The buffet as we know it is no longer, with P&O announcing revolutionary plans to do away with the time-honoured form of cruise dining. Heralding a shift in Australian eating habits, P&O ships will move from buffet-style eateries to contemporary sit-down restaurants in a major culinary shake-up.
"We are revolutionising the dining experience," says P&O's Senior Vice President Tammy Marshall.
"We want to bring freshness, newness, surprise and bring in some product variety."
To that end, two new ships in the form of the Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria will boast The Pantry – a food-court style dining area boasting several fresh food outlets, including a gourmet delicatessen, an upscale fish and chips restaurant and several other contemporary dining options.
Additional dining outlets include Pan-Asian restaurant Dragon Lady, as well as Angelo's Italian – named after renowned Italian photographer Angelo Frontoni.
The shake-up is part of P&O's commitment to updating its fleet in line with changing Australian values.
"The contemporary cruiser wants options, they want value for money, they want to be spoiled," Ms Marshall says.
"I've never seen such an opportunity as what we have in cruise in Australia today."
With almost a million Australians taking a cruise each year, P&O's fleet will soon expand to include the much anticipated Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria – both of which will feature the revamped dining options.
The rest of P&O's fleet will be retrofitted to reflect the cruise line's modern new designs, with the popular Pacific Dawn currently undergoing a multimillion dollar drydock in Brisbane.
Set to re-launch in early December, it will soon boast contemporary new furniture, a revamped pool deck and new entertainment options – including a rock-climbing wall and zip line.
Sister ships Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl will also enjoy makeovers, with the updates designed to reflect a strong emphasis on diversity.
Boasting a tagline of "Like No Place On Earth," P&O is keen to cash in on rapidly changing Australian tastes.
"Cruising is no longer... you just get bingo, you get to go to a show and there's a couple of restaurants," says Ms Marshall – who highlights the fact there are now 15 bars and restaurants on board P&O's new ships.
"Australians aren't just all one and the same thing, so the more we can offer in terms of the depths of our program, then we're catering to all the different needs."
With all five P&O ships set to converge on Sydney Harbour in November next year in an unprecedented celebration, 2015 looks set to be another bumper year for cruising.
Ms Marshall says a combination of convenience, diversity and value for money are driving record numbers.
"You unpack once and you get to go, you wake up in a new place every day," she says.
"Along the way you're completely catered for, for whatever your needs are. You can do nothing or you can be pampered, you can shop, you can be entertained.
"It's unusual in terms of the scope of what you can do on this type of holiday."