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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Nobody goes there!

Day 60/138, 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Whitsunday Islands (Airlie Beach), Queensland, Australia.

Two months! Wow! 60 days! That’s how long we’ve been onboard the Neptune! I know we still have more time to go, than we’ve already had on board, but we’re getting close to half way through this cruise, which is crazy! Two years of anticipation for us and its flying by so quickly!

We woke up this morning already anchored with beautiful turquoise water all around us. The sun was shining when we woke up, but the forecast was for a 90% chance of rain.

We had ordered breakfast in our cabin as we were not in a rush this morning. Since it was a tender port and all of the early excursions would be getting on the first tenders which were leaving at 8:30am, there was no point in trying to line up for a tender when the town of Airlie Beach is so small, and the shops would not be open.

As we ate breakfast the clouds started to come in, and it started to rain.

Ominous clouds in the distance.

We dressed for a tropical warm 28C/83F day, with rain. Bucket hats and very light rain coat, our small umbrella and a Viking umbrella all with us just in case!

We got down to Guest Services on Deck 1 around 9:20am and put our names in for the next available tender. We ended up waiting until almost 9:50am before we were called to the tender platform on Deck A. Apparently the tenders were running 30 minutes behind because the sea swells had been so high, it wasn’t safe to let the tenders go when they had originally planned to let them go.

The tender ride took close to 30 minutes and while it wasn’t rough, it was very stuffy and ’close’ as the doors and windows were all closed, because of the sea swell and spray. Since we were added at the end to the tender, it was pretty full too. I said to Richard I hope on the tender ride back we can get a bit of a breeze by sitting closer to the doorways.

We were not sure what to expect in Airlie Beach which is one of the many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef. There are 74 Whitsunday Islands which lie between the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited but have dense rainforests, hiking trails and white sandy beaches. Airlie Beach, which we were visiting today on the mainland, is the central hub for the Islands.

We walked through the very modern visitor’s centre and were given a map of Airlie Beach and a gentleman from the local tourist office was explaining that we could walk to town or take a 5 minute shuttle bus ride.

We thought we would walk to town, but realized that it was now 10:30am, and the last tender back to the ship was supposed to be at 12:30pm, so if we walked, we were cutting into our very short time in town. Luckily we decided to jump on the shuttle bus, because the rain started to come down in earnest, just as we got on the bus.

Our friends Sue and Steve also got on our shuttle bus, so we decided to walk the town together with them.

Sue & Steve with Richard. By the time we walked from the main downtown street to the shoreline the rain had stopped! If you look behind the biggest sailboat on the left of the photo you can see the Viking Neptune anchored in the distance. No wonder the tender ride was so long!

The town of Airlie Beach was really a very pleasant surprise. Everything we could want was on the Main Street and the town was very walkable!

Airlie Beach with a little bit of rain.

Airlie Beach seems to like Canadians! Or a least our rye whiskey!

We always need to visit the Chemist (Pharmacy) in every town we visit it seems and Airlie Beach had 2 chemists to choose from. We were running low on bandaids and I never brought any hydrogen peroxide with me, so we picked some up today in town. Its funny the bus driver even pointed out the two Chemists when she was dropping us off. I guess it is common that people from cruise ships need to visit the Chemist when they arrive!

The town has a beautiful Airlie Beach Lagoon swimming area downtown off the Main Street. The Lagoon was opened in 2001 and is a man made ’beach’ which offers residents a place to swim that is safe and also a stinger free environment. The lagoon is beautifully landscaped with gardens and a children’s pool is situated at one end. We saw people swimming in the lagoon, doing laps, when we were there. The Whitsunday area does have sharks and an attack occurred in 2019 where two English tourists were attached by a shark, with one of them lost his right foot when the shark bit it off! I think I would be swimming in the Lagoon if I lived in Airlie Beach!

Airlie Beach Lagoon.

We found a grocery store of course since its our ‘thing’ to visit grocery stores in every town we are in. We didn’t spend too much time in this grocery store today, but we were surprised by the name.

Woolworth’s Grocery Store. In Canada and the U.S. Woolworth was a retailer that started business in 1879 as a Five & Dime store. The chain declined in the 1980’s and went out of business in 1997. I still remember when I first started working downtown Toronto in 1983, there was a Woolworth’s store next to The Bank of Nova Scotia where I worked. They still had the old fashioned lunch counter where you could sit at the counter and order lunch on a round swivel metal bar stool. Ah the good old days! Woolworth’s in Australia is a separate company with no historical links to the F.W. Woolworth Company, although they did take their name from the original company.

After visiting the local liquor store to pick up a bottle of buttery Chardonnay from Australia for Richard, we wandered back to the shuttle bus pick up location to take the bus back down to the tender. We were strictly told that the last tender would be at 12:30pm as the back on board time was 1pm. We overheard some people talking about the included tour which was heading from Airlie Beach to the town of Prosperine. The tour got cut short because there was not enough time to let people off and shop in the town, because of the late start and the early back on board time, and the bus driver said “Nobody goes there….they marry their sister’s in that town” and he promptly turned the bus around and brought everyone back to Airlie Beach. Its funny because we had cancelled the included excursion after I had done my research and seen that the bus ride to Prosperine was 1 hour long. The time in Prosperine was to be 1 hour and the return bus ride to Airlie Beach, was of course 1 hour. Doing the math, I thought 2 hours wandering Airlie Beach would be a much better experience than the included tour. And it turns out I was right. Everyone who had been on the included tour quickly jumped off their tour bus to try and wander around Airlie Beach for 15 minutes, before having to get back to the waiting ‘last’ tender.

We jumped on the 12:15 tender as we did not want to be on the last tender which we thought would be packed. As it turned out, Gene and Margaret were also on this tender, so we sat with them on the way back to the Neptune. As soon as we disembarked at just before 1pm, the tender turned around and went back to Airlie Beach. Interesting….I wonder why the last tender wasn’t really at 12:30pm? As we started back towards the Neptune, the rain started falling and the windows and doors were all closed on the tender boat again. We really did ‘luck out’ with the weather today, arriving in town just when the rain was stopping and getting on the tender to leave just as the rain was starting again!

We went to the World Cafe for lunch and I helped Margaret get her underwater camera set up for taking photos tomorrow on the Great Barrier Reef snorkelling expedition. We had originally booked that excursion too, but we have something else special planned now for tomorrow, so we gave back our optional excursion tickets last week for which we paid $389/person CAD. We now have additional shipboard credits to use between now and the end of the cruise.

We were having another team shipbuilding meeting in Mike and Sharon’s cabin at 3pm today, so while Richard had a nap, I worked on some items for the ship. We spent another 2 hours working as a team on the ship and it really is starting to look great! All will be revealed though on February 27th!

While we were working on the ship, we all could not understand why we were not moving. If the back on board time was 1pm, that would normally mean we would be leaving by 2pm at the latest, and it was almost 4pm and we still had not moved. The scuttlebutt was that 2 passengers had not made it back to the ship and the staff on the Neptune were trying to contact them. Hmmm….I wonder if this is true? I wonder if it is true, how will they make it back to the ship? Airlie Beach did have a small airport so who knows? I think missing the ship in Australia is probably easier to deal with than in some other upcoming countries that we will be visiting. Well if it is true, and I’m not spreading rumours, just listening to ship scuttlebutt, I hope they had their visa or Mastercard with them to figure out how to get back to the ship!

Goodbye Airlie Beach. Our stay was far too brief for such a cute place.

Tomorrow we are in Cairns and thankfully we are docked and not tendering into town! I could never understand how to pronounce Cairns until I finally asked today. The correct pronunciation is ‘CANS’. I will not be doing a blog tomorrow because our back on board time is 10pm and it will be too late after a very busy day to do a blog, so please look for the blog the day after, when we have a sea day, and I will have time.

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