peace. On board, we don’t care what religion or nationality you are. We just want you to have a good time. We’re not the biggest or the fanciest ship, but we’re by far the friendliest.” He could well be right. In addition to never running out of food, The Pantry’s servers never frown, roll their eyes or raise their voices, despite the crowds and queues. Elsewhere on the ship I see performers go out of their way to make kids smile and at dinner, when it’s like Groundhog Day with a parade of birthday cakes, waiters belt out that song with gusto every time. They’re also more than willing to humour me when I clumsily stick feathers to a headband at a craft station set up in preparation for a ship-wide Gatsby soiree one evening. Also struggling with their glue sticks are the family of six — grandparents, parents, young kids — next to me. Audrey, the matriarch, tells me she’s already a repeat cruiser on the remodelled ship, even though it has only been in Australian waters since June. “There’s just something fun and familiar about the atmosphere,” she tells me. “There’s plenty to keep [adults] entertained but also a lot for the kids. They never want to get off.” From its new home base in Australia, Pacific Explorer has a packed itinerary around the country and across the Pacific. Upcoming cruises include a 12-night Fiji Adventure, 10-night Discover Vanuatu and six-night A Taste of Tasmania. There are also shorter one-stop itineraries, such as the four-night Sydney to Sunshine Coast sailing, as well as themed experiences around food and wine, comedy and Christmas. More: pocruises.com.au.
Indeed, there are more than 60 activities on offer every day, and a lot are designed to keep younger cruisers away from their cabins. There are the longest, and perhaps wildest, waterslides on an Australian cruise ship; one is disco-themed and features bright lights and music on the way down. There’s also a short zipline over the pool, a splash park, kids’ clubs, rock-climbing, Segways, laser tag and The Edge, P&O’s take on walking the plank.
Grown-ups can lounge in the grassy adults-only Oasis area, with a dedicated plunge pool and bar, or reserve a ticket for the R-rated Love Riot show, the only on-board entertainment with a cover charge.
It’s a new offering from P&O, modelled on burlesque shows that unite cheeky dance routines with acrobatics and a touch of comedy. It comes courtesy of Australian director Scott Maidment, the creative force behind Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour and sell-out cabaret circus Blanc de Blanc. From the ceiling swings to the glow-inthe-dark body paint, it’s clear he had fun putting it together. It’s not for everyone, but in an industry oversaturated with Broadway spectacles, it’s a welcome addition to cruising’s entertainment universe.
Natasha Dragun was a guest of P&O Cruises.