Friday, December 2, 2011


First a couple more shots from Sydney

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Rhapsody of the Sea
from the Sydney Opera House

Another place we have visited in Australia is Newcastle. It is mostly a coal-mining city on the outskirts but coupled with a nice town. Again I only had a handful of hours off so spent it walk through the small shops near the wharf area where the shuttle buses dropped ship passengers off. The area was very nice with shops interlaced with a handful of cafes. It is much less money to eat here then Sydney. It reminded me a lot of Victoria and of Seattle in some areas.

I did enjoy what time I did have off the ship here and will venture into Newcastle again. You could actually find a number of small cafes that had good food for a fair price, much less then Sydney and New Zealand. There were many places to get free wifi, which is always highly prized by the crew as it is so expensive on the ship.

Cairns is hands down my favorite port so far, especially as far as a city goes. It is not a large city from what I can tell but a city just the same. You cannot put it into the same category as Moorea and Bora Bora as they are tropical islands, but as far as New Zealand and Australia goes Cairns absolutely my favorite.

Shot from the ship of the bay

To make it even better we did an overnight in Cairns. The first day of any port for me is more about exploring to find out what to do next time. This was no different.

I left the ship after seeing patients around noon. Another nice thing about Cairns is that everything is walking distance from the ship. It was only a few blocks to the center of town near the beach. Here the street was lined with many places to eat. What made it so great was the food was actually affordable. You could get just about anything you wanted from $10-$15.

I am always on the hunt for a place to do free internet as well because it is so expensive on the ship even for crew. I did find a nice place that served coffee, smoothies and a few food items. It was air conditioned inside and had outside seating as well with fans overhead, which was nice in the 91f degree weather (33c).

James joined me shortly after 1pm and we both caught up with emails etc. Then it was time to get serious. Literally steps away in the same building was a pub. It also had outdoor seating and what really made my day was Coronas for $3.50 “all day/everyday”. Corona is not my favorite by any means but as far as beers go I love Mexican beers. There is just something about Mexican beer in a hot climate, it just tastes so good. Maybe that is from the 30 years I’ve been going in and out of Baja.

Coronas and tequillas with James...
Heres to ya Irish!

After our first beer it was time to salute our past running mate Irish. So we raised a shot of tequila and slammed it down. It is a running joke with us as I always made Irish do a shot of tequila and he hates it. From that point it was beers for the rest of the day…and night for that matter.

We seldom get overnights in the same port so it was out to one of the local clubs for yes more cocktails and dancing with some of the spa girls. This of course was after a stop back to the ship to shower and a trip to the crew bar for an hour or so.

Now back to Cairns itself. The next day James and I got together at the place we found for the internet. After that we decided to take a hike down the water front.

Boardwalk in Cairns

The sidewalk was right on the water and was about 2 miles long. It was lines with a beautiful park on one side a narrow strip of sand and the ocean on the other, actually a huge bay.

At one point James said how great it would be just to throw a towel down and lie on the beach at the waters edge. Literally within 50 feet of making that comment we discovered why nobody was doing this. We came across a big yellow sign stating “Do Not Enter the Water, Do Not Go To the Waters Edge, Do Not Clean Fish…Saltwater Crocodiles Have Been Sighted in This Area”. What I thought was strange was it was the only sign on the entire beach. Later we were told that the locals already know this. But it is my contention now with cruise ship starting to come the area, we were the first, and they need more signs!

James right before a swim...

Well maybe later...

After our hike we were back again near the town center at the beach. It was very hot and we were grateful that there is a huge public swimming pool right on the water. So we decided the thing to do was to sit in the water for about an hour before heading back to the ship.

public pool on the bay

All in all it was truly a great day and a great port. I can’t wait to come back again. James and I have a fishing trip lined up. We are fishing from 6am-1pm and doing the trip stopping to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. How cool is that? I sure hope the rumors are true and we will be here a lot, I really like this place and it would be very easy to live here. If it wasn’t so far from my grandkids that is.

Airlie Beach is a ‘tendered” port which means that the ship is too large to dock close to shore or the port does not have mooring facilities.

Offshore Airlie Beach

This also means, at least on this ship, that essentially guests leave first and then crew can board the tenders to go ashore. Because of this we usually don’t get off the ship until around 11-12pm maybe later. I can understand this as the guests are paying to be here and it is their vacation. This also happens in port on this ship. One thing that was nice about the Carnival Dream when I was onboard was they had a separate crew gangway. We could leave at will when it was our time off.

Now back to Airlie Beach. This was a very typical beach town with places to eat, shops and the like. As in most ports I try and find a to get free internet. By free I mean a place such as a café that once you buy something to eat you are given their password, which is fair enough.

After I ate and finished catching up with emails I walked around the town a bit to see what there was to do the next time I’m in port. Just like in Kauai I found a place to rent scooters and the going rate is $45 for 4 hours, which is a good deal. I will either do that or rent a car for just a bit more with a couple friends and explore the immediate area the next time I am here.

The town itself is right on the water. But one thing I am trying to get used to is nobody goes into the water. Why? Crocodiles! Here just like in Cairns there is what they call a “lagoon”. It is really a large wading pool that is 1.5 meters deep and usually just back from the waters edge and surrounded by grass and some trees. It is also filled with saltwater. Having grown up in Laguna Beach, Ca. it is nothing like what I would call a day at the beach.

A day at the beach...Airlie style...

After a few hours on shore it was time to catch the tender back to the ship. I am looking forward to coming here in a couple more weeks and exploring, having something good to eat and enjoy my time away from work. Something all of us need to do whenever we can.

In Brisbane we dock approximately 45 minutes from town. Top that with the fact that all guests are to be shuttled in before crew and then top that with this morning we had a very long crew drill it is almost not worth getting off the ship.

I did leave the ship this time as I had booked an excursion to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I spent a little over 2 hours going through the grounds.

One of the reasons to go to the sanctuary is obviously to see the large number of koalas there. But the highlight was actually being able to hold a koala. How many people actually get this chance?

Another part of the sanctuary I enjoyed was the free roaming area, though relatively small, of kangaroos. You entered a gated fenced area where there were many kangaroos and you could feed by hand. Again how often to you get to do something like this.

But this too had a sad aspect as most of the kangaroos were so used to people that they just sat on the ground after being hand feed mouthfuls of store bought kangaroo food which were pellets resembling rabbit food. Some of them didn’t even eat and were very lethargic seemingly bored with the “tourists” that came to visit them, myself being one.

Overall I was somewhat disappointed as I was expecting more of a preserve then a zoo atmosphere. In California there is the Wild Animal Park in San Diego and in the past the Lion Country Safari near my hometown of Laguna Beach. At both of these places the animals roam free more huge areas in their natural habitat.

The rest of the animals were in small cages and enclosures as in any other zoo. I’m not really a zoo person, as I believe the animals should not be confined to small cages. Still for what is was and for what they are doing to helping out the species at the “zoo” it was a good thing.

In closing about Brisbane unless some of the staff come back from the two hour round trip shuttle ride to the city from the dock and say this is somewhere you have to see I think I’ll just stay on the ship in Brisbane. From what I did see on our bus ride to the koala sanctuary through the city last time I see no need to go….a city is a city to me for the most part and I am more of a country boy.

Pictures from the Koala Sancturary



Golden Possum


and of course....KOALAS

Enjoy and teh next stop is VILA and MSTERY ISLAND, VANUATU!!!!!!!!!

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