5 Reasons Why P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn Is Great For The Whole Family

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about your next holiday.  Have you considered a family cruise?  We’ve become huge fans of cruise life and recently kid-tested P&O Cruises’ newly refurbished Pacific Dawn. Put it on your list, P&O quite literally rolls out the red carpet for families!

Designers have done a great job in making sure that every member of the family has a real holiday by providing activities for all ages. Our biggest problem was how we were going to experience everything before it was time to go home…

Pacific Dawn - Family Cruise Photo


Our cruise began with a quick check-in from Portside Wharf Hamilton – home to the Pacific Dawn all year round. If you haven’t cruised before, boarding the ship is a similar process to going on an International flight.

On the day of our cruise departure there wasn’t much of a wait and everyone was escalated to the priority check-in. Once we sailed through the formalities we were ready for our 4 night cruise.

Pacific Dawn Family Cruise Boarding

* Short voyages are a good way to work out if a family cruise is for you.
* Parking near the terminal was very easy with Portside Parking
.  You don’t really need the shuttle – it’s close enough to walk. Book online and save 10%. 

Itinerary: We set sail on the day that Cyclone Debbie hit the Queensland coast. The ship’s course was wisely changed from the Whitsunday’s to ‘a cruise to nowhere’ which we stayed on the ship and were given more time to check out the ships stunning multi-million dollar refurbishment!

First impressions didn’t disappoint – the Pacific Dawn has been transformed into a stylish, contemporary place to relax and enjoy the good times.



P&O are famous for their parties and their theme nights in particular mean fun for the entire family. We were amazed at how many passengers get into these evenings and how much thought they put into their outfits.

Being prepared doesn’t mean taking up half your suitcase with an elaborate outfit, you can pack accessories that give a nod to the theme and still feel part of it.

Whatever effort you put in is worth it.  Your little ones will be partying in kids club (I walked into a full-on rave one night!) and if you don’t mind keeping them up late take them to a pool deck parties – they usually kick off at 8pm. The White Out party on Bianco Night was a highlight for our boys. We joined the conga line…went on a scavenger hunt and danced the night away. All good times that we won’t forget any time soon.

Some highlights from our P&O parties

Bianco Party

Pacific Dawn Family Cruise Theme Nights

Gatsby Party – Glam it up 1920s style

Pacific Dawn Theme Night Gatsby Party

* If your cruise has a Gatsby Night look out for a headband making class in your P&O Goodtimes guide. I channeled my inner Blair Waldorf and made a fabulous creation.
* Watching a live performance is another thing we recommend that you do with your kids.  The early evening performances are family friendly and feature familiar music that will have you all dancing in your seats. 
Don’t miss the towel animal parade during the day. There were more creations on display than we ever thought possible. #mindblown! 


Food, glorious food.

Cruise lovers have come to expect great food…and lots of it. Pacific Dawn doesn’t disappoint. And if you have a fussy eater don’t worry, this ship has you covered.

Multiple options including the main dining room – Waterfront Restaurant, Salt grill by Luke Mangan and The Pantry (an international market place of nine fresh food outlets) offer more than enough choice for discerning cruiselings.

Foodie highlights from our cruise:

The new Shell & Bones seafood restaurant is BRILLIANT. Our boys have recently developed at taste for lobster and oysters – so they were right at home!

The small surcharge here was worth the smile that it put on the kids faces.

My husband and I were also impressed with the quality of seafood towers. Both hot and cold seafood were winners with us.

Salt grill by Luke Mangan. We enjoyed a special dinner here and gorgeous traditional high tea without the kids. The food was perfect, service impeccable and the decor makes it one of the most ambient places on the ship. I loved it.

* P&O Cruises thankfully know that Aussies demand a good cup of coffee. A whopping 72kg of coffee is served per day on the ship! The Magic Beans, a cute little coffee shop on Deck 12 was my go to. They also give you a chocolate with your order. #takemymoney
* Aside from specialty restaurants and made to order items like ice cream or pizza/hot dogs, the food on-board the ship is included in the cost of the cruise. This is good to know when budgeting.


As a mum of active young boys, i’ve realised that i’m going to have to get more adventurous if i’m going to keep up. This means getting up from the deck chair and trying new things – together.

Onboard Pacific Dawn you’ll find the biggest adventure park at sea – it’s called P&O Edge.

Our family enjoyed rock climbing, sailed from one end of the ship to the other on the flying fox and we even walked the plank! Ps.  It works better than time out for kids in case you’re wondering! We also kid-tested, the Segway obstacle course and played laser tag at ‘the top of the Dome’ ?.  The Dome is the ships nightclub space and it’s undergone a major refurbishment also.

Overall we found P&O Edge to be a safe way to try out new activities that you may not otherwise do.

* Give everything you can a go! In no way did I ever imagine myself flying Bridget Jones style across the ship; but hey I did it and now I have the confidence to try it again sometime! 
– Pack closed-in shoes with good grip, a hat and plenty of sunscreen. 
– You will be breathalysed before each activity and need to blow under .05! Traps for young players! Don’t party too hard the night before your big adventure! 🙂
– Some activities can be quite popular. Be sure to visit Deck 12 (Opposite the Aqua Hut) early in your cruise to lock in your preferred activities and times.  Note: Only children aged 6 and up are permitted to use The Edge.  


Pacific Dawn has raised the bar by introducing two spectacular water slides both around 80 metres long – which make them the longest water slides on an Australian cruise ship!

These slides literally shoot you OVER the edge of the ship. One slide gives you the effect of flying through space thanks to a kaleidoscope of disco lighting and the other is transluscent!


* Sliders have to be 120 cm tall and children under 12 years of old have to be supervised by an adult.

The boys also went crazy for the splash park.

Over-sized water cannons, a slippery slide and a huge water dumping bucket kept them entertained for hours. I was able to watch on from a shaded deck chair – cocktail in hand! #thisisliving!

They boys also loved the hot tubs and the all ages pool. I packed the goggles and they dove to the bottom of the pool and discovered a glass wall where they could wave to other passengers. Good novelty factor.


Parents, if I can give you just one bit of advice… please take advantage of Kids Club.

It’s completely free and your best chance to actually relax on holidays. And if your kids are anything like ours they won’t want to leave! #noguilt #theywillnotmissyou

Kids Club is fully supervised and is broken up into the following groups on the Pacific Dawn:

2-6 years: Turtle Cove
7-10 years: Shark Shack
11-14 years: HQ
15-17 ears: HQ+

Due to their ages our boys went into two different Kids Clubs. Our eldest rocked the Shark Shack and our youngest enjoyed Turtle Cove. Both boys made beautiful new friends in each club and raved to each other about their activities.

A program of activities was also available daily and these were often matched to what was going on around the rest of the ship.

Turtle Cove:  This is such a cute space…and it’s big. It includes an indoor play gym, LEGO Duplo zones, tables for arts and crafts, jewellery making and more.  I particularly liked the evening wind down program for kids. ‘Sleepyhead Story Time’ was a highlight, as was pajama night.

Note: Kids Club stays open until 10:30pm which is a huge bonus for parents. Late night babysitting is also available from this time until 1am at an additional charge.

Shark Shack: The LEGO Zone in Shark Shack is something else and it’s no wonder… it has been developed in partnership with the boys LEGO hero Ryan McNaught. We go to Ryan’s exhibition in Brisbane every year – he’s one of a handful of LEGO Certified Professionals in the world. This hands on zone includes a LEGO builder wall and table and has some amazing LEGO on display for aspiring brickies.

Shark Shack also features a basketball hoop for letting off steam and games consoles for tournaments.

HQ, HQ+:  Older kids haven’t been forgotten in P&O’s Kids Club programming. I’ve been told that there is a serious set up for X Factor wanna be’s called ‘Teen Jam’. In HQ+ teens can form their our band and perform for family and friends later in the ship’s official show lounge – The Marquee.

Kids in both teen clubs can also create films using Stop Motion Pro – putting their tech and creative talents to work and have a run on the cruise line’s first virtual reality activity at sea from Sony Interactive Entertainment Australia.

* People often say ‘register the kids early to avoid missing out’. I’m yet to meet anyone who has actually missed out; but if a cruise without Kids Club sounds like something you’d rather not gamble with…visit the club early on in your cruise. It’s also worth mentioning that the number of children permitted on the cruise is already controlled at the time of booking.
* When you register, you’ll be asked if you want the kids to be able to sign themselves in and out of kids club #what #nochance. This would be a bonus for older children who were cruising with their friends though.

Adults Kids Club: We used our kid free time to visit the Elemis at Sea Spa for a hot stone massage and relaxation in the ship’s exclusive thermal suites.

I revelled in the child free Oasis that is the adults only retreat including outdoor spas and took my time looking through the ship’s boutique shops.

The actual highlight however was having an uninterrupted conversation with my husband (I know right!). We chatted away at dinner and at the ships many beautiful bars – there’s 9 in total.

* Keep an eye out for specials for the spa during peak dining times.
* Join a Kids Club hosted dinner in The Pantry. They can have dinner with other kids and P&O mascots TC & Skipper. Special mini menus are on offer and you can drop them back to kids club after they’re done and go out for your own child free meal afterwards. #livingthedream 


1.Keep in touch with friends and family back home with P&Os Internet package. Plans range from a basic social media plan valued at $10 through to a platinum can’t live without checking my email every 5 minutes valued at $99. Also, Internet is always fastest early in the morning or in the evenings when less people are trying to log on.

2.Make sure you try out the onboard app called ‘WhatsOn’ – it can help you to keep in touch with friends and family onboard. Hooray no need to pack walkie-talkies. It’s free to use when connected to their wi-fi.

3.Listen out for the Captain’s announcements. He’s funny and the kids love him because he refers to the crew as his “minions”. Take a trip to Guest Services and you’ll spot a few of them!

Note: If you’re curious about the crew areas on the ship and even fancy meeting the Captain make a booking using the 24 hour kiosks in the Atrium (Deck 5). We joined the Bridge Tour and met the Captain and his Officers. The boys took to being at the helm a little too well! 🙂

4. A note about the muster drill: For anyone who’s cruised before you’ll know that muster drill is an important and compulsory safety briefing that all passengers and crew must attend prior to sail away. It’s also one of the most unpleasant things you’ll have to do on the cruise with kids. No mobile phones are permitted to be used and the children must attend and listen quietly.

P&O’s muster allowed the children to be seated and included trying on their life jacket (you grab this from your room first) to ensure that it is in good working condition and that you know how to use it. The boys thought this was pretty cool – so phew, no complaints from them.

5.If you book a shore excursion that requires snorkel gear – you can hire this on the ship for the entire duration of the cruise. The equipment will be delivered to your room by your steward and costs $29.99 for kids ($39.99 adults).

6.Pack a jumper for poolside movie nights. We enjoyed new release blockbusters like Disney’s ‘Moana’ and 20th Century Fox’s ‘Trolls’. Splurge a little and pick up popcorn and some sweet treats from the lolly shop on deck 3!

7.Come prepared for activities for the kids to do in the room and at meal times in the restaurants. Colouring in, sticker books…iPads…things that will keep them occupied so that they are entertained and you can make the most of your meal. We love FunBox activities for on the go.

8.Bring a lanyard each for your cruise cards. The cruise card is the key to your room and the only method of payment onboard – it’s also the way you check your kids into and out of kids club. If you lose it, report it straight away to guest services.

9.Foodie cruises are a thing! I learnt that P&O offers Food and Wine cruises often featuring expert culinary talent including top Aussie chefs like Luke Mangan himself. This peaked my interest for future cruising because the family can come along and be entertained whilst i’m participating in something that I LOVE. #itsallaboutme

10.Get your photo taken with the official photographers onboard. They do a great job and yes they are more expensive than the photo that you could take yourself, but in our experience these are the photos that we have treasured the most.

11.Tip check your P&O GoodTimes Guide for sunrise and sunset times – two things that MUST be experienced at sea!

12. Pack smart casual clothes clothes for evenings and casual for during the day. Always ensure you have sunscreen, a hat and insect repellent on hand for shore days.

13. Cruising is great for multi-generational travel. If you’ve got grandparents, cousins, friends that are family… let them all know when you’ll be cruising and get the gang together for some fun at sea.


Interconnecting rooms, quad-quad, twin-quad or twin-twin bedding options are available depending on your families cruising preference. A great solution for large families is to book a suite, connecting rooms or a balcony and an inside room that are across from each other.

A balcony is handy if you want to stay up later than your kids at night, but not necessary.

* Don’t get hung up on your room – you’ll be surprised at how little time you will actually spend in it. 
* Keep an eye out for towel animal creations!  You may not get one every evening but when you do, it’s a real treat. Our boys took turns sleeping with theirs.
* Your room will include a flat screen TV. Look out for the TV guide (provided in your onboard information kit). Kids & You – Channel 28′ and ‘Pacific Hits’ Channel 24 have programs for kids.

* Closet space on The Dawn was spacious. There was abundant draws, along with plenty of hangers, slippers and bathrobes. Hey, these things are important! 🙂

Passenger rooms on The Pacific Dawn: 
798 rooms
178 interior rooms
436 ocean view rooms
134 balcony rooms
50 suits with private balcony
Includes: 10 interconnecting interior and ocean view rooms


Built: 1991 and refurbished 2017
Gross tonnage: 70,285 gross tonnes
Length: 245 metres
Width: 32.2 metres
Passenger Decks: 11
Speed: Maximum 22.5 knots
Passengers: 2000
Crew: 730


Our family had a fabulous time onboard P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn enjoying and exploring all of the ships great new features. As first time cruisers with P&O we’d recommend this cruiseline to any family looking for a wonderful holiday with kids.

Pacific Dawn cruises from Brisbane year round and offers a range of itineraries including short breaks, Australian getaways, Pacific Island holidays and event cruises.


Fares start from $479* per person quad share for a four-night Sea Break departing Brisbane. The fare is based on the current ‘Kids Cruise Free Sale’ starting 20 April 2017 and ending 13 June 2017. Fares on a four night cruise include up to $100 on board credit (OBC) per cabin. In addition to OBC, kids (12 years and younger) booked in upper berths sail for free on selected voyages.

For more information visit pocruises.com.au, call 13 24 94 or see a licensed travel agent.


We were media guests onboard P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn. All opinions are our own and correct at the time of publication.


We’d love to hear from other cruise families and their experiences with P&O Cruises Australia. Share your tips and feedback here.

Join the conversation!

  1. blackwidow63 says:

    Would love to go on a Cruise with my Daughter and Granddaughter , and be able to take them to New Zealand but alas, im on a pension and its just a in my Dreams every night!

    • Hi lovely thank you so much for commenting. I will keep an eye out for cruise giveaways and super-dooper specials! We need you guys to experience a cruise. X

  2. This looks like it was an amazing time. Like I needed another reason to want a holiday! 😉

  3. Kids Gifts and Toys says:

    A great review Paula! You may have even convinced me to try a cruise with the kids. It does sound a lot of fun and that everything is taken care of which means you actually get to relax! Do you know the equivalent ship out of Sydney?