2018 P&O Australian Open Tennis Cruise

Fiona Fennessy

P&O Cruise: Game, Set, Cruise

 
Our family of five spent 5 nights on the P&O Pacific Explorer Australian Open Cruise.
P&O partnered with Tennis Australia to celebrate the Australian Open in Melbourne.

It was a hot summers day when we arrived at White Bay Passenger Terminal in Sydney to board our P&O Cruise on the Pacific Explorer.  Melbourne was our destination but it would take a day and night at sea before we would arrive. The first step was to check-in at the Passenger Terminal which involved checking our luggage at security, keeping only hand baggage, and handing over a debit or credit card for all purchases on board. The ship operates as a cashless society. We had our photo taken and received our personalised cards which served as a ticket, room key and payment method. Lanyards were not provided but were available for purchase on board for $7.99. 


Passengers bonded over a love of tennis and sailing the seas. There were some similarities between our ship, the Pacific Explorer, and professional tennis players: both boast a powerful, athletic body which is admired by many and they both serve up excellent entertainment. Departing Sydney on a cruise ship makes you feel larger than life and as though everyone is looking your way. 

The price of the cruise included ground passes to the Open for two days once you arrived in Melbourne. There was an option to upgrade your tickets if you wished to get seats inside an arena. Tickets were delivered to your room once on board the ship. Children under 2 did not require a ticket to enter the tennis. P&O had arranged busses to shuttle guests from the ship each morning and return them to the ship in the evening. 

Once we boarded, we could roam the ship as we wished and visit our room. Our cabin attendant introduced herself and explained how things will work over the next 5 nights. It wasn’t long before our bags were in our cabin. We had a mandatory safety briefing along with all 880 other passengers. It was well organised and didn’t keep us long. 


KIDS CLUB

Once the safety briefing was finished we visited the kids club to register our children. Turtle Cove caters for children aged from 2 up to 6 years provided they are toilet trained. Our twins were 2 and 3 months and unfortunately not toilet trained. This cruise did not allow babies under 6 months on the cruise ship so be sure to check before you book. The Shark Shack was for children aged 7-10. 
The helpful staff at Turtle Cove were agreeable to allowing us to leave the younger children from 7pm. We were provided with a buzzer and this gave us enormous freedom to have an adults-only dinner. If nature called for the twins, we would be buzzed and go straight to change their nappy. I was surprised how keen all three children were to go to Kids Club in the evening. They had story time at 7pm followed by a movie and could stay there until 10.30pm. Mats were laid not he floor for them to get comfortable and sleep if they were tired. After 10.30pm, you get charged for the time the children stay up until 1am.
There were plenty of activities to keep the children busy including jewellery making, t-shirt colouring, mask making and a Troll themed party one evening with a highly anticipated dance-off. Turtle Cove had  dedicated iPad free-play time and computers available for games. There was a slide and cubby house along with trays of Mr Potato Head and Lego. Shark Shack had air hockey, fuse ball and bean bags along with a host of other activities to keep kids busy.


TENNIS

For the majority of the cruise, the large screen on the main pool deck was showing the tennis.  Once we arrived at Melbourne Park, we explored the grounds and were thrilled to find plenty of fun activities for the little ones. We had 5 children aged 5 and under with us so we did not expect to see much of the tennis. It was also very hot so we cooled off with some ice-cream, met Minnie Mouse, played on interactive computer games, played in the sand and dipped our toes in the Melbourne Beach Club. We discovered the dedicated the Kids Zone: a large space with kid focused activities such as an obstacle course, face painting, Marvel heroes, Moana surf board, high ropes, abseiling and the list continues. We ran out of time to try it all. 


We booked directly with P&O which was very straight forward. A small deposit is required on booking and the balance was due two months before our trip. Once you have decided on your itinerary, chosen your room and paid the deposit, you can forget about needing to make dinner, spa or entertainment reservations until you are on board. The cruise was part of a family birthday celebration. Our family of five, travelled with two grandparents, sister and brother in law, and two nephews. We could only book a room for a maximum of four people. My eldest stayed with her grandparents in their suite. Our room configuration was two bunk beds: my husband and I slept each on a top bunk while the twins slept below with bumpers to prevent them falling out during the night. The room was cleaned daily and our beds were made in the morning and turned down in the evening. Fresh towels were available for use in the room and pool towels were never in short supply. 

Families certainly get great value when you factor in meals, accomodation and endless entertainment including the water slides, zip lines, quizzes, bingo and table tennis competitions. Passengers often read their books in one of the many comfortable window seats dotted around the ship. One of our favourite spots was the adults only cocktail bar ‘The Bonded Store’ which served up an impressive selection of drinks. We enjoyed delicious food in several of the inclusive restaurants on board: Angelos offered Italian fare while Dragon Lady served Asian cuisine and had a great atmosphere. The Waterfront was my favourite spot for breakfast where I dined on Eggs Benedict. We booked the wood fire oven restaurant 400 Gradi on our last night and it did not disappoint. Alcohol can be purchased with meals at the inclusive restaurants for an additional cost. 



Wifi for the 5 day cruise cost $29.99. There is also an App you can use on board which tells you what entertainment is taking place and where.  There is an onboard photographer who took some really great shots of us which were printed out and displayed the next day available for purchase. There is a casino on board which operates once you are officially in 'International Waters'. The first evening out of Sydney and also departing Melbourne, the casino was closed. The Spa was a bit pricey for me but plenty of free seminars were on offer such as a Ladies Pamper Party which included a free mini facial and eye treatment. 

Highlights for little ones: New Zealand Natural Ice-Cream. Kids Club. Swimming Pools. Water slides (height restrictions apply).
Highlights for grown ups: Adults only pool area, Spa, Hair Salon, shows and quizzes.


Note: This cruise was a personal family holiday paid for by ourselves. This review was not sponsored by P&O Cruises in any way.