It was 6am Sunday 24th February, as our cruise ship passed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After which we went to the buffet breakfast area, into the melee of eager people all pushing and shoving to get their plates filled ready for the early start in Sydney, Florie and I were hard pressed to pick out a few meagre crumbs to sustain our dwindling bodies.
All this activity so early in the morning was because we are to loose 250 Australian passengers today, and they had to be out of their cabins early, and they were all pleased to be going back home and ‘off this dammed ship’ as many of them have often said, as we made the tortuous journey from the UK. None of the Aussies we have met have been happy with any aspect of this ship or its services.
Late last night there was an announcement over the PA in our cabin by the captain, about another tropical storm that would prevent us from landing in Hamilton Island in a few days time, so he has made the decision to stay in Sydney an extra night (HURRAH!) then the message was repeated in German and Dutch then it was given in English so we could all understand it.
The breakfast eating area was packed to bursting point (that is well past the aggravating point) with people wearing what we normally wear onboard, shorts loud shirts and sandals, all of these many people are growing out of, but now there are people in going home gear, many with large boots and backpacks or suit cases which only add to the growing tense atmosphere of polite hostility as the direct Aussies battle tooth and nail with the pissed off Brits Germans and Dutch, to get their fair share of the food, after all, all they did was complain about everything. On days like this, those in the know go in pairs, one to get the seat and stay there while the other gets some food and drink then the other gets it, Florie does it with a smile and talks people into going away, I do with a scowl, its quicker they just curl up at the edges and scurry away.
While we were noshing breakfast, a bunch of Aussies came to see us and started hugging kissing us and saying goodbye, all bringing tears to the eyes, two of them live only 20 minutes away, and another couple will be stopping in Sydney for four nights in Circular Quay before flying home to Brisbane and are happy to be getting off this accursed ship, I don’t think they enjoyed their cruise as they shed tears of joy as they skipped like children off the ship.
Early morning, it is 20°C with a 50% chance of rain, so we are only taking one umbrella with us. Well folks its coming up to 8am now, and we are ready to leave the cabin and wait in a public area, to be called to Australian Immigration, so God only knows when we will get away.
Later – Believe it or not we were called off the ship at 8.01 through immigration and on the town shuttle by 8.25 then dumped on the boardwalk of the waters of Darling Harbour before 9am. We were in an area called Barangaroo and we walked left down into Cockle Bay towards the heart of Darling Harbour on our way to China Town. As we walked, we were harassed by young runners, different colours and creeds, all in their lycra running gear, they appeared upset at having dozens of old codgers in their way, some were alone some ran in gangs all talking as they went, how do they do that? I have trouble talking while I’m driving. I had the distinct impression that they didn’t like interlopers on their Sunday morning jaunt.
Florie and I slowly walked about a mile to the ICC Theatre Building near Darling Harbour Gardens when it started to rain, when we found we had latched onto good free Wi-Fi as we sheltered for a few minutes. We dodged into a lovely cafe just near there and had hot fresh ricotta cake with fresh berries and two coffees (delicious) I can’t find the receipt to give you the name but if you are near the ICC building, it’s about 50 paces down from there, it’s well worth a visit, and they are so friendly.
We continued on to China town about another 7 minutes walk away to visit Paddy’s Market for just to look round, and left $170Au there, filling two large carrier bags just looking! By this time the town had woken up and was filling with people and traffic, well, filled with stationary traffic, would be a more accurate description, each one had ill tempered drivers in, angry at the major civil works for the new tram lines being laid in the city.
All too soon it was noon and we found a convenient Hotel, well we were stood outside it really, and it had a an advert for a meal deal with a drink for $16 so in we went, the young lady behind the bar was about 5’ 10” long black hair past her shoulders, beautiful smiling eyes, lovely full lips, her stunning figure was encased in a grey smock and tasteful black flats she had long fingers and had her nails painted, she was possibly in her thirties, she came from Germany on holiday and never went back, her smile would melt ice, I think, I can’t remember, I only saw her for a second, and the food was OK in there.
All too soon we had to leave and we found a city centre supermarket, where we got a bottle of lemon juice $1, to make Honey and lemon to ward off the ships cough, 2 large bars of Cadburys chocolate $2 each, and other odds and sods for our comfort. Next door we picked up 2ltr of red wine for $10, which is better than the £18 a bottle aboard the ship. Ladened down with all these goods we trudged back (what seemed like 10 miles) to the coach pick up point, where a nice air conditioned coach awaited us, we weren’t on the coach more than two minutes when it started raining and a few old people up the road started running towards us, soaked to the skin by the time they scrambled aboard our coach, revealing more than we wanted to see, I closed my eyes and thought of the German bar maid.
We had been out for over 6 hours, walking in the main, and we were both tired I don’t mind admitting, it had been a nice morning with variety, beauty and commerce, mixing with the young population, most of them we saw were between 20 and 30 walking round near naked some of them, with just a light scattering of old farts dressed in long trousers and checked shirts with new big Australian hats on and wives alongside carrying big handbags, like a parody of Les Dawson.
We spent a very quiet afternoon, waking up getting ready slowly for a light bite at dinner time. The ship feels very different now the Aussies have gone; it’s filled with 250 new people walking around looking at signs that tell you where you are on the ship, a lot of them still in their UK clothes and big walking boots, their cases haven’t caught up with them yet. At the buffet, missing are the faces we used to see often and said hello as they passed by their plates full up with veggie’s, now we have these new faces wandering round with plates in their hands half full of food not knowing where to go.
Final note, 10pm now and the ship is moving berths, from White Dock to Circular Quay so tomorrow we can walk directly into town from the ship, as the ship moves slowly round the harbour the whole city is lit up like a Christmas tree, where we walked in Darling Harbour the lights are so bright my camera won’t resolve it, going under the bridge at night is a new and lovely experience, but I see it from the cabin, not up on deck, my days of running up to the top deck anytime day or night to capture a killer shot are gone, no one see’s the photos anyway, so I look through the grubby windows and enjoy the moving lights until 11pm when we settle into our new berth in Circular Quay, then I pull the curtain on the day, Good night, sorry to keep you up so late.