Hi-tech on the high seas
Enjoy the revolution in shipboard life
ROBOT, FIX ME A DRINK You heard right. Step aboard Royal Caribbean mega-ships Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas, as well as Ovation of the Seas when it launches next month, and you’ll find robotic bartenders shaking the drinks in the Bionic Bar. After a passenger orders a drink via a tablet, a robot mixes and muddles the chosen libation. The robots can deliver an impressive two cocktails a minute from countless combinations. Cheers to that, we say. More: royalcaribbean.com.
BYE-BYE BUFFET P&O has ditched the traditional buffet on three of its Australian-based ships. Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden and Pacific Jewel now feature The Pantry, a collection of eateries resembling a chic food court. Instead of piling a lot of everything on one plate, passengers select dishes from outlets serving the likes of fish and chips, carved meats, curries, Mexican and Asian dishes, soup, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Interior designers drew inspiration from hotels and restaurants rather than typical cruise ships when overhauling the dining area, ditching dull colours in favour of a bright beach-house vibe. The seating offers everything from communal tables and cosy nooks to chairs and banquettes at regular tables and stools placed at high counters running alongside the ocean-facing windows. More: pocruises.com.au.
TURNINGT INSIDE OUT In good news for claustrophobes, it’s now possi ible to enjoy a virtual view while staying in a windowless inside cabin. Royal Caribbean has added “virtual balconies” to 81 interior cabins aboard Navigator of the Seas, based in Florida, and to all those within the Shanghai-based “smart ship” Quantum of the Seas. The 80inch, high-definition screens stream live footage of the ocean view from on-board cameras; the images are framed to look like a real balcony. The “view” even includes a reassuring banister. More: royalcaribbean.com. NEXT-LEVEL PAMPERING With just two ships in its fleet, each carrying 686 passengers, Azamara Club Cruises is all about keeping it intimate. Now passengers cruising aboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest can take pampering to the next level and sleep out under the stars after a cosy dinner for two. The Exclusive Nights in Private Places experience, which costs $US395 ($525) a couple, unfolds on the ship’s Thalassotherapy deck. A butler serves champagne and canapes, and there’s a dinner of grilled seafood and meats. An outdoor bed can be opened to the night sky or enclosed with a roof panel and curtains. In the morning, the extreme pampering continues with breakfast served in bed. More: azamaraclubcruises.com. ONSEN AT SEA Diamond Princess, which splits its time between A Australia and Japan, features an impressive Japanese bathing complex with outdoor and indoor pools. At 817sq m, the ship’s Izumi Japanese Bath is the largest facility of its kind at sea. Channelling the vibe of a traditional onsen where strict bathing rituals apply, Izumi isn’t that keen on bathers with tattoos (which in Japan are associated with the criminal yakuza). The indoor area’s gender-segregated sides alternate daily so everyone has the chance to enjoy the individual features. One side houses a Stone Bath with an utaseyu (cascade of hot water); on the other side is a cypress bath and aromatic steam room. Swimsuits are compulsory in the unisex open-air hydrotherapy pool. More: princess.com.
MUSICAL CHAIRS Some of the world’s biggest ships now showcase popular Broadway musicals, with admission included in the fare. Sing along to Cats on Oasis of the Seas, Mamma Mia! on Allure of the Seas and Saturday Night Fever on Liberty of the Seas. Later this year, both Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas will feature Grease. The West End musical We Will Rock You, Ben Elton’s homage to the music of rock band Queen, is showing on Anthem of the Seas. Norwegian Cruise Line is also big on musicals, with Priscilla Queen of the Desert running on Norwegian Epic and Rock of Ages featuring on Norwegian Breakaway. P&O Cruises Australia has also upped the ante with its first contemporary dance show, Twice Upon a Time, aboard its new liners, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden. The story, with a daring post-apocalyptic theme, is told through movement and music, with elements of the soundtrack recorded in a fictitious language. P&O Cruises’ head of entertainment, Brett Annable, calls it “a turning point” in onboard performance. More: royalcaribbean.com; ncl.com; pocruises.com.au.
The Green Thunder waterslide on Carnival Spirit, top; Aurora Expeditions’ polar snorkelling, above