South Pacific Cruise 2023

Our cruise in 2023 was our fourth in total and our second to the South Pacific.

We visited the same destinations of Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila.

Pacific Encounter

2,600 guests, lower berths12 guests decks290m/851ft108,865 gross tonnage

Our travel destinations

Leaving Brisbane

We got underway at around 1615 in the afternoon.

It was a nice smooth run down the river before leaving the shelter of Moreton Island and hitting the open sea at around 1800.


“Nouméa is the capital and largest city of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia and is also the largest francophone city in Oceania. It is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia’s main island, Grande Terre, and is home to the majority of the island’s European, Polynesian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese populations.

The city lies on a protected deepwater harbour that serves as the chief port for New Caledonia.”

The weather today was terrible and by the time we docked at 1400 it was raining and windy, so we decided not to get off the ship.


“Lifou is made up of Lifou Island, the largest and most heavily populated of the Loyalty Islands, its smaller neighbour Tiga Island, and several uninhabited islets in between these two. All these islands lie among the Loyalty Islands, 190 kilometres  northeast of New Caledonia’s mainland.

At 1,146 km2, Lifou Island is the largest atoll in the world.”

Once again the weather played a big part in our decision-making.

We had a look around Lifou on our first cruise in 2017, on a much nicer day than today, so decided again that we’d stay on the ship…


This time we did get off the ship. It was a much nicer day and nice and the weather was warm and humid.

We paid $5AUD for a water taxi that took us from the ship to the middle of the ‘city’ where we wandered up and down the main street and did some duty-free shopping. We bought some cheap alcohol and a pair of shoes each…

“Vanuatu is an island country in Melanesia, located in the South Pacific Ocean.

The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 km east of northern Australia, 540 km northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.”

On Board Restaurants

There are several restaurants on board that you are allocated/book-in to eat at.

Our schedule was as follows:

  • 16th – Angelo’s
  • 17th – Luke’s
  • 18th – Dragon Lady
  • 19th – Angelo’s
  • 20th – Trattoria
  • 21st – Waterfront
  • 22nd – Angelo’s

Trattoria is one of the ‘you need to pay’ restaurants and was well worth the money. Lovely and quiet, good food and nice surroundings.

Oh, and $12 for a pizza…

One of the waiter’s did a couple of tricks for two young girls at the next table with their parents – such a lovely guy who kept the girls entertained with his magic.

“Serving rustic, family-friendly Italian fare and freshly cooked pizza, P&O Trattoria offers a warm, relaxed atmosphere where fantastic food, good wine and wonderful service come together.”

Dragon Lady

Dragon Lady served Asian-fusion cuisine and we ate here just the once.

“Dragon Lady provides an intimate and mysterious setting. Be seduced by the exotic scents and spices of a menu inspired by Australians’ passion for Asian cuisine. Bursting with flavour, every mouthful promises a tantalising night in the Orient.”


Angelo’s was a favourite serving Italian cuisine. We ate here a few times over the course of the week – luckily they have an ‘A’ and ‘B’ menu…

“From the first bite to the last mouthful, the menu at Angelo’s is Italian food done the right way. Think soul warming traditional dishes with a delicious modern twist. Surrounded by images of Latin legends captured by one of Italy’s most famous photographers, Angelo Frontoni, the restaurant is the perfect setting to enjoy la dolce vita as you indulge in a meal to remember.”

Luke's Bar & Grill

Luke’s Bar & Grill was another of the ‘you need to pay’ restaurants and was a tasty dining experience. We joined in to a whole of restaurant rendition of Happy Birthday for a girl called Helen who was seated at the next table over.


“At sea, succeeding Salt grill, Luke’s Burger Bar and Luke’s Bar & Grill by Luke Mangan is exclusive to P&O Cruises and their popularity is renowned for that very reason.”

The Pantry

We ate at The Trough, sorry The Pantry a couple of times during the course of the week.

We gave it this name after being traumatised on our first cruise. It was our first meal on a boat and we jostled with what seemed like 10,000 people fighting to get fed and a table to eat at. We didn’t go back much after that.

The food is pretty good. All the people, well… 😳

The Waterfront

We ate breakfast at The Waterfront most days – except shore days when we went to The Pantry.

The food is good, the waiters are friendly and attentive and they serve the best pastries.

“More sugar Sir”

Around the Ship

Level 5 - The Lobby

“Deck 5 is also known as the lobby and is the hub of Pacific Encounter. This is where you’ll find several cafes and plenty of places to sit and take in the ocean views. If you enjoy socialing with other guests, it’s a great spot to hangout and make new friends…”

Level 6

Level 6 is where the customer service desk is located and where most of the shopping can be found…

Wall Art

There are some really nice pieces of art hanging around the ship. Here is a sample…

Entertainment Venues


We never saw this in action at night but it was a beautiful, relaxing place to come in the day for some downtime…

Black Circus

The ship’s cabaret room where we saw a comedian and also Blanc de Blanc…

Blue Room

A lovely little bar with great laid-back live music by night and a nice quiet place to escape by day…


We never ‘went’ to the casino, only used it as a walkway.

Pokies au-go-go…

“We offer all of your favourite casino games including Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, Electronic Table Games, Bingo and Scratch Cards.”


The Marquee is the main theatre and stage for the ship and where all of the big shows are held. 

We attended quite regularly and saw a couple of fabulous shows…

Pool Deck

The Pool Deck is hugely popular with families and kids.

There are people in the pool always and, when the weather is good, it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by.

Bars and Hotels

Bonded Store

The Bonded Store was a quiet little bar on Deck 7 that had the feel of a Gentleman’s Club, or 1920’s Speak Easy…

“The Bonded Store is the Pacific Explorer’s own hidden, hole in the wall bar. Try a delicious cocktail or learn the tricks of the trade and wet your whistle with a cocktail-making class”

Cocktail Course

We signed up for the cocktail course on Day 1 as we knew it would sell out fast. It was $35 to make four cocktails and learn a bit about how to mix them.

I did one on our first cruise, so Angela took the honours this time…

Encounter Hotel

We visited the Encounter Hotel most days – sometimes for a drink, sometimes to read, sometimes to craft/drink coffee and sometimes to chat with new friends.

“The Encounter Hotel is a modern, welcoming venue and the go-to pub for guests who enjoy trivia, karaoke, or simply sampling the extensive menu of draft beers, boutique ales and ciders.”

P&O Good Times

P&O Good Times is the ship’s daily newsletter that is delivered to your door every evening and gives a complete rundown of activities on the ship.

“It’s only good news here.

While you’re on holiday with P&O we’ll make sure that you always know what’s happening onboard, so you don’t miss out on a single thing.

That’s why we publish our daily newsletter Good Times.

It’s our way of keeping you up to date with daily activities, Shore Tours and parties”

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