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Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

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Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Decadent chocolate dessert recipes for Christmas

13 of our most decadent chocolate recipes to indulge guests with this Christmas.

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Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

P&O's new look

P&O Cruises Australia president, Sture Myrmell, in Pacific Eden's Waterfront restaurant.

P&O Cruises Australia president, Sture Myrmell, in Pacific Eden's Waterfront restaurant.

With a bowerbird’s eye on boutique hotels and inner-city bars, P&O Cruises’ Sture Myrmell is transforming the cruise line.

An oversized pair of eyes gaze seductively over a bar, lampshades sit atop golden duck's feet, and lifts transport travellers momentarily to Tuscany or Polynesia as they move between decks. The carpeted steps are numbered according to a cryptic code. There's no sign of a buffet.

The launch of two new ships late last year, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, revealed a dash of humour and a genie's bottle of design features drawn from boutique hotels, small bars and laneway cafés around the world. In reimagining a "modern Australian style" for the Australian-based cruise line, the president of P&O Cruises Australia, Sture Myrmell, has signalled the latest phase in the transformation of the 84-year-old company. He has also shown that a mid-market, 1500-passenger cruise ship doesn't need to look like a homogenous floating resort.

P&O's new look has been overseen by Myrmell, a Norwegian-born cruise veteran, and a Swedish studio, Tillberg Design. "It's possible we see things in a slightly different light," says Myrmell, born in Bergen and a resident of Sydney for eight years. "Besides, Australians have a phenomenal ability to take the best from around the world and make it their own. We're drawing on that capacity."

The brief for the two new additions to the now five-ship P&O fleet was to create "affordable luxury" in a style that was intimate and residential rather than institutional; contemporary and comfortable rather than generic or formal.

Extensive changes to the ships' public areas (cabins remain largely untouched) have delivered eye-catching features in 15 eateries and 10 bars. Open books sit on tables alongside curios and quirky artworks. Clever design in the main restaurant, the 350-seat Waterfront, creates an illusion of small spaces, and round tables - a long-time cruise staple - have been replaced by banquettes, rectangular tables and communal benches.

Myrmell says the evolution of P&O's design and identity has been "good fun", and describes travelling to Miami and New York, Amsterdam and London, staying in small hotels, people-watching in cafes, picking up ideas, taking notes and exchanging photos with the Tillberg principals.

Another cruise staple, the buffet, has been replaced by a "marketplace" of food stations in which staff make noodles and tacos on demand, flip burgers, toss salads and carve roasts.

The pool, more than any other on-board feature, defines perceptions of luxury, says Myrmell, and so the pool deck and a separate adults-only pool retreat have curtained cabanas, daybeds and lounges.

This raft of changes runs deeper than design. To meet demand for cruise holidays from Australian ports, the line has expanded its itineraries with regular visits to regional centres, among them Eden, Mooloolaba, Portland, Mornington Peninsula, Port Lincoln, Esperance, Cairns, Busselton and Burnie.

This expansion recognises that P&O's competitors are short-break destinations - the Gold Coast, Bali and Fiji among them. "We don't see this foremost as a cruise experience," says Myrmell. "We can deliver a resort experience that's better tailored, better value and easier to access."

When Myrmell, 48, joined P&O Cruises eight years ago, he was already an industry veteran. He worked weekends in hotel kitchens as a teenager and studied law for a few years "but realised that wasn't going to allow me to travel in the way I wanted to". Instead he went to hotel school in London and what was meant to be a short-term job on Cunard's QE2 turned into eight years at sea. He has 22 years' service with a range of lines in Carnival Corporation, the parent of P&O Cruises Australia.

Myrmell says the world's fastest-growing cruise market shows abundant potential, and P&O has big plans. A larger 2000-passenger ship, Pacific Explorer, joins the fleet next year, and an even bigger, 4200-passenger ship will be built specifically to appeal to Australians. To be launched in 2019, it will have double the capacity of the biggest ship currently based full-time in Australia.

pocruises.com.au

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