5 Ships and one Stunning Day in Sydney Harbour
The day P&O Cruises has been planning for months and months finally came and with it, the excitement of cruise lovers and spectacle appreciators everywhere.
It was a very early morning for passengers and onlookers as the 5-ship fleet: Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Dawn and the two newcomers Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria converged for the sailing V formation at 5:30am Wednesday, November 25 2015.
The weather gods smiled upon the event, with a stunning sunrise and a cloudless day to greet the ships in beautiful Sydney Harbour.
From onboard Pacific Aria, it was a frenzy of excitement and activity with helicopters flying above, the Today Show crew set up at the aft of the ship and four beautiful vessels to look upon in one of the most scenic harbours in the world.
Admittedly groggy from the fabulous and fun Bianco Party the night before, the wake-up call came hard and fast but if ever there was a time to get out of bed, the 5 Ship spectacular certainly was it.
It was the kind of atmosphere that was both light and heavy, knowing that history was being made. We struggled to decide where the best vantage point was as there was something happening everywhere you looked.
P&O sent a clear message about leading the charge in modern cruising Down Under by opting to christen their new ships by way of social media. The newly converted vessels Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden were named via Tweets sent from the ship's godmothers, popular Australian singer Jessica Mauboy and actress Kate Ritchie, from their vantage point on Fort Denison.
Champagne struck the bows as the two cruise ships sailed either side of Fort Denison, with fireworks going off, horns blaring and all of us in the crowd shouting and waving. Jessica Mauboy sang the Australian national anthem to complete the unique and well-executed ceremony.
Soon after that we watched the Pacific Eden sail under the Harbour Bridge and then made our way past the Opera House to the Circular Quay. It truly was a feast for the eyes and a very special morning for everyone involved.
The Aria itself truly delivered on what was promised to give the essence of affordable luxury. Back in May, we spent time aboard the ship when it was still in the hands of Holland America and were outlined the grand plans for the transformation of Ryndam to P&O's Pacific Aria.
Colourful decor and bold patterns throughout the public areas and stunning new dining rooms set the tone for the ship. Cabin areas have yet to be refurbished but are still in good shape.
There is plenty to see and many kooky details you will begin to notice as you go from place to place. Deck 8 is where most of the dining and entertainment happens, while Deck 10 holds The Pantry and both fantastic pool areas.
The main dining area - the Waterfront, looked lovely and inviting in its off-white and light blues. The menu didn't have quite as many options you might normally see, but everyone was well satisfied with their chosen entrée, main and dessert.
Of course, there is also the specialty options from which to choose and they are even free for the time being. This may change in the future but for now both Angelo's, offering plenty of options on its Italian-themed menu and Dragon Lady, delivering delicious Pan-Asian cuisine in style, cost nothing but the time it takes to make a reservation once you come on board (you cannot pre-reserve these spaces).
Wine lovers will rejoice in the specialty dining areas, and those who enjoy sampling and sharing will find plenty to order for this purpose.
I was personally most impressed with The Pantry. I thought it might be a bit difficult to reconfigure the traditional buffet style into the new layout but it worked incredibly well. It was comfortable and inviting and the food was really delicious. We sampled the stirfry for lunch, which was incredible tasty and well-prepared. The Fish and Chips was also a crowd favourite. My only regret was not being able to try everything.
The event continued into the night, with a new set of cruise lovers to sample the goods.Live music kept passengers entertained at the back of the ship in the Oasis area until Jessica Mauboy came on, just after the sun had gone down.
The crowd loved it, and you could clearly see Jessica was having a good time too.
After Jessica had finished her 30 minute performance, all eyes looked to the sky, and we were treated to a stunning fireworks display over the most beautiful harbour in the world.
Everyone was draped in white again, partying the night away and enjoying every minute of the historic celebration. A little tip from us at Cruise Sale Finder "if you're waiting in line to be served at the happening pool deck parties, don't forget about the other options on various levels of the cruise ship. The Ocean Bar, the Blue Room and the Dome are often a bit quieter and a faster option."
Out of the gate, passengers are pleased with the new look of P&O and we can only see the future getting brighter as the new itineraries get under way and everyone becomes acquainted with the new and modern offerings from the expanding cruise line.
Tell us in the comments below if you got to experience this fantastic occasion. And if you'd like to see more, check out our Facebook page for video and images!