I talk to Barbara a little about Townsville, and learn my guarantee is worthless, she has never been there before. What I am able to learn is that it is an industrial port primarily exporting minerals and livestock. The cruise terminal is still under construction, so we will dock at one of the industrial berths, and utilize shuttle buses to take us to town. It is universal that cruise passengers are not permitted to walk on industrial piers. Smaller ships have been stopping here, but we are the largest cruise ship to date. Weather is forecast to be sunny with temperatures in the 90's for then next several days.
We are presently sailing near the edge of the great barrier reef, and have a "reef pilot" on board. Australia is off to our port side, and occasionally reef islands appear above the water on our starboard side. Looking at the navigation chart, there are very specific channels thru the area for ships. I expect this pilot will be with us for several days.
This morning Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America Lines, along with a handful of other top level executives from HAL and parent company Carnival gave a presentation followed by a Q&A session. The big question about the poor Internet service was answered with a non committal "we are working on it". I am told it is exactly the same answer they have been giving for several years. A detail of personal interest. We are told they are making plans that we will be able to tour HAL's newest ship, the Koningsdam, while we are in Civitavecchia in April. I think this will be just before her inaugural cruise.
A few more details about the "beach party" two nights ago. The band played non-stop from 5:30 to 9:30. About half a dozen lifeguards from Bondi beach in Sydney were brought on board. They are all volunteers so I'm sure the several days on the cruise ship was used as a special reward. They along with some of the musicians, dancers and singers played in the pool and sand, and also kept the guests out of the water. When I mentioned they had beach balls, did I mention several of them were over 6 feet in diameter? One ball nearly fills a hot tub.
The food included lobster, crab legs, shrimp, prawns, oysters, sushi, caviar, etc The open bar not only included the usual soft drinks, champagne, beer, and wine but everything else you could imagine.
Later in the evening the captain, many of the other ships officers, many of the ships staff, and the representatives from the corporate offices joined the party. Many of those that attended said it was a good party, but would have been better if the music wasn't so loud.
Tonight it is still party time. Orlando Ashford is officially hosting a cocktail party for all guests before dinner. I expect the usual receiving line to meet all the Carnival and HAL executives followed by drinks, and appetizers. After formal dinner in the dining room, the Valentine's Day Ball will be in the queen's lounge. Entertainment to be provided by the Amsterdam orchestra and Australian singers Liam John Burrows and Darcy Jones. (No, I have never heard of them, but I am sure some of you have, otherwise the internet knows.)
During the reception I meet two couples from Oregon that just joined the cruise in Sydney. They have been traveling together for over 25 years, and have a unique way of determining where and how to vacation. They agree on a budget for transportation and lodging, and the length of time away from home, and then draw straws. 1 of the four chooses a destination and makes all the plans. Everything is kept in total secrecy from the other three. They have taken a number of cruises and trips to China, India, Mongolia, Iceland, Russia, and many US destinations. Some trips have been for 3 or 4 days, others for a month or more, depending on budget and time restrictions. What a neat idea.
Dinner was one of the best I've had in the dining room. After dinner I need a quick shower. During the Q&A the CEO was asked why it has been so cold on the ship. I think someone has responded by turning off all the A/C. I'm drenched. I may or may not make the Valentine Ball, but I do plan to get off the ship tomorrow just to see the local town with no hurry and no shore excursion.