Visit the ‘Land Down Under’ with two of our favorite Winni Wanderers – Pat & Mac who embarked on a 35-day cruise aboard the Holland America Noordam. Follow along with Pat & Mac as they embark on this bucket list journey of a lifetime.
Arrival into Sydney
First leg was Boston to San Francisco, six hours, with a five-hour layover until our 16-hour flight to Sydney.
Crossing the dateline made us lose a day, so we arrived in Sydney on Friday morning at 9am, with little or no restful sleep.
Australian passport control is fully automated and fast. We caught a taxi to the hotel where we dropped our luggage and started a leisurely walk along the waterfront. Pat had planned for us to arrive a day early in case of bad weather or airport delays on the home front. To fill some sightseeing time, Pat pre-booked a tour of the Sydney Opera House. During all of our previous visits, we had only seen the outside and we were excited to finally take the complete tour.
The tour was an hour of walking with guided narration via headphones. Photos are discouraged unless the guide said otherwise. The inside of the Opera House consists of several performance venues, such as the main Concert Hall, adult and youth ballet theaters, several regular staged theaters, and workshop rooms. There are seven indoor performance theaters plus an outdoor concert area. All are quite busy, a symphony tonight and outdoor rock concerts for the next three weeks.
We took the usual iconic photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Interestingly, the Bridge has a unique tourist attraction - a "bridge climb", in which a group walks up on the steel girders to the flags on the top. I'm told it is safe, climbers have safety harnesses attached to steel cable handrails, but this is not on our bucket list.
Day 1 - Set Sail on Holland America Noordam
The Noordam was berthed at White Bay Cruise Terminal, which is around the other side of the inner Harbour, quite a distance from our nearly waterfront hotel at Circular Quay ferry Terminal.
We got to bed last night at 6:30, exhausted from a sleepless long flight from SF, and woke up at 2am, wide awake. With some effort, we fell back asleep.
Our only task Saturday morning was checking out by 11am and taxi over to the terminal.
We dropped our carry-ons in the cabin and had a leisurely lunch, followed by a brief orientation tour of the ship. We left Sydney Harbour during dinner, and we went outside briefly to get some shots.
We had another early night after a brief theater narration and video on the history of Holland America Lines, starting in 1830. Sunday should be a restful sea day.
Day 2 - Sea Day & Day 3 – Gladstone
Sunday was a complete sea day from Sydney, followed by half of Monday, until we arrived in Gladstone. We needed a peaceful, slower pace to recover.
Gladstone was a last-minute substitution and port change on the itinerary made by Holland America. The little town of 63,000 is proud of its industrial roots. It has been the largest coal exporting port in Australia, if not the world. It operates Queensland's principle coal-fired electrical generating plant, which is in the midst of conversion to a green hydrogen-based plant within 2 years. It also boosts having a massive bauxite refinery and related aluminum ingot plant. With all this attention on its industry, Gladstone has little tourist infrastructure. So, our ship's arrival was a rare event for the community and the shore excursions were few and underwhelming. The locals were very friendly and did their best to showcase their proud heritage.
Excursions must have been created at the last moment as there were only a couple to choose from, so we selected a bus tour of Gladstone Highlights. We passed through the quaint town of individual residences, saw the Main St. shopping district, drove by the Art Museum and Town Hall.
Our first stop was a hilltop vista of the Queensland Aluminum Ltd. bauxite refinery. We saw it from a distance, took a picture and read some informative placards on the history of aluminum. Next, we visited the Tondoon Botanic Gardens expecting a stroll through colorful, flowered gardens. Our expectations for this may have been too high. There were massive numbers of eucalyptus trees, palm trees and other green trees and shrubs along winding paths, but no flowers. The Cafe was closed, and the Japanese Tea House was fenced-off. The real highlight was seeing a kookaburra with a giant grasshopper/locust in its beak.
The bus continued to an obstructed hilltop view of the three smokestack electrical power plants. On the return to the ship, we briefly stopped at a public park across from the marina to catch a distant view of our ship. We proudly learned that this Spinnaker Park was developed on reclaimed land.
We thanked the tour guide and bus driver for sharing their time with us and showcasing their community.
Day 4 - Sea Day. Noon location: 20.33 S Lat. 151.42 E Long. Today was the first of back-to-back sea days as we sail to Papua New Guinea. We chose the restaurant for breakfast rather than the buffet on the Lido deck. We wanted to try the eggs benedict.
To fill up some time, we attended the shore excursion talk on the next port of call in a standing room overflow theater. Later, Pat got some sun by the pool while I read my eBook. At 2pm, we attended the naturalist lecture on coral reefs and after dinner, we saw the 7pm show, a performance of Valli and Sinatra hits by a talented Australian performer. Tomorrow is another sea day. Lazy times ahead. Day 5 - Sea Day. Noon location: 13.13 S Lat. 152.26. E Long.
Couldn't sleep once the sun was up before 6am, so we finally got up and went for an early breakfast, with our coffee in hand.
After breakfast, our calendar was open, so we played cribbage in the public game room, followed by some reading prior to the 11am speaker on Capt. Cook's life and travels around the Pacific.
The temps are in the upper 80s and the sun feels intense, keeping us inside. Spent time at the naturalists 2pm lecture before returning to the cool cabin. Eventually, Pat and I went for a dip in the pool, which was too warm. She reclined in the sun for a while, and I got a cool diet coke in the shade.
After dinner, we saw a comedian performance in the theater at 7pm and flowed that up at 8pm with a piano and strings musical quartet performing American show classics.
There was a letter in our cabin with disappointing news. Our excursion tomorrow in Alotau, Papua New Guinea, has been canceled by the local tour group because of inclement weather. It was supposed to be an 8-hour day of rough road transit to caves, time spent at a resort with lunch and pool, and snorkeling excursion at their beach. The other tours were not interesting to us and already fully booked so we are considering a walk around the local area in the morning before it gets too hot.
Day 6 - Alotau, Papua New Guinea. Location: 10.31 S Lat. 150.45 E Long.
Arrived in port around 7am. We checked the status of our shore excursion on the Holland America app, hoping it may have been reinstated, but it was no longer showing on the app and the other two were full. The local tour guide told Holland America that inclement weather caused the cancelation. The trip entailed a 90 minute ride to the site, meaning it likely crossed the mountain ridge to the northern side of the peninsula. I noticed that clouds constantly hovered beyond the peaks, so their weather was much different than ours. Plan B is a walk along the main roadway into the central area to check things out. We left before 9am and the temperature was already 91 degrees with 67 percent humidity. We soon realized it would be a short outing. However, as we exited the ship, we were welcomed by a native dance group which remained singing and dancing throughout the day until the ship's departure at 5pm... very impressive!
A major observation as we began our walk - the local folks are openly friendly. The walk was busy, with a few tourists but mostly locals. As we passed, there was usually a "hello" or "good morning". Even as we neared the ship, they were saying "thank you for visiting our island". First stop was a local grocery store, to get some shade, but no a/c. Walked the aisles and rested for the next leg of the journey. My personal goal was the War Memorial, commemorating the WW2 Battle of Milne Bay, August 26 to September 7, 1942. Zin which, outnumbered Aussies slowed a Japanese invasion force of 2,000, but kept being pushed back, until reinforcements and artillery arrived a couple of days later. Jungle fighting continued but after one final failed assault, and heavy losses, the Japanese forces withdraw. It was a hot trek to the Alotau War Memorial but well worth the effort. Informational placards described the days of the battle and the sacrifices and bravery of the local tribesmen and military. On the return, I met Pat under the shade of a tree and retraced our steps back to the ship, interrupted with one shady stop at a local store. Back at the ship we relaxed on the balcony, before some pool time. After dinner, the theater had a female singer performing 60s hits and more. We finished the evening with a piano and string quartet performance of Pops music. Friday is snorkeling at the Conflict Islands.
Day 7 - Conflict Islands. Location: 10.74 S Lat. 151.72 E Long
Let's see if I can briefly explain or describe where we are. First, the islands were found and named in 1886, by the HMS Conflict. Next, these 21 islands, atolls, loosely ring a sunken volcano. This group of islands belongs to Papua New Guinea and is located, in the Coral Sea, about 100 miles east of Milne Bay, where we were yesterday.
Our principle activity for the day was a reef snorkeling adventure. Our ship anchored well offshore, requiring use of a tender, which is a motorized lifeboat that easily transports about 80 passengers. The ship operates these tenders constantly up until it is time to depart.
The weather is still hot and humid despite being mid to late spring in the southern hemisphere. The tender dropped passengers off at a long jetty/pier and we walked on a sandy path across the narrow island to the beachy resort location.
We each went through the obligatory waiver forms, which were too long to read, especially without glasses. We were strongly advised to leave behind, on their shelves, anything we don't want to get wet.
The snorkeling group picked gear from supply baskets and walked over to another jetty for transport on a small outboard to a diving platform a few minutes away.
With some effort and a little help, we got equipped and slipped into the Coral Sea. Aptly named as coral reefs were everywhere we swam. The colors were beautiful. I used an underwater camera to capture this experience. Spent close to an hour floating and swimming. Pat did very well with her snorkeling and really loved everything.
When time expired, the boat returned us to the beach, where we exchanged snorkeling gear for our personal belongings. We then spent the next hour in the Coral Sea, floating and resting.
Knowing our sun exposure limits, we bundled up and walked back across to the tender jetty for a return ride home, and lunch.
The evening entertainment was a magician/comedian followed by the usual quartet playing music with a French Connection.
Tomorrow is a sea day on the way to Cairns.
Day 8 - Sea Day on the way to Cairns
Started the sea day with a specialty coffee at the coffee bar, then off to breakfast. Killed some time before a shore excursion talk in the theater. Read a little, followed by Pat getting a few rays by the pool. Dinner, followed by a 7pm theater show and an 8pm quartet performance in a lounge. Nothing much on the schedule interests us, so early to bed.
Day 9 - Cairns. Location: 16.92 S. Lat. 145.78 E. Long.
There was a brief rain shower during breakfast, but it ceased before getting ashore. Today is our Great Barrier Reef (GBR) snorkeling adventure.
Australia did not make it fast or easy to disembark. Due to traveling from a foreign country, Papua New Guinea, everyone had to go through immigration at the pier. All excursions were delayed.
Our group assembled outside and walked about 10 minutes to the catamaran, which would transport us 90 minutes to the Great Barrier Reef. It is 2,600km long and has over 300 islands. Our location on the Great Barrier Reef was 16.74 S Lat. 146.26 E Long.
Along the way, we all got equipped with gear, including a "stinger suit"… A what? It is a one-piece spandex type covering from head to toe. One thing you learn when visiting Australia is that there is dangerous wildlife to be aware of. In the ocean, there are box jellyfish that have many 9-foot tentacles with stinging poisonous tips. Hence, the stinger suit for skin protection. I am glad to have the protection of the suit, even though we did not see any.
We spent about an hour in the water and that was enough for us. I tried to take pictures of the underwater coral reefs, but the pictures turned out to be muted off-green images, with limited color variations, despite many different shapes and sizes.
The tour stayed at the reef area for three hours and they served a light lunch buffet, before the 90-minute ride back to Cairns.
Returned to the ship after 5:30pm, showered quickly and made it to dinner. There was no show tonight, just a video movie of natural wonders around the world accompanied by the string quartet with piano.
Back in our room we watched an old movie in its entirety, It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable. It was a great way to unwind after an active day.
Tomorrow is the first of three sea days on the way to Darwin. We will be there on Thanksgiving.
Day 10, 11, & 12 – Sea Days
We're on our third sea day after leaving Cairns for Darwin, in the Northern Territory. We left Sunday night sailing north along the Great Barrier Reef and along the elongated coast of the Queensland peninsula, all day on Monday. Tuesday morning, we arose early to be on deck as the ship rounded the tip of Queensland and passed through the Torres Strait, amidst some scattered islands and dangerous reefs. I took some pictures of the islands as we passed. Since leaving Cairns, an Australian pilot has been on the bridge aiding navigation through the Great Barrier Reef and through Torres Strait. That pilot will leave us at Darwin.
Today is Wednesday and we are checking the daily schedule for things of interest. We decided on noon bingo for me and an art auction at 12:30 for Pat. I will join her about 1pm for the free champagne at the auction and try not to buy anything.
We find activities to pass time on sea days; trivia, shore excursion talks, naturalist lectures, a little sun by the pool, auctions, after dinner musical performances in the theater or in smaller lounges, a little casino time, and reading/internet time in our cooler cabin. The outside temperature seems too hot and humid. We limit our time outside when on the ship.
Thursday, we arrive in Darwin and look forward to the plans for tomorrow - a wildlife excursion to a park, featuring mostly birds and reptiles.
Day 13 - Darwin. Location: 12.47 S Lat. 130.84 E Long
We began Thanksgiving in Darwin with a 45-minute bus ride out of town for our 5-hour excursion at Territory Wildlife Park. The morning heat started around 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity and only went up as the day progressed.
During the bus ride, our guide gave us a map and some tips for things to see and do within the timeframe of the visit. The park is more than 1,100 acres, too much to walk on a very hot day so there is a tram that operates regularly and connects the key animal sections. We took it to the first stop, Nocturnal House. There were a series of rooms with either glass enclosures or large open enclosures, along a winding path. I took many pictures of the critters, mostly a wide variety of rodents, some frogs, geckos, and snakes.
We walked a distance to the arena for the Birds of Prey show, with flying performances by an owl, kite, stork, and others whose names I don't remember. The ranger handled the birds and fed them rewards for their brief flight demonstration.
Then a short tram ride brought us to the Aquarium with its many-colored coral reef fish, larger ocean fish, an occasional snake, and the resident saltwater crocodile.
We hiked the Monsoon Forest Walk and passed through several displays of native birds and waterfowl.
Time was running short, so we hopped on the tram to circle the remaining stops before the meeting time back at the main entrance. We did not see much of the dingo or emus, maybe they were too shy or too hot to be in the open sun? The water buffalo were more accommodating, especially when the tram driver stopped and drew them closer with a carrot snack. On the return bus ride, the driver pointed out several long dirt airstrips beside the road. These were WWII Spitfire landing strips, 14 in total, now protected. These were used to defend Darwin during Japanese bombing attacks. There is much local pride in their war history.
Another natural site throughout this area are termite mounds, of various heights, several I saw were over 7 feet tall.
Returned to the ship at 2pm and rushed inside to cool down. Earlier we had entertained the idea of exploring downtown, but by now we had our fill of the heat and humidity.
Several cool drinks and a little late lunch snack got us nearly back to normal. Just wanted to be lazy until the usual evening activities, dinner, show, lounge music and early to bed.
There are two sea days before the next port of call, Broome, in the northwest corner of Australia.
Day 14 - Sea Day. Location: 13.01 S Lat 127.10 E Long. Day 15 - Sea Day. Location: 15.18 S Lat. 123.26 E Long
Two consecutive sea days with much time to fill. One morning, there was a preview of the next port of call, Broome. We then chose to attend a quartet musical performance in a lounge. Later in the afternoon, we attended a historical art lecture. We saw an unusual sunset before going off to the evening theater show with an amazing flutist. The evening ended with our usual stop to listen to the piano and string quartet.
The second sea day, Saturday, was still hot. We stayed indoors to watch the morning movie, The Outfit, in the large theater. Later, Pat attended a demonstration on flower arranging by the ship's florist. We hung out in our cabin until dinner and finished the evening with the theater show of a top tier pianist, followed by the quartet to conclude the day. Day 16 - Broome 17.59 S Lat. 122.12 E Long
Another start to a very hot and humid outing, in Broome, Western Australia, (pop. about 14+k) where the temps are in the mid-90s and 70%+ humidity.
We started Sunday morning with an early shuttle bus ride 6 miles to the drop off point near Chinatown. We buddied-up with our daily dinner friends from the ship, Mariana and Hank.
There are limited things to see and do during the short time in port. We agreed to replicate the Highlights of Broome excursion, which covered Gantheaume Point where we might see dinosaur footprints (depending on the tide schedule), a pearl history center, view of Cable Beach, and Chinatown.
Due to there being limited taxi service, the driver dropped us off at Gantheaume Point, but gave us his phone number for pickup after we were finished. He had to keep his taxi in circulation for all the potential fares he could land.
The pictures of Gantheaume Point speak for themselves. It is a beautiful red rock waterfront location, hot and desolate. No signs showed us where to go, so we walked dirt paths or climbed down some boulders to search for footprints. We spent over an hour and believe we may have found some eroded dinosaur print impressions. Otherwise, the rock colors and shapes were breathtaking with the aqua ocean background.
I called the taxi and waited 10 minutes in a shaded area at the entrance. In the distance along the ocean edge, we saw the beginning of the 21 mile stretch of Cable Beach. Sand bordered by scrub as far as you can see and no one there, at least on our end.
The driver took us past the Town Beach, where we briefly got out for pictures. He then drove us to the center and around a few streets to show us the food and shopping places. We thanked him for his kindness and strolled away.
Pat had a mission - replace her lost sunglasses (dropped in the port-o-potty at Gantheaume Poin) and the local general store had just the right sunglasses.
We walked the commercial street toward a lookout over Roebuck Bay for more pictures. Just down the street was the Pearl Building, which was closed to walk-in traffic because of a previous shore excursion booking. So, we looked around the outside exhibits, a pearl diving ship and a diver's helmet, in which Pat placed her head, at my insistence.
We felt that we had accomplished what we could on our own. The temp and humidity combined to feel like 98 degrees. We were near the ship shuttle bus impromptu depot and enjoyed the a/c ride back. We got all this done by noon.
We cooled down and cleaned up in the cabin, while I reviewed the day's pictures. In the evening, we saw a new act in the theater, three young talented women singing 60s and 70s rock. The usual quartet classical performance concluded the day.
Monday is a sea day before arriving in Exmouth, a small town with a population of 2,100. Our presence will cause almost a 100% increase in their population, for the day. Forecasts suggest a clear day with slightly cooler temps, as we travel south, away from the tropics.
Day 17 - Sea Day. Location 19.24 S Lat. 117.46 E Long
Same usual sea day stuff, attending an overcrowded theater, in the morning, to listen to the Cruise Director talk about the next port of call, Exmouth. Again, we have been wait-listed since August with little hope of catching an excursion. There was not much to do on our own, other than go to a town beach and snorkel, which didn’t sound appealing to us.
Later, we stopped by the Art display to listen to a brief lecture on a few artists they were promoting. Midafternoon, we attended a naturalist lecture on national parks.
After dinner, we decided to skip the theater show, but did attend our favorite piano and string quartet. Had a nightcap before retiring for the night.
Day 18 - Exmouth WA 21.96 S Lat. 114.16 E Long
After breakfast, we waited for the ship to be cleared by local authorities, which happens in every port, before getting our non-excursion tender tickets and waiting our turn.
Thankfully, a shuttle bus service was provided for continuous roundtrip transportation to the visitor center and town center. Otherwise, few people would ever make the 2-mile trek in this heat, 90+ degrees with clear skies and a dry stiff breeze, enough to keep most of the flies away from your face.
The visitors center doubles as an Aquarium and local history Museum. The area began to see European visitors after 1875, some by accident, literally. The first written record was a journal by a shipwrecked crew member, describing his six months survival among the aborigines. Later, others came for whaling and pearl diving. But it wasn't until WWII when an airfield was built to defend against Japanese aggression. It also housed a submarine base. Australian and American military personnel comprised most of the population and many stayed on to start families.
In the late 1960s, America received permission to build a VLF (very low frequency) radio transmission tower for communication with submarines and fill a signal void in the Indian Ocean. VLF signals can penetrate down to 40m, allowing subs to remain submerged. The signal station is a complex array of towers and underground copper cabling. The station was turned over to Australia in 1993.
In 1999, this area received a direct hit by cyclone Vance (hurricane to us) with wind gusts up to 175mph. There were no deaths but 70% of Exmouth buildings were destroyed. The Museum history section had a room where you could hear the wind blowing, watch a simulated storm wreak havoc through a window and watch old TV news reels of warnings and the aftermath.
The Aquarium section was equally interesting with small individual aquariums of colorful fish and coral.
After a couple of hours, we ventured out in the heat in quest of free-range emus. We had heard this was a real possibility. We first came upon a giant prawn sculpture, which probably celebrates its contribution to the local fishing industry.
We agreed to walk the circular road around the town center in the hope of finding emus. None. We inquired about then to other tourists walking by who said they saw some a little while ago, but we could not find them.
We made the hot walk to the shuttle bus pickup and made it back to the tender waiting line at the marina. Our morning on shore was finished and so were we.
The afternoon was devoted to cleaning up and resting.
The evening was short, with a BBC video movie about Planet Earth wildlife scenes with live quartet accompaniment.
Tomorrow is a sea day followed by the next port of call, Geraldton.
Day 19 – Sea Day. Location: 25.39 S Lat. 112.72. E Long As usual, on a sea day, we were trying to find things to occupy the day. We met our Dutch friends at the outside pool and while they lay in the sun, I got into the pool for a half hour float.
The weather improved today with temps in the low 80s.
We attended an early afternoon art presentation followed by a musical performance by our quartet. We relaxed in our cabin until dinner, then we skipped the main theater show in favor of the evening quartet in the lounge.
Tomorrow, we will be in Geraldton which has a population of 37k. It is a heavy industrial community and bulk shipping port for iron ore, grains, and minerals.
Day 20 – Geraldton, mid coast of Western Australia. Location: 28.79 S Lat. 114.60 E Long
We awoke today excited about our eight-hour scenic excursion to Kalbarri National Park. The weather was cooperating with temps in the low 70s. It seems the further south we go, the cooler it becomes.
After breakfast, we packed up and went to the theater to check in. There was a long wait line for Kalbarri. It seemed odd and then, sure enough, my electronic excursion ticket vanished. The check-in staff confirmed the rumors...half of the tour was canceled because one of the two buses had mechanical issues. Selection was determined by timing of excursion booking and we were beyond the cutoff date. All other excursions were full.
We wanted to get out and see some sights. The only option available was a hop-on hop-off bus that loops around a few key attractions in the downtown area. These would be the Museum of Geraldton, the old Gaol (that's British for jail), the hilltop Memorial to the HMAS Sydney II, the Cathedral, and the shopping district. So, we waited until our appointed time, 10am, to board a shuttle to the downtown bus stop.
The local people, who assisted at the pier, at the bus switch and at the highlights, were all so helpful with either a map or answering questions. Ours was the first cruise ship in a very long time, we heard. They employed school buses and drivers for the impromptu hop-on-hop-off shuttle. Flea markets were set up at the bus switch in a small park. A guide booth was at the Memorial to provide a narrated tour. Their sincere efforts helped us salvage the day.
We completed one ride around on the bus to get a general overview and confirm our plan. We began with the Museum of Geraldton. It is a modern attractive building loaded with history, indigenous appreciation, environmental displays, wildlife info, sea life info, a narrated tour through a room dedicated to the first recorded shipwreck in the area in 1639, the Batavia, a Dutch merchant ship carrying supplies and 12 chests of gold, silver and jewels to Batavia (later known as Java) to help build their spice trade in the East. The narrator described the entire story, how it got wrecked on the coral, the days before most crew got to shore with some supplies, the captain and a small crew setting out in a longboat to sail 1,200 miles to Batavia for help to rescue his stranded crew, stories of some terrible behavior by certain crew while waiting for rescue which came about 9 months later. Many artifacts were on display with lengthy stories. Strange, numbered stones were located in the ballast. Recently, someone determined they were building blocks and they were assembled in numerical order, creating an arched gate, which was destined for a wall around their Batavia compound.
We also attended a short 3D movie on the underwater discovery, in 2008, of the WWII HMAS Sydney II and the other combatant, a German raider disguised as a Dutch trading ship. We were told we would also learn more at the Memorial.
Next, was our visit to the Gaol. By the early 1800s, Britain ran out of prison space in the tiny homeland, so they created a "transportation" for criminals, sentencing them to serve their time at the new colony. In Geraldton, they built the entire gaol complex, many town structures, and bridges. It had minimum security because it was surrounded by hundreds of miles of nothing. This transportation program lasted 80 years. Inside, we saw the original cells and doors, many now occupied by tiny craft shops. We listened to a brief narration by a guide and toured through the cell block, before heading to catch the bus for the Memorial.
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial is for the loss of the entire 645 crew on 11-19-41. The ship was returning to Fremantle after escort duties to Java when they passed a Dutch merchant ship, which they found out too late was a disguised German raider, Komoran. A quickly launched torpedo struck the mid ship and sunk it in minutes. Return fire damaged the raider's rudder and it drifted a few hours before on board fires exploded that ship. Most of its crew survived and ended the war in prison camps.
At the top of Mount Scott, overlooking the town and waterfront, there is a Wall of Remembrance with all the crew names and a Dome of Souls comprised of 645 interlocking gulls, representing each lost sailor. Inside is a symbolic anchor with port and starboard running lights above a German propeller from a ship similar to the Koroman.
At the far end is The Stele, in the form of the ship's prow, which acts like a grave memorial. Next to this is the Pool of Remembrance. The bottom is a map with coordinates where the ship was found, on 3-14-08. The lone gull's wingtip is positioned at the spot of HMAS Sydney II and directly points to its location over the horizon.
Also on the site is the statue of The Waiting Woman. Looking out over the waters, in anguish, for her overdue sons.
This was placed in position in 2001, and strangely, is looking directly at the coordinates of where the ship was located in 2008 (goosebumps).
There is so much more thought and symbolism in the entire Memorial design than I can remember. Well worth a visit.
We hopped on the bus here and returned to the ship. The evening was devoted to the usual dinner, theater show and lounge quartet. Then Goodnight. Heading to Perth tomorrow.
Day 21 - Perth/Fremantle. Location: 32.05 S Lat 115.74 E Long
Friday, we have our own 8-hour independent excursion scheduled to leave Perth at 2pm, so our morning was more leisurely than when we have an early morning tour scheduled. Since the ship is docked in Fremantle, we got a taxi for the 40-minute ride to our tour pickup location.
We walked around and chose to visit the Perth Mint and joined a guided tour. We heard how gold was first found, the resulting gold rush, the creation of the Mint, saw exhibits of historical artifacts, and some huge gold nuggets. We also saw the making of a gold bar in the original smelting room.
We left in time for a quick lunch before the rendezvous. There were 20 of us in the van for the two-hour ride north. There were a few brief sightseeing stops, at a waterfront lookout, a white sand beach, and a nature reserve before arriving at 5:30pm at the principle destination, Pinnacles National Park. We wandered through the formations independently with the idea of also catching the sunset there.
After sunset, there was a cold buffet dinner with champagne followed by moon and stargazing through the guide’s telescope. The 2 1/2 hour return drive was mostly on desolate dark roads without noticeable civilization until we saw lights of Perth on the horizon. After drop-off at the train station, we caught a taxi to Fremantle arriving on board after midnight.
Day 22 – Fremantle. Location: 32.05 S Lat 115.74 E Long
Saturday, the ship leaves at 1pm so we have only a few hours to walk around the center of town and check out a couple of sites.
We walked from the ship along the waterfront and past the WA Maritime Museum ending up near Bathers Beach where the old Round House rests upon a cliff overlooking the harbor. This 1831 building was the gaol and one of the earliest structures in WA. Beneath the cliff is a Whalers Tunnel leading from the beach to the town commercial district. Originally, this was used to pull whale carcasses off the beach for processing on the other cliff side.
Continuing up High Street, past several cafes and some New Orleans style buildings, we entered Kings Square and saw Town Hall. Taking a right onto William Street, we passed a unique cookie and milk bar, which seemed out of character in an alcoholic world. At the end, we came upon the Fremantle Oval. Being curious, I walked through a gate and came upon an open field in a stadium setting. This is home of the South Fremantle Football Club. There were covered decorated wooden stands for patrons.
The last highlight on our brief walking tour was the Old Prison which we approached and took a picture, but did not intend on going in. Although it was time to turn around and head back to the ship, we came upon the Fremantle Markets and had to pass through. It consisted of open-air produce and grocery items. Pat was amazed by the huge fresh strawberries, grown hundreds of miles away. The Market evolved into tourist souvenirs and clothing. We returned to the ship after a wonderful day.
After a light lunch, we rested briefly before a quartet performance. The evening was the usual after dinner theater show followed by the evening quartet musical performance.
Tomorrow, we are scheduled to visit Albany located at the southwestern corner of the continent.
Day 23 - Albany. Location: 35.20 S Lat. 118.26 E Long
Saturday afternoon leaving Fremantle was a little rocky and stayed that way into Sunday. Our arrival in Albany is expected by 1pm. However, the Captain makes an unscheduled announcement…
Due to the weather conditions, the ship cannot get to Albany. There are rough seas and steady 40+ knots of wind, which makes passage through the outer ship channel too dangerous. The channel is only 130m wide. Cruising at the required pilot speed and calculating expected wind drift, the Captain determined it was extremely unsafe to proceed into that channel. Also, similar wind issues would have affected docking. Naturally, he offered a sincere apology, explaining how he is solely responsible for this decision and for our safety.
Not much to do but try to fill up the day. The ship quickly put up a movie in the theater, The Christmas Story. Followed this with a light lunch and an afternoon quartet musical interlude.
After dinner, Pat got a pedicure (I got mine yesterday). We went to the late theater show of a BBC Blue Planet 2 movie of beautiful ocean video and sea creatures, all this with live quartet musical accompaniment, synced with the video action.
Tomorrow, Monday, is a real sea day as we cross the "Australian Bight".
Day 24 – Sea Day. Location: 35.20 S Lat. 125.07 E Long & Day 25 - Sea Day. Location: 35.40 S Lat. 132.10 E Long Although these are planned sea days, it’s hard to remember how we killed time after the past few eventful days of touring and sightseeing. There was an attempt to FaceTime family which was partially successful, followed by an art history lecture. After a brief lunch, we again enjoyed time with the quartet. Used some of the afternoon to jump on the internet and work on travel updates for family.
After dinner, saw the theater dance show, a first for this cruise, but identical to what we had on the Zaandam. Finished the evening with a brief casino visit.
Next day, there is no internet in the morning. Watched TV after breakfast and sat through an art auction. By the time we were finished with that, the internet had returned. Pat attended a flower arranging demo by the on board florist got new ideas. I sat through another quartet recital.
At 7 is a theater performance of a male vocal quartet, following another quartet musical recital at 6. We have a special meal at 8pm in the Pinnacle Grill, so we must save our appetite and enjoy the special dinner. Day 26 - Port Lincoln. Location: 34.71 S Lat. 135.87 E Long
Today is a welcome land day in Port Lincoln. Finally, we have an excursion to Glen Forest Tourist Park and Vineyard. The main attraction will be close encounters with native animals, finally we get to see kangaroos, emus, and koalas in their wildlife park, we feel like kids going to a petting zoo.
We got there early in the morning and went directly to the koalas. The farm staff permitted a few people at a time inside the enclosure. We waited our turn. There were a total of five within petting reach and were feeding on eucalyptus. Pat spent plenty of time touching and getting close for pictures. I changed places and let Pat take a picture of me and the koala.
The next stop was the kangaroo pen. We each were handed a bag of seeds for feeding the animals. Pat went straight to the kangaroos. They were docile, because of their extensive human contact and from also being overfed by a bus load of visitors. Pat got a lot of time with the roos and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.
Next up are the emus. We walked down to their pen and Pat fed them from outside the fence. Their pecking was strong and sharp, but she stayed strong. They were more aggressive, even trying for the seed bag directly rather than the paltry hand serving.
We tried feeding the donkeys, but they were too pushy and greedy. We passed by longhorn steer, sheep, rabbits, and an aviary.
On the return bus trip, which took about about 25 minutes, we arranged with the driver to be dropped off in town. Pat's curling iron died three days ago, and this is the first port with shopping potential. After a couple of misses at Woolworth and Kmart, a kind girl at Kmart suggested a pharmacy around the corner. Bingo, Pat found the right style, but with an Australian plug. We brought an adapter with us, so it will work the remainder of the cruise. This same event happened the last time we were here. Now we will have two Australian hair curlers that we never use.
Day 27 – Adelaide. Location: 34.78 S Lat. 138.48 E Long
Thursday, we docked at the industrial area of Port Adelaide, which is a 40-minute train ride to Adelaide. This time we have an 8-hour ship excursion to Coorong NP and a river cruise, which includes a long bus ride in each direction.
The cruise began in Goolwa, a small town, 2 hours southeast on the River Murray, near the Southern Ocean coast. The catamaran motorboat had an open top deck and an enclosed lower level with comfortable seats, sheltered from the cool river breezes. The captain was our narrator and spoke about the local history and native water birds. We passed through one lock at a barrage (dam). The several barrages in the surrounding delta system control the volume of fresh water released into the oceanfront channels to maintain a certain level of salinity for the sea life and local environment, while preventing salt water from intruding upon the fresh river water used by farms and towns.
The captain identified local bird wildlife along the river, pelicans, cormorants, black swans, and many other smaller migratory birds.
The boat paused at the Murray Mouth, a split in the peninsula, which needs frequent dredging to keep it open, allowing for the proper mixture of waters in the lagoon. Many pelicans and cormorants rested on the sand bars at the Mouth.
Continuing, we entered Coorong NP which is part of the sand dune barrier peninsula separating the river waters from the Southern Ocean. Departing the boat, we trekked across Barker's Knoll on a sandy trail toward the ocean. Our guide pointed out local food sources and high concentration of broken shells, evidence of native indigenous habitation dating back 60,000 years.
Crossing over one small dune, the great Southern Ocean appeared with its rough surf pounding the beach. We stood there a while taking many pictures before a leisurely walk back to the boat.
On the return, the one-person crew, Tia, served drinks and delivered pre-packaged lunch trays of salad, roll and butter, pasta salad, 3 cold cut meats, a cheese cube and mint. This was better than airline food. The captain said if we were still hungry, we could eat the biodegradable edible tray. We’ll pass.
We were not looking forward to the long bus ride back. The guide had promised a different route to vary the scenery. We began seeing vineyards on plains and hillsides, miles and miles in the McLaren Vale area which boasts 88 different vineyards. There was one winery we had to see but not an official visit, just a photo op. We were so surprised at what we saw - a 5 story tall Rubik cube surrounded by Dali sculptures. More than just a tourist attraction, it is a museum, restaurant, tasting room, among other features. Just a photo op for us, then back to the bus.
After dinner, we did the usual theater show and piano quartet. Looking forward to tomorrow for Kangaroo Island and its unique rock formations, Pat booked us on an independent tour.
Day 28 – Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island. Location: 35.71 S Lat. 137.96 E Long
Friday, Pat arranged for an independent excursion to a picturesque national park on the West End, about 1 1/2-hour drive from the small port. She has been on the internet trying to communicate and book this and we finally received confirmation yesterday.
The sail here last night was a little rocky and this morning the same. This is a tender port and the two don't mix. At 8am, the captain made a ship wide announcement. He is delaying tenders until the wind and waters calm, possibly later this morning. Our 7-hour, 9am tour, is in trouble so Pat emailed and updated them on our delay. They would wait, however, by the time waves smoothed and we got a tender, our arrival on land was 1:30pm. We searched but did not expect to find it, not enough time before ship departure so we were on our own to explore.
We walked about the waterfront in search of the few reported highlights. A short way down the road we paused at a rose garden on the way to Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail, a 2km winding hillside walk lined with locally created and meaningful art. We were amazed at what we saw. On the return, we walked the beach for a few more views. The tender ride back to the ship was a little rough and we were glad to get back on the ship safely.
Day 29 – Sea Day. Location: 38.40 Sat. 140.67 E Long
Saturday was a sea day to Melbourne with not too much excitement. There was a midday art lecture after which Pat spent time beside the pool and in the hot tub. I spent the afternoon on travel correspondence.
Pat made an upscale dinner choice, a 12oz lobster tail, which she shared with me. After dinner we took in a music performance and then decided to get some rest to be fresh for the port days in Melbourne.
Day 30 – Melbourne: Day 1
We have an independent excursion leaving downtown Melbourne at noon. We shuttled downtown, walked around a little before settling in at the meeting location at a hotel.
Our van holds 24. The driver entertained us with a brief didgeridoo song. Then we were off for a few scenic stops before getting to the primary purpose, the evening Phillips Island Penguin Parade.
Our first stop at Brighton Beach was to see the famous "bathing boxes". I admit that I took too many pictures, but they were so picturesque.
In the countryside, we visited the Moonlit Sanctuary and saw many indigenous animals. The highlight was petting a koala.
We traveled to the ocean for a quick stop at a scenic overlook toward a volcanic plug, a rock island just off the shoreline. Our interest was cut short by the high wind and rain.
We spent the last hour of time before the evening penguin march in a small waterfront town to eat supper or get a gelato. We chose the latter, except we remained in the van until the rain let up.
The Phillips Island Penguin Parade is a nightly event. Tonight, there had to be more than 500 viewers. The busy season maximum allowed is 2,500. There is an informative visitors center, with paid admission depending upon where you sat or viewed the activity. We sat at the front of the "penguin highway", which is the dirt path they created.
Some facts to understand this activity... parents need to feed their young for about 3 months; one or both parents leave their in-ground burrow one hour before dawn to avoid predators and go to hunt for small fish, squid, and jellyfish and wait offshore in floating groups until after sunset for the same predator reason. The babies wait at the burrow. The adults exit the surf and waddle over the sand and pebbles to reach their highway. Each penguin takes the exact route every time to and from the burrow. A creature of habit and if someone or thing is in the way, they stop until it moves. They are not able to change course. At the burrow, the parent regurgitates its catch while the kiddos peck away at their meal in the parent's beak. Yum!
We watched the little folks (adults are only 12" tall) waddle ever so cutely past us until the rain came and we started walking up the boardwalk beside the penguin highway. We stopped briefly for a little more viewing.
The heavier rain drove us back to the van. We sat in wetness for the 2-hour drive to Melbourne. We still needed to grab a cab, from the hotel drop-off back to the ship, returning after 12:30am.
Tomorrow is day two in Melbourne.
Day 31 – Melbourne: Day 2
Monday, our ship would be in port for half a day, so we booked a short 4-hour Holland America hosted excursion, a boat cruise on the Yarra River and a brief walking tour of Fitzroy Gardens.
The excursion bus brought us to downtown, where we walked a few blocks to the Yarra River which bisects the Southbank from downtown Melbourne. The gentle narrated river ride lasted less than 2 hours.
A short walk back to the bus and then we were taken on an impromptu tour of Melbourne. The guide provided an account of the history and stories about the many buildings and other sites. Travel was slow due to traffic and road construction.
At Fitzroy Gardens, we had 30 minutes to hustle to view William Cook's cottage and the Conservatory. This is the real Cook home built in 1755, but situated in England, which was disassembled and rebuilt here in 1934.
The Conservatory was full of colorful flower arrangements.
The evening was more of the same, dinner, theater show, and quartet musical performance.
Tonight, we sail on to Bernie, Tasmania.
Day 32 - Bernie Tasmania. Location: 41.05 S Lat. 145.91. E Long
Tuesday was another 4-hour cruise line excursion to Wings Wildlife Park, a rescue and rehabilitation refuge for indigenous animals and birds.
Our day was delayed. It started last night in Melbourne when our ship delayed leaving because of high winds and rough waves making departure from the harbor too dangerous. We finally left 5 hours late, after 10pm. This and the overnight rough waters of the Tasmanian Sea slowed our arrival to 11am. Many tours were canceled, and the remainder rescheduled. Our wildlife tour survived, thank goodness.
The Wing family owns all the land you can see in every direction and started saving animals to appease a daughter 31 years ago and it grew from there.
The Park owner said they just reopened a few days ago after recovering from record rainfall which induced the flooding of the nearby creek.
We had up to two hours here and that was almost enough time to see everything. Most of the animals and birds were outside, except for fish and reptiles. The Tasmanian Devil pen had a worker inside cuddling a Devil that got attached to her. She naturally recommended avoiding this in the wild. We continued our self-guided tour, seeing colorful birds, wombats, kangaroos, wallaby, monkeys, kookaburra, and baby emus. By this time, we were at the farthest end of the park when the rain began. It was pouring before we reached the shelter of the roofed cafe area. We heard the acceleration of the pounding rain on the tin roof and just watched the torrents from the open-air cafe. Passed the time with lunch of chips (French fries to us) until the one bus returned with guests for the next tour.
Later in the afternoon before departing, the captain broadcasted the sad news, the ship will not be going to Hobart, Tasmania due to exceptionally high seas and bad weather down at the southern tip, which put us at risk of more weather induced delays. Again, for our safety and to ensure timely arrival at Sydney. A new port stop was created at Eden, Australia which is on the southeast coast and in the direction of Sydney.
Day 33 – Sea Day. Location: 35.59 S Lat. 147.32 E Long
Wednesday, the ship maintained a slow speed with a gale force wind behind us as we rode the high waves toward the substitute port of Eden. It was a little rocky, but it could have been much tougher against the wind and waves.
There were the usual sea day activities - attend a next port talk in the theater, attend an art auction for free champagne, video show by the Hotel Officer, a gala dinner, performers dance show in the theater and the quartet.
Day 34 – Eden. Location: 37.07 S Lat. 149.90 E Long
Today, we were able to book a 4-hour excursion to an Aquarium and wildlife rescue park. There was a short ride to the Mirembula Aquarium (and Restaurant), located at the town wharf. There are many aquarium windows with a variety of local species of marine life.
A short distance away, still in Mirembula, is Pororoo Palace, a wildlife sanctuary. We got to see the regular indigenous birds and animals, most in pens or wired enclosures. We walked about the property, taking in whatever display had visible inhabitants. There were also free-range kangaroos and emus. A little over an hour later, we were bussed back to the ship.
After lunch on board, we caught the shuttle bus to Main Street. We wanted to look for gifts for the grandchildren while strolling up and down Main Street. Being somewhat successful, we returned for an evening specialty restaurant Italian dinner, followed by a later theater performance.
Tomorrow will be a sea day toward Sydney, but we are overnighting in Eden to avoid a rough sailing night due to the continuing wind and rough seas. No timing problem because Eden is very close to our final destination, Sydney.
Day 35 - Sea Day. Location: 36.36 S Lat. 150.14 E Long. Friday morning about 8am, the ship left Eden for the slow rolling sail to Sydney.
Today's activities allow us ample time to pack and sit around checking emails. At 4pm, we are 98% packed. Will finish after dinner and last show and place bags outside our cabin door for disembarkation.
This was a wonderful trip with many memorable adventures.
By Pat & Mac
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