A mov­ing feast

If the spec­tac­u­lar scenery isn’t enough, there’s the sub­lime food

Central and North Burnett Times - - TRAVEL - with Ann Rickard The writer was a guest on board Emer­ald Princess.

WALK­ING around the prom­e­nade deck on board Emer­ald Princess was quite an in­vig­o­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter months of hu­mid heat dur­ing the Queens­land sum­mer it was a wel­come stim­u­la­tion to be pushed along the decks by a cold wind that made it­self clear: it was boss.

The gusts all but took our feet a few cen­time­tres off the decks as it forced us along for six ex­hil­a­rat­ing laps, at least a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres I think.

We were cross­ing the Tas­man from New Zealand to Tas­ma­nia dur­ing a hefty swell – cruis­ing at 16.8 knots, so the cap­tain in­formed us – and be­ing out on the deck was a chal­lenge with the mighty ocean rolling to the hori­zon and mak­ing us feel in­signif­i­cant in the scheme of things.

The day be­fore, the ocean had been mir­ror-like as we gen­tly cruised through New Zealand’s Fiord­land Na­tional Park, col­lec­tive jaws gap­ing and eyes pop­ping at the un­spoilt beauty of it.

Im­pos­ing moun­tains thrust up ma­jes­ti­cally from the calm wa­ter, thick with ver­dant bush, dot­ted with gen­tly tum­bling wa­ter­falls, their peaks veiled in wispy white clouds. We spent the en­tire day mar­vel­ling at this glo­ri­ous gift from na­ture.

Fiord­land Na­tional Park stretches from Martins Bay in the north to Te Wae­wae Bay in the south. It is an an­cient place, formed 500 mil­lion years ago, re­plete now with lakes and birds and wildlife. Even though there were 2700 pas­sen­gers on board, most on the decks with snap­ping cam­eras, it was quiet and ethe­real through­out the day of spec­tac­u­lar scenic cruis­ing.

The Emer­ald Princess is big. She has space enough for all pas­sen­gers to move eas­ily around her 16 decks vis­it­ing some of the 11 restau­rants and nine bars, re­lax­ing in lounges, brows­ing the glam­orous shops. Most pas­sen­gers arm them­selves with the Princess Pat­ter newslet­ter filled with an itin­er­ary that re­quires some plan­ning if you want to fit in even half of the sug­gested ac­tiv­i­ties.

You might want to pass on the line-danc­ing for the Zumba class, or make the most of the com­pli­men­tary cham­pagne at the art auc­tion, or watch the ice-carv­ing on the pool deck be­fore a game of trivia in the lounge, and later a show in the theatre. Then there is the one thing we all love about cruis­ing: eat­ing.

Emer­ald Princess is the cho­sen ship for culi­nary su­per-star Cur­tis Stone’s first at-sea restau­rant – Share by Cur­tis Stone. While you would have to wait up to five months for a reser­va­tion at his LA restau­rant, on board Emer­ald Princess, just dial the concierge and you’re in that evening. The el­e­gant restau­rant is all about laid-back style with glass bell lights hang­ing over tim­ber ta­bles and a strik­ing stained glass panel that few can re­sist pho­tograph­ing.

Per­sonal me­mora­bilia from Cur­tis Stone’s home is dot­ted around the restau­rant, but noth­ing de­tracts from the food. Six sub­lime cour­ses take you from a char­cu­terie ex­pe­ri­ence through ex­quis­ite sal­ads and dar­ing pas­tas, on to some­thing from the sea (but­ter-poached lob­ster … oh, my) and then from the land (duck leg con­fit, yes please) and fi­nally to deca­dent desserts.

A mod­est charge ap­plies for spe­cialty restau­rants but the es­sen­tial buf­fet ex­pe­ri­ence works for most.

At Crown Grill the steaks range from Flint­stone-size to a “del­i­cate’’ 800g fil­let mignon. You chose your meat from a dis­play, it is cooked per­fectly to your taste and comes with side dishes so gen­er­ous you’ll wad­dle out. A plough­man’s lunch in the Salty Dog Pub makes you feel Bri­tish, and Prego Pizze­ria on the pool deck de­liv­ers de­li­cious thin-crusted piz­zas, per­fect if you don’t want to leave your pool-side spot.

It is said you gain half a kilo a day when cruis­ing. Un­der­stand­able, so hit the fit­ness cen­tre, or bet­ter still, the prom­e­nade deck for six in­vig­o­rat­ing laps and you’ll be right.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

◗ Cruis­ing through New Zealand’s Fiord­land Na­tional Park on board the Emer­ald Princess.

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