December 6 – Last Day of Our Cruise

Noon Sighting
29°30′18″ S 153°44′35″ E

Sadly, today is our last full day for the cruise. We arrive back in Sydney around 6:00am tomorrow & take a transfer to the airport at 8:00am. Our flight to Vancouver departs at noon.

The air temperature has dropped noticeably since yesterday. There is also a lot of smoke in the air as a result of all the bush fires in New South Wales & Sydney city areas.

Visibility in any direction is down to just a few hundred meters.

I expect that the low visibility is stressful for staff on the ship’s bridge. Even with all of the modern navigation & radar equipment they have on board, traveling through this smokey haze is like being in thick fog.

Hopefully the bush fires will be extinguished soon. I read in the online media today that 40 firefighters from Manitoba are coming to Sydney to help local fire crews.

Catherine was up early again this morning & off to the gym – such dedication! It worked out well for me too – as I could watch the European soccer league highlights on TV without disturbing her.

But I’m not a total slouch. I was up early enough to attend a 9:00am presentation by the Great Barrier Reef Pilot – a continuation of his talk yesterday.

This morning he talked about some of the routes the Pilots take ships through & also about several of the ships he has been on for his work. He’s been on numerous cruise ships like this one, bulk cargo ships, container ships, car carriers, freighters, livestock carriers (25,000 head of cattle on 1 ship! 🙀) – it must take a big propeller to get that ship moooving! (Sorry, that was sooo bad).

He’s also been on fishing scows that should have been scrapped years ago & on multi- million dollar mega yachts! Now spending a few days on the big yachts would be a treat!

This afternoon we focused on organizing our belongings & packing our bags. We have to have our luggage packed & placed outside our cabin before dinner tonight. Now reality is setting in hard!

After packing our suitcases we went down to the main concourse area of the ship & treated ourselves to a couple of double-mocha coffees. It’s going to be very hard to give all this up!

It will also be hard to say goodbye to Michael (above), our cabin steward. He spoiled us for sure!

Here are a couple of photos of one of my favorite spots on the ship. Deck 16, the Lido Deck is where all of the outside action happens. Two swimming pools, a giant outdoor theatre & two glass-bottomed walkways (one on port & the other on the starboard side) that extend out over the edge of the ship.

When you go out on these walkways you are looking straight down at the ocean, over 100 feet below. I’m not a big fan of heights but this is pretty cool!

The adults only swimming pool area was pretty nice too!

Lots of very nice places to relax & gaze out over the water, read a book, blog, or even have a snooze.

We had our final dinner in the Allegro Dining Room & had a nice visit with the couple seated at the table beside us. Peter & Vicki are from Canberra, Australia & have traveled extensively. Over the past number of nights we have had many interesting conversations about life in Australia & Canada – comparing things our countries have in common & learning about the things that are different.

It’s nice to make new friends & who knows, maybe our paths will cross again at sometime in the future.

Time for one last sunset & then off to bed. We disembark early tomorrow morning – unless we can find a good place to stow away.


December 5 – At Sea En Route To Sydney

December 5 – 1:00pm Sighting
23°47′30″ S 153°13′27″ E

Today was our 2nd full day at sea as we are on a multi-day passage to Sydney. No more stops along the way. We will have another full day at sea tomorrow & then we will arrive at the dock in Sydney around 6:00am local time on Saturday.

I’m trying to avoid thinking about that & have been discreetly scouting out places for Catherine & I to stow away so we can stay on board. The ship’s next cruise, starting on Sunday evening is a 10-day trip to New Zealand!

We had multiple activities lined up for today. First on the agenda (after breakfast, of course) was to watch a cooking demonstration put on by the ship’s Head Chef & Maitre’d. This is a popular “event” on most Princess Cruises. They work together to prepare a full meal on stage & their efforts include much fun joking around.

Today’s menu included a cold seafood salad as a starter, followed by seafood pasta as the main course & then finished off with a Black Forest Cake “competition” between the Maitre’d & the Head Pastry Chef who is in charge of all breads & desserts on board.

The Maitre’d’s cake ended up having an entire bottle of Kirsch in it. Needless to say it was pretty soggy & it was garnished with a big straw to consume the liquid portion of the dessert.

There are 600 crew involved with preparing 25,000 meals a day (3,500 guests and 1,500 crew). The numbers are staggering – for example every day 1,700 lbs of fish are prepared, 6,000 pastries made, 800 lbs of butter used and just to balance it out 8,000 lbs of fruit is served! And when it’s all done, 140,000 dishes are washed!

After the cooking demonstration a talk & slideshow presentation about piloting ships through the Great Barrier Reef was given by the Pilot who was on board our ship for this portion of our passage.

He had lots of interesting facts & stories about his work & the ecology of the reef. The talk will continue tomorrow morning.

Early in the afternoon there was some unexpected excitement aboard the ship. One of the passengers had seriously injured themselves last night & had to be taken to hospital on shore by a medivac helicopter.

The Captain of our ship had several of the upper decks evacuated & then he slowed down to a crawl. A helicopter ambulance circled the ship a few times & then came right overtop our cabin, hovered above the top deck & the injured person was hoisted aboard in a stretcher.

A small medical evacuation jet was also circling the ship while the helicopter crew were completing their task. Hope the injured person recovers ok. Made us think of how important it is to have good medical insurance coverage when traveling abroad.

Something similar happened a few years ago when we were on a cruise in the Caribbean with Catherine’s mom & dad. We were headed back to Florida & going past Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. An American military helicopter came out to the ship around midnight & lifted a person off who had suffered a heart attack. Same procedure, several upper decks of the ship were evacuated while the rescue process was being completed.

Back to today – After all the excitement died down, we got ready for the last formal night and the “Captain’s Circle” reception in one of the lounges at 5:00 pm. It was an impressive event with the captain and crew in dress whites. Cocktails and canapes were served. Captain Sagani hails from Italy and had over 20 years training and experience before becoming a full fledged captain.

Having done a few Princess Cruises before we are in the “Platinum” level which gives us a few perks. The more days cruising, the more benefits. The couple on this ship with the most days sailing are from Seattle with 1,949 days. That is a lot of buffets!

We enjoyed the sunset from the open area on deck 7.

Catherine soaking up a warm sunset memory. We won’t see any of those for a few more months.

We had a great dinner yet again but were sad to hear that our waiter Leonel was out of commission with a back injury. We were looked after by the lovely assistant waiter Hazel from the Philippines and another gal from Serbia. Hopefully Leonel will be back on his feet soon.

We have some forms to fill out for disembarkation & luggage tags with bags out by dinner time tomorrow for loading on the bus to the airport early Saturday morning. Thinking ahead to long pants, sweaters and socks on the airplane(s). It doesn’t feel like we have been away for 5 weeks! These last few days have gone quickly!


December 4 – Willis Island

Willis Island – 09:00
16°16′31″ S 149°57′60″ E

This morning we arrived for a brief stop at Willis Island, an Australian weather station in the Coral Sea.

This island is very remote as it’s about 450 kilometers off Australia’s east coast & beyond the Great Barrier Reef.

No going ashore here! This island is tiny, measuring about 1,600 feet long by 500 feet wide & it’s highest point is only 30 feet above sea level.

The cruise ship stopped a few hundred yards off the shore & the Captain broadcast a conversation between one of the island’s meteorological staff & the Great Barrier Reef Pilot who was on board our ship.

There are only 4 persons stationed on the island at any given time & each staff member stays for 6 months before rotating out. I guess they had all better get along with each other because there’s nowhere to go if you don’t want to deal with someone on your shift!

Each morning the staff release a weather helium-filled balloon that rises over 20 kilometers, collecting & relaying data to the station on its way up. Once it reaches its maximum height the balloon bursts & it falls back to earth & sinks into the ocean, instruments included.

We watched the balloon being released & then got back underway on our passage to Sydney. Our Captain gave the islanders a special salute on the ship’s horn as we sailed away.

Click on this link below for a special video/sound treat that I made:

There are many seabirds – terns & red-footed boobies living on the island. As we approached it the birds came out to meet the ship. The Captain informed us that the birds like to follow the wake off the bow for an easy meal of flying fish.

The birds stayed with our ship for the rest of the day & into the night. The sea was very calm, so great conditions for us & for the birds.

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing on the Lido deck & then shifted over to our cabin balcony in the afternoon. Not sure if we can maintain this pace for 3 more days!

The weather is still hot – over 30 C, but now that the ship is headed south, our cabin gets the morning sun & is shaded from the hot afternoon sun. That makes sitting on our balcony much more comfortable.

I wish this cruise could go on for another month (or two) but I would have to get some new clothes because what I have with me now is getting too tight! Cath is doing a much better job than I am at resisting all the temptations available on the buffet. She also heads to the gym each morning for a workout while I lay in bed & watch European soccer highlights on TV. Each to our own.

Early this evening we went to a live entertainment show featuring a comedian/juggler, “The Checkerboard Guy”, from Vancouver Island, BC. He was pretty good. Then it was off to the dining room for yet another meal.

We have been informed that the ship will cross into a different time zone tonight, so we all have to put our clocks ahead 1 hour. Hey, that means that we don’t have to wait so long for breakfast tomorrow.

Life is good. Cheers!

December 3 – Anchored at Port Douglas

Anchored at Port Douglas
16°28′10″ S 145°29′31″ E

The passage from Cairns to Port Douglas was actually only a few hours so we arrived at our destination around 8:00pm last night & dropped anchor out in front of the village. This is the farthest north we will go on our trip.

The ship spent today anchored at Port Douglas but Cath & I decided to stay on board. We were tired, we are not used to the heat & humidity & there were a lot of people lined up for the water shuttles because this was the ship’s last stop before heading back to Sydney.

This lifeboat is not much bigger than Santosha. However, it can carry a lot more people – rated for 220 passengers as a shuttle & 240 passengers as a lifeboat! During our ride to shore the other day we were truly packed in there like sardines!

Photo above: the lifeboat getting ready to be hoisted back on board. This is 3 decks below our balcony cabin. An interesting process to watch launching & recovery.

It was nice being on board a mostly empty ship – easy to find cool, quiet places to sit & relax. Fewer people on board also gives the ship’s staff a little bit more time to take care of the passengers.

We have a favourite cafe in our neighbourhood back home in London where we often get tasty cappuccinos but we have never seen anything like this!

I think I’ll ask Master Barista, Namchok, who is from Thailand if he wants to come home with us!

Cath is torn between cappuccinos or bringing our cabin steward home with us. No matter which way we look we are being spoiled.

After enjoying our cappuccinos we found a comfortable spot by the adults only pool to sit & read & snooze for a few hours.

Thankfully the 24 hour buffet was only a few steps away.

Later in the afternoon we took in a live music performance in the Princess Theatre & then went back up to the Lido deck to catch an Elton John concert on the outdoor theatre screen.

Before we knew it, it was time to eat – again! Then back to the Lido deck for a Latin Dance Party featuring the ship’s singers & dancers.

The pace is (almost) getting to be too much for us to keep up with! Not sure what we will do for excitement when we get home? It’ll be extremely hard to match this!

Tonight the ship is headed to a very small & remote island about 450 kilometers off the east coast of Australia. More about that tomorrow!


December 2 – A Special Reunion in Cairns

Cairns – A Special Reunion
16°46′30″ S 145°44′37″ E

Today our ship moored in the bay facing Cairns. We were very much looking forward to this port as we were going to catch up with two women we met last year when we were on our trip to Nepal.

November 2018 – Homestay Reception Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Louise & Judi – Nepal November 2018

Louise & Judi are from Australia & are lucky enough to live in Cairns. What a spectacular place to be! They have both been to Canada before & Louise actually lived & worked as a school teacher in Barrie, Ontario for a couple of years.

We had a really nice time with them when we were in Nepal. Last August when we initially decided to take this cruise it was a great coincidence that one of the scheduled stops was Cairns. Once we booked the cruise we sent Louise & Judi an email with the details of our itinerary & made tentative arrangements for a brief get together 4 months later!

We took a late morning tender to shore & waited for Louise & Judi at the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club adjacent to the water shuttle dock.

We enjoyed looking at all the boats in the marina and spotted a large ocean capable trawler called “Last Mango” from Wilmington, Delaware, USA. (with tan-coloured sun screens below)

Cath warned me that if sailing Santosha across the oceans is on my bucket list, she will fly to Cairns to meet me! I think Santosha is a great little boat but if I was going to try to cross an ocean I would much prefer to do it aboard Ananda.

Louise and Judi found us and took us for a brief driving tour of the immediate area & then we went to their condo for refreshments & a visit.

They pointed out many of the flowering trees and showed us some wallabies in a public park. What a pleasant reunion!

They got us back to the shuttle in good time as they like to be early like us! However, I would have not been at all disappointed if we missed catching the last tender back to the cruise ship & had to spend 2-3 weeks (or months?) here sorting things out.

Now it’s their turn to come & visit us in Canada!

We would have liked to have visited in Cairns longer but the ship would be leaving soon & the tenders would get very busy for the last hour or so.

We were glad to be back on the ship and in the air conditioning as it was 30+C with high humidity in Cairns (pronounced “cans”).

We enjoyed a nice drink on our balcony while watching the sunset over Cairns & Yorkeys Knob.

After that we had a delicious meal in the dining room and a good chat with our dining mates from Canberra, Peter and Vicky who are patiently answering our questions, sharing stories about kangaroos hopping down their street and people finding snakes in their baby’s cots and giving us recipes for Australian dishes (no kangaroo – yet).

We completed the evening by going to a live show in the Princess Theatre – a song & dance review of the music of Motown. It was really well done – one of the best we have seen on any cruise we’ve been on.

Tomorrow we are moored at Port Douglas – our last port of call before returning to Sydney.