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The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

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.

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