I am pre writing some of this because I am anticipating on the day time will be very limited. This port is without doubt the one day we have been eagerly awaiting , not that we have wished the others to go quickly it’s this stop where we have decided to spend a little money to do something memorable.
Airlie Beach is the first port of three for us which has Barrier Reef tours and being as we are not snorkelers we decided we needed to do something else to get the most out it for us.
Our decision was an easy one in the end and as soon as I suggested it to Nicole it was sold.
After searching the internet for different options we selected a helicopter flight over the reef with a landing on Whitehaven Beach for 1½ hour on the way back. It’s the most expensive trip we have ever booked and without doubt the most exciting and just to add to the mix I have never flown in a helicopter before either.
There were 4 places available and after making a post on Cruise Critic we managed to get another couple onboard which helped spread the cost. We were a little on tender hooks the last couple of days thinking the weather would prevent us from flying but I received an email from the operator the night before saying everything looked good for us. The company we have chosen is called GSL Aviation and they run different tours out over the reef to suit different budgets.
Airlie Beach is a tender port and we were again hoping to be able to facilitate our loyalty status to get us on a tender across earlier than others. However despite the ship arriving at 8:00 the first proper tender across wasn’t until 10:00 because they needed to fill the catamarans going out to the reef on ships tours first. All this was being done directly from the ship so with limited space for boats to dock the tenders ashore were moved down the list. Our agreed pick up time ashore was 9:45 so we were not exactly pleased with the situation. It’s a bit naughty advertising the stop as being 8:00 until 5:00 but then not allowing you the option to leave the ship until gone 10:00 with added travel time to shore of 25 minutes. I had thought we had built a nice buffer zone into getting ashore but that was wiped out in one swift move by Celebrity. Angry doesn’t go anywhere near describing how I felt first thing this morning. I did call GSL who were very understanding and suggested a backup plan should things not work out. Not what we had booked but a nice gesture given the circumstances.
But….. Angelina to the rescue, Nicole went over to her and explained our situation and we were told to quietly come to the waiting area and before we knew it we were front of the queue for the next tender.
Talk about cutting it close, we arrived at the marina 5 minutes after we should have and were so relieved to see the GSL van waiting for us.
From there we were driven to the airfield for a quick pre flight briefing and within 25 minutes of getting off the tender we were in the air and on our way to the Heart Reef. We circled twice before heading back to our next stop which was a landing on Whitehaven Beach with 1½ hour stop to enjoy it. Ian our pilot left us on the beach while he popped back to Airlie airport to pick a few more lucky individuals up to bring back. Its ranked in the top ten beaches in the world and it’s not difficult to understand why.
Pure silica sand which is not hot to walk on and it makes a really strange sound as you walk across it. Part of the package included sparkling wine along with umbrellas and blankets to sit on. Words cannot describe what an amazing setting we were privileged to visit today. I’m not even going to try so please enjoy the photos which I hope will do it some justice.
Despite Celebrity doing their utmost to ruin our day we ended up having what we both regard as the best day we have ever had on a cruise. DeeDee and Chip, you were the perfect company today. Thank you so much for joining us.