P&O Australia is a sister brand to P&O in the UK, but it couldn’t be more different, with a more super-casual approach to cruising and a focus on jam-packed entertainment and activities for a much younger crowd.
Not to be confused with P&O Cruises, P&O Australia is an entirely different company, with a different ethos, on-board experience and destination line-up, although both are owned by Carnival Corporation.
The company is the largest cruise line sailing year-round from Australian ports, and was for many years the only cruise fleet dedicated solely to the Australian cruise market.
P&O’s connection to Australia is almost as old as the brand itself. A regular passenger and mail service between the UK and her Australian colony was started in 1857.
P&O played an important role in wartime assistance and the surge of immigration to Australia, and therefore the growth of the nation itself.
As early as the 1930s, P&O also began offering the first cruises around the Australian coast and Southeast Asia.
Today, P&O Australia operates five ships cruising roundtrip from Australia to the South Pacific, southeast Asia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, as well as ports along the Australian coast.
Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn were the only ships in the fleet until 2015, when Holland America’s Ryndam and Statendam were transferred and renamed Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden (Holland America is also owned by Carnival Corporation).
In 2017, Princess Cruises (also owned by Carnival) transferred Dawn Princess and she was renamed Pacific Explorer.
All of these ships, although thoroughly refurbished and modern, represent second-hand tonnage passed down to P&O Australia from other cruise lines.
This has often been a soar point for Australians, who have for many years longed for a brand new, modern cruise ship to be homeported in the country.
In 2019, their wish will come true, with a 4,200-passenger ‘newbuild’ due for delivery. She will be the biggest cruise ship ever based in Australia and the first to be built specifically for the Australian market.
P&O Australia cruise experience
P&O Australia is unique among the world’s major cruise lines in that it is the only one targeting Australians exclusively.
This means that, although anyone can book a P&O Australia cruise, it is not marketed anywhere else in the world. As such, the on-board experience caters to the congenial and fun-loving Aussie crowd.
There are no formal nights with black tie requirements and the Australian dollar is the on-board currency. Australians don’t like tipping unless the service deserves it, and so automatic daily gratuities are not added to passengers’ accounts, unlike on other major cruise lines.
While there are no formal nights, on most cruises there is usually one or two party nights with themes such as the Great Gatsby or the Bianco party, which is P&O’s take on the White Party.
Dining aboard P&O Australia
Food choices with P&O Australia include the main Waterfront dining room, The Pantry with eight or nine outlets in one food court setting, specialty restaurants, including the free Angelo’s (Italian) and Dragon Lady (Asian), plus Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, which costs extra. Snacks at the poolside grill also come with a price.
Activities and entertainment on a P&O Australia cruise
The average age of passengers aboard P&O Australia ships tends to be fairly young, averaging 40 to 45 years-old, and the on-board activities and entertainment reflect this.
Onboard activities are far ranging. There are fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, mixology classes, live bands, dancing, game shows, table tennis, casinos, cabaret shows and karaoke.
P&O Australia is also known for its deck parties, spa treatments, trivia quizzes, in-cabin movies, shuffleboard, bingo, dance classes, themed nights, talent shows, enrichment lectures and port talks.
The cruise line also offers ‘P&O Edge’, an adventure park with abseiling across the bow or climbing the funnel (an extra charge applies for this).
Types of passengers on a P&O Australia cruise
Passengers come mostly from Australia, with a few from New Zealand as well. The cruise line is extremely popular with families, couples and groups of friends.
Although the passenger mix is decidedly multi-generational, from kids to seniors, it’s a relatively younger crowd than found on most cruise lines.
Children are kept busy with good kids’ clubs staffed by qualified teachers and childcare workers.
Cruise ships in the P&O Australia fleet:
Categories: Cruise Line Focus