Far north Queensland adventures (Sept ’18)

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Airlie Beach

Home sweet home! No, i’m not talking about returning home. I’m talking about finally getting to board Sea Princess again after 6 months. I’ve been on this ship 3 times now and turned out i knew quite a few staff from previous cruises, so it really did feel like going home, in a weird way.

I got on the ship no dramas and found my way to my cabin on deck 6 eventually. 30 minutes later, i had already managed to lock myself out of my cabin (by leaving my key card in my room, like one of those hotel room key cards). My room steward hadn’t even had time to come around and introduce himself yet, so our first meeting was him finding me standing sheepishly outside my room. I don’t think he knew what he was in for! Lucky for him, i was to be changing rooms in 4 days time. Lucky for me too, as i discovered soon after just how annoying my ‘neighbours’ were going to be! They started playing Christmas carols and singing along very loudly. Then would have their tv volume up to what sounded like the highest possible. I’m confident the people up on deck 12 could hear them! An hour later after muster drill I would come back to my cabin to a lovely note on my door saying: ‘close your door quieter, we’re trying to sleep’. If you didn’t know….you can can close your door as quietly as possible but it will still make a loud clicking noise. But what to do.. (besides putting a note back on their door saying ‘listen to your Christmas carols quieter, it’s only September and I’m trying to sleep’!)

The 4 day cruise from Auckland to Sydney was actually the end part of a 106 day world cruise. So 98% of the passengers on-board had gotten on the ship in Sydney 102 days ago and been all around the world and were just about home. Maybe that’s why my neighbours were grumpy. But it also meant that 99% of the population onboard were also aged 70+. I was definitely in the minority! But besides the fact that the dance floor was pretty much non existent and everyone was in bed by 10pm, it wasn’t all bad. I met some lovely old couples who had some awesome stories to talk about while we sat at the bar and listened to music, and the bars were not busy at all so I was never short of a seat! The sea’s weren’t as rough as I was hoping for so I was a little disappointed about that! My thermostat in my cabin was also broken, so for the entire 4 days (the coldest 4 days at that!) it probably would have been warmer sleeping up on deck by the pool. Apparently i’m not very good at complaining enough to get things fixed!

We reached Sydney 4 days later and because of customs had to disembark. I was also changing cabins that day (thank god, i was sick of feeling like it was Christmas time in America with my cold room and Christmas carols still being played through my wall!). I wanted to have a look around Sydney (and buy some more clothes since i now knew that my already heavy suitcase was still under weight for my flight home!), but was cold and rainy. Why does it always rain when i go there?! So i got off and made my way to, where else, but McDonalds for another sausage mcmuffin. Then I wandered around, getting myself lost and eventually winding up at creperie. I LOVE crepes, especially classic lemon and sugar ones and it’s incredibly hard, if not impossible, to find them back home. So I treated myself to 2 giant lemon and sugar crepes and a large salted caramel thickshake before heading back to the ship. I’d decided it was too cold and wet to stay out. I also don’t really like Sydney that much anyway. Way too busy and bustling for me – Sydney is the furthest thing from warm and tropical!

By the time 4pm and the sail away party came around, the sun had finally made an appearance, and although still cold, the party band (from the Caribbean and plays a great variety of dance music, reggae and classics) did their thing and i finally got a taste of the dance floor. I’m not usually confident enough to get up and dance by myself unless I’ve had a lot of drinks, but once they started playing ‘hot,hot,hot’ and everyone started doing the ships dance routine, i couldn’t help but get up and join in. Which then led to the nutbush, macarena, cha cha slide and just a general good time. The age group had decreased significantly and there were a few more younger people and families to keep me company!
2 days later, we arrived in Brisbane where we finally got some warm weather and sun. Brisbane is home, and we had docked at a terminal which is away from absolutely everything, so i stayed onboard and took advantage of the fact that i could get a lounger next to the pool and had the bar to myself. That’s the only problem with nice weather and a younger crowd; it can be almost impossible to get a deck chair by the pool and bar unless you stake it out at 9am!
I caught up and had lunch and a drink with a friend who i’d met on my cruise back in March, which was nice, and I spent a lot of time over the next few days at sea relaxing by the pool and taking line dancing classes!

We reached Willis Island a couple of days later, which turned into a full on busy day! The ship doesn’t dock here, it’s what known as scenic cruising and we just cruise by slowly. Willis Island is a TINY island in the middle of the ocean about 500km off the coast of Cairns. All it has a BOM weathering station on it, and 4 people live on the island to monitor it. When Cyclone Yasi hit in 2011 it went right over the island and destroyed it. It’s since been
​rebuiltal, and the bird life surrounding the island was amazing. I hadn’t seen a single bird since leaving Brisbane, and suddenly we were surrounded by albatross, shearwaters and terns.
That day, it was Oktoberfest on the ship, so naturally, i was keen for this! It was quite a warm day and after a bit of ice carving in which it took me the entire 20 minutes to realize that the carving was not actually a headless koala but a cockatoo, we did some german knee-slapping dancing and a few other routines, which did in fact include the good ol’ chicken dance! I then found my self a part of a steiner (a giant beer glass) holding competition. 4 girls had to hold the 1L glass full of water arms length out, at shoulder height for as long as we could. The last one standing won free beer. Well I would like to say i won this…but realistically i actually came 3rd. It was a lot harder than it looked in my defense! We then spent the rest of the afternoon dancing to Exxile (the Caribbean band) by the pool with our drinks and getting sun-burnt.
That night was rock n roll 60’s night and was a night of more dancing, and again i found my self a part of a hula hooping competition. I also didn’t win this and missed out on a free bottle of champagne. I seriously would have practiced my hula hooping skill and strengthening my arm if i knew i’d be doing all this! Safe to say i slept well that night!!!

We hit Port Douglas the next day and i fell in love with this little town! Very tropical, palm trees everywhere and the bluest ocean i’ve ever seen! I had lunch at a lovely little seafood cafe overlooking the beach and palms, and then wandered down the main street looking at the shops, before heading back to the ship. The ride over to the shore from the ship on the tender however was the equivalent to being on a bucking bull! I dont get seasick and i love rough seas, but even i was a bit concerned sitting on top on a tender boat with no back rest as we rolled through the waves on a 40 minute trip over. Still, it didnt stop me from trying to take a selfie with the ship in the background and almost losing my phone into the ocean as we rolled over another wave. They canceled the tender service and started using the big catamarans from the shore to bring people back. Even that was a fun ride back with the waves! That afternoon back on the ship really made me feel like i was holidays. You know how in summer when you’ve had a long day at the beach, you’ve gotten some sun and you finally get home and out of your wet, sandy swimwear. You have a cool shower and then relax in the warm afternoon with a cold beer? That’s the afternoon i had. Out on deck with a cold beer watching the boats bring the rest of the passengers back and I was in heaven.

The next day was Cairns. I have to be honest, it wasn’t my most favourite place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but just so built up and city like compared to the other places. We docked at the terminal this time so it was an easy walk off into the town. I made my way to the shopping center to have a look at the shops first, then wandered down to the lagoon for a swim. That’s the only downside to far north Queensland, is that you can’t swim at the beaches due the risk of crocodiles, and in the warmer months, stingers (jellyfish). A lot of places have man made lagoons, or man made beaches instead. I liked this part of Cairns, it was the most tropical part of the town. I actually ended up having a free fortune reading by a strange homeless looking guy. He approached me, and while i was decided whether i should run, he told me about my future and what i should expect. Strangely enough, everything he told me was what i had been thinking about right before he turned up! Now, i don’t know if i believe in fortune readings and psychics, but he was scarily accurate! Well, besides the fact that he thinks my husband will be someone who works on a ship!
By time i headed back to the ship, storm clouds were building and by 4pm, it was actually freezing!

Last stop before home: Airlie Beach. I loved it as much as i did Port Douglas, if not more! It’s a very touristy kind of town; one main street with a lot of souvenir shops, backpacker hostels, pubs and bars and more populated than PD, but not as much as Cairns. Palm trees everywhere, blue water, a man made lagoon…it was paradise. I walked the 1km along the coastal boardwalk to get to town from the ship, taking in all the sights of the ocean and marina and i didn’t realize how hot it was. I attempted stand up paddle boarding for the first time in my life…and i spent more time in the water than i did on the board that i may have well as just gone swimming – but it was good fun! I continued on and went for a swim and lie by the lagoon, and had lunch at one of many pubs on the esplanade. This was the one place that i was actually sad about leaving, so I enjoyed it by drinking the bottle of $5 moscato that’d bought in town and watching the best sunset we’d had to date!

We had two days at sea traveling back to Sydney, and i pretty much spent them basking in the sun and making the most of it as it was going to be getting colder as we headed south again, and eating as much as i could stomach of the buffet food! We had a bit of whale action as they swam up right next to the ship and frolicked around. It was an amazing sight to see. There was country and western night where I got to put my line dancing classes to the test. We also had a balloon drop party on formal night which is always fun! There’s something about dressing up and dancing the night away and then having a whole of balloons drop down on you! Unfortunately I didn’t win the free cruise they were giving away in a single balloon…i didn’t have much winning luck this cruise!

I always hate the last night of a cruise. You’ve made so many friends and get into a routine. For example, i had become friends with the bartenders at a bar and they knew i loved the wasabi crackers that were in the rice cracker mix. So every afternoon at 4pm i’d head there for a drink and they would have just wasabi crackers sitting there waiting for me that they had picked out. I’d sit there for a bit a chat and then head off, get changed, have dinner etc. Then i’d head back later in the evening and an older couple who I had gotten to know and had taken me under their wing like a granddaughter, would be there and we’d have drinks and a good laugh with the bartenders while the band played. It’ always sad on the last night saying goodbye to everyone. You see the same people every day for 2 weeks or so, that you do get to know them (and you either love them or hate them!) and you become like a community. Some people/staff you do end up crossing paths with again on other cruises, and that’s always exciting.
This cruise ended up being amazing, i fell in love with some amazing places in my own backyard that I didn’t know existed and met some awesome people (as usual!) and there will definitely be more stories in the near future!
In the mean time, until my next one, i’ll try and recap the last few cruises I’ve done on here too, so stay tuned!
​C.

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