What began as the former MS Ryndam – part of the Holland America Line fleet – transformed in late 2015 with great fanfare into Pacific Aria at the hand of Godmother Jessica Mauboy. And now over a year later, it’s actually difficult to imagine the P&O Cruises without her.
The ship arrived already kitted out as P&O’s newest vessel having emerged from Singapore and its dry dock renovation and refurbishment a few weeks earlier. It was this work which saw the ship loaded with a wide variety of new entertainment and new colour schemes applied to existing venues which the line knew its guests wanted in its new ships.
Even though each cruise sets sail with a maximum of just over 1,200 guests, Pacific Aria is very well equipped with things to do to help you pass the time while at sea, should you wish to engage in what the ship has to offer. Let’s take a look at some of what you’ll find.
With a name like The Dome, you’d rightly think you’ll find this area at the top of Pacific Aria. And indeed you will – overlooking the bow on Deck 12 in fact.
By day this casual and relaxed lounge is often full of people enjoying their books or just getting lost in the sea views. But by night, everything changes as the sun is down, the lights are up and the ship’s live band or DJ starts pumping. The party crowd inevitably gravitates to soak up the party atmosphere which plays well into the evening.
The Dome is a sizeable venue and well set up to cater to large crowds. It’s party central!
The Blue Room
Some might say The Blue Room is at the complete opposite end of the energy scale, but we would probably say it exists on another axis altogether. Sure, it’s very different to The Dome but it exudes an energy and atmosphere that can only be explained by experiencing it.
Found on Deck 8 mid-ship, this venue is bouncing most of the night with classy jazz, blues or RnB entertainment. Head there for a nightcap after one of the main shows or after dinner or just settle in to one of the comfy blue chairs and just get lost in the music offerings.
Don’t be fooled by the above photo. The Oasis is actually well equipped with plenty of lounge chairs, tables and decorations – we just happened to encounter it when everything was packed up and a stage was being set up for an evening of special entertainment.
The rest of the time, The Oasis is a haven for adults who like their own space and a bit of peace and quiet away from the kids onboard. In fact, kids under the age of 16 are not allowed in this part of the ship, so if your family includes people of that description and you’d like to spend some time here, you’ll need to offload them to the Kids Club in the interim.
Among the lounge chairs, you’ll also find some suspended from the ceiling, giving the space a bit of a classic feel.
Marquee is the main theatre on Pacific Aria and is a two-storey venue found on Decks 7 & 8. The main entertainment occurs here, including an array of elaborately choreographed performances which also include Twice Upon A Time and Sideshow Alley – both exclusive to Aria and sister ship Pacific Eden.
The theatre is also used for the occasional educational lecture delivered by a resident expert and also for some select musical performances which the ship thinks will deliver a larger crowd than can be accommodated in one of the lounges or bars.
You’ll also find the Sit Down Comedy Club performed in the Marquee Theatre. Featuring some of the funniest professional comedians around, regular performances can be found across the schedule throughout your cruise.
Only found on Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, the Premium cinema is a leftover element from the ship’s former guise that P&O decided to keep rather than convert into something else.
However unlike the three other members of the P&O fleet, which have their cinema screens on the top deck overlooking the main recreation area, the cinema on Aria can be found instead on Deck 7.
Having the cinema indoors is an obvious advantage as it takes weather out of the equation. If the conditions outside are poor and you’re not already in the pool, the ship may schedule more movies to help keep guests entertained – or alternatively if the Kids Club directors get hold of the venue, they may hook up a video game system to the big cinema screen and take it over for a few hours.
One of the most popular experiences on Pacific Aria is the Cellar Door, which attracts both fleeting and passionate wine connoisseurs to its tastings and demonstrations. Working in association with the Glendore Estate in the Hunter Valley, P&O Cruises is always stocked with a range of entry-level and high-end blends from this well-known vineyard on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
In addition to being able to learn more about the vineyard’s history and that of its labels, guests can (for a small fee) sample a wide variety of the blends created on site, matched perfectly by the ship’s sommelier with biscuits, breads, fruits, cheeses and even cooked morsels from the kitchen.
Of course if any particular labels catch your eye or tempt your palette particularly convincingly, you can purchase a complete bottle to consume with your evening meal or even to take home with you at the end of the cruise.
One particularly popular element (mostly with the younger crowd) of Pacific Aria and all of the P&O ships is the Edge program.
Over a dozen activities – some a little extreme, others more mild – have been built onto the ship for guests to try their hand at when conditions are suitable. For example, you can climb the funnel at the top of the ship for an amazing view high above; climb the bow or even stand on the front steps (properly harnessed of course) for your own moment reminiscent of the movie Titanic.
Other games you might find on Aria include Laser Tag, races up and down a cargo net or even a chance to “walk the plank” out over the edge of the ship. The P&O Edge program comes at an additional cost, however savings can be enjoyed by purchasing one of three VIP passes, which offer a variety of activities at a lower price than by buying each individually.
Activities generally vary by ship as not all are possible throughout the fleet, however there is an extensive range which can be found on all five of P&O’s ships.