World's biggest cruise ship breaks passenger record

All at sea

The Oasis of the Seas is claiming another world first. The massive liner, which cost $1.47 billion to build and boasts the world's first living park at sea, is officially now the first cruise ship to carry more than 6000 guests. That record was achieved on the ship's 16th voyage, a seven-night cruise around the Eastern Caribbean.

Be prepared for more record breaking, the Oasis can legally carry 6360 passengers.

The Oasis of the Seas is 360 metres long and 65 metres wide, putting it on par with the world's largest container vessels.

At 204,000 tonnes, it is four times heavier than the Titanic, and 40 per cent larger than the next biggest cruise ship, the Freedom of the Seas, also a Royal Caribbean vessel.

It set sail on its maiden voyage in November last year.

Dinner by firelight

Flames of the Forest is one of far north Queensland's enduring attractions. It's a dinner and a show staged in a big marquee, 15 minutes' drive from Port Douglas. On paper, it sounds hokey but it has been pulling in tourists since 2003.

Flames is in a dense tangle of rainforest beside a creek. "Despite being so close to Port Douglas it's incredibly isolated, which is why we chose that site," founder Nick Hannaford says.

"We wanted to showcase the magic of the rainforest. But it was also important that the local indigenous people be involved."

Hannaford has an extensive background in catering and events and now owns and operates the Lifetime Private Retreats on Kangaroo Island.

With the start of dry weather up north, Flames' 2010 season has begun with an expanded menu and a revamp of lighting technology to reduce the show's carbon footprint.

But the essential elements that have made Flames popular - the velvety stillness of the rainforest at night and the stories and music of the indigenous people - remain.

There are two versions of the show each week. The Aboriginal Cultural Experience on Thursday and Friday nights is $169 a person, including dinner and alcohol.

The Intimate Rainforest Dining Experience on Saturdays is $129 a person. Transfers from Cairns, and the northern beaches are $48 return and $35 from Port Douglas.

See flamesoftheforest.com.au.

Aquarium dive

The Aquarium Snorkel Adventure at Oceanworld Manly was meant to run only for the school holidays but its popularity means it will now be offered on weekends.

The 90-minute program, which includes 30 minutes in the 4 million-litre Oceanarium, will be held three times each Saturday and Sunday. The cost is $79, including aquarium admission. Bookings recommended, numbers are limited to four participants each session.

See oceanworld.myfun.com.au.

Mallets at Broome

The first Paspaley Beach Polo competition will be at Cable Beach on May 23.

There are only four other beaches in the world - Miami in Florida, Poole in Dorset, Dubai, and Goa, India - where professional polo is played, says Janek Gazecki of Polo Enterprises Australia, who, along with Marilynne Paspaley, the owner of Pinctada Cable Beach, is behind the event.

"Beach polo tournaments are rare because they require a specific mix of sand consistency, tidal considerations and beach gradient," Gazecki says.

The event is free.

Grace Kelly exhibition

Grace Kelly: Style Icon, an exhibition tracing the evolution of the Princess's fashion sense, opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London today. On display will be more than 50 outfits, including dresses from Princess Grace's films, as well as the lace gown she wore for her civil marriage ceremony to Prince Rainier in 1956.

Fashionistas will be delighted to know that the original Hermes Kelly bag is in the collection. (Princess Grace is one of a handful of famous women for whom the French luxury leather company created a bag.)

The director of the tourism office in Monaco, Michel Bouquier, says Princess Grace's legacy remains one of his country's drawcards.

The royal factor cannot be underestimated, with Monaco drawing 5 million visitors annually, Bouquier says. Bouquier expects this coming northern summer to be a bumper one for cultural tourism. "There are 200 orchestra performances but the highlight will be the centenary celebrations of the legendary Ballet Russes."

Ballet Russes made its home in Monte Carlo through the 1920s, supported by the Grimaldi family and the Casino. Which explains why the Ballets de Monte Carlo and the Monaco Dance Forum will give its Ballet Russes celebratory performances on the steps of the Monte Carlo Casino from July 3-25.

See www.vam.ac.uk, visitmonaco.com, ballets-russes-monaco.com.

Worth a look

Amtraktoparks.com is a new site designed to help travellers access national parks in the US by train and public transport.

The site has information on park activities and accommodation within the parks and transport options from nearby Amtrak stations.

There are 57 parks listed - including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Everglades - with plans to add more. Last year, Amtrak carried more than 27.2 million passengers across the US.

See Amtraktoparks.com.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

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