March 9, 2019
We had a special event in the lounge yesterday. Our artist in residence, Graham Denison, did a 2 hour demonstration of this painting. He designed a mountain and waterfall scene and did the entire painting on a small canvas while we all watched and asked questions. We bought one of Graham’s original paintings on our last cruise and are big fans of his unique style of painting. He does everything with one palate knife! Here is his website in case you are interested in seeing his story and his work.
Here he is working on the canvas with the screen showing the picture as he is working on it, and here is the finished painting from today. Amazing artist.
We were invited to dinner in Toscana with Roberto Paterno, the food and beverage manager on the ship. He brought Laura, the spa manager, who had never been in Toscana before. Since he is from Sorrento, he knows Italian food for sure and that is the Toscana specialty. We had a really nice evening.
Our arrival into Cairns (pronounced Cans) was a bit cloudy but we heard it would clear up and be a nice day.
Our adventure here was to the Great Barrier Reef – a World Heritage site. We went to the reef on our Australia and New Zealand trip back in 2009. We have been reading so many dire articles about the reef and wanted to see it again. Our trip started with a 1 1/2 hour trip on a catamaran which came right up to the ship to pick us up. The crew was having a drill at the time so we got to see them lower the railing as they would have to if they were lowering those lifeboats.
There is an enrichment lecturer on board, Tyrone Ridgway. He has a PhD in Marine Science and almost 20 years experience working on coral reefs. In his lecture he talked about the reef which stretches for more than 1242 miles along the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia. He said you can fit 70 million football fields in the area covered by the reef! That is certainly a mind boggling number. It is so big, it can be seen from outer space.
Our Oceania group was the only group on the catamaran (Sunlover Reef Cruises) which was large enough for probably twice as many people. There were indoor air conditioned and plush couch areas as well as many seats and outdoor areas. The big focus was, of course, on safety, and many announcements regarding use of medication, medical conditions, etc., were made on our way out to the reef. They did a passenger count at least 4 times! The seas were pretty rocky and some people did get seasick but we were fine. We arrived at our destination, the Marine World activity platform, and moved from the catamaran over to the platform.
There were a lot of choices of activities. Our plan was snorkeling. Last time we were here, I opted to do the scuba diving which was with a one to one escort since I was not scuba certified. That was an option on this trip too as was sea walking with a special helmet that allows you to have air piped to you while you walk on a special submerged platform. Some of our friends opted to do that. There were showers, changing rooms and upper sundeck with sun lounges and also shaded areas. The catamaran had a full selection of snacks – even ice cream and we enjoyed a buffet lunch and afternoon tea.
There was also a glass bottom boat, a semi submersible ride as well as an underwater viewing area and an area where a marine biologist explained and showed some the important creatures in this area. So it is really a complete package of things to do.
We were encouraged to wear the wet suits that they provided since they provide sun protection and also protection from the jellyfish.
We had a wonderful time snorkeling. The reef was in far better shape than we thought it would be and we saw so many beautiful fish and lots of coral. I did use my go pro camera underwater and Norm used his as well. I have a lot of video and I will try to post one for sure. It might be from port with fast wi-fi though. I also learned how to clip a still photo from a video on go pro. Time consuming but I did do a few that way too. The water was quite choppy and you can sometimes tell that from the video. OK, get ready, here are some of the pictures. We probably have hundreds between us!
A highlight was this HUGE grouper.
And a sea turtle.
Lots of beautiful fish.
And the many varieties of coral! We were told that this summer the water didn’t get as hot so the coral is coming back.
It was a truly wonderful day and one we would certainly do again on our next trip here.
When we got back to the ship, it took a little maneuvering to get us close enough to disembark the catamaran. And lots of the passengers were watching the episode. Here are some shots of that, and also a couple that Maryanne took from her room and shared with me – of us watching the whole thing from the catamaran.
So, I am writing this on Sunday, March 10 – and we were scheduled to be in Cooktown where we had booked a trip on the Endeavor River. Last cruise we were off the ship for these two ports (Cairns and Cooktown) and when we got back on we heard that they couldn’t anchor for the port of Cooktown which is a tender port. Well, today we had our first missed port! Our friend Karen said that it was missed the last 4 times it was scheduled. So we had an unexpected sea day. The winds and water didn’t seem too bad to us but we weren’t surprised to miss it as it is an unprotected port where the captain needs to drop anchor and use tenders for a 30 minute trip to shore. So the conditions have to be safe and also predicted to be safe enough to get us BACK to the ship!
No worries, plenty to do on the ship. We even had Sunday afternoon at the movies (If Beale Street Could Talk) and our butler Sanjay keeps us quite satisfied with daily fruit and pretzels (or any other snack we might want!)
Two more days at sea and then we get to our last Australian port, Darwin.