Australian Whale Shark Mozambique Jan2012

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    Radianceof theSeas,the largestandmostmodernshipto callSydneyhome,cruises pastthe OperaHouse

    All aboutthe shipA weekend cruise fromSydney isa splendidway tosample Radiance of the Seas


    Outdooractivitiesincluderock-climbing,minigolfandbasketball Thestateroomsarecomfortableandofferplentyofstoragespace

    I spendso muchtime pondering thepamperingRadiance Spamenu that I missthe sun salutationyoga session inthe impressivelyequippedfitnesscentre

    CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow and hisscurvy crew are creating mayhemon deck 11, swashbuckling their way across the huge cinemascreen that overlooks the outdoorpool on Royal Caribbean Interna-tionalsRadianceof theSeas.

    Pirates of the Caribbean: OnStranger Tides is all booming can-nons and clashing cutlasses butthe mainly young crowd baskingbesidethe poolaremoreintentontopping up their tans than theon-screenaction.

    If JohnnyDeppandhisbandofbuccaneers did swing aboard, thislargely Aussie crowd would prob-ably make no attempt to repelthem. Theyd just pull over a fewmore banana lounges, pour themeach a beer and return to theserious business of dozing in thesunshine or, for the marginallymore energetic, consideringtonightsdining options.

    However,thereisaninvasionofsorts going on. Royal Caribbean,having conquered the cruisingscene in North America andEurope,is turningitsfull attentiontoAustralia,New ZealandandtheSouth Pacific, and the 90,000-tonne Radiance of the Seas,gleaming from aft to bow, insideand out, after a $US55 millionmakeover,is thelatestof itscruiseshipstobe basedinSydney.

    Rhapsody of the Seas, a long-time Sydney resident, received asimilar multi-million-dollar

    facelift before returning to localwaters, and later this year the twowill be joined by another memberofthe Royal Caribbeanfleet,Voy-ager of the Seas, billed as Austra-

    lias first megaliner and boastingan ice-skating rink and weddingchapelamong its attractions.

    This willbe thefirst time RoyalCaribbean has based three super-liners in the region. Theres moreevidence this is regarded as anexcitingandlucrativenewmarket,withRoyalCaribbeanssistercom-pany Celebrity Cruises basingCelebrityCenturyinSydney(tobereplaced by the 122,000-tonneCelebrity Solstice later this year),and Celebrity Millennium cruis-ingAsianwaters,withtwo visitstoSydneyscheduled.

    It all adds up to a huge vote ofconfidence in the local market,says Radiance of the SeasNorwegian-born captain ClausAndersen. Althoughmore used toplying the balmy Caribbean andrugged Alaskan coastline, he isclearly excited to be navigatingrelatively uncharted waters, inparticular weighing anchor at

    such remote spots as WesternAustralias Port Hedland, whose14,000 residents put out theflags to welcome the ship on itsmaiden voyage around AustralialastOctober.

    Even Sydney presents someunusual challenges, says Ander-son, who must manoeuvre the300m-long vessel in and out ofCircular Quay, with little room tospare, before passing the SydneyOpera House and steering acourse between the Heads andintotheopenocean.

    Once at sea, especially on thisWeekend Getaway sample cruise,he can relax a little, for there is nodestination. We simply sail about50km offshore and drift wheretimeandtidetakeus.

    The ship is packed to capacitywith 850 crew (of more than 56nationalities) and 2450 guests,many of them Royal Caribbeanregulars, and some cruising nov-icessuchasmyself,whoaretestingthe waters on a short trip beforedeciding on a longer voyageaboard Radiance. Its 2012 itiner-

    ary includes cruises to New Zea-land, the South Pacific islands,Tasmania, Queensland, Austra-liasTopEnd,Tahitiand Hawaii.

    And with so much to see and

    onlyonefulldayandtwonightstodo it, I cannot lounge on the bal-cony of my stateroom on deck 10or laze about the pool sippingcocktails. Instead, armed with amap of the ship, I take one of theglass lifts thatdizzyinglyoverhangthe ocean, to the top deck, plan-ning to work downwards, explor-ingtheamenitiesdeckbydeck.

    Ofcourse,myplangetsderailedalmost immediately. I am on myway to see the nine-hole mini golf

    course,basketball court,10m-highclimbing wall and childrensAdventure Beach pool area, whenIm easily seduced by a compli-mentary glass of champagne intoattending an art auction in theStarquestlounge.

    A little later, and not remotelytempted to make a bid, I spend somuchtimeponderingthepamper-ingRadianceSpamenuthatI missthe sun salutation yoga session inthe impressively equipped fitness

    centre. A dip in the indoor adults-only pool looks inviting but then Imight miss the wine-tasting ses-sion or seminar on secrets to aflatter stomach.

    Ibrowsethelibrary,wandertheartgallery,splashsomecashin theshopping arcade, try my luck onthe blackjack table at CasinoRoyale and watch the fabulousTango Buenos Aires dance spec-tacular in the 86-seat AuroraTheatre.Idontattendabingoses-

    sion or watch the mens interna-tional belly flop contest but I amsureplentyofpassengersdo.

    RadianceoftheSeastop-to-toerevitalisation includes the cre-ation of new dining venues, inaddition to the all-you-can-eat,all-day Windjammer cafe. Themainrestaurant,Cascades, offersagrand dining experience remi-niscent of trans-Atlantic oceanliners,whilenew specialtyoptionsinclude Izumi (Japanese), Samba

    Grill (Braziliansteakhouse), RitasCantina (Mexican), GiovannisTable (Italian) and Chops Grille(steak andseafood).

    There are ice-cream sundaesandexcellentcoffeeat CafeLatte-tudes, hotdogs at the BoardwalkDog House, a selection of spark-ling wines at the Champagne Bar,English ales at the Quill & Com-pass pub and an exclusive newdiningspacewhereupto14guestscan enjoy a specially prepared

    menu presented by the eveningsfeaturedchef.

    After a long day at sea, explor-ing the ships impressive facilities,and having enjoyed a Dungenesscrab mousse and succulent steakdinner at Chops, Im ready to curlupinmybunk.

    And a very superior bunk it is,too: a deeply comfortable king-size bed that fits snugly in thewood-panelledstateroom.Theresa full-sized window, private sea-facing balcony, small sitting area,ensuitebathroom, interactiveflat-screen television and far morestorage space than I would use onthisshort voyage.

    I need no rocking to sleep butwake early next morning as thenewest, largest and most modernshiptocallSydneyhomeslipsbackinto the harbour and gently docksatCircularQuay.

    Sue Milne was a guest of RoyalCaribbean International.


    Radianceof theSeaswill operateatwo-nightWeekendGetawaycruisefrom Sydneyon November15;from $431a person.The shipwillalsodepartSydneyonDecember12 foran eight-nightSouthPacificcruise; from$860aperson. More:1800754 500;

    The whale shark at the end of the world


    Thewhalesharkis a gentlecreatureand harmlessto humans

    MATTHEW CROMPTONWhen I surface,exhaustedfromthesprint, I pulloff mymaskandsee that everyoneis smilingin thesunlight

    ITis roundingintohourtwoand Iam beginning to feel a little likeCaptainAhab.

    Look for the dark shapebeneath the surface, our guide,Charlie, a diminutive Irish lass,shouts over the roar of the twin

    85hp outboard engines. Squintingand sweating in the hot middaylight, we peer like s un-blind mari-nersintothedeep,and thoughthesea here is lovely now cobalt,now turquoise we have spottednothing that looks even remotelylikeourquarry.

    Thewatersoffthetownof Tofo,on the southern coast of Mozam-bique,areamongthebestplacesintheworldtosee, andtoswimwith,the colossal whale shark. At anaverage of 10m in length, theyrefilter-feeders, gentle and slow andharmless to humans despite theirmetre-widemouths.

    And though something this

    massiveshouldnotbehardtospot,we are experiencing considerabledifficultydoing so.

    The small boat, now stopped, ispitching in big swells and Iam sunburned and beginning tofeel nauseous.

    Would you say the whalesharkis areclusivecreature?IaskCharlie as she stands surveying

    the shallows from the bow. Well,perhaps a bit shy of human con-tact?I continue.Imean,wedontreallyknowmuchaboutthem . . .

    She sneers at my needling andgoesbacktowatchingthesea.TheGerman guy next to me is begin-ningtoturngreen.

    Not that there isnt a silver lin-ing; as a location for heatstrokeand seasickness, you could hardlychoosea morebeautifulsetting.

    Weve motored far south of thetownandtheundevelopedAfricancoastline here is stunning, withhigh khaki-coloured dunes risingbehind a broad sweep of emptybeach;onlya lonefishermaninhis

    short pants and floppy hat beliesthefeelingthatthisverywellcouldbe what Mozambicans call fin delmundo,ortheendoftheworld.

    Lovelyornot,ourtimeisalmostup. Theres a real sense of disap-pointment as we turn back north.

    Even the researchers at the mar-ine institute here dont reallyunderstand the behaviour of the whale shark, Charlie apologisesas we chop back across the waves,the town hoving into view aroundtherocky point.Suddenly,though,

    our skipper calls out and throttlesthe engines way back. Theres adark shape just off the starboardbow, and we quickly come abouttoget aheadof it.

    Swiftly donning mask and fins,we roll backwards over the gun-

    wale into the warm salt water,kicking through the waves just asthewhalesharkcomesintoview.

    Its a beautiful female, perhaps8m long and distinctively spotted,swimming gracefully along theocean floor just 5m below us, theslow, serpentinemotionofher tailstirringup thesedimentina cloudaroundher body.

    All of us are kicking as hard aswe can to keep up, and I can feelthewashof pressureoff the finsofothers all around me. On we kick,tiringandslowlyfallingbehind,for30 seconds, 60 seconds, a minuteand a half, and then the waterdeepens, the blueness becominginscrutable and, just like that, thesharkis gone.

    When I surface, exhaustedfromthesprint,I pulloffmy maskandseethateveryoneissmilinginthesunlight.

    Amazing, one woman says.Amazing, others reply and theword choruses all around as wetreadwateroverthe deep.

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