We have cruised with P&O Australia before, with mixed results, so we were a little hesitant about booking this cruise. But the price was outstanding and the OBC too good to refuse.
Having just got off the Sun Princess a month before, we were immediately "at home" in our cabin (balcony, deck 11, forward). In fact, on waking up a couple of mornings I had to remind myself were on the Explorer and not a Princess ship!
As they used to say about shoes, our cabin "was well worn, but worn well". Jomon and Komang did a sterling job of keeping everything clean and working well — and were always bright and sparkly as well. The only "fault" we had on one day was a distinct lack of hot water, but I think that was related to a ruptured steam pipe in the engine room that caused a minor emergency.
The food was pretty much hit-and-miss. We ate mainly in the MDR because we actively dislike the "Smash-and-Grab" (buffet). The menus were quite extensive but became a little repetitive by the end of the cruise. Having said that, there is only a limited number of ways you can serve eggs for breakfast, for example. Generally, the food was tasty and filling. We also tried Angelo's and Dragon Lady and would rate them satisfactory rather than excellent. Luke's served excellent burgers for a light lunch (extra charge). We didn't go to 400 Gradi, the pizza place — nor did many other people! I never saw more than 8 people in there at any one time. And, despite that, they still insisted on shutting down the thoroughfare to the forward areas — a minor annoyance but unnecessary, in my view. I think the entire area is being revamped in the current refurbishment; it was covered in plastic when we left.
We booked the Love Riot show and dinner option. What can I say! The menu was I feel too adventurous and lacked organisation. (The seafood bisque, for example, was burnt/over-salted and near as damnit to inedible.) The show itself was in a similar vein. The contortionist was great; the male pole dancer ditto, but the rest was a lot of flashing lights and "music" and commentary at a volume that fell just short of painful. It was disjointed, with little flow. Full marks to the guys and gals for their efforts, but it was ... juvenile ... to say the least. And PS: Fishnet tights with holes in them are NOT a good look!
As for drinks, bottles of wine are quite reasonably priced. Cocktails about $13AUD — except when I asked for a gin martini, straight up, no vermouth. This apparently caused minor conniptions and I was charged for two separate shots of gin, which came to $20. The same thing WITH vermouth was $13 — I gave up and drank margaritinis instead ...
Service everywhere was with a smile. We couldn't have asked for better.
Ports? Well, being from Western Australia, we're pretty "Asia-ed-out", so nothing special there. Some minor irritations with shoreside medical inspections for coronavirus, but they were there for a good reason. The skipper was incredibly protective of the passengers and insisted checks be done onboard, which they eventually were. (We had no reported cases onboard.) He was most upset when we had to put all those with Chinese passports ashore in Cairns; they were not allowed to stay onboard.
Would we go again on Explorer? Sure. The value for money is hard to beat.