We asked people who travel for a living to tell us what they thought of P&O’s new food court-style eatery, The Pantry, on Pacific Jewel.

Carla Grossetti, travel and lifestyle writer

In a dramatic overhaul, P&O has given the buffet the heave-ho in favour of an upmarket food hall dubbed The Pantry.

P&O’s corporate executive chef, Uwe Stiefel, says the new dining concept better reflects the culture onboard cruise ships, which he says has changed dramatically during his 25 years spent cheffing at sea.

“It used to be that the vast majority of cruise passengers worked in mining or in the trades. That demographic has changed and the food court onboard P&O’s The Pantry mirrors that change of culture and a trend towards a more casual form of dining,” says Stiefel.

“Passengers can still enjoy dressing up to experience a leisurely lunch at the Waterfront Restaurant, luxurious high tea at Luke Mangan’s Salt grill, or dinner at the Chef’s Table… but The Pantry has allowed us to put a bit more joy into the casual dining options, too,” he says.

Whereas the previous incarnation was a bit drab and dated, The Pantry is now lighter, brighter and more contemporary and caters to everyone from singles who want to savour their own space and the mobility impaired who want to navigate freely through the area, to large groups of families and friends who want to converge together at a communal table.

Apart from the addition of banquette seating, high-stooled counters and intimate tables, the biggest change has been to the food on offer. Although breakfast remains the same – each eatery serves a standard rotating roster of cereal, toast, fruit and fry-ups – the places where passengers can enjoy food now include Curry House, Mexicana cantina, Fat Cow carvery, Hook Fish & Chips, Kettle & Bun for salads and sangas, The Grill for burgers and Sugar Bar for sweet treats.

While Stiefel concedes there will always be repeat passengers who are resistant to change, the feedback he has received has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Passengers are loving the variety. The layout means we have been able to include more seating and there are now double the amount of dishes available. It’s been a stunning success,” he says.

P&O also has The Pantry on its horizons for Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which are due to be launched in November.

The best: The variety of dishes on offer has doubled. What I also loved was the clean, fresh furnishings and beach-chic vibe, and the fact you could get something light and healthy and there were options for gluten-free, vegetarian, low-calorie and low-sugar dietary requirements.

The worst: If we’re going to get pernickety about The Pantry, I’d like to see some breakfast options that are a move away from bog-standard buffet options such as bacon and eggs or cereal. I recommend huevos rancheros (beans and eggs) from Mexicana or a fragrant rice dish such as nasi lemak, traditionally eaten as a breakfast staple in Malaysia.

Briar Jensen, travel writer

What did you think of The Pantry?

Absolutely love it! The contemporary décor, variety of seating and themed food stations – it’s a game changer.

Is it better than the buffet? 

Definitely. The variety of food has doubled, the presentation is more inviting and the queues are almost gone.

What was your favourite part of the eatery, and what was your favourite dish from there?

No favourite – I liked them all! Loved the red curry and coconut soup from Stix, dhal from Curry House and the pulled pork burger from The Grill.

Gail Forrer, Editor of Noosa News

What did you think of The Pantry?

Brilliant. The café-style selection shows an astute eye for the fresh, tasty and very modern.

Is it better than the buffet?

Of course – we are minus the line-up!

What was your favourite part of the eatery, and what was your favourite dish from there?

Everything from Curry House and Hook’s Fish & Chips – they’re equal firsts.