You could go on the exact same cruise, with the exact same company, and yet have two very different experiences. It all comes down to the boat.
Until recently I never put too much thought into my accommodation. Sure, I looked at price and locations, and of course I appreciate extras like included breakfast, but I never gave too much thought to design. For me, I like to spend so much time out and about exploring, that all I really need anyway is a bed and somewhere to store my things. Even after having Jacob, I still have a very low requirement for comfort and luxury. Jake has even stayed with my at hostels (in private rooms of course, but we still did the communal bathroom thing.)
So with that in mind, I didn’t really think about the cruise boat when I went on my recent two cruises. I looked more at the route and shore excursions.
My first P&O cruise was to New Caledonia and Vanuatu on the Pacific Dawn. My second was to PNG on the Pacific Eden. Before my first cruise, a friend from work confided that he had been on the same route and ship a few years ago. He was a bit disparaging of the experience, and especially the food. I share his hate of buffets and baimarine food, but luckily I found there was a table service restaurant on the boat, and instead ate all my meals there. It was when I first set foot on the Pacific Eden, that I realized just how good it could get though. So let’s compare.
The Pacific Dawn was bigger, but there felt to be less actual public space. I’m not sure if this is true, but perhaps the clever design on the Eden made it feel like there were more public hang out options than the Dawn. A bigger boat doesn’t always mean more options, it could just mean more state rooms.
This was the first thing I noticed straight away. The Pacific Dawn was quite tired when I visited. Carpet was faded and worn. All the different public spaces were decorated in the same fashion. There was really no difference between the levels and bars. The Pacific Eden was totally different. Each area had different themes. There was a blue bar, and a lounge with little metal birds in the railings. There was art all over the place. Each different bar had a different feel and theme to it. Hell, even the elevators were all decorated differently… every single one.
The difference that stood out to me the most was the main “buffet” style restaurant. On the Dawn this restaurant was a large buffet. It was self serve in typical buffet style. The tables were plastic and were set out in neat little rows. The water came from a self serve machine. The Eden was a polar opposite. The dining area consisted of a mix of tables and booths and brightly coloured couches with coffee tables. There was no buffet. It was “food truck” style where each station was a different style of cuisine and wait staff served you what you wanted. The water was served in jugs and had citrus fruits inside. Completely different.
Restaurants and food
I’ve already touched on the difference between the main “fast food” style restaurant. On the Dawn there were two other options. The waterfront restaurant which offered 3 course sit down meals and which was included in your fare, and the Luke Mangan restaurant which had a cost. The Eden had the same, but also had an additional two options. Dragon Lady serves Asian fusion while Angelo’s had Italian. These two restaurants also offer a premium 3 course sit down meal, and best of all, it’s included in your fare.
On both cruises I stayed in one of the cheaper style of rooms…. or cheapest style of room. The room on the Dawn was smaller and consisted of two single beds built into either side of the room which optional top bunks which could be installed. There was a small bar fridge, a desk and plenty of storage. Our room on the Eden was nicer. The beds were larger and had thicker mattresses. There were no top bunks, but instead there was a separate bunk bed in a different area of the room. This bunk bed was not built in, so could be removed if not required. There was a desk and plenty of storage, but it did strangely lack a bar fridge.
I remember that I spent some time looking at the daily activities on the Dawn, but that I never really participated in any of them (other than the cocktail and martini making classes). I’m not sure if this was due to lack of interest from my travel companions or because nothing really struck my fancy. It was a very different story on the Eden. There was a movie night in the on board movie theatre every night, there were trivia and pub quizzes, dancing lessons, free facials, academic talks about PNG (our destination), and of course… alcohol themed activities.
While both ships had the P&O Edge adventure park, the Dawn seemed to have more activities on offer than the Eden.