Friday 10th February
Ever since I was a small boy, when an event was to happen I would internalise my emotions and excitement. So on Christmas Eve or the eve of a planned holiday I would only be able to sleep in fits and starts. Finally as the sun begins its weary climb above the horizon I would be wide awake and ready for whatever the day had in store for me. Last night was no exception. I was awake at 3am. Eventually the day got under way, Donnis woke, we breakfasted and finished packing.
The adventure was about to begin.
Graham and Wencke were on time and within minutes we were on the M1 cruising toward Brisbane. We had an easy run through traffic until about three Klms from the Cruise Terminal, then traffic was bumper to bumper and crawling at a snail pace. Even so, we arrived a good half hour earlier than our processing time. Finally we went through all paperwork and security checks and passport controls and we were on board the P&O Ship, Pacific Aria.
Lunch was a bit chaotic in The Pantry on deck 11. Not surprising really as 1,000 or so people wanted lunch at the same time.
Our first happy surprise was our cabin. We expected a tiny internal cabin as we had when cruising with Norwegian Cruise Lines in 2015. This room was twice the size and even included a lounge and a comfy King Size bed.
The ship has 1,268 passengers and a crew of 700. Not a bad ratio!
As the ship moved down the Brisbane River and passed under the Gateway Bridge, I realised why the State Government and indeed the Gold Coast City Council both want to build a new cruise terminal. Our ship is large but is not the largest cruise ship operating, not by a long shot. Even at low tide there was not much clearance under the bridge.
It seems many ships cannot pass under the bridge which incidentally from a drivers point of view is very high and steep. The Gold Coast wants to get in on the action of more cruise ships wanting more ports of call.
As the ship cruised along the coast we saw the Glasshouse Mountains of the Sunshine Coast from a new perspective with cloud cover and sunshine poking through the gaps in the clouds.
The Ship Pilot left via motor launch at Caloundra and we were on our way under the control of the ships captain.
Dinner was in the Waterfront Restaurant and a great meal at that. Donnis and I shared a bottle of wine which set me up for another night of restless sleep
Saturday 11th February
Well, as with yesterday’s bad sleep today was much the same. I slept fitfully. Perhaps it was the bottle of wine Donnis and I absorbed at dinner.
I was up at 5am watching the sunrise.
Amongst all the activities on board I did a Flying Fox flight from the ships funnel to an anchor point amidships.
After donning a heavy cumbersome harness and climbing a ladder to a platform on the funnel and connecting to the steel cable I was ready to launch into space.
Let go of the cable once you are airborne they said. My mind said Ok but one arm said “No way” and hung on for dear life.
Whew! That was over too quickly. “Can I do that again?”
There is a hive of activity during the day with many events for the adventurous and not so adventurous alike. We tried a game which was a cross between Bocce and Bowls, Shuffleboard, Table Tennis, a talk on our various destinations and ran out of time to do Line Dancing. Tomorrow is another adventure day at sea and we will see what that brings.
Tonight we dined at The Dragon Lady Asian Restaurant. (a mix of Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian) That was a great experience. We all tried something different stepping outside our usual culinary experience.
After dinner we went to a floor show in the auditorium
and afterwards I was asleep within minutes of arriving back in our cabin.
Sunday 12th February
Another morning waking and on deck at 5am. At least I could again watch a sunrise
on the Starboard side of the ship and the moon on the Port side.
The day unrolled with reasonably slow swells and brilliant sunshine.
Apart from the usual meal times we managed to squeeze in games of Shuffleboard,
Bocce Bowls, Boule, Ballroom dancing lessons and Graham and I wore each other out playing aggressive table tennis.
In the afternoon the wind and swell changed direction and we could see we were running into some heavy weather ahead. We noticed the ship was no longer moving ahead and was wallowing in the swells. The Captain informed us a sensor on one of the engines was warning of a fault. Eventually the fault was found, fixed and the sensor replaced to be on the safe side.
The bad weather increased, now instead of a following swell we were taking a swell almost broadside increasing the ships rolling motion. In order to avoid the worst of it the ship altered course which means we will be a few hours late arriving at our first port, Alatou PNG, in the morning.
The rolling and heaving of the ship took its toll on many of the passengers. Donnis was barely able to eat more than a few mouthfuls while I struggled with cramming in three courses at Angelo’s Ristorante.
We could not even take a walk on any of the outside decks. The doors had been roped off as the decks were too windy, wet and being too dangerous to have passengers wandering about on a rolling ship. A pity really as Donnis and I would have both loved to have the wind in our faces to clear our senses.
After watching the floor show of a magician we watched a movie on TV and were rocked to sleep.
Meal times are a great experience. The Pantry is a cafeteria style dining area which is open from 6.30am to 9.00pm daily. This is a place to avoid…sometimes…as dessert and pastries are available all day as is coffee and tea. It is too tempting. We have a choice of three restaurants.
The large Waterfront Restaurant which serves traditional style breakfast lunch and dinner. There are also Angelos Ristorante which serves traditional Italian fare while the Dragon Lady serves Asian fare. These dining places are included as part of the ticket place. There are other dining rooms which are not complimentary.
It will be interesting to see what the weather brings when we dock tomorrow.
I expect to publish daily for another week as we visit various ports of call.