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fvandewouwer

Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach or from Cairns need help

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snorkeling the GBR was on top of our bucket list for such a long time and now we are getting so close

cruise explorer of the seas from Sydney to Singapore in March /April

visiting Airlie Beach from 7 till 6 april 2

and Cairns from 7 till 6 april 4

there are a lot of tours on Royal Website we can book but we have already so many people on the ship that we would love to do this one day

in a lifetime experience on our own or in a small group and we are looking to go to the most beautiful part of the GBR with lots of coral fish

sharks and rays

can anyone give me advice which tour to pick or which company to contact in the area ?

these are the tours Royal provides

 

from Airlee Beach

 

1. 7h Experience one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Set sail on an exclusive catamaran for a two-hour ride to the Great Barrier Reef where you'll board a large floating platform on the outer reef. Enjoy approximately three hours surrounded by an abundance of tropical marine life and colorful coral. Indulge in a variety of activities including snorkeling, a reef tour on a semi-submersible vessel and a walk through underwater viewing chamber

 

255 usd pp ( only 2 hours of snorkeling so a no for us )

 

2. The ultimate sailing experience and world-class snorkeling create a memorable day as guests explore beautiful remote bays, islands and beaches. Sail around Whitsunday Islands National Park on one of the fastest, most graceful commercial catamarans available. Enjoy a sumptuous BBQ lunch, idyllic scenery and sun-dappled seas from spacious decks as the skipper provides colorful commentary. Then dive into the Whitsunday’s favorite maritime playground for approximately 2 hours snorkeling in a protected reef teeming with life.

 

239 usd pp ( 2 h snorkeling )

 

3. Visit Whitsunday Islands' "wild side." The uninhabited islands offer beautiful natural scenery brimming with marine, bird and animal life. Learn about the protected areas during an educational tour. Then skim across the ocean waves in an inflatable vessels designed and built as rescue crafts and powered by 450hp engines. Cruise past breathtaking islands and enjoy a refreshing swim in the tropical water

 

179 usd pp

 

from Cairns

 

1.Experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Board a catamaran for the one and half hour transfer to a pontoon at the Great Barrier Reef. Then explore the biggest single structure made by living organisms for approximately 4 hours. Engage in a wide range of activities on the outer reef that include diving, snorkeling, a tour on a semi-submersible vessel, and a walk through an underwater viewing chamber.

 

258 usd pp

 

2. Great Barrier Reef wonders beckon advanced snorkelers and divers during this full-day exclusive charter trip. Experience the best the area and conditions can offer. A maximum 100 guests depart Cairns to enjoy 4 amazing hours spent exploring a mooring from a purpose-built reef vessel. Tour includes buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea and Lycra suit. Scuba diving is an optional extra; guests should book on the ship in advance to reserve tanks and dive masters.

 

100 people ????? they mention advanced which is good but 100 people

 

price 299 usd pp

 

thank you all for your time to help me sort out what to book or where to look

from Belgium

Frieda

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There are any number of private day tours to be had, particularly from Cairns. Here's one I quickly googled.

https://www.cairnsreefdaytours.com.au/index.html

What immediately caught my attention was the huge disparity in the prices compared to the ship tours.

I'm sure the local tour operators would be geared up for the cruise passenger market.

 

One problem with Cairns is that if moored at Yorkeys Knob tenders are required and subject to weather conditions which can prevent them from leaving and/or returning to the ship.

Good luck with your snorkelling as April is the tail end of cyclone season. I'm heading up that way next week (HAL) and the weather is not looking too good at the moment.

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Your main problem is that both ports are tender ports for Explorer of the Seas. As such it will be very difficult to physically get to any on-shore excursion providers before their departure times. You are basically limited to ship excursions.

 

These are very overpriced, but that's because the RCI know they have a captive market.

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1 hour ago, SinbadThePorter said:

Your main problem is that both ports are tender ports for Explorer of the Seas. As such it will be very difficult to physically get to any on-shore excursion providers before their departure times. You are basically limited to ship excursions.

 

These are very overpriced, but that's because the RCI know they have a captive market.

I agree with this comment. It is most likely that the tour operators used by RCI will take passengers directly off the ship, rather than wasting time for passengers to go ashore then meet up for a reef tour. I know that Princess do that for the tour from Airlie Beach. We have done that one (probably #1 on your list) and it was excellent. I found the couple of hours snorkelling to be enough, but it is a long trip by catamaran to get out to the reef from Airlie Beach. Further north (Cairns and Port Douglas), the outer reef is closer to the coast so it doesn't take as long to get out there.

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6 hours ago, Aus Traveller said:

I agree with this comment. It is most likely that the tour operators used by RCI will take passengers directly off the ship, rather than wasting time for passengers to go ashore then meet up for a reef tour. I know that Princess do that for the tour from Airlie Beach. We have done that one (probably #1 on your list) and it was excellent. I found the couple of hours snorkelling to be enough, but it is a long trip by catamaran to get out to the reef from Airlie Beach. Further north (Cairns and Port Douglas), the outer reef is closer to the coast so it doesn't take as long to get out there.

I would also agree with doing a Ship's tour, if going from Airlie Beach (tour 1) the Catamaran that takes you out to the reef leaves directly from the ship, otherwise you will have to get to shore on time (only to wait for your tour to leave and go past the ship). Leaving directly from the ship also gives you more time on the reef itself.

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1 minute ago, MicCanberra said:

I would also agree with doing a Ship's tour, if going from Airlie Beach (tour 1) the Catamaran that takes you out to the reef leaves directly from the ship, otherwise you will have to get to shore on time (only to wait for your tour to leave and go past the ship). Leaving directly from the ship also gives you more time on the reef itself.

Most of the Reef tours leave from Shute Harbour, although I think some leave from the Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach. It isn't a matter or having more time on the reef. It is a long way from Airlie Beach to the outer reef and the trips are all full day, leaving 8am to 9am. By the time a passenger could get ashore at Airlie by tender, all the tours will have gone.

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They would save time as they leave from the ship directly to the reef at 7am, otherwise they need to get to the marina first, that would make it at least 40 minutes each way. At least that was how it was when we did it and friends chose the private option.

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In January this year I went on a GBR cruise with Celebrity.  We had one day at Airlie Beach and two at Cairns.  While the weather was nice, tendering at Cairns was difficult on the first day and we got in quite late.  I have done a joint blog here on CC with someone who mainly did snorkelling trips while I did land tours as we had our elderly parents with us.
According to him Cairns was by far the nicer area to snorkel, but he was only able to use a private tour operator because we overnighted.  He used the ships tour at Airlie Beach and was disappointed as they are regular divers.  My children who did it a few years earlier enjoyed it as they knew no different.  Living in the desert they were happy that they were in water.
 

On the flipside several years ago I was on another cruise where we stopped at both Airlie Beach and Cairns on our way to some islands in the South Pacific.  It was decided that not enough people had chosen the Cairns trip so it was cancelled once people boarded and those that booked had to choose if they wanted to move over to Airlie Beach and cancel what they had chosen there, or miss out all together.  I heard a lot of grumbling as we went on the very crowded boat on the Airlie Beach tour that this WAS not the one they wanted to do.  

I think you need to way up the convenience of leaving from the ship and a definite tour and the much nicer Cairns but the unknown likelyhood of getting the snorkelling trip you may want.  Or try for both!

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16 hours ago, lyndarra said:

There are any number of private day tours to be had, particularly from Cairns. Here's one I quickly googled.

https://www.cairnsreefdaytours.com.au/index.html

What immediately caught my attention was the huge disparity in the prices compared to the ship tours.

I'm sure the local tour operators would be geared up for the cruise passenger market.

 

One problem with Cairns is that if moored at Yorkeys Knob tenders are required and subject to weather conditions which can prevent them from leaving and/or returning to the ship.

Good luck with your snorkelling as April is the tail end of cyclone season. I'm heading up that way next week (HAL) and the weather is not looking too good at the moment.

thanks and have a wonderful cruise

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35 minutes ago, fvandewouwer said:

I want to thank you all for your input. What I learn is that we need to book a tour from Roya

I want to thank you all for your input. What I learn is that we need to book a tour from Royal because of the arrival time / weather …..

we are a bit disappointed now because we thought we were able to snorkel from both places

did not know these were tender ports

our first  idea was to go snorkeling from Airlie Beach ( our first stop )

 we would choose option 1 but we are afraid of the 4 hours on a catamaran

( 2 back and 2 forward ) we dislike loud music and crowded ships people telling their story of their life while sailing on a beautiful ocean …. pfff

from Cairns it seems to be a bit closer ( 1h 30 )  but I wonder what the difference is between option 1 the pontoon or option 2 mooring from a purpose-built reef vessel

and where are they going to ? the GBR is so big they do not mention which reef

I have been reading so much about coral bleaching ...

I have mailed RCI but got an answer I could get all my information on board the ship

yeah right

it would be a pity to pay 300 usd pp for a few fish some rocks and a chicken and rice buffet on a pontoon with loud music.

really do not know what to do but we came this far and I am willing to swim to the GBR :)

thanks for reading and ideas.

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3 hours ago, fvandewouwer said:

did not know these were tender ports

 Two bits of advise for these ports if you are planning your own activities.

 

Yorkeys Knob.

There will be shuttles for the 30 minute ride into Cairns, but if not using these it would be wise to have something organised. There probably won't be many taxis waiting there.

On your return to Yorkeys if there is a tender queue you can pop into the yacht club, have a drink on their deck and watch the tenders from there.

 

Airlie.

Be aware there are 2 possible tender ports here; Abell Point Marina & Port of Airlie.

Both have been used by different cruiselines in the last few years.

Both are close to town and easily walkable, but are about 2.5km apart.

Abell Point to the west of town, Port of Airlie to the East.

 

 

Edited by Tranquility Base

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Regardless of the mode in which you are to travel, your original question seemed to ask about going to the reef from Cairns or Airlie.

As a local to the Whitsundays I would prefer to take a tour to the Airlie Beach reefs than the ones off Cairns. Perhaps at these you will see some real treasures as they aren’t as “touristy” as those at Cairns.

I would seriously opt for the sailing (option 2 in Airlie another catamaran so probably from the ship?) - and enjoy an exclusive tour of our beautiful region. Never know - the BBQ lunch might be on Whitehaven Beach.

When in Cairns, travel inland to Kooranda and visit the artists village and travel the little train up or down the Gorge - beautiful 🌴 visit with some crocodiles and koalas - you won’t regret any of these choices.

Rose 🌹

Edited by Porky55

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When we did it 5 years ago, the pontoon they set up is movable and as such you will get a great range of fish and coral. Also the lunch was more than chicken and rice, it had seafood and a variety of meats and dishes. While still being a buffet it was very reasonable.

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When we have done these trips, they haven't had loud music on the catamarans. I cannot recall hearing any music, but there might have been some in the background. We just chatted and watched the ocean go by, but the 2 hour trip is long. We didn't find that other people intruded on our conversation. We wouldn't go for the buffet lunch, but it has always been excellent.

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I seem to remember that at Airlie Beach the reef operators for ship tours picked passengers up at the spare tender deck. Cunard.

 

if so, it would save considerable time from tendering to and from the port.

 

of course, this could be coloured by a haze of pies and gin.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Docker123 said:

I seem to remember that at Airlie Beach the reef operators for ship tours picked passengers up at the spare tender deck. Cunard.

 

if so, it would save considerable time from tendering to and from the port.

 

of course, this could be coloured by a haze of pies and gin.

 

 

On Princess the reef-tour operators take passengers directly off the ship and return the same way of course. This saves a lot of time.

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I was hoping to help with some queries a few pictures of our trip via Celebrity who would use the same company as RCI would, but discovered I didn't have anything that would quite show you the size. As MicCanberra said the meal is quite a bit more than chicken and rice.

The pontoon off in the distance as we approached it.IMG_3047.thumb.JPG.0582efb1977fe040ee525b6785869075.JPG

 

Please ignore Mr Seasick at the front.  He did enjoy going down and looking in the underwater area once he stopped feeling crappy.  His brothers however felt wonderful.  As you can see it wasn't crowded and there were plenty of tables for us to sit at for lunch.

P1010736.thumb.JPG.de336a4070af2a54bfa0785503e4bbb4.JPG


The water area weren't crowded either.  I think the biggest rush for areas were the dressing rooms to put on stinger suits and they had a lot of those.

P1010740.thumb.JPG.892faf81f43266cd3665834225887974.JPGP1010741.thumb.JPG.1e8b9577fd66d427938d4d416315d7c0.JPGIMG_2918.thumb.JPG.51f0923f0cfce17dc05a5aadf1d10554.JPG

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In Mr Seasick's defence, he was recovering from Whooping Cough when we boarded the ship and suffers from motion sickness at the best of times.  We had organised a room central on the ship and he had been feeling reasonably good until we got on the smaller boat to do the two hour trip out to the pontoon.  He managed to keep it together until just before we stopped and then it took a long time for his head to get off that table.  


Number 2 son had just finished his final year of school, but was far younger than anyone else (he was still 17 when he started Uni the following year) so schoolies or anything else was out of the question so we took him on a cruise to celebrate and he got to choose what we did at each port of call.  Segwaying, Ziplining, and doing a walk on the Ocean floor at Port Vila all ended up happening.

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Nice, great trip to celebrate.

BTW for the OP, take some Blackmores Ginger tablets just before (15 mins) boarding the Catamaran each way, they will help even if you don't normally get sea sick. The Catamaran does go quite fast across the water, so it can still be bumpy even if the weather is fine.

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WoW thank you all for the lovely comments, after reading every one of your advice we are now certain to take a ship's tour, because there are a lot of difficulties.( time is one of them )

I kept on reading on many sites, even found a book on the GBR but still am not sure from where to take the snorkel trip.

if we do this from Airlie we have an opportunity to see some other things in Cairns ( thank you Rose Porky 55 )

but 2 h snorkelling and 4 hours on our way to get there ... 

we flew all the way from Belgium and our time difference is absurd wished we could spend many more hours on your amazing GBR

If we would go from Cairns we would do number 2 ( yes the most expensive one ) j they take 'only' 100 p and they say specifically ' advanced snorkelers ' even divers are mentioned so that seems to be a little more spectacular

Thanks MicCanberra for the Ginger tip, we are lucky never to be sick no matter how rough the sea can be

husband has worked on a boat for 30 years and I am just loving a rocking ship.

Suzi66 thanks for sharing your pictures ( was this from Cairns and it would be tour 1 I think ? )

so sorry for the boy, we always feel sorry when someone is unable to see what is in our amazing oceans and seas have been blessed to see so many sharks, rays and amazing coral in our 35 years experience.

I know you all think why on earth they cruise Australia instead of take a trip and stay for a few days in this area but in our case this is the last trip before we leave back to Belgium ( we cruise from Sydney to Singapore so we shorten our flight with 9 hours to fly back to Belgium )

before this cruise we have seen the The Blue Mountains, Uluru, Sydney Fiji, Vanuatu , New Caledonia and New Zealand, we leave mid februari and will be back home mid april,  so I guess we cannot complain about any snorkel trip as we are so blessed to travel for 2 months to see what we believe is the most beautiful part of our globe.

Again thank you all for your advice and time to write for your comments and tips for your pictures.

have a great day,

good evening from Belgium

Frieda

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, fvandewouwer said:

 

Suzi66 thanks for sharing your pictures ( was this from Cairns and it would be tour 1 I think ? )

so sorry for the boy, we always feel sorry when someone is unable to see what is in our amazing oceans and seas have been blessed to see so many sharks, rays and amazing coral in our 35 years experience.

 

 

This was from Airlie Beach.  I think it may even have been the first tour option as not many were offered at that time.  I just wanted you to see that no matter, my boys thought it was a great trip, and Mr. Seasick went in the underwater chamber and the submersible boat and he was quite happy with that even though he felt pretty horrid.

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15 hours ago, MicCanberra said:

Excellent, keep researching on options that may suit, try Trip advisor as well.

oh I did even through FB MicCanberra you said you did this tour 5 years ago but I did not get which one your did ?

 

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4 hours ago, fvandewouwer said:

oh I did even through FB MicCanberra you said you did this tour 5 years ago but I did not get which one your did ?

 

We had done number one from Airlie Beach (direct from the ship), it was around $220 at that time. We did it with around 12 of us and we all had an enjoyable time.

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On 12/5/2018 at 7:12 AM, lyndarra said:

There are any number of private day tours to be had, particularly from Cairns. Here's one I quickly googled.

https://www.cairnsreefdaytours.com.au/index.html

What immediately caught my attention was the huge disparity in the prices compared to the ship tours.

I'm sure the local tour operators would be geared up for the cruise passenger market.

 

One problem with Cairns is that if moored at Yorkeys Knob tenders are required and subject to weather conditions which can prevent them from leaving and/or returning to the ship.

Good luck with your snorkelling as April is the tail end of cyclone season. I'm heading up that way next week (HAL) and the weather is not looking too good at the moment.

 

The weather is very very rough at present did the GBR yesterday and gales and rain but an enjoyable day we booked direct with silver and paid $251 AUD but had more than 4 hours on board complete with meals and snacks  I  think this may be tool long for a cruise day

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1 hour ago, windsor26 said:

 

The weather is very very rough at present did the GBR yesterday and gales and rain but an enjoyable day we booked direct with silver and paid $251 AUD but had more than 4 hours on board complete with meals and snacks  I  think this may be tool long for a cruise day

Shame about the weather for your GBR day.

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19 hours ago, windsor26 said:

 

The weather is very very rough at present did the GBR yesterday and gales and rain but an enjoyable day we booked direct with silver and paid $251 AUD but had more than 4 hours on board complete with meals and snacks  I  think this may be tool long for a cruise day

so sorry for the bad weather, which one did you book ? and how did you manage to be onboard in time ( tender ) did you have enough time ? thanks for more info

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6 hours ago, fvandewouwer said:

so sorry for the bad weather, which one did you book ? and how did you manage to be onboard in time ( tender ) did you have enough time ? thanks for more info

Yvonne and Colin might not have been on a cruise. From the wording "I think this may be too long for a cruise day" I get the impression they were in Airlie Beach on a land trip. They own a motorhome (RV).

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