Weather or not . .

Willis Island

450 klm (or 280 miles) east of Cairns lies Willis Island which we visited at a distance. We were not allowed ashore.
The island is an Australian weather out post, which is well outside the Great Barrier Reef, and is the only permanently inhabited island in the Coral Sea Territory.
It is about 500 mtrs (1600 ft) long and about 150 mtrs (450 ft) wide and is 7.7 hectares (19 acres) and around 9 mtrs (30 ft) above sea level.

Tried a closer look at the buildings.

The monitoring station began in 1921 to warn the mainland of cyclones and other weather.

Everything had to be carried on to the island and all waste was buried until high seas from a cyclone uncovered some of the waste. In 2004 a major clean-up took place to protect the environment of the island.

In the early days the station would be manned by two or three people (all males) and everything including water had to be shipped in for the term of a year. To save water the station crew would work in the nude to save water by not washing their clothes. They also tried to make alcohol out of wheat and on one occasion with the home-made brew they fell asleep on Monday they and on waking realised that it was Wednesday not Tuesday.

Today the the island has all mod-cons from a desalination plant for fresh water, and the breakdown water to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen for the weather balloons because this hydrogen is harmless to the local bird life unlike the hydrogen produced before 1994.

The island from the air – picture off the internet.

As the Majestic Princess drifted off the island a link was set up with one of the staff on the island and as he told us of life for himself and his three colleagues his voice came out of the ship’s internal communication system.

As we listened, we were told that about 9.30 am there would be launch of a weather balloon, so many of awaited with baited breath for the big event.

we were all expecting something like the above launch

When we were heard the countdown we all waited with cameras at the ready.

If you can see the balloon, please let me know where about it is in the photograph.
I did see it when I looked over the top of my camera because someone pointed it out and it looked the size of a tennis ball – and it was blue.

so I pointed and clicked . . . . I don’t think I will have this picture developed.

All jokes aside I am pleased that we ‘visited’ Willis Island.

The reason for calling at such a lonely island so far off the coast of Australia is because technically we have left Australia and the cruise now becomes an international cruise which allows for the sale of alcohol and other items to be tax free.

There were two other ports that we visited – after Yorkey’s Knob we anchored off Port Douglas.
Maureen & I had visited Port Douglas in 1992 when it was a sleepy village.

Market area open as we stepped ashore.

We had to walk through an air-conditioned shopping area to exit the pier .

  Across the road is an Irish Pub – somehow I don’t think they fit in the tropics.

When the boats come in – shops & shops.

Port Douglas or Airlie Beach?

I know places change, but the above is my memory of Port Douglas.

Our final stop was Brisbane – I checked how to get in to the City  Centre via ferry boat for a look around and perhaps lunch, and Maureen would be able to visit the shops.
The best laid plans etc – the ship docked at the new cruise terminal, (not the old cruise terminal that I used to make my plans ) which does not have any public transport link with the city nor the airport. We could see the planes coming into land and some of the airport buildings.

A taxi into Brisbane would be $60 each way and the drive would be around thirty minutes.

Princess Cruises offered a service into the city for about $26 round trip via coach, so we bought two tickets.
The code on the ticket told us the departure time of our coach and the time &  coach number of our return transport.
I asked that if we wanted to return early could we board another coach for the return – we would not be allowed to return before the dedicated time according to our ticket.

A large crowed gathered ashore waiting for various coaches – we could see six coaches in loading bays and they filled quickly with I think,  mainly excursion travelers to dedicated destinations, but I think one was a shuttle to the city.
Many of us waited and waited for more coaches to arrive to ferry us all to the city – and we waited.
After half an hour I asked one of the ship’s cruise ‘controllers’ how long we would have to wait-because if some of the early coaches had taken passengers to the city the round trip from the ship to the city and return would be well over an hour.

This person was unable to give me an accurate answer, so I asked for my money back for Maureen & I. He took our tickets and said that he would personally make sure of our refund.

All of a sudden, more and more passengers asked for refunds and I think we were the lead couple of many others who had changed their mind about visiting Brisbane.
It was now nearly lunchtime and we had spent the whole morning hanging around waiting for nonexciting transport.
A cold beer and a light lunch was calling.
I do not blame Princess Cruises but the transport company that they used – I am sure Princess Cruises would be having a word or two with the coach company.

Compared to the efficiency we experienced at Yorkey’s Knob the Brisbane organisation have a lot to learn.

Just a thought, it is 7 km (4.3 miles) from the airport to the new international cruise terminal. At the airport there is a fast Airtrain to the city every fifteen minutes.
How hard would it be to use shuttle buses from the cruise terminal to the airport for the cruise passengers to use the Airtrain?
Majestic Princess had over 3000 passengers, many from overseas, who wanted to spend money in Brisbane, but were unable to contribute to the Brisbane economy because the ground transport failed. I just wonder how much it cost Brisbane considering the large number of us who cancelled and returned to the ship.

Brisbane International Cruise Terminal

Yorkeys Knob

Yorkeys Knob

George Lawson was from Yorkshire in the UK but by 1886 he was a well-known as a beche-de-mer (sea cucumbers, but aka sea slug) fisherman.

During the off-fishing season he farmed a plot of land on a area known as the Knob where he raised pumpkins, sweet potatoes and paddy melons, which the bandicoots and pigs ate.

An Eastern Barred Bandicoot. Photo Hans and Annie Wapstra.

George Lawson’s nick name was Yorkey, and he lived on the Knob, which in the first picture is the land that sticks out into the sea.

Once again we anchored of shore and we were ferried ashore where we boarded a coach for the short ride to the Skyrail.
Maureen and I had visited Cairns in the early 1990’s before the Skyrail was built.

We had experienced the trip from Cairns to Kuranda and we had also driven up to Kuranda.

So this time it had to be the Skyrail and we did not want the bother of DIY so we used the ship’s excursion system. All went very well and the whole process was very efficient, which took away any worries.

Once ashore we were guided to coaches based on our ticket number. Very easy and we were soon on our way for the short ride to the Skyrail Terminal.

Once inside the Skyrail terminal, the Terminal staff guided us to the boarding area.

As the ‘cars’ approached the terminal staff would hold the ‘car’ steady to allow passengers to disembark. Once the disembarking passengers were clear he would call the next couple or four to board as he held the car so that it moved only very slowly.

They had two types of viewing cars – the ‘normal one’ and one with a glass bottom so the passengers could also have a clear view of what was below. This would depend on your ability to accept being so high and your faith in the strength of the glass. Maureen and I were in a ‘normal’ car with a solid floor.

Another couple climbed in with us who were not off the ship. They were an American husband & wife travelling independently from any organised tours. They were interesting to chat to and listen to their comments about Australia.

The trip to the top would take about 90 minutes and this included two stops part way – which required us to exit the car and walk a short distance to a viewing platform. It was not compulsory, just a suggestion.

Of course, had to find the ship at anchor – I marked it in pink as it was so small at 144,000 gt.

We exited our ‘car’ for the first viewing and reboarded another car for the next leg.
We knew that the next stop would give us dramatic views of a large waterfall.

The Barren Falls
The river descends from the Athterton Tableslands to the coastal plain.

Barren Falls

Click on the above link and this is what we hoped to experience – if not as wild but perhaps a little more dramatic than we did experienced.

Taken from our ‘car’ before the next stop.

the scene down river.

The Skyrail gave us an excellent view over the whole area and if we wished to return in the wet season perhaps, we would see a different picture.  At least while we were standing on the viewing platform, we were dry and warm.

Not sure if you will be able to read the warning so here it is . .

                                                    Prepare to get wet

While it is spectacular at any time of the year, the majestic Barren Falls really comes in to its own during the wet season (December to April) when huge volumes of water from rush over its craggy face to the gorge below.
Stand at the lookout when the falls are in full flood and you will very likely get wet.
Considering how high the viewing platform is it gives an idea of the power of the Barren Falls in the wet season.

We finally reached the top where the small town of Kuranad is located.

The trains were not running the day that we visited Kuranda – the local station.

We walked through the town on one side of the road and back again on the other side of the road – it was not a large town. They had a couple of pubs and various shops with tourist items for sale, cafes, and small restaurants.

Kuranda market – The above is from the internet because the market was not operating the day we visited the town.

We had an hour and a half before our coach left for the ship.

Of the two pub this one had character having been in operation since 1890.

We sat on the veranda for our drinks – the picture is of the bar area with several types of beer chalked on the back wall. I tried a couple of draft beers and when I asked which was the most popular the barmaid pulled small samples of the three beers in question. Great customer service which generated more sales of the larger glasses.
The one noticeable thing was when I asked for a glass of water later I was told to help myself as the barmaid waved her hand to several large water coolers containing iced water along with a stack of glasses. Couldn’t fault the customer service.

The coach took about 40 minutes from Kuranda back to the pier for the trip back to the ship. An interesting day out, but it is always nice to get home for a quiet sit down.

Airlie Beach

A ‘painted’ picture of the waters around Airlie Beach.

Ship’s tender boat

A shuttle service from / to the ship was constant and local fast tourist boats were used in support of the ship’s tender boats.

                                                                 MV 2001
One of the fast tourist boats were much larger than the tender boats, plus they were airconditioned.

First impression of Airlie Beach-boats and money.

The town of Airlie was created in 1935 and named after the town of Airlie in Scotland. In 1987 it merged with the larger town of Whitsunday and the area became known as Airlie Beach.
In 2016 the population was 1208 and the majority worked in the tourist industry, so they had a hard time due to the Covid lockdowns.

Units above restaurants and ‘sun’ shops as we walked towards the market area which opened whenever a cruise ship arrives, in addition to the normal market day.

It was a small, pleasant market and Maureen managed to secure a bargain.

Airlie’s Beach.
We had been advised not to swim in the sea from the local beaches.
From October to May it is the Stinger Season and I do not mean this type of
but more this type of Box jellyfish stinger – which can kill a swimmer.

A notice on the beach.

In 2001 the Premier of Queensland opened the Airlie Beach Lagoon, which had been built for people to enjoy the beach during Stinger time and to be able to swim in safe waters.
The water in the Lagoon is fresh and self-chlorinated, and the depth goes from paddling pools to two metres deep.
The whole complex is 4,300 sq mtrs (46,285 sq ft) and it free to be used by anyone. The facilities include showers, toilets & BBQs and it is smoke free and alcohol free.
The above picture is from an on-line advert, I did not take a helicopter ride.
                                               A general view of the Logoon.

There is sand for the children

I took this because it was a beautiful tree giving shade to a local couple having a picnic.

This holiday town’s main street with shop after shop.

For those who have moved to Airlie Beach often pick an area that overlooks the ocean and the beach even if they can’t swim in the sea.

As Maureen & I walked through the arrival pier area we were met by a Volunteer Cruise Ambassador (I only found out the title after I returned home).
Our Ambassador had retired from work in NSW and moved to Airlie Beach four years ago and joined the Cruise Ambassadors. He gave us a handy map of the area and explained the quickest way to the market – which pleased Maureen.

The people in the blue coloured shirts are the Ambassadors – the gentleman who spoke to us loved his job, even though I don’t think he was paid.

Below is the map which was on semi-stiff card and it was large enough to use as a fan.


The black spot just above the end of the point of land is our cruise ship.

Back to the ship for lunch and a quiet nap in a sun chair – it is exhausting enjoying yourself.

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier reef.

Captain Cook visited the area in 1770 and it was he who named the passage through the islands as the Whitsunday’s Passage.
He thought it was Whitsunday when in fact in fact it was Whitmonday.
He also named the group of islands Cumberland Islands after the Duke of Cumberland who was travelling with Captain Cook in HMS Endeavour.

The islands are now known as the Whitsundays.
At that time the chronometer was being developed to aid sailors to work out their longitude and Captain Cook was in his third year of his voyage.
He had been ordered to observe the transit of Venus in 1769 from Tahiti. To reach Tahiti he had sailed from England via Cape Horn. 

He was also to seek out information about Terra Australis (the great south land) after he had visited New Zealand. 
In April of 1770 Captain Cook and his crew became the first known Europeans to visit the East coast of Australia. 
To reach New Zealand and Australia he had to cross what we now call the ‘date line’ when sailing from Tahiti.

HMS Endeavour‘s route 
Captain Cook thought the day he saw the Whitsundays was a Sunday when in fact it was a Monday, but the Sunday name stuck. 

HMS Endeavour  by Samuel Atkins in 1794.



964 days between drinks

At last Australia opened the border to cruise ships and the first Princess vessel to visit Sydney was the Majestic Princess. She had sailed from Vancouver via Los Angeles, Tahiti and New Zealand to be based in Sydney for the southern summer.
Maureen and I had sailed in this ship in 2017 from Rome (Civitavecchia is the port for Rome) to Singapore.
In 2017 she had been ‘fitted out’ for the Chinese market because it was intended that the Majestic would be based in China.
She was based in China until Covid arrived in 2019/20 when the global cruise industry shut down.
Our memory of the Rome to Singapore cruise was not a hundred percent positive for various reasons, so we boarded the vessel on the 20th October of this year wondering what if anything had changed.

Princess marketed the cruise well and offered various incentives to join the ships for an eleven-night cruise to Cairns and back calling at various places of interest. The price we right so we bought a mini-suit, which included free drinks, free wi-fi, and onboard currency. The above shows the mini-suit and in the bathroom, we had a shower over a bath. We never felt cramped.

The above is the view from our balcony the day we boarded.

The main public area of the ship – the Atrium.

The ambiance of the whole ship had changed since our first trip in 2017 and in our opinion for the better. Additional bars had been added in various parts of the ship, so the bar areas were not as crowded as 2017 and it was easy to find a seat.

The Wake Bar overlooking the stern – not at all crowded.

                                       Part of the outside swimming area –

Other end of the pool area – note the large screen for those who were doing various Eastern exercises in the morning. The screen was used all day to show films or sporting matches and there were plenty of stewards to help with the drinks.

Princess has a new ‘system’ – the Medallion – which is free to all passengers. It is circular and has a code embedded in the unit.
The ship has its own ‘internet’ and if you use the Medallion with your mobile phone linked to the ship’s system you can order a drink via your phone,  (I think you click on a picture) the steward will know who you are and where you are even if you move from the location of the order.
We did not use our phones on board.
I kept the Medallion unit in my pocket and as I approached a bar I would be greeted by name and asked for my order.

The above picture show what the barman would see as you approached the bar for a drink – I think the left computer, and the images on the left of that computer – the second one down is your truly.
When you sign into the system (before boarding) you add a recent photograph of just your face and this comes up on the bar person’s computer screen. It worked well and helped breakdown any barriers with the staff.
A big plus for us was that as we approached the door of our cabin it unlocked for us to enter – and when we left in the morning for breakfast the cabin steward would be aware that the cabin was empty and available for cleaning.
The cabin would be cleaned while we were at breakfast regardless of the time that we left. We only saw the cabin steward once one morning as he was finishing placing clean towels in the bathroom, because we had returned early.
The system was efficient.
The unit does not have any personal information on it, nor does it indicate your cabin number, so if you lose it, it will not be a problem, the desk staff just replace the unit.
At the end of the voyage the unit stays with you as it is used to disembark from the ship and it is yours to keep if you wish. The unit can be used as a fridge magnet. The units are free to all passengers.
I kept my unit in my right pocket because I have a pacemaker and had read that the unit (being magnetic) should not be too close to the pace maker. It was not a problem carrying the unit in my pocket.The ship also had an indoor pool with controlled air temperatures – never too hot never too cold.

                                                  Vines Bar – our favourite
We would be at this bar for a drink before dinner. The staff were from the Philippine and their skill at mixing various drinks was very entertaining and they never had any cocktail left over when they had finished – the measures were always just right.

After we had seen a show, we would drop into the Crown Grill Bar

The dining room that we used most nights-  as we entered the Maitre d‘ always asked if we were willing to share a table – sometimes we asked for a table for two because we wished to see a show and we knew it would be popular, so we wanted a fast meal.
Most nights we agreed to share up to six, from experience anymore and one could not hear everyone.
Six was just right and we met some very funny and interesting people. Our dining companions were from Canada, various US States and of course Australians. We met one lady from Canada she was coming up to her fifty-fifth day on the ship and was due to fly home when we returned to Sydney.
On sea days we would also go to the restaurant for breakfast and lunch.
All the staff wore face masks, but passenger had the choice. We carried a face mask just in case, but never had to put it on. A few passengers wore facemasks outside of their cabins.
There had been about 100 passengers (out of 3600) who had been refused permission to land in Tahiti because they showed a positive result on arrival. If they were positive, then by the time they reached Sydney they were clean and as far as I know we did not have a single positive case of Covid.

We were late sailing and it had grown dark and most of the passengers were in various dining rooms for their evening meal, so I do not think many took part in the Sail Away deck party.
I took the above picture from our balcony around 6.00am the day after we sailed. As you see the sea was calm. and the ship was steady.

Two days later off the Queensland coast – once again a 6.00 am picture with an unusual wake. It was beautiful weather for the rest of the cruise and pleasantly warm.

Our itinerary was to be Airlie Beach, followed by Yorkeys Knob, Port Douglas, Willis Island, Brisbane, and finally home to Sydney.
I plan to do a post for each place we visited.

%d bloggers like this: