Posted April 9th, 2012, 10:56 AM
I don't know what ship you'll be on or where you're taking this excursion from. We did the GBR tour from the ship (QM2) in February. We were anchored at Whitsunday, and the boat came to pick us up directly from the ship.
The vendor for that trip was Fantasea. They have a website that you can check out, and you can book a visit privately, but I guess for that you'd have to be somewhere on land that they pick you up.
The boat does have a bathroom, and it does stay at the pontoon. I guess the pontoon has a bathroom, but I'm not sure. Our lunch was served on the boat, not on the pontoon. They make you wear a "stinger suit" in the water. I don't know if they have vests, as I didn't go into the water.
For me, it was the day from hell. In all my cruises, I've been seasick on a ship once, and that was a horrible storm in the North Atlantic. I don't even get quesy, much less sick, on bouncy tenders or on ferries or on my BIL's little boat. But I was incredibly sick on the Fantasea catamaran.
The water where QM2 anchored was smooth. There were sea kayaks out there, having no trouble gliding through the water. It all looked good. The first half hour on the catamaran was smooth. We sat up top to enjoy the fresh air. And then it all went to hell. I don't know where we were that the conditions changed, but that catamaran started bucking like a mechanical bull in a western bar. I had to hang onto the bench I was sitting on for fear of being thrown to the deck and getting injured. We bounced like that for TWO HOURS. I held on for more than an hour, and then I lost it. I think it was from fright as much as anything. I truly thought that $%^&* boat was going to flip over. You could tell from the way the crew handled the situation (at least half the people on board were throwing up) that this happens a lot. But nobody warned us to take a seasick pill. (They sell them on board for $3 for two pills) We had a half hour of smooth water, which should have been enough for the medicine to kick in.
When we got to the pontoon, everyone had to get off so that they could get an accurate count. I went back onto the boat, found a shady spot, and slept. I couldn't even imagine putting a snorkel into my mouth. I did eventually go onto the pontoon to walk around. The little viewing area wasn't great, not much to see except the flippers of people sitting on the edges of the pontoon. DH did the semisubmersible ride, which he said was OK, but the ones in the Caribbean were better with more to see.
I think they had oversold the day. There was a second smaller catamaran in addition to the one we rode on. I don't know where that group came from. It was crowded on the pontoon and very crowded in the small area they have roped off for swimming and snorkeling. Several people I spoke to complained that it wasn't pleasant snorkeling when people keep bumping into you (the water was a bit rough). People had to stand in line to wait for the semisubmersible ride. The ride to and from the reef was described as 2 hours, but it was 2 1/2. that took an hour off the time at the reef.
If you get lucky and have nice weather, it could be a good day. Most people recovered from the ride and said the lunch was good. (I was unable to eat anything but crackers and water.) But be prepared for crowds and take a seasick pill before you get on the boat out to the pontoon.
Even if the wind and sea had been better, it still would have been too crowded and not worth the money, IMO. the GBR was one of the main things I wanted to see in Australia, and this tour was a huge disappointment. Probably the only thing I'd do differently in a 4-week trip.
The THIRD generation in my family to sail on a Cunarder
28 QE2 - including 2 Midnight Sun, 2 Panama Canal, 6 TAs, 4 Canada/New England, and various Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe itineraries
9 QM2 - 5TAs, Caribbean, Royal Circumnavigation of Australia, Canada
1 Caronia - Baltic
5 NCL - including 2 on SS Norway (RIP)
1 Uniworld River Cruise (Tulips and Windmills)
1 American Cruise Line - Queen of the West, Columbia & Snake Rivers