Monday, 23 April 2012

My week of paradise

Wow, Wow and Wow!!! That is how to described my last week. I got to cross off heaps from my 50 things for 50 years list and met some amazing people.

Lets start at the beginning.

Thanks to some wonderful advice from Carolyn and Veronica, we set off on our big adventure well prepared. I had 3 boxes of kwells, 1 box of natural ginger travel sickness tablets, 1 box of stemitel and 2 cameras.

Troy dropped Peter and I off at Brisbane Cruise terminal around 9.30am. We checked our luggage in, then proceeded to check in, where we were given our cruise card - which becomes what you use for cash onboard. We were told that we would go on around 11.10, so headed off for a coffee and to take some photos from the viewing deck. For anyone cruising, you are given a time to go on, in order of arrival, so don't get there too late.

You go straight to your room where you find your key. We were also greeted by our Steward Devdat, who was just wonderful. Our bags were outside our room, so we unpacked then headed off to explore.

We made our way to lunch in the Burgendy restaurant and got seated at a table with 6 others. Straight away we hit it off with a lovely couple Neil and Marge. They were in their 70's but you would never have know it. They had been friends for 50 years along with their partners when they were alive and now  were beginning to take their friendship to the next level. It was so sweet. They invited us to book into the Bordeax and eat with them that night. We ended up doing that every night except one.

After lunch and making our reservation we headed up to Lido deck for the sail away party. Being nervous about getting seasick, I made Peter take a kwell when I did and the ginger tablets as well. Two o'clock and off we set sail. Goodbye to Brisbane!

You see so many exciting things along the Brisbane River. The wharf full of cars and farm equipment, the swarm of jelly fish that I think lost their way from Bribie Island and even some dolphins. I was expecting to go over waves like you see at the bar at Caloundra, but no you don't. Its all very smooth sailing. 

After exploring some more and trying to figure out just where along the coast we were, we got dressed up and headed for dinner. Going to the formal dining room, we thought this was expected, but soon learnt that on the top left of the Pacific Daily (your nightly newsletter that lets you know what is on the following day and what dress you can have while dining), that we didn't need to and shorts were allowed that night. 

Dinner this night was interesting. We had lots of laughs with Neil and Marge, but it was another couple at the table that had everyone's attention. An older woman in her 60's who was a minister and telling us that she didn't want to be on this earth any more and that she didn't want to even be on the ship after watching 60 minutes with people being drugged and raped. We half expected that she would lock herself in her room the whole trip to stay safe lol. She was seen walking around though, but thankfully not at our table again.

Ugly Dave Gray was one of the acts and on the first night. Unfortunately by the time the show started at 9, I was already falling asleep in the chair. I left Peter with Neil and headed off to bed. It took a little bit of time to get use to the rocking, but I was soon out like a light. Oh and our bed was turned down by Devdat prior to getting back there.

Peter woke early and went to breakfast at the buffet, where he soon made friends with another guy named Gary. Later on in the cruise they had a marriage game. Peter and I put our names down but weren't chosen. I think we had a lucky escape lol. Gary and his wife Kerri were picked though. They had everyone in hysterics with their answers. First the women were taken away and the guys had to answer a bunch of questions. Sex was referred to as 'gardening' due to children in the audience. They had questions like - when was the last time you did the 'gardening'. A young couple we got to know on their honeymoon were in it and he had the answer as 20 mins ago, luckily his wife got that right as well haha. Gary and Kerri also matched with, on our birthdays last year haha. 

The question that had everyone just about wetting themselves though, was, where is the strangest place you have done the gardening. Gary went on to describe how they were at Fraser one day and wandered off and found a lagoon. With no one around they stripped off, got in and did the gardening. Kerri suddenly discovered that on the hill at the side, a bus load of Japanese tourists were standing watching them. Gary then showed how Kerri turned on her back and pretended to be swimming, all the while forgetting she was naked. They also matched on this answer and went on to win. 


All the shows and organized events were fantastic. There was something to do from morning to midnight and after if you wanted to. There would be shows in the showroom each night, comedy club in The Terraces lounge, bands in another bar or on the top deck. There was duty free shopping, internet, a library, games, bars and the casino. 

Ahhhh the casino. Now as someone who hardly drinks or gambles I was in a whole new world. On my list for this year was to place a $50 bet on black at the roulette table and walk away win or lose. We went in and I got my money changed to a chip and put it on black and won. True to my word, I walked away. I went and played a poker machine and took out $50 on top of what I put in.

The next day I played blackjack. Again on my list and again I came out ahead, but was giving money to Peter to play and he kept losing lol. I took another $80 out of another poker machine. I was then not going to play again, as I figured the odds of winning towards the end of the cruise would be less. However Peter and I were sitting having a drink in the promenade lounge on Friday. There were 2 machines that I told Peter were 'talking' to me. He put $5 in one and won nothing. He told me to play the other which I did and won the major jackpot. After playing it some more, I took out $180 on top of what I put in. I was happy!! Late that night - around 11pm - we went in again. 

There was no one playing 3 card poker and the dealer taught me how to play. Its a bit boring though and I came away with what I started with. I went to the roulette table and put $5 on red and won, I then put $5 on 14 and won - 36/1 - I put the next $5 on 18, and won. A girl sitting at the table was flabbergasted and the croupier said she had never seen that before. She called the pit boss over to tell him. I then put $5 on black and won... 4 out of 4. I gave her a $5 tip and cashed in my $400. The only other bet I had was with a free $5 chip I got to use on even money bet. I won and used the winnings to put on a number. I lost on it though.

Cocktails, my other discovery. Now I haven't had a cocktail since I was about 17/18 and it was a fluffy duck. Bloody awful drink! My promise to Veronica was to have a Toblerone. I have never had Bailey's as I tell everyone I hate milk alcohol drinks. Well all that has changed. Toblerones are to die for. I also had a Long Island Iced Tea from Carolyn's suggestion. I loved it as well, but did wonder where the tea part was lol. I wasn't fussed on the Midori Splice and the Island Punch started out nice but got too sickly sweet half way through. 

Mornings commenced with a coffee and I found I liked lattes. Nights ended with a hot chocolate, which I never have at home, but really enjoyed there. I had never tried a macaroons and thought they were just a cookie type of biscuit and didn't know what all the fuss was. OMG, how Divine are they, and they aren't like cookies at all. The only problem was, I told everyone about them and some days they ran out haha. Its funny but a lot thought the same as me. 

We met people from so many different walks of life. I had the policy that if we went to sit and have a drink or to eat in the buffet, that we would sit with someone or a couple on their own. Then me being me, I would babble to them and they couldn't just sit and say nothing lol. Apart from those I have mentioned above, there was a lovely couple who now live on the Gold Coast but moved there 5 years ago from Russia. There was a family from New Zealand and the dad's job was designing the wheelchair entries on buses. There was April and her family from Victoria, who we got to know well. Jacqui who has a cake business on the Gold Coast and many, many more.

The staff were fantastic and very hard working. Above in the photo is Jhen and Jamari who were our wait staff in formal dining. They were a great at their jobs and in having laughs with us and we discovered they were a couple in real life as well. The only sad part to those working on the ship, was the uncertainty that a lot have for their future. Some know they are going to be working on the Dawn when the Sun finally goes to its new owners - it's becoming a casino in China - others don't know if they will be reassigned. It was also interesting that the staff told us that P & O don't hire Australians on the local ships. But there were a lot of staff in every area of the ship. You never had to wait for anything and it was all service with a huge smile. 

When I woke up on the second morning feeling fine, I decided not to keep taking the sea sickness tablets and I was fine. The last day of sailing was rough. Peter felt a bit sick and went to lay down but I was fine. Although it has taken nearly a day and a half to stop swaying on land lol.

The tours I chose to go on were great. At Airlie Beach we had to anchor offshore. This meant that we got catamarans to the mainland. We were taken by bus to a camp site in Proserpine. We were greeted by 2 guides who firstly supplied us with a traditional Aussie morning tea - billy tea (swinging the billy around to separate the tea leaves) and damper cooked in a camp oven. 

After that and a small talk on crocs we were loaded onto trailers and towed by a tractor into the wetlands. It was informative 2 hour tour on how the aborigines survived in the area, what trees were used for food/tools/shelter/medicines and some wildlife. Our guide was one of the youngest snake relocator around. He was trying to find one to show us all how harmless they can be. Did you know that more people die from vending machines falling on them, than by snakes, sharks or crocodiles in Australia? Makes you stop and think then.

We returned for lunch of bbq steak, sausages, chicken, barramundi and salad, followed by lamington. We then piled onto a boat and went up the Proserpine river looking for crocodiles. Now keep in mind that this is the wild, not a reptile park. We saw about 15 to 20 of them. The biggest was 5.5 metres long. We saw lots of babies. A female needs to lay 4 lots of eggs, just to get 1 crocodile that survives to adulthood.  She will lay around 70 eggs. Only half will hatch, other animals will eat them and at 6 weeks of age, when the mother no longer looks after them, even she will eat them if they get in her way. For 2 hours we went up and down the river. The guides were great, but we had to get back to the ship to set sail to Cairns.

 Cairns was so bloody humid. We went for a walk in the morning before our tour, but gave it up as a bad joke. When the time came for our tour, we were taken by bus up to Kuranda. Here we had an hour to look around and of course went to the butterfly sanctuary and then to some local markets. From here we went to the train station and caught the old rattler along with century old track.

The train stopped at Baron Falls for us to take some photos before continuing on with commentary about the history of the rail and area. The views were magnificent. We saw 4 different waterfalls and wonderful countryside and at times could see right out to the Coral Sea. Its funny how in some things heights terrify me, but in others, such as this train, it doesn't bother me.

After we got off the train we had a short bus ride back to the ship. That night after dinner, we went to the Cairns night markets. $15 for a 40 minute massage, 2 bamboo shirts and a barmah hat for me -as Peter hated the one I had - and we walked back to have a well deserved cold drink and sleep.

To say we loved the cruise would be an understatement. Instead of us caring for someone, we had people caring for us. All meals made, bed made of a morning and turned down with chocolates and towel animals at night. Entertainment galore and even a massage on board. I only had 1 day where I had to lie down, but that was due to food getting stuck in my band. Plus as a bonus I got on the scales today and I had lost 1 kilo from when we left haha.

I would recommend it to everyone to do at some time in your life. This all wouldn't have been possible and extremely relaxing and enjoyable if it wasn't for Queensland Muscular Dystrophy and for the help from Ryan's carer agencies Alara and Focal plus my kids and their partners and Veronica and Doug. I cannot thank you all enough for all you have done. xxxxxxx

1. Read 50 38 books in the year. Doesn't matter what type but as long as its 50 and I will be able to keep track with my new kindle.
2. Do another cooking class. At least 1 but hopefully 2. So far done 5, one of which was with Jamie Oliver and one on the ship
3. Go on a holiday, hopefully to Melbourne. I was last there in 1984, so just a few years ago lol
4. Go to a horse 'cup' day
5. Go down another 20kgs (gotten a bit stuck at the moment)
6. Get a lot more writing from my autobiography done - Been doing heaps of that
7. Have lunch or dinner at Bretts wharf or Aria Brisbane
8. Go through the glow worm caves at Springbrook hopefully when the glow fungi is out as well or the fireflies
9. Do a charity event - with not a lot of walking done today MDAQ walk
10. Have a tarot reading - have the name of someone really good in Fernvale
11. Go to a musical (booked for Jersey Boys in July)
12. Go to gold class movie
13. Go on a cruise - booked and leaving in April
14. Get a fish - either fighter or gold fish or two. When I was single I had 2 goldfish, 1 black and 1 gold called Abraham and Lincoln lol (Ryan is giving me this for Mother's Day)
15. Go to a zoo
16. Go to brisbane city markets
17. Brisbane's koala and river cruise
18. Toowoomba carnival of flowers
19. Attend a dawn service
20. Go to Q1 lookout
21. Have a flying lesson - Changing this to do the flight stimulation first, then maybe a flying lesson
22. crystal castle at mullumbimby
23. do a cross stitch
24. have a facial Have had a couple now
25. have a massage
26. try a new food Tried dragon fruit and poppadoms and some vegetarian dishes so far and now macaroons
27. aqua aerobics classes.  Done and going to do more
28. be part of a flash mob - now where does someone find these people
29. Drive a convertible with the top down and music blaring.
30. Get family tree in order - got heaps of this done
31. Go on a retreat
32. Go to the comedy club 
33. Play blackjack at the casino - done and won
34. Swim in the ocean - haven't done this for many many years
35. Go to an opera or listen or an opera singer - don't know if I could sit through a whole opera.
36. Spend a night at maleny/montville
37. Hold a snake - to overcome a fear (Went on the Brisbane wheel to overcome fear of heights but had to get off, so only went around once. Never again lol )
38. Attend the good food festival
39. feed the homeless - was looking into this a couple of months ago but didn't do anything about it. (contacted agencies but none have gotten back to me yet)
40. do a belly dancing class - well I have enough belly to wobble haha
41. try a new drink  tried lots of new ones now lol
42. queen mary falls walk
43. drink a cocktail done and dusted
44. host a murder mystery dinner party - have the game here, now to organize
45. Put $5 a day into money box - use it for something special at the end of the year. - been doing this
46. Have a games night with friends
47. Put $50 on black at the casino for my first and only bet at the table. and won
48. Trike ride from Gold Coast to Mt Tambourine wineries
49. Ride on a carousel
50. Have a kick arse birthday party (venue, dj, food sorted. Decorations started)