative and elegant styling is mixed with traditional features and a reasonably spacious interior layout. An understated decor of soft pastel shades is highlighted by splashes of color, as well as some colorful artwork.
The oval-shaped atrium lobby is three decks high and has a grand staircase as its focal point; it provides a good meeting and gathering point. Shops, bars, and lounges span out from the lobby on three decks. Other facilities include an Internet café, Mix Bar, and Charlie’s Bar. Child-free areas include Oasis, a sunbathing quiet zone aft on Deck 10, and the Aqua Spa and Health Center.
There is no decent outdoor or indoor forward observation viewpoint, and no walk-around promenade deck outdoors, the only walking space being along the port and starboard sides of the ship. In fact, there’s little contact with the outdoors, and sunbathing space is quite limited. Other niggles include the many support pillars throughout the public rooms which obstruct sight lines and impede passenger flow.
P&O Cruises (Australia) scrapped automatic tipping from October 2010, so tips are at your discretion. P&O provides really good value for money, particularly when compared to most land-based resorts in Australia. Some cruises have special themes, such as food and wine. The onboard product is playful and casual; its delivery is highly targeted to the Australian lifestyle, and nobody does it better. The crew are extremely friendly and service is better than you can find in many parts of Australia.
Families. There is a good range of facilities for children, who are split into four age groups, with separate facilities and staff for each: Turtle Cove (ages 3-6); Shark Shack (ages 7-10); HQ (11-13s); HQ+ (14-17s). A paddling pool for toddlers is included.
Accommodation. There are 19 price categories, including mini-suites with private balconies, outside-view cabins and interior cabins, and special cabins for the disabled. Generally, accommodation on the higher decks will cost more because, aboard ship, location is everything. Occupants of mini-suites (there are 36) get more space, a larger bathroom, and premium bathroom amenities.
Single-parent families comprise an increasing number of today’s cruise passengers, so a good number of two-bed cabins also have a third (or third/fourth) pull-down berth.
In general, the well-designed cabins have large bathrooms as well as decent soundproofing. Walk-in closets, refrigerator, personal safe, and color TV are provided in all of them. Twin beds convert to queen-size beds in most cabins. Bathrobes and toiletries are provided. Views from the outside-view cabins for the disabled are obstructed by lifeboats, as are some other cabins on the same deck (Deck 8).
Suites: The most expensive suites have a private balcony, and are quite well laid out to a practical design. The bedroom is separated from the living room by a heavy wooden door; there are TV sets in both rooms, and closet and drawer space are generous.
Dining. There are two principal restaurants, several decks apart: Plantation and The Waterfront. There are a few tables for two, but most are for four, six, or eight. Plantation is open 24 hours a day, while The Waterfront is open for à-la-carte breakfasts, lunches, and dinner at times given in the daily program. There’s a neat table for 10 persons in the Wine Room, part of the Waterfront Restaurant, for use as a Chef’s Table, complete with dégustation menu.
The Waterfront’s menu is really varied and caters to the multicultural, multiethnic passenger mix. The food has great taste, thanks to the use of fresh Australian produce and meat and other items of Australian origin. It is perhaps best described as modern Australian fare. A large ‘always available’ selection is combined with multiple daily additions, plus vegetable and potato side orders (‘sides’ in Aussie-English).
Other dining options. For a treat or special celebration, extra-charge full service dining is available in the intimate bistro-style restaurant, Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (think: Sydney crab omelet with miso mustard broth). It is located forward of the main pools, on the starboard side, accessed by the forward stairway. The cover charge is worth it because the meals have more taste and neat flavor combinations.
La Luna, a small, casual deck restaurant adjacent to the aft pool and funnel, serves Asian-style cuisine.
For coffee, tea, chocolate, and sweet snacks during the day, and drinks in the evening, Charlie’s Bar is an extra-cost patisserie/bar on the lower level of the spacious lobby.
Entertainment. The Marquee Theatre, the venue for main entertainment events, spans two decks, with seating on both main and balcony levels. Several support pillars obstruct sight lines from a number of seats. There’s plenty of colorful entertainment, including a song and dance troupe, and a good stable of Aussie cabaret acts. A high-energy acrobatic-and-dance deck show is provided for warm nights under the stars, on a stage and acrobatic archway fitted during one of the ship’s refits.
Connexions (lounge/bar) is an adults-only comedy venue that doubles as a karaoke and live music venue. Also, if you like country and western music, hoedowns, and line dancing, you’ll find your tastes are catered for.
Spa/Fitness. The Aqua Spa and Health Club, an extensive wellness center, spans two decks and measures almost 14,000 sq ft (1,300 sq m); a staircase connects two levels. Located at the top of the ship at the forward stairway, it occupies the space in the ‘dolphin head’ section. With its curved surfaces, walking the treadmills or exercycling and facing out to sea (albeit on the port side) makes you feel you’re doing so in the upper deck of a Boeing 747.
Panoramic saunas and Hammam steam room are on the lower level; a seven-day pass for the sauna and steam rooms costs extra. The reception area has a waterfall and cypress trees, and there are 11 treatment rooms for facials, massages (including hot stones and couples massage), manicure and pedicure, dry float and hydrobath. There is also a solarium, and a four-person relaxation room. It’s a very nice spa facility.
The spa is operated by a specialist concession. Some exercise classes and health talks are free; others may incur a charge.