Cruise Report # Twenty-Six– Day 44 – Sunday, November 4, 2007

In Port, Cairns, Australia

From the Ships Navigator

We will embark the local pilot at 6:00 am and then sail on a south-southwesterly course towards our berth in Cairns, Australia. The weather forecast calls for an outside temperature of 78 degrees and a gentle breeze blowing from the east-southeast with a force of 3.

Welcome to Cairns, Australia

Cairns, situated on the indigenous Australian people’s tribal lands of the Irukandji, is located on the east coast of Australia between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range. The northern part of the city is located on Trinity Bay and the center on Trinity Inlet. Some of the city’s suburbs are located on a fertile flood plains while its center foreshore is located on a mud flat. The highest mountain in Queensland, Mount Bartle Frere is located within the city’s boundaries as are the Mulgrave River and Barron River (although they do not flow through the actual city). Writing in his journal on June 10, 1770, Captain James Cook commented, “The shore between Cape Grafton and Cape Tribulation forms a large but not very deep bay which I named Trinity Bay after the day, Trinity Sunday, on which it was discovered. Today, Cairns is the stopping off place for tourists interested in snorkeling or diving on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

A century ago, Cairns was a “wild west” (“wind east’?) style gold rush town. Prospecting supply shops and saloons cropped up almost as fast as hopeful gold-seekers arrived. The pioneer legacy lingers with the city’s airy, plantation-style buildings, but modern Cairns (“kenz”) also offers a first class wharf, and the international airport is only a short drive from the city. There is still an air of tradition. The wide Esplanade has picnic tables, a park area, jogging and bicycle paths, and benches for romantic couples. Bird watchers can use signposts to identify colorful indigenous birds. Almost everything a visitor needs is within walking distance – with the exception of the Great Barrier Reef.

In early February 2006, it was the Esplanade and its open family friendly setting that captured our hearts. We were on a ten day post-cruise and our final destination was the Holiday Inn here on the Esplanade, and our home for two days and three nights. We were booked on day tours to the Great Barrier Reef on the first day and the Barren George National Park the second day, which included a 20-mile ride on Kuranda Scenic Rail to the village of Kuranda, and a return ride on the Skyrail in a six person gondola above the rain forest canopy. Those two attractions were okay, however it was the city and Esplanade in the evening that we enjoyed. This was what we were looking forward to on our return this day onboard the ms Amsterdam.

As we disembarked, friendly Aussie immigration officials and their Beagle “sniffer” dog, which seemed interested in my small backpack until the handler (female) asked if we had dogs at home, greeted us. I replied yes, and she waved me through. These dogs are especially trained to detect fruits, vegetables, and any type of food that passengers might be carrying ashore. This country is very strict on imported foodstuffs.

As we walked toward the shopping area near the ship, we silently wondered if the city had changed since our last visit. We were not disappointed. Barbara also had her “shopping shoes” on and she was not disappointed either. It was also an opportunity for me to take our laptop to an Internet café and do some serious Internet work, bringing programs, and files up to date. The connection was lightening fast compared to the system on the Amsterdam, and $3 bought me 45 minutes of time, as opposed to 4 minutes on the ship.

After lunch (for me, back on the ship) while Barbara shopped (serious shoppers take no lunch breaks), I went with Barbara to look at a couple of items she thought I might be interested in, and then we spent the rest of our shore time just people watching. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and families and sun lovers were out in force. There were several portable signs around the “lagoon” that asked users to “Please remember NO FOOD NO DRINKING NO SMOKING on the beach decks or in the water. Small children and babies must wear watertight swimmers (bathing suits) at all times.” Then “NAPPIES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. Your attention in these matters is appreciated”. Simple rules that everyone seemed to follow. There was a satellite police station on the property and active lifeguards present, but the police there kept a low profile. What a treasure to have in ones community. Large banyan trees abounded in the park and the green belts in the shopping area, which provided shade for pedestrians and sanctuary for the many species of active and very vocal birds.

Bottom line on Cairns – If we ever moved to Australia to live, it would be in the heart of the wonderful city, with its small town atmosphere. It is a shame our stay was so short. Back on board we were enjoying dinner as our floating resort hotel moved away from her berth, rotated 180 degrees in the turning basin, and headed out through the channel. The sun had just slipped behind the Great Dividing Range as three blasts from the ships whistle bid a sad farewell. I must admit, with that signal a small tear slid down my check as I silently said my goodbye, realizing that this was probably our final farewell.

As I write this report, it is Monday afternoon the 5th day of November, just 54 years after my entry into the United States Navy. Our 3 PM position was 20 degrees south and 152 degrees west, sailing toward the Tasman Sea and our next port; Sydney, Australia.

Till then, we bid you G’day from “Down Under”

Jack and Barbara

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