Summer Has Arrived in Cairns

Day 53, Grand Asia 2018

Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018, Cairns, Australia:

Happy Thanksgiving! We are 16 hours ahead of home (Central time in the U.S.), so we celebrate early. Tonight’s dinner included a plate full of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and the rest of the traditional meal. I had a filet instead. They mucked up the traditional Thanksgiving desserts, in my opinion, adding chocolate to the pecan and pumpkin pies, so I settled for coffee. I guess I am a traditionalist in some ways and not in others.

The highlight of our Cairns stop is the opportunity to go to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s about a two-hour boat ride, depending on the speed of your boat. Last year a group of us chartered a catamaran to spend the day snorkeling there. When we returned, I wished I had more time to explore the waterfront. Today was that day.

The Amsterdam docked right in town, near shops, restaurants, a casino and the waterfront. But the temperature hovered around 90, the sun was intense and the humidity high. One place to cool off was the city lagoon, a large manmade pool of filtered salt water, mostly three feet deep or less.

Fellow cruiser Joyce wanted to return to a city market she discovered last year, but it turns out none of the usual markets are open on Thursdays. A few vendors pitched tents near the lagoon to sell jewelry, scarves, clothes and decorative items. Nearby the city was erecting its large Christmas tree, so I stopped for a while to sketch.

So far our Australian ports haven’t had the welcome and goodbye celebrations that the Indonesians and Japanese had, but today we had a special treat at the cruise terminal as we returned to the ship. A group set up a long table of local fruit samples – the familiar mango, papaya and pineapple, as well as some less familiar fruits: jackfruit, lemonade fruit, monkey bananas, pomelo, rambai and star apples. They were a refreshing treat after a hot day in the city.

I had thought I might have dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants, as “all-aboard” wasn’t until 8:30 p.m. But everyone I asked already had dinner plans on board, so I decided not to eat alone. At dinner I got good reports from those who went to Kuranda in the nearby mountains. They took a train to get there and an aerial tram to return.

When I come back in 2020 on Holland America’s world cruise, I’ll look forward to that side trip.