Sunday March 3, Monday March 4, 2019: PORT 1: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.
Each evening of the cruise, passengers receive “CURRENTS” setting forth information about the next day—all the activities on board, the hours each restaurant will be open, and when there is a port, information about that port. We docked about 4 p.m. and by the time we got through customs, which was run very efficiently, it was about 5 p.m. However, beginning well before we docked virtually every passenger was outside on a deck or on their balcony to see the ship come in. Here is what was written in our “CURRENTS” about the 51st day of the cruise (our 48th).
Sailing into Sydney harbor is one of the world’s great maritime moments. Almost without warning, the golden sandstone cliffs that edge the
Pacific coastline part to reveal a huge natural harbor with a beauftiful city at its heart.
One, if not “the” first thing that catches the eye is the world famous Sydney Opera House which is really a magnificent building. It is truly magnificent architecture and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia. There are really no words that can adequately describe its beauty. One has to see it, and no matter what the angle, it is gorgeous.
I have been wanting to come to this part of the world, New Zealand and Australia, for many, many years, but it was just not something BGM was interested in doing. One of the main reasons, I have wanted for many years to take a trip around the world was so that I could get to these places because I knew that BGM would not take an isolated trip to this part of the world. Well, that has all now changed. She loved all three places were visited in New Zealand, and we already know, after just five or six hours in Sydney, that we want to come back. The friends we spent this evening with spent two weeks in Sydney just a year ago, and we met other passengers who have been to Sydney almost a dozen times. When I asked my companion, a very experienced traveler, to name this favorite places in the world, he named Paris, Shanghai, Melbourne and Sydney. With all the great places in the world, for two of his four favorites to be in one country gives one an idea of how much many people think of Australia.
We took the ship’s shuttle bus into the center of the city and walked around the Harbor for about two hours. Ended up for a drink at the West Hotel. We asked the concierge what his recommendation was for dinner in Chinatown. The concierge was very helpful making a dinner reservation for us. It was the same restaurant Golden Century Seafood that was number 1 in Trip Advisor and the same one that BGM had noted when she checked things out. Our meal is described on the food exhibit. Anyone who likes Chinese food should make it a priority to eat at this place.
We saw one party of 12 from Beijing who has best we can figure out after talking to the manager, spent about $4000 for dinner. Not surprisingly, the restaurant specializes in fish, all fresh floating in huge tanks. The fish is brought to the diners in a clear bag before it is prepared. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day every day.
Although we spent less than half a day in Sydney, we already knew that it was a terrific city to which, if possible, we would love to return. Our overnight in Sydney was a last minute itinerary change, and the first port of our cruise where the stay is more than one day. Clearly, it is a port where the cruise line should plan to spend at least one overnight.
Monday March 4. We left the ship before 9 a.m. so we could have as much time as possible in Sydney. We had to be back on the ship by 5 p.m. because today is the start of the third segment of the cruise. A mandatory safety drill (our third) was set for 5:15 since over 200 new passengers were getting on the ship.
We did a lot of walking. I ended up having walked 7.8 miles, just short of 21,000 steps, but that included half an hour on the treadmill after the safety drill. BGM’s position is that just walking as we did was not cardiac exercise. Anyone need an Olympic coach?
There are over 5 million people in Sydney. It is not as beautiful as Paris, but it is gorgeous, and the architecture may be the best in the world. It is has great shopping and food. There are beautiful parks, and great sculptures throughout the city. It is spotlessly clean and the people could not be nicer or more accommodating. I think we saw as much of Sydney and learned as much about the city as one could learn in one day because BGM found a walking tour which we took for the first three hours with a very good and entertaining guide. It is billed as a “Free Tour”. The deal, it turns out, is that the Company, which also does this in Melbourne, says “just pay at the end of the tour what you think it is worth. We left the tour, missing the last half an hour, because of a lunch reservation. There were about 30 people on our tour and there were three separate tours. This was a very worthwhile thing to do and we recommend it to everyone who can walk. We got to see a lot of the historical buildings, and learned a huge amount about the history of the city.
We had to take a taxi from where we left the ship to our lunch, and the fare was AD $9.30. I had a $10 bill which I gave the driver, and then thinking a 70 cent tip was insufficient reached for a 50 cent coin. The driver said “thank you, but you have paid me enough” and would not accept an additional tip. Can anyone imagine a New York taxi driver or a taxi driver anywhere in the States saying something like that?
Lunch was at the Sydney Tower Buffet. It is an experience that everyone should do once. The Tower is the tallest in Sydney was a 360 degree view of the City. The restaurant revolves so it does not matter where one sits. I thought the food was better than BGM did. The building is 95 stories high. It is the tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. The 360 degree rotation takes 70 minutes so this is not a place to plan to eat and run
HOT TIP: TAKE THE WALKING TOUR AND THEN GO WHERE WE WENT TO LUNCH, BUT LEAVE AN EXTRA 10 MINUTES TO ACTUALLY GET TO THE RESTAURANT ONCE ARRIVING AT THE ADDRESS BECAUSE IT IS NOT EASY ACTUALLY DETERMINING WHERE ONE GOES, FIRST TO PAY THE BASIC PRICE FOR THE LUNCH (60 AD PER PERSON) AND THEN GETTING TO THE RESTAURANT ITSELF WHICH IS NOT EASY.
We spent the rest of our time walking around, going into various very nice shopping arcades. We also were looking for the sparkling chardonnay we had for lunch. Did not find it but found another we were told was really better. Wine stores are called “Bottle Shops”. Also brought some Chinese food back for the two very nice ladies from housekeeping who maintain our cabin for us.
One surprise, to me, is that, when it comes to beer, I always associated Foster with Australia. Foster was served at Wimbledon when we were there, and at a memorable lunch I once had in Mumbai, India, they served Foster instead of Kingfisher, the most popular Indian beer, because they said “Foster goes better with our spicy food”. We saw a lot of places that sold beer, both in bottles and on draft and I never saw Foster. Finally, I asked about why and was told that “Foster is no more”. When I got back to the ship, I googled it and the saw that it is an Australian brand but not an Australian beer. It is not popular in Australia and it used to be the most popular. Now Carlton Draught is most popular with 17% of the market and Victoria Bitter is second. Haven’t I made everyone day with this information?
We give our experience in Sydney, Australia A plus.
Tyler Duston, Photographer (Unsplash)