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Prepare to be thoroughly entertained on P&O Cruises’ new ship. Words: Toni Eatts.

Competition for passengers is fierce, which means when a cruise line launches a ship, it has to entice new as well as repeat customers. You can be certain that P&O Cruises Australia executives had that in mind when they decided on the key features of Pacific Pearl.

As a result, since Pacific Pearl set sail on her inaugural cruise from Auckland on December 22, passengers have discovered some favourite features from Pacific Sun, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel as well as some unique new attractions.

The ship was transformed from Ocean Village to Pacific Pearl during a multi-million-dollar refurbishment in Singapore, before her spectacular renaming ceremony in Auckland on December 21.

During these festivities, Kiwi Olympic medal-winner Barbara Kendall  officially named Pacific Pearl, watched by 500-odd guests and various assembled media, who were keen to see where the money has been spent.

One of the most dramatic new inclusions is the state-of-the-art LED Big Screen, poolside. Stretching four metres high and more than seven metres wide, the giant screen will show new-release movies, live sports events and the ship’s daily Splash TV production. The Swim Up bar in one of Pacific Pearl’s two pools is another first for an Australian P&O Cruises ship.

In general, there’s a big emphasis on entertainment. Both the Dome and the Atrium have been refurbished to provide guests with a variety of options.

The Dome lounge has 270-degree ocean views and can seat 200. During the day, it’s big enough to hold a dance class and quiet enough for you to enjoy a book, but at night it becomes a venue in which you can meet and mingle with friends or perhaps attend a comedy show. Meanwhile, the three-storey high Atrium has been transformed into a combined entertainment, retail and bar area.

Bars such as Charlie’s Café and Bar, with its internet terminals, and Mix Cocktail Bar, with its ocean-view windows, offer places in which to relax during the day and become settings for live music at night.

You’ll also find Connexions, a sleek lounge bar featuring a dance floor; and the new Orient bar, a pub-style venue named in honour of the famous Orient Line, which older passengers may recall operated several ships, including the popular SS Oronsay. The Orient bar has leather chesterfield lounges and wingback chairs, and serves light snacks.

Pacific Pearl provides several dining options, including The Waterfront restaurant. Similarly to the main dining venues on her sister ships, Pacific Pearl’s The Waterfront seats 800 guests; however, the room is cleverly divided into intimate spaces with drops of sheer fabrics and soft lights, so it retains a personal atmosphere.

There’s also the alternative restaurant, Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, seating 60. This room features blue and silver décor, glimpses into the kitchen and expansive ocean views.

If you hanker after coffee and chocolate, head to The Café; if you want time without children, book yourself in to the adults-only Oasis retreat, positioned at the stern: its wicker recliners are perfect for a snooze. Take a dip in one of two whirlpools and have bar staff bring you an icy drink or a light snack.

As onboard other P&O Cruises ships, Pacific Pearl has an Aqua® Health Spa & Fitness complex offering fitness classes, facials, massages and medi-spa treatments such as teeth-whitening; a hair salon; a thermal area that includes a sauna and  relaxation room; and a gym – perfect for working off that delicious cruise cuisine.

FACT FILE:

Cruise Line: P&O Cruises Australia

Vessel: Pacific Pearl

Star rating: Not yet rated

GRT: 63,500  tons

Maximum passenger capacity: 1,800

Total crew: Not yet determined

Enters service: December 21, 2010

Passenger decks: 11

Facilities: A giant poolside movie screen, an outdoor aerial acrobatics rig and shows in the Atrium keep guests entertained. Dining venues include Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, The Waterfront restaurant and various casual eateries. There are 64 balcony cabins, including 36 mini-suites.