Sydney and home

Circular Quay, Sydney

Circular Quay, Sydney

Well, the plus-size vocalist has performed (the fat lady’s sung) and our trip is all over.
It’s been a great trip and is has been wonderful to catch up with friends and family but now reality has bitten and I’m back in my office.

There’s one small consolation … the countdown timer on my computer which tells me how many days I have left until I retire … 🙂
So, it isn’t actually all that bad, but it does remind me of those words from ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ by A.B. (Banjo) Paterson:

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

http://pscottier.com/2012/01/23/tuesday-poem-clancy-of-the-overflow-by-a-b-banjo-paterson/

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Brisbane

Brisbane

Coffee in Brisbane

Wednesday 11th March

We all ended up going into Brisbane using the shuttle bus from the ship. We wandered around the CBD and bought some cough and cold medications from a chemist shop. Stopped for a coffee and a sit down, wandered some more then got the shuttle bus back to the ship in time for a late lunch.
We’ll have an afternoon nap now and then wander up to the Sky Lounge later for our regular afternoon drinks.

We have a sea day tomorrow so we’ll probably do the bulk of our packing during the course of the day. We’re in Newcastle on Friday and we disembark in Sydney on Saturday. A train ride home on the XPT and then, sadly, it’s all over 🙁

There is a sad postscript to this. Less than nine months after this photograph was taken our friend David was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. David passed away early in 2016.
I’ll keep this post on our blog because this is how I want to remember my friend and cruising companion … the good times!

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A Sea Day

Tuesday 10th March

We have a sea day today and will arrive at Brisbane on Wednesday morning.
It’s been a great day. To start we won the morning trivia competition. We’ve been one or two points off all cruise but today we finally cracked it and we’re now each the proud owners of a Celebrity Cruises luggage tag … plus of course the all-important bragging rights 🙂
This evening we saw a great show in the theatre. It was very much in the style of Cirque du Soleil with jugglers and acrobats. The costumes were amazing and the production had us spellbound for 45 minutes.
We had one last thrill in store when we returned to our cabin after dinner. Those who have cruised will probably be familiar with the towel creatures that the cabin stewards sometimes make. We’ve had some really good creatures on this voyage but this evening we had the towel creature to beat them all … a full sized person. Just check out the picture below!

I’m posting this early on Wednesday morning as we’re in the process of docking in Brisbane and have Internet access. I’m pleased to report that Barbara is starting to feel a lot better … but I think I’m now coming down with the same cold 🙁
Still not sure whether we’re going to venture into Brisbane. It depends mostly on whether we can find an easy way into the city from the dock area.
I’ll post again when we’re leaving this evening.

The ultimate towel creature!

The ultimate towel creature!

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Cairns

A rocky ride on the tenders

A rocky ride on the tenders

Cairns – Sunday 8th March

We arrived off Cairns at around 11:00am today. The day started out quite dull but has brightened up as the day has progressed. Unfortunately it’s also quite windy here and that has caused the tender operation to be suspended a few times. Some of the reef tour boats must have been at least a couple of hours late getting away. Even now at 3:45pm there are queues of people waiting to go ashore and the tenders are full to the brim despite being supplemented by some large catamarans from shore. The tenders go ashore at Yorky’s Knob Harbour which is then a further 30 minute (and $15.00) bus ride from Cairns itself.

We’re not scheduled to sail until 7:00pm but along with the queues and delays with the tenders, Barbara still isn’t feeling very well so we’ll stay on board again. We might not even go ashore again before the cruise ends in Sydney next Saturday. The next port is Brisbane but being so large this ship can’t dock at Hamilton and instead has to dock at the commercial port … which is a long way from the city. The following port is Newcastle and once again the dock is quite a long way from anything … plus of course we’ve visited Newcastle many times as it’s only an hour or so from home.

I had a nice custom-made pizza for lunch along with a bottle of cider … so an afternoon nap is definitely on the cards 🙂

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Darwin – Cairns

Darwin

Our ship, the Celebrity Solstice, docked in Darwin today.

March 5th

A very warm and humid day here in Darwin as you would expect at this time of year. Unfortunately Barbara didn’t feel up to making the trip into town but David, Rosemary and I ventured forth. We walked into town, strolled up and down the Smith Street Mall, bought a few essentials at a chemist and then took the free shuttle back to the ship. We’ve visited Darwin a couple of times previously on cruises, most recently in October 2014, so we’ve seen most of the things it’s possible to see on short visits.

Barbara was feeling a little better when we got back to the ship so all four of us went for a coffee and a bite to eat. We have no plans for the rest of the day so we’ll just be busy doing nothing. We set sail for Cairns at 4:00pm.

The cruise around the tip of Australia has been really interesting on previous cruises so we’re hoping for the same this time. We have a balcony cabin on the starboard side so we should be able to sit and relax and watch the scenery pass by … and hope that we’re not passing the tip of Cape York in the middle of the night! 🙂

Our Internet connectivity will be a bit hit and miss over the next few days. I’ll post if and when I can otherwise it will Cairns on Sunday March 8th.

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Port Hedland – Bali – Darwin

Quietly typing in the ship's library

Quietly typing in the ship’s library

Wednesday 4th March

We’ve been to Bali too!

Having been to Bali on a previous cruise we decided to stay on the ship this time. Nothing to do with any current unrest about the impending executions of a couple of Australian drug runners. More that we find the place a bit tacky and potentially unsafe and we don’t enjoy the queues or the 30 to 40 minute ride in the tenders from the ship to the pier.
Our friends did go ashore for an hour or so and told us nothing has changed. It’s still just as grubby and there’s the same cheap (and fake) goods at the market on the pier. Anyone for a $4.00 Rolex?

Unfortunately Barbara has come down with a nasty cold and has been in bed for two days with a headache and coughing. Hopefully she’ll be well enough to go ashore in Darwin but it’s not looking very promising at the moment.
More bad news … I just found out that the ship has sold out of duty free gin and we were hoping to get a few bottles to take home with us. We should have been quicker!

I’m sitting here in the ship’s library typing on my MacBook and looking forward to having Internet access again once we reach Darwin (which is when I’ll post this to our blog). We can get Internet on the ship but it’s ridiculously expensive and frustratingly slow so we’ve avoided it. That’s one of the things we miss about our favourite Princess cruise line where we get loads of complimentary Internet courtesy of our ranking in their loyalty program.

Apart from Barbara’s cold we’re still enjoying the ship. The food and entertainment has generally been very good and our drinks “package” is proving to be a massive bargain … speaking of which, I think the sun’s over the yardarm now. Waiter! …

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Port Hedland

Port Hedland

Yes, they do have real grass on the ship!

Today (Saturday 28th) we’re in Port Hedland … a rather unusual port for a cruise ship as it’s essentially a busy commercial port based around the iron ore industry.
I think the authorities must have had a special on docking charges as I can’t think of any other reason for a cruise ship to visit the place.

The temperature here is in the high 30’s and everything is covered in red dust. We went ashore on the free shuttle which dumped us at the visitor centre where the locals had set up a small market. We could have gone to the local shopping centre from there but they wanted to sting us $5 each for a shuttle so we declined. We had a quick look around the market and were back on the ship sipping a latte in air conditioned comfort within an hour.

The ship is absolutely beautiful. The service is great as is the food and we’re really enjoying the cruise. It’s fantastic to have our friends David and Rosemary on board as it really adds to the enjoyment.
Our next port of call is Bali (Benoa) and as we’re using mobile phones for Internet it’s going to be quite a few days before we can post again … not until we reach Darwin on Thursday March 5th.

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Fremantle

We’re at Fremantle. An easy journey … free bus from the hotel to Perth train station, train to Fremantle station then a few minutes walk to our B&B. Luggage deposited and now having a late breakfast.
Our room won’t be ready until 2.00pm so we’ll do some exploring until then.

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Perth

Perth Arena

Perth Arena opposite our hotel.

We had a good flight from London to Perth via Hong Kong. It was quite a bit shorter than the outward journey. The flight time was about 10.5 hours London to Hong Kong and 7.5 hours Hong Kong to Perth … which is a total of about four hours less than outbound. Perhaps it’s downhill??

We were still quite exhausted by the time we got to our hotel in Perth … an easy (but expensive) taxi ride from the airport. The hotel room is very nice. Quiet with comfortable beds but the room was freezing cold and today we had to get the hotel to adjust the temperature as guests can’t do it themselves because the in-room controls are non-functional throughout the hotel … by design!

Also very disappointed to find they want to sting guests $20 for a 24 hour chunk of in-room WiFi access. The “with WiFi access” in the room description when we booked is completely misleading. Yes, there is access … but it isn’t free like just about every other hotel in the World. Fortunately I have a good data plan on my iPhone so we’re not without Internet access.
The Four Points by Sheraton is the fourth hotel we’ve stayed at so far on this trip. It’s by far the most expensive but easily the most disappointing. The hotel we stayed at in Cardiff was less than half the price here but was just as good … and it had free, unlimited WiFi.

We slept in until after 9.00am then went for a walk to find some breakfast. Back to the hotel for an afternoon nap then out to find dinner. There’s a lot of people in town as there’s been a Perth Wildcats (basketball) game on at the Perth Arena directly opposite our hotel. All the Wildcats fans wear red shirts and I just happened to have a red T-shirt on so I blended in nicely.
As you would expect for Western Australia this time of year the weather is warm and sunny. Quite a contrast to the UK!

We’ve worked out how to get to Fremantle tomorrow … a short walk, a train then another short walk. We did a reconnaissance mission to the station to check that it’s not going to be too far or too difficult walking while dragging suitcases.

The next update will hopefully be from our B&B accommodation in Fremantle tomorrow evening 🙂

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Goodbye Cardiff

Sadly our time in Cardiff is over.
Today we take an express bus to London, stay overnight at a hotel near Heathrow and fly out on Friday for Perth via Hong Kong.

We’ve had a brilliant stay here. It’s been so good to catch up with family and we’re really going to miss everyone.

Yesterday we had a nice day out to Cardiff Bay and Penarth, a walk on the pier followed by a lovely lunch at the marina. Today it is grey and raining but it could be worse … we could be in Queensland!

I’m not sure what Internet access we’ll have for the next few days but I’ll post as and when I can.

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