P&O's New Ships On The Block

20 January 2015

It’s been five years since P&O introduced a ship to its Australian fleet, but in November the cruise line is adding two more.

Named in a competition that attracted more than 30,000 suggestions, the new Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden are getting ready to forge the way to fresh destinations, from as close as your capital city to as far as south-east Asia.

The sister ships are set to share the love by offering departures from seven major cities. Along with the usual ‘home ports’ of Sydney and Brisbane, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will sail from Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, as well as Cairns and Singapore for the first time.

This move allows Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands to be inked on the P&O map, breaking free from the routine of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and New Zealand, where its existing three ships mostly operate.

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The Vibe Is Intimate

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The two newcomers are former Holland America Line vessels, which are scheduled to undergo a transformation into P&O’s modern style.

Pacific Aria, which used to be called Ryndam, and Pacific Eden, the former Statendam, will each carry 1500 passengers after their refits. By comparison, other ships in Sydney and Brisbane can accommodate double this number of guests, so the vibe on P&O is more intimate.

 One of the intimate bars on board

Lots of changes are in store for Pacific Aria and Eden. For starters, the revamped ships will ditch the traditional buffet for which cruising is so famous.

In its place, The Pantry is tipped to be a ‘marketplace’ of fresh food stations such as a gourmet delicatessen and fish and chips. The seating area will also be reconfigured into a modern space of banquettes, high tables and communal benches.

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New Drink And Mingle Options

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The main dining room, the Waterfront Restaurant, is set to receive a stylish makeover. Also back by popular demand are the upscale Salt Grill by Luke Mangan and the 14-seat Chef’s Table in a private room.

New specialty venues include Dragon Lady (serving various Asian cuisines), Angelo’s (an elegant Italian restaurant) and the Open Kitchen cooking school, so passengers can choose to eat at a different venue every day.

New places to drink and mingle include the Salt Grill Bar and the Cellar Door, reserved for wine tastings. Party-hard P&O fans can rest assured that old favourites, the MIX cocktail bar and Dome nightclub, will stay.

 There is a whole range of dining opportunities

On top of the contemporary décor and 15 bars and restaurants, passengers can expect glammed-up outdoor areas. The pool deck will see a splash of luxury, with day beds, striped lounges, lamps, plants, sheer white curtains and a funky poolside bar to complete the sexy new look.

Adults can also enjoy the over-18s pool in the Oasis on the top deck. Meanwhile, children are entertained at the Turtle Cove (3 to 6 years old), Shark Shack (7 to 10 years), and HQ club for teens, supervised by trained staff.

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Climbing The Funnel

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All ages can stay active with the P&OEdge program of adventure activities, from laser tag to bungee trampolining. Held throughout the ship, other fun activities include a zip line (flying fox) and a climbing course up the funnel (chimney).

 The pools will also offer a new experience

So, which ship will sail where? Pacific Aria starts in Sydney in late November, exploring Australia’s east coast and the South Pacific, before shifting to its new home in Brisbane.

In P&O's biggest ever presence in Queensland, Aria will spend eight months offering a range of new options, such as a seven-night New Year cruise to Cairns and Hamilton Island, and an 18-night voyage to Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

From Cairns – the first time a major line has based a ship in Far North Queensland – Pacific Eden will offer six trips to Papua New Guinea, with two voyages extending to the Solomon Islands.

Victorians will be pleased to hear of P&O’s record-breaking Melbourne season, which kicks off in December and runs until March 2016.


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Exotic Ports Of Call

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Among Pacific Eden’s most interesting itineraries are a 12-night Christmas cruise in Melanesia, a New Year trip to Tasmania and four-night getaways to Kangaroo Island.

Bringing cruising back to Western Australia in winter, Pacific Eden has 13 cruises from Fremantle between April and July 2016.

Exotic new ports of call include Indonesia’s Jakarta, Probolinggo and Makassar, as well as short west coast cruises via Esperance and the Margaret River region. Heading north for a week, the ship will take in Geraldton, Exmouth and Broome.

In a first for P&O, Pacific Eden is slated to be sent overseas for five Asian expeditions. Deployed to Singapore from July next year, the ship will explore Thailand and Cambodia, with maiden calls to Krabi, Sabang (Palau Weh), Ko Chang, and Sihanoukville.

Adelaide’s busiest season will feature five roundtrip cruises: three four-night breaks to Port Lincoln and Melbourne and two three-night themed cruises. Themes include comedy, food and wine.

Announcing the 2015-16 program, which is now on sale, Ann Sherry, CEO of parent company Carnival Australia, said the fleet expansion gave cruisers an unprecedented selection of destinations by sea.

“With five ships in our fleet we can now meet the growing demand for cruise holidays from around Australia, with extended seasons from existing homeports and the addition of new homeports,” she said.

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Five Ships In One Harbour

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“Plus more ships means we can visit some wonderful new towns around Australia and the Pacific, on a fantastic range of itineraries which are looking more attractive than ever.”

In addition to Eden and Aria, P&O’s Pacific Jewel will be based in Sydney and Melbourne, Pacific Dawn in Brisbane and Pacific Pearl crossing between Sydney and Auckland. Fares start at $549 per person quad share for a three-night P&O SeaBreak cruise, while a 10-night island cruise is priced from $1199 per person quad share.

 The great ships are a spectacular sight

To celebrate, the whole fleet will come together in Sydney Harbour to launch the upcoming season on 25 November 2015.

It will be the first time that the city has hosted five ships from one cruise line on the same day, and P&O expects thousands of people will crowd around the water’s edge to witness this special display. Just another reason to be one of the happy ‘cruiselings’ onboard, instead of stuck on static land this summer.

Pacific Aria

Passengers: 1,500Launched: 1994
Previous name: Ryndam
Decks: 10
Based: Brisbane and Sydney

Pacific Eden

Passengers: 1,500
Launched: 1993
Previous name: Statendam
Decks: 14
Based: Sydney, Fremantle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Cairns and Singapore.

Louise Goldsbury

Louise Goldsbury has taken 50 cruises in the past five years, all in the name of research for her work as a specialist cruise writer, editor and blogger. Louise shares her tips and insider info on cruiseylife.com and the Cruisey Life Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CruiseyLifeUncensored). Based in Sydney, she also writes a monthly solo travel column in Escape, published in News Ltd’s Sunday newspapers and on www.escape.com.au.