Thu 31/05: Great Barrier Reef - Reef Magic Cruise / Marine World Platform

Here's a glimpse of the sights we experienced this day, the slideshow is automatic, but you can pause, go forward or backward... or, as we highly recommend, you can also see the pics in larger resolution at our Picasa website by clicking on any slide... enjoy!!!
The morning of our cruise to The Reef

AN OVERCAST AND SHOWERY DAY GREETED US on the morning of our cruise to Marine World Platform on one of the two huge catamarans operated by Reef Magic Cruises as can be seen in the accompanying photograph... 

We armed ourselves with a 'brolly each from our room to cross to the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal in front of the Shangri-La and checked-in by the required time of 08:30 to be advised that the winds would gust to over five knots and that they strongly recommended that we take motion sickness pills as after leaving the lee of Fitzroy Island the waves would get rather high and a roller-coaster ride would be had by all.

We'd booked the cruise directly with Reef Magic Cruises months before to be sure of being able to board as it's a very popular choice when visiting Cairns and its environs, but needn't have worried as the inclement weather warded off the hoards to take-in other attractions that would not be as affected.

The view from our balcony looking up Trinity Inlet on the morning of our cruise to The Reef... The Reef Magic catamaran can be seen immediately below the mountains in the distance at the end of the main pier.
After walking to the end of the pier No.1, we were heartily welcomed aboard and wisely chose our seats in the lower deck as the wild conditions would be felt more 'up top'. The bar was open for snacks and tea/coffee/soft drinks but, because of licensing laws, was not able to dispense alcohol until after 10:00... not at all a problem.

We departed on time at 09:00 and were entertained by the members of the crew, according to their expertise, on what to expect and the optional services/activities available on the day: After each informative talk, those passengers that were interested in SCUBA diving, snorkling, helicopter rides, massage therapy, et cetera were asked to identify themselves with the crew member in charge of that activity so that more specific information could be imparted and a time-table organised.

We were also advised of the other activities - glass bottomed boat, semi-submersible, fish feeding and information session, underwater observatory, sun-deck(?!), et al - included in our day that were available on the Marine World Platform... it appeared that the platform would be a hive of activity with all of these options - and, indeed, this was the case as we were to find out.

The sea was smooth as we left Trinity Inlet but the swell started to gain in height as we neared Fitzroy Island and shortly there was an announcement from the captain highly recommending that those of us that wanted to visit the lavatories to do so now as it was going to 'cut-up' rough after we left the lee as we'd heard before... he also suggested that we stay seated and have something to hold on to and, if we felt we were going to be ill, not to retire to the lavatories as the confined space would enhance our mal de merbut to employ the paper bags that were to be found on the tables in front of our seats.

He was true to his word and soon the waves were crashing over the bow and many passengers seemed to be reading some small print that was on the inside of white paper bags... I decided to find out as well - not from motion sickness, but because I'd glanced at one such bag being taken away and disposed of and which was rather full and I went into 'empathy' mode ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ... it didn't assist that I was already ill with a case of bronchitis and was so doped with medications that were fighting with the gravitational forces of being greatly thrown around whilst trying to maintain a stable position in my seat.

Very foolishly, some others were actually dashed about when they, against the captain's warning, decided to take a stroll around and change seats!.. what can I say?

Throughout this period, the crew were amazingly supportive and caring; attending to each victim in turn, with soothing advice, handing out boxes of tissues and moist towels and, supplying ice cubes to suck on which assisted with the 'acclimatisation' of the vessels motion... I might mention here what a great team the crew was - throughout the day: 'jumping-in' and lending a hand to each other even when it was not their speciality - fantastic, and a joy to watch... Well Done Crew!

We were to endure this rough patch for only fifteen minutes until we got to the protected, shallower waters of the Outer Reef, but that quarter-hour seemed like an eternity and my body was drenched with perspiration from my fever: now hot, now cold and shivering.
On our docking at the Marine World pontoon, the crew advised those with mal de mer to transfer across the gangway as, although not entirely montionless, it was larger and more stable than the catamaran in the choppy conditions; I acquiesced but the gusty conditions hitting me through my wringing wet shirt set me shivering back to the cat to search the souvenir stall for something warm to put on... it would not have been a problem had I hired a wet suit for snorkling or diving, but that wasn't to be the case, so I simply purchased a Reef Magic towel and wrapped myself in it. It also wouldn't have been a problem if I had taken a jacket with me - a hint to others!

So while my beloved cruised in the semi-submersible and glass-bottomed boat, I snuggled up across some seats and had an hour's nap as the heavy perspiration was my body's way of telling me I was exhausted: it worked, and I was fit as a fiddle with a slight case of bronchitis when I awoke.

I joined the others on the pontoon and, as mentioned earlier, there was a veritable hive of activity going on... people were being trained with snorkling and SCUBA next to the pontoon whilst others were being ferried to the Outer Reef in inflatables and Jackie was taking another turn round in the glass-bottomed boat, so I descended to the Underwater Observatory to watch from below.

When I returned to the main deck, Jackie had returned and we turned toward the fine and very varied selection that the chefs had provided for lunch and found a place out of the wind with some sunshine - which was most welcome. We spent the rest of the five hours we had on Marine World relaxing, talking to the crew, watching the helicopters take off and land at a nearby pontoon and, people watching - simply, taking time-out and enjoying ourselves.

It must be said here that, although a certified diver (I lived on the Whitsundays off Shute Harbour for quite some time and regularly dived on the reef and fed a pet moray eel that resided at the base of our jetty and graceful, circling sharks) but, it would be most unwise for me to entertain doing so now for medical reasons and, I so I don't any longer; still the memories flew back and, prompted by my surroundings I relived many happy moments.

At 15:00 things started to crank-down with people showering and changing and returning their wetsuits and sting-proof body suits and we cast-off at 15:30 for our return to the Marina... we were told that the seas had not abated and, although still a little on the wild side, no one was ill the way back with many laying their heads down on the tables and having a snooze... I'd had mine earlier so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride which was accompanied by a very interesting talk on The Reef by our resident marine biologist.

As is with most trips, the return seemed shorter than the going and we were soon saying farewell to the crew who had lined-up on the pier to say goodbye (a rather nice touch) and we strolled back to the Shangri-La after an enjoyable day filled with interesting incidents and came to the conclusion that we wouldn't have missed it for the world... truly!

Birthday Dinner

As has been mentioned, the raison d'etre of this trip was to celebrate our birthdays: I'd had mine on Monday, our day of arrival, and now it was Jackie's turn... Some months ago I researched the Cairns District for a great restaurant to take Jackie to on her special day and came up with C'est Bon; a rather nice restaurant that also has a branch in Brissie. I dashed off an email for a reservation and now tonight was the night.

C’est Bon has established itself as one of Cairns leading Dining Venues - a place where the sophistication of France meets the down to earth charm of the Tropical North... a Restaurant for all occasions, but is truly intimate enough for something special.

We arrived and were whisked to our table in this rather unique restaurant and had top food and service all night from Junelle and the Team with Chef Samuel Daquin from Lille in France whipping-up mouth-watering delights - all four courses... Vraiment superbe!

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