Australia – Hawaii

September 10 – November 16, 2011

 

 

Richard and Anita Dyck left Vernon the afternoon of Saturday, September 10 under sunny skies and 32 C [89 F] to meet Marjorie Buckham at the Kelowna International Airport.  The three of us were traveling together on this extended vacation, Marjorie being a friend of the Dycks for some 30 years.  This would be our second visit to Australia, our first being in 2008 during February and March.  Planning for this trip had been ongoing for some two years with Marjorie and Richard working together, in consultation with Anita, to research and book quality and affordable experiences that would provide long-lasting memories for all of us. 

 

Throughout this journal the metric system will be a constant to record temperature, distance and the like.  For those not using our metric system, below is an abbreviated conversion table to the US system of measurement:

 

 

Temperature                                                    Distance

 

15 C  =  59 F                                                    100 km  =  62.14 miles

20 C  =  68 F                                                   

25 C  =  77 F

30 C  =  86 F

35 C  =  95 F

40 C  =  104 F

45 C  =  113 F

 

 

The Web Sites I have provided are to enhance the attractions we enjoyed and provide more background for you … enjoy!

 

Our journey was not without incident, some serious others comical.  Each will be described in the order of occurrence.  Remember as you read, this could happen to each of you just as easily!

 

This segment will cover our remaining time spent in Melbourne, Townsville and our 7 Day Coral Princess Cruises Great Barrier Reef Cruise from Townsville to Cairns.

 

Monday – October 31

 

At 8 a.m. we left the house for the Melbourne Airport.  Our Virgin Blue flight had us flying Melbourne > Brisbane then Brisbane > Townsville.  We left Melbourne with some showers falling,12 C [54 F] arrived in Brisbane, 24 C [75 F] and Townsville, 29 C [84 F] with sunshine and clear skies.  Our flight to Brisbane was on time but had a 1 hour delay in leaving Brisbane due to mechanical problems.  We actually flew on a different plane.  We arrived at our Townsville Hotel to find Dorothy, from our WA Tour, waiting for us.  She lives in Townsville.  After hotel check-in she drove us around Townsville showing us the sites.  We took great photos from Castle Hill, overlooking Townsville.  Dorothy joined us for an early dinner after which we had an early and relaxing evening watching TV.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Castle Hill                                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Hill,_Queensland

 

Tuesday – November 1

 

The city of Townsville is today the largest tropical city in Northern Australia and is a thriving cosmopolitan hub with a strong economic base and a lifestyle that visitors find compelling.  Townsville’s origin lies in the city’s geographical value as a port.  Discovered in 1770 by Captain James Cook, it took a further 45 years before the city was founded by John Melton Black and his partner, Robert Towns, after whom the city was named.  The pair was looking for a port as an outlet for primary products including tallow, hides and wood originating from their large hinterland properties.

With the beautiful holiday centres of Magnetic Island and Orpheus Island and their fringing coral reefs incorporated within the city limits, Townsville has a strong, growing awareness of the inherent value of nature’s gifts.

 

Our Great Barrier Reef Cruise with Coral Princess Cruises began today and had us boarding at 12 noon with a 1:00 p.m. departure.  We spent the morning strolling the grounds and casino at our hotel, Jupiters Townsville.  There was sun, warmth and humidity today.  Departure was from Breakwater Terminal and our small ship, Coral Princess II, accommodated 44 guests and we were only 30 in total.  Our stateroom was on the main deck [no stairs] and close to the dining room.  Marjorie and others were ill on the first leg of our cruise, some choosing not to eat lunch.  The necessary safety briefing took place, followed by crew introduction and a snorkel and dive briefing after which we were issued snorkel gear, ours to keep and use during the cruise.  Many guests chose to purchase a stinger suit as protection from any jellyfish present in the water but Richard chose not to.  Wearing the stinger suit had come highly recommended from the ship’s crew.  At Havannah Island Richard had his first swim but did not snorkel.  Pre-dinner drinks in the upstairs lounge preceded a briefing of tomorrow’s activities and an amazing seafood banquet was served at 7:30 p.m. in the dining room.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Townsville                               http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Townsville

 

Coral Princess II       

http://www.cruiseabout.com.au/cruise-lines/list/coral-princess-cruises/coral-princess-ii

 

Wednesday – November 2

 

Sunny and hot – the high was at least 30 C [86 F] or more.  At 8 a.m. some chose to transfer across to Hazard Bay on Orpheus Island for a beach walk but we chose not to.  At Pelorus Island we went ashore at 11 a.m. and enjoyed about 3 hours of swim and snorkel time.  Our first snorkeling was not all that good but we were given the promise of better to come as we headed north.  Captain Steven served as Chef to cook a fabulous barbeque lunch on the beach.  Back onboard our cruise first took us past the Lucinda sugar loading jetty, an astounding 5.7 km long then through the beautiful waterway between Hinchinbrook Island and the mainland. Supported by more than 660 concrete and steel pylons, the jetty is nothing short of an engineering masterpiece with its length actually following the curved contour of the earth.   Cruising through the narrow and shallow Hinchinbrook Channel we were surprised by the number of nearby islands and mountains as we had imagined the Great Barrier Reef to be just the sea.  In our stateroom to freshen up for dinner that evening we found a bottle of champagne on our bedside table.  The note with it read “Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary.  Enjoy your cruise.  Louise” .  What a surprise … a touching moment for the two of us!  Our Anniversary had been last March and this had come from our daughter, Louise, back in Calgary, Alberta Canada.  Marjorie was ill again as we cruised and did not join us for dinner that evening..

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Lucinda                                               http://www.townsville-port.com.au/lucinda_port

 

Hinchinbrook Island & Channel            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinchinbrook_Island

 

                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinchinbrook_Channel

 

Thursday – November 3

 

There was a bit more cloud today but still sunny and warm.  We attended the morning power point presentation, a daily information session offered by staff and then Richard purchased two T-shirts and a hat from the Ship’s Shop. 

 

In conversation with the other guests Richard learned where most of them came from –

Canada:  the 3 of us plus 2 from Toronto, Ontario

U.S.A.:  2 from Seattle, WA and 2 from Portland, OR

Germany:  4

Luxembourg [Honeymooners]:  2

England:  6

Wales:  1

Norway:  2

Australia:  2

 

Just before lunch we arrived at beautiful Nathan Reef, in part, the real Great Barrier Reef.  After lunch we spent almost 3 hours at the Reef, snorkeling off the end of the ship and participating in a glass bottom boat tour of the entire Reef.  Accessing the warm water off the end of the ship was great!  The glass bottom boat was stored on a platform raised and lowered by hydraulics.  With the boat out sightseeing the platform was made available at water’s edge for us to access the sea.  Part of the snorkel equipment available to us was a “floater vest”, similar to the life vest.  This allowed us to float effortlessly as we swam about snorkeling and viewing the colorful coral, sea cucumbers, starfish and other marine life living on this part of the reef.  The best snorkel experience so far!  We received and accepted an Invitation to Dine with the Captain that evening.  Also joining the Captain were the couple from Luxembourg and the two Aussies.  Drinks were free at the Captain’s table.  Our table placed second at Trivia following dinner.  It was the farewell dinner as all but 6 or so from the group would be departing this first part of the cruise in Cairns on Friday.  The ship’s movement was such that Marjorie again was under the weather and chose to have dinner in her stateroom.

 

The staff onboard Coral Princess II were some of the best we’d ever encountered while cruising – and we have enjoyed many ocean cruises.  These folk just went that “extra step” to make our stay enjoyable and we wanted for nothing while onboard.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Nathan Reef                http://www.mycruisewebsite.co.uk/ports/index.htm?port_id=164

 

Friday – November 4

 

Today’s weather was a mixture of sun and cloud, continuing warm.  At 8 a.m. the glass bottom boat was in the waters off Thetford Reef and we were snorkeling off the end of the ship once more.  The snorkeling experience was even better than Thursday’s was as the numbers and colors of fish were just spectacular as was the colorful coral once more.  Our early morning water activities ended at 10 a.m. and 1:30 that afternoon saw us in Cairns where we bid farewell to those leaving the cruise.  We had to exit the ship for the next 3 hours and chose to walk the short distance to the Cairns Hilton.  During our 2008 visit we had stayed at the Hilton and so returned to have a relaxing drink in the hotel bar.  Cairns was hot and humid! 

 

Founded in 1876 as a service town for the goldfields, Cairns has evolved from a rough frontier outpost where the pubs nearly outnumbered the people to an international, cosmopolitan destination.  The sweeping majesty of Trinity Inlet to the magnificent rainforest-clad surrounding hills are indicative of the natural beauty of the area..  Immediately to the north, the beaches of Cairns stretch some 26 kilometres along a beautiful coastline and the beaches consist of eight separate communities; each of these has its own distinctive character and flavour and together they offer the very best of the tropics.  The Cairns region of the Great Barrier Reef is widely regarded as providing the best opportunities for reef viewing.  This is because the outer reef is much closer to the coast and the water depth is much less.  This makes it quicker to get to the reef and ideal for viewing the reef by snorkeling, diving or glass bottom boat.

 

Departure from Cairns was 4:45 p.m. and the 6 of us from the original group together with the new passengers met the crew [some of whom were new] and enjoyed a welcome drink.  At dinner that evening, always starting at 7:30 p.m. which we found late, we enjoyed the first taste of Louise’s “bubbly” she had sent us.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cairns                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairns

 

Saturday – November 5

 

We had cruised continuously from 10 p.m. Friday evening and arrived at the Cooktown Wharf, at the mouth of the Endeavour River, in Far North Queensland at 7:30 a.m. while we enjoyed breakfast.  That had been our first night-time cruising.  The day was warm and sunny but remained humid.  We selected the Cooktown bus tour so as to see the community and thoroughly enjoyed the tour.  From the Cooktown Lighthouse lookout high up on Grassy Hill we took some great photos.  We left Cooktown at 11 a.m. and upon arriving at Two Isles were transferred ashore to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, glass bottom boat viewing and beach walking for some 2 hours.  The viewing of colorful coral and numerous multi-colored fish was enjoyable but the experiences of the past two days were still better.  Tonight’s sunset was superb yet again – we’ve enjoyed many of the same in Western Australia, Adelaide and now here on the water!

Once again while conversing with the other guests Richard learned where most of this second group came from –

Canada:  the 3 of us plus 2 from Toronto, Ontario

U.S.A.:  2 from Seattle, WA  and 2 from Orlando, FL

Denmark:  2

England:  9

Wales:  1

Switzerland:  1

South Africa:  2

Australia:  6

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cooktown                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooktown,_Queensland

 

Sunday – November 6

 

We had a brief shower early that morning while snorkeling at the beach on Lizard Island then enjoyed a mixture of sun and cloud afterwards.  Again, snorkeling was good with plenty of colorful fish and lots of coral, but not the best.  Richard still preferred to snorkel off the ship’s stern over beach access to the water.  Leaving Lizard Island it rained for about an hour, the first real rain of our entire cruise.  Our arrival at Ribbon Reef 9 was in sunshine that stayed with us the remainder of the day.  Richard made a hard decision not to snorkel here.  He had developed a dry cough one that had started with our Air Canada flight to Sydney [the plane’s air conditioning] and kept coming back from time to time.  By staying dry and warm now he hoped to participate in the final 2 snorkel opportunities on Monday, the last day on the Reef.  That evening he also skipped dinner choosing to remain in the stateroom.  His cough [not controlled] would have proved disruptive to all the other guests and as well the days of continuous coughing had left him with no appetite that evening.  Staff had offered to serve him in his stateroom but he refused and only accepted a large glass of orange juice.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Lizard Island                            http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/islands_Lizard.php

 

Monday – November 7

 

Today was our last full day on the Great Barrier Reef and only 2 more opportunities to snorkel and swim the Reef remained.  At Ribbon Reef 3, both Richard and Marjorie chose to tour in the glass bottom boat over snorkeling as it was far too windy and the water too choppy.  We noticed at least 3 other boats here at the Reef – normally we had been the only ship at the other Reefs.  We really noticed the humidity the closer we got to Cairns.  Our morning weather had high overcast and a moderate breeze that caused a bit of movement of the ship over the lunch hour.  That was the first actual “rock and roll” experienced on our cruise.  Improvement came when we arrived at Escape Reef in the early afternoon.  We enjoyed just a great snorkeling experience, our last of the trip, and again enjoyed seeing the numerous colorful fish and coral.  Richard even saw the divers as they descended to far below.  This final outing was made all the better with the sun shining above.  That evening our farewell dinner was held.

 

Tuesday – November 8

 

Our last morning onboard Coral Princess II was an early one with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast call and disembarkation scheduled for 8 a.m.  The disembarkation process was most efficient and our luggage was placed in a waiting taxi for us.  We were then driven to the Cairns Airport to await our Virgin Blue flight to Sydney.  Our early afternoon flight was without incident and we arrived in the rain.  We arrived at our Sydney hotel in a true rainstorm.  Dinner that evening was early and by 7:30 p.m. we were done and back in our hotel room.