Wednesday 22nd February until Friday 24th February
Overnight we began the long cruise home from the Solomon Sea through the Coral Sea and home to Brisbane.
On our way back home
We’re on our way home
We’re on our way home
We’re going home
(thanks to the Beatles – specifically McCartney & Lennon)
ARIA passed well to the East of the Great Barrier Reef which extends from a bit North of the tip of Cape York as far south as Gladstone. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.
The distance covered by the reef is over 3,000 Klm and lies offshore variously between 15 Klms to 150 Klm from the Queensland coast. In places it actually adjoins the land north of Cairns before veering offshore again. The average width of the reef is 65 Klms, The entire Barrier Reef is a protected Marine Park – the first in the world – so most shipping must stay outside the reef. Some commercial ships do need to enter and navigate inside the reef so special Pilots board the ships to guide them through approved but narrow passages through the reef to ports such as Bowen and Mackay.
While the ship was travelling, day and night, passengers continued to enjoy the facilities as we had done for the previous 11 days.
Naturally Graham and I challenged each other to table tennis and anybody else who wanted a game. No bragging of course but we were the players to beat.
Donnis enjoyed Astrology presentations every day. We also attended presentations in the Marquee Auditorium by Reef Pilots and PNG Patrol Officers. Of course there was lounging around, swimming, eating, table tennis, eating, table tennis and stage shows at night.
A word about our ship, PACIFIC ARIA.
- It is part of the P & O Pacific Line and based out of Australia. For us the cruise line and the smaller ship was to our liking for a number of reasons.
- Smaller ships mean it can get into places other ships cannot go.
- The ship departs and returns to Brisbane. That is ideal for us. Brisbane is only 75 Klms from our home and if traffic conditions are OK only an hours drive.
- All power outlets are 240 volts so adapters are not needed.
- Hair dryers are supplied.
- There is no tipping, nor a tipping surcharge. If you feel like tipping, please do so. It is not compulsory.
- Even in winter a South Pacific destination is still warm.
- All costs are in Australian Dollars. No exchange rate hassles.
- Cabins are clean and spacious…according to the Gilling scale.
- Food is too good so be careful how much and how often you eat. Going ashore is good so you can skip a coffee and cake and pastries.
- All rooms have a TV and telephone. You can phone service or any cabin on the ship. You can also call your cabin or friends from public phones scattered around the ship.
- We had a bonus of on-board credit totalling $450 which covered all our extra’s such as, shore tours, duty free spirits, wine and beers etc when required. We overspent by $33. Graham and Wencke booked their cruise earlier and being previous P&O travellers received $600 on-board credit and were able to buy clothing and jewellery duty free and still not exceed their credit.
- I am not aware of any outbreak of on-board sicknesses and that is probably due to hand cleaning stations everywhere, all food is served (no buffet style) and public areas especially toilets are cleaned at least twice a day.
The ship is fitted with eight lifts, four aft and four forward. The cute thing about the lifts is each had a themed photographic wall. The carpet in each lift was matched as close as possible to flooring or roads shown in the photo wall.
I continued to wake early and go to deck 11 The Pantry for my 5.30am coffee and cereal at 6.30. It was a ritual other passengers did as well. I got to know some passengers during this time while others were on a nodding hello basis. The hour between 5.30 and 6.30 were the same faces almost every day.
All too soon we were entering Moreton Bay then Brisbane River and as we neared our berth, local tugs turned ARIA around and nudged us into the Brisbane Cruise Terminal at Hamilton.
Disembarkation was carried out by a number system so there were no long queues on the stairs and in Customs and Border Security and Immigration. All went smoothly, our PNG carvings and weavings were inspected and passed as OK.
Graham was in an earlier disembarkation so by the time we arrived at the agreed area we only had a few minutes wait before he arrived with his car. We were home by midday.
Aaaah. The cruise was great but being home is special.
Now begins all the washing.
I hope you enjoyed our cruise.