Three more sea days, and they’re for the birds! Literally!
Since we left New Castle we’ve been hugging the eastern coast of Australia on our way to the Great Barrier Reef. We’ve had a smooth ride and warm weather, at last. There’s not usually very much to write about on sea days. It’s just the normal activities on board – games, entertainment, lectures, dance classes, Bingo, gambling, sunning, swimming, reading, (writing??), walking or exercising, napping, and everyone’s favorite – EATING.
Yesterday we were being escorted by a large pod of dolphins. Or so we heard. We missed seeing it. I wish they would announce things like this on the PA system. They probably don’t want to cause a stampede. We missed a similar experience near Cabo San Lucas last February when we sailed on the Radiance. I hope I’ll get to see the dolphins someday.
Today is a special sea day. We’re taking a small detour and sailing over to Willis Island. This little island is inhabited by 4 humans who study the weather – and thousands of birds and turtles. Two hours from the island the birds started flying around the ship. We went down on Deck 5 for a better look at what they were up to. We saw these little flying fish leap out of the water and fly through the air a few feet. Some of them skip across the surface a few times before they dive under. Most of them are about the size of a wren but we saw some as large as a robin.
The sea gulls and red-footed boobies fly around looking for schools of these fish. They go into a dive and level out just before they would impact the water. If their timing is perfect (and they’re really lucky) they’ll come away with lunch in their talons. They float on the water while they “dine in”. It looks like they’re floundering in the waves. After a few minutes they take off and go back for seconds.
I’m really fascinated by nature. The marine life had the oceans to themselves for thousands of years before man learned to sail them. Everything from whales down to the smallest bits of life is impacted by our presence. But they have all learned how to accept it, adapt to it, and even benefit from it when possible. It’s amazing to me.
As we got closer to the island, the bird activity increased. It was fun to watch all the interaction. Willis Island is considered a “foreign port” to Australia. We dropped anchor there for a short while – just long enough to keep our “duty free” status for the cruise. It's only about the size of the ship. Can you see it?
Then we got back on the road to Cairns and the Reef. We did a “Wishes at Sea” walk this afternoon to benefit the “Make a Wish Foundation”. We got cool t-shirts for it. I think it’s great that they offer things like this to combine a deck activity with something worthwhile.
I’ve just about knocked this bad cold I’ve been battling with for over a week. I’m still coughing some, but the rest of the symptoms have finally left. Whew! Just in time to enjoy the Reef.
We’ll arrive in Cairns (pronounced Cans, like tin cans) at 8:00 tomorrow morning. In years past, the cruise ships were not permitted to come into the harbor to the pier, they had to anchor off-shore and tender everyone in. Royal Caribbean worked with the local authorities using simulators to convince them that our Captain has the skill to maneuver into the tight space and can safely take Rhapsody to the pier. We’ll be the first cruise ship ever to dock there. Captain Stein said we’ll only have 1 meter of water under the keel and the turns have to be perfectly executed. Wish us luck! Rhapsody is the largest ship that will fit in there. When Radiance comes here next year, she’ll still have to tender.
We even signed up for an excursion! Holy cow – it’s a very expensive one – so it’d better be REALLY good! (i.e. $225 each). We’ll be taking a catamaran out to a platform on the Reef. From the platform you can scuba dive, snorkel, take a semi-submersible, or helicopter to view the Reef. Or, you can just stay on the platform and watch everyone else. They serve lunch there and have restroom facilities. Then we take the boat back. It’s a full 8-hour day trip. We’ll definitely do the semi-sub and we’ll probably snorkel for a while, too. It depends on the weather – the forecast is for scattered showers (damn those travel gods!). We’ll overnight at Cairns and have most of the next day to see the town or enjoy the beach.
We’ve been traveling for over 3 weeks and we’re past the halfway mark of the trip. It’s hard to believe how fast the days go by. Our writing projects are progressing but it seems like it’s going slower than we planned. Guess that’s a sign we’re enjoying ourselves!