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