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December 5, 2023

Review: Country Cruise P & O, Pacific Explorer

P & O Cruises
Dates: 17 November 2023 (Three nights) Auckland return.

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t anticipating this cruise with the same enthusiasm I might have for our other holidays. I’d sailed with P & O a few years ago and was underwhelmed. A group of friends from my village decided to go on this cruise, and I thought, why not?

P & O App:
This was simple to download, and I had no problems with the app. My husband did, but overall, I thought the app worked well.

Check-in was quick and efficient at the port in Auckland. We didn’t require passports since we were merely sailing out to sea and not landing anywhere. We took ours as ID, but a driver’s license was sufficient. We also only packed carry-on luggage. For those who had larger bags, the drop-off point worked efficiently, and their bags arrived at the relevant cabins.

Ship: Pacific Explorer
My husband and I decided to book an inside cabin due to the shortness of the trip and the lack of recent sunshine. We figured we’d spend most of our time out of our cabin, which proved true. The cabin was comfortable but perhaps a little dated. The public areas were lovely with lots of seating to rest awhile or chat with friends.

There are several restaurants to choose from. The Pantry is a buffet, which is set out in sections such as Asian food, fish and chips, roast dinners, Mexican and Indian, as well as a section with salads and fresh fruit and desserts. We ate here for lunch, and as a vegetarian, I enjoyed the Indian vegetarian curries served on a thali plate. The fresh fruit was delicious, especially the papaya.

It’s necessary to pre-book for dinner, and my husband and I booked our meals at the Dragon Lady, billed as a Pan-Asian restaurant. I found plenty on the menu for a vegetarian, and we couldn’t fault our meals on any of the three nights. Our friends didn’t enjoy their meal at this restaurant, so your mileage might vary.

The other restaurants are the Waterfront (classic and cutting-edge cuisine) and Angelo’s (Italian).

We ate at the Waterfront every morning for breakfast and were impressed with the breakfast menu, especially the smashed avocado—my husband’s favorite, which he ordered with a side of bacon.
Overall, I thought the food was excellent.

Dragon Lady Restaurant, Pacific Explorer

They weren’t too badly priced. (Australian dollars). A pint of beer was around $10 and a cocktail around $16. You need to pace yourself in this area because that bar bill can creep up on you!

We had a headliner Country act playing in the main theatre each night. This was the part that disappointed me. Although these singers were well-known in Australia, I’ve never heard of any of them, and they sang unfamiliar-to-me songs. Also, the backing band was too loud, and they overwhelmed the singers. I didn’t last through any of the shows.

The karaoke played in the main bar was fun, though, with several excellent singers and some who were bigger personalities than singers. The karaoke was always well attended and a lot of fun.

Several artists played in the other bars, and most stuck to their usual song playlist instead of going country.

Line dancing was very popular and crowded, with two classes each day. There was trivia, mini golf, bowls, and bean bag toss, to name a few of the activities. The ship has several pools, a gym, and a spa for those who enjoy beauty treatments or massages. The water slides proved popular with small and big kids. My husband tried them out and had a blast.

There are also paid activities such as a zipline, climbing wall, walk the plank, and a tightrope walk. You can have your Titanic moment. You had to sign your life away before doing any of these activities, and the employees fit you out with harnesses and helmets as necessary. These activities are weather-dependent, and we were lucky to have sunshine and calm seas.

I’d always wanted to try a climbing wall, so I seized this opportunity. I wasn’t very good and fell on my butt, but it was fun. I’d do this again. My husband and I tried the zipline, which neither of us had done before. We loved the zipline, although my husband did make me go first!

Climbing wall, Pacific Exolorer

View of Water Slides, Pacific Explorer

There was no pressure to dress up, but most people did, wearing hats, jeans, and boots. I had some serious “boot” envy and made a mental note to go boot shopping the next time I visited the US. Daytime wear was casual, which for me meant a T-shirt and jeans.

My expectations were low, but P & O delivered on this short break. We had a fantastic time. This was a friendly, happy cruise. Some might call it a booze cruise, but security kept a close eye on proceedings, and I never saw any bad behavior. I’d go again, given the opportunity. Recommended.