AD­VEN­TURE AHOY

AS PA­CIFIC EX­PLORER PRE­PARES TO RE­LO­CATE TO HER NEW HOME­PORT OF BRIS­BANE, IT’S TIME TO START SEE­ING CRUIS­ING IN A NEW LIGHT

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: CHANTAY LO­GAN The writer was a guest on the P&O Pa­cific Ex­plorer

The sun is peep­ing through the Opera House’s sails, turn­ing the har­bour to rip­pled gold as the city slum­bers. Snug­gled in a doona, my eyes drift open to a dream­like panorama of the Syd­ney land­mark. Glid­ing back to port un­der cloak of dark­ness, the Pa­cific Ex­plorer has pulled up in the post­card po­si­tion.

On my maiden voy­age, I’d un­der­es­ti­mated the magic of wak­ing up to a new wa­ter­front view ev­ery day.

It’s not the only thing I had wrong about cruis­ing, and I’m not the only cruis­ing con­vert to ad­mit it.

More than one mil­lion Queens­lan­ders have sailed with P&O since 2012 and it’s con­sid­ered one of the cruise­line’s heart­land states. As lo­cal de­mand con­tin­ues to soar, P&O flag­ship Pa­cific Ex­plorer will re­lo­cate to her new home­port of Bris­bane next year.

While I’ve al­ways been more of a self­guided trav­eller, I hopped on her re­cent Syd­ney so­journ to whet the ap­petite.

It com­pletely changed my per­cep­tion of cruis­ing.

ME BE­FORE CRUIS­ING: I’ll get bored stuck at sea ME ON A CRUISE: What time is bingo? Be­cause I’ve got a pretty packed schedule Can the jour­ney ac­tu­ally be bet­ter than the des­ti­na­tion? If any­thing was go­ing to test the the­ory it’d be a cruise to nowhere.

Set­ting out from Syd­ney and drift­ing up the east coast, there are no shore ex­cur­sions on this three-night com­edy cruise … ain’t no­body got time for that.

Lawn bowls, line danc­ing with Libby, live mu­sic, sun-bed trivia chal­lenges, whisky and wine tast­ing, cook­ing demos, craft — it’s ex­haust­ing just read­ing the daily line-up of ac­tiv­i­ties, some for a rea­son­able fee, most of them free.

The entertainm­ent is top-notch, head­lined by stand-up sen­sa­tion Har­ley Breen (the guy who went there in TV se­ries Taboo, and goes even fur­ther live … what’s said on the cruise, stays on the cruise). Love Riot is an­other hit, a slick, adults-only va­ri­ety show romp through com­edy, cir­cus and ac­ro­bat­ics best en­joyed with a cock­tail in hand.

Af­ter all that I need a lit­tle lie down, and serene spa re­treat Elemis at Sea is the place to do it. The aroma stone ther­apy mas­sage is bliss.

ME BE­FORE CRUIS­ING: Buf­fets aren’t my thing

ME ON A CRUISE: Sign me up for the seven-course chef’s table I ex­pected quan­tity — and the mul­ti­cul­tural smor­gas­bord at The Pantry does gen­uinely ap­pear to be bot­tom­less — but the qual­ity, va­ri­ety and value is a rev­e­la­tion on the food front.

Af­ter rais­ing a pina co­lada to the dwin­dling shore at the Sail­away Party, the feast­ing be­gins.

Pa­cific Ex­plorer brings with it ac­cess to celebrity chef Luke Man­gan’s on-board din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences Luke’s and A Taste of Salt.

The semi-al­fresco Luke’s is the best spot to soak up the sun­shine, sur­vey­ing the main pools and big screen.

It spe­cialises in un­pre­ten­tious but ex­pertly ex­e­cuted fare — burg­ers, hot dogs, fish and steak.

The scent of truf­fle and parme­san fries fills the air, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to walk past with­out or­der­ing a bowl. Wagon Wheel ice cream sand­wiches are a must too.

At the other end of the spec­trum is the ex­clu­sive A Taste of Salt chef’s table, hosted be­hind heavy cur­tains in a pri­vate din­ing

room. Here you can taste many of the dishes Luke is fa­mous for — ginger-dressed king­fish sashimi; seared scal­lops with blue-cheese po­lenta and truf­fle oil; and licorice par­fait licked with lime syrup — with in­sight­ful wine pair­ings.

The old-school ser­vice is ir­re­proach­able, re­viv­ing fad­ing fine-din­ing tra­di­tions to do the first-class fare jus­tice. It was the high­light of my trip. ME BE­FORE CRUIS­ING: I’ll get cabin fever ME ON A CRUISE: If any­body’s look­ing From a very comfy bed to hid­den hairdry­ers to duly de­liv­ered cham­pagne and canapes, ev­ery­thing I ex­pect from a com­fort­able ho­tel is repli­cated in my float­ing pad.

If you aren’t prone to FOMO, night­caps and new-re­lease in-room movies make a com­pelling case for stay­ing in.

While ef­fi­cient house­keep­ing is nor­mally one of the things you take for granted, here it rates a men­tion.

The pair as­signed to my room are a de­light and I look for­ward to their call­ing cards, in­clud­ing towel art crea­tures I can’t bear to dis­man­tle and cute cruise-themed po­ems pinned to the mir­ror.

But some­times it’s what’s out­side that counts.

It’s hard to get bored with a bal­cony, so snag a wa­ter­front win­dow seat when you’re book­ing for the kind of en­tranc­ing, ever-chang­ing view land­lub­bers can only dream of.

for me, I’ll be in my room

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