After Bali we had another two days at sea as the ship set course for our first Australian port of call – Darwin.
The sea days were pretty quiet again – though we were both excited to finally get our passports back ahead of immigration into Australia. All the passengers were actually going through immigration on board the ship so that we didn’t have to do it in port when we docked, meaning that we actually ‘entered Australia’ somewhere in the middle the ocean. We expected this to be quite momentous, as it was the moment that our Australian visas officially started. Surely at the very least it would be worth a comment from the Australian official, a handshake perhaps? An official G’day? Imagine our disappointment after we queued for ten minutes, only to have a British (BRITISH!) guy uninterestedly scan and stamp our passports and sent us on our way. So underwhelming.
Other highlights of our days at sea included:
- Playing scrabble with Yvonne, one of our dinner table companions who magnificently thrashed me with a seven letter word including a ‘q’ (quarters!)
- Having drinks in Russell and Jill’s suite with Russell, Jill, Darrell and Sue and then going to a VERY unnecessary dinner considering how many canapés we had just eaten…
- Following through on our earlier threat and actually booking another cruise! To the Pacific Islands in January for what is allegedly some of the world’s best snorkeling. I am already excited.
- Watching a ‘classic’ cruise entertainment show – a singer called Monique Montez, who did some great covers which we (or at least I) enjoyed much more than expected! I love me a good Adele cover.
So on the morning of Hallowe’en we finally arrived into Darwin port. In a feat of early morning enthusiasm that no one saw coming, Jimi and I went up on deck at 6am to watch the sun rise as we were coming into Darwin.
Obviously after that we then went back to bed, then got up late, got to breakfast late and then got to the theatre late where we were supposed to be meeting for our excursion – in fact so late that there was just one lone Royal Caribbean staff member still there! Fortunately we hadn’t missed the trip and were hurried straight downstairs to Deck 2 to disembark.
We took our first official steps onto Australian soil (!) before heading for our coach which was taking us to the Adelaide River. Darwin, in the Northern Territory, is quite a small city so we’d opted to go on a Jumping Crocodile River Cruise about an hour away.
We drove through some sparse countryside to reach the river – we spotted some wild bison and lots of wetlands birds before we arrived at the small dock. There were about fifty of us on the trip, and we were loaded upstairs and downstairs on a small river boat – Jimi and I had a position on the top deck in the middle. The boat then set off down the river, which was quite murky and brown – definitely not water you would easily spot a crocodile in! (Top tip – our guide told us never to swim in any water in Australia that you can’t see the bottom of, which seems like sound life advice!) Luckily, despite their supreme camouflaging skills, our guides were experts and we saw three huge crocodiles on the trip – two of which we fed (and made ‘jump’ for the food) from the boat. The male crocodile was about 4m long to give a sense of scale! We also saw some huge birds of prey which we fed scraps to from the boat.
Jimi got some good video footage (though I am clearly appalling at framing a shot, which had 90% sky and a small view of crocodile in the bottom corner…) and we both returned feeling very certain that we would never be swimming in the Northern Territory.
We stopped briefly at a Wetland Centre (a classic school trip type place) on the way back to Darwin before being dropped at the port. It was really hot out – about 33 degrees and Jimi insisted on doing a handstand on the tarmac next to the ‘Welcome to Darwin’ sign (because we are ‘down under’, and Australia is upside down, LOLZ) which may have not been the best idea for the palms of his hands…
Once recovered, we strolled to the Smith Street Mall – the main shopping streets and not an actual indoor mall as we had imagined – and visited a Woolworths supermarket and then some phone shops to sort Australian sim cards out for our phones. I then had the bright idea of calling home and couldn’t understand why no one would answer… until I realized it was 5.15am in England. Oops. I suspect this will not be my first time-difference issue. In my defense though the time had gone forward 1.5 hours the day before which was as ludicrous as it sounds. I had no idea what time it was anywhere!
We stopped to write a couple of postcards before strolling back to the boat, and sitting out on Deck 4 to film the sail-out from the harbour. That evening, once the sun had gone down we dressed for dinner and though we neglected to bother with costumes went up to the Hallowe’en pool party afterwards to dance under the stars with lots of other people who had taken it all very seriously!
We two days at sea to follow, before we would be arriving in the Great Barrier Reef for two days of snorkelling…