Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 28 - More Sea

Not much to tell today.  Last night we went to the show to hear a baritone singer.  Although he supposedly has sung with the Australian symphony, we were not impressed.  I got the feeling that he either had a cold or just hadn't warmed up.  The first few songs he sang were a bit flat.  He did do a nice job of singing Leonard Cohen's Halleluiah and a medley from the Phantom of the Opera.  Unfortunately, I am one of the few people who do not like the music from Phantom of the Opera. 

No photos today.  There has been nothing but open sea out our window all day.  We did attend a good lecture this afternoon on "Captain Bligh - Life After the Bounty".  Our reef pilot, Captain Wallace Cray gave this talk as a follow up to his lecture on Captain Bligh's life leading up to the mutiny on the Bounty.  It was really a great talk.  Capt. Cray is an excellent speaker and really knows this topic.

There was another lecture this morning, "An Introduction to South East Asia", but our timing was off so we missed it.  Luckily we will be able to see it on TV.  They record all the lectures and replay them for a few days. 

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of other things to do on the ship.  We just happen to enjoy the opportunity to sit on our balcony or in the room, read or play games, and watch the ocean go by.

Tomorrow afternoon we will land in Darwin, so I hope to be able to write more tomorrow night.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 27 - At Sea (again)

We are spending a lot more time at sea on this cruise than we anticipated.  The 2 missed ports resulted in 3 extra days at sea, as I've said.  Now the planned 2 days between Cooktown and Darwin seem long.  The ship's crew did put on a "country fair" in the halls this afternoon, but our activity schedule got fouled up so we missed it.  Maybe they'll do it on the next cruise segment.   We went through  a strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea this afternoon, into the Arafura Sea.  I was amazed at the number of islands we passed along the way.  
I saw these 2 lighthouses along the way.

The sea pilot was supposed to come on the ship TV channel to take about the Great Barrier Reef and the strait, but he never did.  We waited at the 2 announced times, but nothing happened.

The only other thing I'd like to share today are photos of the desserts we had with dinner tonight.  Works of art as well as delicious.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 26 - Cooktown

Regent Tender

We finally got to land again today.  Cooktown is  a town of about 2,000 people that was founded at the bay where Captain Cook landed to repair his ship after it had run aground on reefs to the southeast.  Ray's back was bothering him this morning, possibly a strain from the rough seas a few days ago, so I went off on the tour without him.   We had to take tenders in because the bay is too shallow for a large ship to get in.  The tender ride was a long one, over a half hour to shore. 

The first thing I saw as I left the dock was the sign shown here.  As our guide explained during the morning tour, they are not kidding.  It seems that there are vicious salt water crocodiles in the area and no one goes in the water.  He told a few gruesome stories of fairly recent crocodile attacks.  He also talked about all the varieties of snakes, including pythons, that inhabit the surrounding bush.  I decided that this is not the area of the world I would like to live in.

Once on shore I boarded a little bus holding about 20 people for a tour of the town. Our first stop was the James Cook Museum. This building was originally a convent and Catholic school.  After the nuns left, the building fell into disrepair.  It was later put on the list of historic buildings, restored, and made into a museum of Cooktown history.  Each room in the museum documents a different episode in the history, such as Aboriginal life, Cook's landing, the gold rush, the Catholic church and school, and Chinese immigrants.

Regent Voyager from Grassy Hill

The tour went to a botanical garden and wildlife interpretive center next.  I enjoyed the interpretive center but avoided the garden after guide warned of a heavy mosquito population.   The cruise director had warned about the heat so I was prepared with hat, suntan lotion and water, but didn't bring my bug spray or mosquito netting.  I think from now on they will be standard equipment in my shore bag, just to be safe.

The last stop was to a lighthouse on the top of Grassy Hill.  From there we had a great view of the town and harbor.  It seems that Captain Cook surveyed the area from this point when he arrived.  I got this shot of our ship from the viewing platform next to the lighthouse.

Storm Over Cooktown
There wasn't much else in town, other than the fact that most of the buildings are on the historic register.  The ship was scheduled to weigh anchor at 4pm, and it's a good thing.  A thunderstorm started building about 3pm and the last tender made it back just in time before the rain came.  We stood out on the balcony and watched the lightning on the shore.

Tonight  the upstairs restaurant that is usually Italian is serving Indian food, so we are eating in the main restaurant downstairs.  The menu selections there aren't what our choices would normally be either, but they have a few simpler choices on the always available selections.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 25 - Sailing along the Great Barrier Reef

We are still at sea, off the coast of Cairns.  If the ship had tried to stop in Cairns as originally planned, we would only be getting there now, at 8:30PM.  Since there is nothing to do there at night, the captain wisely skipped it.  We will be arriving in Cooktown in the morning, according to the original schedule, so that will be our first port after 4 days at sea. 

No photos today.  It was another calm day of reading and a movie.  I did go to an art auction this afternoon for a little diversion, but that was all.  They have some excellent art on this ship by some of my favorite artists.  It makes me wish I had more money to spend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 24 - Sailing North

The seas were rough until almost midnight last night, but it has been calm again since then.  We were back to normal smooth sailing today.  Since this was an extra, unexpected day at sea, there wasn't anything really special going on.  The lectures were repeats of ones we heard on the first cruise and we are not card players or interested in playing board games.  We enjoyed reading on the balcony and coming in to watch a movie in our room during the heat of the afternoon.  Not much else to talk about today.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 23 - Goodbye Oswald

After spending a day and a half anchored in the safe harbor of Moreton Bay, we were finally cleared to resume our journey around noon today.  Cyclone Oswald has moved south of us.  Since we lost a day and 2 nights, we are going to have to miss 2 ports - Whitsunday Island and Cairns.  We will now have 3 days at sea in order to get to Cooktown.  Once there we will be back on schedule.  I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed since this means they will not be able to see the Great Barrier reef up close on tour.

The bird that took refuge on our balcony last night was still there until about 11AM this morning.  That was when the sky started to brighten up a bit and we started seeing birds flying above the waves again.

We were very glad to be anchored last night for our anniversary dinner.  We had a good dinner at the steak house last night, ending with the waiters bringing a scrumptious chocolate cake for dessert.  When we returned to our room, we found the housekeeping staff had created towel swans on the bed, with rose petals around them.  It was lovely.

We were very glad to have a steady ship last night and this morning, but that has changed significantly since we left anchorage.  The captain warned us that it would be rough until after 11PM tonight and he wasn't kidding.  Normally Ray is more affected by a ship rocking and rolling than I, but not this time.  We are getting both pitch and roll this afternoon, and I am feeling it too.  We are keeping pretty much to our room and it seems most everyone else is doing the same.  Ray had to deliver some papers to guest services this afternoon and he said the halls were empty.  We are planning to skip the dining rooms tonight and just order in something light.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 22 - Hiding in the Bay

Bridled Tern seeking shelter on our balcony.
Cyclone Oswold is playing in the Pacific off the east coast of Australia.  As a result, we are anchored in the protective harbor of Moreton Bay, 8 miles off Brisbane.  Originally we were supposed to be able to continue our travels this afternoon, but the storm is moving slowly.  The port of Brisbane is closed and no ships are allowed in or out of the bay at least until tomorrow morning.  We are safe here, but it has been raining continuously all day.  The weather is so bad, a Bridled Tern has taken refuge on our deck and has been there for several hours.  We are doing our best not to frighten it away.

As long as we are anchored here the ship is fairly stable.  We've had a nice day at sea.  This morning we attended a lecture on "The Great Barrier Reef" by Captain Wallace Cray.  He explained that, in addition to harbor pilots, there are a few sea pilots with special knowledge of certain tricky areas along coasts.  Captain Cray is a pilot for the Great Barrier Reef.  He gave a great talk about how the reefs were discovered and where the shipping lanes are.

This afternoon I went to another art lecture.  This one was on the American Pop Artists.  Mostly this was on Peter Max, with a little about Andy Warhol thrown in.   I really like this art style, so I enjoyed hearing about it's history.   Both Max and Warhol started out as billboard painters and became famous using imaginative color to depict recognizable subjects.  In addition to his success in poster art and serigraphs, Peter Max has done a lot of work for charitable causes.  He is the one who, along with Lee Iacocca, raised the funds for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

As Shown on TV (Ship Channel)

Tonight was the traditional Regent block party.  Everyone went out into the halls at 6pm to meet our neighbors and enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres.  One couple down the hall continued on from Auckland like we have but most of the people in our area got on in Sydney.

Today is our 34th wedding anniversary.  We are very happy to be in calm waters, because we have a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants on board tonight, Prime 7.  We are looking forward to some good wine and a good steak to celebrate.