Saturday, 2 June 2012

Australia Day 4 - Friday 2nd June

After a full 12 hours sleep in a lovely comfortable bed, I wake feeling fully refreshed. The bed was really comfortable, and when I opened the balcony doors there was a clear blue sky to greet me – what perfect weather.

The room was actually very nice – a really nice size with everything you could need. A good shower, plenty of toiletries, and lovely fluffy towels. We walked to the Sunset Bar & Grill, which is where the breakfast was served. It was buffet style, and not too bad. The staff were fairly cheerful, which was a good sign. I got an omelette made to order, but there were several types of eggs all ready done on the buffet. Eggs Benedict, scrambled and poached – all getting cold and very overdone in the large terrines. Why do people not realise there is only one way to get good eggs – cook them fresh!

The rest of the buffet, although fairly extensive, was also fairly cold. And I am not talking about the yoghurt! For someone not as fussy as me this would be fine. For me, it was very mediocre. We sat outside in the sun, overlooking the lawns and then further on to the sea (although you couldn’t actually see it) so it was a very pleasant setting. Oh well, at least we were only here for one night.

After packing all the cases, and checking out, I asked the receptionist if the bags could be looked after, and if they were secure. “Yes” she said. “They will be kept in the locked porters room.” So I left my hand luggage with my passport and money in as well as the case. We went to sit by the pool for an hour or two, and had a very relaxing morning. One, and only one, really good thing this hotel did was as we were sitting by the pool they brought over a large jug of iced water and two glasses. Never had that before, but what a really good idea.

At 1pm we thought we would make a move, and went to the concierge for him to order us a taxi. “It will be here in ten minutes” he says. When we asked him to get our bags, he showed us a line of luggage outside the reception doors. All of our bags were there – money and passports and all. Luckily. Why do people have to give you the wrong information. With the right information you can make an informed decision – with the wrong information you could lose all your worldly goods! After forty five minutes waiting for the taxi that should have taken ten minutes, I spy three ladies getting into a taxi with Orion tags on their luggage. It looks a fairly large taxi, so I asked if we could join them. Not a problem, and we all have a really good chat for the twenty or so minutes it takes to get to the Pearl Luggers Museum, where we were to meet for the Orion check in. $15 each party for the taxi, which was not bad at all. Apparently, the biggest horse race of the year was taking place in Broome today, so there was a distinct lack of taxis around. Excuse accepted!

When we got to the Museum, there were others milling around, and some Orion staff to take our luggage. I nipped down the road to buy a hat. I was going to get one before I left home, but ran out of time. That’s why I was ready on time – I hadn’t done all I needed to do! The heat is so intense here, that it probably is a good idea even if I do look a bit of a plonker. After checking in (filling in all the insurance info etc on the tickets beforehand, that they didn’t even take) and leaving our passports with the staff here, we were shown on a bus to take us to the port. “G’day again” says the bus driver. It was the same chap that had dropped us off in the taxi. He was probably the only one on duty to do work other than take people to the races!

We drove about fifteen minutes to the Port of Broome, and then came up against shut gates. After five or so minutes of wrangling with the chap that had the keys (who looked a bit like the wild man of Borneo!) he decided that there was something he didn’t like so he went back in his hut and the gates stayed firmly shut. We could see the ship from where we sat (it looked tiny, hardly showed above the jetty) but just couldn’t get to it! The driver got on the phone to his boss, and shouted at the man to come and have a word with him on the phone. He came out of his hut again, and after a short heated exchange went back in and came out with a wad of papers that the driver had to fill in and sign. The he opened the gates. Strange. There was only one ship on the road where we were going, we must have been expected, and it was an official Broome Transportation Bus. Perhaps he felt like being a dictator today!

We arrived at the ship side, got off the bus, and went up some steps into our teeny weeny home for the next ten nights. It might be teeny weeny, but it is really lovely – like a large yacht. The cabin is lovely, and we had champagne (again) and sandwiches in the Leda Lounge. We then had a really extensive lifeboat drill – even to the extent that they showed us how to put the lifejackets on (normal) then how to hold them down with one hand and pinch your nose with the other if you have to jump into the water (not normal!). And to get to a deck as near as possible to the water before jumping in. The life jackets will keep us afloat for up to six days, apparently. Hmm – do they know something I don’t. Paul mentioned to the chap standing next to him that he thought the Chief Engineer was Italian, who don’t do life boat drills. “I’m not” he said from about twenty five yards away – he might not be, but he has damn good hearing!

We went back to the cabin, quickly unpacked, and then there was a sail away party on the deck. Somewhat different to the last few cruises I have been on, the deck was a really small space, but the champagne flowed freely. And we were afforded a beautiful sunset as we sailed away. Lovely.

A quick shower, and then we had a briefing in the Leda Lounge. The various expedition leaders and a few of the main staff introduced themselves, and gave us an idea of what was going to happen tomorrow. Zodiacs and swim holes featured – as did the story of a member of staff on one of their competitor’s ships being eaten by a crocodile about five weeks ago. They assured us that they send an advance party two hours prior to us arriving, with chickens and carcasses to make sure there are no crocodiles. I somehow think that is a bit of an exaggeration… They said there were 87 guests and 74 staff on this cruise – lets see if there are the same number for dinner tomorrow night!

Dinner was at 7.30pm with a “Degustation Menu” which roughly translated is a taster menu. If there was anything on there that you didn’t like, there was a whole page of alternative choices. As usual, I liked everything so had it as it was – and it was delicious. It featured scallops, barramundi, lamb and pannacotta (all on separate courses!). It was open seating, and we sat with a couple that originated from the UK that had been in Sydney for twenty odd years, and a Scottish couple that had been in Brisbane for forty odd years. How bizarre – but what lovely people they are. Everyone we have met so far has been so friendly. At 10.30pm we made our way back to the cabin, as I feel tomorrow is going to be a busy day!

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