As the Pacific Dawn poked its sleek nose into Moreton Bay at the start of our week-long Pacific Island cruise, the wind was up, but for us there was a clear feeling of calm.
So what if it was too blustery at the start to go out onto our balcony or the open deck?
There were plenty of other places inside to enjoy as we planned the coming seven “laid back” days ahead.
Designed by an Italian who said the distinctive curved forward superstructure of the ship was inspired by the dolphin, the Dawn has eleven guest decks, nine bars and lounges, restaurants, theatre and a jogging track plus what is described as Australia’s largest adventure park at sea, including a towering water slide.
Originally called Regal Princess, the ship was renamed Pacific Dawn by Queensland Olympian Cathy Freeman in 2007. It was recently refurbished.
Dawn’s island adventure, tailor-made for families, did not disappoint our multi-generational group … me, my mum, 17-year old daughter and 15-year-old niece.
We shared a suite on deck 11 near the front of the ship which had a more than generous deck, two single beds and a foldout bed, supplemented each night by a special roll out bed set up by our cabin staff. Heaps of storage room.
We rarely saw the girls as they met other same-age teens, chatted, got involved in teen club activities, chatted, ate nuggets and chips, chatted, sunbathed and chatted some more….often till late into the night.
They did say the rules governing where they could and could not go at certain times were often confusing, but admitted the teen security boss took the time to discuss any complaints they had.
While mum and I commiserated with the girls on the restrictions, we were buoyed by the knowledge the yellow-vested security staff were making sure the teens were safe.
No wandering the ship after 10.30. If they wanted to hang out it had to be somewhere in the central Atrium.
The “smiles” were Dawn’s secret weapon.
They were there throughout the voyage which took us to Noumea (New Caledonia) on Day 3, Lifou Island on Day 4 and Port Vila (Vanuatu) on Day 5. Wherever you went, whatever you wanted, be it material or simple directions, there was always a smile from the crew and a genuine effort to please…all contributing to the feeling of calm felt by passengers from the start.
Calm in the knowledge that those running the ship knew exactly what they were doing, committed to giving all on board a good time and getting us home safely.
If there were any doubts about the professional seamanship of the Dawn’s crew they were dispelled as we headed for Brisbane after Vanuatu.
About 10.15 in the morning on the Thursday, the Captain announced that we were going to the rescue of three sailors who had abandoned their yacht (into a life raft) after hitting an old tug rope which ripped a hole in the hull.
I was up on deck and mum was having a massage when the call went out so I rushed to our cabin and watched from our balcony (hundreds lined the open decks) as the crew lowered a tender lifeboat which picked up the men and brought them back to the Dawn (to a great cheer) as their yacht disappeared beneath the water. It was a pretty calm day, which was handy. Mum missed all the action but heard later that a woman who was live streaming the rescue (on her phone) back to her husband in Brisbane accidently dropped it overboard. Wonder if, for a second, he thought she may have still been holding it?
Morning, noon and night, the options on the Dawn are many, including The Pantry which offers interactive dining with a range of individual outlets offering such things as curries, roasts, fish and chips (and nuggets), pastas bacon and eggs (plus baked beans, if you wish) and sweets.
The girls spent a lot of time eating nuggets and the like here.
The Waterfront Restaurant, which required a booking (still complementary, though), featured more than 40 a la carte menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there is more. For a small extra spend, diners can have access to a fine dining menu for approx $8 (entree) and $25 (main).
We spent a lot of time here. The girls came but preferred to eat at The Pantry. No chance of them becoming bored while they waited, however, with Jinky our waiter entertaining us between courses with tricks, challenges and riddles.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan offers a special fine dining experience designed by the Australian speciality chef which is available for $49 a head (lunch), $59 a head (dinner) and $25 (a head) (high tea).
Went with mum for lunch and we had lobster, prawns and tuna, finishing with Mangan’s famous liquorice parfait. Delish.
Shell and Bones where you can enjoy the “catch of the day” or steak etc at a la carte (extra) prices.
We had our opening dinner here and somehow I manage to get the chilli crabs all over myself and in my eyes. Everyone to the rescue here!
The Grill up on the top deck with a great view with a menu that boasted egg and bacon rolls, snags, pizzas and gourmet burgers with chips and garlic prawn basket, all of which cost extra.
The pizzas were very popular with the girls.
Any number of options including The Orient ( a pub-style venue), Oasis Bar
(Child free with a relaxed vibe and deckchairs. Ideal for watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand), The Dome nightclub. On deck 14, (Just the place to dance the night away), Mix Cocktail Bar, Top Deck Pool Bar and Players Bar and Casino.
Mum and I generally had our first cocktail at 2pm, after lunch and either poolside (adult area) or in a quiet alcove to read our books.
If you’re after the finer things in life, you can also partake in some retail therapy where you’ll find several well known brands in fashion, cosmetics and electrical equipment, all duty free of course.
It can be a trap for those that can’t help themselves from a little shop.
There is always something going on, including music trivia, Bingo (with big prizes), dancing lessons, karaoke and in the evening a stage show (twice a night, most nights) in the vast The Marquee theatre where you can sip your cocktails while watching. A couple of X-rated comedians did some late night “adult only” presentations which we cringed at but laughed a lot.
PORTS OF CALL
There were three places the Dawn visited on this cruise with Port Vila (Vanuatu) the main stop providing great shopping, interesting excursions and opportunities to try local eateries while meeting the locals.
The girls particularly enjoyed swimming at Vanuatu’s the Blue Lagoon which has a rope swing, visiting a Vanuatu Turtle Sanctuary and primary school and swimming among the coral at Lifou (New Caledonia).
Now this is where my mum and I spent a lot of time and it’s easy to rack up the bill. Well I spent the most there with 2 massages and a facial. Each time I managed to get enticed into buying the Elemis product which is considered a luxury product. So when my mum went for her facial I warned her not to be talked into purchasing product as I have it all. Clearly that didn’t work when she walked into the cabin with an enormous bag full of all their product lines. Of course she needed them as she had run out of her usual skin care range 🙂
There were so many groups of families and friends on the cruise as you have options to be together or sneak away for some ‘me’ time. For our trip, the memories we have of this multi-generational trip is we spent time with family weaved around wonderful food and entertainment. The best thing is that the teenagers felt independent and the time spent with us was not forced. So all in all a successful, stress-free family holiday.
Book your next cruise here!
Rebecca Pini is the founder and Managing Director of made4media, a fully integrated creative, marketing and communications agency specialising in brand development and management, social media, traditional & digital communications, advertising, events, creative design & video production. With 30 years in television, marketing and communications, Rebecca has had extensive experience in many facets of the changing marketing and communications industry.
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