There’s an enduring and certainly endearing quality about a cruise ship such as Pacific Jewel, which is part of the P&O Cruises fleet of ships in Australia.
The vessel has seen many shores and many owners around the world since it first set sail in 1989 but while the outer hardware has seen plenty of summers, inside you’ll find the latest P&O passenger experience with modern designs, features and venues, the latest dining, entertainment and technology available and very much an up-to-date cruise holiday.
By modern standards though, Pacific Jewel is one of the smallest ships cruising in Australia, catering to 1,670 guests on each sailing. This actually works to its favour as there is still a very strong market of travellers moving away from the enormous monsters of the sea and instead preferring a more modest style of cruise holiday. And when it comes to keeping these guests fed, there is never a hungry man, woman or child turned away any day or night.
You may be celebrating a special occasion or simply in the mood to dress up and enjoy some fine dining during your Pacific Jewel cruise. For these times, travellers often enquire as to the availability of a table at Salt Grill by Luke Mangan – perhaps the finest restaurant on the ship.
Located on an upper deck adjacent to the main pool area, Salt Grill carries a $39 cover charge for lunch or $49 for dinner – exceptional value considering you would routinely pay upwards of $80 per person to dine at one of Mangan’s land-based venues.
Backed by a sumptuous wine list, the menu is equally fancy, beginning with tapas and moving into oysters and raw items such as sashimi. There’s an enormous selection of delicious salad dishes and seafood including sea scallops, tempura prawns and lobster, or the carnivores in your party can select from a variety of steaks and BBQ chicken. All in all, considering the small charge for the privilege, Salt Grill makes for wonderful value.
Positioned at the rear of the ship, Waterfront Restaurant is essentially the main dining room and serves a style of contemporary Australian cuisine consistently popular with guests. The adult menu never changes but is loaded with around 40 different dishes, so even if you eat there several times a day, you probably wouldn’t make it through the entire list.
There is also a children’s menu which is smaller, but this changes every day to ensure a wide variety of good food is served up to your little ones every day.
The decor at Waterfront is a beautiful shade of purple which shines through even during the daytime when the sun shines through the curtains and brightens the room. At night, this purple hue makes for a delightful dining experience.
Another venue located near the main swimming pool (but at the other end from Salt Grill), Luna is another specialty dining restaurant which has seen the quality of the cuisine jacked up significantly ever since a cover charge was introduced for passengers.
If you’re wondering what sort of cuisine will find its way to you at Luna, this all depends on which night you choose to dine there. A series of rotating banquets replicating different Asian cuisines mean one night you might find a creative twist on comfortable and families Thai food such as pork cheeks with caramel dressing.
Another night might serve up more traditional favourites such as Indian Massaman curry, or gourmet Japanese or something completely different. Bookings are essential for dinner each evening as this venue is regularly full.
After some initial skepticism, Aussie travellers have taken to the concept of The Pantry likes proverbial ducks to water, with the format proving to be something of a masterstroke.
It’s very similar to a traditional buffet, however more like an international food court. Lots of different cuisines – something like nine or ten on some ships – are scattered around the room offering delicious treats such as fish & chips, roast lamb, curries, burgers, mexican, noodles and soups, salads and desserts.
Unlike a buffet though, all items are served onto your plate by the ship’s chefs and trained culinary crew members. This is to maximise food quality as well as cleanliness and hygiene. You can still go back as often as you like during opening hours and have as much as you like.
It’s known as the most exclusive fourteen-person dinner party on the ship, and the Chef’s Table is worth every cent of the additional charge you’ll pay for the privilege.
Located in a private dining area to the side of the Waterfront Dining Room, the Chef’s Table is surrounded by a sizeable wine cellar, with many of its contents being opened and sampled by guests booked in on any particular night.
Hosted by the Executive Chef, guests get to mingle with the ship’s head foodie before visiting the Galley for an inside look at how a major cruise ship handles the daily meal service. Once seated at the dining table, each course is individually introduced and served with a matching wine. You’ll get to know your table mates intimately as you share your feelings about each dish, with each one usually getting better as the night goes on.
Whether it’s your morning coffee or favourite chocolate drink, head up to The Cafe, located near the main pool and you can get your fix, along with a selection of delicious cakes, slices, cookies, macarons or ice-cream.
Firmly believing in a culture of chocolate, The Cafe is open late and is often full of people throughout the morning or after dinner. There’s a good selection of seating available within the venue itself, however items are served in such a way that you can also take it away with you – particularly convenient if you’re simply heading back to your poolside deck chair.