Hi-tech on the high seas

En­joy the rev­o­lu­tion in ship­board life

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - KA­T­RINA LOB­LEY

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

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