P&O Pacific Encounter South Pacific Island Cruise May 2023


P&O South Pacific Islands Cruise 2023

Australians are spoilt with beach and island destinations literally on our shoreline though if you’re also itching for another stamp in your passport and need to scratch an overseas trip fix, the islands of the South Pacific await.


The South Pacific holds an abundance of natural treasures. The scenery is breathtaking with white sandy beaches, tropical temperatures all year round; the people are charming and the days long and leisurely on a cruise to the South Pacific.

Many times when we travel we’re constantly on the go, jumping from one place to the next and exhausting ourselves in the meantime. A holiday at sea is the perfect time to unwind, lay out by the pool, read a book, search for ocean wildlife, or take advantage of the countless activities on board the cruise ship. You’re not scrambling to pack your belongings or fighting traffic trying to reach your next destination… you’re simply relaxing as you watch the sun set over the vast and calming ocean.


Noumea, New Caledonia ( 1st Port Call )


Just two hours and 20 minutes flying time from Brisbane, New Caledonia is an eco hotspot, home to the largest marine park on Earth. Being far from modern civilization, New Caledonia was able to preserve its beauty and protect itself from harmful external influences, which leads to the development of tourism on the islands.


New Caledonia is also the cosmopolitan hub of the South Pacific with its French influence on food, boutique shopping on Rue de Sébastopol, Rue de l’Alma and La Promenade and nightlife around Anse Vata Bay and Baie de Citrons. There is a Latin Quarter, Chinatown and morning markets selling everything from fresh croissants and coffee to papaya and passionfruit.


You dock in an industrial port when visiting Nouméa and a shuttle bus is provided free of charge which will deliver you straight to the Noumea Tourist Centre to start your day on the island. At the centre, you will find local delights at the marketplace upstairs, and various tours and day trip options from local vendors.


We arrived late afternoon and only decided late to book a tour to Lemon Bay. We navigated our way onto the bus, heading in the direction of Baie des citron (lemon bay.) Lemon Bay is only a few minutes’ walk from the touristic Anse Vata Beach. This beautiful sheltered bay with uninterrupted views out to the pale blue waters of Lemon Bay offer a look into the carefree life of local Caledonians. Various beach-side cafes and restaurants can ignite your senses from fresh seafood, delicious steaks or summer salads to enjoy with a cocktail or local beer in the sun


We walked to the top of the street were Le Meridian Hotel Dion sits on the shore and finished at Single Fin, which is a bar restaurant nestled on the Baie des Citrons, buying a couple of drinks enjoying unobstructed sea views in an atypical setting full of charm worthy of Bali. We watched a stunning sunset and jumped back on the bus and returned to the ship.


Lifou, Loyalty Islands ( 2nd Port Call )


The largest coral atoll in the Loyalty archipelago is home to six native tribes. The coral reefs at Jinek Bay reputedly have more than 2000 fish species, making snorkelling an adventure in spotting the diversity of underwater life. Lifou has limestone caves, beaches, rainforests with walking tracks and a hilltop church where visitors can climb for reflection and views.


The island is quite small so a tender is required at this port, the view as you are anchored out at sea is that of a picturesque and quaint island that calls you from the ship.


The locals of Lifou will greet you with big happy smiles as you wander through the open air markets where you’ll find unique souvenirs, arts and crafts.

Upon arrival we decided to head to the small white church perched up on the hillside to the left. This is Notre Dame de Lourdes. Once off the tender we walked straight up the hill through the markets and took the main road and headed to the left. You walk past a few village houses. At the end of the road you come to a path of stairs which will take you up to the summit of the hill to where the quaint church is perched. It is a bit of a hike, but well worth the effort. We visited the church and took in the amazing scenery. The viewing platform located close to the chapel is well worth visiting, offering panoramic views towards Jinek Bay. 

We then headed back to the wharf which is over a beautiful beach area where snorkelling and swimming is popular. We jumped into the water for a couple of hours. You could sometimes see colourful fish, and we were told if you are in the right place at the right time, you could swim with large turtles who inhabit the bay.


Port Vila, Vanuatu ( 3rd Port Call )


Two hours 30 minutes flying time direct from Brisbane, Vanuatu is one of Australia’s closest island neighbours and a nation of contrasts. You can browse colourful markets or visit the casino in Port Vila, sip French Champagne or drink down a bottle of the local Tusker beer (available from the local supermarket), fly by private helicopter to your own private island or get back to nature exploring wild forests and remote waterfalls.


The volcanic geography means the islands are lush with tropical rainforests, mountain ranges, streams and waterfalls. Guided treks traverses plantations, dense rainforest, fresh water rivers and local villages to hidden caves, waterfalls and beaches. Boat cruises (on board the Coongoola sailing ship), horse-riding tours and guided day tours are other ways to explore the natural beauty of Vanuatu.


Due to the port being damaged after the recent cyclone and ongoing infrastructure repair at the Port-Vila main wharf, the Government approved a temporary cruise tender barge solution at the seafront, to allow visitors to disembark, mama handicraft vendors  relocated to the Waisuke area (next to Municipality market)

The Haos Blong Handikraft was along the seafront and a great place to shop for traditional authentic crafts, while Hebrida Market Place was the spot to shop for hand-painted clothing and accessories such as woven bags. Although the islands of the South Pacific are beyond beautiful, too often the larger towns wear a dusty, run-down air. Having spent the previous day swimming in crystal water of Lifou , we had little desire to go ashore when the boat anchored. A stretch of markets along the esplanade, however, offered some temptation. Every market we explored in the South Pacific offered a relaxing way to pass some time. We simply wandered at our leisure with no pressure to buy — indeed; once or twice we had to hunt down the stall owner to pay them. Australian dollars were accepted.


Beyond the town, the island is simply beautiful, but we were in no mood to do a shore excursion. We did a quick loop around the first main street in and out of a few shops before hitting Fung Kuei. Fung Kuei is the most visited shopping destination in Vanuatu by new and returning travellers for a simple reason, the biggest range of products at the best duty free prices. A few hours later we were back of the ship enjoying the decks and pool.


Theatre and Shows on Pacific Encounter

Pacific Encounter has two feature performance spaces, the large Marquee theatre at the bow and Black Circus at the stern. The main theatre shows offer plenty of sequins and feathers and a great mix of classic and contemporary hits. But the hottest ticket onboard Pacific Encounter is Blanc de Blanc at Black Circus. This new risqué, Parisian-inspired show incorporates, burlesque, comedy and circus routines and is for grown ups only (so much so, there’s an 18+ age limit). The VIP Experience includes a bottle of high-end Champagne and front row cocktail seating and is worth the splurge. Feature shows were Isabel Olofsson, Swedish vocalist sing the songs we know and love with a good dose of fun. Seven, based of seven deadly sins. Was a wounderful visual feast twisting and turning through scenes of fantasy. Glenn Starr’s, hit parade. Musicology, is legends of the music industry and decades of amazing hits. Jonny Balance, is comedy magician. One, is a music journey.

Daily Things to Do on Pacific Encounter

There are least two activities happening at any given time onboard. On top of the usual bingo and trivia that you find on cruises, there are also dance classes, meditation sessions, and live music on the top deck. Craft workshops are often themed for the next party, such as a free Gatsby-style headband-making class. Sports include table tennis, three-on-three basketball, volleyball, half-court tennis, quoits, and pool games.

The Good Times daily program is left in your room during turndown or go high tech with the free P&O Cruises app which can be used to create your own customised online daily program.

Pacific Encounter Bars and Lounges

With nearly a dozen bars on board, the key factor that determines the popularity of the ship’s different drinking venues comes down to the time of day. Some bars and lounges are popular at sunset and the early evening, and then change to either a party venue or a secluded lounge bar later in the night. Others like the Encounter Hotel are busy throughout the day and night.

For chilled out tunes: The Blue Room features live guitar duos in the early evening and a relaxed and intimate ambience. Get in early for a good seat and sit back and enjoy the tunes before dinner.

For the party people: Head to the bar at the Altitude Nightclub which is known as ‘the spoiler’ as it hangs over the rear of the ship. If you’ve had a few drinks, skip the moving walkway at the entrance.

For classy cocktails: The Bonded Store is small and intimate with limited seating that gives it an air of exclusivity. The cocktails here are several steps above those found in other parts of the ship.

Running a cruise ship that carries as many people that live in a small country town is a formidable logistical operation, much of it taking place below decks or behind those secure "no admittance: crew only" doors.

We see front of house people such as waiters, entertainment staff and bartenders around the ship, and we know the captain and his officers are up on the bridge navigating, but who's keeping the engines running? Who's washing all the towels, tablecloths and sheets? How many chefs are working in the galleys to produce 10,000 meals a day – and who does the washing up?

One of the best parts of cruising is meeting all types of new people, but those people aren’t always guests or inhabitants of the ports you visit. We constantly love the amazing service we receive from all crew members, and it’s easy to tell that these crew members made sure we had the vacation of our lives, even when it involved going above and beyond their job description.



If you’re looking for the ultimate holiday where you can relax and create memories that will last a lifetime, look no further than a cruise holiday. There’s no better way to enjoy beautiful locations, try delicious food and refreshing drinks, and choose between a range of onboard activities and entertainment options.

P&O’s Pacific Encounter offers something for everyone with its range of amenities, including dining options, bars, a theatre, a cinema, a spa and fitness centre, and activities for all ages. The ship recently underwent a significant refurbishment and is in great shape to cruise to amazing destinations such as New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, New Guinea and Australia, with room options available to suit every budget.

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