Category Archives: Travel

Tragedy at Sea

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Patience is the virtue of life. However, our patience had been put to the test by having to wait for over a year, before my sister and myself boarded once again the Carnival Spirit Cruise ship, this time bound for the South Pacific, eleven days and ten nights with over 3,000 other passengers onboard.

Our last cruise together was to Moreton Island, a five-day and four nights cruise up the east coast of Australia. This was a really pleasurable cruise for me as it was my first cruise on one of the large cruise liners where everything is provided for you, your own cabin steward, fine dining and of course an excellent array of mixed cocktails, French Martini was my chosen delight.

27th March 2019 had finally arrived and the process for boarding the Carnival Spirit ship in my opinion desperately needs improving, even with an allocated time it was horrendous. The endless line to go through immigration checks seemed to continually grow and we were just stuck there trying to be patient and in desperate need of one of those cocktails.

Thankfully our heavy luggage was placed outside our cabin allowing us to try out our first speciality cocktail of the day whilst watching Sydney Harbour pass by. Sydney is a delightful city to be leaving. Thank goodness we both now reside in beautiful Coffs Harbour, where the Great Dividing Range meets the sea and the air is fresh without pollution streaming into our lungs.

Settling into the ship routine isn’t hard once you have experienced the lifestyle, especially knowing that we have three days of sea travel before we reach our first island destination. We manage to relax, meet our fine dining table attendees, who were from Dolby Queensland and South Australia. Then it was decision time to work out which show time event to attend, whilst sampling more cocktails at our favourite bars, Alchemy and Red Frog.

The first few days seemed to disappear without much thought as to what day or time it was.

Our first Saturday night’s fine dining dress code was formal to which we obliged to look our best. Prior to entering into the dining area, we had our normal cocktail, my sister had Espresso Martini and mine, of course, French Martini. Neither of us could have imagined how this night was going to end.

After finishing our evening meal and attending one of the entertainment shows we went back to our favourite Alchemy Bar to listen to the wonderful Summer Breeze group of two musicians playing favourite songs. The night was perfect, we originally sat up at the bar and spoke to Alexander the head barman and discussed different types of martinis. Sitting up at a bar isn’t always comfortable so we moved to more relaxed lounge chairs where we could listen and sing along to the music whilst watching the passing parade.

There was one particular couple that caught our eyes, as they both appeared to be unsettled in where they wanted to sit. They moved from one location to another, then to the bar where the woman sat there on her own while the man decided to pick up one of the bucket lounge chairs and try to shake it. Alexander the barman yelled out “Put that down Bengy”, to which he did. Then he walked over to where we were sitting and came up really close to my sister’s face and said: “what did you have for dinner?” my sister advised him and he said “the wrong choice” and walked away. He then proceeded to almost sit on top of two other ladies who were quietly having a drink.

He went back to the bar and embraced an elderly couple walking past by giving the woman a hug and shaking the man’s hand. Then he and his partner left the bar.

We both felt he was either drunk or spinning out on drugs or both.

Then at 1.20am Sunday morning we were woken by an announcement “Would Benjamin L return to his cabin” This announcement was continuous for a few hours until the Captain announced, “we have a passenger missing and we need to search all cabins please return to your cabins immediately”. We both looked at one another and said: “there is something wrong” Within moments we had our steward knocking on our cabin door. I answered the door and the steward asked to see if only my sister was in the room. He looked and accounted for my sister Debra.

It took until 7am before another announcement came from the Captain “We have viewed all the ships video footage and found that the passenger a 26-year-old Benjamin L has jumped off the ship. Our thoughts are with his partner and family, which we will be providing counselling. We will be turning the ship around and go back to where he possibly jumped off the ship”.

The shock was too much for us; we knew straight away that it was the man we saw on a Saturday night and had spoken to Debra.

For the next 12 hours, our ship together with another close by cruise liner and sea rescue plane searched to hopefully locate his body without success.

As we had lost a day at sea and obviously not docking at our first location Santos, the Cruise Director announced that the Captain would try and get the ship to dock at another island, if possible. Docking at another island was far from our minds as the thought of a 26-year-old man losing his life was heartbreaking.

The following night we asked Alexander the barman at the Alchemy Bar was it the guy that acted oddly the night before, he replied “Yes”. Our hearts sank!

Days following this tragedy there were an enormous amount of stories circling the ship. The ship’s Internet was closed down, as passengers were Face booking stories about the death, some really terrible.

We didn’t know if this had reached the news back in Australia so we contacted our families advising them that we were sort of ok and trying to deal with such a terrible tragedy. All we could think about was the man’s partner and his family.

During the rest of the cruise, there was a flatness surrounding the situation and we had noticed that there was a security guard sitting outside one of the cabins on our level and couldn’t work out why.

We found out after leaving the ship as to why the security guard was constantly sitting outside one of the cabins on our level. The man’s partner was relocated to our level, as their cabin was an outside cabin with a balcony.

Cruising the East Coast of Australia

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Having flown around many parts of Asia, South Pacific and the West Coast of America over several years of business trips and some locations for holidays, I felt it was time to experience cruising on one of the big ships.

I hadn’t been on a ship in over forty years and that trip from Sydney to Tasmania with my then-husband, three-year-old daughter, and our car took onto the Empress of Australia; isn’t actually a cruise ship. However, it did have an added benefit of being able to take our car enabling us to travel at leisure around Tasmania and experience the beauty of the most southern part of Australia.

My sister had experienced several cruises on big ships, it was advantageous to acquire her cruising knowledge and that we went together, in my case to experience a short length cruise. We chose ‘Carnival Spirit’ from Sydney to Moreton Island, four nights and five days.

On the day of departure, it was incredibly daunting to see the size of our ship docked at Circular Quay, Sydney, certainly much larger than my last cruise to Tasmania. This big ship held over 2,600 passengers and 1100 crew. I felt the air of excitement and anxiety as the night before it had been reported on the TV one of the Carnival cruise liners had a legal ‘class action’ pending due to Norovirus outbreak on their Sea Princess Ship. That is certainly not something one wanted to hear prior to boarding the same cruise liner ship. Thankfully not our chosen ship.

With the assistance of social media namely Facebook, my sister sourced the Carnival Ships Facebook Group for relevant information and found that over 100 users strong words of advice were “wash your hands often”. Also, the ships have plenty of opportunities for hand disinfectant dispensers.

I couldn’t believe how smooth the embarking was on the day of sailing out of Sydney Harbour.

It was all aboard; we headed straight to our cabins to see the size and atmosphere. Our cabin was forward ship one of the internal cabins on the lowest deck, which was actually close to all the action, bars, Showtime entertainment events, and the main dining area. However one of those bars turned out to be a nuisance as it was directly above our cabin, closing time was midnight. We managed to stay out so late that when we arrived back to our cabin we were too tired to even be bothered by the noise of the staff dragging the chairs back into position after closing time.

Neither of us wanted to eat at any of the buffet areas, too many choices, high chance of picking up a virus from passengers handling the food tools. We deliberately chose the fine dining area for most meals, some days we skipped lunch due to other activities we didn’t want to miss.

The best activity, of course, was docking out on the Coral Sea; Moreton Island, complete with our bathers, towels, suntan lotion, hats, and sunglasses. It is a small island 44 km with a population of about 298 and within view of the mainland Brisbane. There are a few resorts, a small police station, eateries, bar and entertainment for the passengers of Carnival Spirit. No food or drinks were allowed on shore. This is where the island makes most of its money, tourists paying high prices. Two sandwiches and bottled water cost me $38.

We had originally planned to do a dive around the shipwrecks and a ride on the Segways but thought the cost to do these was outrageous especially when we have been to other Pacific Islands and the Great Barrier Reef several times, so we decided to give them a miss. After all the money would be better spent on experiencing the amazing cocktails from one of the bars onboard the ship.

Our decision to just swim in the beautiful Coral Sea waters on Moreton Island and just enjoy the coolness of the water with the sun beaming down on us while watching all the activities around us with the added benefits of the cool salt water gushing around our bodies was perfectly sufficient for us.

The onboard ship’s entertainment was of high standard, something you would no doubt pay in excess of $80 to $100 dollars a show and we saw three amazing shows, followed by the adults-only Comedy Shows, the comedy was certainly R rated, whilst delighting in the array of Martinis, especially French Martini and the variety of our chosen cocktails.

The enormous size of our ship, gave us plenty of exercises, we both would have walked up several hundred stairs, sometimes used the lifts, strolled along the ships various decks, including the shopping arcade, top of the ship, where I felt a little nervous looking down into the sea, had a bit of vertigo!

There were several activities onboard the ship every day, sometimes we found it difficult to make a decision on which activities to attend and or participate. Each day we would get a program, decide collectively what looked the best and then enjoy.

For the evening meal, we were seated in the main dining area with four other ladies, who turned out to be a great company. The table was directly in front of a huge round window where we could see the flow of the ship’s water churning out below and behind the ship.

The nicest treat at the evening meal, directly after our mains were served was the dancing waiters. All the waiters would encourage participation from the guests. Of course my sister and self just had to participate, what a hoot!

Now back in Coffs Harbour and reflecting on my ‘big ship’ cruise, would I do it all again? Absolutely!

Bring on 2019 and another big ship adventure.

 

 

One-Day Road Trip

Waking up to another magical day in Coffs Harbour, not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky gave me the idea; it is time for a road trip west of Coffs Harbour for the day.

I phoned my daughter and said, “do you feel like a road trip today?” With enthusiasm, she replied, “yes, but where?” “What about driving to Armidale, which is less than 200 kilometers from here?”

A car full of petrol, our journey commenced at 7.30am knowing Armidale can be much colder than on the coast, we prepared ourselves suitably with suitable shoes, jeans, and jacket.

Driving up through Bellingen, Dorrigo, Ebor and all the small towns in between gave us the perfect opportunity to talk about everything that was happening in both our lives. It only took a few hours before we drove through the most beautiful autumn leaf maple trees residing on both sides of the road. “We have arrived in Armidale”.

I couldn’t resist pulling over the car and taking some selfies with the magnificent autumn trees in the background, so beautiful!

“Let’s do a bit of looking around before we have lunch”. We found a rather unique oldest style café’ in a small shopping centre where we noticed everyone wore jumpers and jackets. We had jackets with us but didn’t feel it was cold enough to wear them to the shopping centre. This was probably why everyone appeared to be looking at us like we were strange.

After sharing a blueberry pancake stack and having a cup of coffee we continued with our sightseeing around Armidale. I thought to myself, Tamworth is only 100 kilometers further. I said to my daughter “Do you want to drive onto Tamworth?” “Absolutely!”

The pancake and coffee gave us plenty of sustenance and time to digest during the drive southwest to Tamworth home of the ‘big guitar’ and the famous country singers and of course line dancing.

Trying to find the big guitar challenged my GPS app, but we found it to the delight of my daughter who worked near there approximately for two weeks when she attended some regional training about twenty years ago when she worked for Prime TV Sydney.

After looking through the information centre and taking photos of the famous guitar personalities like; Dolly Pardon, Kenny Rogers, Beccy Cole, Kris Kristofferson, Keith Urban and Troy Cassar-Daley it was time to find another interesting eatery before we headed back home to Coffs Harbour.

I thought instead of going back via Dorrigo why not travel down through the Enfield Forest mountain ranges to Port Macquarie then home.

This was not a good idea, as it turned out to be more than 100 kilometers of winding road with forests after forests before we came to the township of Wauchope, then onto Port Macquarie for a nice rest and our evening meal. Our decision to eat at West Point Club was probably one of the best locations we chose for the day. The club is positioned overlooking the Hastings River, although rather difficult to appreciate the view at 7.30pm. Our meal wasn’t like most clubs; it actually looked and tasted delicious giving us sufficient provisions for the 140 kilometers back home.

The decision for a one-day road trip to Armidale, which turned into including Tamworth and Port Macquarie, was definitely too much to achieve in a one-day trip.Processed with MOLDIV

Holiday Travel Hazards

IMG_2406.jpgHolidaying on the Gold Coast in January established a great location for planning yet another holiday. This time the plans included both of my daughters for a longer than normal long weekend to explore more destinations, including new shopping locations, like Robina Shopping Centre.

My youngest daughter and I drove to the Gold Coast in cloudy conditions. The tail end of cyclone Debbie swirling down the east coast of Australia attributed to the challenging weather conditions, which were about to hit the Gold Coast.

Our Surfers Paradise Airbnb accommodation apartment included everything we required, our own bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pool, and a spa. The only drawback for me included three flights of stairs to reach our apartment each time we ventured out. Thankfully, my youngest daughter carried most of the initial trips up the flights of stairs with our bags and food supplies.

Knowing my eldest daughter’s flight from Newcastle was going to be affected by the weather concerned me greatly. The plane had two aborted landings at the Gold Coast Airport.

The thirty-five-minute drive to our apartment took over an hour due to the extreme weather conditions. At one stage we had to almost pull over, with hazards lights on we drove through to our apartment where we settled into having a quiet drink and catch up talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open before retiring to our own bedrooms for a good night’s sleep.

Our first day comprised of a wonderful healthy breakfast prepared by my youngest daughter, then shopping was high on our to-do list. It turned out to be tiring and amazing, as it included Robina Shopping Centre. We all agreed we could just stay there the whole time and forget about doing the tourist ventures. The food hall included every type of delicacies one could imagine, something that we yearned for in Coffs Harbour.

The decision to stay at the Airbnb apartment was organised by my eldest daughter, good choice indeed. She also suggested Uber services when we went out for dinner. The Uber drivers were polite, clean, on time and cheap, compared to the local taxis. Another good decision!

After shopping, swimming, eating, drinking our way throughout Surfers Paradise, which included dinner at Jupiter’s for Chinese and La Rustica for Italian. It was time to drop off my eldest daughter at the airport and for us to start our trip back to Coffs Harbour.

We had no idea how bad the weather ahead of us was going to be, apart from looking up the obvious road conditions weather apps on my mobile. The apparent problem areas were marked with red at certain locations south of Woodburn.

A few kilometers north of Woodburn the traffic came to a halt. It was a long wait before the traffic started to move, only one lane being used for all traffic north and south, hence the reason for the long wait. We could see RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) trucks and vans for many kilometers.

We had no idea of the type of major hazard ahead of us. Flooded roads, major highway roads flooded both ways for many kilometers. At Little Italy we drove through three flooded roads urged on by RMS vans driving alongside us. The heavy trucks ahead of us were causing backwash waves hitting up against my poor Toyota Corolla.

It wasn’t until we came across the fourth flooded road when both of us thought it is too high! We could either go through or turn back. A decision to turn around and head back to higher ground was not an option, so we pushed ahead. Feeling somewhat scared and concerned about the water coming in through my car made us both feel overwhelmed. The comfort knowing if we got stuck the RMS vans were nearby to assist us.

The drive back from the Gold Coast normally takes about five to six hours, our trip this time took over nine hours. Two exhausted, but relieved travelers arrived home safe and somewhat happy to have made it through this hazard of driving through flooded roads.

We were fortunate compared to all the homes and business areas affected by the impact of cyclone Debbie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Coast Holiday

 

IMG_0687.jpgPlanning a holiday is all part of the excitement. The planning with my youngest daughter was only a few weeks ahead of our trip and we didn’t have the time to get overly excited. We didn’t really care as our destination was to the Gold Coast, Queensland for a few days to relax and enjoy whatever we found of interest for both of us.

Our first day of driving from Coffs Harbour to the Gold Coast complete with our clothes and of course our own pillows was pleasurable and relaxed as most of the Christmas holiday traffic was going south, not north as we were heading.

When we arrived at our rather cheap motel, a so-called 4-star property, we couldn’t unpack the car have a shower and head off into our holiday mode to explore as there was a sign on the closed reception door “back at 2.30pm”. Great, so we had to wait around for an hour and a half or head off to do some exploring. We chose to explore the rather large nearby Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.

What a great idea this turned out to be, whilst wandering around this enormous shopping centre we discovered a pop-up stand promoting ‘three theme parks for $30 each’. What! We just had to find out more about this, as the normal cost to see three theme parks was $100 each.

It turned out to be promoting time-share for 90 minutes the following day at a beautiful resort only 15 minutes south from our motel. We could do that just to save the $140, as that would be spent on shopping for the different type of clothes than what we could buy in Coffs Harbour.

My goodness, this so-called 90 minutes time-share information turned into over two hours with so much repeating of information that we were both turned off. This was an example of overselling big time. Thankfully my ability to brush off ‘killer salesmen’ especially the sales manager that tried to give us the deal of a lifetime is one of the skills I learned many years ago. Our task was to walk away with the three theme park tickets, which we had previously purchased at $30 each and enjoy the rest of the day.  Laughter overtook us as we drove away to our first theme park ‘Movie World’.

Movie World was absolutely amazing, one of the hottest days though and without any suntan lotion, not even able to buy any, we were dashing between places where we could get some respite from the heat. One of the locations was watching the Looney Tunes 4D Road Runner & Coyote at the Roxy Theatre.

What a fantastic experience, not only was the movie in 4D, the seats rocked and rolled whilst the seat in front sprayed water on us, so refreshing! Heaps of photos were taken and lots of laughter, just what we needed, especially after having to endure over two hours of time-share overselling. The best buy of the day was our $3 ranch hats and Looney Tunes shopping bags for $2.

That evening, as the previous evening we chose to eat at Jupiter’s Casino in one of the Japanese Restaurants after of course having a look around and a few drinks in one of the cocktail bars. Our meals were cheaper than the bottle of wine and a mixed drink in the cocktail bar. A bar that had gone back in time to the eighties, actually the whole Casino hasn’t moved on in design since the eighties. We did notice a new building being constructed in front of the Casino. Hopefully, that is more impressive when complete!

The following day when we chose to go to the Sea World it was clouded over, although still very hot. Our ranch hats purchased for $3 at Movie World was our salvation, as there weren’t many places where you could sit in the shade. Neither of us was that impressed with this theme park; our timing was out with being able to see most of the show-stopping events. I must admit we were both thinking about the poor animals being on display, especially the seals and dolphins.

Being our last day before heading back to Coffs we left the theme park and headed to the most popular Harbour Town Shopping Outlet where we could grab some bargains from discount clothing stores. Apart from purchasing some clothes, and bags the best deal of the day was buying Lindt chocolates at 50% off the RRP and relaxing in their coffee shop whilst enjoying the best ever-cold frappe, so delicious!

Our last night’s dinner was at Chiangmai Thai Restaurant Broadbeach.   We thought we would go overboard and enjoy a banquet, the smallest one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t small enough as we ended up leaving nearly half of the food.

A vital lesson learned from our short holiday to the Gold Coast, don’t believe all you read about accommodation on Trip Adviser. Our motel, Burleigh Gold Coast Motel may have had a swimming pool, which put it into the 4-star category, but swimming in it made us feel dirty to the point of hopping out and dashing over to the surf to have a real swim in the ocean. The only thing good about the motel was it did have clean sheets and a place to shower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glen Innes, NSW Road Trip

Up until recently, I have not been able to plan a road trip just for me, somewhere that I wanted to go and see in our beautiful country. My chosen location was Glen Innes, north/west about 256Ks from where I live in Coffs Harbour.

Thankfully one of my friends also wanted to see Glen Innes and she suggested that it was a good idea to travel there when something of interest was happening.

The weekend we decided to drive there was at the time of their annual gem festival, where exhibitors from all over the country set-up their stalls, some selling precious and non-precious gems, while others selling their finished jewelry wares. And a wine, cheese and chili sauce exhibitor somehow managed to set-up a stall. This exhibitor became my dancing partner on a Saturday night.

After our three and a half hour drive, booking our two nights accommodation at a motel with WIFI, we set off to explore the gem festival. It wasn’t long before we were entrenched in discovering all about rocks, fools gold, and of course gems. Trying not to spend too much by way of seeing and wanting, what I really didn’t need was a challenge.

Many hours of discovery passed and it was time for us to go back to our motel, which actually lacked the WIFI connection, have a shower and frock up to see what the nightlife was all about. The place that stood out what the local Club, where to our delight they had a live two-piece band, called ‘Spanish Fly’. Neither of us had heard of them, but when you are in the country you do what the locals do and enjoy!

It wasn’t long before we got into the groove of the wonderful entertainment, except there was something missing, people. We seemed to be the only two people sitting right in front of the band and enjoying the grooving along, we even asked for our chosen songs, which they happily played. Their repertoire was amazing.

Neither of us could believe that this wonderful music was being played by just two people, us.

It was about an hour or so sitting there by ourselves when all of a sudden three men who just wanted to dance and obviously have some company surrounded us. One of the men was the wine, cheese and chili sauce exhibitor.

Three hours later, tired feet and exhausted by all the laughing that occurred we said our goodbyes and parted for our motel beds.

On arriving at our motel we both agreed that having a sleep in was a good idea before we headed off the next day to explore the surrounding areas, including the heritage buildings, which dated back to 1886, all in pristine condition and such character, something that is missing in Coffs Harbour.

The last few hours of the following day were spent sampling the wine, cheeses and chili sauce and laughing about what a great night we had the previous evening.

Our road trip to Glen Innes was certainly a town of discovery and without a doubt one to remember.

 

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A Mother’s Concern

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It doesn’t matter how old your children are, as a Mother you always worry about their safety, especially when it is your daughter rafting down the Colorado River Rapids on a raft together with husband and my grandchildren. A triple worry!

Prior to going overseas to the United States for a month, my eldest daughter Corinne painstakingly advised me that whilst they would be in the Grand Canyon there wouldn’t be any form of communication, mainly during the time when they did the organised four-day rafting and camping trip. That included no phones, Internet, WiFi, nothing!

Knowing that their trip was going to be an organised professional rafting trip made me feel somewhat comfortable at the time of her detailing their entire month in the United States, where they would be visiting Los Angles, Las Vegas, Utah, Yosemite, San Francisco and Hawaii.

Obviously, one of the most spectacular tourist adventures would definitely be the rafting trip down the Colorado River and camping along the river edge. This could be something that my grandsons would thoroughly enjoy and remember for a long time. Probably not the most comfortable trip though for my daughter.

The trip appeared to be one of life’s best adventures until you remember that your daughter is not the strongest swimmer!

Before they left to go overseas Corinne included me into her Tripit app details and said she would upload photos onto Instagram along the way.

This way I could see where they were and as both Corinne an Nigel her husband are both keen photographers, Nigel being the professional photographer, I knew that the photos would be uploaded often onto Instagram, which they were! Except of course when they were rafting down the Colorado River.

Having to be patient during those painful four days without any form of communication, until I heard from them via whatever type of communications they could muster was awful. My thoughts went from guess they are having a great time to hoping nothing has gone wrong!

Trying to get some solace I turned to my friends on Facebook saying how anxiousness was getting to me when one of my friends made a comment “haven’t you heard about deliverance country and the odd things happen there”.

Great, that was all I needed to read it trigger off my imagination. Were they attacked by a big brown bear? Did anyone fall out of the raft? Then the mind wondered to rattlesnakes, tarantula spiders coming into their tents.

To say the four days dragged on is an understatement. I just wanted to see some photos appear on Instagram, as then I would know everything was ok.

Then on the fifth day, I experienced that everything was all right as the most beautiful photos started appearing on Instagram, I looked and looked over them imagining what a fantastic time they must have all had, exhausting for sure, but a real adventure.

Being able to experience this type of adventure is something that a lot of us would wish for in our own lives, but rarely get the opportunity to experience.

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As a mother and of course a grandmother you never stop worrying about the safety aspects of such an adventure. Thank goodness everything went to plan and I can stop with the anxiousness at least until their next adventure.