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Old April 9th, 2012, 07:11 AM
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sandyoftheseas sandyoftheseas is offline
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Default Great Barrier Reef Pontoon and guided tour?

Does the pontoon have bathroom facilities? Does the boat the brings you to the reef have a bathroom and does it leave or does it remain there untill your tour is over? Is there snorkel vests available to use? I have read on this site they have noodles but I prefer a vest. I have read about the guided tours available at the GBR what does the guide do? How much does it cost? Is it worth the money? Any answers would be helpful I am so looking forward to visit Australia and the GBR.
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  #2  
Old April 9th, 2012, 10:56 AM
3rdGenCunarder 3rdGenCunarder is offline
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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.
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  #3  
Old June 4th, 2012, 02:38 AM
partymarty4878 partymarty4878 is offline
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the pontoons don't have bathrooms - you must go back onto the boat for that.

This is because they are permanently moored at the reef and all human waste must be pumped out on the mainland.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 04:28 AM
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cjm66 cjm66 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandyoftheseas View Post
Does the pontoon have bathroom facilities? Does the boat the brings you to the reef have a bathroom and does it leave or does it remain there untill your tour is over?

There are shower rooms on board the pontoons and toilets on the boat that brings you to the pontoon. The boat / catamaran that takes you to the pontoon will remain docked until you leave. This is true for all the pontoons - regardless of whether you go from Cairns, Port Douglas, Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.

Is there snorkel vests available to use? I have read on this site they have noodles but I prefer a vest.

I cannot say whether vests are available on all pontoons - they are on the ones run by Qicksilver out of POrt Douglas.

I have read about the guided tours available at the GBR what does the guide do? How much does it cost? Is it worth the money?

The only guided tours I know about are the guided (sometimes called advanced) snorkeling tours from the Quicksilver Pontoon from Port Douglas. This involves a short trip in a small boat to the fringing reef where you are guided by a marine biologist along the fringing reef with commentary and pointers on what to look for. Costs now about $70 pp. If you are a strong and confident swimmer it IS worth it. It can be tiring treading water while you listen to the commentary and i am not sure how the snorkelling vest would take to choppy conditions which can happen on the fringing reef away from the shelter of the pontoon. Several years ago I did a tour to a pontoon out of Cairns and they offered an individual guided tour that kept within the pontoon area - much less challenging.

Any answers would be helpful I am so looking forward to visit Australia and the GBR.
As you may have gathered I am a snorkeling enthusiast and hope you will really enjoy your day on the reef. Happy to answer any other questions if I can.

Colleen
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Last edited by cjm66; June 4th, 2012 at 04:33 AM.
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  #5  
Old June 4th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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sandyoftheseas sandyoftheseas is offline
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Thanks to all who answered my questions. My DH and I have decided to take the tours from Airlie Beach and Port Douglas because we have heard on other boards that Airlie Beach is sometimes to rough to go out. If we are able to snorkel at Airlie Beach we may cancel the tour out of Port Douglas and do another tour. From your responses I will take my seasickness pills before I get on the boat and I will not do the guided off the reef tour because I am not a strong swimmer that is why I use the life vest. Thanks for your responses about the bathrooms. It is a long day and I would assume they have bathrooms but, I am glad to have it confirmed. Thanks again for answering my questions I am sooo looking forward to my Australia adventure.
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  #6  
Old June 4th, 2012, 09:18 AM
Floridiana Floridiana is offline
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Your idea sounds reasonable, however, keep in mind that tours to the Barrier Reef sell out fast. If you definitely want to do them, you may be well advised to book both, the one in Airlie Beach and the one in Port Douglas.

We were on the Dawn Princess last March/April and had prebooked the tour from Airlie Beach. The day before, we changed our mind and I gave back the tickets. Although it was way after the official 'give back tickets' date, the excursion desk was happy to refund them because they had a waitlist. The wheather turned out to be stormy. People told me it was a long and rough ride to the reef.

Last edited by Floridiana; June 4th, 2012 at 09:19 AM.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 09:39 AM
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sandyoftheseas sandyoftheseas is offline
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Floridiana Thanks for the tip. Our trip is still 155days away and we have booked both Airlie Beach GBR tour and the one that goes out of Port Douglas.
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Sep '11 - Western Caribbean - Carnival - Carnival Freedom
Sep '10 - 1-Day Coastal - Princess - Golden Princess
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Mar '09 - Western Caribbean - Princess - Ruby Princess
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Feb '04 - Southern Caribbean - Princess - Dawn Princess
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  #8  
Old June 4th, 2012, 10:24 AM
Floridiana Floridiana is offline
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We origianlly thought we wanted to go to the Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach and to the Daintree Tree Forest from Port Douglas.

We had booked the Daintree ship's tour. It was canceled because the road between Cairns and PD was blocked in two places. Happened in the night before the Dawn Princess arrived. Wet season!

Instead, we picked up a local tour on the pier in PD: Mossman Gorge and Daintree River. It was good a tour, not spectacular but a lot less expensive than the ship's tour which would have included a busride to Cairns, a train ride, the aerial tram and a cultural show. Princess refunded our prebooked tour.
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