Pacific Aria did not disappoint.


Now it’s a product to suit a certain market – and here in Australia we have plenty of choice of late – for example Celebrity Solstice is in our opinion the most elegant, the Royal Caribbean ships, Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas are LARGE ships, destinations in their own right with plenty of action for families especially with teenagers tempting them with rock climbing, ice skating, surfing and more, and then there is Carnival Spirit & Legend; ideal for families especially younger children with wonderful cabins allowing the whole family to sleep appropriately in one cabin.




The itineraries are also interesting with many 2 – 4 nights around regional areas like Margaret River, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, the Hunter Valley from Newcastle, the Whitsundays just to name a few – and P &O have been very successful of late with packages onboard for short durations to major events in Melbourne like the Australian Tennis Open  and the Melbourne Cup where the ship is the docked hotel and all transport and entrance is included in the cruise fare making the events a hassle free way to experience all the action.


So as much as P & O is suitable to families of all ages with wonderful KIDS clubs and activities it is attracting couples and like minded groups of couples who enjoy the chance to dine and drink well.


Pacific Aria features the main restaurant Waterfront where you have the choice of over 40 a la carte menu items for breakfast , lunch or dinner  but also has some other choices that are very popular and on our latest cruise we were able to sample a few – SALT by Luke Mangan is open for lunch and dinner with a small surcharge but the menu is the same as on land at his signature restaurants around the world incl the Sydney choice in the Hilton – famous dishes like his Crab Pancake or Licorice Parfait are on the menu and very popular – then there is Angelo’s , the onboard Italian featuring seasonal Italian delicacies and the Asian choice of Dragon Lady, the many spices of the Orient all yours for the taking.


The Chef’s Table is an exquisite offering for a small group each night dining and mingling with the Chef and sampling local fare – interestingly all of the dining options list where the produce is sourced from, for example our colleague and friend Rebecca Sim’s famed Grandparents ‘Petuna’ provide the salmon & ocean trout – local beers and wines also on offer.




Gone are the buffets, instead the Pantry has been introduced where many serving stations feature regional fare or varied styles of cuisine – it might be Tex Mex for the Mexican, or Indian or the Seafood corner –indeed food from many corners of the globe – and then the incredible deserts.,  ideal for a snack or a main meal depending on your appetite or activities of the day.  The Main pool has a retractable roof making it ideal year round to enjoy the space either in the water or by the pool sipping a cocktail or listening to music.


The Spa onboard is very popular and feature Elemis treatments and the ship has a promenade deck on deck 6 to walk around for those who love to exercise.  Outside the new OASIS is the adults only relaxation area with a pool, hanging chairs, cushioned cabanas and my favourite view, the ship’s wake.


The many bars and places to mingle over a drink with friends with intimate music makes it difficult to choose one you really like , instead we moved around the ship to sample them all from the Dome with the observation forward to the magnificently upholstered Blue Room for Blues to RnB or jazz, or the Ocean Room near where all the action takes place in the showroom, the Marque.


Our ocean view stateroom 5119 was queen bedded with a large picture window, ample wardrobe space, a good work bench with Australian power supply, a 2 seater couch and personal safe,  The bathroom featured a shower over bath, it was well lit but had limited storage for personal toiletry items .


Our 3 night trip took us to Brisbane and Pacific Aria was small enough to berth at the Brisbane Hamilton Port so convenient to both the airport and the city – for a ship with nearly 1500 guests the embark and disembark  was surprisingly well handled .




The one question we get asked is ‘would we travel on Pacific Aria again?’ the answer is a clear YES to celebrate a special event for a group of friends or ideal of intergenerational journey with our children and grand children – it is value for money – it’s not luxurious but it’s comfortable – the service is friendly and each person who works on Aria has a mission to provide you a wonderful escape from the everyday world – and to have you want to return!


But we were not just going to sail to Brisbane for a couple of days without checking some of Far North Queensland as it had been years since our last tour of Townsville and Mackay and all the places inbetween, like Bowen, Proserpine and Airlie Beach.


Townsville now has some 195000 residents and they have made their STRAND on the beachfront into a wonderful park and recreation space for tourists and locals alike – welcoming for a stroll after dinner or for an early morning run., and we staying on Palmer St in Townsville South which is like the Lygon St of Townsville with some amazing restaurants like JAM , voted #1 for informal dining in Queensland – we hired our vehicle and drove from Townsville to Mackay with a wonderful local fish and chip lunch on the beach at Airlie Beach, still a haven for international tourists and backpackers and the gateway to the Whitsundays., and then had some time in Mackay a city that has 150000 residents but is seeing some hardship because of the downturn in mining – prior to this the area has had considerable money spent on their roads, the marina and the city centre all inviting – Mackay like Townsville was a well cared for a clean community where the weather was perfect one day and just as perfect the next – flying home we knew only too well it would be 33 degrees to 13 degrees  but all in all a wonderful 6 day getaway.