Now, where was I? Time for some reflection and observations.
The Captain of the Sun Princess is an Englishman, Craig Street. Everyday at noon he broadcasts his log to the ship. He has a clipped English accent and we've decided he must be a descendant of Captain Cook because he seems to have an adventurous spirit, which becomes more apparent as the cruise continues. He generally follows his update of events with an item of trivia - with a nautical flavour; for example: "no room to swing a cat" which dates back to when miscreant sailors were whipped with a 'cat-o-nine-tails' on deck in front of the whole crew. This made for quite a small space and the lead-tipped tendrils of the nine-tails would bash the unwary as well as the victim. You may be interested to hear that these whips are still manufactured and sold for whatever purposes ...
From the Captain's Log: After leaving Brisbane we "... followed a North-westerly course ... Sun Princess entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park somewhere level with the coastal town of Bundaberg (think, Rum), Queensland. At this point the Great Barrier Reef Pilot who had joined us in Brisbane commenced assisting the bridge team with the intricate navigation of the Reef". Noon lat: 22 degrees 460' S.
Of the 800+ crew, the majority were from the Philippines; however, there were people from Mexico, Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Thailand, South Africa, England, a couple from Scotland, and many other places. The 2,000 passengers also came from the 4 corners of the globe (still figuring out how a 'globe' can have corners ...) but mainly Australians.
Our next stop was Townsville. The ship anchored about 8 nautical miles from the shore. We were amazed at how smoothly the process of taking the passengers ashore was accomplished. The tenders were large catamarans from Townsville. The weather was glorious - as it had been all the way.
This a a view out toward the ship from the top of Castle Hill. You can vaguely see the ship if use a magnifying glass! It is more or less in the middle of the photo ... unless that is a spot on my computer screen. The clearer vessel is one of the catamarans. The drive up to Castle Hill was fairly steep and narrow. Coming from Western Australia we are not used to steep, narrow roads but the bus driver was a skilful driver (and a jovial man) who handled the bus adroitly - apart from forgetting to take in the step when we left ... crunch.
Some of the people we met on board were familiar with Townsville as they had done their military training and/or service there - from the Vietnam War and so on. There is a military base and an RAAF base in Townsville.
Townsville was also affected by Cyclone Yasi and apparently many of the mature trees were destroyed. In fact, if we hadn't known about Yasi we probably wouldn't have noticed anything. What did surprise me (and Roland) was how big Townsville was. I think I was expecting something a lot less ... sophisticated? citified? I'd like to go back one day and have another look.
We returned to the ship in the same catamaran that took us ashore. The transfer was seamless and those passengers with walking frames and/or other walking aids were assisted by members of the crew especially assigned to them. One elderly man who zipped up the gangway in front of us turned out to be 91 years old!
The security measures both disembarking and embarking were stringent. More of that later.
Next instalment: Port Douglas and Cairns. Watch this space.