The Big Laugh comedy festival sets sail onboard Pacific Explorer in June


P&O Cruises has been delivering comedy shows at sea since 2009 and is gearing up for its biggest yet – The Big Laugh comedy festival onboard Pacific Explorer in June. A stellar line-up of 14 comedians will present 36 shows over the four-night cruise from Sydney to Moreton Island and back, and this is just the start of a record couple of years of comedy cruises for P&O.

Big-name comics who will be performing onboard Pacific Explorer in June include Denise Scott, Dave ”Hughesy” Hughes, Tommy Little, Claire Hooper, Matt Okine and Jimeoin. And while Aussie and Kiwi cruisers are huge fans of comedy cruises, what is it like for the comedians? The always fabulous Denise Scott, who recently took her first cruise onboard Pacific Jewel, where she performed four shows, shared a few of her impressions.

“I’ll be honest and say the reason I avoided doing comedy cruises was my penchant for undignified displays of vomiting due to motion sickness (and, OK, maybe the occasional hangover),” says Scott. “But thankfully I coped well with my first taste of ocean life so I’m now looking forward to being outdoors on the deck (and no, I don’t even smoke!) and marvelling at the majesty of the sea. Oh, and I can’t wait to get a margarita delivered to my cabin.

“On Pacific Jewel I got to enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Chef’s Table (do you mind!), and heard the most extraordinary stories of life on the high seas courtesy of the staff,” she adds. “Needless to say what happens onboard stays onboard, until, of course, I turn it into a stand-up routine.”

Scott loves the people-watching opportunities a cruise provides but says that travelling with your audience can be a challenge. “Hence my mantra before boarding: You better be funny Scotty, ‘cos there’s nowhere to hide.”

The seasoned comedian is no stranger to putting on shows in unusual places. “I once performed, standing on top of a coffee table, at a private home in St Andrews, Victoria. The event was a gathering of people who’d all lost loved ones, friends, homes and pets in the Black Saturday Bushfires. It was the toughest, most gut-wrenching, and ultimately most rewarding gig I’ve ever done.”

Scotty will doubtless pull in the crowds on Pacific Explorer but if she needs a little break she will be prepared. She always travels with a notebook, colouring pencils and glue stick. “I never use them but feel better knowing that if ever I feel the urge to do some ”journalling” I can.” Bring on the margaritas! See pocruises.com.au

THE PORT

Lyon, France

WHO GOES THERE River cruise lines that dock on the Saone or Rhone rivers in the centre of Lyon include APT, Croisi-Europe, Emerald, Riviera, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld and Viking.

WHY WE LOVE IT Lyon is packed with historic sites dating back to Roman times, encompassing five centuries as the world centre of silk-weaving and its World War II contribution to the Resistance movement. Other notable attractions include nearly 100 striking murals, evening illuminations, superb restaurants and bars, food and flea markets, and great shopping.

TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock within easy walking distance of the city and if you’re exploring independently you can set off on foot with a map, hire a public bike or use the local metro, buses and trams. It’s worth taking a guided tour of Lyon’s traboules, “secret” passageways in the Old City, to fully appreciate their fascinating history. Lyon is divided into three main neighbourhoods: Vieux Lyon (Old City), Presquile (the peninsula between the Saone and Rhone rivers) and La-Part Dieu, the business district.

MUST SEE Basilica of Fourviere, at the top of Fourviere Hill; Cathedrale St-Jean at the foot of the hill; the Roman amphitheatre; Musee Lumiere, which showcases the work of the Lumiere brothers, who founded cinema; Maison des Canuts (Silk Weavers’ House), where silk weaving is demonstrated; weekend second-hand book markets at Quai de la Pecherie, on the Saone.

MUST EAT Lyon is known as France’s gastronomic capital. Dedicated foodies should check lesbouchonslyonnais.org/en/restaurants for a list of certified bouchons, restaurants that serve traditional offal-based and meat-heavy dishes; other local specialties include quenelles (creamy fish or meat dumplings), salade Lyonnaise (made with bacon and eggs), cervelle de canut, which means “brains of the silk-weaver” and consists of cream cheese mixed with garlic and chives.

NEED TO KNOW Many shops are closed on Sundays; generally, opening hours are from 9.30am to 7pm and some shops close between midday and 2pm.

ESSENTIALS au.france.fr/en/discover/discover-lyon

CRUISEFACT

Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise ship (actually a liner) to have a planetarium, the 150-seat Illuminations. It’s also used as a 3D cinema and classical music venue.

NEWS

WIN A JAPAN CRUISE

You still have a few days to enter Princess Cruises’ competition to win an eight-night cruise for two on board the popular 2670-passenger Diamond Princess. The cruise sails round-trip from Tokyo, departing on September 4, 2018, and calls at Ishinomaki, Hakodate, Akita, Busan in South Korea, and Kagoshima. Diamond Princess is on its way to Japan for its fifth season and Princess Cruises’ senior vice-president, Stuart Allison, says demand for Japan has never been greater among Australian travellers. In 2019, Diamond Princess will visit a record-breaking 41 destinations across seven countries, making maiden port calls to Gamagori, Himeji, Matsuyama, Niigata, Miyako and Takamatsu. The competition is open to Australian residents aged 18 years and over, until March 29. To enter, see winajapancruise.com

GOURMET EDGE

Celebrity Cruises’ new ship Celebrity Edge, which sets sail in November, is taking dining at sea to new heights – literally, in the case of dining on the Magic Carpet, a versatile platform that moves up and down the side of the ship. When the Magic Carpet is positioned at the 16th deck it will host Dinner on the Edge, a special alfresco experience; when it’s at deck 5 it becomes an extension to Raw on 5, which will serve up a “blend of St Tropez and New England seafood”. Celebrity Edge will have 29 restaurants, cafes and bars: four main dining restaurants, two exclusive Suite and AquaClass restaurants, seven new specialty restaurants (including French, modern Greek, Tuscan and a new steakhouse), five complimentary dining venues, and 11 bars and lounges. See celebritycruises.com/edge





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