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Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

Feb 26, 2014

sunny 35 °C

As we awoke this morning the ship had already entered Indonesian waters and was slowly approaching the coast of the popular island of Bali which is one of 1700 islands making up the country of Indonesia. By 7:00 am we had anchored a couple of km offshore along with several smallish cargo ships.

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Once again today we tendered into a small cruise terminal where we were greeted with music and song.
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Musicians greeting those arriving in the port

It was some distance into any of the local towns on the island so we had booked one of the ship-organized tours to give us a taste of life in Bali. As we lined up to get off the ship the crew let us know that there were 1300 of us taking ship-organized tours this morning so getting us all off the ship onto the tenders and ashore was a true logistical challenge however it ran smoothly and we were on shore by 9:30 a.m. The cruise terminal was rather stark and was more of holding area than anything else and provided some shelter from the sun as we all laded into the nearly 40 highway coaches that were lined up outside to take us all on the many shore tours that the ship had organized. There were about 20 people on our bus. Our local tour guide was a knowledgeable jovial fellow who had a reasonable command of English and was full of local tidbits plus all the usual official information.

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Our guide in the tour bus

The day long tour took us to a number of interesting places starting with a Batik factory in the capital city of Denpasar. Traffic was busy and the roads in the larger cities well maintained. There were lots of cars, some trucks and a good number of motor bikes. We were struck with the similarity of the buildings in many ways to Vietnam.

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Adding wax on to the traced design on the fabric

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Dying the Fabric

From the batik factory we travelled further inland to another small city to visit a lovely art gallery. We were able to watch several art projects that were in progress. In many of the larger “pictures” various aspects of the product are done by several “artists.” The initial sketch by one, some texturing by another and some colour added by several others. The product is quite an amazing picture, however, they told us that a large picture, roughly 4 feet by 6 feet can be completed by a team of “artists” in 3-4 weeks.

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Art Gallery

From the art gallery we travelled to the Kehan Temple which is 1100 years old.

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Outer entrance of temple

At the temple due to religious customs we had to have our shoulders and knees covered so the enterprising local people had lots of sarongs for a small donation – usually “one dollah”.

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Roy and Sue

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Inner temple area

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Inner temple area

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Dave, Hazel, Joan, Cal, Jan, Terry, Roy, and Sue

There must be more temples in Bali than anywhere else in the world. According to our guide they are a very religious (some might say superstitious) people – he told us that by law everyone is required to belong to a religion. He explained that this requirement has led to a large number of smaller splinter religions that are local off-shoots of the more mainstream religions. While there are a lot of Muslims in Indonesia, the predominant religion in this particular area seemed to be a form of Hinduism. They have large community temples and also have small temples in every home compound.

In the suburban and smaller urban areas most families live in what can best be described as a family compound. The compound usually consists of several smallish single story stone structures surrounded by a low wall usually of sculpted stone. Each family compound will have a simple cordoned off temple area, small living/sleeping area for each family in the group, a separate communal kitchen area and often a separate structure for grandparents and any others from the older generation who are cared for and revered. The typical family compound would consist of the parents, two to three married offspring and their children plus the grandparents. The entire stone walled complex would not be any bigger than a good sized building lot in Canada, normally about 60 feet X 120 feet. The compounds are built right next to each other so it is quite high density building. Since compounds are handed down from generation to generation they are mostly quite old and laid out in a bit of an ad hoc fashion. In the more urbanized areas dwellings are jammed in together and much denser without the separated structures for each family unit. We have found that this is fairly typical of a developing country with small single story structures with make shift corrugated roofs all jammed together wherever they can be jammed in. Often the street front is occupied by some enterprise that the family is engaged in such as selling produce or tiles or other building material or household supplies. Everyone seems to be selling something. In a number of locations the children we saw were all in school uniforms and it seemed that there were separate boys and girls schools.

Not only were there temples everywhere we looked, there were tiny offerings in every house, work place, shop, and street corner, often just sitting on the ground. These small leaf trays are made up daily and can contain an enormous range of items ranging from flowers to rice, cookies, salt and even cigarettes!

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Many of these offerings had been stepped on – something to be expected and only acceptable if it was an accident. To step on one on purpose is believed to bring very bad luck.

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Here is a woman sprinkling holy water on the offering – something that is done no less than 3 times a day – usually before every meal.
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Our next stop was at one of these family compounds. We visited one which had 2 families.

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Our Guide at site of the Home Visit

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Names of inhabitants – 2 families live here. Each family consists of 3 males and 1 female for a total of 8 inhabitants in the compound.

We continued on again up some beautiful winding roads beside very steep gorges to Lake Batur where we had a very nice buffet lunch at a very popular local resort restaurant.

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Batur Lake lunch area

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Bus parking pandemonium at the popular lunch spot

From lunch we boarded the bus after running the gauntlet of souvenir sellers and headed back towards the port. On the way down from the mountain areas we saw beautiful terraced hills which had rice planted on the terraces. The area has a lot of rain and the soil is very fertile volcanic soil so much of the land is taken up by many, many little farm plots growing everything from coffee to cabbage to tomatoes.

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Terraces

From the bus we saw all manner of fellow travelers. This family group was interesting

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With the mom in a helmet, the baby fast asleep and the dad in very traditional Balinese garb.

We saw some livestock –
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One of 6 pigs in crates stacked in the back of this little pickup.

Of course we saw the ubiquitous fast food outlets

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And

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Note the McDelivery service – 24/7

We experienced the large traffic jams for which Bali is noted on the way back to the pier. We were late and hungry – so we were delighted to find that we were able to board one of the locally operated big luxurious tenders which the ship had contracted to handle the extra heavy passenger load. Working under the assumption that you can never have too much horsepower take a look at the number of big outboards on the back of the tender - you can’t argue with 2,400 HP.

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Balinese Tender Boat

Posted by DavidandHazel 18:50 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Darwin

March 1, 2014

sunny 35 °C

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Picture of our Stateroom TV – Channel 6 which constantly shows the ship’s location and key data such as time, outside temperature, ship’s speed and direction of travel

As is our frequent practice we arrived at the Pilot Station off Darwin harbour around 7:00 am. This is so routine now we don’t even realize it is happening as the ship only slows marginally as the Harbour Pilot steps off the local Pilot boat onto a ladder or stairway that is dropped from one of our lower decks as the ship cruises along. The Pilot is the local authority who advises the ship’s personnel as they navigate into the inner harbour of most of our ports. Use of a Pilot on most of these big cruise ships is a bit of an anachronism these days with precise satellite navigation and these super maneuverable monster ships which don’t even require a tug to bring them alongside a pier. However, the Pilot has lots of local knowledge about the operations of the Port too so we use them in all ports. By 8:00 a.m. we are alongside the pier and the gangplank(s) are hoisted into place and the local customs and immigration authorities clear our ship in the next 15 minutes.

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Passengers disembarking down the two gangplanks in Darwin.

Darwin was founded in 1869 and named after Charles Darwin the famous British naturalist. It is a small (population of 80,000) pleasant city located on the Timor Sea in the middle of the north coast of Australia. It has a tropical savannah climate with an average maximum temperature similar all year round. The only seasonal changes are from wet to dry seasons. Darwin is at about the same global position as Aruba except Darwin is in the southern hemisphere and Aruba in the northern. We are here in the wet season and thunder showers were predicted but we maintained our record of perfect weather and it remained hot, sunny and humid for our full day stay. Average Feb high is 31.4, low is 25 so our day was very typical as it hit 33C in the afternoon.

Darwin has suffered two major events in its recent history that have heavily influenced the look of the city. During WW 2 Darwin was heavily bombed by the Japanese. The first surprise bombing involved more aircraft that the attack on Pearl Harbor. A number of subsequent attacks caused extensive damage to the city. Then in 1974 it was hit by cyclone Tracy, a monster storm that destroyed over 80% of the structures in the city and killed over 70 citizens. Winds were recorded at 240 km/h when the weather station and all of it’s equipment was destroyed. Because of these two events there are very few structures older than 40 years. The streets are modern and wide with tree lined boulevards. The economy appears busy as we saw a number of tower cranes working across the city’s skyline. Darwin has many kilometers of wide unpolluted beaches although the water looks much like coastal bays of Eastern Canada’s Bay of Fundy with murky looking water. This is caused by their very high tides coming in over long mud flats. Tides here are in the area of 18 feet. Swimming on the ocean beaches during October to May is strongly discouraged due to the presence of the deadly box jellyfish known locally as stingers. Saltwater crocodiles are also very common adding to the danger. Because of this the city has constructed a number of recreational areas with large water features and small beaches. Right next to our pier was a new condo project where they have cordoned off a large lagoon that is mechanically isolated from the open ocean.

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New condo development near cruise dock. Note the barrier separating the area from the harbour.

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Cordoned off beach area off inner harbour.

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Manmade lake in park with beach area.

The cruise ship terminal at Fort Hill Wharf is about 1 km to the downtown area. The ship had a shuttle bus laid on ($10) but we all decided to walk off a bit of our gained weight and walked to the center of town in order to once again catch the “Hop on Hop off” busses that we have used in almost every stop of our trip. The nearly two hour route covered a real cross section of the Darwin area taking us through everything from the dock areas to the local Yacht Club to the pearl fishing fleet docks.

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View from the Skywalk from port area connecting to central business district of Darwin

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View from skywalk that connects port area to Darwin business area

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Fleet of Pearl fishing boats.

After a hot day of exploring Darwin we got back to the ship in time to have a shower and head out for dinner in the main dining room. Again as usual just as we were digging into our appetizers the ship quietly slid away from the pier and headed back out to sea. By the time we pushed our chairs back from another wonderful dinner at 8:00 p.m. the ship was well out to sea in the Indian Ocean and heading north east towards Papua New Guinea. Late tonight we made a small course change and headed almost due east towards the northeastern tip of Australia. We reached that area and the Coral Sea after two days of steaming at close to 20 knots most of the time. We had a lot of ocean to cover over the next three “sea days” until we reach Airley Beach.

Posted by DavidandHazel 17:14 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Sea Days

Life aboard the Solstice

sunny 28 °C

This cruise has been a bit unusual in that we are covering such vast distances over our 35 days at sea. We have gone around the country of New Zealand and now have almost circumnavigated the continent of Australia. This has necessitated more of what cruise lines call “Sea Days.” As the name implies these are days when the ship will not be stopping in at any ports. We are strictly focused on putting miles under the keel in order to reach the next destination. During this 35 day voyage we will have a total of 17 sea days. Usually these occur in ones or twos but for the first time in our short cruising experience we now have three straight days at sea. A number of our non-cruising friends have asked what we can possibly find to do on those days at sea when we are cooped up with 2800 other guests and the crew of 1200.

We thought we would devote this blog entry to give you a glimpse of a typical sea day with a variety of pictures from on board the ship. Most of the pictures relate to the text but not all so you will need to read the photo captions for it all to make sense. Although this entry is a bit wordy we hope you find it interesting.

8:00 am
Most days start around 8:00 am unless we are going ashore in which case we are up an hour or so earlier in order to get off the ship and go on an adventure. From our king size bed we gaze out on the ocean and chat about what we have planned for the day. We will often go out onto the balcony still in our jammies and get a look at the day as the ship presses on through the ocean at a speed of between 15 and 20 knots depending on how far our next destination is.

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Our ship the Celebrity Solstice in the distance. Our floating city home for 35 days.

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Our stateroom.

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Hazel out on our balcony scanning the ocean for signs of life. . Best balcony we have ever had on a ship. We are located amidships close to the mid ship elevator bank.

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Night view taken from our balcony

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One of a bank of six glass elevators near our cabin that we use from time to time although we do the stairs as much as possible including the 6 flights from our deck to the food deck several times a day.

9:00 am
By now we have showered and made ourselves presentable for our next activity – eating. Eating is a major activity on a cruise ship and Celebrity Cruise Lines is renowned for the quality of its cuisine. Breakfast is no exception. You can choose to be rather formal and eat breakfast in the main dining room with table service and white linen table cloths on Deck 3 or you can choose the more informal option of eating in the main buffet area on Deck 14 known as the Oceanview Café. We almost always choose the Oceanview as we can putter around choosing exactly as we want and avoid the temptation of all of the pastries. The Oceanview has stations where you can have them make an omelet or Eggs Benedict with your choice of ingredients. There are huge trays of fruit, sliced meats, cheeses, breads, bagels and sweet rolls. There are also stations for cereals both hot and cold. Early on in a long cruise you realize you have to discipline yourself with food intake or you will be a typical cruiser and gain five pounds per week. Since we are on the ship for five weeks that could be a disaster. After picking up our selections we usually head out to the outside deck to sit overlooking the ocean as we glide along. Often we’ll run into another couple from our group of five couples and sit and chat while we eat our breakfast. While we are at breakfast the room stewards will have been busy making beds and changing towels and generally sprucing up our rooms.

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Oceanview Café on Deck 14 where we eat breakfast and most lunches being set up by staff so that there are many different food stations to reduce crowding

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Oceanview Café inside seating area. There are identical areas on each side of the ship

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Oceanview Café outside eating area where we sit for most of our breakfasts or lunches. Only one day of inclement weather so far with only 5 days to go

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The quality of the food in the Oceanview is outstanding

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The variety of the food in the Oceanview is endless – this is just the desert section with an identical one on the other side.

10:00 am
With breakfast behind us we frequently walk down to Deck 5 to the Cappuccino Bar where they have a whole selection of excellent coffees and pastries and a large very comfortably set up lounge with high backed deep lounge chairs. We’ll grab a cappuccino or even two and read the morning Canadian Newsletter which is available every morning at the front desk along with newsletters from half a dozen other countries. This year one of the first things we look at is the weather at home in Canada. We have been shocked at the weather that is hitting the eastern part of North America and we are all talking about it. Sometimes other members of our group will stroll by and join in for a coffee.

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The ship’s library, a popular after breakfast reading area.

11:00 am
Time for one of the many, many activities available on the ship. There is something for everyone. Some choose to head to the gym or take a Zumba class; others participate in one of the many game activities that the ships entertainment staff have organized; others drift off to the pool or a hot tub and others bake in the sun. Many of us in our group attend one of the many lectures or even facility tours that are available in various venues during the day. There are lectures on cooking, computers, glass blowing, ship’s engineering, navigation as well as sessions on our destinations or destinations for other ships in the Celebrity fleet. Our favourite ones are the ones delivered by the ship’s naturalist, Milos. He was a professor from University of San Francisco and now makes his home on a Celebrity Cruise ship for half the year. He offers a PowerPoint presentation every single sea day. They are so popular they have to be held in the ship’s main theatre that seats 1200. The topics are all along the natural sciences and are generally related to the areas that we are travelling in.

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One of several kitchens on the ship taken during our kitchen tour

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Deck 14 walking track. Most of us made walking this deck a regular part of our daily routine

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A number of our group take advantage of the large well equipped gym most das.

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Equipment in the gym is excellent quality and staff are available to give you pointers and set up a fitness program for you.

12:00 noon
Back to the cabin and work on any of our many projects such as this blog, doing a little laundry or catching the world news and the stock market activities on our TV. Since we are anywhere between 18 and 20 hours ahead of home our timing is not always convenient. Our TV outlets are MSNBC, CNN International, BBC International and Sky News International and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). With this selection we get very little Canadian news except for our morning print Newsletter which is big on sports and news on Rob Ford but not a whole lot of quality reporting of key events.

1:00 pm
Time to eat again, again we have the choice of the formal dining room or the buffet in the Oceanview. The lunch menu is amazing and you could gain weight just eating lunch alone. Again we pick up some lighter fare and go out onto the aft deck and find a place to sit and watch the ocean slip by 14 decks below. Once again members of our group will often drop by and join in for a leisurely bite of lunch and a glass of wine. One of the promotions for booking this trip nearly a year ago was a free beverage package which includes all soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, standard beers and wines and standard mixed drinks. We are all going to turn into lushes by the end of this trip as wine is a fairly common compliment with lunch for many of us. Lunch generally lasts 60-90 minutes. If one chooses there is also a fast food outlet located on Deck 14 where one can order a burger and fries or other similar fare. There is also a dining area that serves only lighter “healthy” fare near the adults’ only indoor pool.

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The adults’ only pool and hot tub area. Although there are only about 5 kids on this whole ship we have been on cruises where having an adults only area is a very necessary escape. This pool is also enclosed so very pleasant on some of our 35+ temperature days. Note the solar panels on the roof. This ship has solar panels everywhere on the top decks.

2:00 pm
Back to our cabin to organize the rest of the afternoon which again consists of another round of lectures, activities like a galley tour or simply just reading on your balcony or in one of the dozens of lounge areas or little nooks and crannies tucked around the ship. Today we decide to go up and watch the Hot Glass Show. On the very top of the ship next to the lawn area there is a major glass works studio set up. This is operated by the folks from the Corning Museum of Glass from Corning New York. They offer 2-3 shows a day and demonstrate how to make a variety of decorative items out of blown and rolled glass. Each show is a bit different so we have been up to see several of the shows while on this ship and her sister ship Eclipse.

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Molten glass being heated in the electric oven in preparation for making a decorative item.

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More from the Hot Glass Studio

It is hard to believe that there are 2800 people on this ship as it is not uncommon to drop into an area and there may only be one other person sitting reading in a fairly large space. There are also a lot of people on their computers and tablets both reading and doing email. There is a computer lounge which is furnished with a number of Apple computers. The lounge is almost always full and there are tech support staff there to help you with your tech problems. The ship has Wi-Fi available in all cabins and in virtually every corner of the ship, however, as I have mentioned earlier Internet at sea is a bit of a challenge as the ship jokes go - we are not hard wired to the shore! All communication is via satellite link and the ship’s communication equipment takes the lion’s share of the bandwidth. So guest internet is VERY slow and expensive. We brought a number of e-books as well as magazines on our iPad as well as several hard copy books which we are trying to make our way through. None of our group of 10 are sun worshipers so we are not out with the hundreds who appear addicted to worshiping the sun on the decks. That is a real challenge here as the heat is intense and the sun is extremely powerful at these latitudes. Yesterday we were only 10 degrees off the equator. None of our group has suffered any significant sun burn yet and everyone is slathering on the sun block regularly, #50 and #60 seem to be the lotion of choice in our group.

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The Sky Lounge located on Deck 15 at the front of the ship looking out towards the ocean. This is a great spot to find your own little corner to read or snooze in. In the middle of the room there is also a dance floor and band area. This is a popular late evening entertainment spot with a live music group every night after 10:00 pm.

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Main outdoor pool deck (with hot tubs) which is mainly populated by sun worshipers and a few older German gentlemen in their speedos.

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Outdoor pool deck at night. Pools are closed at night but there are a number of musical events held here just away from the pools.

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The Deck 15 lawn area, great for just walking around on or even take up a blanket and have a nap or most popular a game of Bocce ball or at the other side a putting area

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The basketball court – no one in our group was a keen player

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iLounge on Deck 6. This is where you can go to download your email on one of their many Apple computers or you can get one of the staff to give you tech help with your own device.

4:00 pm
More reading or other ship activities until about 4:30 when we often return to start getting cleaned up for dinner. Since sun block is a constant in our lives a shower is often our late afternoon activity. We then get dressed for dinner in the formal dining room. “Smart Casual” is the normal dress code for dinner which means no jeans or t shirts. Formal nights are still a staple of cruises and Celebrity is no exception. On formal nights you see everything from gentlemen in tuxes and dinner jackets to ladies in beautiful sequined gowns. Our group falls more to the less formal side of things with the ladies in fancy dresses or tops and the lads in sports blazers and ties.

Our group of 10 informally meets each night around 5:30 pm on the outside deck of the Oceanview Bar for a pre-dinner glass of wine or drink. We don’t often have all 10 of us but whoever is around shows up for the event. At 6:00 pm we all migrate down to Deck 3 for dinner in the formal dining room.

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Most of our group getting together at the Oceanview Bar on the outdoor section of Deck 14 for our normal pre-dinner drink or glass of wine at 5:30 pm. Missing from the photo are Larry and Lee as well as Hazel who is taking the picture.

6:00 pm
Here we are again, eating again. We have a table for 10 in the formal dining room where we all get together most evenings for dinner and share what we have each done for the past day. Dinner is a five course extravaganza each evening. There are many, many choices of meat or fish and even a vegetarian option. Gluten-free items are noted in the menu. Dinner is a fairly long social event and it is usually 8:00 pm before we push back from the table. Once again limiting your intake at this sitting is critical to keeping the pounds from accumulating.

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Main dining room of the ship where we were seated.

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Most of our group all ready for a formal night in the dining room – Lee & Larry missing, picture taken by Sue.

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Ship’s main foyer. Front desk is located to the left and the shore excursions booking office to the right. This is a rare shot as it is usually quite busy.

8:30 pm
After dinner most evenings we all make our way to the other end of the ship and the big main stage theatre. Every evening the ship has some form of main stage attraction and there are two shows each evening, an early show and a late show. Most of the shows are musical in nature and all are of high quality. The ship’s own performing troupe consists of a great 7 piece stage band plus a dance troupe of 8, four lead singers and two cirque style acrobatic performers. The entire troupe is highly professional and has four musical stage shows that they will perform during each of the two phases of our cruise. On other nights there are guest performers who are often second tier acts from Vegas, New York or London’s West End.

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Ship’s main stage 1200 seat theatre. Picture taken from the stage looking out one day when we had a back stage tour.

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Ship’s main stage taken from the audience as the ship’s naturalist is starting a presentation

10:00 pm
After the main stage show we all wander off to any one of a number of entertainment or retail outlets that are all over the ship, pop into the casino to throw away a little money, or just take a leisurely walk on the upper decks in the balmy warm weather. Our group tends not to be night owls and most of us are back in our cabins by 11:00 pm for a little reading or TV before dropping off to sleep to the gentle rocking of the ship.

So there you go, a day in the life. A bit long on the narrative this time.

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Looking off the aft deck of the Solstice as she makes a slight course adjustment heading south along the east coast of Australia.

Posted by DavidandHazel 22:36 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Great Barrier Reef

From Airlie Beach

sunny 30 °C

Airlie Beach is a small resort town on the eastern coast of Australia. It is the closest port on our cruise from which to access the Whitsunday Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are 74 islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Knowing that there would be heavy demand for any tours going to the GBR (Great Barrier Reef) we had booked an excursion with the cruise line on their web site several months before our departure. Similar to several other ports on this cruise the harbour at Airley Beach does not have sufficient depth to accommodate our ship so once again the ship offered a tender service for those going ashore. By 8:00 am we were up, had breakfast and were lined up ready to disembark for our tour to the GBR. For the first time in our cruising experience a large (300 passenger) tour boat pulled up beside our ship at anchor and we boarded the tour boat directly from the ship rather than going ashore and boarding the tour boat. This was a great idea as the Airley Beach town dock was just over 30 minutes in from the ship.

284 of us boarded a large catamaran for the 2.5 hour trip out to the reef which is about 80 km off shore at this point. We have been experiencing 30-40 km winds for the past two days so the ride out to the reef was expected to be a bit bumpy. In fact once out of the shelter of the inshore islands we found ourselves in 8-10 foot seas with a nasty chop on top of the large swells. The tour boat was one of the “Fast Cat” boats that was clearly designed for such seas and she had no trouble with her water jet propulsion system holding a steady 40-50 km/h speed. Given the sea conditions over the past two days many in our group had either put on a Transderm patch or taken a Gravol. There were a number of passengers who were very green and quite ill on the trip out to the reef. Fortunately, none of our group suffered that fate. The staff in the boat handed out “barf bags” and seasick medication liberally.

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The 300 passenger “Fast Cat” tour boat that took us to the Great Barrier Reef

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Tour boat from the back

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Passengers on Deck 3 of the tour boat. Good place to be if one was prone to motion sickness

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Our Tour boat tied up to the permanently moored pontoon

Once we arrived at the reef the seas calmed down somewhat due to the shallow water on the lee side of the reef where we were. Our tour boat tied up to a permanently moored huge platform called a pontoon that served as a base of operations for the tour. The pontoon had change areas, sun decks, equipment storage areas plus a variety of other areas. It was close to 100 feet long and 40 feet wide. Once our tour boat had rafted up to the pontoon we all got off the tour boat and made our way to the equipment area of the pontoon to select a mask, snorkel, fins and a very thin wet suit. The rest of our group sat on the sun deck or just milled around the pontoon looking at the folks getting ready to go snorkeling. Despite the 28 degree water the tour guides strongly recommended that we all wear the wet suits due to the possible presence of the deadly Stinger jelly fish. None have been seen in this area recently but it is an area that they are known to be in. Both of us squeezed ourselves into wet suits and slipped into the water from the large swim platforms that ran for about 30 feet along the side of the pontoon. A large area was cordoned off with markers and ropes and we were instructed to restrict ourselves to this area as the viewing was ideal in that area. The water depth in the area varied from about 6 feet to about 35 feet. Unfortunately, the seas were still quite choppy from the winds and the visibility was only so so due to the heavy winds of the past few days. With the heavy sea chop the waves frequently washed over the top of our snorkels filling them with water. Also the chop made it difficult to stay in one position. Despite the distractions we had a great time, took a few pictures and finally crawled out of the water after about 45 minutes. We had lunch on the tour boat and by 2:00 pm were headed back for the 2.5 hour ride to the ship. Once again the water was quite rough which was unfortunate as it was extremely difficult to even get out of your seat to walk anywhere so we had to stay put. By the time we got back to the ship we were ready for a hot shower prior to heading off to another wonderful dinner followed as usual by our evening entertainment in the main theatre.

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One of the tour guide divers playing with a resident large fish.

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Local resident fish close up

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Coral in about 10 feet of water on the Great Barrier Reef.

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More coral on the reef

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More coral on the reef

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Hazel having fun on the Great Barrier Reef

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Wake of our big jet boat on the way home.

Posted by DavidandHazel 21:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Brisbane

The Australia Zoo

sunny 27 °C

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Brisbane is the 3rd largest city in Australia with 2.2 million people. Brisbane is about on Australia’s east coast and it is about the same distance south of the equator as Tampa is north of it so it has hot, humid summers. We had originally planned on doing a walk-about in this well planned city or taking a river tour through it on the Brisbane River, until we attended several lectures on the ship’s lecture series on Steve Irwin – the famed “Crocodile Hunter” of TV fame. The more we learned about him and his work in conservation, species preservation and animal care, the more interested we were in visiting his privately-owned Australian Zoo. We had current and former zoo personnel on the ship delivering those lectures and were really quite amazed at their passion for Irwin’s work, deep admiration for the man and devastation at his untimely death. (They all remember what they were doing at the moment they learned of his passing – he was stung in the heart by a stingray.) We booked a visit to the Australian Zoo and headed out with great expectations.

The Zoo is about an hour’s drive north of the city. It is a most welcoming and family-friendly place – with loads of pictures of the Irwin family at various locations.

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Typical poster of Steve Irwin at the Zoo entrance

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Terri, Bob and Bindi with anteaters

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Bindi, Steve and Terri

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Bindi and a koala

The zoo is divided into a number of areas devoted to different parts of the world and different types of Australian animals. There are a large number of reptiles. We saw

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Komodo dragon

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Perentive Lizard

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Tortoise

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Albino Burmese Python

There were a huge number of birds both in enclosed areas and wandering freely around as well as lots of signs providing information about Australian Birds – especially parrots.

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Emu

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Which one – an Brogla or a Sarus Crane?

There were also lots of mammals.

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Asian Small-clawed Otter

There were loads of these girls – you could pat them or have a picture taken with them. (Many of the animals on display were females because they are less aggressive and easier for people to pat.)

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We saw a couple of animals which we had never seen before in person.

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Echidna – Ant eater

The wombats were hilarious. We watched a trainer introducing one into a compound and it escaped while she was closing the door and went scurrying off after the resident wombat with the trainer chasing behind trying to catch it.

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Wombat with a turkey vulture

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Escaping wombat

Of course we saw lots and lots of kangaroos and wallabies. Animal food was available in vending machines at several strategic locations so people could feed the animals if they wished. Often the Kangaroos were so full, they mostly just rested on the ground and watched the guests. The Kangaroos behave like domestic pets and seem to enjoy being patted and will nuzzle your hand if they by chance want a little of the food. We didn’t see any moving very quickly – they seemed to move in slow motion although we learned they could be very, very fast if motivated.

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Wallaby

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Dave and friend

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Roo and lizard

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Roos resting

Everywhere we went there were trainers with animals in hand showing them to us and answering any of our questions.

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Holding a Blue-tongued Skink

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Handlers and guests patting a 6 month old tiger cub

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Bird eating an almond

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Showing us a snake

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Trainer with parrot

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Bird of prey

The highlight of the visit was the Croc show at the Crocoseum. The Crocoseum was a vision Steve Irwin had to create a 5000 seat coliseum to have a croc show to demonstrate to people how easy they are to live with if you know how. The croc of the day was Graham.

They called Graham out by splashing their feet in the water. Crocs are very territorial and will immediately investigate any motion or sound. Crocs are lethal in the water and at the edges of the water but once out of the water that powerful propelling tail just becomes a land anchor.

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Graham being called

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Female trainer feeding Graham

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Male trainer feeding Graham

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Graham jumping for food

Equally as entertaining as Graham was a birds of prey show. They had birds swooping around the Crocoseum flying from a trainer on one side to one on another.

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3 birds on railing with trainer ready for take off

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Bird catching food thrown up in the air

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Vulture searching for carrion

One of the birds was trained to fly to an audience member, land on her arm, pick up a 5 dollar note and take it to the trainer. It then returned the money.

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Bird picking up a 5 dollar bill from an audience member.

All in all this was one of the best zoo experiences we have had and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Brisbane area. It is hard to believe that the zoo is privately funded and survives on donations and various fund raising activities.

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Dave at the zoo

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Brisbane skyline in the distance

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We were tied up in the midst of a busy commercial port district

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Dave particularly liked where we docked in Brisbane – beside a small cement plant – not Lafarge

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6:00 pm and looking back at Brisbane from the Ocean view bar on Deck 14 as we pushed away from the pier and headed out to sea again headed for Newcastle

Posted by DavidandHazel 02:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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