Day 55 — Feb 26 — At Sea
Another normal Day At Sea with the exception that we are starting to meet many new passengers that got on yesterday in Sydney. Between Auckland and Sydney, almost half the passengers have changed. New faces and new friends to have fun with as we move towards the “Magical Mystery Tour” because our Itinerary is changing because of our ship’s attempts at avoiding areas of the world with Coronavirus. We said goodbye to several shipmates yesterday that got off the boat to move on with their lives.
Some technical issue caused the show on board tonight to be canceled. So they throw a dance party up on deck. We can see the shore of Australia as we go and there are lightning flashes that keep lighting up the sky. Fun times!
Day 56 — Feb 27 — At Sea
Another normal At Sea Day.
Day 57 — Feb 28 — Airlie Beach, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef!
We cruised into Airlie Beach running late this morning. We are due to arrive at 8 AM but we have been warned we will run late due to strong currents and tides running through the Great Barrier Reef at 4-5 knots against us. Now that may not seem like much but consider that our ship, in good water, runs a top speed of 17 knots. This reduces us to 12-13 knots and delays our arrival. So they tell us 10 AM. We arise in anticipation of 10AM and get ready for the day.
Cruising through the Great Barrier Reef Islands is a treat to our eyes and camera lenses as we come in. I am amazed that Coral Reef Islands can tower out of the water to several hundred feet in height. At 8AM, it is already warm and humid. We are back to the latitude of Fiji and the weather is similar. Then we get the announcement that we are delayed more and won’t set anchor until after 10AM. We get in the queue for our Tender Tickets around 9:30AM and hang out with shipboard friends while we wait.
Tender Tickets in hand, we go to the Reception Lounge and chat with other shipboard friends until well after 11AM and we get the word to disembark! Much to our delight, we head for the tender and find a Local Tender Catamaran that whips us to shore in 20 minutes as opposed to the 45 minute estimate the ship gave us! The water here in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef is shallow and even the Tenders have Speed Limits.
It is almost 12:30PM when we get onto land and we ride the Shuttle Bus 5-10 minutes to town. Now it must be understood that ‘Town’ here means a sleepy town of 1200 people. Our ship has 1300 people on it so our population more than doubles this town. Add to that maybe 4-500 other tourists that vacation here and the locals are distinctly a minority! The temperature today must be between 30 and 35 degrees Centigrade, which is 86 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity has to be up above 75% also, so I perspire and Elee glows all day.
But not to worry as we find that the town opens virtually everything for us when they find there is a cruise ship in town. They get 1-2 ships per week here during this season and they don’t miss a trick. Store prices are up and this is how they make their living. But prices are not extreme, just higher than what we expected. We find the local ‘Info’ store and it is a simple layout of small streets and town only consists of a 5 to 10 minute walk anywhere and only a 15 minute walk back to the ship’s tender.
We are told to beware of Stinging Jellyfish in the water but are told there are no Jellyfish in the “Lagoon”. Upon closer inspection, it turns out the “Lagoon” is merely a large “Swimming Pool” built at the edge of the ocean. We find this quite comical. We query several locals and it seems there has not been a Jellyfish Sting here in remembered history. Yes, there are Jellyfish here, but less than .0006 percent of tourists have been stung.
Okay, armed with these new statistics, we embark on a quest to fill a Bucket List Item to go Paddle Boarding. We find the Paddle Boarding location but there is no one in attendance. We are hungry after spending so long getting here that we walk off and find lunch at “Cooks Bar & Grill” overlooking the “Lagoon”, a picturesque man-made pool with the ocean in the background. They offer me a complimentary IPA Beer (which is really not an IPA, but tasty nonetheless) and we order a Panzone Pizza which satisfies us quite nicely. Outside the bar, we spot one of the unique trees in this area of the world that has “Air Roots” that grow above ground and absorb water from the air. With this humidity, it starts to make more sense to us!
We walk off in search of the Paddle Board Operator and I sit in his chair he has left by his gear. I don’t know if he is in the area or my being in his chair brings him over, but sure enough, I don’t sit long before this amiable Aussie chap shows up and happily takes our credit card for two paddle boards for an hour.
We give it a go as our Brit friends would say and our new Aussie friend instructs how to use these new toys. Soon we are paddling in the local bay. Elee takes to it more than I do and after successfully ‘Standing’ on my board for two very short sessions, I retire to the beach and watch Elee continue to struggle to master this new craft. Amazingly enough, she does master it and paddles around standing for quite some time!
I am impressed and take my camera out into the water and get some fun photos of her accomplishments and we all have a fun time. She finally tires of this endeavor and we head off to find our room magnet in town and then we head for our afternoon excursion comprised of a 2 hour “Sunset Cruise” on a Two Masted Sailboat called “Providence”. The crew wore shirts identifying, “Providence Pirates”.
We locate the “Providence” and are asked to take our shoes off. This is not new info. We have been on many sailboats and barefoot is common. So we board and motor out into the bay. Once clear of the jetties, sails are hoisted and champagne is poured. Did I forget to mention the cheese and fruit platter? So we chat with young and older new friends and the cruise turns out to be loads of fun. Even our cameras are having a blast as just enough clouds gather for a perfect sunset and one couple poses for one of my “Lovers” photos.
Everyone is friendly and we move about the boat creating conversations with many new and different friends. The sun grabs our attention sporadically as it imbues its light throughout the clouds, casting yellows and reds streaking over the horizon. Darkness falls as we get back to port and we disembark. Is it ironic that we board a cruise ship only to reach a port where the goal is to board another boat?
Our next goal is to find WiFi to take care of some business, including canceling an excursion we have scheduled in two days because the ships timing won’t allow us to make it in time. We find a bar called “Sorrento’s” near the dock that has free WiFi and order a beer and a pizza while we take care of business. Several of our new friends from the sunset cruise are there and friendly banter ensues and we walk back to the Tender that will take us back to our ship.
A shower later and a nightcap from the pub and it’s off to bed for us.