Cruise Passenger goes onboard P&O’s newly refurbished Pacific Jewel

Cruise Passenger has just stepped off Pacific Jewel, which is making her maiden call in Sydney following a multimillion dollar refit in May this year.

A ‘modern Australian’ feel has been introduced across the whole ship, with big changes to the food, shows and entertainment. We got a sneak peek at the new Off the Charts show, a high-energy performance of contemporary songs that’s designed to feel more like a night at the Grammys than a traditional musical. It’s unlike anything that has been performed on P&O before with individual performances of songs from artists like Taylor Swift, Adele and Bruno Mars, with highly choreographed dance routines.

The show is part of the new entertainment line up designed by director of entertainment Brett Annable and Grayboy Entertainment. P&O spoke to its passengers and found that “the shows needed some attention,” Mr Annable told Cruise Passenger. Rather than trying to create a number of similar ‘big ship productions’ P&O’s new shows will each have a different scale and feel.

The line has also moved to make the entertainment more interactive, holding Gatsby-themed nights that will start with performances of the 1930s musical The Velvet Rope leading into a glamorous after party where guests are encouraged to dress up and mingle with performers. Mr Annable said that passengers will have to be introduced to the new concept where they are encouraged to participate rather than just watch, and expects social media to be a big part of the fun.

The Gatsby parties are one of four new party nights being rolled out this month, replacing the traditional theme nights onboard. The Bianco White Party is a superclub-style dance night on the top deck, complete with special effects, white cocktails, DJs, live music and a selfie wall. There will also be a retro Back to School party in the nightclub and a Las Vegas-style pool party one afternoon.

Jewel was also the first P&O ship to introduce the new all day dining concept, The Pantry. The line has banished the buffet and turned the space into somewhere where guests really want to eat with a range of outlets serving different cuisines.

There’s a real focus on design, variety and quality. We loved the look and feel of The Pantry, with its varied seating options (including plenty of space for solo diners), full length windows and stylish design.

In terms of the food, it’s a big step up from the old P&O buffet. There’s an impressive variety, everything feels fresh, it’s great value and fabulous fun.

The Pantry has also done away with the standard buffet trays that allow guests to wander the aisles and load up on a bit of everything. Instead, diners are given a separate serving at each station, encouraging them to return to their table and enjoy each meal (though they can go back as many times as they like).

Is Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill (also onboard) in any danger from this new look rival? Luke can rest easy. But the Pantry represents a leap forward in onboard dining.