On Thursday 25 August we arrived at Yorkeys Knob, and after much waiting around, finally were ferried to shore, and got onto the Kuranda Scenic Rail tour. Unfortunately we were pretty much last on the train, and didn't get good seats. Hubby opened doors and stood up for much of the way to get these pics. I was a bit surprised at how the rain forest wasn't at all lush, but rather dry, but after all, it was the dry season!
We got to the Kuranda railway station, and were then taken by bus up to the Village, where we had one hour to buy souvenirs, get lunch and do the tourist thing. We found crocodile jerky for Dotter, and Scottish alcoholic fudge for Son. I really don't like the tourist thing.
And then the bus ride back down the mountain, and the wait for the tender ... this actually was a bit too hot, but the wait wasn't long thankfully.
On Friday the Pacific Pearl docked near Airlie Beach. We had intended to go ashore and just hang out by ourselves, but the past two days had been far too exhausting, so we decided to stay on board instead. It was nice to avoid the endless waits for the tenders, too! Hubby got some nice pics on board ... we tried the pool on the top deck, and lasted - ohhh - 1 minute. It was bloody freezing!! (We did actually leave a suggestion with P&O about heating their pools!!)
Me reading instead of freezing.
A pirate ship!
On Saturday the Pearl headed back towards Sydney, and the shore days were over. We went to the cooking demonstration, which was run by Willie (the British cruise entertainment director, a very funny lovely guy, far left), the Portuguese Maitre'd of the Waterfront restaurant (centre) and Canadian head chef (right). The whole 'show' was very funny, especially the bit where the chef added a ton of chilli to the prawn dish, and poor Willie had to eat it! We spoke with Willie afterwards, and he told us he hated chilli, and was in agony, poor man!
After the show there was a tour of the ship's kitchens, which wasn't to be missed! (We'd have loved to have seen the engine rooms, but they no longer run such tours for 'security reasons', sadly.)
We walked through the Waterfront restaurant (this is the fancier option for dining each day, rather than the cafeteria style Plantation). We had several meals here, very nice food!
The kitchens were on the deck below the restaurant, accessed via escalators. MASSIVE, as you'd expect. No windows that we could see. A pretty full on working environment ...
They'd made some nice displays for the passengers to see, this one was impressive!
It was time to get ready to leave, sadly. Here's Hubby with our cabin steward, Eldose. He's from the south of India, and he's about to sign on for his 6th tour (which is about 8 months long) with P&O. Hard work! He's a lovely young man, always helpful and cheerful.
Most of the staff who were the 'workers' (cooks, waiters, stewards, cleaners, child carers etc) were Asian or Indian. The rates of pay for this level of staff is only about $5 Australian/hour. While that seems horrifically low to us, hopefully it translates in to a much better income in their lands of origin. P&O does provide all training for them, so you can go in with absolutely no qualifications.
Most of the 'command staff' (ship's captain and so on, entertainers, directors of sections etc) were British or Australian. We found this dichotomy a bit uncomfortable ...
Coming in to Sydney with the sun rise, early on Monday 29 August.
This is the map of exactly where we went (I've drawn over the route in red).
And down the gangway back to solid earth ...until next time! We were actually quite ready to go home after 10 days. It was funny, we had to go through Customs and Quarantine, and fill in the whole 'returning citizen' form and everything. The form asks "Which country did you spend most time in while abroad?" - uuuh, Australia. >.<
So, summing up ...
Overall, we did enjoy the cruise. It was great to get away from everything, and be largely out of phone / web contact with the world for a while! Our quarters were lovely, the food and service were good. You really could just do nothing, and relax properly. If you wanted to be social and do stuff, there were lots of options too.
I think next time we wouldn't go on any organised shore trips ... we found these uncomfortably like being back at school, waiting in a group for ages, with a label stuck on our shirts, and the whole tedious tendering process to get on shore, and then being shunted around in a group on buses etc. Next time, we'd just go to shore, and do our own thing. Being a tourist on a tour bus, nup, that whole scene just isn't us.
We didn't really find any other 'people like us' until the night before we left, when we were seated next to a couple from Melbourne at the Waterfront restaurant — he was a pharmacist and she was a GP, and I wish we'd met them a week earlier!
At least half of the passengers were much older than us, and most people we met were more 'working class' (for want of a better word) - perfectly nice people (on the whole, apart from the old biddies who loved to complain about everything on the cruise! Argh!), but no-one who we could have a really in-depth conversation with. While we weren't out to party and socialise, I did feel a bit isolated at times. I suspect that if we could afford it, on the Princess cruises (run by the same company, but more expensive) we'd be more likely to find people we had interests in common with. But because my income is practically non-existent, we have to go for the 'one income' or 'two crap incomes' option.
But we liked it enough to pay a deposit for our next cruise (it was a cheaper deposit if purchased on board, plus free on-board credit, and full refund if you don't use it within 4 years). So I'm sure we'll be sailing away again, one of these days, maybe off to a Pacific island or two!