The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

Pride of Amer­ica sev­en­day cir­cle voy­ages depart Honolulu and visit Maui, Hawaii (Big Is­land) and Kauai. Tips are added to pas­sen­gers’ bills each day; th­ese vary ac­cord­ing to ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gory, but typ­i­cally are $US13.50 ($12.55) a per­son a day. A 15 per cent sur­charge is ap­plied to all bev­er­age or­ders. On Jan­uary 16, 2017, Nor­we­gian Cruise Line’s Nor­we­gian Star will depart Sydney for New Zealand on a 12-day itin­er­ary, con­tin­u­ing on a 19-day sail­ing of Aus­tralian and Asian ports. More: 1800 077 823; nor­we­gian­cruise­line. • • seaque­ • is­land­he­li­ They’re clus­tered on stools around the John Adams Cof­fee Bar or­der­ing Lavazza espres­sos. “Vanilla essence with that, sir?” asks the server. “Heck, no, I’m from Mel­bourne, mate,” says the chap in the Colling­wood jer­sey.

I am with three fe­male friends and we are more into na­ture tours and snorkelling than lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, “ex­treme gin­ger” ice cream cones or dis­count Gap jeans. We rarely dis­em­bark with­out bathers un­der our clothes, just in case we spy a good swim­ming spot, which in­vari­ably we do. At Hookipa Beach on Maui, we walk be­tween sea tur­tles bask­ing on the sand. On Kauai, swim­ming gets the flick in favour of a chop­per ride along the Na Pali Coast. A tour with Is­land He­li­copters swoops us into deep canyons, through tun­nels of trees and lands us for about 25 min­utes at Manawaiop­una Falls, where scenes of Juras­sic Park were filmed. We trek through a jun­gle path­way and the crash of the fall­ing wa­ter is tremen­dous; we get com­pre­hen­sively sprayed as but­ter­flies dance through a rain­bow and the green­ery glows as if freshly painted. Whoosh, now we are in the crater of Mt Wa­ialeale vol­cano, our Euro­copter hov­er­ing like a gi­ant drag­on­fly. I’ve heard it said that vis­it­ing Kauai, the most primeval of the is­lands, and not see­ing it from the air would be like go­ing to the Sis­tine Chapel and fail­ing to look up. As we land, I ask the youngish pi­lot, Isaac, if he has been fly­ing long. “Got my pi­lot’s stripes be­fore I learned how to drive,” he laughs, his eyes no doubt twin­kling be­hind Top Gun mir­rored shades.

By night, Pride of Amer­ica is a con­vivial base. From the Rock-a-Hula and 1980s Neon par­ties to the Mr Sexy Legs Com­pe­ti­tion, this is a ship that un­der­stands fun. There are Billy Joel and Bea­tles trib­utes, wait­ers cir­cu­lat­ing with trays of devil­ishly more-ish Big Kahuna Rum Run­ner cock­tails gar­nished with cin­na­mon sticks, and Gift Shop Mad­ness sales of palm-tree mag­nets and that most handy of cruise gar­ments, the muu-muu. Be­cause the ship sails in US wa­ters, there are no duty-free stores and no cash prizes for gam­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as Bonkers for Bingo. No mat­ter. As­sis­tant cruise di­rec­tor Jasper con­ducts Couple Game Shows; there are wa­ter vol­ley­ball play­offs be­tween pas­sen­gers and crew and Coun­try Boot Scootin’ Hoo­te­nanny so­cials. The lost arts of towel fold­ing and sarong ty­ing are tu­tored and cel­e­brated. Or maybe just lie back in the Mandara Spa for a bliss­ful Aro­maFlex mas­sage. Chil­dren are well catered for with teen clubs, video ar­cade, movie room and ac­tiv­i­ties. Add pools, hot tubs, sun decks and a sports court.

The Freestyle din­ing con­cept means pas­sen­gers aren’t tied to first or sec­ond sit­ting timeta­bles in the Lib­erty or Sky­line main restau­rants or fixed-ta­ble as­sign­ments. It’s all very easy and con­vivial, whether you like the for­mal­ity of big din­ing rooms or pre­fer to go ca­sual. There are 14 din­ing op­tions, and nine bars and lounges; best of the bunch is Tep­pa­nyaki, where Ja­panese and Filipino chefs jug­gle eggs and pep­per grinders over hot­plates, and a South Amer­i­can-in­flu­enced chur­ras­caria for skew­ered meats. Some din­ing op­tions at­tract a sur­charge and are there­fore qui­eter and with more for­mal ser­vice. There’s cabin ser­vice, too, al­though for each or­der a $US7.95 ($11.28) “con­ve­nience charge” is added to your bill. Even

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