The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

The 1500-pas­sen­ger Pa­cific Aria will cruise from Brisbane and Sydney in 2016, offering themed short breaks, in­clud­ing stops at Queens­land’s Fraser Is­land, and Pa­cific and Pa­pua New Guinea itin­er­ar­ies. A three-night food-and-wine roundtrip de­parts Brisbane on March 18; spe­cials ap­ply for book­ings made by De­cem­ber 31. More: 132 494;

So, an ideal day at sea would in­clude a treat­ment at the Elemis Spa, a war­ren that ad­joins a well-equipped gym and the Ther­mal Suites, where you can re­cline on heated mo­saic-tiled couches and stare out to sea. Then per­haps a tow­er­ing burger from the Grill, a small pool­side out­let on Deck 11, fol­lowed by a proper espresso and ther­a­peu­tic cone from the New Zealand Ice Cream stand nearby (such snacks are charged separately). For din­ner, Dragon Lady, with its blue-black decor, oriental mu­rals (Hoku­sai’s great wave looms large) and soft light­ing, is my pick of the restau­rants and aside from the con­ven­tional seat­ing there are two low Ja­panese-style ta­bles screened in an al­cove where you sit on cush­ions but, thank­fully, can pop your legs into a re­cess rather than kneel. The menu ranges from China and Ja­pan to Viet­nam and In­done­sia, with stopovers for the likes of Sin­ga­pore soft-shell crab and oddly, but de­light­fully, ap­pe­tis­ers of veg­etable crisps.

Or plonk me, please, at the mul­berry-ac­cented Salt Grill, where Man­gan’s sig­na­ture crab omelette with miso broth is the star pick. Salt Grill is a fran­chise across P&O Cruises’ Aus­tralia-based five-ship fleet but Pa­cific Eden’s al­most-iden­ti­cal offering is de­fined by a red colour theme.

Show­time? Pa­cific Aria’s high­light per­for­mance is Sideshow Al­ley, which lacks a clear nar­ra­tive but comes with ter­rific songs and a touch of Tim Bur­ton macabre. Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests Pa­cific Eden’s Twice Upon a Time is the win­ner, though, and on both ships there are com­edy club nights and other live en­ter­tain­ment in the dual-level Mar­quee.

Then I’d opt for a late-night drink in the Blue Room, with its live mu­sic, jazz mo­tifs, in­ven­tive trum­pet light­ing, chrome sur­faces, vel­vety seat­ing and moody colours.

An­other un­ex­pected touch is a Glan­dore Es­tate Wines out­let — “Aus­tralia’s first cel­lar door at sea” — where tast­ings are avail­able, or buy a bot­tle and have it sent to your cho­sen lunch or din­ner venues. This is also a fea­ture aboard Pa­cific Eden, all very civilised and flex­i­ble, just like this new wave of cruis­ing Aus­tralian style, no longer a one-size-fits-all ap­proach but most thought­fully con­ceived and really rather grown up.

Susan Kuro­sawa was a guest of P&O Cruises.

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