Komodo Island, Indonesia

2019 HAL World Cruise

Sunday, March 17, 2019

 

At 7:00 am this morning, we anchored in Slawi Bay off the coast of Komodo Island.  The Komodo National Park encompasses the entire island and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Originally established in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragon (largest lizard in the world), it became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1986.  Of course, we are here to see the Komodo Dragons!  They are dangerous.  Every year, a few people are killed by the dragons.  And for that reason, all visitors to the island must be on a tour and accompanied by a guide and lookouts!  For the squeamish, there is another tour to the village and the handcraft center.

We had taken the tour in 2010, so elected to stay on board this time.  But I have photos from our previous visit:

1 (640x480)
The ship anchors in Slawi Bay and passengers are tendered to the Komodo National Park dock where they are greeted by Park Rangers and guides.
2 (640x359)
In 2010, we had a special welcome! I don’t know if they still hang the signs for arriving cruise lines.
The guides and lookouts awaiting their visitors!
The guides and lookouts awaiting their visitors!
We were assigned to team #5.
We were assigned to team #5.
5 (640x480)
The guide will take us through the reserve and the lookouts (seen behind us holding big sticks) will be our protection on Komodo. Island!
We immediately set out to view Komodo Dragons
We immediately set out to view Komodo Dragons
This one is still digesting breakfast!
This one is still digesting breakfast!
8 (640x481)
Komodo Dragons grow to nearly 10 feet in length. In the wild, they are fast and agile. They prey upon Timor deer and can easily take one down!
9 (640x481)
But here in the reserve, they are fed before we all arrive. They actually live a pretty good life with humans and they tend to become fat and lazy!!! So here we are standing among a group of dragons. But, there are lookouts everywhere!
The baby Komodo Dragon is the only frisky one we have seen!
The baby Komodo Dragon is the only frisky one we have seen!
A Timor Deer on Komodo Island.  Dinner actually!
A Timor Deer on Komodo Island.  Known to the dragons as dinner!
12 (640x465)
And before tendering back to the ship, a stop at the vendors’ tent for souvenirs!

 

Today, we took some photos from the ship:

The tenders are busy taking passengers back and forth to the park.
The tenders are busy taking passengers back and forth to the park.
14 (640x349)
This is a beautiful park! Everything is lush and green. Today is a rainy day, so the temperature shouldn’t feel too bad. Usually, it is very warm and humid with an unrelenting sun.
15 (640x358)
Boats are coming in from the village and other islands, bringing the employees and vendors to work!
16 (640x358)
This is the closest of the 4 villages on the island. Population of this village is about 1500.
17 (640x472)
Once everyone is back on board, we will raise anchor and sail away to our next port in Indonesia.

Next, we are headed for Bali!

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

2019 HAL World Cruise

Thursday, March 14, 2019

 

We have been to Darwin several times and have always enjoyed all that the city has to offer.  We have, in the past, visited the Waterfront with its luxury apartments and condos and cafes.  We’ve been out to the Stokes Hill Wharf. We’ve been through the park.  So, this time around, we were totally content to shop the boutiques and stop in at the Coles Supermarket for snacks.

Our day can be summed up in the photos:

1 (640x359)
We docked at the Fort Hill Wharf Cruise Ship Terminal. Shuttle buses took us into town.
On the way, we had the opportunity to pet a baby crocodile.
On the way, we had the opportunity to pet a baby crocodile.
We were dropped-off near the Smith Street pedestrian mall.
We were dropped-off near the Smith Street pedestrian mall.
4 (640x344)
Walking along Smith Street, we came across this colorful group of kangaroos. They were produced as a fundraising project for a local children’s organization.
Smith Street is quite long but the pedestrian area runs only about 2 blocks.
Smith Street is quite long but the pedestrian area runs only about 2 blocks.
6 (640x347)
We walked over to Mitchell Street where we shopped the local Coles Supermarket for groceries.

As we were heading back to the ship with our burden of purchases, we paused to review the signage regarding WWII and the Japanese bombings that destroyed so much of Darwin in 1942-1943.  On February 19, 1942, 188 Japanese warplanes attacked Darwin in two waves.  This was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor.  The attack killed 292, caused immense damage to the town, and was only the first of many more raids to come.  For the next several months, a small group of Americans, flying Kittyhawk fighters, defended the north Australian skies.  Eventually, the Allies launched offensive air attacks and took the war back to the Japanese-held areas in the islands of the north.  We were reminded of an aerial display we witnessed in 2010 by the New Zealand Roullettes, who just happened to be visiting Darwin at the time!

That memory prompted us to look up the photos (included here):

7 (640x631)
As we walked back along Smith Street we spotted this sign commemorating the Japanese attack of Darwin on February 19, 1942. the raids continued until November 12, 1943.
8 (640x456)
The WWII sign reminded us of our 2010 visit to Darwin when we saw the New Zealand Roullettes in a mock battle over Darwin Harbour! That was cool.
9 (640x468)
At the time, we thought it might be an impromptu show for the ship. But we have since learned that joint training exercises with the RAAF are performed annually.
It was an awe-inspiring show.  We were sorry to see it end.
It was an awe-inspiring show. We were sorry to see it end.

So now, we’ve added a new item to our bucket list:  We will visit the Darwin Aviation Museum (located near the airport, RAAF base, and Coonawarra Naval Base) on our next visit.  Perhaps we’ll even visit the Casuarina Square Mall.  It has 187 stores!  Now that is serious shopping!!!

 

But for now, we’re on our way to Komodo Island, Indonesia.

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

2019 HAL World Cruise

Sunday, March 10, 2019

 

Cairns was first sighted by Capt. James Cook on June 10, 1770.  It was one hundred years later, with the discovery of gold in the Palmer River and the Hodgekinson gold fields, that the settlement of Cairns would be established (in 1876 to be exact.)  The inland rail service was built in 1885 with Cairns as its terminus.  Thus, the town’s future was guaranteed.  Cairns became a major center.  The charm of Cairns is that it offers big city amenities and convenience with a small-town friendliness and charm.  We have been here many times, we’ve watched the changes and growth occur.  I’ll share some photos we took on our last visit in 2016.  I must do so because on this trip, we took an excursion to the Kuranda Rainforest and did not have time to tour the town.

Photos of Cairns in 2016:

A view of Cairns from the ship in 2016.  That's the Casino on the right.
A view of Cairns from the ship in 2016. That’s the Casino on the right.
A pedetrian walkway runs from dockside to the Shangri La Hotel.
A pedestrian walkway runs from dockside to the Shangri La Hotel.
Downtown Cairns.  That's an open-air market on the left.
Downtown Cairns. That’s an open-air market on the left.
The downtown open-air market.
The downtown open-air market.
The Lagoon is a man-made inlet and swimming pool in downtown Cairns!
The Lagoon is a man-made inlet and swimming pool in downtown Cairns!

So, let me now tell you about this year’s interesting adventure in Cairns.  We took a ship’s tour to the Village of Kuranda and the Barron Gorge National Park in the rainforest.  The adventure began with a train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.   The construction of this railway is considered an engineering marvel.  It was designed to transport supplies from the coast up to the gold mines.  The project began in May 1886.  It was completed in June 1891. During that 5-year period, 1500 men laid 23 miles of track to an altitude of nearly 1000 feet above sea level through 15 hand-carved tunnels, over 55 bridges and around 98 curves.  It was a 1 ½ hour train ride to Kuranda Station with a short stop at the Barron Falls Lookout for a photo op.  In the village, we had time (about 1 ½ hours) for lunch or shopping or a visit to the Kuranda Koala Gardens.  We did not think this was enough time to do it all, so we opted for lunch and shopping.  Although cuddling a Koala is still on our list of things to do, once again it has been put-off ‘til another visit.  At the allotted time, we checked-in for our return trip to Cairns aboard the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.  This 4.7-mile cableway was completed in 1995 after 1 year of construction.  All the towers were lifted into place by helicopter to avoid disturbing the rainforest.  The tallest tower is 133 feet.  And there are 114 gondolas.

Let me show you some photos:

6 (640x351)
We took a tour bus from the ship to the Freshwater Railway Station to begin our adventure into the Rainforest.
7 (640x335)
As we crossed the Stoney Creek Falls Bridge we were able to see the locomotive at the head of the train….
.....and the rest of the cars trailing behind.
…..and the rest of the cars trailing behind.
Crossing the Barron River Gorge.
Crossing the Barron River Gorge.
10 (640x360)
We found a drawback to be the vegetation so lush and close to the tracks that it is difficult to see or photograph anything!
A risk of visiting the rainforest is RAIN.....
A risk of visiting the rainforest is RAIN…..
.....and rain, it did.....
…..and rain, it did…..
......and then it cleared.  And we could see the forest again!
……and then it cleared. And we could see the forest again!
Another view of the rainforest from the train.
Another view of the rainforest from the train.
16 (640x360)
When we arrived at the Barron Falls Lookout, we all jumped out to take photos and enjoy the non-rain interlude!
From the lookout, we could see the skyrail viewing center across the gorge.
From the lookout, we could see the Skyrail viewing center across the gorge.
18 (640x358)
This is the Skyrail crossing the gorge. You can see two gondolas passing on the left. One of the towers is visible on the right.
And then it was time to reboard and continue the journey to Kuranda Village.
And then it was time to re-board and continue the journey to Kuranda Village.
20 (640x360)
Look at the length of that train!!! No wonder the platform and station were so crowded!!!
21 (539x640)
We chose to have lunch and do some shopping in Kuranda. The afternoon libation is Moo Brew.
22 (360x640)
Moo Brew is a Pilsner by the Moo Brew Brewery. This Pilsner, with its delicate malt flavor. uses only German Spalt hops to achieve not only a unique and noble hop aroma, but also a lingering bitterness. Rog said it was quite good.
After a tasty lunch, we shopped our way back to the Skyrail Station.
After a tasty lunch, we shopped our way back to the Skyrail Station.
The opportunities to spend money were endless!!!
The opportunities to spend money were endless!!!
There is something for everyone.
There is something for everyone.
We boarded the Skyrail cable car--six to a car--and began our descent.
We boarded the Skyrail cable car–six to a car–and began our descent.
27 (640x357)
And we’re off! Skimming the treetops in the Kuranda Rainforest.  It is a downpour!!!
It doesn't clear until we are approaching the Smithfield Station.
It doesn’t clear until we are approaching the Smithfield Station.
29 (640x357)
Back in town, we re-board the tour bus and drive back to the ship. Cairns is known for its “flying foxes.”  They are bats!!! And those black pod-like things you see hanging in the tree, yup, they’re bats!

Once we returned to Cairns, we discovered that a brew pub had been built in the old Wharf Shed #7!  This is right next to the cruise terminal as well as our ship!!!!  Well, who could resist?!?

30 (640x360)
When we got back to the dock, we stopped at the Hemingway Brewery. This brew pub in built in what was once Wharf Shed #7. I love the design.
31 (640x360)
And it is so convenient!!!! that’s the MS Amsterdam docked right outside the pub. How cool is that!

We are now cruising through the Torres Straight on our way to Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Dinner with Celebrity Guest Chef Mitchell Tait

2019 HAL World Cruise

Monday, March 4, 2019

 

Developing an interest in the culinary arts at an early age, Mitchell Tait began working in award-winning kitchens at the age of 16.  He apprenticed at Zest Restaurant in New South Wales and went on to augment his experience across Australia.  Because Australia is a nation of large-scale immigration, it has a unique blend of culinary contributions and adaptations from around the world, including Indigenous Australians, Europeans, Asians and Pacific Islanders.   Modern Australian cuisine is a fusion of contemporary adaptations, influences and interpretations.  Before moving to London to increase his culinary experience, Chef Mitchell was the Executive Chef at Auckland’s “three-hatted” restaurant, Clooney.  All the while, he has been forming and refining his own food philosophy and personal style.  Chef Mitchell’s contemporary cuisine is inspired by the unique nature of his surroundings and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

As guest chef aboard the MS Amsterdam, Chef Mitchell has presented demonstrations of his art in the facilities of America’s Test Kitchen with host Abby Koch.  He has stressed the benefits of using locally sourced products and indigenous herbs and spices.

After attending his demonstrations and the introductory Sip & Savor event, we were delighted to attend the 5-course dinner prepared by Chef Mitchell in the MS Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill.

I’ll let the photos tell the story:

1 (640x359)
Abby Koch, the host of America’s Test Kitchen, introduces the Guest Chef, Mitchell Tait.
2 (640x480)
Chef Mitchell demonstrates his techniques and discusses his culinary philosophy.
3 (479x640)
We get our first “tasting” of Chef Mitchell’s style at the introductory Sip and Savor event.
4 (480x640)
Wine Master Jacques has selected an Argentinian Malbec by Diseno to accompany the tasting.
5 (480x640)
We are treated to an heirlloom yellow tomato consomme with peach and green herbs. This is complimented with the fruity, full bodied Diseno Malbec.

6 (480x640)

Of course, the piece de resistance is the 5-course dinner at the Pinnacle Grill prepared by Chef Mitchell.

7 (394x640)
Sommelier wine selections were not included in this dinner, so we chose a Cabernet Sauvignon by Spellbound to accompany the meal.
8 (480x640)
Spellbound’s Cabernet Sauvignon has a good fruity flavor, pleasant aroma, and smooth body.
The first course was the Heirloom Tomato consomme.
The first course was the Heirloom Tomato consomme.
10 (640x480)
The grilled scampi, with that flavorful and savory cream, may have been my favorite of the evening.
11 (640x480)
But the Slow Cooked Egg Yolk was the surprise of the night. This is a taste sensation difficult to describe. The first flavor to “pop” is that of the popcorn. The combination of corn, butter and macadamia evoke the contentment of viewing a good movie!
Nectarine Sorbet
Nectarine Sorbet
13 (640x480)
The Roasted Venison Loin was dressed with beetroot, a trending Australian ingredient. Enhanced with plum and black garlic, this was quite tasty.
Dessert was a deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake.
Dessert was a deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake.
15 (640x479)
Kudos to Chef Mitchell for a great meal and to Abby Koch for another interesting, rewarding and satisfying experience!

 

Townsville, Queensland, Australia

2019 HAL World Cruise

Saturday, March 9, 2019

 

In 2016, we arrived in Townsville aboard the MS Amsterdam to dodge a Tropical Cyclone in our path.  We spent the day along the strand taking very few photos but enjoying coffee, and later drinks, as we made our way back to the shuttle stop.  We never really saw any of the town.

This time, a shuttle picked us up at the cruise terminal and took us to a transfer point in town where we could board a local HOHO to complete our exploration of Townsville.  We chose to start with the HOHO and revive our memories by visiting The Strand before returning to the city proper to discover the charms of the inner city.

The photos will tell the story:

The morning was rainy and misty as we docked in Townsville.
The morning was rainy and misty as we docked in Townsville.
2 (640x472)
We exited the Quayside Terminal and boarded a shuttle into town where we transfered to a HOHO for some sightseeing.
3 (640x465)
The first stop was Jezzine Barracks home of the Army Museum of North Queensland.. This is the commander’s home.
4 (640x479)
We left the HOHO at this intriguing piece of sculpture. I wish I could tell you about the artist or the intent of this work, but alas, I don’t know. I loved the piece because it reminds me of Rene Magritte’s work!
5 (640x479)
We started our journey of remembrance on the north end of The Strand. It is really sad to report that we remembered very little of our first visit. So everything seemed new and interesting!
6 (640x458)
Took a photo of Castle Hill from the Strand. This is a dominate feature of Townsville. It is nearly 1,000 feet high
The Strand itself is about 1 1/2 miles long.
The Strand itself is about 1 1/2 miles long.
8 (640x478)
All along The Strand, condo communities have sprung up with the accompanying cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
9 (640x480)
Even the local college occupies prime real estate along The Strand. The students at St. Patrick’s College enjoy a beautiful campus!
10 (640x453)
Recent storms had flooded parts of the city. The flooding was so bad, we were told, that speed limits were posted along the streets to keep the BOATS in check! This little waterfall is a remnant of those storms.
11 (640x463)
We worked our way back into town and discovered a community filled with wonderful old buildings. This is a beauty! I wish I knew what it was designed to be!!!
12 (640x469)
Townsville is a community in transition. Here’s an example of “before” right next door to the “after.”
13 (640x385)
Gigantic artwork display! This is located in the middle of town on the overhead utility wires!
The Old Post office Building, now the Townsville Brewing Company.
The Old Post office Building, now the Townsville Brewing Company.
15 (640x405)
The Townsville Brewery serves a mean hamburger! It’s really impossible to eat without a knife and fork! But definitely yummy!
And the nachos are pretty good, too!
And the nachos are pretty good, too!
The afernoon libation is "Townsville Coast Pale Ale".
The afternoon libation is “Townsville Coast Pale Ale”.
18 (640x479)
And soon the time comes to leave Townsville. The MS Amsterdam waits to whisk us off to our next port.

 

 

And now we are on he way to Cairns.