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Time really does seem to be flying now, we have just three nights to go before we have to disembark from what has been our home for the last 5 weeks or so. We both are feeling a little subdued today but have been smiling while reflecting back on what has been an amazing adventure.

We actually enjoyed a bit of a lie in this morning and didn’t go to breakfast until 9:30,  for us this is much later than we have been used to recently.

With the weather very overcast we made our way up to the open decks and managed to do five full laps before finding a sheltered spot to do some reading and blog writing, not that there is much to report today.

The last couple of days we have really enjoyed watching the Booby’s fly along side the ship and then swooping to catch the flying fish. They have such precision and timing with very little effort needed. It really is an amazing thing to witness and just a shame I haven’t managed to get a photo of it as it all happens so fast.
We sat out until about 1:45 when we decided to chance our luck with the buffet and were rewarded with a table out in the open at the back. It’s nice for Nicole because she can get a much better selection of things to eat there.

The weather remained cloudy and we did get a couple of really light showers just to break things up a little. According to the information on the TV the air temperature was 28° C which did make the wind lovely and warm.

With the wind picking up we made our way back to the cabin to sit out on our balcony until 4:00 when we attended a From the Podium talk on Sharks and Rays by Dr. Dave.

It’s been a very relaxing and uneventful day and one which has given us plenty of time to reflect and appreciate what we have done over the three back to back cruises.

Tonight is the third Evening Chic of this cruise and our ninth overall and lobster is on the menu tonight so I know what I’m having.

We are now on our way back to Sydney and into the last week of our cruise and all of a sudden time seems to have gone really quickly, we now have just 4 nights left onboard which is really quite scary.

After being onboard for all of those nights I still find myself waking up at around 5:30, even though I have been in different time zones​ for over a month my body clock is still behaving like I am back in the UK. Nicole on the other hand finds it difficult to wake up in the morning so I tend to do a bit of reading on my tablet until she comes to.

Today was a sea day with a bit of a difference, the daily described it as a technical stop. What happened was at 11:00 we arrived at a small island off the coast of Australia called Willis Island. The reef pilot who was still onboard then came over the ships public address to explain the procedure and reason for it.

As this cruise is all Australian home ports it isn’t technically an international cruise and therefore not allowed to sell any duty free items. To get round this the ship has to drop anchor very briefly off the coast of Willis Island so that it can be recorded in the ships logs and thus qualifying it as a international stop.

The whole process took around 45 minutes and during this time we were given a talk over the PA by one of the three meteorologists that live on the island for 6 months at a time. The weather station on the island is used to monitor and record weather conditions which hopefully will provide early warning against cyclones​ in the region.

As you can see from the photos it’s an amazing setting and very picturesque. As nice as it looks I don’t think I could spend 6 months there with just two others ​for company.

So at about 11:15 the ship dropped anchor and performed a 360° turn before giving 3 long blasts of the horn before continuing on our way. The upper decks were very busy with many coming up to witness this unusual event. Nobody got off the ship so no immigration to deal with so it is as described, just a technical stop.

The rest of the afternoon we spent cruising at sea heading towards our next stop which is Brisbane. The weather today has been glorious and we have spent the best part of it up on the Solstice Deck just relaxing in the sun.
Considering we have spent just short of four hours tendering back and forth over the last four days the chance to just sit back and take it easy was most welcome.

I’m sat in bed writing this first bit at 7:15 while they are loading a catamaran that goes out to the reef, it’s the last opportunity to take that excursion this cruise. We have spoken to quite a few people about their Celebrity excursions out to the reef and the general consensus is that the snorkelling was great but that was about it. A two hour trip each way with about 3 hours fighting for a small area of space to change and eat lunch on a cramped pontoon in the middle of the reef. It seems nothing has changed since I did it myself 14 years ago.

If you want to take a trip to the reef that is how it works with the larger companies, all Celebrity have done is inflate the price by nearly 100%. Because of the port timings nobody has been able to book a private excursions out to the reef so they have monopolized the situation completely. I wonder if word has spread because the boat from above looked empty.

After breakfast we made our way down to the Ensemble Lounge which is the meeting point for loyalty club priority tendering and were soon making the 30 minute trip into Port Douglas marina. Once I had got my bearings we found the main street and headed for the opposite end of it in search of Four Mile Beach and the safe swimming area. The beach and Port Douglas itself are exactly as I remember them and little seems to have changed since my last visit.

We stayed on the beach until about 1:00 and then went to grab some lunch and do a bit of shopping in some of the many boutiques along the main street.

For lunch we ate a place called the Iron Bar and it’s one of the establishments that I particularly wanted to revisit. That was followed by a little bit of retail therapy which Nicole really enjoyed as there are lots of really nice boutiques all selling the things she likes.

Just like yesterday the weather suddenly took a turn for the words and once again we were treated, if that’s the right word to another torrential downpour. After waiting  30 minutes for it to ease we made our way back to the ship.

Another great day today and one that will certainly produce plenty of smiles when we look back on the photos.

Between 2:00 and about 3:30 this morning it felt like the world was coming to an end, thunder and lightning with the most torrential rain I have ever seen. The fact that it woke me up is a testament to the noise it made. Fortunately this morning things had cleared for our day out.

Early start this morning and were able to catch the tender across to Yorkeys Knob at 7:10. From there we called the car hire who promptly dropped our car off at the boatclub within 10 minutes​. After dropping him back off to his office on route we then headed on to Freshwater Station to catch the 9:55 train to Kuranda. Most people either go up or down on the Sky Rail and do the return leg on Kuranda Scenic Railway but as there is not a hope in hell of Nicole doing the cable car we took the train both ways.

We had time to enjoy breakfast at the station which was a nice change from ship food. Our journey up was booked in a Gold Class carriage which means better carriages with more comfortable seats and you are served drinks and snacks on route. It was a really lovely way to travel along this small scenic railway which was hand made over 100 years ago. Lots of tunnels, cuttings and bridges and fantastic views all the way up to Kuranda.

We had two hours at the top wandering around the village which in itself was really nice, very laid back with lots of little shops and bars to immerse yourself in.

On the train back we travelled in a normal carriage which was equally as good in its own way. We sat on the same side of the carriage as going up so were able to get the view from the other side.

On arrival back at Freshwater Station the skies again opened and we had to make a dash for the car. Being as we had use of a vehicle we headed north along the Captain Cook Highway for ¾ hour which is a road I enjoyed driving along 15 years ago on a previous visit here. Not the same experience today in the rain but still nice to see it all the same.

On the way back to the boat club we picked up the car hire man so he could take the car straight back after we had finished with it. It’s been a great day and I have little time to say much tonight so will leave it at that and just add a selection of photos.

We woke up this morning with our heads still buzzing with our trip yesterday but now we needed to turn our attention to the next few days and in particular today and tomorrow when we overnight at Cairns or more specifically the tender port of Yorkeys Knob. We had nothing planned for day one because of the late arrival so decided to see once we get ashore if we could hire a car either for both days or just tomorrow. Day two we have something planned and all being well we won’t experience the same tender experience as Airlie Beach. Yorkeys Knob doesn’t have much in the way of facilities and the the tenders arrive at the local boat club.

Again the ships focus was tours out to the Barrier Reef and they were the priority passengers leaving the ship. The next 3 days that destination will be the number one priority.

We had a very leisurely relaxed morning which was in complete contrast to yesterday.

We arrived at 10:30 and we just sat back today as everyone else scrambled to get ashore.

You can just about make out Cairns on the left of the photo above and Yorkeys Knob to the right. It would have more appropriate to call this port Yorkeys Knob (Cairns) instead of the other way around.

As everything settled down we used our loyalty status to get us to the front of the queue for the next available tender and were ashore by 11:50. There is very little at Yorkeys Knob and the shuttle into Cairns takes 30 minutes each way and would have cost $18 per person. Having  been to Cairns before I know there was little of interest to us there so we decided to do a bit of preparation for tomorrow and hire a car. Taxis at Yorkeys Knob are few and far between and we need to be somewhere at 9:30 so to hire a car seemed like a more reliable option. Below is the main street that runs through Yorkeys Knob.

Once we had organised that we headed for the local beach where they have a safe swimming area set up to protect you from the stingers. The water was the warmest I have ever swam in ever, it was so refreshing and very welcome to be able to escape the humidity for a while.

Whats in the bucket you ask? Only the local life guards pet Box Jelly Fish.

We stayed on the beach until about 3:30 before making our way back to the ship. An early start tomorrow so we won’t be late up tonight.

 

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.

The problems with my WordPress app still persist but I have found a workaround which is a bit more time consuming. The result is that you might not get as many photos as you have been used to. Until I’ve tried it in anger I won’t know for certain how effective it will be and this post will be the first attempt.
Because we have done​ back to back cruises there has never been an urgency to see some of the shows and we have tended to let others review them first and then make our minds up on the follow on cruises. Using this formula we decided to go to Broken Strings which was one of the production shows.  We sat through the whole of the show last night which killed 45 minutes and I have no idea if there was any sort of story to it but it did pass the time before dinner. I will leave it at that and say no more about it if you know what I mean.

I’m looking forward to tonight as it’s a Beatles tribute act called The Beatnix. Let’s hope their Paul McCartney has better sea legs than the last one we saw as they had to cancel the second show because he was seasick.
After yesterday’s dismal weather it was at least dry when we first looked out this morning which was a major improvement. We are both feeling very full at the moment which given the abuse our bodies have taken is no real surprise, so many meals and courses to deal with.  Nicole skipped breakfast completely while I just grabbed a bacon sandwich and a coffee from the buffet.
The Solstice Deck was then our destination with the weather steadily improving throughout the day. It went from cloudy to partially cloudy skies with a really lovely warm sea breeze. Eventually the clouds almost disappeared all together and it really turned out to be a super day.

The Mast Grille was certainly very popular today with long queues just to grab a quick burger or hot dog. I decided to grab a quick Thai Curry in the Oceanview Cafe instead today.

We stayed up on the Solstice Deck most of the afternoon only really moving to grab something to eat.Both at different times I might add as we figured it would be easier to find a seat that way. It was too nice to stay indoors.

I took the following photos of the lawn club area just before heading back down to the cabin. The lawn looks the best we have ever seen on one of the Solstice ships.

 

On our sail out of Newcastle yesterday we were given a three gun salute by the volunteers who run and maintain the fort. It was a nice touch which went down really well.
Before dinner last night we paid a visit to the theatre to watch a young Kiwi singer called Will Martin and what a good move that turned out to be. He had a fantastic voice and was probably the best singer I’ve ever heard on a ship. If the weather is still bad tomorrow afternoon he is doing a matinee show so we will probably go and see him again.

Btw, for dessert last night there was a special option which was a chocolate something or other and was to commemorate the Edge revealing. Centre place was a bar of chocolate with the Edge logo embossed into it. Shame I never took my camera as it might have given me a photo to post today. It’s very short on the ground today so there are just a couple of weather related shots from earlier this morning. The one and only photo I have been able to upload is the view from our breakfast table. The WordPress app has developed a bug so currently isn’t letting me upload any more photos. I hope it fixes itself soon!!!

The ship feels more like it did on the first cruise which is really great. There seems to be a lot more older passengers this cruise and the dining room seems to be about 70% full.

The weather on the other hand isn’t exactly what we were anticipating and it rained heavily throughout the night and continued through the morning. At times visibility was poor and there was little chance of even going for a walk out on the open decks.

We did seize an opportunity about 11:00 and managed about 1½ laps before the drizzle started again. Not wanting to sit inside we found a couple of beds undercover on the pool deck and just dozed until dinner which we took in the MDR.

Really that is exciting as it got today, we spent the afternoon just dozing in the cabin until it was time to go to the Sky Lounge at 5:00.

I had always anticipated the two sea days going up to Queensland would be lovely and sunny but we just seem to have been unlucky this trip.

Last night in the dining room the four regulars were joined by two empty chairs and two ladies, one from Essex, England and the other from all places our destination today Newcastle, NSW.  Plenty of lively chatter so it promises to be a fun table. I just wish the chairs would let their hair down a little.

We were alongside at just before we eight this morning in a commercial area of the port of Newcastle. It is a very busy port with lots of container ships sailing in and out of the channel. Because of the commercial element there was a free shuttle into town and the journey time was a good 15 minutes

After the bus dropped us off we decided to do some walking and headed in the direction of Nobbys Point and Fort Scratchley to get a panoramic view looking back to the ship.

We spotted some bad weather making it’s way in so quickly headed back to find some shelter and only just made it as the skies opened. It rained for about 45 minutes and it was heavy too.

We took cover in a coffee shop while the weather did it’s thing. When we were able to continue we carried back on into town and browsed the shops for a while before returning to the ship.

Had the weather been better we would probably have done more walking but it always looked as if the weather could change at any moment and we weren’t really prepared for today’s torrential downpour. Newcastle is a charming little town and doesn’t seem to have been too commercialised by the large chains. Everyone we met was super friendly and all the shuttle buses had a volunteer guide onboard to help you get the best out of your visit. I got the impression the locals would really love to see some more ships visiting and we were told the preparations are well under way for the port to get it’s own cruise terminal. A lot of other ports could learn loads from these guys, no pestering just good old information to help make your visit worthwhile.

Once back onboard we had a spot of lunch before sitting out in a sheltered area to do some reading and​ in my case a snooze. The rain returned at 3:30 but at least somewhere it couldn’t prevent us from doing what we were doing.

There has been much talk about Celebrity’s new ship and to signify the revealing of lots of details all the sun beds had been turned out to face the sea.
There will be a special presentation in the theatre tonight at 7:00 which we may or may not go to.

We were off the ship this morning at 8:15 and headed immediately to a little cafe we had spotted last time we were here. The reason for this particular one was because of the gluten free options that were available. I have to say it was the best breakfast I’ve had in weeks and Nicole’s wasn’t bad either.

Because of Nicole’s recent ailment we had decided to take it as easy as possible so the obvious choice was the Hoho bus which as it happens was only a short walk from our breakfast venue.

There are two circuits within the price of a single ticket, one going round the city and the other going out to Bondi. Both tours are 90 minutes long and today we just did the city one as after the first 90 minutes we were all  bused out and needed to do some walking.

The weather was perfect for a stroll and with Nicole feeling reasonably OK we headed for the Royal Botanic Gardens where we walked at a very gentle pace so as not to tire the patient out too much. It’s a super walk and it offers some fantastic views​ across the harbour and city. There were some amazing trees and we spotted loads of different types of birds. The only grumble I would have was the amount of joggers running all over the place, it reminded me of the push bike’s in Amsterdam.

We covered quite a bit of ground and Nicole managed to make it all the way round to Mrs Macquaries Point where we found the stone bench which was carved in 1816 for the then governor’s wife. A very popular spot for having your photo taken and I gave up trying in the end and just settled for an empty seat.

After a couple of hours we headed back to The Rocks for a quick bite to eat and a drink before making our way back onboard ship. Being a back to back cruiser meant we already had all the paperwork done and it was just a case of a new photo for our seapass. The whole process took under 5 minutes and even better the photographer’s had moved on elsewhere so no delay there either. No health questionnaire to fill and do wonder what the response would have been had we actually been to the medical centre for Nicole.

Back in the cabin we relaxed for an hour before we had to attend the muster yet again. The third one in 25 days which is a bit annoying but I suppose it’s always good to have a refresher and just to add insult to injury the video wasn’t shown in all the muster stations so we had to watch it all over again.
Nicole has coped really well today and despite still needing to keep her Paracetamol updated has really enjoyed the day. She is very tired tonight but well on the way to full recovery.

Sydney has so much to offer and on our two turnaround days we just touched the edges.

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