Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 359 out of 500
Accommodation: 138 out of 200
Food: 262 out of 400
Service: 277 out of 400
Entertainment: 74 out of 100
Cruise: 278 out of 400
Overall Score: 1388 out of 2000
Pacific Pearl Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: P&O Cruises (Australia)
Former Names: Ocean Village, Arcadia, Star Princess, FairMajesty
IMO Number: 9048081
Builder: Chantiers de L’Atlantique (France)
Original Cost: $200 million
Entered Service: Mar 1989/May 2010
Registry: Great Britain
Length (ft/m): 810.3/247.0
Beam (ft/m): 105.6/32.2
Draft (ft/m): 26.9/8.2
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (39,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 12
Total Crew: 514
Passengers (lower beds): 1,624
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 39.1
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 3.1
Cabins (total): 812
Size Range (sq ft/m): 148.0-538.2/13.7-50.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 64
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 8
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Australian $
A dated, but very family-friendly ship for casual cruising
Overview. Pacific Pearl is best suited to young couples, singles of all ages, and families with children and teenagers who like to mingle in a mid-size ship with plenty of life, music, and entertainment for everyone, with food that is quantity rather than quality, and a price that’s attractive.
The Ship. Pacific Pearl was originally designed and built as FairMajesty for Sitmar Cruises just as the company was absorbed into Princess Cruises. In 2003, after a refurbishment that brightened the interior passageways, public rooms, and dining spots, it morphed into Ocean Village, a trendy ship designed for younger couples and families.
Several new cabins were added during that refit. The casino was also relocated, displacing the library, and a former casino became an Internet center/bar. In 2010, the ship was transferred to P&O Cruises (Australia) to become Pacific Pearl for Australasian passengers, and further refurbished to suit Australian cruise tastes.
Pacific Pearl is a well-proportioned ship, with a decent amount of open deck and sunbathing space - and an adults-only quiet zone decks (The Oasis, with two hot tubs, but no shower) on the aft, tiered decks. On the open leisure deck are two pools, one with sloping steps, the other with vertical steps, and one has a sit-in ‘splash’ bar. An archway over the aft pool provides a platform for aerial acrobatic shows, and there’s also a poolside screen for those important rugby games - and movies. An Oasis adults-only quiet zone with day beds, and a hot tub is located at the aft of Deck 8.
The interiors are quite elegant, with much attention paid to lighting. But they also include a few items that have a link with the past, such as the Art Deco stainless steel balustrades and the soulless stainless steel elevators. There aren’t a lot of public rooms, although one nice feature is the fact that they have ceilings higher than the average for contemporary cruise ships. My favorite bar: Mix.
The focal point of the interior is a three-deck-high atrium lobby and a multi-deck dual staircase. The Dome, an observation lounge, sits atop the ship, forward of the mast. It is a lounge for cocktails; at night it turns into a night-spot/discotheque with a sunken, circular wooden dance floor.
For retail therapy, several shops are clustered around the second and third levels of the atrium lobby. Other facilities include a small casino, aft of the upper level of the two-deck-high showlounge, a Victorian pub called Oriana (with Fat Yak, Hoegaarden, Carlsberg, and Bulmers Cider on tap), Connexions Bar (for adult-only comedy, karaoke, and trivia quizzes), and Mix Bar, a more traditional cocktail bar/drinking lounge with cool blue decor.
There’s no full walk-around promenade deck outdoors, but open port and starboard walking areas stretch partly along the sides. There is, however, a walking track on the uppermost open deck.
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. So hats off to P&O, who made tipping discretionary in 2010.
Families. The children’s facilities and playrooms are quite extensive. At the aft of the ship, there’s an indoor play area - Turtle Cove for 3-6-year-olds, and Shark Shack for 7-10-year-olds. An exterior aft deck has a paddling pool and games area. Tweens and teenagers have their own areas (HQ Club for ages 11-14, and HQ+ for 15-17s, including a good chill-out zone). A children’s dinner is offered for ages 3-10, with babysitting available until 1am.
A number of cabins have third- and-fourth person berths - good for families with children, but the drawer and storage space is tight.
Accommodation. There are four basic types, mini-suites, outsides with balcony, outside-view, and interior, in 22 different price grades, depending on location and size. These include 36 mini-suites with small private balcony, walk-in closet, masses of storage space, and wood-floored bathroom with bathtub and shower. All other accommodation consists of standard outside-view and interior grade cabins, almost all of which are of a decent size. If you like to fall asleep with soft music playing, note that because music is available only through the TV set, you can’t access any of the music channels without having a TV picture on.
Standard outside-view/interior cabins. All are equipped with twin beds that can, in most cases, be put together to form a queen-size bed. All have a good amount of storage, including wooden drawer units, plus some under-bed space for luggage, and a walk-in closet. Sound insulation between cabins could be better - TV sound late at night can be irritating. High-quality bed linen, duvets, and pillows are provided.
The bathrooms are of a modular design and have good-size shower enclosures and a retractable clothesline. None have tubs except for the mini-suites, as the ship was originally built for American passengers, who prefer showers. However, shower heads are affixed to the wall, denying you the ease of a flexible shower hose. Soap is provided.
Room-service items cost extra, and incur an additional delivery charge.
Dining. The main restaurant is the 812-seat, open-seating Waterfront; it has large ocean-view windows, sit-down, tablecloth dining, and tables for two, four, six, or eight persons. It has a high ceiling, and seating sections help divide the room into comfortable spaces, so it doesn’t feel as large as it actually is.
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, including vegetarian dishes, is combined with multiple daily additions, and vegetable and potato side orders are always provided. The food is straightforward, unfussy, and unpretentious, with little use of garnishes. The service is attentive, warm, and lighthearted. Bar snacks such as peanuts or crisps cost extra.
For more intimate dining and food prepared to order, try the specialty venue Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. This small dining spot with open kitchen serves really excellent New World cuisine. The steaks are extremely good, and the fish specialties include barramundi and fresh oysters. There’s a cover charge (it’s absolutely worth it), and reservations are needed; the downside is the intrusive, unnecessary vocal background ‘music.’
Plantation is a self-serve buffet, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but setting is limited. It’s typically slow-going along straight buffet lines, so patience is needed. A wide selection of tea is provided at the smart beverage stations, as is coffee.
The Café, for coffees, hot chocolate, and chocolate snacks, is adjacent to the forward swimming pool. Charlie’s, a neat little coffee bistro, located on the lowest lobby level opposite the reception desk, serves coffees, teas, pastries, and snacks (at extra cost). A new ice cream bar has been added to the pool.
Entertainment. The Marquee Theatre is the venue for all principal entertainment events. A horseshoe-shaped room, with main and balcony levels (there’s a bar at the back on the main level), it has adequate sight lines from most of the banquette-style seating, but sight lines from the front row seats on the upper level are obstructed by the required balcony railing.
Although the ship isn’t young and doesn’t have the latest bells and whistles, the stage has an excellent LED lighting backdrop. There is a good variety of entertainment, from production shows to cabaret-style acts and comedians. There is also live music throughout the many lounges and bars - in fact, there’s no bar without music, so sitting down for a quiet drink or two isn’t an option. Fans of country and western music, hoedowns, and line dancing are well catered for.
Spa/Fitness. The attractive Aqua Spa facilities include a beauty salon, gymnasium, and an extra-cost thermal/relax area that includes a unisex sauna, steam room, herbal showers, and two body-shaped tiled hot beds. It is located on the lowest passenger deck.
It is wise to book treatments such as massages and facials as soon as possible after you embark, as time slots fill quickly. Some exercise classes are free, but most incur a charge.