Previously sailing as Pacific Eden for P&O Australia, the ship looks impressively luxe for a mid-priced cruise experience. However, in some ways, this is also Vasco da Gama's biggest downfall. Not because it doesn't deliver on its promise of an enjoyable cruising experience but because the upmarket surrounds make it easy to forget that this is not a five-star ship. However, provided you keep your expectations reasonable, there is a lot to love onboard.
With an average passenger age of 60 plus, Cruise & Maritime Voyages' guests skew slightly older than those of some of the other lines sailing locally. With no dedicated children's facilities onboard, Vasco da Gama is a good choice for mature travellers seeking a traditional cruise experience minus the pitter-patter of little feet. Solo travellers are also well catered for with the addition of 40 single-occupancy staterooms. With just over 1200 passengers onboard, it is easy to meet people and make new friends.
Complimentary dining options are plentiful for those who like to cruise without spending any extra. The classy Mediterranean Restaurant (Italian) and Eurasia Restaurant (Asian) look like specialty restaurants but do not incur a surcharge. Dinner in these restaurants and the elegant main dining room, the Waterfront Restaurant, is a leisurely affair with no set dining times. Simply walk up and request a table whenever you're ready to dine.
If there are no tables available, you can grab a bite at the casual buffet-style Club Bistro on Deck 11. For a night to remember, the Chef's Table offers superb service and a degustation menu served with matching wines. Of all the dining options onboard, this was the standout on our cruise and well worth the A$109 per person cover charge.
Vasco da Gama's cabins haven't been upgraded and look a little dated compared to the snazzy public areas, but they are noticeably larger than those found on other ships. We had loads of storage and room to move in our balcony cabin, which came with complimentary extras such as a welcome bottle of wine and canapes as standard inclusions. A cheerful team of hardworking stewards keep cabins looking ship-shape, with rooms serviced twice daily.
During the day, you can participate in lively trivia competitions or soak away your cares and soak up sweeping ocean views from a heated lounge in the ship's thermal suite which is free to use. Fitness classes ranging from Pilates to water aerobics, line dancing, weight training and step aerobics are also available at no extra charge. As evening descends, musical entertainment such as a classical duo, R'n'B guitarist and toe-tapping shows featuring the music of Abba or Queen in the main theatre offer tunes to suit every taste and mood.
Vasco da Gama offers departures from Auckland, Sydney, Adelaide, and Fremantle. Fancy a leisurely trip home from London minus the jetlag later this year? A 48-night cruise to Auckland on Vasco da Gama departs England on October 9.