PACIFIC EXPLORER: PACIFIC EXPLORER: My friends at lunch at 400 Gradi which served top notch pizzas.
PACIFIC EXPLORER: PACIFIC EXPLORER: My friends at lunch at 400 Gradi which served top notch pizzas.

Short break cruising with friends

NO MATTER your age, there is something for everyone on a long-weekend cruise on P&O's Pacific Explorer.

Travelling with a group of friends we headed off in late April from Sydney on the cruise line's three-day Comedy Cruise to nowhere.

Armed with an array of outfits and loaded up with excitement the group joined the sold-out adventure which catered for 1998 guests.

Around us was young and older travellers celebrating everything from birthdays, anniversaries, pre-wedding fun, reunions and those just simply looking for a short holiday away from the stress of everyday life.

Embarkation was on Saturday afternoon. It was easy to move through the baggage to identification check, cabin allocation and onto the ship. A few guests had their baggage held over as it was x-rayed for non-complying liquids. This was sorted out quickly and the bags delivered to the cabin doors.

Everyone visited the reception desk or nearby kiosk to add a credit, or credit card imprint, to their cabin so that extra cruise costs could be charged directly to their cabin or credit card.

P&O's Pacific Explorer.
P&O's Pacific Explorer. P&O Cruises

My group were all booked in balcony cabins. Everyone commented on their cleanliness and quality of the modern decor. As one of our group required assistance, it was easy for him to have allocated a cabin with a bathroom that was disability-friendly.

The obligatory safety check was completed before we sailed. Resplendent in our lifejackets everyone was quite happy to listen and learn. There were even a few jovial Titanic wisecracks heard in the background.

As the sun set the Pacific Explorer steamed down Sydney Harbour. It was a glorious sight as we sipped champagne on the deck and toasted the start of a very different short-break for all group aged 57 to 87.

Each night we had pre-booked seating in one of the 17 dining locations. After dinner it was onto joining in the theme parties in the atrium, visiting the casino, kicking back in one of the many bars or taking in a comedy show.

The first night birthday dinner was in Angelo's, as our group sadly didn't fit into the Chef's Table restaurant which is limited to 14 guests. The menu offered good selections and the ambience pleasant. The food was part of the cruise cost, but the drinks were extra.

Day two started with a lazy breakfast in the main eating area, the Pantry. Then it was down to the business of taking in trivia, fitness lessons, Gatsby dancing class, a movie, deck lawn bowls, a massage, the water slide and claiming a pool-side seat in the no-kids area, an early ale at one of the several bars and much, much more.

PACIFIC EXPLORER: Getting ready for the Gatsby night, the keen could practice their dance moves ahead of a lively night of fun.
PACIFIC EXPLORER: Getting ready for the Gatsby night, the keen could practice their dance moves ahead of a lively night of fun. Tracey Johnstone

The day finished with pre-dinner drinks in the Whisky bar, dinner at Dragon Lady for an Asian feast and Gatsby party in the atrium. Themed outfits or not, there was plenty of dancing to the live music.

Day three the cheerful cruise director was again up early to tell everyone what was on offer. The list of activities continued to be varied and went from first-thing right through to the evening with more live music, games and comedy to finish off the day.

We finally got all the group together for a lunch, this time in 400 Gradi where the pizza was fabulous. It was then down to one final afternoon of rest or play.

The final dinner was something very special. For an extra cost of $39 per guest, we were treated to the most enjoyable five-course degustation dinner in the Endeavour Restaurant which was finished off with an amazing and decadent desert.

Then, while we sat, sated by the company and great food, the team from the cabaret Love Riot noisily appeared, leading the guests to the Black Circus room for what was most definitely an adults-only hour of thrilling entertainment.

PACIFIC EXPLORER: The Love Riot cabaret isn't for the faint hearted. It was explosive, energetic and very adults-only.
PACIFIC EXPLORER: The Love Riot cabaret isn't for the faint hearted. It was explosive, energetic and very adults-only. P&O Cruises

Arriving back in Sydney Harbour early Tuesday was met with a tinge of sadness. New friends had been made, a plan for a reunion discussed, the idea of a family reunion on the high seas hatched and the taxi booked for a dash to the office after a quick disembarkation; everyone armed with special memories.

Group tips

  • 16 or more a group booking.
  • Book directly with P&O. There are cash rewards and other offers with group bookings.  
  • Cabins prices change throughout booking time so get in early to get the best deal.
  • Ask P&O Groups about an Events Package and restaurant pre-embarkation bookings.
  • The restaurants aren't set up for large tables, so be prepared to be seated in adjoining tables. Normally you have to book in a restaurant once onboard, but with a group it's possible to request pre-boarding reservations.
  • There are plenty of activities to do as a group, with just a few of you or by yourself (when you need a break) so you don't really need to anything once on board, except have fun.
  • Cabin costs started at $1123.
  • Most meals are included. Some restaurants may charge extra on a few menu items or for a unique dining experience.
  • Drinks are an extra cost, but mostly reasonably priced.