Noosa?

Well, we’re only recently back from Port Douglas/Palm Cove, and so it’s premature to give thought to what we might do next year.   But, as is the way with these things, inevitably we’ve been turning that question over in our minds.   Coming back to Melbourne’s wintry conditions has been one factor contributing to this!   One option that we’ve tossed up about is returning to Noosa.

And so what happens?  We receive in our letterbox a booklet promoting the joys of Noosa!    It’s got a lot of information that could be quite useful.

Of course, no decisions have yet been made, but we’re filing the booklet away for potential future reference!

 

Tiger Airlines

At the risk of being boring, I thought I might set out a few observations about Tiger.

Our trip with them to and from Cairns was the first time we’d flown with them.   I know that Tiger had reputational issues in the past, and this had affected my decisions in days gone by, but it does seem to me that the worst is behind them.

At the outset, they’re a “low cost carrier”, and frankly I couldn’t discern any real difference between Tiger and Jetstar.   No doubt both have good days and not-so-good days, so it’s a little harsh on an airline to judge it on the basis of a single bad experience (not that we’ve had any really bad experiences), when the statistics suggest that there isn’t a lot of difference between Jetstar and Tiger.  I base this on the fact that in June, Tiger’s punctuality was not as good as Jetstar’s (73.2% arrivals on time for Tiger vs 87.1% for Jetstar), but Jetstar had significantly more cancellations (122 for Jetstar, 49 for Tiger).   I suppose it depends on what you value more, but given that I’d prefer to arrive late rather than not at all, at least one way of looking at these figures is to call it a “line ball”.

I do wonder why LCCs aim for 45 minute turn-arounds.   Are the benefits of a little extra utilisation of an aircraft on good days really so significant as to off-set the issues that come about when the inevitable delays occur?

Check in for us in Melbourne was a breeze, as it was all self-service with no queues.  However, as I’ve mentioned, because we weren’t able to pre-print our boarding passes, check-in at Cairns was a bit of a pain.

I had also been a bit annoyed, when there was an itinerary change, to lose our pre-allocated seats (for which we’d paid) without notification.  I’m not sure if this is an issue limited to Tiger, however.

Food isn’t a big deal for us on domestic flights, and my perception is that there isn’t much of a difference between Tiger and Jetstar in this regard (although of course, Qantas and Virgin don’t charge, but that’s not to say that you get very much).

I did notice that in both Melbourne and Cairns, Tiger were weighing most cabin baggage.  Given this, how it is that the passenger sitting in front of us on one sector was able to bring an enormous carry-on bag on to the plane isn’t clear to me.   On a related note,  in the check-in queue at Cairns, a passenger ahead of us was handing over a number of $50 notes, presumably as a consequence of not being aware of the consequences of not pre-purchasing the right to check-in baggage (no sympathy, surely everyone knows that’s how low-cost carriers work?).

One Melbourne-specific issue is that at Terminal 4, the Jetstar gates really are a great distance away from the check-in area, and there are no moving walkways.

Who will we fly with next time?    The short answer is, I have no loyalty, I’ll fly with whoever offers the best combination of price, convenient timings and service (yes, that’s a reference to Qantas and Virgin as well as Jetstar’s location in Terminal 4).  I usually use Webjet to compare).  And if the outcome is that Qantas or Virgin are competitive – as they sometimes are – then naturally I’ll fly with them.

Port Douglas or Palm Cove?

Although we’re back now, it might be worth commenting on the Port Douglas vs Palm Cove issue.  We were asked by someone while we were staying at Palm Cove, whether we preferred PD or PC, and they were a little miffed that we didn’t enthusiastically favour Palm Cove.  The reality is, however, that they’re different!    Palm Cove is more intimate, perhaps even “cute”, but is more exposed to the afternoon south-easterlies that occur at this time of year. Most of Port Douglas is sheltered from these, although Four Mile Beach is exposed to them

Sunrise, Palm Cove

Port Douglas has better access to the Reef (not a big thing for us) and is closer to Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge.   Palm Cove has good access to Cairns, if you have any desire to go there (there’s a commuter bus), and is closer to Kuranda.

Both have a range of restaurants of various styles as well as numerous boutique shops (but no supermarket at Palm Cove).

As will have been apparent, this year we split out time between the two.    If we head to Far North Queensland next year, perhaps we’ll do something different, but we really haven’t decided!

Enhanced airline securty

A couple of days before our return, there had been a security scare and there were reports of enhanced security measures being in place at airports.  We allowed a little extra time for this, but in fact it wasn’t the security measures that caused delays.

The first hold up was the traffic from the north into Cairns at 8.15 am – it slowed to a crawl some kilometres north of Cairns.  But when we got into town, returning the car was a breeze, just park it in the drive way, they said, which we did and transferred our luggage to the waiting shuttle bus.    So we ended up at the airport with what we thought was plenty of time – until we saw the Tiger check in queue, which was our next big delay.  Our return flight was on Tiger, as had been our flight to Cairns.

The queue for baggage drop at the Tiger check-in for those with pre-printed boarding passes was short, but I hadn’t had access to a printer while away, so I hadn’t been able to print them.  And in Melbourne, Tiger had had check-in machines, which we had breezed through (which in fact printed out fresh boarding passes, even though I had already done this).   No machines in Cairns, however, so we endured the queue.

The queue negotiated, we headed for security – but notwithstanding the publicity, there was no real delay here,   although increased security was evident:  police wandering around, the person in front of us in the check-in queue had been “randomly” selected for extra checking and perhaps extra staff watching the security check processes.

At Melbourne, on arrival, again the security queue in Terminal 4 (which we were able to observe) didn’t seem excessive, but a number of the doors to gain access to the building were closed, seemingly to require people arriving to enter by doors where there was someone keeping an eye on things.

Anyway, the flight itself was uneventful, A picked us up, and we were unloading our bags at the front door 70 minutes after touchdown.

Kuranda

Yes, you’re supposed to get to Kuranda by train and return by cable car (or vice versa), but we took the more economical  option, and drove.   Certainly many overseas visitors travel by train and/or cable car.    The road has many bends as it climbs up but it’s in good condition and the traffic is well-behaved.

We looked around the markets and had lunch at a somewhat “alternative” stall, and of course checked out the station and cable car termini.

 

The Surf Club

We’ve eaten out every night (and for quite a few lunches, too), so the meal we had at the Palm Cove Surf Club on Sunday night wasn’t exactly the most stylish of meals that we’ve had since we’ve been away.   But it deserves a mention for other reasons:  the Surf Club is a bit of a barn, it’s basic, and although the menu doesn’t have a lot of “flair”, they deliver at a reasonable price on what they say (as in steaks, chicken schnitzels and pizzas)!