Repeat Traveller

Inside the P&O Pacific Aria

When sitting down to review P&O’s new cruise ship, Pacific Aria, it’s hard to know where to start. Do you focus on the size first and then work your way through the features later, or mention the number of passengers the cruise industry’s newest behemoth can carry?

Nope. The logical place to start is dogs.

The ship's central atrium. Photo: Chris Ashton
The ship’s central atrium. Photo: Chris Ashton

The small but oh-so-adorable pugs and French bulldogs scattered in various locations across the ship are, in my opinion, the poster children of the Pacific Aria’s radically different approach to cruise ship design.

The new P&O Pacific Aria is a cruise ship, but not as you know it.

I was recently invited aboard for a tour with P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Sture Myrmell, and the thing that jumped out was how un-cruiselike the ship’s decor was – it was more boutique hotel than Love Boat.

The Blue Room Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton
The Blue Room Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton

Pacific Aria started life as the Ryndam, a Holland America Line ship commissioned in 1994. Though the ship and it’s interior had stood the test of time for 20 years, it was time for a makeover. P&O says 18 months went into the planning of the Aria’s refurbishment, with the execution taking just three weeks.

Walking around the ship, you wouldn’t know that it was done in such a short time frame. Every element looked on point, from the dining venues to the guest rooms. In order to meet the tight deadline, many of the ship’s larger elements were pre-fabricated. An army of 900 people worked on the refurbishment.

Varied seating options on the Pool Deck. Photo: Chris Ashton
Varied seating options on the Pool Deck. Photo: Chris Ashton

Small design elements that would have normally been rushed past on other ships, such as button detailing on the back of seats, seemed to have had as much focus as the main areas of the ship. A meticulous eye for detail and willingness to go against the grain has resulted in something pretty spectacular.

I looked for flaws to show where they may have cut corners, but didn’t spot any. Our visit only include the public areas of the ship, so didn’t get a chance to see inside any of the cabins. Hopefully they’re just as good.

While I could rabbit on for a while about the diverse fabrics around the pool area, the varied height seating options in the dining rooms, the Vespa maître d’ stand in Angelo’s restaurant, or the quirky duck-legged lamps in the Ocean Bar, I’ll just let the photos do the talking for me.

Dragon Lady Restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
Dragon Lady Restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
The Pantry dining area. Photo: Chris Ashton
The Pantry dining area. Photo: Chris Ashton
Waterfront Restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
Waterfront Restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
Chef's Table, an exclusive reservation-only restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
Chef’s Table, an exclusive reservation-only restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton
The swimming pool deck. Photo: Chris Ashton
The swimming pool deck. Photo: Chris Ashton
The Monkey Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton
The Monkey Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton
Duck legged lamps in the Ocean Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton
Duck legged lamps in the Ocean Bar. Photo: Chris Ashton

It’s not often I’ll say this about a ship, but I’m excited at the idea of travelling on the Aria. Reading about the Pacific Aria over the last couple of years, it was clear P&O were thinking outside the box, looking for ways to reinvent the cruise experience for modern Australian tastes. Pacific Aria and it’s sister ship Pacific Eden have taken the best parts of cruising and combined them with the best features of a boutique hotel.

My visit this time around may have been brief, but it’s only whet my appetite for a future adventure.

Pacific Aria by the numbers

Length: 219m
Width: 30.8m
Passenger decks: 9
Passengers: 1503
Crew: 597 (1:3 passenger ratio)
Rooms: 630

Visit pocruises.com.au for more info.

Have you stayed on the Pacific Aria? What did you think?

Chris Ashton

We're Chris Ashton and Simon Ceglinski, two Aussie travellers with a love of exploration and adventure, and the odd bit of luxury thrown in. We seek out street art, street food, and scuba diving wherever we go, and prefer the road less travelled over well-worn tourist paths.

4 comments

  • My husband and I are cruising on the Pacific Aria on 2nd November 2018 already paid for the cruise not sure I like my cabin as yet coz it’s right at front bow of the ship and I get sea sick
    I’ve watched most probably all the hints of embarking and list of what to take
    I’m so excited and trying to be so well organised passports should be arriving soon I have studied the ship inside out back to front or I should say aft to bow




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