Monday, February 28, 2011

Final Day On Board


Wow, where did the time go? Today is our last day on board the ship. We of course did room service and enjoyed our eggs Benedict one last time. We awoke to gray skies, which was probably a good thing since we needed to pack. We have been dreading the packing since the day we unpacked. I did managed to get in a little laundry, but had to fight for it, ha ha. We went to the final art lecture, but didn’t stay for the workshop since we were in the midst of packing. It all went well, but sometimes it seemed like our clothing multiplied. We really haven’t bought many souvenirs, so that wasn’t an issue. The sun finally came out around 1 PM, so we went out by the pool for a while, though it was breezy. We had a bite of lunch, and then continued packing. We decided to go to one last Bingo and Trivia – neither of which went very well today! It’s amazing all of the little things that you must take care of on the final day. Dinner tonight was casual, so we dressed and went by the bar. We ended up having drinks with Gary and Bette, and later Carol and Steve joined us. We all went down and had a wonderful dinner together. Gary and Bette are on until Darwin while Carol and Steve do not leave until Hong Kong, which is the half way point of the world cruise. We excused ourselves from dinner to go and listen to Eric play one last evening. He played many of our favorites, and ended by playing Lara’s theme. I ran back to get the camera to get a photo and realized that we were just about the only ones without our luggage out. 
We had to call it an “early” evening since tomorrow we’ll want to get up to see the approach to Sydney. It is now midnight, so maybe not such an early evening. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Melbourne

It was very difficult to wake up this morning after such a late night and we awoke to clouds and rain. Unfortunately the night air didn’t do Mom’s cold any favors. After much discussion we decided that she should just stay in for the day. Bambi picked me up around 11 and took me around exploring Melbourne. As I mentioned yesterday, it is such a beautiful city with the old intermingled with the new. Due to the rain, we had to revise our plans for the day. We started off by going to the Shot House, which was built back in 1847 and as it’s named, was where they made shot for ammunition. Instead of tearing it down when a shopping center was going in they decided to build the center around it. It really is an interesting structure. 
From here we walked around the downtown area so I could see more of the architecture including the old Post Office and Royal Arcade.
Exterior of original post office
Interior of post office building.
They have kept the original facades and in some cases much of the original interiors and now shops and little cafes occupy most of these buildings.
Original tile mosaic floor.
Since it was a Sunday, there were tons of people out shopping. Bambi then took me to the Miter Tavern, which is the oldest building in Melbourne. Sadly, they were closed, so we had to go elsewhere for lunch. We ended up going back to “The Block” in the Royal Arcade where we had a lovely lunch together and I was able to get another “skinny flat white”. I felt like I was learning a foreign language! After lunch she took me around much of the city so I could get a better view of the skyline and see some more of the area. They have a ton of different athletic centers for tennis, and cricket, and aquatic sports – there seemed to be one at every turn.
We crossed over the Yarra River, which cuts through the city and goes out to the ocean. We passed by the large train station that I think looks a bit like it was constructed out of turtle shells. Some of the modern architecture is not to my taste. We also saw the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building, the Eureka building, but after Dubai, I figured it might be a let down if we went up.
One structure that stands out is the Shrine of Remembrance. It’s a massive memorial dedicated to Victoria’s war dead. It was designed so that a ray of sunlight falls on the Rock of Remembrance on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the exact moment of the armistice ending WWI. It was getting late in the afternoon so we started back towards the ship.
We did have to stop one last time to get some Cold Rock ice cream. It is very similar to what we have as Cold Stone, but very different flavors. I had the white cookies and cream and chocolate hazelnut with a little Caramello Koala mixed in. I think I should have gone with the kiddie size, but wow was it good. It was already 5 PM and time for me to get back on board. I said goodbye to Bambi – it was so great to see her! Once back on board I found Mom in the room, not feeling much better. We had to get ready for our last semi-formal evening and of course go and listen to music before dinner.
We have really gotten in to a routine on here. We had dinner with some people we had dined with before. We even got to see the local pilot “jump” from the ship on to the little tug that came up beside us. There was a “multi-instrumental” performance tonight that we ducked into and right back out of and instead went back to the bar where Eric had a final set. Fernando, the cruise director joined us for a bit. It was great to talk to him and get to know a little more about him. He has been with Silversea since the beginning and has some wonderful stories. Time again got away from us and it was heading towards 1 AM. This is the last night we can stay up this late!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Melbourne

This morning we were docked in the beautiful city of Geelong. As I mentioned before the primary purpose of this stop is to allow passengers the option of going via coach to Melbourne along the coastal route. However, it was about a 10 hour trip with the various stops, so we just remained on board. We had a wonderful day with warm sunshine (yeah it’s back)! We had lunch by the pool, read our books, and took it easy until arriving in Melbourne. This evening was a special event at the Regent Theater for all guests. I’m having trouble remembering exactly, but I believe it’s one of the oldest restored ballrooms in the country. It is a very intricate Spanish Rocco style. 
As we were driving from the port to downtown we noticed what a huge city this is – second only to Sydney. I’m not sure either of us were prepared for the large skyscrapers, beautiful architecture, and what looks to be fabulous shopping! One at the ballroom we were greeted with drinks, canapes, and of course a great Australian trio. We were to be treated to all sorts of wonderful performances including a barbershop quartet, who had initially posed as waiters.
It was a cute segway to the beginning of the show. After performing several songs from the 50s and 60s we transitioned to 2 opera singers who performed many famous opera pieces. The final group was about 20 young girls who sang acapella. Most of their songs were Australian and even had some dance moves they performed. They did a fantastic job.
As we departed from the venue listening to a didgeridoo player, Bambi and Frederick were there to greet us. It seems so amazing to be so far away and yet see someone familiar, they were a most welcomed sight!
The weather had becoming a bit gloomy and even had a few showers that we managed to avoid. We went to the Sofitel up on the 35th floor for a glass of wine before dinner.
Looking up from 35th floor of the Sofitel.
We all had just a great time talking that before we knew it the time had flown by and it was almost 9:00 pm and we had an 8:00 reservation. We did finally arrive and had a wonderful Italian dinner. Since we had a snack at the Regent, we decided to all graze a little. Tonight was our first opportunity to try the oysters here and they sure a terrific. We also shared some calamari and several gourmet pizzas. As if that weren’t enough, we had several desserts that we shared along with some “flat white coffee”. This was a brand new one to me. It’s sort of a cross between a cappuccino and a latte. It was now nearing midnight and Mom and I both realized that we never asked if there was a time to be back on board tonight. Traffic in the city was very heavy – almost as though we were in the middle of NYC. The port had closed to car traffic, so we had quite a walk in front of us, and it was totally deserted. We were a little concerned until we finally saw some of the staff from the ship coming off to go into town. I think we were about the last ones back on board tonight. We are finally in our room and it’s near 1:00 AM. We are fortunate enough to have Bambi and Frederick to take us around tomorrow – we can’t wait!

Friday, February 25, 2011

At Sea


This is our second to last sea day, so as usual we slept in a little. We have been staying up way too late at night, usually just sitting around and talking to the friends we’ve made on board. It is going to be really hard to say goodbye to everyone next week. We had a light breakfast in the restaurant and then came back to the room. I think the night air last night made Mom’s cold a little worse this morning. I went to the art lecture and workshop while Mom read her Nook. Class was fun today - we painted postcards. I only managed to only do one because I was ready for lunch. Today was the Galley Lunch, which we had done last segment. I had not planned on going but Ann wanted to go and Mom didn’t really want lunch. We sat with another couple who was from NYC, there seems to be quite a few on board. The lunch was once again very good and I made a plate to take up to Mom. After lunch we did try and go to a lecture, but were bored to tears and decided to leave rather than fall asleep in front of the speaker. He would have been wise to have some audiovisual aides and inflect his voice a little because the actual content was very interesting. It was on the Australian explorers Burke and Wills. A short while later it was time for Bingo and Trivia. We again placed second in Trivia, maybe one day before we leave we might actually win. Tonight was formal, so we went back to get ready for dinner. We had an invitation from a couple on board who are from Washington DC and who are also getting off in Sydney. They too are going to see Carmen on Wednesday evening at the Opera House. We stopped through the bar to listen to Eric before joining Syd and Carolyn for dinner. We had a wonderful time talking to and getting to know them better. Turns out they were also on our flight from LAX to Papeete last month. We are looking forward to getting together for a pre-theater dinner with them next week. We went back and listened to more music after dinner and wound up running into some other folks and talking until midnight. Tomorrow morning we’re in Geelong, which is really just a brief stop for folks going on this Ocean Road drive up to Melbourne. We will just stay on board and take the ship there tomorrow afternoon. Time to get some sleep!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Adelaide

This morning started way to early with the buzz of the doorbell at 6:47 AM. I was none too happy to be awakened at this hour, even for breakfast. We were just coming in to dock about 7:30 and we saw that the outside temperature was already 70 degrees and a clear sunny day. I can’t tell you how excited we were. Upon arrival an Australian trio playing songs with local flavor greeted us. It was great to stand out on our balcony and listen to them play. Click below for a brief clip:
We had to be down to the bus at 8:15 to begin our half-day tour. Adelaide is a beautiful city that is the capital and largest city of the state of South Australia. It was founded in 1836 by Colonel William Light, the first Surveyor-General of South Australia. He planned the layout of the streets from scratch and incorporated a large amount of green space and parks with in the city so it doesn’t seem like a place where 1.2 million people live. It was a longer trip from the port than we had anticipated, close to 45 minutes. We drove around to see the highlights including the building from which the city grid begins.
Many of the buildings were a combination of brick and blue stone, such a beautiful combination.
We also stopped to see the statue of William Light.
The largest square is in the center of town and is called Victoria Square. We drove past the beautiful botanic gardens and adjacent park where there were trees with roots like I have never seen.
We then went to Tandanya, which is a local Aboriginal gallery with paintings and other artwork of various tribes. The sidewalk as you approach even had the traditional icons of Aboriginal art such as the serpent, turtle, and all of the dots.
Considering all of the lectures we’ve been to and our attempts at this style of artwork it made the stop very interesting and gave us some ideas to try in the future. I think Mom and I have both decided that we’re going to get some watercolors and maybe even acrylic paint when we got home to try our hand at some more “art”.
After this stop it was on to Penfolds winery up in the hills. On our trip us we saw many of the beautiful homes with the “Australian Lace” ironwork, much of it was painted white and other light colors. There were also fences made out of this thatched material.
The winery is quite small compared to many of those in Napa, but they have many wonderful wines, which we tasted. Being in Southern Australia the reds were a Shiraz or Shiraz blend. We loved their dessert offerings, especially this sweet Viongier that you can only buy there at the cellar. It seems as though time just flies on these excursions, and before we knew it we had to leave.
We again stopped in the city center before heading back to the ship. Due to traffic our trip back took just over an hour. Since the weather was very warm and clear skies we donned our bathing suits and went up to the pool deck where we had some lunch and soaked up some sun. We figured it would be good for Mom’s cold. I think the high was around 90 today, which is a far cry from seeing snow in Tasmania on Monday – and it’s any wonder we’ve been sick??? This evening was casual and we were going to dine up in La Terrazza, but somehow had an invite over the phone about 6:45 from one of the ship’s officers. We opted to keep our other reservation since we love the Italian cuisine so much and since it was a gorgeous evening we decided to eat outside. We arrived just as the sun set, and wow was it beautiful.
Our dinner was just lovely – I could eat pasta every day, and in fact I think I have. We stopped back by to listen to Eric and then called it a night. Tonight we have to move forward that ½ hour that we gained just two nights ago. I still just don’t get it. Tomorrow is at sea, so we can sleep in!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kangaroo Island

Due to the rough conditions in the Tasman Sea we ended up leaving Tasmania in the opposite direction of what was scheduled which also meant arriving at Kangaroo Island about an hour later than planned. We weren’t arriving until 1:00 PM, so we had the morning on board ship with various activities including an early game of trivia where we again placed second. We had a quick bite of lunch before the tour that left at 1:20. Mom decided to try and take care of her cold today, so she did not go on the tour. I left her on the balcony with a blanket and a box of tissues. Some of our friends that we’ve met on here looked after me as they too were on the same tour.
Our first stop was an emu farm and Eucalyptus distillery. I was very excited to get out to nice warm and sunny weather, finally! On the drive up we found out more about the island and the fact that it only has a population of 4200 and is not named so because of the kangaroos. There are actually very few kangaroos on the island and it actually was named for a rock formation that resembles the head of a kangaroo. I never saw it so I’ll just have to take their word for it. Our guide at the farm/distillery was quite humorous, that is until he started talking about how they shoot cats and eat kangaroo. Feral cats are a real problem on the island, as they tend to attack and kill many of the smaller animals. I thought he was kidding until they showed us the skins of the cats. The next thing that got to me was the recipe book called “Roadkill Recipes”. Ugh. I have heard differing numbers, but there are either 500, 700, or over 1000 different varieties of Eucalypts on the island. They take these and turn in it into oils, lotions and everything imaginable. I think they feel as though it’s a panacea. You can use it for everything from cleaning the toilet to washing your mouth out! I did have to buy a bottle and thought we’d bathe Mom in it and hope she gets better. In the store I almost tripped over a baby kangaroo that was sleeping. 
She had been rescued after she had become separated from her mom. The island is also home to the only pure strain of Ligurian bees that are still in existence. We won’t be able to take the honey back, so I just bought a small jar to enjoy during our last week here. There are also emus located on this farm and as our guide said that this one is about to make a one-way trip to the barbeque. I’m afraid he wasn’t joking.
After this entertaining experience we were off to a bird sanctuary where we had an up close and personal view of several type of birds including a Kestral, an Australian wedge tail eagle, and two different types of owls. The one disturbing part was where he fed the owl a mouse, which he almost swallowed whole. The only thing you could see was the tail hanging out of his beak! 
I was fortunate enough to go out and have it land on my arm and I was even able to pet him. They are such beautiful creatures. We also spotted a koala in the wild that was climbing up a tree. It just doesn’t get better than this.
From here we went to Seal Beach. We had a brief walk down a boardwalk to the beach where we could see hundreds of seals sunbathing. They go out and expend so much energy fishing that they have to come back and take a long nap. There was the full range from females to bull males to babies. 
We also learned that mother seals come back to where they were born to give birth. They were fun to just watch as they waddled on the beach (that’s the way I’m starting to feel after all of this food), and then roll over in the sand, which helps their fur dry. We enjoyed our time there, but it was time to head back. The tour was 5 ½ hours, which didn’t even count the ½ hour tender ride each way. I enjoyed watching the rugged scenery go by as we drove back to the ship. The island really is much larger than I anticipated, 550 km if you go all the way around the island.
Pelicans saying goodbye as we left Kingscote.
After being tossed about on the tender ride back we arrived about 7:00 PM. I came back to find Mom in pretty good spirits, and looking very nice. First thing she said to me is “Do you know what you did?” I thought that this couldn’t be good and I immediately thought that I had left her without a key to the suite. Nope, that would have been a minor detail. I had in fact locked her out on the balcony as I went in for this 5 ½ hour tour!!! Long story short, after being out there for about 2 hours (part of which she napped), she was finally able to get the attention of someone a few decks below who got in touch with Reception and sent someone to let her in. I SWEAR I DID NOT DO THIS ON PURPOSE! Fortunately it was nice weather and so we just have a funny story out of it. We had dinner reservations at Stars tonight, which is the tapas style restaurant on board that doesn’t even open until 8:30. It’s a good thing considering I had to get back and get ready. When we walked in we saw Gary and Bette (art instructors) as well as another couple we had met and they asked us to join them. We had a wonderful time at dinner talking with everyone (they are all from NYC). Dinner ran quite late, so we missed the show. We made it back to our room about midnight; at least I think that’s what time it was. This ½ hour that we’ve moved really confuses me and from what I can tell we move it forward that ½ tomorrow night. Tomorrow is a very early morning for us as we have our tour of Adelaide. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday at Sea

During the last two nights we were able to put our clocks back an hour so we are now just 14 hours ahead of EST. Even still, we slept in since Mom is still battling this infection. We had a very light breakfast before going to the lecture on Aboriginal art and the following workshop. Today’s project was making snakes out of modeling clay. Snakes are important in their culture, as they’re believed to have carved out the rivers and mountains. We also made little “mimi” figures, which are supposed to bring positive energy. I think I personally prefer the painting project, but this was fun too. Mom even made it down to play with a little clay. It was during class that we heard about the earthquake in Christchurch. I think it gave all of us goose bumps since we were only there a few days ago. The news has been coming in all afternoon and the area that we visited was directly impacted and many of the things we saw have been severely damaged or destroyed. I look at my pictures, especially of the cathedral, and realize that it will not look like that again. We’ve all been very saddened by the news as we received such a warm welcome by the people there. This earthquake caused so much more damage than the one last September because the epicenter was so close to Cathedral Square and it was very shallow. We are so thankful it didn’t hit while we were there.
We opted to go to the dining room for lunch, only the second time this entire trip. It takes much longer since you are served course by course. I had been struggling with the internet all day long and had not been able to post from Monday. I was quickly getting frustrated. I had to give up since we wanted to go and listen to a lecture on our next two stops, Kangaroo Island and Adelaide. Let’s hope the weather warms up! It has been so cold this past week, and of course neither of us packed for this. The other exciting part of the afternoon was doing some much needed laundry. We need to get to 100 days on Silversea so we get complimentary laundry! Tonight was formal, so we went down to listen to Eric before dinner and had a drink with Bill and Martha who we met last week. They ended up joining us for dinner down in the restaurant. We really enjoyed their company. There was a show after dinner, but we opted to listen to music and chat with Andrew and Monica our trivia buddies. Tonight we fall back just ½ hour. I really can’t figure this one out!

Monday, February 21, 2011

We Made it to Tasmania!

We wanted to take him home!
I need to make a point of clarification on yesterday’s blog – we were actually experiencing 30+ foot waves (I’m still working on my metric conversion). I think I finally managed to get to sleep around 3 am or so after the “crashing noises” ceased. This morning we had to go through Australian Immigration at 8 AM. I’m not sure I remember much about it since I was still under the heavy influence of Dramamine (should have only taken one pill). After finishing the immigration procedures I ended up having to go back to bed and try to sleep it off. Mom had to drag me out a little after 11 so we could get ready for today’s tour. We were able to use Skype to call and check on Dad and to let him know how Mom was doing. We grabbed a very quick lunch before having to meet down on the pier. It was so cold out today with very high winds. The first thing our guide commented on was how unusually cold it is for this time of year. As we departed we saw a live protest going on regarding the foresting practices that was blocking the street. On the way up to the wildlife preserve we learned more about Tasmania and the fact that it was basically settled by convicts from mainland Australia. The island is the same size as Sri Lanka, but only has a population of 500,000 people whereas Sri Lanka has 22 million inhabiting the same amount of space. Needless to say, there is still a lot of open land. As we were driving we could see the snow coming down on the mountain ahead of us, and its summer!
Snow in summer!
We arrived at Bonorong Wildlife Park, which is a wonderful open style reserve. They also help rescue animals that are sick or have been injured. Our guide looked like someone straight out of the outback, but was most informative.  Our fist stop was to see a baby wombat, but since he is nocturnal, he didn’t want to come out. Kangaroos were wandering free throughout, but they all seemed a little lazy as they were just lying around sunning themselves. 

We were given food and were able to have them come up and eat out of our hands. This was short lived because it was so cold and windy. We also saw the famed Tasmanian Devil which is small and has fierce teeth. They are actually on the endangered species list due to a cancer that has come about in the last 10 years. As probably everyone knows, Tasmania is the only place where these creatures are found in nature.

The highlight for me was the koala. I think he is the cutest creature I have ever seen. We were able to go up and pet him. Mom and I both wanted to take him home, but we’re not sure what US Customs would say about that.
 
We also saw some unusual birds (I need to look up the name since I forgot to get a photo of the type) and some wallabies, which are sort of a smaller type kangaroo, but with a different style tail. We even saw one with a baby in her pouch, though I wasn’t fast enough to catch it in a photo.
Sweet wallabie
After spending some time at the park we were all happy to get out of the cold wind and back in the coach. We took a short drive down to the town of Richmond. It is a quaint little town where the oldest Catholic Church in Australia is located. 
We had a very limited amount of time to walk around and since Mom is still under the weather we opted to have a latte and split an ├ęclair in the local bakery (that’s for you Dad)! It was then time to head back to the ship as we were sailing at 5 PM. Mom and I both had spa appointments that we had to get back to – our nails were in need of help! Mom did go back to the doctor for a follow up and it seems that she is doing well, but still has a lot of infection to get rid of before she feels better. 
Rainbow as we departed.
Dinner tonight was supposed to be at Hot Rocks, but the ship was again moving considerably and the winds were howling, so we had to cancel that idea and eat in the restaurant. We dined with a number of wonderful people, but then instead of going to the show, we opted to go and listen to our favorite pianist who we’ve missed seeing for the past several evenings. I think Mom had enough for the day so we called it an “early” night. The ship has calmed down since earlier this evening so hopefully we’ll have a good night’s sleep!