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Howard and Susan Anderson’s

“Down Under Adventure 2009”

February 10 through April 8, 2009

New Zealand & Australia

By Susan Anderson & tid-bits By Howard Anderson 

This trip was scheduled in the fall of 2007 after our return from our 13 ½ week motor home trip to and from Alaska via Canada in late Sept. 2007.

We left Tempe, AZ on February 10, 2009, flying from Phoenix to Los Angeles where we changed to a Qantas plane and flew on to Auckland, New Zealand. Arriving in New Zealand we went to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Auckland is a city of 1.3 million people shaped by 49 volcanoes, situated between two harbors and surrounded by more than 50 islands.

The next day the newspapers had headlines of their heat wave breaking 139 year old records.  To us from Arizona it wasn’t really “hot”.  We were picked up by a Great Sights bus and were off.  We stopped at the Heritage Center and Tea Rooms in Rangirir, NZ  Our next stop was the Waitomo Glowworm Cave where we did a 45 minute walking tour and then departed the cavern by boat.  The Maori word Waitomo (“wai” means water and “tomo” is a hole or shaft) conjures up pictures of a subterranean world.  This is a 50 km-long labyrinth of caves, galleries and grottos filled with limestone formations and illuminated by millions of glowworms, unique to New Zealand.  After lunch we continued south.

South of Auckland is farm land; corm ready to be picked other vegetable crops; some goats and sheep; many dairy farms, mostly Holsteins.  The land was lush green … with fields, flowers, ferns and trees.

We spent two nights in the lovely hotel, Heritage Rotorua  Rotorua is the spiritual home and heartland of New Zealand’s Maori culture.  The town claims the title of “Nature’s Spa of the South Pacific”.  The town has cobbled streets, beautifully laid out flower gardens, Tudor architecture and the splendor of a volcanic landscape in many forms from hissing geysers (with spray up to 100 feet) to bubbling and plopping mud pools, vents of steam coming off cliff faces, crater lakes, mineral deposits in many colors (white, pink, yellow, gold, orange, red and green).  The town is situated in the caldera of the ancient Mt. Tarawera volcano and on a very active geothermal field.  They claim 1,200 geothermal features.  Our Valentine to eachother was the dinner and traditional Maori Show in the Pohutu Cultural Theater located in the Heritage Rotorua Hotel.

The next day we visited Te Puia, the New Zealand’s Maori Art and Crafts Institute.  We had a delightful guide and good cultural experience.  This location is called Whakarewarewa which means geothermal valley with geysers (including the Pohutu Geyser that erupts up to 30 meters high), bubbling mud, steam vents, hot rock benches to sit upon and a very attractive  institute.  Their aim is to preserve the heritage of Maori people, encourage Maori culture and appreciation, and perpetuate the skills of Maori arts and crafts. 

Our next stop was the Agrodome.   This was a delightful show featuring champion rams from 19 different breeds of sheep, humor, sheep dogs, geese, milking a cow, bottle feeding baby lambs, shearing of a sheep and then outside more demonstrations of sheep dogs working and more shearing of sheep.  They provided headphones with translations in six languages (Korean, Mandarin, French, German, Japanese and Spanish).

The third stop was at Rainbow Springs and Kiwi Wildlife Park where we again had an informative guide.  They have a large natural spring that feeds a stream, many kinds of trout, rainbow, hybrid Tiger, and blue among others.  We enjoyed the birds, trees, including the California Redwood.  We were surprised to see redwoods.  They said they were 100 years old and had been brought over from the USA.  They said they grow very well in the New Zealand climate.  We visited their Kiwi Encounter and their breeding program  We had our pictures taken, I holding a Kiwi and Howard a lizard (both added by computer).  To see the photo go to: then click on “daily photos” then add the unique photo # RSRT 902143100547.

After our return to the hotel Howard walked back to Te Puai, the Maori Cultural Experience, and again walked all of the trails, taking more photographs with the sun and bright blue sky a bit different than when we had been there in the early morning.

The next day we took a bus back to Auckland and went by the Crowne Plaza Hotel to pick up two of our bags left there.  Then we went to Princes Pier on Quay St. and our ship Celebrity Millennium.  We were pleasantly surprised to find our stateroom with a balcony had been upgraded to a Concierge class (larger stateroom) also with a balcony.  Our stateroom was ready for us at 1 p.m.

We walked to our stateroom #9148 on the 9th deck (ship has 12 decks) and entered.  Since it is Concierge Class there was a chilled bottle of champagne in a bucket with ice; glass bowl with fruit; silver tray with silver decanter for water; silver ice bucket with ice; eight stem flower vase on the desk; silver bud holder in the bathroom with deep red rose; divan; extra pillows; two heavy terry cloth robes; veranda with table, two chairs with back and seat cushions.  The wall of the veranda is glass.  Lots of glass, plenty of drawers and closet space, very nice.  The fresh fruit bowl was kept filled, as was the ice bucket and the flowers replaced as needed, plus canapés each afternoon … all very nice … and Howard says he is discovering he does like caviar.

One of the first things we did was check out the internet aboard ship.  Howard purchased 248 minutes of wireless internet time for $100.

Our first port of call was Tauranga, New Zealand arriving about 7:45 a.m.  This is located on the Bay of Plenty.  The shore excursions were all going to the Rotorua area and we chose not to do any since we had already stayed at Rotorua for a couple of days shortly after arrival in New Zealand.  Susan stayed aboard ship while Howard had a 6.1 mile walk (he brought his pedometer with him) along the beach and to the top of Mt. Maunganui.  (On our second cruise, Grey and Kay at our dinner table were from Tauranga.)

Howard attended a lecture ‘The Forests and Wildlife of New Zealand” given by naturalist, Damon Ramsey.  Susan attended an Australian Opal Seminar given by Lian Jones from Australian Opal Cutters.  Howard came in for the last part of this seminar.  At 11:30 Howard attended the Digital Camera Seminar, while Susan went to the jewelry store to view the latest in Australian opals.  She did purchase a very fire-filled opal pendant and chain.

Our next port was Napier, New Zealand which sits on Hawke’s Bay.  After the city was destroyed by a 7.9 on the Richter scale 1931 earthquake it was rebuilt in the mid-1930’s in the Art Deco style and they claim to be the Art Deco architectural capital of the world.   Napier (Ahuriri in Maori) has a population of 57,000; its twin city is Hastings located ten kilometers to the south.  The town is 332 kilometers (about four hours) by road from the capital, Wellington.  Napier is the largest crossbred wool center in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest apple, pear and stone fruit producing areas in New Zealand.  It has also become an important grape growing and wine production area.  Large tonnages of frozen meat, wool, pulp and timber pass through the port of Napier.

We took the five hour Gannet Safari Adventure: Overland to Cape Kidnappers.  Cape Kidnappers is the largest and most spectacular mainland nesting place of gannets in the world.  The 20,000 gannets are members of the Booby family with distinctive black eye markings and a pale gold crown.  We saw the colony nesting in rows, and in the air birds swooped and dived as they brought back fish to those on the ground, including fluffy young birds.  On the ground the pairs preened and performed the dance of the gannets’ recognition ritual.  None of us crossed the boundary line but were within a foot or two of the nearest gannets.

Cape Kidnappers Station (farm or ranch) is a rugged coastal property of over 2000 hectares (5000 acres) with ocean boundaries on two sides.  The sheep looked “skinny” as they had been shorn within the past week, but looked cute bounding around on the steep hills/cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.  Black Angus beef cattle are also raised on this station and we observed some of them, too.  It was nice to view black swans swimming on a river.

The buses drove through riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breathtaking inclines.  We stopped at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay out to the Mahia Peninsula.  On our return from the gannet colony we stopped for another “toilet” break and then we had a nice lunch.  There were a variety of meat sandwiches (crust-less bread, finger size sandwiches), four kinds of chocolate cake and a lot of fresh fruit, all picked this morning, red and purple plumbs, apples, kiwi fruit and strawberries.  We sat at tables on a lush green lawn under shade trees surrounded by beautiful flowers.

The next day we docked in Wellington (Poneke in Maori), New Zealand at 7 a.m.  Wellington is the second largest city in New Zealand with a population of approximately 350,000 and is the capital city of New Zealand.  Wellington is the southernmost national capital city in the world with latitude of about 41 degrees South.  It receives very strong winds coming through Cook Strait.  Wellington was named in honor of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and victor of the Battle of Waterloo.  The Duke’s title comes from the town of Wellington in the English country of Somerset. 

Wellington goes by three names.  Te Whanganui-a-Tara refers to Wellington Harbor and means “the great harbor of Tara”.  Poneke is a transliteration of Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (the city’s central marae, the community supporting it and its kappa haka have the pseudo-tribal name of Ngati Poneke).  Te Upoko-o-tw-lka-a-Maui, meaning the Head of the Fish of Mau (often shortened to Te Upoko-o-te-lka), is a more traditional name, derived from the legend in which the North island was fished up by the demigod Maui Tikitki-a-Taranga).

We did two shore excursions.  The first was a morning trip to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.  On the bus we had a good tour of the city center, government buildings and other places to introduce us to Wellington.  Then we went to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which is cage-free.  This is a world-first conservation project, recognized worldwide as a benchmark in urban ecological restoration.  A unique fence enclosed approximately one square mile of regenerating native bush in the city, creating a “mainland island” from which most destructive introduced mammal species have been eradicated.  The result is New Zealand’s most well-established and accessible breeding ground for threatened native birds, reptiles and insects.  It is a non-profit organization located about five minutes from central Wellington. Native birds in New Zealand are highly threatened because of the introduction of predatory animals and animals that destroy the environment.  The list includes rabbits, rats, mice, ferrets, domesticated cats, and “possums” from Australia.  The “possums” don’t look at all like American opossums.  These newly introduced animals either eat all the native vegetation (possums are the worst at this) or eat the birds or their eggs.  Since no mammals of any sort were on the islands prior to European colonization, the native animals and plants have no defense against the newcomers.  The Europeans were not the first to wreak havoc on the ecology.  The Maori people arrived probably from Polynesia a thousand years earlier.  They found the giant Moa birds very tasty and easy to kill so they ate all of them resulting in their extinction before Europeans arrived.  

There are NO snakes in New Zealand!

Our second shore excursion was a total blast and we really enjoyed it, well Susan especially loved it all since she likes roads with steep cliffs on both sides!  The excursion was the Seal Coast Safari.  Seven of us were in one vehicle, and about eight others each were in two additional vehicles.  Susan rode in the front seat of the four-wheel run about.  We drove through the winding, hilly, narrow streets of Wellington, and then headed up, up, up.  We drove to the top of the highest “hill” with a tall wind turbine (we call them windmills) and had a splendid view of the city and harbor under the clear bright blue sky and sparkling Pacific Ocean.  We saw several ostriches. Then we went down the very narrow and extremely steep trail on the back side of the “hill” with beautiful views of the ocean. 

When we reached the beach, no city in sight, we drove about 10 km along the beach in a narrow track of sand and/or rock … very rough and great fun.   We saw where the Tasmanian Seas mets the Pacific Ocean.  We first stopped at the larger of two fur seal colonies.  Quite a number of fat fur seals sunning themselves by the ocean.  The surf was active, and the colors were beautiful teals, aquamarines and blues.  On the way back we stopped at the smaller colony of seals.  We were gone for three and one-half hours and it was all great. 

Our driver for the Seal Coast Safari (with a law degree) has written a book and created a DVD, so of course Susan had to purchase them.  “First Pass Under Heaven: One Man’s 4,000 kilometer trek along the Great Wall of China” by Nathan Hoturoa Gray.  ISBN 978014302067 7

We docked in Christchurch at 7 a.m. under a very cloudy sky, our first day without a bright blue sky.  While eating breakfast we saw our first dolphins.  Christchurch is known as the “Garden City” and the most English of New Zealand’s cities.  It has a population of approximately, 325,000.  To the west of the city are an extensive alluvial plain and then the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass National Park.  There are two rivers going through Christchurch, one River is named Avon.

We left the ship about 8:30 a.m.  First we went to the Christchurch Gondola and rode up 1500 feet to the top for the 360 degree view.  We could see the Lyttelton Harbor and our ship, but due to the low clouds and rain we could not see the Southern Alps.  To see our photo in the gondola go to  click on “daily photos” then enter this number: CHGO902202607305.

Leaving the gondola we had a nice tour of center city Christchurch to see the beautiful flowers and the English gothic and Tudor architecture.  Then we drove to the Orana Wildlife Park  This is a real wildlife park, and an open range zoo set on 80 hectares of land.  Due to the rain most of the animals were inside.  We stopped and were allowed to enter the giraffe house.  We saw two males, one female and one delightful seven month old baby giraffe.  They appeared curious and interested in the people that were allowed into their house.  Leaving there we did see rhino, meercats and a few other animals outside.  Howard got out with others to walk a bit in the rain and to visit the Kiwi house, Susan didn’t due to her cough.  We then were returned to the pier and our ship.

Next we docked in Port Charlotte just outside Dunedin, New Zealand.  This is a bustling university city, located at the head of the long and beautiful Otago Harbor.  It is the second largest city on the South Island of New Zealand and the principal city of the region of Otago.  It is considered one of the country’s four main centers.  Originally a Presbyterian Scottish settlement, it retains a distinct Scottish ambience.

Dunedin City (pronounced Dun Eden) has a land area of 3314.8 km, slightly larger than the American state of Rhode Island or the English county of Cambridgeshire and a little smaller than Cornwall.  Dunedin is home to Baldwin Street, which according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the steepest street in the world.   Its gradient is 1 in 2.86 which works out to 19.27 degrees.  Howard was surprised that all the references give the steepness as a gradient when most people would want to know the steepness in degrees.  He wondered how many people on the ship know that the gradient is delta-y over delta-x and that to get degrees, you would take the ArcTangent of 1/2.86.  The Calculator function on the PC provides the answer which is 19.27 degrees.  He further wonders if anyone in Dunedin understands math because he once worked as a logger where the log truck landing was a 35 degree slope.  A 20 degree slope does not at all sound right.  45 degrees would be too much and 20 would not be enough.  Howard took a picture of the sign that is on the street giving its parameters and it says that “Over the 161.2 meter length of the top section, it climbs a vertical height of 47.22 meters which is an average gradient of 1 in 3.41.  On its steepest section the gradient is 1 in 2.86.”  If the measurement was taken along the street itself, that would not be the proper way to measure the gradient.  That would result in an ArcSin calculation rather than an ArcTangent calculation.  So Howard will have to check Guinness records on the internet to see if they actually have any sensible data on this.  (Not that it matters much.  Mathematicians just HAVE to know however…  J ).  It rained all day and was cold; about 1 p.m. it was 6 C which is 34 F, brrrr. 

Next we went for a wild adventure via unique 8 wheel drive all terrain amphibious vehicles.  We put on large heavy rain slickers, and then the 20 of us got into four of the vehicles … Susan sat in front with the driver so got the brunt of the cold rain and wind.  It was like a land roller-coaster ride.  We took off from the office of “Nature Wonders Naturally” located at the end of Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula.  Perry & Tracey Reid own and operate the working farm and Nature Wonders.  They are trying to protect the Yellow Eyed Penguin and other animals.

We left the office with our vehicle in the lead and dropped from 189 meters (620 feet) above sea level down to sea level.  We stopped at a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals and their pups.  Due to the “cold” and rain the seals and pups were all very active.  Howard was able to video two of them fighting with teeth bared.  After this we went to a covered, all weather track leading down to a purpose-built hide on Penguin Beach to view the little Blue Penguins in their nests and to see the rare and very shy yellow eyed penguins on this beach.  We also saw some seals on this beach.  Next we went to the highest point on the farm, 201 meters above sea level for a great 360 degree view of the peninsula.

Going to Natures Wonders and on the return to Dunedin we observed many Cormorants (Spotted Shad), black swans, heron, many kinds of gulls and other birds.  A very pretty drive along the harbors edge.  Our driver gave us a good tour of the city, the beautiful churches, restored railroad station (Howard and others went inside to view the tile floor), and stopped at Baldwin St., the world’s steepest street, and other sites.  The gardens and flowers were very beautiful.

We were delighted to visit New Zealand’s Fiords.  The fiords in the south-west of the South Island are unique.  They are spectacular to look at – and they are host to a dazzling variety of animal life.  Their waters are so dark that creatures which usually live in the deep ocean can survive there, giving scientists a peephole into little-explored territory.

Remote and rugged, the inner reaches of the 14 fiords (also spelled fjords) of SW New Zealand are unique.  Fiordland’s climate, vegetation and topography have combined with oceanic influences to create habitats and biological communities that have no counterpart anywhere in the world.

The fiords were carved out of the mountains by massive glaciers some 20,000 years ago.  When the glaciers melted, vast quantities of rocky debris were left at the entrance of each fiord.  These mounds formed a partial barrier when the sea level rose 6,500 years ago and today they restrict the flow of sea water in and out of the fiords.  Within each fiord, the circulation of water is confined to the top 20 – 40 meters; deeper waters may remain undisturbed for years.

Fjordland is one of the wettest places in New Zealand: over 7.5 meters of rain falls on this landscape every year.  Huge volumes of water, discolored after passing through native forest and layers of rotting leaf litter, flow down into the fiords.  This yellowy brown fresh water forms a layer above the sea water that fills the fiords and reduces light levels, allowing only greenish light to penetrate.

Fjordland is located on the south-west coast of the South Island of New Zealand.  As one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, Fjordland has achieved World Heritage status and is often called the Sightseeing and Whaling Capital of the world.

We cruised Dusky Sound from 7:15 to 9:30 a.m.  Dusky Sound, the largest fiord in New Zealand, is situated on the west coast of the South Island.  It was first sighted on March 13, 2770 by Captain Cook who named it Dusky Bay because of its somber aspect.  During his second voyage to New Zealand Cook entered the Sound on March 26, 1773 and remained there until May 11th, thoroughly exploring and charting the sound.

We cruised Doubtful Sound from about 10:30 a.m. until noon.  It is located in the Fiordland region and is one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destinations, after Milford Sound.  It was given its name in 1770 by Captain Cook, who did not venture in through the narrow entrance to the fjord, being doubtful whether he would find a harbor there and be able to get out again.

We cruised Milford Sound from about 2:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.   On the southwest coast of the South Island it is one of New Zealand’s scenic jewels.  Its characteristic landscape is familiar from many photographs: in the foreground lush vegetation, beyond this the still blue waters of the fjord and as a backdrop the massive pyramid of Mitre Peak.

Milford Sound is large enough the ship could go deep into the fjord and then do a 180 degree turn and return out of the fjord again to the Tasman Sea.  The tall tall waterfalls were magnificent!! 

Among the first Europeans to see this magnificent landscape was Captain Stokes, who put into the sound in the survey ship HMS Acheron in 1851.  He anchored near the Bowen Falls and named the mountain towering above the bay (1692m) Mitre Peak, from its resemblance to a bishop’s miter.

Milford Soune extends inland for 15km from its narrow mouth on the Tasman Sea and the high hills that enclose it rise steeply.  Rainfall is high at an annual 6000mm (about 236 inches!)

As we left Milford Sound the captain announced we were now on a 1,000 mile course across the Tasman Sea to Melbourne; and to expect somewhat rough seas.

Since we enjoy the educational aspects of travel we attended a very good lecture “Oceans of Australia and New Zealand” by naturalist Damon Ramsey.  This was quite interesting and very informative.  After the lecture Howard was among those going up to ask questions.  Howard had a question about baleen whales that Damon answered for him.  Last night I purchased one of his books “Ecosystem Guides Ocean Surfaces of Australia” by Damon Ramsey, really good current photographs along with the text.  ISBN: 9780975747056

The next day we attended the lecture / program “Animals of the Australian Seas and Shores” by naturalist Damon Ramsey.  After the lecture we went to one of the multiple gift shops and purchased his other book.  “Ecosystem Guides: Rainforest of Tropical Australia”.  ISBN: 9780975747032

Feb. 24, 2009:  At noon the captain said the temperature was 69 degrees F; the ship was traveling at 19 knots with winds 40 knots gusting to 59 knots, with a 12 foot sea.  The ship was gently rocking but comfortable.  He said we’ll pass through a strait with Clarke Island (we think) on one side three miles away and Tasmania seven miles on the other side of the ship at 3 p.m.

For news we are not in a vast wasteland.  Besides CNN, ESPN, and multiple ship channels on TV we do get print news also.  There is the USA TIMES (8 pages daily) from Headland SatNews (source: Associated Press).    There is Australia Today and Britain Today from Headland SatNews (sources: PA, AFP, AP, and TEMtalk).  Then there are also “today” for the languages of, French, Italian and Spanish. All available daily in racks on deck 3 by guest relations.  In addition to all of the other daily news publication that I have mentioned earlier … today I found “The Canadian”.  So there are daily “newspapers” in English (for Australia, Canada, Britain and the USA) as well as in Spanish, Italian, German and French.  We do hear other languages also being spoken.  This is provided by Headland SatNews and News On-Board and Hotel Newspapers Brand.  This service covers 30 countries in more than 11 languages and is delivered daily via e-mail or via satellite.

In New Zealand and here in Melbourne we have observed mostly corrugated tin (iron), or tile roofs, but not asphalt shingle roofs, on homes and businesses … now we have the “why” answered.  Parrots sharpen their beaks on roofs and when regular shingles are used they poke holes in them and when it rains there are roof leaks.  The parrots are not able to poke holes in the corrugated tin or tile roofs

We arrived in Melbourne (pronounced “melbun”), Feb. 25th, Australia’s second largest city about 8 a.m. under cloudy skies.  In 2006 the approximate population was 3.74 million people.  We docked in Port Phillips Bay section of Melbourne, which is the state capital of Victoria.  For several weeks Victoria has endured devastating “bush” (forest) fires, and to date over 2,000 homes have been destroyed, the town of Maryville is gone and 208 lives have been lost.  A tremendous amount of animal life has been lost along with their habitat.  All of the fires are not out.

Three buses of us left the pier about 8:30 a.m. for a tour called “Platypus, Kangaroos and Koalas” at the Healesville Sanctuary, Badger Creek Rd., Healesville, Victoria 3777 Australia.  Last Friday Healesville had to be evacuated due to the fire danger and we could see where trees and land had burned and on our drive there could see smoke from fires in the mountains nearby.  The endangered animals had been evacuated from the Healesville Sanctuary several weeks ago and were only returned yesterday, Tuesday.  

There were many volunteer guides waiting, and everyone could go with a guide for the full two hours, or part of the time or not at all.  We started a tour with a delightful man.  First we visited the Emus, next Koalas sleeping in three trees, then several kinds of both young and old Kangaroos.  Next we went to see the Platypus and were duly impressed with the speed of the swimming and the small size (approx. 12 inches in length).  This group started a long loop to see various birds, Wallaby, Wombat (rarely visible, but Howard got a photo as one was being fed), birds and other animals.  Susan split from the group and visited the Reptiles house, Dingoes and the Emus again.  Then she went to the sanctuary gift shop, purchased book marks AND what Howard wanted … a native made Didgeridoo (musical instrument) that shall be shipped home, plus a DVD on how to play it.

Our second day in Melbourne we did our shore excursion to view additional wildlife.

We drove approximately 50+ miles west of Melbourne to a small, one square mile (640 acres) wildlife preserve “Serendip Sanctuary”.  Here we saw a Wallaby, many birds (Ibis and Emu and others), AND Kangaroos! 

First the bus stopped and we all got off to take photos of an Australian Grey Kangaroo and her “joey” or baby hiding among some bushes along the side of the road.  Next we stopped the bus and all walked a circle through trees and into pasture to see some Kangaroos.  Next we stopped at a wooded area and most got out of the bus and walked through the woods to view many Emu’s.  The latter were quite curious and interested in the people walking among them.  Then we drove to a large pasture, approximately 40 acres and possibly more, and got out of the bus.  At this large pasture we all walked a large part of the area photographing Kangaroos!  After this we drove to a tent for a sit down barbecue lunch.

After lunch we were joined by Norm Stanley, an Aborigine, who told us history of the area.  He stated before settlers arrived there were approximately 2.5 million Aborigines on the continent of Australia, but today there are only about 600,000.  There are 290 tribes or clans and each have their own language.  We believe he said that it was in the 1960s that Australia gathered up all the Aborigine kids and sent them off to school to become completely westernized.  Australia recently apologized for doing that.  Norm spoke perfect English (Australian style of course.)  They say the Aborigines arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago! 

Norm Stanley then explained the Boomerang and the Didgeridoo, how they are made, played and the importance of them.  He demonstrated many sounds and then played nonstop for over eight minutes.  As you blow into the Didgeridoo you are to inhale through your nose.  It is called “circular breathing.”  During part of the cycle, you use your cheeks to keep the sound going.  That is when you breathe in through your nose.  Howard can hardly wait to try it… The guide said that Norm had a CD, so Howard purchased “Falling Into Place” Didgeridoo music played by Norm Stanley and others (there for six Didgeridoos, plus Red gum Clapsticks and Boomerangs).

What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?         A stick!

We then reboarded the bus and drove about five miles to another preserve, “Yarra,” This location is less than one square mile and is where some Koalas live.  There was a “rough” walk through the woods.  Driving along we saw another Koala, and later stopped and all got out to see still another Koala, also up in a tree sleeping.  Then we drove to the “Big Rock” area for panoramic view towards Melbourne, but due to the smoke from fires couldn’t quite see the city.  Big rock was a really big rather flat rock of special significance to Aborigines.  Looked like a great place to play a didgeridoo and have it heard for miles out through the forest that stretched out for miles below.  There was a pit in big rock that had been created by the Aborigines.  It was about two feet deep and about a yard in diameter.  The guide said this was the first year that the pit had no water in it.  Leaving Big Rock we saw another Koala in a tree, also sleeping.  Our bus returned to the dock for our ship about 4:15 p.m.  We sailed for Sydney at 6 p.m.

Depending with whom you speak with the consensus seems to be that Australia has been in a severe drought for 12 years.  There are severe water rules in force all over the country.  This is late summer; the pastures are all brown, hardly anything for the horses, cattle, sheep, or wildlife to eat or drink.  We have observed many farm ponds that have dried up and there is a severe water shortage.  Having grown up in a rural dairy farming area of Missouri and my parents owning and operating a cheese factory, I am very much concerned with this drought.  Australia used to produce all of the food they needed, now they must import a lot of their food which naturally raises the prices people must pay. 

Koalas usually get their water from the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree, of which there are over 600 varieties.  The Koalas eat 30 to 40 varieties of Eucalyptus (also called the GUM tree).  For the first time in history some desperate Koalas are coming down to the ground … where they are most vulnerable to predators … in search of water.  They are being seen in suburban yards drinking out of bird baths and dog dishes.

The fires here in the state of Victoria have killed 208 or more people, but the estimates on the number of wildlife destroyed are varied … all the way from 1 million to 100 million.  I believe we can go with the higher number when you think of all the “tiny” living creatures such as bees, butterflies, ants, worms, in addition to koalas, kangaroos, birds, cattle, wallabies, wombats, other large wildlife, and on and on … surely daunting.

Final port of this cruise was Sydney.  Our ship took on the Sydney pilot at 5:15 a.m. and dropped anchor about 6:15 a.m. in the outer harbor, called Port Jackson, not in Sydney Harbor proper.  The area is huge and quite beautiful.  We went to deck 11 and deck 12 to view the sunrise, the lovely and very famous Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Our stateroom and veranda are on the side of the ship to have a splendid view of the opera House, the Harbor Bridge and the entrance to Taronga Zoo and its Sky Safari (cable cars).

Sydney is the largest city in Australia with a population of approximately 4.12 million, and capital of the state of New South Wales.  It is the site of the first European colony in Australia, established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet from Britain.  A resident of the city is referred to as a Sydneysider.  Sydney claims to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world.  The climate is temperate with warm summers and mild winters.  Sydney Harbor splits the city in north and south.  It has 150 miles of shoreline including national parks, islands and beaches.

This is the second time Millennium has anchored out in Port Jackson and had to use “tenders” (actually the harbor ferries/sightseeing boats) for passengers to go into port.  The “tenders” starting running continuously at 7 a.m.  Although we did not need them we were given “Priority Tender Embarkation Cards” (due to having a Concierge class stateroom) to use if we needed to go into Sydney early.  We took the noon ferry over to the pier. 

We met our bus about 1:20 p.m. for “Aussie Wildlife”.  We went to Koala Park in NW Sydney.  This is a very nice family owned facility.  First we viewed a Wombat who woke up and we were able to take photographs.  Next it was time for the Koala feeding; there were probably a dozen adorable Koalas in an enclosure.  Most of the Koalas were awake, eating, scratching, stretching, climbing and looking so loveable.  One Koala was seated on the wide wood railing eating and we all could pat its back and take photographs.  After this we saw a very detailed talk and demonstration of sheep shearing by a man who looked and sounded like the stereotypical Australian sheepman; then a sheep dog demonstration … with Emu’s in with the sheep.  One of the Emus started to chase the dog briefly.  Howard talked with the sheepman afterwards and learned that he had to leave his other dog home because that dog does not put up with any such behavior from an Emu.  The sheepman said that dog took a mouthful of feathers from an Emu that tried to chase him.

Next one of the owners of Koala Park, a much older woman, lit a camp fire and explained the history behind, and how to make, “Billy Tea”.  Basically, you have a tin can with a wire handle.  The can became a “Billy” can due to the name of what used to come in them.  You would put tea and water and eucalyptus leaves in the can, and then boil the contents.  You would have tea leaves and eucalyptus leaves floating in the water.  But if you swing the can over your head a few times, centrifugal force causes the leaves to go to the bottom of the can.  They call this “swinging the Billy.”  Then Eucalyptus flavored tea can then be drunk.  We were then served a mug of “Billy Tea” and a chunk of the bread baked in the campfires coals with sweetener made from sugar cane. 

After this everyone had time to visit the many other animals and birds such as: Kangaroo, Echidna, Wallaby, Cassowary, Emu, Parrots, Kookaburra and others.  On the way back to the pier we went to Blue’s Point for great shots of Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and our ship, plus saw three weddings along the harbor.

Echidnas are like spiny anteaters but they are Marsupials.  They and the Platypus are the only egg-laying mammals.  Unusual to see one in motion during the day but Howard was able to take video of one walking around.  He also saw a Cassowary up close but on the other side of a fence of course.  These birds are as tall as a man and quite dangerous.  They have a toe with a deadly nail which they can “gut” you with.  This is a video of a Cassowary in attack mode:  Cassowary kick-boxing a tree:

March 1st was disembark day.  We got off the ship early, and were settled in our harbor view room about 8 a.m. in the Four Points Sheraton on Darling Harbor, Sydney. 

About 10:30 a.m. we left the hotel and walked up and over a motorway to Darling Harbor (just across the road from the hotel).  We went to the marvelous Sydney Aquarium!  This aquarium has more than 160 meters of underwater tunnels and a tremendous number of fish and animals.  The first area upon entering is for Platypus!  We watched one Platypus rest in the root of a tree, swim to the top for breaths of air and then return to the same resting place over and over again.  This was our best viewing of a Platypus since there was more light in the Platypus area than in the other Platypus areas we had visited earlier in our trip.  Howard took some video of the Platypus swimming to the surface for a breath of air.  A few of the many things we enjoyed seeing were: Platypus,  Freshwater Crocodile, Saltwater Crocodile, Eastern Water Dragon, Freshwater Yabbie (lobster), various turtles, Green Tree Frog, Lungfish, several kinds of Seahorses, Cuttlefish, Moon Jellyfish (but cannot compare to the jellyfish displays in the Monterey, CA Aquarium), Fairy or Little Penguin, Sea Star, blue starfish, Octopus, many kinds of fish, Stingray, Loggerhead Turtle, many kinds of sharks, Dugong dugon (looks like / related to our FL Manatee), and on and on.  The underwater tunnels were most impressive and much longer / larger than those we have visited various places in the USA, and these let you move at your own speed and not on a moving walkway.  The blue starfish were a surprise.  They were very blue.  We had not seen blue starfish before.

After entering the aquarium we let them take our photo and it did turn out ok.  This picture of us is located on the internet at:  then enter the special number:  SYAQ903010114842 After we finished touring the aquarium we had a lunch of fish and chips in their café.  The fish was quite moist and good.  We walked around a short while then returned to the hotel.

Susan still has a cough, but only one to three coughing “fits” a day.  NO sore throat and feels fine.  But yesterday, after walking for two weeks, her calves started mooing (aching).  Yesterday was one month since she fell in the motorhome getting a goose egg size knot on side of head, badly brushed hip and twisted her back muscles.  The back muscles are much better, but it still hurts to move at times or twist and etc.  

Attitude is so important … she gets up each day knowing she shall have a good day, enjoying everything!

The next day we enjoyed room service breakfast.  A large coach (bus) picked us up at the hotel about 8:10 a.m.  We went to the headquarters of Australian Pacific Touring (APT) where some got off the bus to go on other tours and our group stayed on board for the “Sydney Sights, Manly and Northern Beaches” tour.  This was a modern coach with large “TV” screen above the windshield and smaller drop down “TV” screens throughout the coach.  The screens showed the road ahead and were very nice to have. 

We left downtown Sydney and crossed the famous harbor bridge.  In the community of Kirribill (home of current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – they say he is a “regular” guy and wants to be called Kevin.  They don’t use terms like “Mr. Prime Minister” or anything similar here.  Just plain old Kevin.  They say he can be seen walking his dog in the mornings near his home.  Apparently he is relatively safe here. This is a really nice country!)  We stopped at Milson’s Point for a spectacular view of the Opera House, Harbor Bridge and the city skyline.  All of the communities we visited are part of the suburbs or part of Sydney proper.  We went north through additional suburbs, across the Split Bridge and stopped at Arabanoo Lookout, part of Sydney National Park, for a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean … and Magpie birds visited with us wishing for a handout.  On to the seaside town of Manly … lovely surf, sparking sea under bright sky, pretty sand beach and lovely Norfolk Pine trees along the sidewalk.  Those are native to Australia and were planted and harvested for ship masts at one time.  They say that they grow very straight and are strong – until they take the bark off and they dry out – then they break!  So that business didn’t last too long…  But the trees are still here.  

We stayed in Manly approximately 30 minutes and walked along the beach/ocean … we surely enjoyed the sound of the surf and the view.  Manly is on a very narrow spit of land between the harbor and ocean.  We drove through beautiful suburbs with fabulous views of harbor and/or ocean, including Queenscliff, Freshwater Bay and Curl Curl Beach.  We returned to Sydney across a beautiful sandstone bridge constructed in the late 1800’s and looked like something out of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and then the harbor bridge.  Our guide said Sydney is the fifth largest city/suburban area in the world: 1. Mexico City, 2. New York City, 3. Tokyo, 4. London, and 5. Sydney.  He also stated the federal government has set aside a lot of “bush” around Sydney so there will always be park land, and the harbor is also a national park.  No fishing in the harbor.  The harbor contains sharks, whales, fish, bottlenose dolphins, etc., and they are trying to maintain the entire ecosystem.  The bus would have returned us to our hotel (the largest in Australia) but we chose to get off at King Street Wharf at 11:45 a.m.


From King Street Wharf we walked along Darling Harbor enjoying the views and sunshine.  We stopped for ice cream at the Aquarium Café.  Then we walked across the pedestrian bridge that spans the harbor … on one side of the bridge is Darling Harbor, on the other side of the bridge is Cockle Bay and Cockle Bay Wharf.  The monorail also crossed on this bridge.  We went into Harborside, a large shopping and restaurant facility on the shore of Cockle Bay.  We visited a large magazine store and purchased the “Australian Sky & Telescope”, and “Sky at Night” (by the BBC) astronomy magazine, and a couple of small souvenirs.  We then visited the huge food court with everything available.  We went to KFC (Susan was not hungry after the ice cream) and had chicken legs, chips (French fried) and soft drinks, all for $11.40.  We walked around some more and Susan sampled peppermint candies (and purchased some) in The British Lolly Shop.  Then we walked back across the bridge to Sussex Street and our hotel … Four Points by Sheraton.

All school children in Australia were uniforms, also they may not go out at recess time without wearing sunscreen and a hat.  Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.  They say it is because of the ozone hole. 

We have noticed that the entire Sydney area is extremely clean.  No blowing paper or trash of any kind.  No junk on the beaches.  No fast food restaurants allowed in the beach communities to retard any blowing hamburger wrappers.  Everyone seems to be quite conscious of keeping everything in order.  We surely like everything we have seen here in Australia.

The next day was FULL but fun!    The 4-wheel drive, off-road, high bus, seating 17 arrived for us about 7:10 a.m.  We did the Deluxe All-Day Blue Mountain Tour with Australian Eco Touring.  There were 13 of us in this bus.

Our first stop was at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, 217 Kildare Road, Doonside, NSW 2767, Sydney.  We had a buffet breakfast and met one of the Koalas.  Then we individually toured the park.  The park started out when a couple, many years ago took in an injured animal.  Over time more and more were brought to them and they allowed people into their back yard to look at them for a small donation.  Eventually, they had so much traffic and so many animals that they began charging admission.  It is a great park where the animals are loved by the owners and appear to return the favor.  It was fun to be out among the many Wallaby’s as they ate and came to us looking for more of their morning feed.  We were allowed to touch them and feed them.  They were very friendly and relaxed.  There were dozens of Koalas in various areas and as it was breakfast time … most of them were awake and active.  This wildlife park has over 2000 animals.  Susan took a cute photo of a male Wombat asleep flat on his back.   Albino Walleroos were an unusual sight and lovely to look at.  There were Kangaroos, crocodile, Short-beaked Echidna, the huge Southern Cassowary, plus Emu, many kinds of birds in beautiful colors, Grey-headed Flying Fox Bats, Dingos, many birds of prey, Black Swans, parrots, turtle, snakes and on and on … we would have been happy to just spend the day in this wildlife park.

 We continued the drive towards the Blue Mountains.  The highest point in the area where we went is 3,500 feet, further south some peaks reach 7,500 feet.  There is a very large area that is the Blue Mountains National Park, plus several other national parks.  We drove off-road to a great view point to see the colored cliffs across a valley and all of the trees.  The group, minus Susan, took a steep short hike up the Mt. Banks Ridge trail and back for about 15 minutes.   Back to a main motorway and drove to Mount Victoria.  In this quaint little town we had a nice buffet lunch in The Imperial Hotel, 1 Station St., Mount Victoria NSW 2786.  The Imperial is Australia’s oldest surviving tourist hotel, with open fireplaces; leadlight decorated dining room, many original furnishings and memorabilia. 

After lunch we drove to Govetts Leap Lookout / Point Pilcher looking out into the wilderness … also down a very narrow, rough, dirt track (road).  Very nice views of the colored cliffs, the deep valleys and the far mountains.  Next stop was Scenic World: Blue Mountain, Australia; corner Violet St. and Cliff Dr., Katoomba, NSW 2780.  First we rode the new Scenic Skyway across the valley (it has a new transparent glass floor.)  Next we rode the world’s steepest railway down into the valley, this puts the Pikes Peak cog railway to shame … this really was steep!  Then we walked through some ancient rainforest to the cableway and rode a large cable car back up to the rim of the valley.  After this we started our scenic drive back to Sydney and our hotel.  We went to a Tony Roma’s for a wonderful dinner of baby back ribs, and then returned to our room overlooking Darling Harbor, the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife World, the Maritime Museum and other things in this area. 

The next morning we the short distance to the Darling Park monorail station and purchased the single day pass for $9.50 each.  Today was our first totally overcast and dark day in Sydney … the other days have been bright sunshine.  We rode the monorail through the Chinatown and other stations and got off at Galleries Victoria station.  This put us out on Pitt Street, a major shopping area.  We walked and walked and walked to our destination the … National Opal Collection located at 60 Pitt Street.  We enjoyed the Opal Museum with life size dioramas of the dinosaur age.  We saw a fabulous collection of different sized and colored opals in fossils, in rocks and shown in various forms.  We collected our “gifts” for those of us from overseas … cute kangaroo stick pins set with a tiny opal.  We browsed the showroom (sales room) and did make a couple of smaller purchases.  As usual the items that caught Susan’s eye were those of very high quality, priced to match and far above our price range.

After leaving the Opal Museum we again walked Pitt St., then the Pitt St. Mall and then further along Pitt Street.  Howard said he couldn’t remember when he had walked a busy downtown area with crowds of people.  He didn’t go to New York City with Susan her last two trips.  Susan finally figured the last place he had walked crowded sidewalks was in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2004.  We then got on the monorail at the City Center station and rode around and again got off at the Galleries Victoria station.  We had a simple lunch then rode the monorail back to the Darling Park station where we got off and walked the short distance to the Four Points by Sheraton on Darling Harbor.  We feel we have pretty well seen Sydney via tours and other bus rides.  We came to see nature and animals and are surely meeting our goal.

Pliny the Elder wrote the first Natural History of the World in the first century AD. In this most important publication he wrote that Opal was the most highly prized and valuable of all gemstones in the Empire.

     Pliny wrote that price was set “according to the decree generally set down and pronounced by our nice and costly dames”!

    Pliny's admiration for opal is encapsulated in the following text:

“For in them you shall see the living fire of ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light”. (Pliny 1st Century AD)

To quote from brochure of The National Opal Collection ….

“Since the 1880s, Australia’s extraordinary and beautiful gemstone, the opal, has been mined in the outback.  Today, Australia produces more than 95% of the world’s opal.  Nature has captured all the colours of the spectrum, displaying them in an infinite variety of shades, patterns and brilliance and locked them into this remarkable stone.  Opals lie dormant in the earth until a miner clips the edge.  As light reaches the gem, it exposes the most beautiful dancing display of colour.

We have noted a huge amount of beautiful wrought iron railings/fences.  The wrought iron is on business building in CBD (central business district), on homes, on fences in town and the suburbs.  I believe there is much more wrought iron here in the Sydney metropolitan area than in New Orleans.  We have been told ships coming to Sydney in the 1800s needed ballast to come around the horn (either one) and used the wrought iron railings and fancy work; then left the iron here as they loaded their ship holds with products that were being exported from Australia.

We were told that Australia was originally set up as a penal colony because the British jails were overflowing.  The industrial revolution put many people out of work (weavers for example) and many were forced to steal bread (among other things) to survive.  There were 400 capital crimes on the books at that time!  The solution to the criminal problem was to ship them to Australia. 

Australia was extremely difficult initially.  There was no food.  Only two people with farm experience.  One was the chief jailer who had owned a farm in England but didn’t work it and one who actually had been a working farmer.  Rations were halved then halved again.  Meanwhile the aborigines were probably wondering why the people were starving.  Nobody thought to ask the aborigines what THEY were eating.  After all, they were backwards savages.  Aborigines were doing quite well eating kangaroo and wombats, etc. 

Prisoners were treated harshly.  One of their jobs was to build a road.  Howard took a photo of a sign near the road building camp.  The sign says “Flogging Stone”.  The stone is a big flat rock with about 10 grooves.  The guide said a prisoner that was not working hard enough would be tied out over the rock.  The grooves were so the flogger could count the number of lashes by moving his foot to the next groove (What? They couldn’t count?  Well if your job was “head flogger” maybe you were pretty uneducated?) 

Sentences were 10 years of hard labor.  The sentences could be reduced to 5 years for exceptional behavior and work.  There was still a problem of having anybody work the land.  In England, landowners were a really big deal.  The only people who could vote were landowners.  It was difficult or impossible to become a landowner if you were not already one.  The Australian Governor was desperate to have SOMEBODY farming the land so he began giving prisoners who had served their time 50 acres of land to farm.  After all, there was plenty of land.  When British Parliament learned of this, they were aghast and sent him a letter to stop giving away land to ex-prisoners.  The Governor wrote back saying in essence:  “No problem as long as you greatly increase aid to our colony.”  The British parliament was not interested in sending more money to a colony that, after all, was established for housing convicts!  So the Governor was able to continue the practice of giving out land.

Gradually word leaked out in Britain to the common folk who began to think “’Ere now, all I have to do is steal a loaf of bread, get sent to Australia, work hard for 5 years, and get 50 acres of land?”  GOOD DEAL!  “’Hey bobby, I’ve just stolen this loaf of bread ‘ere and I want to be convicted and sent to Australia!” 

So Australia was gradually settled and on its way to self-sufficiency.

When Bill Clinton was being run over the coals for his dalliances, most of the world still had high regard for him.  One of the quotes from an Australian woman at the time was “Thank god we got the criminals and they got the Puritans!”

March 5th our driver arrived about 10:45 a.m. for the 11 a.m. pick-up.  He drove us to Wharf 8 so we could board the Sun Princess.  People say most taxi cab drivers (like elsewhere) are immigrants that really do not know the city.  The registered private “cars” are unmarked and bonded.  Most cars arriving and leaving Four Points were the unmarked cars and drivers.  Susan used a “car” to take her to the airport in New York City in 1998 and again in 2001 (also met by “car” then, too).

Boarding was well organized and went rapidly.  Our stateroom on the Sun Princess was #C622, also on the port (left) side with nice balcony.  Being on the port side of the ship was great on this cruise, as we l always had the coast line of Australia off our balcony with lighthouses, boats and the land to view.

From the first dinner we felt the service was far below that of the Millennium.  We did not have the full complement of silverware and one server, not a server and assistant server (later we did have an assistant); plus he was not gracious and did not always serve and take away from the proper sides.  Howard was OK with this, but Susan was very much disappointed and not pleased. 

The next day as we cruised north … we saw beautiful white sand beaches all along the coast of Australia.  There have been heavy rains and flooding the past several weeks in Queensland.  Now we have just heard on CNN that Cyclone Hamish is off the coast of Queensland and moving south along the coast… as we move north.  At the moment the winds are only 110 miles per hour.  Could become interesting, hope we don’t get stuck in a port or have to skip any ports due to the weather.

March 7th we docked at the Port of Brisbane.  This city / area have a subtropical climate, white sand beaches and rainforests.  The population is approximately 1.6 million people.  There is a sizeable migrant community.  The city is situated between the mountains and the sea.  Brisbane is capital of the state of Queensland ... called the Sunshine State (as Florida is in the US).  Brisbane was originally established as a colony for only the “worst” of Britain’s offenders.  Settlers were not allowed in Brisbane until 1842, nearly 30 years after its conception.

Our tour was “Australia Zoo and The Sunshine Coast”.  First we rode up into the Glasshouse Mountains and stopped at a state park view-point for panoramic view of mountains and the green trees, pasture and bush.

The second stop was why we had all signed up for this all day tour … Australia Zoo the home of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.  The zoo is a teaching and learning facility … very clean … large number of animals and reptiles (over 1,000 in all, including Koalas), beautiful trees, bushes, plants and flowers.  We attended the 11 a.m. “Wildlife Warriors Show” in the Crocoseum.  The show consisted of croc feeding, elephants, snakes and birds, all well done and very interesting.  We didn’t see widow Terri or children Bindi or Robert.  We ate lunch in the very large food court.  We left on our bus/coach at 1 p.m.

Our coach drove along a high ridge to the town of Montville, Queensland.  There we visited various arts and crafts shops.  We visited with the owner / photographer of Natures Image on Main St., Montville.  Susan purchased a marvelous photograph of a kangaroo on a beach at sunrise; this photo is also on the web site above.  On the drive back to Brisbane we stopped at a state park view area for another view of the Glasshouse Mountains … formed by volcano’s.  

We arrived back at the ship at 4:30 p.m.  Each stateroom had a letter from the ship Captain Andrew Froude.  Part of it said:

“At 10:15 a.m. today the ports of Hay Point, Mackay and the Whitsundays were officially closed to all shipping traffic.  Tropical Cyclone Hamish has been classified by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as Category 4, and is currently tracking south, parallel to the Queensland cost, inside the Great Barrier Reef, and is forecast to be near the Whitsundays on Monday, 9th March.  This is directly in line with our planned path north.

Consequently, after departing from the Port of Brisbane this afternoon, Sun Princess will take a north easterly course, out to sea, well clear of the cyclone’s forecast path.  As a result, I regret to advise that our scheduled call to the Whitsundays on Monday is cancelled.”  Therefore our Proserpine Safari & Crocodile Cruise for Monday in Whitsunday is cancelled.  But, we may be in for some interesting weather, two days of rain and possibly rough seas.

Before dinner we turned on CNN and they showed a map with the projected path of Cyclone Hamish … winds of 145 MPH with gusts to 201 MPH.

At 7 a.m. on March 8th the seas are 8 feet and the ship is cruising smoothly.  According to the bridge (and CNN) Cyclone Hamish has winds at over 200 KM and gusts up to 300 KM at the moment and heavy rain.

Susan loves her Kindle … the electronic book reader from Amazon.  She put some books on for Howard to try; now he really likes the Kindle and wants to use it!  She may have to purchase a Kindle and give to Howard for his birthday.

During the morning we attended two lectures.

      First: “Living the life of a reef pilot with Wel Gamble”.  All ports / harbors have local pilots to guide ships into their local area.  There are also sea pilots as well for the North Sea, Straits of Magellan, Australia, Alaska and another place or two.  Wel Gamble explained the Great Barrier Reef and additional reefs around Australia, showed good maps, aerial photographs, and told a few of his interesting experiences.  To be a sea pilot you must be a master and have commanded an ocean going vessel for a minimum of two years.

     Second: “Human Cargo: The story of convict transportation with Judy Wright.  This was also quite interesting and informative.  From various guides and people we are learning a lot of additional Australian history that we did not learn in school or had not read before this trip.

Tonight, March 8th, was the first of four formal nights (there were three formal nights on the Millennium).  Before dinner Captain Andrew Froude introduced his officers and made funny and interesting comments.  He gave the census of the passengers, there are: 198 from the USA, 230 from England, over 300 from New Zealand, over 1,000 from Australia and over 50 from other places (such as: 4 from Mexico, 4 from South Africia,1 from Korea and so on).  We are cruising north / north east in the Coral Sea and staying 125 miles away from the eye of Cyclone Hamish.  Tonight the winds and waves have increased in size and there is light rain. 

The Captain says about 9 a.m. tomorrow he hopes to go through Hydrographers Passage that was not chartered until 1984 (by James Bond of the British Navy) and is only one mile wide.  After going through this passage he plans to cruise north-westerly through the Whitsundays and then continue overnight inside the Great Barrier Reef to Yorkeys Knob where we will anchor at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.  Of course he said this is “plan C” and by tomorrow morning he may be on “plan D” or “plan E”.  He said after going through this passage we’ll cruise up through the Whitsunday Islands (there are 74 islands that are considered a tropical paradise) located in the Coral Sea between the Great Barrier Reef and the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The next day then we attended another Scholarship@Sea – Enrichment Lecture: “Old England – A Golden Age?”  What would it have been like to live in a bygone age?  A look at the lives of laborers in England during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries... with Judy Wright.  Very interesting lecture with power-point presentation.  Earlier Howard purchased her book  Selling Sparrows: Victims or Villains? A true story of crime in 19th-century Bedfordshire and convict transportation to Australia by Judy Wright.

We attended the morning trivia … 20 questions, we only answered 7 correctly as the questions were geared to the British passengers, but it was interesting anyway.  We again visited the lovely library/reading room and Susan checked out a light mystery, which turned out to be too stupid to finish.   Susan watched the afternoon game show “Passenger Feud”, and then attended the future cruise presentation on Alaska.  We are back to normal smooth sea with beautiful sunshine … but the humidity outside on the deck is really high (for us from Arizona).

A couple of nights before this  we could see the “Southern Cross” that early sailors used to navigate by below the equator, and Alpha Centauri the star closest to Earth … neither of these are visible in the Northern Hemisphere.  Howard hopes to see even more stars that he cannot see at home, when we are in the Outback.

On both cruise ships we attended most nightly entertainment, either in the main theater or in a small venue.  A lot of variety and most of it was enjoyable.

The next day our ship anchored in Half Moon Bay, Yorkeys Knob and tendered in (on a dive boat) to the pier by the multi-million dollar Yacht club which looks out to the Coral Sea.  We boarded a bus for the Skyrail: Rainforest Cableway.

On the way to the Skyrail we saw many fields of sugar cane and beautiful flowering trees.  The driver/guide told us the economy of this area is based on three things: 1. tourism, 2. sugarcane and 3. fishing.   The Skyrail completed in 1995 is 7.5 km (4.7 miles) long.  There are 114 gondola cabins and the tallest tower is 40.5 meters (133 feet).

We got off the Skyrail at the Red Peak Station and walked the boardwalk through the lush rainforest where we observed Bird’s Nest Fern, Kauri Pine (including a huge one said to be 400 years old), Banyan, Alexandra Palm and many other kinds of ferns, and trees.  It is very moist and hot. We reboarded the Skyrail.  Next we got off at the Barron Falls Station and walked the boardwalk through the rainforest that was added to the international World Heritage list in 1988.  This area is listed as the “West Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area”; and nearby is the Barron Gorge National Park.  We observed Basket Fern, Banks Banana, Hoop Pine, Cooper’s Tree Ferns and the very lush and complex rainforest.   This area includes around 1,200 species of flowering plants, 800 of which are rainforest trees. There were several areas to view the spectacular Barron Falls. 

We again reboarded Skyrail and got off at the end in the town of Kuranda.  Prior to the foundation of Kuranda in 1876, this pristine rainforest location was inhabited by the Djabugay aboriginal people who survived for many generations hunting in the rainforest and eating its everlasting supply of fruits and plants.  Their lifestyle was to change dramatically with the arrival of foreign people to this area.  The rainforests were logged for their valuable timbers and gold was discovered causing an influx of gold seekers.  Tourism came in the early 1900s; the famous Barron Falls was a big attraction for honeymooners.  In the 1960s the “hippies” discovered Kuranda and later the aboriginal people started selling their arts and crafts and home-grown produce.  The town says they are “1,000 feet above sea level – 20,000 years of Aboriginal culture”.

After shopping and walked around some in the downtown area we enjoyed fish burgers at an outside café, feeling the humidity.  Susan did purchase a boomerang for Howard and he purchased a new hat with brim of kangaroo skin ... Jacaru brand

We boarded the Kuranda Scenic Railway, car 2, seats 43 and 44 (by a side window on the view side).  This railroad officially opened in October 1887 but was not totally completed until 1891.  The railroad goes through 15 tunnels, around 93 curves and over bridges with awesome scenery.  Tunnel 15 at 490 meters if the longest of the 15 tunnels. In several places we had views of the Coral Sea and the town of Cairns.  The train stopped so everyone could get out and take photos of Barron Falls from the train side of Barron Gorge.  Barron Falls is 329 meters above sea level and drops 265 meters.  There was light rain, huge raindrops, for part of the one and three-quarter hour trip.  We got off the train just as a heavy tropical rain began.  We got on the bus for about a 20 minute drive back to the pier at Half Moon Bay and by the time we arrived the rain has stopped.  But, as we rode one of the Sun Princess’ lifeboats (used as a tender) back to the ship anchored about 20 minutes away it again began to rain and some of the passengers got soaked.  We arrived back at the ship at 4:30 p.m.

March 11: From the Princess Patter.  In the early hours of this morning Sun Princess rounded Cape Flattery and altered course to port to set a North-Westerly track to parallel the Cape York Peninsula on our port side.  Throughout the rest of today Sun Princess will continue to set various northerly courses passing between the Barriers Reef and the Australian mainland.  We have very nice view of the Australia coast line with white sand beaches, puffy white clouds, blue sky and multiple coral reefs. 

Additional information from the Princess Patter.  The Northern Territory (NT) is a place of contrasts from the vast central desert to the tropical north.  The tropical north is a wild, untamable place with cyclones whipping the coast depositing huge amounts of rain which cut off access to many settlements and sights.  Then, there are all those deadly animals poised to snap, sting and strike.  Though there’s access to the prolific natural areas, the place has a particular edge.  There really are wild crocodiles in the waterways and another car might not come down the desert road for weeks.  There are bottlenecks through which travelers are safely funneled, but equally, there are huge tracts of country that mightn’t have seen a person in decades.

Although roughly 80% of the NT is in the tropics – the Tropic of Capricorn lies just north of Alice Springs – only the northern 25%, known as the Top End, has anything that resembles the popular idea of tropical climate.  It’s a distinct region of savanna woodlands and rainforest pockets – in the northeast, the Arnhem Land plateau rises abruptly from the plain and continues to the Gulf of Carpentaria.  Much of the southern 75% of the NT consists of desert or semiarid plains.  The Top End’s climate is described in terms of the Dry and the Wet.  Roughly the Dry lasts from April to September and the Wet from October to March.  Indigenous Australians recognize between two and six seasons, which are observed through the movement and cycles of plant and animal species.

We discovered that we were filmed having a formal evening photo taken at the grand staircase and this is included in the Reflections video they make of each trip.  Since this is a 28 day cruise there are two DVDs.  Later we were filmed, and Susan interviewed, while we were sitting on our camel “Tiny” on Cable Beach, Broome.

March 12, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Early this morning Sun Princess exited the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, leaving Cape York to port we altered course and set a westerly course to transit Prince of Wales Channel.  We then passed between the various small island and reefs which lie between the North Coast of Australia and Papua New Guinea.  For the rest of today we will be following a westerly course across the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Arafura Sea.

This morning we attended the Destination Lecture: Darwin with Ronelle Adams.  A lot of Darwin history: they were bombed 69 times during World War II, as they are just south of Papua New Guinea.  The town was destroyed by a cyclone in the late 1800s and completely flattened by a cyclone in 1974 … 10,000 homes destroyed and only 400 buildings left standing.  Today, Darwin has a population of 70,000 and has rebuilt after the destruction of the 1974 cyclone.  It is the most populous city of the “Top End”, and capital of North Territory of Australia.  The Parliament Building design is called a Wedding Cake, but the locals refer to the Parliament Building as “fruit cake”!  The whole North Territory has a population of 203,000 and stretches south past Alice Springs.  A large part of the territory is aboriginal land and other people need to get permission to enter their lands.

This afternoon we attended a very informative lecture “The Torres Strait People” by Wel Gamble our reef pilot (and a sea pilot).  He showed maps of the Torres Strait between Cape York, Australia and Papua New Guinea.  He said when Papua New Guinea became independent, in 1974, the peoples of the various islands in the Torres Strait voted if they wanted to be a part of Papua New Guinea or part of Australia.  All except one island voted to be a part of Australia.  He spoke of the Western islands group, the Central islands group, the Eastern islands group and the North Western islands group.  Some of the islands are only two miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea.  The governing offices for the Torres Strait islands are located on Thursday Island.  The lights we saw about 10 p.m. last night were those on Thursday Island. 

Wel Gamble spoke of the history and culture of the islands.  Today they have TV (via satellite), telephones and good modern homes; while in Papua New Guinea many are still living in thatched huts.  Early sailors referred to the Torres Straits as the Terror Straits … If sailors survived ship wreck they were kept in cages until eaten.  Human cheeks were one of their favorite meals.  At some point a ship that came to hunt for shipwreck victims found a tortoise shell decorated by a circle of 45 human skulls, some were identified as having been on the wrecked ship, one still with long blonde hair.  All natives on that island were then hunted down and killed.

In 1871 people arrived from the London Missionary Society to convert the natives to Anglican Christianity and they all were.  Now in the past ten years missionaries from Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon and others have arrived and split the tranquility of the islands and families.

March 13, 2009 – Friday:  From the Princess Patter:  Throughout last night Sun Princess continued to follow a westerly course off the North Coast of Australia.  Later in the evening, Sun Princess altered course to port as she rounded the Cobourg Peninsula transiting Dundas Strait into the Van Diemen Gulf.  This morning Sun Princess will transit the Clarence Strait, before slowing down to embark our local pilot before proceeding to our berth in Darwin.  This evening Sun Princess will let go her mooring lines and set a Westerly course to round the Cox Peninsula, before setting a South-Westerly course towards Broome.

Port Darwin was discovered by Lt. John Lort Stokes and named by Captain J.C. Wickham while sailing past the harbor area in 1839 in the HMS Beagle.  Wickham named the area after Charles Darwin who had once sailed for five years in the HMS Beagle.  The city was founded in 1869 and later renamed Palmerston, but it 1911 it reverted to Darwin.  In 1871 gold was discovered at Pine Creek.  The city developed slowly due to the extreme climate and cyclones.  It had poor contact with the other cities around Australia until the road to Alice Springs was surfaced.  Unlike the barren and dusty land of the Northern Territory, Darwin is now a modern cosmopolitan city.  The main industries in Darwin are mining and administration; it is also the doorway to the northern areas.

Keep forgetting to note “box jelly-fish”.  We were warned about these deadly very small jellies before we left home.  Have heard about them since landing in New Zealand and are warned frequently about them aboard ship.  The latest in Princess Patter said: “STINGER SEASON” The season for box jelly-fish and stingers generally starts with the onset of the west across the top of Northern Australia, usually around October and lasts until April.”  We are constantly told NOT to go into the oceans, do not swim this time of year.  Out in the Great Barrier Reef, the box jellies are apparently not as frequently encountered so people swim there.  However, they generally wear “stinger suits” just in case.

The Sun Princess docked in Darwin a little before noon, as we watched from our veranda.

We had the “North Territory Fauna and Flora” tour, 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.  Our bus first went to Jenny’s Orchid Garden at 10 Niel Court, Howard Springs, AU.  Her literature says “In Jenny’s Orchid Garden, explore an enchanted world of waterfalls and lush tropical surroundings, where thousands of orchids bloom in colourful splendor.  Jenny’s Orchid Garden has the largest variety of exotic tropical orchids in the Territory, and it’s just a short drive from Darwin.  An extensive range of orchids and other exotic plants collected from around the world, make Jenny’s Orchid Garden a must see attraction.  Follow the signs from the Howard Springs turn off on the Stuart Highway”.  Jenny met our group and gave us a short talk about starting and growing orchids, and then we were free to walk the ground taking photographs and enjoying the gardens.  We were served crumpets, clotted cream and strawberry jam along with tea or soft drinks.

Next we drove south of Darwin (approximately 50 km on the Stuart Highway that goes south … it is 1,464 km to Alice Springs) to the Territory Wildlife Park.   Just as we arrived a monsoon rainstorm hit and it rained and rained.  We boarded a tram after getting maps of the park.  Howard got off at Billabong, but due to the rain Susan rode on to the aquarium.  This was a medium sized but very nice aquarium with large saltwater crocodile, various turtles and fish, a tank fish with walk through tunnel and informative displays.  Howard joined Susan and while he visited the aquarium she returned to the next tram and continued on, stopping to see a dingo and various Ibis’; she was able to photograph a Blue-winged Kookaburra, then returned to the main station/store/café due to the rain.  Susan then walked around in the picnic area photographing many Wallaby.  Later our group was given cut up fruit, vegetables and pellet food to feed the many Wallaby and that was fun.

On our return to the ship we saw many termite mounds built by the Catheridal Termites, and a few built by the Magnetic Termites as they are aliened north and south.  We drove the various area of the central business district (CBD as they all call it), seeing the Parliament Building, Supreme Court Building and the very clean and neat city.

March 14, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Upon our departure from Darwin last evening, Sun Princess set various Westerly courses, round the Cox Peninsula eventually entering the Timor Sea on various South-Westerly headings.  Throughout today we shall follow these courses paralleling the Bonaparte Archipelago to our portside before eventually entering the Indian Ocean later this afternoon.

Beautiful days at sea … calm sea, some pretty white clouds, bright blue sky and sunshine.

This morning we attended another Scholarship @ Sea – Enrichment Lecture “Justice or Injustice?”  A somewhat lighthearted look at the justice system as it evolved throughout Britain and punishments inflicted on the accused.  Lecture by author Judy Wright.  Again quite interesting and good power point presentation.  The good old days really weren’t in my opinion.  After this we walked around the ship on the sports deck – 12, enjoying the breeze, sunshine and view of the sea (also from our veranda).

This afternoon Susan attended the Exotic Pearl Seminar.  It was interesting, but the presenter was not as good as the lady who spoke of opals on our earlier ship. 

March 15, 2009:  From the Princess Pattern.  Throughout last night Sun Princess maintained a South-westerly course though the Indian Ocean towards Broome.  Late this evening we will pass Adele Island on our port side at a distance of five nautical miles.  At midnight tonight we will approach the port of Broome, embarking our local pilot at 00:30 a.m., four miles West of Gantheanne Point, and will be secure alongside by 2:00 a.m. 

Howards sore throat/cold is much worse … breakfast in Horizon Court on deck 14 and then to bed for a day of rest for him.  His temperature hit 102.4 about 3:30 p.m. and then gradually started down, but he feels lousy … although his throat feels better.  It was a beautiful bright sunny day but with very high humidity.  Howard did not go to the dining room for dinner.  Susan went to the Destination Lecture: Broome.  Beaches, beautiful scenery and the famous Broome pearls, Broome has the best! 

After lunch she went to the Wheelhouse Bar on deck 7.  She enjoyed viewing many works of arts, only some of which be in the auction.  She registered for the free art give-away (during preview from 1 to 2 p.m.), and then sat in the front row visiting with us others from the USA.  The auction started at 2 p.m. (ending at 4:15 p.m.) ... a lot of info/bio of each artist, and fast paced.  When up for action (always a group and they would work with someone on any in the group) they would say, first opportunity, second opportunity and third opportunity … if no one raised an arm then all of those paintings/prints/etc. would be removed and the art of another artist put up.    The only artists that Susan was familiar with were: S. Dali and Wyland (selling for 50% and more under his web site and his gallery prices). 

Then there were drawings for the eight free lithographs … free, except we must pay shipping in a tube for a $30 fee (for us in the states, $70 for those in NZ and AU).  Susan’s  name/cabin number was the first drawn, I chose “At Sunset” by Michael Muffins, 24 x 31.5, 420 prints done in 2008

We do enjoy the classical music aboard ship … daily there are Morning Melodies from 11:15 to 12:45 p.m. in the Atrium Plaza, Deck 5; then Musical Melodies from 4:30 to 7 p.m. again in the Atrium Plaza, Deck 5; and often Musical Melodies from 9:15 p.m. onward in the Atrium Lounge on deck 7.  There are grand pianos on Decks 5, 6 and 7 for Petr and Darryl the resident pianists (Susan’s favorite) and other times a string quartet plays.  Then each evening there is entertainment in the Princess Theater and Vista Show Lounge; live music in the Wheelhouse Lounge and another night club … we hear no one is going there on this cruise … guess most of us are retirees and not party animals.

March 16, 2009:  From the Princess Patter:  Sun Princess rounded Baleine Bank at 7:00 p.m. last night and set a Southerly course toward Broome.  Approaching the channel at midnight, we embarked a local pilot at 12:30 a.m., and proceeded into Roebuck Bay and to the Broome Jetty.  Due to the tidal constraints inside the Port of Broome, we were fast alongside the pier by 2:00 a.m.  Sun Princess will remain alongside until late evening, then will let go her lines and cast off her berth at approximately midnight, March 16.  After disembarking our pilot we will set a South-westerly course towards Exmouth.

From the Princess Patter and the Broome Visitors Bureau:  Broome is a picture postcard come to life.  Located at the Southern gateway to the Kimberley, one of the last great unexplored wilderness areas on earth, Broome is a small town where the bush meets the sea.  It is located 2,200 km north of Perth, and until the mid-1980s was only accessible by a dirt road.  Broome is located on the north-west coast of Western Australia, on a narrow peninsular surrounded by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and Roebuck Bay, and recognized as a world class migratory bird stopover.  Broome has a large tidal range and can experience tides of up to 10 meters (approximately 30 feet) within a 6 hour period.  Our ship arrived on a high tide and remained to leave on another high tide.  The town grew out of the discovery of the world’s largest pearl shell, attracting hundreds of people like a gold rush.  The Japanese developed the pearl industry starting in the late 1880s and Broome is known as a pearling port.  Before the use of full diving suits when the divers started using them, 1 in 10 divers died.  March 3, 1942 the Japanese Navy aircraft strafed the flying boasts anchored in Roebuck Bay.

We got up at 5 a.m., Howard still miserable, taking liquid cold medicine twice a day and aspirin.  Susan told Howard that he did not need to accompany her this morning for the camel ride on Cable Beach, but he went, saying he was doing it for her … but later said it was good and he was glad that he went.

We met the coach at 6:30 a.m. for the drive to the 22 kms long Camel Beach, beautiful with red cliffs, sparkling white sand and azure blue water of the Indian Ocean … very beautiful!  There are three firms that give camel rides, Princess contracts with the oldest and largest first … Red Sun Camels.  Red Sun claims to provide the longest and most photographed camels.  There were two strings of camels for the first ride of the morning.

At the beach, after a walk across beautiful rocks at low tide and along the white sand beach (a short distance) we came to the two strings of Dromedary Camels resting on the sand all saddled and wearing red blankets.  After getting preliminary instructions we were told to spread out and choose a camel.  Howard chose the largest one he could find, and of course his name is “Tiny”.  Howard got on first in back and then Susan … just like getting on a horse.  But, the camels raise their rear ends first and then raise their front legs.  Most adult camels stand 6 feet tall at the shoulder and 7 feet at the hump (containing fat, not water).  When walking they move both feet on one side of the body, then both feet on the other side of the body.  The ride was amazingly smooth, just like riding a horse.  The camel behind us, in the string, liked for Howard to scratch and pat his head … when Howard would stop the camel would lay the side of his head on Howard’s leg asking for more.  Red Sun Camels took photographs of each camel and rider as we left, and later others took our cameras we rode along and took pictures for us.  We are pleased with the photo they took of us on Tiny.

We arrived back at the ship about 8:45 a.m., came to our stateroom, changed clothes and gave our cabin steward a bag of laundry.  Then we went to deck 14 and buffet breakfast in the Horizon Court.  After that Howard went back to bed for the day, still feeling awful.

This is a working pier or none of the ship passengers are allowed to walk on it.  Susan got a shuttle bus in to the Broome Visitors Center and immediately got a shuttle bus to Chinatown letting everyone out on Dampier Terrace.

This is a working pier or none of the ship passengers are allowed to walk on it.  Susan got a shuttle bus in to the Broome Visitors Center and immediately got a shuttle bus to Chinatown letting everyone out on Dampier Terrace.

Susan’s first stop was at Pearl Luggers: The Sea the Men The Legend.  The 10 a.m. tour had just left, she didn’t come back later for another tour.  There were still signs to read with unique insight into Broome’s pearling industry at Pearl Luggers in the heart of Chinatown.  She saw two of Broome’s last remaining pearling luggers that have been fully rigged and restored to their former glory.  Surrounded by a reconstructed tidal jetty these ‘work horses of the sea’ offer an insight into the many diverse cultures of people who were drawn together from all walks of life in their search of riches from the ocean.  Pearl Luggers is located at 31 Dampier Terrace, in the heart of ‘Chinatown”.  Broome has had a colorful history for more than 100 years of the pearling industry. 

Pearling, a noun, is a somewhat hazardous and life threatening occupation originating in Japan, perfected in Broome and retailed in Paris.  In the Pearl Luggers showroom Susan purchased a book The White Divers of Broome: The true story of a fatal experiment by John Bailey (ISBN 978 0 330 36338 9) who also wrote The Lost German Slave Girl.    The Australian said of The White Divers of Broome “A blend of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Maugham.  With a dash of Hansard … A fascinating and important book.”  Susan also purchased another book Tears of the Moon by Di Morrissey; from the back cover “Two inspiring journeys.  Two unforgettable women.  One amazing story.  Broome, Australia 1893.  Sydney, Australia 1995.  Tears of the Moon is the spellbinding bestseller from Australia’s most popular female novelist.”  From the Sydney Morning Herald “Morrissey’s research into the pearl industry and the history of Broome is formidable … she tells a good story.” 

Susan next went next door to the Willie Creek Pearls where she made several small purchases.  Then she visited several more shops until getting to the bus stop … crossed the street and visited all of the shops on that side of the street, then recrossed the street and worked her way back to the free shuttle bus stop.  She purchased Howard a polo shirt, and in the Camel Shop she talked with the young gal that had taken our photo this morning on the beach, and she purchased a polo shirt and hat for herself.  She didn’t try to count the number of pearl shops on this street and was too hot and tired to go to the other street with pearl shops.  It was around 100 F or 102 F today and the humidity was probably 85 or 90%.  There was quite the lightening and rain storm last night.  Susan took the free shuttle back to the Visitors Center and almost immediately got on a shuttle back to the ship.  Everyone she met was red faced and sweating due to the heat and humidity … BUT this is an absolutely gorgeous small town of about 14,000 people year around and fabulous white sand beaches, plus the azure blue of the Indian Ocean is wonderful.  This really would be a great place to visit again.  The height of their tourist season is July.

Late afternoon Susan went to decks 12 and 14 to take photos of high tide, and then sat on a deck chair both reading and chatting with a couple from England.  The tides here come in and recede quickly; the bay/harbor is beautiful!  The humidity is a bit difficult to cope with though.  But, this is a port Susan would like to return to someday. 


When she returned to the stateroom at 5 p.m. Howard had left a note that he had gone to the Medical Center.  She immediately went down to deck 4 to the Medical Center.  Howard had registered and still had temperature (which he knew or he wouldn’t have gone) and was waiting to see the doctor.  When Howard was called Susan went with him to see Dr. Desmond Williams.  Believes Howard has a secondary infection associated with the flu.  A nurse did a test to see if has flu (a nose swab and then waiting 10 minutes for the results).  He was given Zithromax Capsules (Azithromycin 250 mg) take two now and then one a day for four additional days … continue the aspirin, lots of fluids and REST.  It was 5:45 p.m. when we left the Medical Center.  Came to stateroom, took the first two Zithromax Capsules and then we went to deck 14 and Horizon Court for buffet dinner … Howard sweating and feeling lousy.  We turned in for the night early.

March 17, 2009 St. Patrick’s Day:  From the Princess Patter:  Overnight Sun Princess maintained a South Westerly course on the 526 nautical mile voyage from Broome to Exmouth.  Late this evening we will pass numerous oil production platforms located around 60 miles North West of Dampier and then we will pass Montebello Islands on our port side before altering course to port and proceeding on a more southerly course to parallel the Australian coastline once again.

After we went to breakfast this morning in the Horizon Court on deck 14 Howard stayed in the stateroom all day to rest … still coughing and low temperature.

Susan kept busy … at 10 a.m. she attending Scholarship@Sea – Enrichment Lecture: “Suffer Little Children” What life could a child born to a poor family expect in Victorian England?” – The children’s stories with Judy Wright in the Princess Theater.   Next she attended the Destination Lecture: Exmouth; The Ningaloo Reef is spectacular, as is Yardie Creek Gorge and the Cape Ranges.  Then Susan had lunch in the Marquis Dining Room.   She then checked on Howard and then left him resting and reading.

At 2 p.m. Susan attended the afternoon movie “Australia” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman … it was long 2 hours 32 minutes … rather slow and boring in parts, but great “travelogue” pictures of Australia!

Susan and Howard ate an early dinner in the Horizon Court again and turned in early … Susan considered going to one of the shows but decided she would rather read and take it easy.

Many times we have seen the “road trains” … semi rigs with 3 and 4 trailers behind the tractor (cab) instead of one trailer we see in the U.S.

My Kindle, electronic book-reader, gets much attention.  I take it with me to lectures and shows, when going early for a good seat, and sit there reading.  I almost always get asked questions about it, so believe I am a good advertisement for and the Kindle.  May people from the states say they want one and will go to Amazon when they get home.

About 9 p.m. and then for hours we viewed off-shore oil drilling platforms.  We also viewed the South Cross, Alpha Centauri and many additional stars in the very dark southern sky.

March 18, 2009:  A bright beautiful day, with some wind and small white caps when arrived, a bit before 8 a.m., and anchored off short of Exmouth this morning.

From the Princess Patter and Exmouth Visitors Center.  Exmouth was founded in 1967 as a support town for the United States Naval Communications Center.  It is located on a peninsula and is adjacent to both the Ningaloo Marine Park and the Cape Range National Park.  The Shire of Exmouth covers 6,261 square kilometers and is situated on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia, 1,270 kilometers north of Perth.  The year around population is 2,400 but in tourist season from April to October there are approximately 6,000 people in the area.  Exmouth is located on the Indian Ocean with huge stretches of beautiful sandy beaches, the red ochre coastline and the turquoise ocean.

The Cape Range National Park contains spectacular gorges, covers 50,581 hectares and covers the west cost of the Cape.  Ningaloo Marine Park protects one of Australia’s most important tracts of reef – the Ningaloo Reef.  The park stretches from Bundegi Beach near Exmouth for 260 kilometers along the west coast to Amherst Point south of Coral Bay.  The reef protects a lagoon that is on average only 1 to 4 meters deep and is rich in marine life.  The overall depth is a unique reef attribute and its close proximity to the coast – in many area it is only 5 – 10 meters offshore – allows for easy access from the coast.  Some 200 species of colorful coral and 500 different species of tropical fish have been recorded in the park.

We had purchased shore excursion tickets for a drive along the coast and boat trip through the Yardie Creek Gorge, with red cliffs, split tail eagles, black/grey wallaby’s and other wildlife.  BUT, at 10:30 a.m. the ship aborted this port (must use tenders) due to high high wind forecast.  A record here is for wind gusts of over 236 km.  We had good views of the antennas built by the U.S. Navy and now operated by the Australians for communications in the Indian Ocean and we would assume elsewhere.  This morning we continued to observe oil productions platforms.  This afternoon the swells became higher and much longer, plus the wind increased … still quite comfortable.  The swells were probably only 9 or 10 feet.

Howard’s temperature is back to normal, but he still has some cough … not well yet but feels better than he did.

March 19, 2009:  Another beautiful, bright sunny day at sea … no wind this morning … swells 10 to 12 feet so walking is like “swing and sway with Sammy Kaye” but fun!  Howard is better but as he says he is “not totally well”, and he likes having another sea day to “rest”.

This morning on CNN we saw part of Pres. Obama’s town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, CA … and agreed with everything he said.  He was not our candidate but we are mostly pleased with his appointments and like many of the things he is trying to do.  Of course we support our president.

From the Princess Patter:  Throughout the day Sun Princess will continue on various Southerly courses, following the Western Australia coastline.  Shortly after midnight (last night) we passed Shark Bay and Bernies Island.  At 4 a.m. Dirk Hartog Island was abeam at a distance of nine miles.  Between 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. we will pass the offshore Houtman Abrolhos Islands at a distance of nine miles with Geraldton fifty miles to the East on the mainland.

After breakfast Howard rested in the stateroom and Susan went to the Princess Theater for the Destination Lecture: Bunbury & Albany, both in the very south west corner of Western Australia.  Also was asked about the Kindle … as usual … and demonstrated it and gave my little sales pitch.

Reviewed the latest filming for the DVDs the ship is preparing of this cruise.  The camel ride on Cable Beach, Broome is featured.  Showed a camel seated and getting up, rump first, with Howard and Susan on his back!  Later talked to Susan on the film, and still later shows the camel caravan on beach and can see Susan wearing a turquoise top with white pants, and Howard in bright yellow pants and tan hat.

From Princess Patter and other sources.  Fremantle was established in May 1829 when Captain Charles Howe Fremantle formally took possession of the whole of the west coast of New Holland in the name of his Britannic Majesty.  Fremantle would become the port and the new colony (today known as Perth) would be developed approximately 20 km up the Swan River on good soil that would allow agriculture development.

In 1850 the Imperial Convict Depot was established.  The famous Fremantle Prison was built by convict labor from limestone quarried on site and was used as maximum security prison from 1855 until 1991.

In the 1980s Fremantle / Perth became a premier tourist destination.  Today the area has a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Various people have told us that Western Australia is the largest state of this country and takes up half or more of Australia.  W.A. has 2 million people; 1.6 million of them are in the Perth metro area, leaving just 400,000 for all of the rest of W.A.

Our full day tour left the ship terminal in Fremantle about 9:30 a.m.  We toured the suburbs of Perth, the beaches, both sides of the Swan River, seeing many black swans, yacht clubs and other things of interest.  We had a quick bus tour of Kings Park and stopped for 30 minutes … enough time for Susan to shop for several books and for Howard to photograph some flowers.  There was not time to visit the Botanic Garden of Western Australia.  Kings Park overlooks the city of Perth and the Swan River; it is 406 hectares (about 1,000 acres) with almost two thirds in natural bush.  The park contains approximately 3,000 plant species, 70 bird species, 20 reptile species and much else.

Next we were let out on St. George Terrace by the London Court (shopping) about 11:30 a.m. for a couple of hours.  We found a newsstand for a newspaper in London Court and then a chemist (pharmacy) to purchase some large bandages (for a blister on the side of Susan’s foot) in the Hay Street Mall.  Next we shared a very large chocolate éclair and soft drinks/juice in a little tea shop.  We then listened to the street musicians and window shopped in Hay Street Mall before returning to the London Court and more shops before meeting our bus at 1:25 p.m.  Susan found some cute coaster and post cards at Billabong Souveniers & Gifts, 16-18 London Court, Perth.

London Court.  Located between St. George Terrace and the hay Street Mall, this Tudor-style arcade opened in 1937.  Tourist and locals experience the ambience of Elizabethan England and admire the exquisitely carved windows and facades.  Above the clock facing the Hay Street Mall are four knights who circle in the windows as the clock chime; the clock at the St. Georges Terrace entrance shows St. George battling the dragon.  There are also statues of Sir Walter Raleigh and dick Whittington.

Our bus took us to Pier 3 Barrack Square for a Captain Cook Cruise.  While waiting to get on the boat and for the river cruise to begin we listened to the Bell Tower  We enjoyed the one and a half hour cruise from Perth to Fremantle on the Swan River (names due to the black swans).  In Fremantle we again boarded our bus for a tour of historic Fremantle.  Then they left us off near the railroad station and it was an easier walk than from the ship.  It was a very comfortable, bright pretty day.

We boarded a train in Fremantle Station and got off in downtown Perth.  Howard called Cliff to be sure where we were to meet him and his wife.  Cliff Ferguson and wife Susan picked us up in front of the railroad station.  We drove to their 1927 era home in South Perth and visited there awhile.  Then we went to The Bellhouse Seafood Café, Mends Street Jetty, South Perth.  Email:  We enjoyed lots of good food and great conservation.  Susan an Information Technology manager and just finished another degree … this one in forensics.  Cliff is a supervisor in the Electronic Evidence Section of the W. Australia Police.  Cliff purchased Howard’s software and they have corresponded quite a bit.  After dinner on the river, they drove us around for additional sightseeing … including Kings Park for a view of Perth and the Swam River at night.  They brought us back to the Fremantle Ship Terminal about 10:30 p.m.  A very full but delightful day.

The next day was also interesting.  We had breakfast at 6:30 a.m. in the Horizon Court.  We met our day tour about 8:10 a.m. and we were all board the small bus and left at 8:20 a.m., 10 minutes early.  We drove north of Perth along the beautiful ocean road seeing the surfers and beautiful beaches. 

This drive was on our way to the Gravity Discovery Centre, Military Road, Gingin, West Australia. arriving about 9:45 a.m.  We viewed some of the hands-on interactive science displays for awhile.  Then we were served mid-morning tea, with crumpets, jam, clotted, cream, plus cookies and sandwiches.  About 10:30 a.m. we went to the theater and viewed a 10 minute DVD about the Gravity Discovery Centre; then walked around as the guide lectured and demonstrated the many displays.  We ended up in the Cosmology Gallery and far too soon we had to leave at noon …. no time to walk the bush trail or really absorb all that this center had to offer. We could have spent the full day here.

After about an hour’s drive we arrived at Elmar’s in The Valley a micro glass brewery and restaurant located at 8731 W. Swan Rd. Henley Brook, W.A.,  Their three kinds of beer, plus the season brew, were explained and free samples provided to all that wanted that.  Then we were served a “family style” German lunch consisting of: assorted breads, red cabbage and raisin salad, German sauerkraut, gourmet potato salad variety of Elmar’s sausages, Elmar’s ½ pork shanks (one for each of us), a selection of Elmar’s cold cuts and hams, finished with cheese and fresh fruit for dessert.  We left Elmar’s at 3 p.m.

At the lunch at Elmar’s, Howard sat between Susan and Peter Andreev (one of the two piano players on the ship that entertain on a grand piano).  Peter is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and quite interesting to chat with.  His email is  Peter plays classical (Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy) as well as Scott Joplin and such things as “Bumble Bee Boogie”, and is quite good and enjoyable.

Our next stop was at Bleeno’s Bistro at Merrich Estate: Tapas and wine garden at 1111 W. Swan Rd., Henley Brook, W.A.  This is a boutique business of olives and olive oil.  The owner, a lady, spoke to us about the different kinds of olive oil and olives.  We had bread, olive oil and multiple kinds of olives to sample.  This was our last stop and we drove back to the ship terminal in Fremantle arrived at 5 p.m.  A beautiful sunny day with clear blue sky. 

March 22, 2009: From the Princess Patter.  This morning Sun Princess embarked her local pilot and made a slow turn to starboard as she passed McKenna Point breakwater and made her approach to the ‘Outer Harbour Berth Number 1.’  This afternoon Sun Princess will depart her berth and make a gentle turn to port to set a south-westerly course bound for Albany.

Lying at the western end of Leschenault Inlet, Bunbury was first sighted by the French explorer and Commander of Geographe, Nicolas Baudin, in 1803.  He named Geographe Bay after his ship and Leschenault after his Botanist onboard – Jean Baptiste Leschenault.  In 1836 the then Governor, Sir James Stirling, accompanied an expedition to explore the port of Leschenault.  In December of that year, LT. Henry William St. Pierre Bunbury made the trek overland to meet Governor Stirling and for that incredible feat, Governor Stirling renamed Port Leschenault ‘Bunbury’ in his honour.  By 1841 there were almost 400 Europeans living in the new town of Bunbury.  The township prospered initially as a result of the whalers who anchored their vessels in Geographe and Koombana Bays.  There were times, when whaling was at its peak, when there were literally hundreds of whaling vessels in the area.  Bunbury became a municipality in 1871.  The town was then known as ‘The Brighton of the Colony’ and it became a seaside resort for miners flush with gold from the eastern goldfields.

Bunbury has a population of approximately 30,000 people.  There is an interesting old lighthouse painted in checkerboard fashion.  The town is known for the 90 or so wild Bottlenose Dolphins that live and interact with people in Koombana Bay.  The town is surrounded on three sides by water, Geographe Bay, Koombana Bay and the Indian Ocean.

Our tour bus left the dock at 9:30 a.m.  We drove by Mangrove Cove on Koombana Drive where there are 20,000 year old remnants of an earlier tropical climate and the southern-most mangroves in Western Australia.  We observed the 28.3 meter high former grain silos, built in 1937, that have been turned into a residential complex (apartments) and have observed this in several cities on this cruise.  (In the U.S. we would call these structures “grain elevators” and not silos.)

Our first stop was at the Dolphin Discovery Center on Koombana Bay with nice sandy beach.  We didn’t see any of the famed Bottlenose Dolphins, but were told they do come right up to the beach daily.  Some viewed a short video about dolphins, but since we’ve been interested in dolphins for decades and seen and heard about them in many locations we skipped the video.

The second stop was the Big Swamp Wildlife Park, located on Prince Phillip Drive. We enjoyed the free roaming kangaroos, black swan, colorful ducks, chickens, wallaby, rabbits and other animals.  We enjoyed spending time in the very large free flight aviary and another aviary.  The colorful parrots especially liked Howard.  They sat on his hat, peeked his glasses cord, camera strap, hat, sweater and kept returning to him.  There were over 60 varieties of Australian native birds, many with vivid colors of red, blue, green, pink, yellow, black, white and brown; and many with multiple colors.  The Purple Crowned Lorikeets were especially beautiful.  We also saw Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Barn Owl, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Lyrebird, Splendid Fairy-wren, Golden Whistler, various Finches and many others.

After leave the Big Swamp Wildlife Park (there was not time to walk the 2 km trail around a swamp area) we drove through the Ferguson Valley seeing many farms, vineyards and tree farms.  We climbed into the hills and stopped at something called “Gnomesville” where people have left hundreds and hundreds of Gnomes, some with cute signs, over time.  This was strange but something not seen elsewhere.  We returned to the ship via another route, arriving about 2 p.m.  Sun Princess left Bunbury at 4 p.m.

Tonight was the third of our four formal evenings on this 28 day cruise and we had our photograph taken again.

March 23, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  After departing Bunbury Sun Princess proceeded across Geographe Bay, and altered course to port as she rounded Cape Natualiste at 6:30 p.m.  We maintained Southerly courses until 9:30 p.m., and upon passing Cape Leeuwin, Sun Princess altered course again to port and begun heading on an Easterly course.  Approaching Albany Sun Princess rounded ‘Bald Head’ and leaving the Islands of Breaksea and Michaelmas to starboard at 7 a.m. proceeded across King George Sound to our berth at Princess Royal Harbour Berth 2.  This evening Sun Princess will let go her mooring lines and set an Easterly course towards Adelaide.

On the southernmost tip of Western Australia’s rugged coastline lies Albany.  With a population just short of 29,000, Albany is a charming and picturesque town and definitely OFF the beaten tourist track.  Albany’s first European sighting was in 1629 by Dutch explorers.  Records indicate that the first European to sail into the protected waters of the port was Captain George Vancouver in 1791, claiming the area for the British Crown.  It was not until 1826, however, that the region was settled, with the purpose of establishing a penal outpost.  On Boxing Day, Major Edmund Lockyer landed with his party of soldiers and convicts from Sydney at Princess Royal Harbour, establishing the first European Settlement in Western Australia.  Originally, the settlement was called Fredrickstown, honouring Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, and Earl of Ulster.  In 1832, the name was changed to Albany.  With a fine natural Harbour, Albany quickly became a busy trading port.  The port served as a coaling station for steam ships from England and a commercial centre for the farmlands, which spread out from the original site.  The port also developed into the base for a profitable whaling industry; its location on the southwest coast lured hunters from the U.S., France and other colonies.  The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company was established and became the town’s biggest industry, killing up to 850 whales per season.  The whaling station at Frenchman Bay was the last in Australia to close in 1978, and is now the site of Whaleworld, one of the world’s largest whaling museums.

It was overcast and misting when we left the ship, but then it cleared and was a beautiful bright sunny day with blue sky. We took the Torndirrup National Park and Whale World tour.  Our bus went to the Torndirrup National Park south of Albany where we stopped and walked along a path and also over the rock to view the “gap” where the surf roars in, and to the “natural bridge” also over the pounding surf.  A very beautiful area, white beaches, turquoise water, green trees, rocks and it made us think of the beautiful northern CA and Oregon coasts in the USA.

Next we drove to Albany’s Whale World located on Frenchman Bay Road, 22 km from Albany, between Torndirrup National Park and King George Sound.  Whale World is a community project of The Jaycees Community Foundation, Inc.  We had a guided tour which started in front of the Cheynes IV, the last whaling boat operated by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co.  This whaling station closed on Nov. 21, 1978 after 26 years of operation and over a century of whaling in Australian waters.

The complete whaling operating was explained to us in detail and we viewed the equipment used from the flensing deck, cutting up deck, and processing factory.  We saw exhibits including the skeleton of a 22 meter Pygmy Blue Whale and other marine skeletons, including the skeleton of the last whale brought to this whaling station in 1978.  We went to the Spectravision Theater for an exhibit using miniaturized figures of a whaling family on the day the whaling station’s closure was announced.  Then we went to three theaters, housed in the silos that formerly were used to store whale oil; in these three theaters we watched an eight minute history of Australian whaling; next an eight minute multimedia show revealing the shark and whaler relationship; and finally saw Giants Exist a very good 3D animated whale movie.  We spent two very busy and enjoyable hours at Whale World. 


Howard and some of our group walked up a very steep hill from the Whale World to the new Australian Native Fauna Wildlife Park where he viewed over 30 species of Australian native marsupials and reptiles.   He was able to video an active Tasmanian Devil, very large bats, Quolls, and photograph other animals.

This morning on the way to the national park we passed some pastures/fields where large groups of kangaroos were laying and/or standing.  They were still there when we passed the same area on our return to town a few hours later.  A group of kangaroos is called a “mob”.  A male kangaroo and 7 or 8 females make up the average mob.  The females actually rule the mob ... kangaroos are a matriarchal society.  There can be quite a number of mobs in a pasture/field at the same time.

From the road we viewed the largest wind farm in Australia … 12 large wind mills of the type along Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, CA.  Our guide said this wind farm supplies over 80% of the power used in the Albany area.  We had a tour of downtown Albany and viewed their Dog Rock; it really does look like the head of a hound.  The bus returned us to the ship about 1:40 p.m.  Howard and Susan then went to the Horizon Court on deck 14 for a buffet lunch.

March 24, 2009:  Calm seas (1 to 2 feet) and bright sunshine; blue sky with pretty white clouds and the sun is making the sea sparkle.  A splendid day at sea.

From the Princess Patter.  Throughout last night Sun Princess maintained an easterly course across the Great Australian Bight, and this course will be maintained throughout today.  The Great Australian Bight is an open bay on the southern edge of the Australian continent.  While historically its shores have been inhabited by Aboriginals, it was first explored and charted by Europeans in the nineteenth century following initial surveys by the British Navigator Matthew Flinders (1774-1814). --- Nothing between this part of Australia and Antarctica.

This morning we attended another Scholarship @ Sea – Enrichment Lecture.  “Captain and Mrs. Cook”.  He was the son of an impoverished farm labourer, she the daughter of an ale-house keeper in the East End of London.  Their story – the people and places that influenced their lives.  Lecture by author Judy Wright.  Although we both knew a fair amount about Captain James Cook this hour lecture, with good media material, was quite interesting and informative … we learned a lot.

This afternoon we attended another Scholarship @ Sea – Enrichment Lecture.  “Navigation at Sea” presented by Third Officer Douglas Cross.  He showed a short video “The History of Navigation”, and then spoke about basics, all of the officers and equipment on a large ship ... especially cruise ships.  Mr. Cross spoke well with a delightful sense of humor and handled all of the audience questions very well.  This was held in the large Vista Lounge for a nice relaxed time.

The internet is down … a sign on the computer centers door says due to the location there is no internet available.  Have made several phone calls … they, like the internet use satellites.  CNN is still coming in, but at times there is not enough signal for any reception.  Catch a bit of news and nice to see Anderson Cooper, Michael Ware (re: the drug wars in Mexico and along the US/Mexico border), Wolf Blitzer, even Larry King in bits and pieces when we are in the stateroom which isn’t all that much.  But, today and tomorrow are full days at sea.

March 25, 2009:  Another beautiful day at sea … calm ocean, blue sky and bright sunshine.

From the Princess Patter.  Sun Princess followed an easterly course throughout the day.  We will pass south of Eyre Peninsula and Port Licoln at 8 p.m., then continue through the Investigator Strait passing between Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island during the night.  We will embark our Adelaide pilot at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and be secure alongside by 8 a.m. 

This morning we attended another Scholarship @ Sea – Enrichment Lecture … “A Journey in Search of Convict Ancestors”.  How far would you go in search of a skeleton in the family cupboard?  A personal quest through the past and present with author Judy Wright.  Again we enjoyed Judy’s presentation.

After sit down lunch in the Marquis Dining Room, we returned to the Princess Theater for the Destination Lecture: Adelaide.

Howard next returned to the stateroom to take a nap and reply to email.  Susan went to the Wheelhouse Bar/Lounge for the art preview and then the art auction.  She “sat on her hands” so she wouldn’t raise a hand (with a bid) for one of the numbered/signed prints by Jim Warren … she loved them all.  But, there was one to compliment the one we have of his in our family room that we purchased for our 25th anniversary.  She really was tempted, and only after the auction did she remember (and then asked) the bids were in Australian dollars so a bid for a U.S. citizen would have been considerable less. 

We are enjoying some CNN news of Asia and much more international news that we get in the US.  Talk Asia is on right now.  We hope the new CNN program “Quest Means Business” a nightly world business report with Richard Quest from London each evening is available in the USA.  Susan has always enjoyed Richard’s report be they on US politics, business travel or other business.  We also get some news on the BBC and it is always good.

March 26, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, was founded in 1836 by free settlers.  Unlike the convict population of the east coast of Australia, early settlers to South Australia were predominantly religious dissenters and free of what was considered the “convict stain”.  These settlers, determined to stand apart from the rest of the country, set out to establish a more sophisticated and cultural environment for their city.  Under the guidance of Colonial William Light, the plan for Adelaide was drawn up along the River Torrens.  The City centre made up a square-mile grid of streets along the south bank of the river, enriched by a green belt of parkland which still remains today.  Religious dissenters established their own churches and the city became known as the ‘City of Churches’ with over 100 of them in the vicinity.  The city of Adelaide, incorporated in 1840, became the first municipality in Australia.  Over the years Adelaide has maintained its elegance with its traditional stone architecture and formal parklands.  The twentieth century has seen this city, names after King William IV’s wife Queen Adelaide, become a typical multi-purpose modern city.  Adelaide is Australia’s fourth largest city with a population of just over 1 million people.  It is one of Australia’s few planned cities and its broad streets give it a sense of openness and cleanliness.  Whether strolling alongside the River Torrens, visiting the local art museums and galleries, or enjoying the local wines, Adelaide offers something for everyone.

From the Navigator in the Princess Patter.  During the night at 1 a.m., we passed Althorpe Island at a distance of 2 miles on our portside.  Althorpe Island is located 4 ½ miles off Cape Spencer, at the south west tip of Yorke Peninsula.  At 4:30 a.m., Sun Princess altered course to port and set a northerly heading into the Gulf of St. Vincent.  At 6:30 a.m. we slowed down to embark our local pilot, before altering course to starboard and passing through the narrow buoyed channel to our berth.  This evening at 6 p.m. Sun Princess will let go her mooring lines and retrace her tracks outbound before setting a southerly course across the Gulf of St. Vincent, and through the backstairs passage heading toward Melbourne. 

Today we did a tour of Adelaide and Glenelg.  Our ship is docked in the Outer Harbour in the Port of Adelaide.  Our bus did a thorough tour of some special suburbs and the downtown area before going to the seaside suburb of Glenelg.  Our guide did a good job of telling us the history of the area as he showed us the various squares, statues, Botanical Gardens, historical buildings,  Adelaide Oval, the Festival Center, zoo, talked of the architecture, agriculture and water shortages … they are using treated sewage waters on golf courses and park lands.  We stopped in downtown Adelaide and had some time in the Rundle Mall.

We enjoyed the statues of the four pigs, Horatio, Oliver (getting into a sculpture trash bin), Truffles and Augusta.  These four pigs are called “A Day Out” and were done by Marguerite Derricourt in 1999 and placed in the Rundle Mall causing much controversy, but they are a popular attraction for children and adults alike.

After leaving Rundle Mall we drove to Glenelg … Adelaide’s wonderful beach suburb fronting Holdfast Bay.  The weather was beautiful, and the deep blue ocean sparkled.  There is a long “pier” that the locals, and our tour guide, call the Glenelg Jetty.  We walked to the end of it and back, no one else on our bus did this walk.  We also walked along the beautiful beach.  Then Howard had some mint-chocolate-chip ice cream and said it was the first ice cream that tasted like ice cream at home.  Susan found a McDonald’s and had a frozen Coke (we used to call them a Slurpee) and enjoyed that.

When we returned to the terminal building Susan “shopped” the opal merchants … finding the prices for those from the good ole USA much cheaper than the Australian dollars.  But, she did not purchase anything … a beautiful “boulder opal” ring really called to her, but….  Talked with several dealers and really liked both John & Sophia Provatidis of Majestic Opals, who like Peter did not have a store so do have lower overhead.

My on-line friend is Peter Brusaschi whose business is and his blog has free information, he does not have a store, sells wholesale to stores in NZ and AU, but most of his business is on-line by mail all over the world.  His company is Petren Products Pty Ltd in Banora Point, NSW, 2486, Australia.  Peter has said I’ll find some of his opal jewelry in Alice Springs jewelry stores.

Keep forgetting to say we’ve been told many times that no Australian would drink Foster’s Beer that is advertised in the USA as THE Australian Beer.  In fact we have never seen a sign or ad for Foster’s Beer.  People in the state of Victoria drink VB (Victorian Bitters), Cascade and several other brands, plus local brews from mini breweries.  Since we don’t care for beer this kept slipping my mind, but we have found it interesting. 

March 27, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Sun Princess transited the Backstairs Passage at midnight last night, then continued to follow a south easterly course toward Melbourne, entering Victoria State waters early this afternoon.

Continued from the Princess Patter.  At sea we measure a ships speed in ‘knots’ which is one nautical mile per hour.  This is equivalent to 1.15 statute miles per hour or 1.85 kilometers per hour.  The term comes from the old days of sail when a series of knots were tied in a line of rope attached to a chip or log and spaced out at a distance of 47 feet 3 inches.  The log was trailed out behind the ship with the knotted rope being paid out over the stern.  The number of these knots which ran out while a 28 second sand-glass emptied itself gave the speed of the ship in nautical miles per hour.

Continued from the Princess Patter.  The Southern Cross is a constellation (group of stars) that is found in the southern region of the night sky.  It is the most commonly known, and easily identifiable of all the southern constellations.  The Southern Cross’ stars were of great importance to the Aboriginal people.  In central Australia, it was the belief that the pattern created by the stars in the cross was the footprint of a wedge-tailed eagle.  The pointers were his throwing stick and the dark patch, his nest. 

Other indigenous peoples believed that the Southern Cross and its pointers was a Stingray (the cross) that was being pursued throughout the Southern sky by a Shark (the pointers).  The Aboriginals of eastern Australia, however, called the Cross “Mirrabooka”.  Mirrabooka was a kind and clever man who was immortalized by being put in the night sky by Biami, the creator.  This was to assist with watching over the people on earth.  The pointers are Mirrabooka’s eyes – seeing all of the earth.  There was a large rock cod (fish) named Alakitja who lived in the waters of the river known as the Milky Way.  On his way to his favorite water hole he carefully avoided the sky people’s fish traps.  He swam past the magnificent white blooms of the countless water lilies.  These flowers shone so brightly that the people on earth could see them.  They became known as stars.  When he finally completed his journey and reached his waterhole he rested away from the harsh sun, under a large rock.  Meanwhile, two brothers had been creating rivers and mountains on earth.  They suddenly became hungry and started to search for food.  They saw the giant cod, Alakitja, in the waterhole so they threw their spears, killing him.  The brothers each made their own campfire and shared the large fish.  They are still visible today – the 2 campfires are the Southern Cross stars known as Delta Crucis and Gamma Crucis.  The two brightest stars of the cross – Alpha and Beta Centauri are the two brothers and Alakitja is the nearby dark area (the coal sack).  Alpha and Beta Centauri, the 2 pointers, are actually friends of the two brothers who are waiting for their share of the fish.

We have had clear enough skies several times on this trip and were able to view The Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri the closest star to Earth.

A nice relaxed day at sea.  Long swells last night and all day … we enjoy the gentle rocking of the ship, but many people are seasick.

This afternoon Susan attended another art auction; all pictures were to be less than $700.  The first groups biding started at $1.  Susan bid and got a good signed and numbered lithograph on paper, size 14” x 31.5”, for $20, of an Orca jumping out of the water, titled “In The Air” by Michael Muffins.  There were dozens and dozens of good pictures for $30 and $40 dollars and some great Wylands for $600; about 1/3 to ¼ what they are in his galleries.  But, many of the inexpensive pieces were for “carry off” the ship and since we are flying ….  Susan did purchase a very pretty signed and numbered lithograph on paper, size 17” x 25”, titled Rainforest III by R. Joyce for a very low price.  The earlier lithograph on paper print that she won is 24” x 31.5” titled “At Sunset” by Michael Muffins.  Now to figure how to rearrange the 14 or 15 paintings, two prints that we already have, and other art work on our walls at home.  Susan plans to attend the last art auction when they will show art not already shown on this cruise, and requested artists … Susan requested Jim Warren (we have the large lithograph of his in our family room).

This afternoon about 4 p.m. Howard saw whale spouts … at dinner another person had also heard there had been a whale or whales off the port side of our ship.

March 28, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Last night Sun Princess altered course to port as she rounded Cape Otway at 1 a.m. at a distance of 5 nautical miles and passed King Island to starboard.  Setting a north easterly course Sun Princess continued to Port Philip pilot station, where we embarked our local pilot at 3:30 a.m.  As we entered the Bay of Port Philip we altered course to starboard and proceeded through the Rip and the South Channel to our berth at Station Pier.  This evening Sun Princess will let go her lines and depart Port Philip, before setting a south-easterly course across the Bass Strait to Burnie.

Welcome to Melbourne.  The settlers to establish the first colony in Melbourne were Tasmanian settlers of British descent, Henry Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, whom arrived at Port Philip Bay in August 1835.  By 1838 the European population consisted of 142 males and 35 females.  By 1840, over 10,000 settlers were living in the vicinity of Melbourne and by 1842 it was proclaimed a town.  It was declared a city in 1847, and in 1851 it became a separate colony from New South Wales.   The discovery of gold in Ballarat sparked the biggest gold rush in Australia’s history.  In 1869 the world’s largest gold nugget, “The Welcome Stranger”, was discovered here by two Cornish miners.  More gold was extracted from the Victorian gold fields than during the California 1849 gold rush.  At this time Melbourne was the largest city in Australia with a population of over 75,000.

Since we spent two days in Melbourne on our earlier Celebrity cruise we chose to remain with the ship and not go into the city and sightsee.   Today was another clear blue sky, bright sunny day.  We had breakfast (and lunch) in the Horizon Court on deck 14, enjoying the harbor and skyline of Melbourne, plus the many moon jellies, some blue in color.  We went into the terminal on the dock and purchased some small souvenirs.  We enjoyed relaxing on the ship today as we shall be busy for the rest of the time until we fly home on April 8th.

Susan later returned to the terminal and purchased a beautiful (we think) opal ring with a great deal of red (the most sought after color) in a very unusual fan type setting.  She is thrilled with the ring and Howard is happy that she is happy.  The ring was purchased from The Australian Opal and Diamond Collection,  They work out of Adelaide, South Australia.

March 29, 2009:  From the Princess Patter.  Overnight Sun Princess continued on a south-easterly course across the Bass Strait towards the Tasmania mainland.  This morning we embarked our local pilot as we entered Emu Bay at 7 a.m., and leaving the breakwater to the north proceeded to our berth.  This evening Sun Princess will depart back across Emu Bay and set a north-easterly course for Hobart.  We will transit the Banks Strait which separates the Forneaux Group of islands between 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. 

Tasmania – Burnie was first explored by Europeans when Bass and Flinders circumnavigated Van Diemen’s Land in 1798.  As they passed the Burnie area they names Round Hill Point and noticed a ‘peak-like volcano’.  Bass and Flinders did not land on the coast and it was left to a party from the Van Diemen’s Land Company to climb the peak-like volcano on 14th February 1827 and name it, appropriately, St. Valentine’s Peak.  The land was densely timbered and this, combined with high rainfall, made it virtually useless for agriculture.  This did not stop the development of this district.

Continued from the Princess Patter.  By 1842 the settlement was opened up.  The town was named after William Burnie who was the director of the Van Diemen’s Land Company at the time.  From the earliest days of the settlement, Emu Bay (as the town was first known) was a timber port.  After 50 years of settlement Burnie’s population was only 200.  In the 1880s with the discovery of mineral deposits on the west coast changed the area.  Tasmania’s Mount Bischoff became the richest tin mine in the world.  Today Burnie has a population of just over 19,000.  It is now a major industrial center one of Australia’s largest and most significant deepwater shipping container ports handling over two million ones of cargo each year.  Honey, cheeses and a vast array of fruits, vegetables and similar produce are available for exporting.

Continued from the Princess Patter.  Cradle Mountain World Heritage Area, one of Australia’s best known and most magnificent wilderness regions is a few hours’ drive north-west from Burnie.  The area’s beauty remains unspoiled and in many places little has changed since the aborigines roamed the region hundreds of years ago.  Evidence of human habitation in this region goes back some 2,000 years to the Ice Age when the Bass Strait was a land bridge to Australia.  Rock engravings found in caves and along the shore mark the existence of Aboriginals who crossed this bridge.

Continued from the Princess Patter.  The Bass Highway from Launceston hugs Tasmania’s north-west coastline for most of the way after leaving Devonport, eventually reaching Arthur Pieman Protected Area on the state’s forbidding west coast.  On Tasmania’s north-west tip, the air from the Southern Ocean at Cape Grim has been tested as the cleanest in the world.

When we walked down the gangway to the pier we were met, and shook hands with, the Mayor of Burnie and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Alvwyn P. Boyd … also had our photo taken with the mayor and his wife.  Our bus wildlife and country side tour left the pier at 11 a.m.  We had a one hour trip through beautiful country, high hills and deep deep valleys, nice and green with beautiful rivers, trees, ferns and flowers.  We passed through Riana, South Riana and other tiny towns, arriving at Gunns Plains at noon.        

We went to Wing’s Wildlife Park, 137 Winduss Road, Gunns Plains, Tasmania on the beautiful Leven River.  We met the founder Colin Wing and he spoke to us about the park … they take animals that have been injured.  We went to see the Tasmanian Devils first.  A guide held the raw hind leg of a wombat in the enclosure and the first Tasmanian Devil would not let go of the meat.  Then a second Tasmanian Devil took hold of the other end of the leg and the two had a tug of war as they ate.  Susan took still photographs and Howard took more video of the action.

We then moved on at our own pace to see multiple Bennets Wallaby, Albino Wallaby, Koala’s, parrots, birds, ducks, Black Swans, Emu, goats, trout, the three poisonous snakes of Tasmania and many other animals.  Our guide told us that Platypus live wild in the Leven and other rivers, best to be seen in early mornings or about sunset.

Leaving Wing’s Wildlife Park we drove north to Ulverstone on the coast of Bass Strait.  This pretty little town has several war memorial parks; the largest is the Shrine of Remembrance about 50 meters high, with an accurate clock, and the names of all from this town that have been killed in the Boar War, World Wars I & II, Korea, and Viet Nam.  We continued along the coast to the cute town of Penguin, where we saw the city trash bins have figures of three small penguins around them, there is the Penguin Hotel and other businesses.  We stopped at the Big Penguin, 3 meters tall on the shore.  It was erected when the town was 100 years old in 1975.  Across the street at the visitors center Susan leaned up again another large penguin, for a photograph, only to find it was on rollers and moved. 

From local information:  See the Penguins returning to their burrows at dusk between October and March at Lillico Beach.  The reserve is located on the Bass Highway, ten miles west of Devonport.  During the peak season there is usually a ranger on hand to explain the habits of these unusual creatures.  Access to the reserve is free.  These are called “Little Penguins” they used to be called “Fairy Penguins”. 

Leaving Penguin we continued the pretty drive along the coast through Sulphur Creek and Heybridge back to our ship in Burnie.  The guide said we are the last cruise ship of the season and we are the 21st to visit Burnie this season.  When we arrived at the pier there was a bag pipe band playing so we stood and watched for awhile, and Howard made another video clip.  The band was dressed in plaid kilts and was enjoyable.

A pleasant surprise on this trip was learning, first in New Zealand and then in Australia, that tipping is NOT customary for service.  At better hotels and restaurants a client may leave 5% to 10% for exceptional service if they like, but it is not expected.

Australia has very strict rules … we cannot take any food off of the ship into a port, not a granola bar, not a candy bar, not an apple, not anything.  All purses, backpacks and tote bags are checked as we get off the ship, and in larger ports dogs also sniff our bags.

At 4 p.m. our ship left Burnie in bright sunshine and headed for Hobart the capital.

Tonight was our fourth formal night.  We had our picture taken in four of the six locations on the ship.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, the photographs have been doing a very good job when they photograph us … no doubt Susan has purchased too many.  Then we attended the Farewell Cocktail Party in the Grand Atrium Lobby, deck 5, 6 & 7.  Did speak with Captain Andrew Froude briefly before he addressed the gathering.  After this was dinner, for us, in the Regency Dining Room.  Always many choices on the menu that changes each day, but tonight we enjoyed giant prawn cocktails (Susan skipped soup and/or salad) and then lobster tails and giant prawns again.  After dinner was the “show” when all of the kitchen staff (on deck 6) was introduced, then all of the assistant servers paraded around the dining room each holding a Baked Alaska (one for each table), then our server Philippe from Portugal served our table.  This was also done on our Celebrity cruise.

March 30, 2009:  From: the Princess Patter:  Last night Sun Princess continued to set an easterly course, passing through Banks Strait which separates Cape Portland and Clarke Island on the North Coast of Tasmania.  Once clear of Banks Strait we altered course to starboard and proceeded south to parallel the east coast of Tasmania.  This morning Sun Princess will alter her course to starboard as we round the Tasman Peninsula, passing close to Tasman Island at 8 a.m., and Cape Raoul at 8:45 a.m.  The impressive rock formation at Cape Raoul should be clearly visible on the starboard side and then through Storm Bay to the River Derwent which leads to our berth.  We will embark our pilot at 10:30 a.m. near “Blinking Billy Point”.  Throughout this afternoon and overnight Sun Princess will remain secure alongside Macquarie Wharf in Sullivans Cove.

Continued from the Princess Patter:  Situated between Mount Wellington and the River Derwent, Hobart, the second oldest state capital in the land was established in 1804 – just one year ahead of its great civic rival, Launceston.  The city’s history can be traced to 1803, when a small party of soldiers and convicts, under the command of Lt. John Bowen, was dispatched from Sydney to form Australia’s second European settlement on the Derwent River.  The original town was located on the eastern bank of the Derwent, but within a few months the settlers had moved to Sullivan’s Cove on the western shore, which is today the center of Hobart’s waterfront area.  Cozily nestled between Mount Wellington, Mount Nelson and the Derwent River, Tasmania’s capital boasts one of the finest deep-water harbors anywhere.  Hobart is Australia’s second-oldest capital city and today has a population of approximately 129,000.

We awoke to an overcast day as our ship cruised towards Hobart.  After sit down breakfast in the Marquis Dining Room we went to the Princess Theater to hear a destination lecture about Hobart.  We docked early at about 11:15 a.m. 

We decided to walk to the CBD (central business district) that is near the harbor.  We enjoyed the mild smells of a working harbor with fishing boats, plus the sights and sounds.  We visited the Aboriginal Fine Art facility, but did not see any paintings or other art works that we cared to purchase.

Next we went to the Tasmanian Museum and Art gallery at 40 Macquarie St.  This houses a fine collection of history and art from Tasmania and the South Seas.  We went primarily for the “Islands To Ice: The Great Southern Ocean and Antarctica”, which was well worth our time.  Many exhibits about the exploration of Antarctica and the scientific work being done today; photographs, 3-D movie, other movies and videos, stuffed animals, models, core bits from Antarctica and much much more.  We enjoyed our time here very much.  Besides several book marks Susan also purchased the Mar-May 2009 issue of “Ice Breaker: Tasmania’s Antarctic News and Views”.  Many ships leave from Hobart (as well as Christchurch, New Zealand) for Antarctica … no land between them and Antarctica.

We walked the Elizabeth Street Mall; Susan purchased a nice picture book of Tasmania.  Then we went to Mures Upper Deck, located on Victoria Dock, highly recommended by the ship, by clerks in stores, by the ship’s crew as the best place for really good and fresh seafood.  We had a nice quiet table overlooking the harbor, our ship and the “Steve Irvin” a ship that is involved in trying to stop the Japanese whaling.  We had dinners of salad, chips (French fries) and Blue Eye fish … a first for us and it was very good.  Then we walked back to the Sun Princess … to full to try and go to dinner here on the ship tonight.

The temperature was in the upper 50’s to low 60’s today and remained overcast.

To quote from “Ice Breaker: Tasmania’s Antarctic News and Views”, page 21, Mar-May 2009 issue.   “The Sea Shepherd Conservation society’s anti-whaling ship ‘Steve Irwin’ visited Hobart this summer to refuel before continuing to disrupt the Japanese plans to kill up to 1,000 whales for ‘lethal research’ purposes”.  Steve’s widow Terri Irwin is involved with this group. 

Hobart, Tasmania, the capital city of this state (an island off the south coast of Australia).  They call themselves "The Holiday Isle" and it is quite understandable why!

Yesterday saw some very active "Tasmanian Devil's" (and many additional animals); Howard got some good video clips of them having a tug of war and eating a raw leg of Wombat, bones, fur and all.

Hard to believe that seven weeks of our eight + week adventure has come to an end.  The time has surely flown past rapidly and we are enjoying, and have enjoyed, each and every day. 

March 31, 2009:   From the Princess Patter.  This morning Sun Princess remains secure alongside her berth in Hobart.  This afternoon Sun  Princess will let go her lines (5 p.m.), proceed out across Storm Bay, rounding the Tasman Peninsula at 7 p.m., to view the rock formation at Cape Raoul, then continuing on our 631 Nautical Mile voyage to our destination Sydney.

Below note sent this evening 4/31/09 (with few minor changes & additions):

We've had a fun day, but it was not as advertised, an Eco-Cruise and Wildlife Tour.   Instead we had a Tasman Island Cruise, starting from Eaglehawk Neck and ending at Port Arthur.  On the drive south from Hobart, through Forestier Peninsula and then the Tasman Peninsula we stopped for a “tea” break at Eaglehawk Neck Café and Guest House.   Good scones with clotted cream, homemade jam, tea and coffee.

42 of us in two small boats in "rough water".  When left Pirate's Cove, they said that when we rounded a point with 4 to 6 ft. swells it would level out.  Wrong ... a storm was moving in and it only got worse!  We were fine as we do not get sea sick, but a few did get sick.  We were in the front (my choice) where it is rougher, but.... fun!  We weren't able to take as many photos as would have liked due to the salt spray and seat belts (for the few of us way up front).  We saw dolphins, albatross, cormorants, gulls, LOTS of fur seals and on and on.... beautiful cliffs, sea caves, arches, blowholes, islands and waves and waves.  It was to be three hours, but due to the storm moving in it was cut to two hours.

After the cruise we had great meal at Taylor's Restaurant, part of the Stewarts Bay Lodge, 6955 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, Tasmania, located on the waterfront in a beautiful location.  They say “Stewarts Bay Lodge sits on the coastline of the Tasman Peninsula – an icon of immense physical beauty, incredible history and rich natural diversity.  Nestled between a beach, a forest, the ocean, a national park and Australia’s most profound historic site.”   After a late lunch a bus brought us back to Hobart.  We left at 7:30 a.m. and arrived back at the ship about 4:10 p.m.  Of the 42 of us only 5 were angry and really unhappy about the change in plans!  We had a great time!

The weather report is that we are in for rough seas between here and Sydney.  Our ship is just leaving Hobart (5 p.m. Tue.) and we are due to Sydney Thur. morning.  The Tasman Sea is always rough, but with a storm they are saying it shall be rougher than "normal".  We had 12 foot swells on the Millennium between New Zealand and Sydney on our first cruise and were just fine ... so rather look forward to this last trip across the Tasman Sea.

April 1, 2009:

From the Princess Patter:  Overnight Sun Princess continued to set a north-easterly course, off the Tasmanian coast until 4 a.m. when we cross the eastern edge of the Bass Strait and at 1 p.m. we will pass Cape Howe, marking the Victoria / New South Wales border.  This course will be maintained throughout the day.  Early tomorrow morning (April 2, 2009) Sun Princess will embark her local Sydney pilot at 5:30 a.m. before entering the Traffic Separation Scheme which leads to Port Jackson.  Sun Princess will pass Sydney Harbour Heads at 5:50 a.m., Fort Denison at 6:05 a.m., under Sydney Harbour Bridge at 6:15 a.m. and berth in Darling Harbour at 7 a.m.  From all the Deck Department on Sun Princess, we hope you have enjoyed your cruise, and we wish you a safe trip home.

After an early breakfast in the Marquis Dining Room we returned to our stateroom to pack.  The packing took until after 11 a.m.  We had to select the clothes to wear the rest of today and tomorrow when we get off the ship in Sydney … then pack the bag each of us will take to the “Out Back” with us; and finally each of us pack our bag that we shall not open until we arrive home (except for customs); and finish our “hand luggage” or as we refer to it as “our hand luggage”.

We had lunch in the Marquis Dining Room … again visiting with nice people as we had done at breakfast.  After lunch we listened to some nice chamber music in the atrium.

Susan then went to the “Final Champagne Art Auction” and the earlier preview.  She didn’t win any art in the drawings, but did purchase a signed/numbered print by Jim Warren.  She also went to the photo gallery and picked up our two DVDs of the cruise called “Reflections”, we are in the first one twice (formal night & beach camel ride). 

While Susan was doing art Howard attended a Classical Concert by one of two Sun Princess pianists … Peter Andreev.  Howard had purchased Peters DVD earlier and had him sign it for us.  We met Peter on a day trip out of Perth to the Gravity Science Center, plus a mini brewery / lunch … Howard and Peter sat together and visited there.

Our final dinner tonight in the Regency Dining Room … we were fortunate to have such dining companions.  The table for six turned out to be better for us than the table for ten that Susan requested.

The sea has become rougher and rougher all afternoon and evening … we are fine as we do not get sea sick, but, it is somewhat difficult to walk at times.  Ship gets some hard bangs from the swells/waves from time to time, plus the 6 to 8 foot seas all of the time.

April 2, 2009:

Sun Princess embarked her local Sydney pilot at 5:30 a.m. before entering the Traffic Separation Scheme which led to Port Jackson.  Sun Princess passed Sydney Harbour Heads at 5:50 a.m., Fort Denison at 6:05 a.m., sailed under Sydney Harbour Bridge at 6:15 a.m. to her berth at the Princess Pier (Wharf #8) in Darling Harbour at 7 a.m. 

The ship’s disembarkation schedule had us in group “Yellow 3” based on “Caribe Deck Cabins 601-749”, to meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Casino on Deck 8.  We had breakfast in the Regency Dining Room at 6:30 a.m. when they opened, then returned to our cabin for luggage and went to a lounge on Deck 7 to wait.  We were near the end; last groups were to meet at 9:45 and 10 a.m.  They get the luggage off in order of colors.  They were 30 minutes behind and by the time they got to us … the 23rd of 26 groups … they were only 15 minutes behind, they are very well organized.  We disembarked, got our four bags and went into the main terminal … Susan located a person to call the car company and let them know we arrived early and to send the car that was scheduled for 11 a.m. earlier.  There were NO public pay telephones, almost everyone uses cell phones.

The car and driver arrived and took us to the Four Points Sheraton on Darling Harbor in Sydney … we were here for four nights between cruises.  We are in room 746 which again has a great view as it overlooks the harbor.  We checked in at 10:30 a.m., and since we were early, and although the room was empty it was not ready yet.  Soooo we put two bags into storage for while we are in the Out Back, and left our other two bags and Susan’s carry-on with the concierge and Howard carry-on (with computer) in their safety vault.

We walked to Darling Harbour and had very good fish and chips (again at the Sydney Aquarium) and watched the harbor and people.  There were quite a number of school groups visiting the aquarium today.  It is interesting to see the children all wearing uniforms, each school is somewhat different color wise.  The high school students also wear uniforms but the hats are not mandatory as they are for younger children, as is sun screen.

About noon we entered Sydney Wildlife World  What a marvelous place to visit!  You get the wildlife (animal, reptile, bird) from all over Australia all in one place.  Butterflies, fresh water crocks, koalas, wallaby’s, kangaroos, beautiful birds along with a Cassowary (the world’s most dangerous bird), and on and on, it was wonderful!  We both took pictures by the dozens and dozens.  We had our photo taken with a Koala and it turned out ok.  We enjoyed this very much and stayed until after 4 p.m.

From Howard: 

Saw lots more critters.  Again in the parrot enclosure, one of the parrots took a liking to me, climbed up my arm then onto my back where he started working on my camera strap and the cord that I use on my glasses.  Then he headed for my hat where I assumed he would try to steal a grommet.  I took off my hat.  He was still on my back.  Squawked when we moved his tail around to try to get him to leave.  Finally someone watching said to lean down so he could step off onto a hand rail.  That worked and both he and I were happy again.  The parrots showed no interest in anyone else.  Guess I am for the birds...   :-)

We will see Ayres Rock (called ULURU in the Aborigine language - I have just now wondered why "ULURU".  I mean, there were 400 some-odd aborigine tribes and each had their own language.  I'd bet they all had a different name for the rock. )  Anyway, the first white man to see the rock was an explorer that was sent out by a wealthy farmer named Ayres to see if there was any land worth farming within the interior of Australia.  He didn't find any but did find the giant rock and named it after Ayres since nobody asked the Aborigines what they called anything in those days.  In fact, in the 1960's they rounded them all up, sent them to school to westernize them, and now they are just another part of the general population supposedly.

Anyway, has been interesting.  Beautiful country.  Lots of coast line, bays, beaches, etc.  Most of the people live on the edges.  Very few people in the interior since it is a desert.  Not a super-dry desert like the Sahara because it is full of Kangaroos supposedly and enough plants for them to eat. We have been amazed at the kangaroos we have seen.  They lounge around like big house-cats. They look extremely relaxed lying all over stretched out on the ground.

April 3, 2009:  We got up at 5 a.m. then had breakfast in the hotel at 6:30 a.m. restaurant when they opened.  Our car and driver arrived at 7:45 a.m. and took us to the airport … easy check in with Qantas.  The flight left Sydney at 9:50 a.m. and was to land in Ayers Rock at 11:55 a.m., and it did, but turns out we had to turn the clocks back one and a half-hour, so we really got up at 3:30 a.m. Ayers Rock time.

We landed at Ayers Rock … the airport owned by the resorts.  Took the shuttle bus to Voyagers Outback Pioneer Resort and checked in.  After settling in our room #202 we went for hamburgers in mid afternoon.  Susan also sent to the shop and purchased us “fly nets” to wear over our hats for the flies and they are needed … although everyone says there are many fewer flies than when HOT.

At 5:30 p.m. we met our bus for “Sounds of Silence”.  Voyagers call this “Our premier dining experience under the stars.  Three coursed buffet dinner and guided ‘tour’ of the night sky by our resident astronomer.  Includes beer, wine, coffee, tea and port served with your meal.”  We drove out into the desert stopped and we all walked up a hill on a red sandy path … served soft drinks or champagne.  While we watched the sunset and reflect back on Uluru (formerly called Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta we listened to a local didgeridoo player who also talked about the instrument.  After sunset we all walked down the other side of the hill, on another red sand path, to the round tables set with white linen cloths and candles.  The buffet dinner was good and included crocodile and kangaroo.  We had a half moon, but more clouds than we would have liked.  The bus returned us to the resort about 10 p.m.  Today was a very long day, but nice.

April 4, 2009:  We got up at 5 a.m. and left at 5:15 a.m. to meet our 5:30 a.m. bus for Uluru Sunrise and Walpa Gorge walk.  We drove into the desert and got off the bus to watch the sunrise and the light hit Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  After this we drove to Olga Gorge, Walpa (meaning windy) Gorge is a desert refuge for plants and animals.  This is in Kata Tjuta which is a Pitjantjatjara word meaning “many heads”.  The 36 steep-sided domes of Kata Tjuta lie about 32 kilometers west of Uluru – 50 kilometers by road.  This area is important and is sacred under Anangu men’s law.  Susan started the 2.6 km walk, but after the climb became too rocky for her she “wimped” out and returned to the base of the walk and waited for them all to return.  Howard did the complete walk.

After our return we got off the bus at Sails in The Desert Resort.  We browsed their “high end” gift shop and watched Heather Duff work.  She is the artist in residence this month in their art gallery... we love her work.  We walked through the resort and to the small shopping center and browsed several shops, with Susan making several small purchases.  Then we sat in a nice restaurant where we enjoyed salad and very good fish and chips … again.  We walked back to Sails in The Desert Resort and studied the many oil paintings and number/signed prints of Heather Duffs work.  Susan was looking at several prints, until Howard found original oil that “spoke” to him (and to Susan) … we purchased that painting.  It shall be removed from the frame and shipped to us rolled in a tube … then we’ll need to have it restretched and framed.  We then took the resort shuttle bus back to Voyagers Outback Pioneer and went to our room briefly.

At 2:25 p.m. we met our bus for Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds Walk, sunset and barbecue dinner.  Even the park service says this 7.4 km walk is “challenging” which is putting it mildly!  We drove to the trail head and talked about this walk (in Australia they are never called hikes).  I said no way I could do this and several others agreed.  Some went in the first bit and then returned.  The driver took six walkers and two others of us back to the 2.6 km Walpa Gorge Walk and six people did this.  The rest of us waited under a shelter and chatted.  Nice temperature, not hot, nice breeze, but needed the fly nets over hats due to the flies looking for moisture.  Howard completed this second walk for a total of 10 km walked today.  We then drove to a sunset viewing area and watched the sunset hit Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta … it was a spectacular sunset.

Next we drove to another location in the desert where the barbecue was going and ready for us … another good dinner and star talk.  On the way to this location we saw three wild (feral) camels … they are difficult to spot.  We were returned to our resort a bit after 9 p.m. … another long day.  We wish we had a couple more days here as would like to walk around the base of Uluru at a bit over 9 km but it is a flat trail.

While in this area we had to each purchase “Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park” park use tickets at $25 each and good for three days.  Some of what is printed on there is:  “Welcome to Aboriginal Land.  Parks Australia and Anangu, the Aboriginal traditional owners, welcome visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.  It is requested that you respect the wishes of Anangu by not climbing Uluru.  Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park is 450 km from Alice Springs.  The park ids 1,325 square km.  Uluru height: 348 meters above the plain and 863 meter above sea level; the circumference is 9.4 km.  Kata Tjuta (36 domes), highest dome 546 meters above the plain, and 1066 meters above sea level.  There are 25 species of mammals, 74 species of reptiles, 4 species of frogs, 178 species of birds, and 415 flora species.

April 5, 2009: Ate breakfast at Pioneer Outback Resort and checked out at 10 a.m.  Then we checked email and rested in the internet room.  We met our bus at 12:25 for the drive to Voyager Kings Canyon Resort in Watarrka National Park.  On the way we had a rest stop at Kings Creek Station, a working cattle station.  We checked into the Voyager Kings Canyon Resort about 5 p.m. and we very pleased with our deluxe spa room.  Two king size beds, very large bathroom, a nice private patio looking at natural red rocks and trees, and large double spa with large picture window looking out on natural red rock.  We walked down to the bar and had a large meat lovers pizza.  Susan then went to “shop” and Howard went to view the last of the sunset.  Later we enjoyed the great spa, but Susan found it much more difficult to get out of the spa than it was to get in … maybe because she was relaxed as a limp dish cloth.  Watarrka became a national park in 1982 … the area is the ancestral home of the Luritja people.  This resort opened in 1991 and was designed thinking the guests would all be driving automobiles … but now most of the guests come by bus and there is a great deal of walking and it is spread out over a large area.  Plus the resort is over 6 km from the start of canyon walks.

April 6, 2009:  Howard really wanted to the do the 6 km Kings Canyon Rim Walk, but since he did 10 km yesterday common sense finally prevailed and he didn’t go.  The start is a “killer” of stone steps cut into the side of the canyon wall, no hand holds of any kind, and later very steep steps both up and down.  Even the park says there are many steep sections.  We had breakfast in the resorts restaurant, enjoying parrots on our walk back to the room; then met our bus driver and those of the group that did not do the rim walk.  We drove the 6 km to the parking lot and where the two walks begin.  Susan walked about three fourths of the Kings Creek walk with Howard and the bus driver and then turned back and waited for everyone in a shelter.  The creek walk is interesting, but still has some rough and steep stone walking sections.  We all went back to the resort about 10 a.m.  On the drive back we stopped for a flock of red tailed black cockatoos’ on the road, beautiful birds.

The driver picked all of us up outside our rooms at 11 a.m. and then we turned in our keys and were on our way again.  We had a lunch stop again at Kings Creek Station, owned and operated by Ian and Lyn Conway.  They have camels … offering rides and or photo opportunities.  The Conway’s care for orphaned “joeys” baby kangaroos and raise until old enough to go to wildlife parks.  When a “joey” is quite young he/she needs to be fed every hour.  This is a working cattle station (ranch).  We then continued on our journey stopping at another station later in the day where they had many Emu’s.  We arrived in Alice Springs about 6 p.m. and people were delivered to the various hotels … there were only 16 of us on the bus.  We got a nice sightseeing tour of town as people were dropped off.  We arrived at Voyages Alice Springs Resort about 6:15 p.m.

On the drive from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs  we kept thinking of how we like “to see what is on the other side of the far blue mountains”.  Only in this case, what was on the other side of the far blue mountains was just like what was on the first side. 

After check-in and luggage to our room we went to Barra On Todd Restaurant for a very good and filing dinner.  The Todd River is just across the street, but like rivers in Arizona it is dry except when it rains.  Alice Springs is on the Stuart Highway that runs from Darwin in the North through here to Adelaide in the south.

The “outback” gets approximately 12 inches of rain each year and the area looks like much of our Sonora Desert and also Sedona and northern AZ, with the red rocks, red soil, but green bushes and trees.


Today ends our 8th week of travels and we have enjoyed each and every day!

April 7, 2009:  Up early today in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.  We ate buffet breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.  Howard tried the internet but could not get in.  Later he checked with the office … all phone calls, and all internet was out for the whole area.  They believed a relay station, or something, out in the desert was down.

About 9 a.m. we walked to the CBD … crossed the bridge over the River Todd.  This river is like the Salt in Arizona … dry sandy stream bed except when it rains.  We visited a number of stores … no credit cards working as phone lines and internet down.  Susan did purchase a tee shirt and a CD of music by an Australian that had been highly recommended to us.  We returned to the hotel, checked out at 11 a.m. and waited for the airport shuttle.

The Alice Springs Airport Shuttle arrived a bit early and we (and others) were off to pick up additional people and then drive 15 miles out of town to the nice airport.  We checked in and then sat in the airport … Howard was able to check email as the internet had just come back on line.  We asked for aisle seats for our flight and the agent said he could accommodate us if we didn’t mind being in the back row, #29 … this was fine with us.

A mother and daughter were in Susan’s row.  They live in an aboriginal community about four hours from Alice Springs in the desert.  The husband/father is a nurse and the mother a substance abuse counselor. The daughter starting high school and they were on their way to Brisbane to a boarding school.  The mother said they care of orphaned kangaroo babies (a baby is called a “joey”), they bottle feed them and get them ready to return to a “mob” (group of kangaroos).  On the flight we watched the movie “Marley & Me”.

When we landed in Sydney at 4:45 p.m. we first got our luggage and then a taxi.  We went across town to the Four Points Sheraton to pick up the two larger bags we left there, and then returned to the Holiday Inn at Sydney Airport.  Rush hour downtown was in gridlock so the round trip took over an hour.  After we checked in to the Holiday Inn we went to the bar for soft drinks and more fish and chips.  Have a taxi scheduled to pick us up at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

April 8, 2009.  Up early in Sydney.  We took a 6:45 a.m. taxi to the nearby airport.  When we checked in with baggage there were only two people ahead of us, but by time we left the counter there was a long line of people waiting.  Susan asked for aisle seats (we had already been assigned an aisle and a middle seat), and was told if we didn’t mind not sitting together we each could have an aisle seat and that was fine.   We then went  to get something to eat and wait for the plane.  When we boarded we received  a very  pleasant surprise … we had been upgraded to business class, yippee!  Good food, extra beverages and food, individual TV screens with unlimited movies on demand, and wide seats that are adjustable in many ways, plus large blanket and other goodies.  It surely made the trip home much more restful if you can call a 12 hour flight restful.  We crossed the International Date Line and landed at Los Angeles International about 6:45 a.m. …. Also April 8th.  On the flight neither of us slept.  Susan watched five movies: “Frost / Nixon”, “Valkyrie”, “W”, “Last Chance Harvey”, and “Easy Virtue” (the latter a British film set in the 1920’s).  In Los Angeles we had to get baggage, go through customs, and pay some duty on purchases.   Wonder how many people really are as honest as we were/are?  Then took the shuttle bus to different terminal and caught the 9:45 a.m. US Airways flight to Phoenix arriving about 11 a.m.  We took a taxi to our home in Tempe; it was good to arrive home.

We stayed up all day, after arriving home, going though all of the mail that Shelly had nicely sorted for us, and downloading emails …. Susan had 2,700 and managed to go through and delete 1,700 the first day.

Several have asked what was the highlight of our trip …. there have been so many!

We both took many photographs (downloaded each evening onto the laptop computer), and have many books of pictures and other things.  It shall take us awhile to really get a handle on everything, write up a summary, sort and fix pictures, video clips (Howard took many shorts).   We plan to post photographs on both of our main web sites.

New Zealand was very nice and is beautiful, but believe we would feel too confined due to the small size of the islands.  But … Australia, we love it!  Overall it was a marvelous trip and the eight plus weeks flew past quite rapidly.  It really was another trip of a lifetime!









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