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keysey222

Newcastle, Cairns and Brisbane - Off Ship Excursion Ideas - Advice Needed

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My husband and I just booked a 12-night GBF cruise with Celebrity and are disappointed with the excursion offerings for the following ports:

 

Newcastle

Airlie Beach

Cairns

Brisbane

 

We typically don't use ship excursions because they're too short and never cover all we'd like to do. The Celebrity offerings are no different. I've checked Viator and TripAdvisor, but it doesn't appear that many of these tour companies cater to cruisers (sadly, some of the trips are just too long for our times in port). Since this board mixes with New Zealand, it's been challenging to find threads for our specific locations.

 

We will be doing ship tours for the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling (nothing that involves going to the platform!). Only because we've heard on CC that ship tours are the safest option to ensure we get back on time, since the reef is a bit of a distance.

 

We'd appreciate any recommendations for tour companies, particular tours, or just an idea of where to look to find some more options. Oh, and if you have any 'must-sees' in these ports, please let me know!!

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My husband and I just booked a 12-night GBF cruise with Celebrity and are disappointed with the excursion offerings for the following ports:

 

Newcastle

Airlie Beach

Cairns

Brisbane

 

Newcastle. I think the main tourist trap for Newcastle are the vineyards of the Hunter Valley. If you are not impressed with grapes, there are Stockton Beach tours here, https://www.4wdtoursrus.com.au/tin-city-tour/

 

As well, for some Newcastle background there is this,

It was part of a TV series on points of historical interest in a number of Australian cities and towns.

 

Airlie Beach. Go to Whitehaven beach for a picnic. You can get there by boat, seaplane or helicopter.

 

Cairns. I assume you are doing the GBR from Port Douglas? In that case do Cape Tribulation/Daintree from Cairns. It really doesn't matter which from where, but they are the top two trips up that way.

 

Brisbane. You will probably be forced to dock at the Grain Terminal, which is on the the other side of Woop Woop (i.e. in a desolate place far away from the Brisbane CBD). The usual thing is to go up the river to visit koalas at the Lone Pine Sanctuary. However this is a long way from where your ship will be parked. An alternative is to visit nearby Manly Harbour and take the trip out on the bay to St Helena Island, http://www.sthelenaisland.com.au/ This is a former prison with some interesting colonial buildings. Or you could try a day trip to the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, a top snorkeling spot, but this is a 75 min boat trip each way and I don't think the timing would work out, https://www.moretonislandadventures.com.au/day-trips/

Edited by SinbadThePorter

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Thanks for taking the time to respond. Good to know about Hunter Valley being a tourist trap. We briefly considered it because the region looked pretty, but I have no real interest in wine, so I'd be bored quickly.

 

Oddly, they aren't offering GBR from Port Douglas this time around. We will likely do it from Cairns, then Cape Trib/Daintree in Port Douglas.

 

My husband and I both really want to do Lone Pine. If Celebrity offers a shuttle downtown, we were thinking of taking that in and cabbing/bussing it from there. We found an excursion through Viator that leaves the Brisbane CBD at 10am, but I'm thinking that won't work when we factor in the tender time and the time it'll take to get into the city. Cuts it way too close.

 

I'm going to call Celebrity again to see if any of their Airlie Beach excursions go to Whitehaven (their online descriptions are less than helpful). After looking that up, it's now a must-see for us. I won't settle for anything else :) in Airlie.

 

Thanks again!

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Going to the reef from Cairns is the best option - the reef is a lot closer to Cairns than anywhere else, so your day won’t be lost in transit.

 

Plus Port Douglas is closer to the Daintree so, again, less transit time.

 

In Brisbane, you will be docked so as soon as you can get off the ship and onto the shuttle, you can be on your way. Unfortunately, the transit time into Brisbane City from there will be 45mins at least (longer if it is a work day and you are dealing with peak hour traffic). But once you are in the city, you can jump into a cab and get there within 15mins.

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[quote name=keysey222;55136475

 

My husband and I both really want to do Lone Pine. If Celebrity offers a shuttle downtown' date=' we were thinking of taking that in and cabbing/bussing it from there. We found an excursion through Viator that leaves the Brisbane CBD at 10am, but I'm thinking that won't work when we factor in the tender time and the time it'll take to get into the city. Cuts it way too close.

 

I'm going to call Celebrity again to see if any of their Airlie Beach excursions go to Whitehaven (their online descriptions are less than helpful). After looking that up, it's now a must-see for us. I won't settle for anything else :) in Airlie.

Thanks again![/quote]

 

You might like to share a big taxi with other passengers and go direct to Lone Pine Sanctuary independently.

 

Whitehaven is beautiful

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Just git back from Port Douglas. Tony’s tropical tours does a great comprehensive rainforest excursion. Can arrange private tour to meet port times.

Quicksilver to reef was another great day. Thought Celeb did low isle from PD.

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We were on the GBR trip that Celebrity did in January of this year. There is a thread currently happening on the Celebrity board with notes from one poster who did dive excursions and myself who did land excursions.

 

Newcastle we decided to do the HOHO bus on the historic tram. I would be happy to do this again. I was travelling with my elderly in-laws who didn't want to get off and explore but we definitely will be when we return next January with just the two of us.

 

The first time I went to Cairns I organised this myself as I was with my children and I didn't care about whether we went Gold Class or not. The Skyrail and train to Karunda, much cheaper if you go through their website and they can tell you if they pick up from Yorkey's Knob or not. As it turned out the train line was undergoing works the day that Celebrity Century was at Cairns and we did Skyrail both ways and visited Karunda's little zoo where my boys had a photo with a koala.

This time I wanted Gold Class and no waiting around in lines to disembark with my father-in-law as he isn't that good being on his feet for a long time so we booked through the ship. I don't regret doing either, Gold Class is worth the extra bit you pay for it.

 

Port Douglas we originally planned to go on the Lady Douglas for a river cruise. They wouldn't take our money before the day and so when my in-laws said they were tired and realised that we weren't going to lose money they didn't get off the ship.

 

Hope some of this helps and you also have a chance to look at our thread.

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If your ship's excursion from Cairns for snorkeling goes to Green Island, then cancel it now. It would be a waste of your time and money to go there. The island is packed with day trippers and the coral is in poor condition so you won't find much sea life either.

 

(And FWIW, the trips to the Outer Reef from Cairns and Port Douglas take almost the same amount of time -- 90 minutes.)

 

As for an excursion in Port Douglas (which I have visited many times), I would recommend Daintree NP and/or Mossman Gorge if you want to explore a rainforest. We have been to both on several occasions, but always as a self-drive day trip because we would be staying several days in PD. I would not recommend trying to do it on your own as Daintree is about an hour's drive from PD and you have to take a ferry which could complicate your return to the ship. But there are several good tour companies that offer tours of Daintree--Tony's Tropical Tours and Daintree Discovery Tours both get outstanding reviews. (See their Trip Advisor reviews for details.) Be sure to contact them in advance to make sure they can get you back to the ship in time as it's an all day tour.

 

If you don't want to go to a rainforest or if you just want a relaxing day, I'd stay in Port Douglas to visit the Wildlife Habitat and to wander around town and/or Four Mile Beach. (Note: You can't swim off the beach from November to May due to deadly jellyfish called "stingers".) The Wildlife Habitat is an excellent place to see native Australian animals (and even get a koala-holding experience if you want that) and it's just a short distance from town. You can get there by taxi and I think there's a local bus that goes out there too.

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Re NEWCASTLE, what interests you?

 

I could then perhaps give you a few suggestions.

 

Many enjoy a visit to Fort Scratchley and the Cathederal.

 

Others the Hunter Valley Gardens, the largest Rose Farm in the Southern Hemisphere I believe.

 

There’s also Port Stephens or Lake MacQuarie if you want more time on the water.

 

Some great beaches at Newcastle.

 

The CBD itself doesn’t offer a lot if shopping is on your list but they do offer shuttles to one of the suburban shopping centres.

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Do you happen to know of a boat that could take us to Whitehaven beach between 9a-4p? Most of the tours I see run until after 5p.

 

Newcastle. I think the main tourist trap for Newcastle are the vineyards of the Hunter Valley. If you are not impressed with grapes, there are Stockton Beach tours here, https://www.4wdtoursrus.com.au/tin-city-tour/

 

As well, for some Newcastle background there is this,

It was part of a TV series on points of historical interest in a number of Australian cities and towns.

 

Airlie Beach. Go to Whitehaven beach for a picnic. You can get there by boat, seaplane or helicopter.

 

Cairns. I assume you are doing the GBR from Port Douglas? In that case do Cape Tribulation/Daintree from Cairns. It really doesn't matter which from where, but they are the top two trips up that way.

 

Brisbane. You will probably be forced to dock at the Grain Terminal, which is on the the other side of Woop Woop (i.e. in a desolate place far away from the Brisbane CBD). The usual thing is to go up the river to visit koalas at the Lone Pine Sanctuary. However this is a long way from where your ship will be parked. An alternative is to visit nearby Manly Harbour and take the trip out on the bay to St Helena Island, http://www.sthelenaisland.com.au/ This is a former prison with some interesting colonial buildings. Or you could try a day trip to the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, a top snorkeling spot, but this is a 75 min boat trip each way and I don't think the timing would work out, https://www.moretonislandadventures.com.au/day-trips/

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We did Solstice to GBR last month.

 

Newcastle we walked around the city and had a fun day. The Stockton 4Wd experience was on our plans, but the ship booked out one of the 2 companies that run them. They doubled the price. The other company wouldn’t take kids under 12 years, so that ruled them out.

 

Airlie beach - check cancellation policies of any independent excursion. Cyclone Iris saw port cancellation for us. Our stateroom attendant also said on a stop there last year the wind picked up so much they had to cancel tenders back to the boat. A 5pm departure became midnight in the pouring rain. He indicated Airlie was no more than 50-50 chance. We couldn’t find an independent way to Whitehaven beach within port times and I did spend a lot of time looking.

 

Cairns we did the ship GBR tour on day 1 and it was FABULOUS! Our party of 9 had the best experience. We skipped lunch to spend more time in the water.

 

Cairns day 2 we caught a cab (about $20 AUD each way) to Skyrail. We didn’t pre-book, just lined up for tickets and spent a lovely time in the town of Kuranda. Lots of ship passengers did that trip ahead and behind us for the skyrail, but we saved about $80 AUD per person doing it ourselves. Only advice would be you need a phone to book a cab - their isn’t a stocked cab rank at the dock. About 5 parties tried to take our cab at both ends, in the end our cab driver rang the depot to have a few sent out.

 

Brisbane. We paid about $100 AUD for our maxi taxi to take 9 of us from the port to Lone Pine (we paid a surcharge of maybe 30% over regular taxi). Taxis were readily available in the port and well organised. We arrived at Lone Pine before the ship tour buses (around 9.30am), which was a blessing to avoid lines. The photos with the koalas are extra and they only sell a limited number of tickets. By the time we left at noon they had sold out.

 

Our taxi returned and we spent the afternoon in Brisbane before returning to the ship. Not sure of the cab price from lone pine to Brisbane, but it was about $100 AUD back to the ship for our party of 9.

 

Hope that helps. We have great memories of our trip, and hope you do too!

 

Cheers

Cindy

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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We did Solstice to GBR last month.

 

Newcastle we walked around the city and had a fun day. The Stockton 4Wd experience was on our plans, but the ship booked out one of the 2 companies that run them. They doubled the price. The other company wouldn’t take kids under 12 years, so that ruled them out.

 

Airlie beach - check cancellation policies of any independent excursion. Cyclone Iris saw port cancellation for us. Our stateroom attendant also said on a stop there last year the wind picked up so much they had to cancel tenders back to the boat. A 5pm departure became midnight in the pouring rain. He indicated Airlie was no more than 50-50 chance. We couldn’t find an independent way to Whitehaven beach within port times and I did spend a lot of time looking.

 

Cairns we did the ship GBR tour on day 1 and it was FABULOUS! Our party of 9 had the best experience. We skipped lunch to spend more time in the water.

 

Cairns day 2 we caught a cab (about $20 AUD each way) to Skyrail. We didn’t pre-book, just lined up for tickets and spent a lovely time in the town of Kuranda. Lots of ship passengers did that trip ahead and behind us for the skyrail, but we saved about $80 AUD per person doing it ourselves. Only advice would be you need a phone to book a cab - their isn’t a stocked cab rank at the dock. About 5 parties tried to take our cab at both ends, in the end our cab driver rang the depot to have a few sent out.

 

Brisbane. We paid about $100 AUD for our maxi taxi to take 9 of us from the port to Lone Pine (we paid a surcharge of maybe 30% over regular taxi). Taxis were readily available in the port and well organised. We arrived at Lone Pine before the ship tour buses (around 9.30am), which was a blessing to avoid lines. The photos with the koalas are extra and they only sell a limited number of tickets. By the time we left at noon they had sold out.

 

Our taxi returned and we spent the afternoon in Brisbane before returning to the ship. Not sure of the cab price from lone pine to Brisbane, but it was about $100 AUD back to the ship for our party of 9.

 

Hope that helps. We have great memories of our trip, and hope you do too!

 

Cheers

Cindy

 

 

You were on the same cruise as us :). I spent a ridiculous amount of time prior to the cruise trying to find an independent way to Whitehaven that fit with our port times. I came up empty-handed. After boarding, we signed up for one through Celebrity that was never listed on their website, but obviously we never made it to shore. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. At least we were treated to lovely weather for all ports after the Iris fiasco.

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You were on the same cruise as us :). I spent a ridiculous amount of time prior to the cruise trying to find an independent way to Whitehaven that fit with our port times. I came up empty-handed. After boarding, we signed up for one through Celebrity that was never listed on their website, but obviously we never made it to shore. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. At least we were treated to lovely weather for all ports after the Iris fiasco.

 

DOH! I missed the date on your initial post; I wrongly assumed you were booking for 2019. My apologies for telling you things you already knew! Glad you had a lovely trip.

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Re NEWCASTLE, what interests you?

 

I could then perhaps give you a few suggestions.

 

Many enjoy a visit to Fort Scratchley and the Cathederal.

 

Others the Hunter Valley Gardens, the largest Rose Farm in the Southern Hemisphere I believe.

 

There’s also Port Stephens or Lake MacQuarie if you want more time on the water.

 

Some great beaches at Newcastle.

 

 

The CBD itself doesn’t offer a lot if shopping is on your list but they do offer shuttles to one of the suburban shopping centres.

 

 

Celebrity are offering an excursion to Port Stephens where you do what you like for the day - they just transport you there and bring you back again. Is there much to see and do? Is it easy to walk around the area or would you need to use public transport. They don't stipulate where the drop off/pick up area is so I can't give you details there. We aren't really into hiking, 4 wheel drives or visiting the sand hills so just wondered if there was anything else of interest beside the beautiful beaches.

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