I returned at sunset to the ship at Airlie Beach after my day trip. I popped my head out of my wonderful balcony suite and saw an officer on the bridge resplendent in his whites. I waved and he said 'Paradise'. I had to agree with him. I then sat and ate the chocolate coated strawberries complements of David and Mickael. A magic moment I forgot to photograph. I will tell you lots, but you don't have to know every detail.
The Pacific Jewel was launched in 1989 by the largest shipbuilding company in Europe, Fincartieri who are stationed in Trieste, she cost 278.8m to build. She was designed by Cav. Renzo Piano and has a distinctive profile referred to as 'dolphin like'. [Sydney siders will proudly point out the apartment building designed by him in Macquarie Street]. After 5 name changes and ownerships, she was refurbished and renamed in 2010. She now carries 2000 passengers and 621 crew.
I wanted to see what state the Great Barrier Reef was in so I joined 'the Jewel' on a 4 day cruise. I last saw the reef 23 years ago and was knocked out by its beauty, the colours of the coral and the magnificent sea life. This time I was shocked at what I saw. In the same location I saw sad brown coral. Most of the beautifully coloured fish have long gone. However, the trip out was well organised and the weather was perfect. Getting up at 5.30 was a bit of a stretch, but one manages.
If you want a quiet cruise this ship is not for you. However, explore her 14 decks and you will find what you want. The passengers ranged from thronged people carrying drinks as they preamble, to the few mild mannered, elegantly casually dressed. Very few chose to wear Cocktail dress on the night specified.
You need to keep your sense of humour, reasons why you need to. I am a good sailor so being rocked to sleep for me is bliss. Some are not so lucky and the trip becomes a nightmare when one is sea sick. Things don't always go according to Hoyle. Celebrity Chef Luke Mangan, has opened up in the Salt Grill. Innovative food skilfully served in opulent surroundings is true to the advertisement.
A minor mishap, my fish was raw. After dinner I returned to my gorgeous suite. Opps! I was trapped in the bathroom for almost 2 hours. What to do. As a friend of mine once said 'if you can possibly avoid it, don't do it'. My weapon of choice was the lavatory brush. I banged on the wall till the man next door returned and wondered what his neighbour was up to. Both matters were attended to swiftly and professionally.
I arrived to board at 2.30. Great choice no long lines. It was quick and friendly.
THE DRILL. 3.30, well organised and brief, everybody happy.
4. PM. We sail down the Brisbane River. Those who know and love Sydney Harbour, as I do, will be disappointed. We pass the wonderful Gateway Bridge but then a sewage treatment plant and gun placements left over from World War 2, then a coal dump and then oil storage tanks. But as night falls the lights from the coastal cities are glorious. All is forgiven?
What to do? There is plenty for the young at heart and brave. Climb the funnel, ride a Segway, watch movies till all hours, go to the gym, gamble, buy stuff, drink the ship dry, play trivia or God forbid bingo, dance till you drop or go to Karaoke and find out if you have the X factor.
Eating is very special on 'the Jewel'. It is taken seriously. Catering for over 3,000 three times a day and with a smile, goes like clockwork. It is innovative and exciting. Anchovies, aniseed ice-cream, beetroot and apple salad, Thai banquets, a coffee shop and a hamburger bar, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I was entertained to my heart's content. One of my first choices for a career as a child was to join the circus and fly the trapeze. The acrobatic show was breath taking and Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond were on board. What more could you ask for.
GO SAILING. P and O have cruises leaving almost on a weekly basis from Brisbane all over the South Pacific and beyond. They range from 2 days to really long cruises. There is a 2 day cruise leaving for Sydney in November, don't be surprised if you see me on board.