Trip 1-22 Jan, 2007 Australia-New Zealand cruise aboard the M.S. Statendam (Holland America). Karen (pronounced CAR-en) and Dave Gibson booked this trip back in June and asked us to go with them (we met the Gibsons on the Holland America Ryndam, during a Millennium Cruise through the Panama Canal). We (Jacqueline and Robin Simonds of Beagle Bay, Inc) thought that was a fine old idea and signed up—never guessing that in the Fall we’d buy a new house and start renovating, vastly complicating our lives! But I’m glad we went, as we got some much needed rest as well as seeing a part of the world we’d always wanted to see.
[Note: all pictures taken by Robin Simonds, unless otherwise noted. © Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved. We have high resolution files of each photo available for purchase at reasonable rates.]
Because there was so much that we saw and did, I've broken this into four parts:
Arrived folded, stapled and mutilated courtesy of United’s Economy Plus seating. We took off 1 Jan and arrived today (thank you, International Dateline), 13 hours later. Robin has gout in his shoulders from being stuck in one position for so long. He’s having a full attack and it is very painful for him.
After a long wait at the airport, as the
people from several flights, we were bussed to
Sofitel Hotel Wentworth. The bus driver pointed out that the doormen
were all dressed in coats, tails and top hats. “Those men, ladies and
gents, are what we call POMs. In the days when Sydney was just a colony
and most of the inhabitants were prisoners, anyone in a uniform was
referred to as a POM—which stands for Prisoner of [Her/His] Majesty.
Calling someone a POM is an insult—and depending on the context, can be
a joking one or pretty serious, leading almost immediately to a
fight.” Language jokes my first day. I may be in heaven. A nice room
Afterwards, we walked down to the harbor (Circular Quay) and got on the “Captain Cook’s Tea Time Harbor Cruise.” The rain we’d arrived in let up to give us a nicely cool, overcast day. Aussies were all in great moods, as the country is in the worst drought in its history and even a brief rain is a welcome event. We went to the top deck where we could get great views of the famed Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor bridge—which celebrated it’s 75th birthday with grand fireworks at New Year’s (you should really click on this link, as it was a fabulous display!). At first I thought the Opera House’s roof had been “let go”—it looked gray-ish and yellowed in other spots. It turns out that the roof tiles are ceramic, with some being glazed and others not, to make
patterns. What I was seeing was the pattern in a somewhat overcast day (you usually see pictures in broad daylight). We had a nice two hour cruise around Sydney Harbor—which is vast—some tea and biscuits, and got lots of sunburns (why didn’t I remember to take the sunscreen!).
Sydney is a lovely, clean
city. It was the first European city colonized on the continent of
Australia, and now has 4.2 million
people in the metro area (it sprawls out pretty far from the harbor).
The Aboriginal people settled the area about 40,000 years ago. The
British arrived in 1788. Of course, it was turned into a penal colony
once America established its independence. For more history, Wikipedia
or an actual book would be a good idea.
Took a taxi back up to the hotel (although it was pretty close, there was a steep hill between us and it that no one felt much like hiking up) and stopped in the bar for some drinks. The full day and travel took it’s toll and we retired to our room for room service and early bedtime. I knocked off at 7:30, R sat up to watch the Cricket playoffs between England and Australia.
Took the Sydney Explorer Bus (for a set price, you can hop on and off all day, and has a recorded tour as you ride along) down to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Walked thru the ships at the dock: the Vampire is a diesel submarine, commissioned in 1969 and went out of service in 1999; a frigate Onslow of the same vintage and lastly, a recreation of Captain Cook’s Endeavour. It was a very faithful re-creation. Unfortunately, what that means is the
space amidships is very cramped. We were directed
to “walk” down to the stern, but you had to make your way doubled over.
They wanted us to sit and listen to a chat, but I knew if I was in pain
my companions had to be equally uncomfortable—so we made our way out the
(very narrow) hatchway. In America, we simply would not have been
allowed in that area. An interesting difference is the Aussie assumption
that “it’s your own lookout” what you can and can’t do vs. the American
need to protect everyone from everything.
The museum is very nice, but the premier exhibit—Pirates!—was a huge let-down. As the author of Captain Mary, Buccaneer, pirates is a subject near and dear to my heart. Imagine my disappointment when we discovered that the exhibit was a huge children’s play piece with minimal information or artifacts.
publishers, we; got hung up in
the gift store looking at books that were bound in a way we'd never seen
The Gibsons were very patient with us.
Had lunch at a café in Darling Bay, then walked to the
Sydney Aquarium. An
interesting place—if packed with out-of-school kids. Most of the
aquarium is on barges in the harbor. Nice displays and an impressive
section dedicated to the
Wandered over to the harbor to go to Doyle’s Restaurant which is right on the water (and next to where our ship will tie up tomorrow), where the Gibsons had eaten 4 years previously. Unfortunately, there was an unmoving line. It’s very popular, I guess. Decided to give up on it and find something else. Went down the harbor and came upon an outdoor bar called “Cruise” which had a separate restaurant on the 2nd floor. It turned out to be a remarkably affordable gourmet bistro. The chef combined flavors in an unexpected way that produced amazing, savory tastes. The made-to-order cheesecakes were simply astounding!
5 Jan. Sydney. J’s Birthday
Had breakfast with Karen and Dave at the Hotel. The busboy overheard Karen’s birthday wishes and sang a birthday song at the top of his voice—and very well, too. Dave told us that they were pooped out by the previous day and wanted to take it easy, so they were taking the bus tour Holland America arranged that would end in arrival at the ship. R and I wanted to tramp around the city, so we agreed to meet back on board.
Then walked down the lovely ficus tree-lined walkways (yes, that’s what your houseplant looks like all grown up!) to the WWI Memorial with its touching statue. It depicts a fallen soldier crucified on his rifle being held up by three women—a mother, a wife with child and a sister. It’s called “Sacrifice.”
Walked over to the beautiful City Hall and then to the Queen Victoria Building next door. This 4 story 19th C former commodities market is now a luxury mall (redone in 1986). Stores like Versace and Swarovski are featured (the Christmas tree reached all 4 floors and was covered with Swarovski crystals). Had a wander around and enjoyed the clocks that were built to do vignettes on the ½ hour about Sydney’s history. Remarkable!
After a snack, we caught a cab back to Circular Quay to discover the
ship—docked and taking on passengers. It was a bit of a scrum as we
arrived at the same moment 3 busloads of people showed up... among them,
the Gibsons. But eventually we boarded and got our luggage in a timely
We cast off at 7:30. The Gibsons took us out to dinner at the Pinnacle Grill at 8. The loquacious Captain described every sight there was to see in Sydney Harbor from cast off to the time we sat down to dinner. When he signed off, the entire shipload of passengers and crew sighed with relief!
A wonderful dinner with special friends
on a ship thousands of miles from home. The best kind of birthday!
6 Jan. At Sea Off Australia's East Coast.
Captain has taken every opportunity to scold us into washing our hands
or using the ubiquitous Purell dispensers stationed everywhere on the
ship. He is in morbid dread of having an epidemic of
Norovirus sweep the ship. Of course, we've all heard of other ships
with 600 or more cases. However, he sites odd things like whole prisons
shut down (what? They let the convicts go free?) and etc.
Around noon, after we’d taken a turn around the deck—and almost gotten
blown off our feet—the Captain told us that the Geelong media (a TV crew
had been on board filming at 3 a.m. apparently) was broadcasting that
the ship had a mechanical “fault” and that’s why we hadn’t docked. The
Captain said he was trying to get in touch with the station to tell them
the “real facts.”
One “real fact” the Captain wasn’t sharing with the passengers was that
we were in the way of the remnants of Tropical Cyclone (read Hurricane)
Clovis, which had drenched Perth 3 days previously (and I’d been
watching the national weather in Sydney when it hit) and had been
storming across southern Australia since. The ship’s informational
channel even had the barometric readings removed from it (at one point,
I did see a reading of 29.6 trending downward before it was taken off).
At four, we started out of the bay. The pilot ship (the pilot had
already come aboard to steer us out) struggled to stay alongside us as
the waves got bigger and bigger and bigger! Finally, it darted behind
us, picking up the pilot again (a move I’ve never seen done) and went back
to Geelong. As we hit the 12' swells of the
Tasman Sea, the
Captain came on and said that the pilot told him it was the worst
weather he’d seen in the bay in 40 years. The Captain said he was glad
he had made the decision not to disembark passengers, as no one wanted
to ride those waves in a lifeboat. Then he warned us that the Tasman is
always rough, but that we should expect “tough weather” until 1 a.m.
“You might want to stay in your cabins.”
We are docked next to an enormous pile of wood chips. Got off the ship and took the shuttle into Burnie at 10. A nice day in the mid-60s. Went to the Information Center where they had a little museum about the founding of the town and the digging of the harbor (it didn’t have a natural port until then). Burnie is a very working class town. It reminded us a lot of Waterville, Maine (but smaller). It’s rather alarming to have all these American fast food restaurants in this tiny town. Doesn’t leave much room for local cuisine.
Went back to the ship for lunch, then off on a tour at 1. Hopped on a bus and drove 45 minutes to Gunns Plains in a lovely part of the country. The caves we were taken to were down very steep stairs and featured formations of a kind we’d never seen before. Sort of sheet-like. Also saw glow worms, but not many. Apparently, in wet years, platypus can be seen swimming in the stream that runs through (and made) the cave... but not this year. As mentioned before, it’s a bad drought year. R hit his head on a rock in a low spot on the trail. Sounded like a rock hitting a coconut. He said he was seeing stars. Yike!
Then we were bussed to Wing’s Wildlife Farm. This is a third generation farm that collects injured and orphaned wildlife. Outside of a zoo, I’ve never seen such a collection of critters. There were wallabys, pandamelons, Tasmanian Devils, many parrots plus a Kookaburra and fish.
Came face to face with a Koala. They are a lot bigger than I thought they'd be—at least this one is. Very slow moving, too. The guide asked if I'd like to hold him and I declined. This big fella looks as if he weighs 35-40 lbs and I just don't have any interest in holding something that reeks of eucalyptus and has claws clinging to me.
Then R spotted this flying squirrel. "Put him on your shoulder, honey!" And the guide plopped the little guy on my collar bone. I think both of us look somewhat alarmed, here. I know I was, to have a flying mouse perched near my ear. OK, maybe I'm not cut out for all this "up close and personal with nature" stuff.
The Tasmanian Devils were a lot smaller than I thought they’d be. They
were really quite fierce with each other. While they aren’t on the
endangered species list, apparently they soon will be. There is a
tumor/ cancer going on with them. First it disfigures, then
R found the kangaroos—his favorite animals. I had stopped at the loo and walked up the hill to the 'roo pen. I could have seen R in the dark, as he was just glowing with excitement at being able to touch and talk with the critters lying about in the pen. I don’t think he even minded the ‘roo poo on his shoes!
We returned to the ship just in time for the local bagpipe band to pipe us aboard. They marched beside the ship as we cast off, playing odd tunes like “Take the A Train” and “Dixie.” The Mayor and Council marched and waved beside them.
9 Jan. Crossing the Tasman Sea.
We slept late as the time changed (forward 1
hour)—much to the consternation of our very efficient cabin steward,
Virgo (pronounced FUR-go). Couldn’t do much today as it was too nasty on
deck for walks. We went to sit by the pool and read (the pool is under a
retractable roof, closed for today). The pool was
covered with a net, but not drained. Every so often, the water would
slosh out, sometimes in spectacular waves. I would have taken a picture,
but I wasn’t interested in getting thrown around the stairway to get my
Went to dinner (another formal night) and discovered 9 places set
instead of the usual 8. This amused us as Dave had just told us a story
the previous night about a cruise where a mysterious extra place-setting
had appeared on one of their previous cruises. Dave—wag that he is—told
the other diners that his mistress was joining them. Just then, a very
beautiful young woman joined them. Dave said he had great respect from
the other men at the table from then on! So we all waited with great
anticipation to see who would join us. A young, bald officer came and
sat at the table. I whispered to my friends. “It’s Karen’s boy-toy!”
It turned out his name is Emil and he is the Controller for the ship
(the money guy) and he had come to the table in honor of our
penthouse-dwelling tablemates, Roy and Fran (the Captain doesn’t eat
with the guests). Along with being allowed his august presence, he paid for all the
wine for the night. He was a pleasant guy and we enjoyed his
company... but mostly the FREE wine!
Better weather and not nearly as choppy. Haven’t much to report. Spent
much of the day reading and relaxing by the - now quiet - pool.
Just one thing, can we get some sort of international law passed that
bans men over 30 and over 200 lbs. from EVER wearing Speedo swimsuits? Yi!
Want to read more about our adventure? Continue on with New Zealand: South Island.
© Copyright 2007, Jacqueline Church Simonds
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