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Stow Away with Bill & Mary Ann for 181 days on Amsterdam's So. Pacific & 2020 WC

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Report #122   Sydney, Australia   March 8, 2020   Saturday   Scattered showers & 71 degrees   Part #1 Of 5    80  Pictures


Sometime during the night, one of us woke up and could not see the tents outside our window.  It was raining so hard, it was a white out, which continued until the sunrise.  It would be a miracle if it stopped for the rest of the day.  But it did, lucky us.


We left the ship at 10:30am, and had a quick ride on the shuttle.  Perhaps because it is Sunday, the traffic was far lighter.  At Darling Harbor, we took or time walking the waterfront.  There has been so many renovations since first coming here twenty years or more ago.  A new project at the end of Cockle Bay will add even more hotel space in the future.


Yesterday and today, we began seeing some really strange costumes on some locals.  The give-away had to be the bizarre wigs worn by both the girls and guys.  We will have to ask someone what this was all about.


Our destination was the Haymarket District and Paddy’s Market, Chinatown, and Market City.  One the way, we were pleased to see the progress made with the building of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centers, as well as the nearby Sydney Theater complex.  Attracting thousands of locals and visitors, these new additions have fueled the local economy.


At the end of the harbor, we entered into Chinatown, which was barely waking up.  Then we continued on to Paddy’s Market, and Market City, home to 100 stores of factory outlets, food courts, and cafes.  An amusement arcade was opened for business, but was slow to fill.  If you had a desire for Asian/Chinese cuisine, the top floor of this mall would be a good place to go. 


Back down on the street level, we entered Paddy’s Market, full of souvenir stalls that sold everything from fashion to fresh food.  Opened Wednesday through Sunday at 10am, this place also has a vibrant veggie and fruit market with a fish and meat market nearby.  We always make it a point to stroll through here to browse and take photos.  We bought nothing, but did take tons of pictures.


Time to turn around and head back.  A most odd-looking new structure is The Exchange, a Kengo Kuma-designed building.  This circular structure houses 12 food venues surrounding the exterior, with a library and child care facility on the upper levels.  Another place full of inviting benches to watch the world go by.


And once again, we were seeing the most bizarre costumes on the younger crowd.  So we had to investigate, and follow some of these characters up the escalators at the ICC Sydney Exhibition Center.  Arriving up to the event deck, we felt like we had entered the “Twilight Zone”.  Everyone but us, had on some kind of costume and were participating in a contest for the Anime festival, a Japanese invention with animated figures, similar to cartoon characters.  Donned with wigs of all colors and lengths, each and every one was different.  From an ad we saw, this was a weekend event.  The kids seem to love their pictures taken, then we left before we were spotted as the only ones without costumes.


Time for lunch, we went to our favorite spot at the Hard Rock Café in the Harborfront complex.  Greg mentioned that this whole complex is scheduled to be re-modeled, and the famous cafe will be gone, at least from this location.  This is one of the few cafes that still serves the Haystack Salad we like so much.  Checking the menu outside, we noticed it said that kids eat free on Saturday and Sunday.  So it was 1:30pm, and we thought the place would be full of customers.  Actually, it was, but we got a wonderful table for two outside on the patio.  As long as it did not rain (it did not), we would have a pleasant breeze (we did).  And our salad with Tupelo-fried chicken and pecan halves did not disappoint.  Beers were Carlton draft, and we shared a brownie/ice cream sundae.  We don’t know why, but there was a 10% extra charge for Sunday.  Still, it was worth it for the view of the bay and harbor below us.  We even saw the Pyrmont Bridge swing open for a boat to pass under,  first time we ever saw that.


After our relaxing meal, we explored the Harborside Mall, stopping in a pharmacy to buy their version of Tylenol.  Every worker in this shop worn masks. After crossing over the bridge, we were back to the shuttle stop.  Since we had just missed the last bus, we were the first in line for the next coach coming in 20 minutes.  Ever feel invisible?  Guess that was what happened when the anxious folks began to arrive for the bus.  Some of them squeezed and pushed to the street side to the point we were no longer first in line.  Hey, wait a minute.  We had to step in front of some folks to be able to make this coach.  There has to be a better way to do this fairly, like ticket numbers.  We know the drill as the same people seem to strike up a conversation with the bus employee, then slip right by him to board.  If you are too polite, you will always be last or left behind.


Back to the ship by 4pm, we found out our good friends had to go to the hospital (not virus-related).  Hopefully, they will return in Cairns in a few days.  If you had to be hospitalized on a cruise, this is one city that would be among the best.


The sail away was at the Seaview Pool at 5:30pm.  We arrived early enough to get a spot at the aft railing.  Raw oysters were served in the shell and some cheese concoction.  The Happy Hour special was extended to cover the Australian wines that were offered here. 


Once the fuel bunkering was complete, the lines were dropped and we were on our way sailing out of the harbor and past the Seabourn Encore that had taken our spot this morning.  Going under the bridge, we could see many groups of climbers that waved and cheered as we went under.  This has to be one of the most scenic ports to leave.   And it was made even better, with natives Greg and Heo joining us to point out the highlights.  The sun was close to setting as we sailed out through the Heads.


Dinner entrees for us were barramundi and macadamia nut crusted chicken.  A surprise came from our waiter with servings of Hokey Pokey ice cream.  How sweet is that?  The entertainer tonight was a singer, GuyTaylor, singing Sinatra to Michael Buble…the Kings of Swing.


We now have two days at sea on our way to Townsville.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 123   Day at Sea   March 9, 2020   Monday   Partly cloudy, rain & 69 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


Last evening, we put the clocks back one hour, which was so nice, because everyone we knew sure needed that extra hour of sleep.  Having such invigorating days in Sydney sure was fun, but in hind sight, three days here might have been better.  At least we have a few days at sea to decompress.


It sure would have been nice if the weather was better as we sail in a northerly direction to our next port of Townsville.  The day began great with a nice breakfast and lots of coffee.  We had a thoughtful gift from Dave and Linda, who sit across from us in “Ganville”.  They had made magnets with the 2020 world cruise printed on them, and dedicated to Captain Mercer.  It will have a special place on our refrigerator in our room, then have a space on the big refrigerator at home.  Speaking of home, we are all speculating if we will make it home as planned on May 12th.  So much alarming news on the virus, whether it is hyped or not, has us all worrying that we might be turned away from the upcoming ports, even Ft. Lauderdale for that matter.  Not that we have the bug, at least not yet.  And from the extra precautions the crew is taking, we never will have any virus survive onboard this ship.  We found out that the entire carpeting on each deck was sprayed last night, with extra sanitizing in all of the dining areas.  Sure hope it does the trick, as well as all of the guests and crew washing their hands.


For the better part of the day, we stayed inside working on the computer.  As the day wore on, the weather seemed to be changing.  Captain Mercer informed us during his PM talk that we were a mere 20 miles off of the coast, but sailing in shallow waters.  Earlier during our walk, we noticed that the ship was rolling and the winds had picked up. It was confirmed that bad conditions would be coming later in the day with wind gusts up to 55 mph.  The sea swells may reach 13 feet, and rain should be falling.  Guess it will not be a pool day.  And the prediction was that these conditions will last throughout the evening.  Time to pop a seasick pill for one of us.


The usual activities took place all day, but we did notice that some of the staff has gone home and new ones have appeared.  For starters, there is a new Piano Bar entertainer by the name of Anna McBryan.  We seem to remember Barb saying that some of the dance hosts were also leaving.  Of course, there are new speakers that lectured on Albert Einstein and coral reefs of the Pacific. 


We sort of skipped lunch today, because we had reservations in the specialty Tamarind this evening.  We have booked three out of the four offered, since the selections in that venue are so to our liking.   A few slices of cheese and crackers filled the void until 8pm.  By the time we took a break for a walk, the decks had been roped off.  Not that it was too wet or windy yet, but that would come soon enough.   We snuck out the end doors on deck three and had a pleasant walk anyway.  We had company of two fellows doing the same thing.  It was beginning to rain, but if we hugged the wall, we did not get wet.   Shiv was outside with his crew, folding up the lounges and tying them to the railing.  He admitted that he did not like angry seas like this.  Makes his job even more complicated.  We talked about some of the upcoming ports, and he told us that more ships had been turned away from French Polynesia, such as Papeete, Bora Bora and Moorea.  Guess that rules out the possibility we could head back that way.  We think we are good until the last port in Australia, Freemantle.  From there, who knows?  


We had a wonderful meal in the Pinnacle Grill, enjoying the wasabi-crusted steak.  It was cooked perfectly and so tender, you almost did not need a knife to cut it.  Starters were a beef papaya salad and one order of crispy spring rolls.  That comes with a stack of tiny glass noodles and shredded carrots…so tasty with the rice vinegar dip.  We added sides of stir fry veggies and a bowl of Hainan rice.  We shared a dessert order of the donuts with three sweet sauces.  Just right


Just in time for the second show, we went to listen to the harpist, who turned out to be a fantastic singer as well.  Her name was Alana Conway, an Aussie, who said she was here back in 2015.  We must have missed her show, because we sure would have remembered her.  Her performance was a class act.


Now the ship was really rolling, and it took extra care while walking from point to point.  The best place would be our room, where the motion is by far minimal compared to the upper decks.


Hopefully this will get better tomorrow.


Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 124   Day at Sea   March 10, 2020   Tuesday   Partly cloudy & 69 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


Another day at sea, and another day closer to Townsville.  We think.  During his PM talk, Captain Jonathan planted the seed that due to the high winds and a narrow channel to approach Townsville, it may be a challenge getting the ship into their dock.  During the night and into today, the rough seas and winds stayed with us.  Although later in the afternoon, conditions improved.  We will think positive that it will be a go. 


The sun had actually come out, so we took advantage of that, and headed for the pool.  As comfortable as it was outside, there were only a handful of us out there on the lounges.  The humidity was high, mostly because we had a following wind, and occasionally there was a very light rain.  Barb even came back with us for a spell to get some fresh air and a little sun. 


We really believe that getting as much fresh sea air is essential to staying healthy while on a ship.  Even when things are normal, without the threat of communicable diseases, we think it is healthier to be outside.  And with that thought in mind, we all received a message regarding visitors coming onboard from here on out.  Starting tomorrow, they will no longer be allowing new visitors to come on the ship, out of an abundance of caution for our health and safety.  Prior requests will be honored, but only if the new visitors will have temperature checks and other protocols.  Prior submitted visitors will need to bring passports and be checked for past travel.  Truthfully, we are surprised anyone not on this cruise is still being allowed to board.  To say these are ever changing times is an understatement.


Several activities kept the folks busy.  Guest speakers lectured on science and the war in the Pacific.  And we noticed that we have the Reef pilot with us now, and he gave a talk about steering clear of the reef.  The guest chef, Scott Webster did a cooking show in the morning, then had a sip and savor session at 4:30pm for $7.  This was really popular last year, but it was held in the Crystal  Terrace (deck 5 atruim).  Obviously, they needed a bigger area, so the Explorers Lounge was perfect.


We were not very hungry at lunchtime, so we had room snacks, then went to the Ocean Bar to listen to the music.  Even with rough seas, there was a dance floor full of waltz, fox trot, and 2 step experts enjoying the dancing.  The band just played the music slower, so there were no injuries.


There were five of us for dinner, since the fellows went to the Pinnacle Grill with other friends who will be going home in Freemantle.  Tonight the theme was Aboriginal Night Fire Dinner with mesmerizing sounds of the digeridoo.  We waited for the music to start, but it never did.  Maybe that was a good thing.  The room had been decorated with deep pink lights and table decorations.  The tables had black tablecloths, and the black-covered chairs were tied with pink chiffon bows.  Even the waiters wore all black with sparkling vests.  Thinking we could not hear the music where we were sitting, our waiters admitted it was never played even for the early dinner. Some of the menu choices reflected the Aboriginal foods, but we ordered the cod, which was really good.  Our only request is that when we order fish, it has to have no bones and no smell.  So far, it has worked.


Entertainers tonight were a duo called Soul Mystique, described as world renowned magical transformation artists.  Certainly the guys will go, since they rarely miss a show, and let us know what that was all about.  Last night, they missed one of the best performances we have seen.  So they will catch the singer if she appears one more time.


And for a change, we added a very thoughtful saying used by good friend Richard F.  Hopefully he will not mind if we share his amusing thoughts.


Bill & Mary Ann



I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not
sure you realize that that what you heard is not what I meant.




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Report # 125   Townsville, Australia   March 11, 2020   Tuesday   Chance of thunderstorm & 85 degrees   Part # 1 of 5


Townsville is located in North Queensland, and happens to be the largest city in this region.  Even bigger than Cairns, Townsville is close to the Wet Tropics Rainforest, reportedly the oldest surviving rain forest in the world.  No  wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  And no wonder, we have so much rain here today. 


The first time we visited Townsville, it was a replacement for a cancelled stop in Mooloolaba.  The spelling is  incorrect, but it took a long time to learn the pronunciation.  Then it was cancelled.  We discovered this area very much to our liking with a small town feel about it.  And this region is a vacation spot for the Aussies as well as world travelers.  There are more than 300 days of sunshine a year, with the exception of now, when the seasons are changing from summer to autumn.  And considering the terrible fire season the country just endured, this rainfall is most welcomed by the locals.  Perhaps not quite as much as they got a few days ago, when the streets had a foot of water flowing down them. 


The downtown area and the beachfront are full of cafes, bars, and restaurants.  Shopping is everywhere, especially a very nice Woolworths.  You can also access the Great Barrier Reef from here, as well as Magnetic Island, a 6 mile boat ride from town with wild koalas, beaches, hiking trails, WWII history, and 360 degree views.  All that, and luxury resorts to backpacker hostels and restaurants.


So, as we hinted, the weather was not the best today, but eventually the rain lightened up, and we had only occasional showers.  Someone recently mentioned that when it rains here, then the sun comes out, it is hotter than ever.  And humidity?  Big time sticky.  Lucky for all of us, there was a nice breeze. 


We were docked safely, after navigating the narrow channel into the harbor early this morning.  The winds were not as strong as predicted, and they did a good job getting us here.  By the time the ship was cleared at 8:30am,  we were still eating a light dining room breakfast.  The first announcement we heard requested anyone with a sore throat, fever, or other indications of sickness to go to the medical center and report it.  The next thing we heard was not to take any food off of the ship…this usually has to be repeated at least twice.  


We waited until after 10am to leave, and when we went to go off deck one midship, we found they were moving the exit to deck A forward.  Literally moving all of the equipment down the hallway to the forward elevators.  The tide must have changed enough that the gangway had gotten extremely steep.  We had a long walk to reach the terminal, which was full of helpful docents directing the folks to the waiting shuttle.  They had excellent maps and booklets all about the area., which we thought was pretty nice to have such a special welcome.  Armed with all of the info, we walked outside and boarded the shuttle for a 15 minute ride to the Central Business District.  There were even more local guides at the bus drop to direct us where we wished to walk.


We did remember the path we like to take, and that was towards the museum and aquarium.  On our first visits here, we toured both, so today we did not take the time to do it again.  We followed the streets towards the Strand, the beachfront drive facing Cleveland Bay.  On the way, we passed by the Breakwater Marina, full of all types of pleasure vessels. Anzac Park, the War Memorial, and Garden of Remembrance are located across from the marina.  It is quite an impressive spot to honor those who died in many wars.  


Continuing on, we came across the public Tobruk Pool, which has been closed down for a complete renovation.  The Strand Waterpark was next, and a most wonderful place for the younger set.  Despite the fact that it had been raining, some little kids were still in the shallow ponds with all sorts of water features.  The best one has to be the gigantic pail that slowly fills with water, then dumps on a roof, splashing wide over the wading pool.  So much fun watching the little kids anticipating the pail to dump, getting them really wet.  Nice to be so young.


We began to see some of the local birds, some of which we are having trouble identifying.  They hung out in the palm trees, going after the blossoms or bugs on those trees.  Then we heard the red-tailed black cockatoos in the mangrove trees in the strip of park along the walkway.  These large birds are strictly seed-eaters, and sure were making a mess with the nuts and seeds they were chewing overhead.  Of course, we got many photos.


By the time we reached the seaside restaurant where we would have lunch later, we turned and went up Gregory Street.  Our destination was Queens Gardens, which was so green, and also so wet, but a nice place to stroll the paths around the mature trees and flowering shrubs.  We could hear the kookaburras “laughing” as they flew, but could not locate any of them.  At one end of the park, there was a section of bird cages, which had been under construction last year.  They still are being worked on, but there was a new enclosure with some native parrots.  There were some rainbow lorikeets, sulfur-crested cockatoos, galahs, a white and pink bird that are numerous in Australia.  One of them was nervously making a lot of noise, so we talked to it, calling it pretty bird and hello.  We swear on a bible that the bird said hello back to us several times, convincing us that this collection here were all hand-raised pets.  Even a couple of the rainbow lorikeets displayed playful behavior with us, posing for several photos.  We knew better than to put our fingers through the small gauge netting, as these parrots can sever a finger in a heartbeat.


There were more of these colorful lorikeets in some street trees, but the wild ones.  They were eating flowers or seeds, but because the leaves were about the same shade of green as the birds, they were impossible to see.  This is nature at its best.  It was almost comical, because the only time the lorikeets could be spotted, was when they showed their red, yellow, and blue undersides. 


Time to head back and continue our hike on the Strand.  Further up, we saw the enclosed area of beach, where people can swim safely within the netting.  Signs were posted everywhere warning the beach goers of stinging jellies, specifically, the box jellies.  We have heard the these stings can be most serious, not to mention extremely painful.  Hard to believe with all of the beautiful beaches, they are not swimmable between November to June, more or less.  We have even heard that you are not safe walking on the sandy beaches, because you could step on a box jelly, and also be stung if it is still alive.


One thing worth mentioning is the fact there are well maintained restrooms along this entire beachfront.  In the park area there are barbeque facilities and picnic benches and convenient playgrounds for the little kids.  Then at the far end of The Strand is Kissing Point Lookout and Jezzine Barracks and Army Museum.  We were told that local buses offered a free ride back to town and the ship’s shuttle, which is great because it is a long walk to here.


We back-tracked to the Longboard Grill and Bar for much earned Longboard draft beers and a shared Margherita pizza.  We added one order of waffle fries with catsup, which is called tomato sauce in Australia, we were advised.  This restaurant happens to be the only one opened that is near the water’s edge, but there are many more nice spots across the road on and around Gregory Street.  We also found more suitable spots back on Flinders Street around the Central Business District , near the local market shopping.


There were many more sightings of the black cockatoos on the way back, as they noisily devoured the seeds of the mangrove trees.  These birds do not need camouflage, because we doubt they have many predators, except perhaps….people.  Back in town, we located their quite nice Woolworths and bought a few essentials, one of which was a carton of Hokey Pokey,  the creamy delight.  The best thing was that this whole complex was air-conditioned.  No wonder so few locals were out and about on super-humid days like this one.


Lucky for us, the shuttle was waiting up the street, and we hopped on to find friends Barb, Susie, and Ellen already there as well.  Greg and Heo were on their way to join us, but were not fast enough, as the driver pulled away.  All we could do is wave to them.  Greg did say that another coach was coming up the rear.  So we made a beeline to our room to stash the ice cream after getting back to the terminal.  There were a lot of nice souvenir items being sold there, but there was nothing we needed.


Now before going up the gangway, everyone is required to use the hand sanitizer.  This is good, because we need to keep our ship clean from any virus.  In addition, we all got a message that some changes will be made to the self-service food stations in the Lido.  Also great, since there were too many commonly-used things, such as tongs, to get your food.


There was precious little time to recover before the sail away activities began at the Seaview Pool at 4:30pm.  The rain had stayed away and we were all dry as the ship backed out of the tight confines of the harbor.  We noticed that some of the staff had joined us, such as the tai chi instructor.  He came over to chat with us, and indicated he had a hard time getting here via Tokyo from New York.  Mostly due to visa problems.  Travel has been more complicated with this unfortunate virus.


We watched as the pilot and Captain kept the ship within the buoys of the channel as we sailed back into the ocean on our way towards Cairns.  There was a promising sunset within the following hour, but we had a cocktail party to attend at 6:30pm, so we would miss it.  With a quick change, we met with our travel companions and other similar groups in the Explorers Lounge for tasty canapes and drinks of our choice.  Even without requesting them, the drinks kept coming to our stand-up table of four.   Howard and Gyl had joined us, with our tablemates Barb, Susie, and Woody at the next table.  Conversations taking place these days all revolve around the changes in the itinerary, and tonight was no exception.  So many folks like us have independent plans for Africa, and would appreciate knowing in advance if we will be going there or not.  Henk, the hotel director, did join us, but could not offer any new info on the subject.  So far all we know for sure is that the ports in Australia are still on, but after the 25th of March, who knows?  That’s when we are due to head towards the continent of Africa.  Sure hate to miss it, but none of us has any control over that.


We were all at dinner tonight, sharing stories of the day.  And we were all in agreement that Townsville had been fun and most welcoming.  Except for one of us, Woody, who had chosen to stay onboard.  Too much walking in the heat and rain for him, he was happy as a clam staying home.  Entrees for us were the BBQ ribs, but was not the best choice.  It was something different from the usual dinners.


Showtime was a Brett Cave pianist with an all new show.  We really would not know, since we missed him the first time around.  We are waiting for the Aussie harpist to come back.


And we had gifts waiting for us in the room.  They were two world umbrellas, and most useful with this current wet weather.  Actually, they are rather nice, because the world map is printed under the umbrella with the solid color on the top.




Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 126   Cairns, Australia   March 12, 2020   Thursday   Chance of thunderstorms & 84 degrees   Part # 1 of 5   80 Pictures


HAL warning:  You may go “troppo” in Cairns where lush rain forests run all the way down to the sea, and jewel-toned fish and giant coral-encrusted clams populate the Great Barrier Reef.  OK, we assume troppo is Aussie slang for tropical, because without doubt, we have entered this humid zone of North Queensland.  


We docked at Trinity Wharf, named after Captain Cook, who landed here on Trinity Sunday, a Christian holiday, in 1770.  A gold rush followed years later, building up this part of the country. 


There are major sites to visit from here.  The most popular land excursion is to the tropical rain forest on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a fun trip we have done at least twice.  Next there are boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef on a high speed catamarans for an 8 hour day.  We have done this twice as well.  These days, the ship’s tour runs $300 per person.  We discovered later today that due to a broken down boat, this tour was cancelled.  Considering the stormy, wet weather, this was a lucky thing for those who booked it.  The snorkeling would have been terrible, and the ride may have been a really bad experience. Seasick comes to mind….


Two other islands, Fitzroy ($126) and Green ($210), were also an option for those who did not want to go on a 2 hour ride each way to the outer reef.  These tours ran up to 7 ½ hours and came with a box lunch.  Years ago, we took the Green Island option , but were greatly disappointed with every aspect of it.  And once again, we did hear some negative stories that matched our experience 11 years ago. 


As for us, we stayed in town, leaving the ship around 10am.  Armed with umbrellas and local maps, we went out into the driving rain for the long walk to the terminal.  We noticed that we were docked far from Trinity Wharf Terminal, and soon discovered it was being re-done.  Only one end of it was open to pass through.  Once outside, we figured come hell or high water, we were going to take our usual path, even if we got half soaked.  It was still warm, and we would have no chance of getting chilled.  It was windy with gusts that almost took our umbrellas away. 


We headed to the Cairns Central Shopping Center, detouring to Rusty’s Market.  This usually bustling arts, crafts, and souvenir market only had produce for sale today.  The only day of the week it is full of vendors is Friday.  So we carried on to the mall, which is where we discovered most of locals go when it is raining.  It is a very modern mall with the boutique-like shops, but there are also big chains like Target, Kmart, and Coles.  Not needing anything, we strolled around all levels, cooling off in the air-conditioning, before leaving again. 


Staying mostly under the overhangs of the of the local shops and restaurants, we headed towards the library.  This is where the huge banyan trees are located, and are home to the fruit bats.  They were so full of hanging bats, it was unbelievable.  Taking photos, we realized they were hanging directly over our heads, so it was wise to keep our umbrellas up while walking under them.  Signs were posted warning all not to touch any bat, or report any unexpected bites.  Rabies come to mind, but also the bacteria and viruses they can transmit to people.  Don’t have to tell us twice.  A surprise sighting of these creatures of the night would come into play later in the day.


By now, we were mostly wet, but trudged on to the Esplanade, a 1.5 mile shoreline trail, which was pretty much empty of walkers.  We entered close to the Cairns Lagoon, a shallow saltwater pool with fountains, and includes a sandy beach entrance at one end.  Even in the rain, there were some people swimming there.  Park grounds surround this lagoon with many BBQ stations and picnic benches for anyone to use.  Restrooms were also available and were extremely clean and well-supplied.


Walking the wide wooden boardwalk, we noticed that the tide was up.  Many of the shore birds were gone, but we did see a trio of Australian pelicans.  Not the largest of the species, these birds were about 5 ½ feet long (beak to tail) and weighed up to 21 pounds.  Perched on some rocks, they were waiting for the tide to go out to fish in the shallows.  Further up the road, we did find flocks of waders, more pelicans, and gulls.


Other public places along the way included Muddie’s Playground, tennis courts, a skate park, beach volleyball courts, and a funship playground.  Further up, the boardwalk ended, and we continued on the concrete walkway.  Bikes, skaters, and skateboard riders were allowed here too.  Getting up to the hospital area, we remembered watching a helicopter land on the grass.  Today there were none, but the hospital would come into play later in the day.  


The airport was close to this end, and we watched many planes taking off.  We had hoped our friends Bill & Leta had flown here today after their disembarking in Sydney.  Unfortunately, they are still there, with more testing taking place.  Hope they make it back to the ship soon and in improved health.


We had reached the mangroves at this point, so we turned around to head back.  Along this promenade, there are signs describing the behavior of the waders, shore birds, gulls, and pigeons we were seeing.  It’s wonderful for bird-watchers like us, so we can easily identify most of the species. 


Making our way back to the Lagoon, we saw even more locals swimming – rain or not.  It was time for lunch for us, so we made our way to Marlin Marina, and found the Salt House, an Italian restaurant recommended by friends Ginger and Bill while we were here last year.  Thanks to them, we discovered a very nice waterside restaurant , bar, and pizzeria. Much larger than we though, it over-looked the marina, and by 2pm, it was not crowded.  The waiter was most friendly, and we ordered two local draft beers and a carnivore pizza (meat-lovers).  He said that the pizza chef liked to add a lot of hot jalapeno peppers, but he promised to put on only a few.  Need we add how nice it was to relax in the open-air dining room, protected from the driving rain?  Heaven.  So was the pizza…..delicious.  We added one slice of cheesecake to share, which came with a sprinkling of marigold blossoms, considered edible here.  Now that was different. 


Heading back reluctantly, we passed the row of restaurants along the marina.  The Cairns Fleet Terminal is located here, and we saw that all of the catamarans were in their slips.  Wonder if the HAL reef tours went out today?  No, they did not.


We got back to the Cruise Line Terminal by 3:30pm, and headed straight to our room to dry off.  The 5:30pm sail away was actually held in the Crow’s Nest, but we went to the Seaview Pool and watched the rope guys get ready to drop the lines.  Well, this did not happen, and shortly, the Captain came on the speakers saying we had a medical emergency, and a passenger had to be taken to the hospital.  As a result, we were delayed until almost sunset. 


That’s when we began to see flocks of small birds, possibly swifts or swallows, flying in large flocks from the nearby mangroves to the city areas.  Shortly after that, we began to see something larger coming from the downtown area.  Then suddenly, hundreds, if not thousands of fruit bats began flying in thick flocks to the mangroves.  They literally erupted like a volcano from where we had seen them earlier in the day.  It was a surreal scene that could have been taken from the Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, The Birds. There must a  huge source of food for these creatures for them to go in that direction.  By now, many folks began joining us at the aft railing, including Christel and Henk, who could not believe what they were seeing.  Upon their request, we promised to send them the best of our pictures tomorrow. 


We all stayed back there in the dark watching the tugs guiding us out of the harbor, and into the well-marked channel.  The pilot boat followed as we all got to watch the lights of the city fade the further out we got.  It was a pretty site, now that the rains had let up.


At dinner, we all shared the stories of the day, and ended up staying until 10pm.  Really tired, we are all looking forward to some days at sea now as we head towards Darwin.


Bill & Mary Ann  

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Report # 127   Day at Sea  -  The Great Barrier Reef   March 13, 2020   Friday   Partly sunny & 78 degrees


We really did not realize that the weather had improved that much today, since we spent the better part of the day in the room working on backed-up computer work.  In fact, today was labeled as the Ribbon Reef Region in the Great Barrier Reef, however, we never had any narration as we have had on past trips through here.  Looking out on both sides of the ship, we did see that we were passing numerous islands during most of the day, but had no idea of our actual surroundings.


During his PM talk, the Captain related a message from the corporate offices in Seattle regarding Princess Cruise Lines suspending their operations worldwide for 60 days.  He added that Holland Cruise Lines was not planning on doing the same.  And due to new travel restrictions, we would experience enhanced sanitation procedures ship wide. That’s great.  But our biggest question of where are we really going after Freemantle, Australia, never was addressed.  We would find out the answer to that question in 24 hours.


The guests speakers continued their lectures, as well as the shore excursion staff preparing us for the upcoming ports in Australia.  We did receive the latest tour book, but it ended with Freemantle (Perth) on March 25th.  What’s up with that?


We have learned that some of the planned entertainers failed to join the ship, and that is why there have been a few movies shown at show time instead of live entertainment. Never thought about the circuit that these entertainers take, going from ship to ship in all of the different ports.  Now that so many ships have been removed, the entertainers are not there to continue their shows.  In addition to that, we also heard that crew members slated to go home soon, will not be going home, because new crew are not allowed to fly here to join the ship.  This just gets more complicated every day.


All of our tablemates are keeping their spirits up, and keeping positive about this cruise.  Either that, or they had been fueling up in the Crow’s Nest prior to dinner.  It does help ease the pain somewhat.  Entrees for us were a spaghetti with eggplant dish, confirming that I really do not care for eggplant.  The second dinner was mahi mahi with rice, which one of us does not really like.  If you take the time to read the sides with your meal, you can change anything you like.  Our waiters are very good about doing that.  Dessert was a peach crisp with vanilla ice cream.  Can’t go wrong with that.  The two of us and Barb stayed after,  and chatted until 10pm, just like the old days.


There was an entertainer this evening by the name of Stephen Clark, a flutist.  We got out of the dining room too late to listen to him.  Maybe next time.


Bill & Mary Ann




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Oh Bill/Mary Ann,


I enjoyed meeting both of you on our 2018 Eurodam Hawaii sailing and always enjoy your extremely thorough blogs.


So sorry about the GWV cancellation and praying for quick safe return to your home.

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Report # 128   Day at Sea  -  The Great Barrier Reef & Far North Region   March 14, 2020   Saturday   Partly sunny & 78 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


What a difference a day makes.  And that is a really loaded statement.  As most everyone already is aware, it was announced at high noon by Captain Mercer that this world cruise will be ending in Freemantle (Perth), Australia on March 24th.  Well, so much for all of the anxious speculation that has circulating among the guests.  Can’t say we were surprised, as the situation with the coronavirus has been escalating at a rapid speed this last week.  Once Princess Cruise Lines suspended their ships sailings, we expected it was a matter of time that Holland America Line would follow suit.  The unfortunate aspect of this sudden announcement relayed to us from the corporate offices in Seattle was not well thought out, in our opinion, because the hundreds of pertinent questions we all have were not readily addressed.  Apparently the news leaked well ahead of the ship’s personnel to provide a plan for all of us concerned guests.  Now we sit waiting, many biting their nails, trying to figure out the details.  The most immediate question involves air travel, and where do we start to make plans on flying back to the United States.  Those who booked air with HAL will be re-directed.  The majority of us that did independent air will have to figure it out ourselves.  At this very moment, we will have nine days left to get this right, unless the majority of the passengers , who happen to be from North America (USA and Canada), will be successful in pleading with the company to get us back on this ship to the west coast of the USA.  We heard through the grapevine that a petition has been drafted to do just that.  Or, perhaps we are dreaming that any of us have control of this unprecedented situation.  Once the company’s plan is revealed, we shall inform all of you.


Our breakfast duo waiters, Gan and Danu, mentioned that they were advised that their contracts will extend to mid-June, instead of ending May 12th.  This would keep them on during the planned dry docking in the Caribbean.  But as the day advanced, and we got the message of the end of this cruise, it was suggested that perhaps this ship will not go for the 30 million dollar retrofit.  It seems nothing is set in stone at this point.


Since it was so nice out back, we decided to relax at the Seaview Pool, enjoying the sun while it was out.  Walking the promenade deck earlier, we found it was very humid, but back here, we had a most wonderful breeze.  Barb even joined us to discuss the disturbing message from the Captain.  We are all concerned on how we will get home in a timely manner. 


We did get our final delivery of sodas for our President’s Club amenity.  The flowers we ordered are not up to snuff, so the delivery will be delayed until after Darwin.  Probably should cancel it and get vitamin water instead.


Later in the afternoon, one of us took the time to email family and friends of the recent changes in our itinerary, while the other took a walk, running into friends that had major concerns.  While on his way back, he happened to run into the hotel director, Henk, who invited him into his office to discuss the situation.  He did admit that it was unfortunate that we have no info yet, but he did add not to begin packing as of yet.  He said wait a day.  A tiny bit of encouragement is better than nothing we guess.  Later in the afternoon, we all got a written message from Henk to hang in there, and give the corporate employees a chance to focus on supporting the guests impacted by  these changes.  Obviously, the guests are up in arms and need answers as soon as possible.  His message ended by saying they share our concerns and will continue to do their utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of all on board.  


The drama continued at dinner, of course.  This evening’s theme was under the sea, a gala event.  Too bad the air-conditioning was not working well, as the fellows all endured the humidity wearing the tux or suit jackets.  We did  have a host, Kristen, the marketing manager on board.  We have known her for three years now, and she is very easy to engage.  Young too.  The only thing she could add concerning our wish to continue sailing towards the west coast of America, was that we were not provisioned to do so at this point.  So this guest petition may not amount to a hill of beans.  


Anyway, we both ordered the shrimp cocktail, while escargots and caviar were the alternates.  Entrees for us were halibut fish and chips,  excellent choices according to Greg and Heo, who had the duck, which earned a “just OK”.  Desserts were a choice of soufflé, key lime pie, or carrot cake.  We chose the last two, and shared with each other.  It was a toss-up as to which was better.  Kristen added the wine (or Coke), and everyone was happy with that.  


“On Tour” was the theme for the Amsterdam’s singers and dancers this evening.  They put such energy into  these shows, it really delights the guests.  And we really need a lot of that right now……delightment.


Gifts awaited us in our rooms.  They were two Grand World Voyage plates commemorating “The Cruise That Almost Was”. How appropriate.  At least someone has a sense of humor, and we can guess who it is…..our hotel director?


And the clocks went back ½ hour tonight, which will happen one more time after leaving Darwin in two days.  Wonder what other surprises are awaiting us tomorrow?


Bill & Mary Ann



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Thanks for the update. Are HAL really doing nothing regarding those who booked air travel independently? I would hope there is some financial aid as this was not planned for by any of the guests on board. 

also hope everyone is taken care of with partial refunds and cruise credits. 

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13 minutes ago, fyree39 said:

A petition. Just what the staff needs. Hope you all make it home in one piece sans any little viral hitchhikers.

I imagine having this cruise cancelled is a little frustrating and suddenly being told you have to fly home from Aus rather than Fl is a huge difference and probably quite unwelcome to some passengers. Hence the petition, which I’ve read has been sent off to Seattle. 

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