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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cruising The Whitsundays




Overnight cruises of The Whitsunday Islands. Liveaboards, extended cruises whatever you want to call them. I make no secret that I think this is the way the majority of our visitors should do it.
Unless you have a very young family or are very old at heart I think this is the way to make the most of the beautiful place I call home.


I don't know how many cruises are available but that word choice keeps popping up. If your tastes are high you can be accommodated. If your budget is low but you want to make it special I believe these cruises are great value. The Best thing about cruising is that you get everywhere you can on daytrips plus so much more.


Itineraries

Now this can be tricky as you can't really set itineraries due to tidal and weather constraints. In saying all of that 99% of cruises will visit the magnificent Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island with the vast majority taking you up the Hill Inlet to get the best sweeping views of the best beach in the world.. If they don't get there it will be because of the weather. In these situations if the skipper says it is too rough I go with that because what these guys call rough you may have different terms for and none would be printable in this blog.
The best snorkeling is generally around the north end of Hook Island and Hayman Island although it is not restricted to there. Border Island has some very good spots as well and plenty of options are available. Northerly breezes and tide may dictate when and where snorkeling takes place and I have seen days when the water is crystal, I have also seen it like pea soup. Being island based if you're diving or into the snorkeling try to pick the neap tides when minimal movement of water occurs and visibility is generally better.
Only a few cruises actually visit the outer Great Barrier Reef and most going to Bait Reef. Great spot for divers and snorkelers, better vis than the islands. The downside is the distance and time taken to get there. There is open water between the islands and the GBR and conditions can be a little bumpy with a good breeze. Many boats will not go to the outer reef if the wind is up over 15 - 20 knotts, they will opt to utilise the protected  water The Whitsundays are famous for.
So while the itinerary can vary the vast majority of cruisers get to see Whitehaven Beach and snorkel in some beautiful bays.




Dedicated Divers
Look I'll be honest. I believe if you are after a dedicted diving cruise that Cairns and Port Douglas offer much better value. They have dives included in their prices and visit some great spots. In The Whitsundays you will get to cruise amongst pristine islands surrounded by waters teeming with life with the opportunity to  get a few dives in a place that on its day can match anywhere in the world.


Boats
Now so many boats I can't mention them all. As I have said previously if I don't mention it that doesn't mean I don't like it, just too many. Because of this I'll try to break them up into categories that will make it easier.


Maxis These are generally the cheaper end of the spectrum but can offer the best sailing experience on the water. The maxis are generally old racing yachts that have had a makeover and offer up to 30 people a chance to experience The Whitsunday Islands in a fantastic way at a very reasonable price. The accommodation is basic multi share. These boats weren't originally designed to take people on pleasure cruises so creature comforts are not there. Basic bedding and meals with minimal privacy a Real Estate guru would call it open plan living. Popular with the younger brigade from around the world because it is a very affordable alternative and a very good time. Hammer, Boomerang, Broomstick, Condor and heaps more to choose from.



Budget Boats. There are a few more that aren't maxis but still offer great value. Big numbers on big boats. There are some that sleep, well sometimes sleep, on island resorts and they are a party cruise. It depends on what you want. They are a good option for the younger more social type of passenger that wants to have a great time in a great place. The Atlantic Clipper is a good choice as well as a few others and for those who want to party on dry land at night Koala Adventure cruises have options there.



Mid range in cost but good qulaity cruise are plentiful from here on. Smaller numbers with private accommodation are available at around the $500 p/p give or take a bit.
Price will be dictated by length of cruise so think about that as a factor in your final decision.
2 days/ 1 night   leave am, overnight cruising back pm the next day
2 days  2 nights  leave lunchish, 2 nights cruising return lunchish
3days   2nights   leave am, 2 nights cruising return pm
3days  3nights    leave late afternoon early eve, 3 nights cruising, returns lunchish
6days  6nights    Generally 2 3day/3night cruises with slight variation in itineray sometimes including outer GBR


Choice of boat then comes to you, if numbers are important then cost may be more, private cabins and ensuites will definitely add to cost. There are catamarans, cruises, powerboats and traditional vessels within or close to this price range.


Catamarans like Wings offer good value while Whitsunday Blue offers minmal numbers at an extra cost.


Traditonal Boats are great with SV Whitehaven being a great budget option up to boats like Alexander Stewart, Solway Lass, Derwent Hunter offering alternatives.


Silent Night, Ragamuffin 2, Eureka, Southern Cross and a few more offer a mono hull and good sailing in a little more style than the maxis.


GBR boats A few do try to get to the GBR whatever the weather, well within reason, Kiana is one of our more dive focussed cruises Anaconda 111 tries as well and Spank Me offers a budget alternative a couple more might slip in there.


To the upper end we have boats like Whitsunday Magic, Coral Trekker, Windjammer and I'll throw Descarada in there. The first 2 are 3day/3nighters that offer 6 days/ 6 nights as well. They do have the GBR in their itineraries once a week but only if conditions suit. Comfort is important. Traditional type vessels with good accommodation (remember you're on a boat) and very good menu. All very good cruises with a little more in price than the others. Descarada is a motor cruiser and a very nice one with minimal numbers and lots of toys including jetskis, it is one of your more expensive options with beatiful accommodatio, food and service.


Now this is my favorite of the lot. Pacific Sunrise will show you The Beautiful Whirtsundays in the best possible way. You have a choice of accommodation and tarrifs vary accordingly. The food is better and more plentiful than any mainland establishmant can provide and the experience is awesome. Your hosts are gracious and knowledgable and you'll have a bloody good time. The best way to see the best place in Australia. Similar itineray to Magic and the others and will not disappoint.


I suggest you contact someone with good knowledge of this option as the right boat will make all the difference to your Whitsunday Experience. You will get what you pay for here, don't skimp, you don't have to spend a fortune, but you want to make the most of it.
When getting quotes or trying to figure costings take into account that some companies still have added extra charges that can be sometimes quite large if not considered, other companies include these charges.


Who to contact, Libby or Bob, let us know what you're after from your holiday, when you're coming and we'll work together to find your best options. whitacc@bigpond.com