We had three sea days scheduled between Airlee Beach and Darwin, our last stop in Australia. They were dominated by our careful and scenic navigation of the Barrier Reef with a frequent and informative commentary from the Reef Pilot. He also gave a number of lectures and I attended two, about Captain Cook’s journeys here on the Endeavour and The Resolution. They were first class.
Breakfast on QM2 and the challenge of dieting
From a glance across Kings Court buffet, I am a modest eater by Cruise standards. Some passengers seem to eat all day (I see them, glued to their dining chairs, as I walk around the promenade deck). They start with a cooked breakfast; often quite early and then they’re queuing (literally) for the lunch buffet to open at 11.30. Before and after dinner, some of them will have afternoon tea as well and one or two will attend the midnight buffet. A few days ago we were amused by one diner in Kings Court who was – very audibly – grumbling about his lunch, which he was struggling to finish. He kept pushing away his plate – on which he’d piled every choice from the hot buffet – in apparent exasperation before loudly admonishing his wife “I can’t eat three meals a day like this.” he barked at her. She was too tactful to point out that he was in a self-service buffet and he’d chosen how much to put on his plate.
Jan and I tend to eat just two meals a day, Breakfast or lunch and dinner. Not eating breakfast daily takes some discipline because they are outstanding and the food is as good and as varied as any hotel I’ve stayed in. There is of course a full selection of English breakfast items with both British and American versions of bacon and sausages along with cold meats and cheeses, a vast array of fruit, bread, croissants and Danish pastries, along with wonderful kedgeree, corned beef hash and perfectly cured kippers. Eggs are served in every possible way. We usually get the ever willing Chefs to fry us a couple of eggs while we fill our plates. But there are always some excellent alternatives including what has become one of my favourites: scrambled egg with smoked salmon.
But, despite rationing attendance at breakfast, I had started to put on weight and determined to try and lose some of it before we left Australia. So for the last few days I’ve tried to reduce my intake of carbohydrates, by cutting out beer, bread, rice and pasta. Jan usually has salad for lunch, so I join her. That’s not the sacrifice it might be because the salad bar, cold meats, Sushi and smoked fish and mussels are inevitably outstanding. At dinner, I try to be careful what I have and forego dessert (although I can’t resist the plate of crystallised ginger which follows dessert.) I’ve also been much more active and walked many more laps of the promenade deck, had a long swim every day and also been going to the gym every afternoon. It’s beginning to work.
We were really looking forward to Darwin. We’ve been lucky enough to visit before – just for a day – and were fascinated. Superficially, it’s a modern Australian City, but really it’s an outback town and unlike Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne or Brisbane, not somewhere we could happily live. It’s formidably hot and humid and the sea and rivers, although beautiful, are extraordinarily dangerous with saltwater crocodiles being pretty numerous.
But Darwin and its wider environment is simply fascinating and some months ago I booked a car an intended to drive, as far as we dare in a single day, into the Bush/Outback along the famous Stuart Highway which goes all the way to Adelaide. We were planning to reach Lichfield Park, which appears to be a beautiful wilderness of waterfalls and swimming holes and have lunch at one of the roadside taverns. But that’s no longer possible because a cyclone has descended on Darwin and we are unable to enter the port. Two days ago we turned sharply northwest and toward Bali and away from the bad weather.
Bali joins the list of places we almost visited
Although we’ve kept well ahead of the effects of the cyclone, and the seas have been modest, it’s been very grey and with frequent torrential rain. This was the scene on Saturday morning with the sea and almost inky black
It improved today, Sunday, and many of us were pleased to return to the open decks. There hasn’t been much complaining about Darwin, despite the disappointment. But yesterday morning the Captain told us that because Balinese Immigration Officials had been unable to board the ship at Darwin, there was now some doubt that the Indonesian authorities would let us dock on Tuesday. That would mean a total of nine consecutive sea days before Singapore and passengers were rather exercised about that.
Although the ship has so much to offer, wet and grey weather, which drives people inside, can make the consecutive days at sea seem a little longer. And Bali is a very popular destination and missing it so soon after Darwin would be a disappointment. It’s a contingency for which Cunard, perhaps, might have been better prepared. Because Indonesia is now on a two-day religious holiday, which has shut down public services, including the port authority, we may not know whether or not we can dock until tomorrow, the day before our arrival. That would be a pity because with the help of our daughter we’ve arranged for a hotel to pick us up at the port and take us and return us to their beachside hotel where we’ve reserved day passes.
Well, we now know. The Captain’s noon announcement has confirmed that we’re passing Bali by and going straight to Singapore. Cunard have sent a bottle of wine to every cabin as an apology but I doubt they’ll get away with that. We shall not complain, but many will, and with some justification. What became the Darwin cyclone was being tracked when it was still a tropical depression and when we were in Queensland. Cunard should have had a contingency for our not being able to enter Darwin (we could have remained at anchor at Airlee Beach and taken on the Indonesian Immigration Officers there).
It’s disappointing although, we’re aware that struggling along enjoying the sunshine – which has now returned as we’ve left the cyclone behind – on this beautiful ship is hardly a hardship. It’s much tougher on the crew, many of them Indonesian, and who would have been excited about seeing their families for a few hours.