Few cruise ship arrivals and christenings carry as much grandeur and ceremony as that which accompanied P&O Cruises’ Pacific Aria when it made its way back into Sydney Harbour on the morning of 25 November 2015 as part of the line’s Five Ship Spectacular.
Pulling up on the right hand side of Fort Denison for its christening by Aussie songstress Jessica Mauboy and watched on by thousands around the harbour foreshore and millions more on television broadcasts nation wide, it was a welcome which will be hard to replicate. Since then, Pacific Aria has casually settled into its new homes in Sydney and Brisbane and has generally been welcomed with open arms by cruise passengers in these and other cities, in many cases becoming the ship which sees a new destination added to the P&O network.
In all, the 1,260-passenger Pacific Aria boasts sixteen different dining options for its guests across nine decks. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most unique and popular you’ll find onboard. Which one is your favourite?
Many of the aforementioned 16 dining options, seven in fact, feature right here, with that classic cruise ship staple of the buffet replaced across the P&O fleet with The Pantry.
Rather than one seemingly endless line of food along which passengers shuffle and serve themselves, The Pantry is instead laid out in more in the style of an international food court, with different cuisines and food items located around the room. The Pantry is made up of Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Mexican), Kettle & Bun (Soups & Sandwiches), Hook’s Fish & Chips, Stix (Stir Fry & Noodles), Fat Cow (Chicken, Lamb, Pork, Ham, Steaks and other carvery items) and Sugar House (Cakes, Pastries and other desserts).
In an effort to improve health as well, each station is manned by P&O chefs to serve as much or as little of each cuisine as each guest desires, and all included in the cruise fare.
Be careful or you might miss this one, tucked away in the corner of the Lido Pool Deck. The Grill is an ultra-casual alfresco burger bar serving up an easy lunch you can grab straight out of the pool while still in your swimmers. There’s no dress code here, so you can waltz up and grab a burger from a small menu, served up with fries.
The main dining room on Pacific Aria is Waterfront Restaurant, a contemporary Australian eatery open daily for breakfast, lunch (except for turn-around days) and dinner and all included in your cruise fare. Over 40 different items comprise the adults menu, which rarely changes and provides guests with a level of security and comfort knowing they can plan their visit and scour the menu for any number of dishes popular with Aussie palates.
The only menu which DOES change at Waterfront is the kids menu, which rotates daily and features a wide selection of dishes sure to please all the picky eaters in the family. Kids can choose from items such as noodles, fish fingers, spaghetti, chicken nuggets and much more.
Located directly above Waterfront, Angelo’s is one of the new speciality dining creations you’ll find on Pacific Aria, serving up classic yet memorable Italian fare in an elegant setting.
Brightly lit, Angelo’s features a unique approach to artwork with a stationary scooter sitting just inside the front door and portrait images of families sharing fine Italian food and famous Latin luminaries captured by the lens of Italian photographer Angelo Frontoni. The nightly dinner menu begins with antipasti dishes including Arancini, Tuscan Ribollita and sweet peppers with aged prosciutto and other cured meats.
Available mains include potato gnocchi, mushroom risotto, veal ossobucco, roasted sardine fillets and even some classic pub favourites done in a more traditional Italian way such as chicken parmigiana with crumbed eggplant slices. Then, you move on to desserts. It’s a simple menu but one which requires guests to book their table most nights due to popularity.
One of the finer and more unique venues available on all P&O Cruises ships comes as a result of a partnership with one of Australia’s most celebrated and accomplished culinary stars in Luke Mangan, who in addition to operating a number of restaurants around Australia and the world, supplies his menu design expertise to travel brands such as Virgin Australia as well as P&O Cruises. Mangan has cooked for former US Presidents, business moguls, movie stars and even royalty, having overseen the menu at the wedding of Australia’s Princess Mary.
Carrying a $49 cover charge per person for dinner ($30 for lunch), guests receive a three-course meal for a price well less than what you would pay at Mangan’s land based eateries, selecting an entree, main and dessert from a small but varied selection. Mangan has put a significant level of thought and creativity into his P&O Salt Grill menu, devising unique interpretations of some Australian favourites including crab omelet and liquorice parfait.
You’ll find Salt Grill by Luke Mangan just down the road from Angelo’s. Diners often like to precede their meal with a drink at the Salt Grill Bar adjacent to this restaurant.
Directly across the way from Angelo’s, this Pan-Asian fusion restaurant is a colourful and flavourful way to kick start your evening. Also like Angelo’s, Dragon Lady is included in your cruise fare, however reservations are essential or you could be waiting a while for a table.
Available only for dinner, guests can enjoy Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japanese in a set menu format, which sees a steady succession of items including dumplings, stir-fry, sushi and sashimi among others. This restaurant also takes its Asian theme to the seating, with both traditional tables available, while guests can also opt for communal cushions on the floor surrounding a low table to give that extra Asian element.
Australians love their fine dining as much as they do their casual fare, and cruise lines are responding to this demand by putting their chefs to the test to design a truly indulgent, unique, one-of-a-kind menu unable to be enjoyed in any other venue onboard. What these cruise lines are now offering is called The Chef’s Table, with one available on Pacific Aria, exclusively for adults only.
This is a private dining experience for up to 14 people, held sometimes as rarely as once per cruise (sometimes more frequently) and attracting a higher surcharge due to the standard of the cuisine enjoyed. The experience begins with a private reception hosted personally by the Executive Chef, before he or she takes you through the galley and behind-the-scenes of the ship’s entire food service setup. Here you’ll see dozens of chefs and hundreds of waiters in action putting together their trays to deliver to guests in the main dining room.
After this exclusive tour, guests are seated in a private dining room hidden from public view just outside Dragon Lady, where an extensive menu of bespoke gourmet dishes are served up, each one personally introduced, explained and often served by the Executive Chef, along with matching wine labels for each dish. If you’re lucky enough to secure a sea for this experience, allow a few hours for it to take place but you’ll walk away with several keepsake mementos and a world of memories of what your taste buds have just enjoyed.
Since its introduction in 2015, the P&O Cellar Door experience has become one of the line’s most consistently popular experiences, where guests can indulge in the creations of the Glandore Estate in the Hunter Valley. We recently examined this experience in our article shining the spotlight on some of the finest wine experiences available at sea.
The Cellar Door experience on P&O is available at a small surcharge and is a great way to taste some of the great flavours of the region as an afternoon activity, offered on many sea days through your cruise. Guests learn about the wine blending process step by step, through selecting and picking the grapes, their journey through a hand-operated press and continuing through the fermentation process to become a bottled, finished product. This experience is exclusive to Pacific Aria and its sister ship, Pacific Eden.