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Sail the Whitsundays


Sail the Whitsundays

With something for everyone, cruising is the ultimate family holiday, and P&O’s latest ship has plenty to offer. WORDS: Ingrid Nelson.

The buzz of excitement in the air was palpable among our fellow travellers as we arrived at the new International Cruise Terminal in Brisbane recently to board our seven-day trip to the glorious Whitsundays.

As avid ‘cruislings’ we were thrilled to finally set sail on P&O’s newest cruise ship, the Pacific Encounter, after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

Previously sailing under the name Star Princess, Pacific Encounter has been completely refurbished, with a capacity of a whopping 2600 guests. After a substantial dry dock in Singapore, she now calls the passenger terminal in Brisbane her new home.

As one of P&O’s larger ships, the Pacific Encounter offers an array of dining options (12 to be exact), speciality shops, three swimming pools, including adult’s only retreat Oasis, and several bars and piano lounges with an array of talented artists to enjoy daily. Plus, there is a great nightclub (Altitude) for those who want to continue partying into the wee hours.

Despite its large capacity, it never felt crowded on board, with plenty of space around the swimming pools and no long line ups in the buffet-style Pantry restaurant. One of the most appealing aspects of cruising is from the moment you step on board your holiday begins – no travelling, no transfers, no lugging baggage around airports. Within minutes of boarding, you are on the deck, cocktail in hand (no designated driver required) and ready to relax and enjoy.

Kicking off with the sail away party, the entertainment crew do a wonderful job of creating a party atmosphere by getting the guests involved in dancing and singing as the ship sets sail.

Decorated in a modern contemporary style, the Pacific Encounter captures the elegance and grandeur of a cruise ship with all the modern conveniences required for all ages, from families to couples to more mature travellers. Plus, the kids club means parents can enjoy a well-deserved break for a few hours while the little ones have a ball and make new friends.

The lobby, located on deck five, was one of our favourite places to hang out. It’s the perfect spot to sit and relax with a drink from one of three fabulous bars while soaking up the live entertainment.

When it comes to daily activities on offer, there is no shortage of things to do. Keep an eye out for the daily newsletter delivered to your room each evening with a comprehensive list of what’s on offer the following day.

As a theatre-loving family, we thoroughly enjoyed the all-singing, all-dancing feature shows in the marquee each night. Make sure you get there early, as seats fill up quickly.

Travelling with two young adult children, plus a teenager, the ship offered something for all ages.

Our cabin was spacious and functional, with a good-size balcony to sit back with a glass of bubbles and marvel at the ocean as the sun set.

Our first port of call was Airlie Beach, where we enjoyed roaming the eclectic markets and soaking up the beautiful beaches, while our overnight stop in Cairns allowed us time to spend exploring the tropical surrounds.

As we sailed back into Brisbane after a fun-filled seven days, we were already discussing our next cruise.

The biggest decision is where to next?


Ingrid Nelson is the Co Editor of My Weekly Preview and a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience.

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