BARRIER REEF DISCOVERY
The ship carries 2020 passengers over 11 decks and offers itineraries to the South Pacific and Tropical Queensland coast. It was constructed in 1991 but has recently undergone a multi-million dollar update. Accommodation options range from quad-share inside cabins to full balcony suites, and some interconnecting cabins are available for families and small groups.
Once on board we explored the ship, found the photographers for our mandatory “welcome aboard photo”(which if you pull a sad face, you are not tempted to buy the photo on board), and then explored the ship. The changes to all the lounges on Deck 7, Panorama Deck and Deck 12 and 14 Lido Deck were amazing. The new waterpark looked great. The waterslide awaited our attendance and the Pantry (formally buffet) looked spectacular. The Dome (front Deck 14) was beautiful how they changed it with lounges etc. Café on Deck 12 looked very inviting. The ship had truly undergone a transformation, and is now in a class of its own, in a truly positive sense.
First thing on the agenda was the The Sailaway party, which is a tradition on all P&O cruises (Australia, at least). The Pacific Dawn departs Portside (Brisbane) at 2pm each Saturday and our Sailaway party started immediately after our safety drill at 1.30pm. For many of the passengers it was a case of life jackets down, drinking boots on.
The Sailaway party takes place on the pool deck and, because it’s the start of the cruise and everyone is on a high, it’s soon packed with eager passengers to see what’s going on. It’s a chance for people to mix and get familiar with the faces they’ll be seeing over the next week but it also gives the entertainment team to the opportunity to show what’s on offer.
Of course, the Lido Pool Bar is going full steam and they have a cocktail special going where you pay $10 for your cocktail and get the P&O cocktail ‘glass’ it’s served in (blue or yellow plastic with the letter’s P&O on the side). As well as the bar, there were several other tables around the pool deck also selling the cocktails. Needless to say, it proved very popular. We did the Sailaway Party from the Oasis Deck 10, being an Adults only area. The party pauses as the countdown begins to signal the Pacific Dawn passing under the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges as it leaves Brisbane, the official ‘we’ve left Brisbane’ moment.
The show on the first night was a preview of what we would see throughout the cruise, and that helped us choose what to see later. We even took in the Adults Only comedy act the first night, which was hilarious. The first thing you are thinking is over eating followed by marathon taste testing of all things liquid. We managed this well. There is much more to do and enjoy than that each day. In the evening, our cabin steward placed on our bed a list of activities for the following day, and we keenly marked off various things we wanted to do for the day.
After a day at sea the Pacific Dawn made her much anticipated return to Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the largest town in the Whitsundays and the tourism hub of the region, Airlie Beach is situated on the gorgeous Whitsundays Coast in North Queensland, about 620 kilometres south of Cairns. Surrounded by beautiful turquoise water that glitters just metres off the shore, and backed by rows of undulating jungle-clad hills, Airlie Beach enjoys a warm subtropical climate and is the perfect jumping off point for cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach.
As a town almost entirely focused on tourism, Airlie Beach has a wide variety of cafés, restaurants, bars and stores that line its main drag. The town also features a lovely swimming lagoon, which is perfect for a quick dip.
A popular cruise destination, Airlie Beach welcomes over 800,000 tourists annually. Many of these holidaymakers arrive by cruise, docking at Abel Point Marina
Much of the devastation caused by Cyclone Debbie is not noticeable because the locals and many of the volunteers have done such a wonderful job making Airlie Beach cruise ship visitor ready again.
Two weeks ago a cyclone ripped through this close knit community, but you would have barely noticed it when Pacific Dawn arrived in the glowing sun and cloud. The whole community has rallied to get things done big time. Cyclone Debbie did its best but you can’t knock Queensland down for long and these communities have been quick to get back on their feet.
While the return to Airlie Beach was an emotional moment for the local community and the guests, P&O was pleased to play a role in reviving the visitor economy, which is vital to so many communities in Queensland.
We took the Coast to County Tour, where we pasted the sugar fields of the Whitsunday’s to visit the natural amphitheatre of Cedar Creek Falls. Just 19km from Proserpine this waterfall is spectacular in the wet season and offers an almost all year-round natural swimming pool at the base of the falls. We then traveled back through the countryside to the coast of Airlie Beach via the Lemon Myrtle Farm and on to Shute Harbour. Here we uncovered a panoramic view of the Whitsunday Islands. We had time at Mt. Whitsunday for a lookout over Airlie Beach, The Conway Range and islands. Journey back to Airlie Beach, for a stroll and browsed the souvenir stores and markets.