World Wonders Cruise Diary – Days 48,49 – Cairns, Australia
Cruise days 48,49 – Feb 21,22
We enjoyed our 2-day stay in the medium-sized city of Cairns (pronounced “kanz”), which has a population of around 150,000. We took 2 excursions on this stop, the included Cairns Panorama Tour on the first day, and then an excellent optional full-day journey on the second day, the Great Barrier Reef Tour.
Cairns Panorama Tour –
The heavy rain during most of this excursion put a damper on our schedule. The guide tried to shift things around so we could make all of the planned stops, but the one at the Botanic Gardens was shortened to 20 minutes which was hardly worth getting off the bus for.
The other stop was at Palm Cove, a nice beach resort that would have been a pleasure to walk around if not for pounding rain just as we departed the bus. We spent the time sitting in a bar having a drink as we looked at the beach through sheets of the wet stuff. Can’t win them all!
What got our attention here were the tall Paperbark Melaleucas trees that are thought to be at least 400 years old. The bartender told us the local council stipulated many years ago that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built taller than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!
At our short Botanic Gardens stop the skies opened up again 😦
We learned some things about Cairns, including the fact that it’s a gateway to two natural wonders of the world that meet near here; the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s largest wet tropics rainforest. Cairns is also a huge grower of sugar cane, of which over 80% is exported as bulk raw sugar.
On the way back to the ship we drove through the downtown area and got a good feel for what it would be like to live and work here. The main shopping area that covered an entire city block had a farmer’s market-like atmosphere that we would have loved to check out, if we’d had more time.
Great Barrier Reef Tour –
The 22nd was my birthday, and the 5:30am alarm had me jumping out of bed in anticipation of exploring the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve done quite a bit of diving and snorkeling in some beautiful places, but this part of “The Reef” is supposed to be among the best. The entire reef is by far the largest living structure on the planet, stretching 1,429 miles.
After a 90-minute boat ride to a large covered pontoon structure, most of the 150 or so folks began donning wetsuits and snorkeling gear. Although I’m a certified diver, it’s been so long since my last dive that I needed a refresher session, which was not available. So I decided to just snorkel with my lovely wife for a while:
The rain and wind created quite choppy waves, so Mona Liza didn’t last long – being the timid water person that she is. I stayed out for a while, but between the waves, currents and no sun to show off the beauty below I was a bit disappointed. Still, the variety of coral was excellent and although there wasn’t a huge variety of fish it was a worthwhile trip.
Mona Liza joined a glass-bottomed boat ride so she could get another look at the coral while staying dry. We spent about 4 hours on the pontoon, and a good buffet-style lunch was included. The 90-minute boat ride back to the ship in somewhat better weather capped off a fun day on and in the Coral Sea.
Back aboard the ship, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our new friends Ryan and Jean. We ordered some high-end caviar to celebrate my birthday, and it was better than I had imagined it would be:
The evening’s show was a very entertaining and talented piano player, Ashley Carruthers:
We enjoyed this bustling port city and our adventures there. Although we’re not city people, we appreciated the fact that literally hundreds of restaurants and shops were so easily accessible to residents and tourists alike, and it was a nice clean place.
It turns out that Cairns is a resort destination for folks living in other major cities like Sydney and Brisbane. We can understand why!