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After visiting Sydney and Melboure, Australia we were finally ready to board our ship, The Sea Princess.  By noon we were back at the hotel from our Hop On And Off Trolley we had taken to the international market.  Since it was only a block away to the ship we made two trips.  We got our suitcases checked in and went back to the hotel for our carry-ons.

Boarding the ship was pretty easy since so few people got on in Sydney.  The ship, which is one of their older ships in the Princess fleet, holds just under 2,000 passengers.  It started in Brisbane.  Then 400 of us got on in Sydney, although some of those people will get off in Auckland, New Zealand.

In Auckland they will take on another 400 passengers and then we would be on our way.  We found out later there were only 26 Americans on board.  We would travel across the South Pacific to Santiago, Chile, where we got off.

We only did a small segment of the cruise (21 days) but many people were on for the whole cruise. After Santiago the ship would continue south to the tip of South America and then all the way up the Eastern side and through the Panama Canal.  Then they would travel half way back down the western side of South America before heading back to Australia.
That evening the ship sailed and we began our journey East back through several time zones. We moved our time up an hour that night and the next day was the first of three days at sea before we reached our first port.  We were sailing in the Tasman Sea and the Coral Sea was just above us.  This was a typical sea day.  I looked in on trivia, went to a couple of dance classes and got ready for dinner.  We were at a table for 4 where we met a very nice Australian couple.  After dinner I went to the show with a Johnny Cash impersonator who was very good.

The next sea day was a shopping spree outlet day and my brother and I bought some T-shirts for $6.99 Australian (only about $5.00 US). I spent time in the gym and sauna and went back to line dancing class and trivia.  There are so many activities onboard you always felt very busy.

That evening was formal night.  After dinner there was a champagne reception and then we saw a light opera show.  After that was another show with “Mr. Sandman.”  He had a box of sand and made incredible creatures in the sandbox.  When we went to bed we had to change our time forward once again.

Our third sea day was a repeat of the day before.  We read a lot and I went to trivia again.  I met two couples from Australia I sat with every day for trivia.  I didn’t know much Australian trivia and they didn’t know much American trivia so we made a great team. There was a sit down pizza restaurant on board and we decided to do that for dinner.  Then we watched a movie under the stars.

The fourth sea day we landed! We were in Auckland, New Zealand.  We had reservations for the Hop On & Off Trolley as well as Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.

There are two large islands in New Zealand.  One is called the North Island and the other is the South Island.  Auckland, the country’s largest city, is on North Island.  Although there are tall buildings downtown the landscape is unique with cones, craters and lakes.  These came about due to eruptions from the Auckland Volcanic Field a long time ago.

The Hop On & Off Trolley met us right on the ship’s dock. This was called the Red Line. Our second stop was Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium so we got off.  There was a large penguin display that was pretty awesome and then we went on a rolling floor called the shark cave.  We watched huge sea mantas and sharks above and beside us.  There was even a tank full of the largest lobsters I have ever seen.  They have to keep them apart from other sea life because they said they are constant predators.  Sure wish I could have eaten one!

After the aquarium we got back on the trolley (it stops every ½ hour) and continued on to the Auckland Museum.  This held a huge collection of Polynesian artifacts as well as memorabilia from the two world wars.

At the museum we transferred to the Blue Line.  This took us to another part of the city.  We saw a soccer field that was built inside a crater, although you couldn’t really tell any more.  Our most interesting stop on this line was Mount Eden.  This is the highest point in New Zealand and is the top of an extinct volcano.

The Blue line ended back at the museum and we transferred again back onto the Red Line.  We went through an old part of town with lots of shops and restaurants that was quite charming.  They mentioned that Bill Clinton liked the area so much he had visited there twice.

Our next stop was Sky Tower, 1,072 feet high.  It is the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.  Like the Space Needle in Seattle and other similar structures sprinkled throughout the world, you ride a glass elevator up to a platform with 360 degree views.  Once you get off the elevator the tower has glass floors which make it a little scary.

If you have ever been to the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago you know there is a small glass area you can walk on and see the ground below.  But on this tower the whole platform had a glass floor which was a little eerie to walk on seeing the ground so far below.  This last summer I was in Seattle and they said they were rehabbing the Space Needle and would be putting the same type of glass floor in that structure. The tower also had several restaurants and even a casino but we did not stop.

The trolley took us over four hours to complete and then we found an internet café so we could check online messages. The ship sailed at 5:30 p.m. and we sat on our balcony sipping wine as we slowly watched the city slip away.  It had been a fun day.

The evening show was the cultural songs and dances of the region and we called it an early night after that.

Next up: Our cruise continues

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.   Great idea for Christmas gifts.

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***Note this is the 2nd part in a series.  My brother and I took a 21 day cruise across the South Pacific last winter.  Before the cruise we explored Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.***

After arriving in Sydney, my brother and I decided to take a side trip to Melbourne to see a little more of this wonderful country. We were flying Jet Star which is a budget airline.

After a long walk through the terminal we arrived in a waiting room.  My son had told us about an app called “What’s Up” which we loaded on our phones.  As long as anyone we knew loaded it onto their phones we could call or text our friends and relatives for free anywhere in the world where there is free Wifi.

We wanted to try it out so we called our brother in Madison, WI.  It was very weird.  It was Sunday morning for us in Sydney but early Saturday afternoon for him.  It was strange speaking to him like we were near each other instead of thousands of miles away and the call was free!  If you are traveling overseas I would definitely recommend you and your family and friends downloading this app.

Next was our budget airline surprise at a big airport like Sydney.  We didn’t have a gate at the airport.  Everyone was bused (it took 3 buses because it was a big plane like Southwest) out to the tarmac where we walked up the steps to board the plane.  On arrival we were in for another surprise.

An hour and 15 minutes later we arrived in some place called Avalon.  It was a tiny little airport that only Jet Star uses.  We were not in Melbourne.  We were 40 miles away and had to take a shuttle for $22 each to get to the city.  Melbourne does have a regular airport but we never saw it.

Staying at another Holiday Inn we once again lucked out.  We arrived downtown around 10:00 a.m. and discovered they had a room ready for us.  Regular check-in is 2:00 p.m.  So we put our bags in our room so we could begin our tour of the city.

Before our trip started we found a site called “Viator”.  You can get hotels, airline, or tickets to attractions whatever you need all over the world at discount prices.  We had preordered the Hop On & Off Trolleys for both Melbourne and Sydney.

Our Melbourne Trolley was for 48 hours and included an airport transfer on the return.  Naturally we discovered we would not be able to use the transfer since we were at the alternate airport.

The Visitor Center where we needed to catch our trolley was a distance away but the hotel told us there was a tram one block around the corner that ran all over and the downtown area was a free zone.
So we were off on our adventure.  We were hungry but one of the stops was the Queen Victoria Market.  This is the largest open air market in the Southern hemisphere.  We decided to get off there for lunch and shopping.

The place was huge—at least two city blocks wide by a long city block deep.  There were also little cafes everywhere as well as a food court.  Being so close to the ocean naturally I ordered the fish and chips and it even came grilled which I prefer.  About an hour and a half later we hopped back on our sightseeing bus.

By 5:00 p.m. we were worn out and stopped at a convenience store and got a sandwich for dinner that we ate in our hotel room.

The next morning we once again took the free tram to the first trolley stop. There are two separate tours in Melbourne.  Yesterday we had done the city tour so today we were taking the St. Kilda tour.  This area is south of the city and is considered Melbourne’s seaside suburb.

I enjoyed this area and we hopped off to stroll through the little shops and have lunch at an outdoor café.  The day before had been very hot but a cool front had come through so it was quite pleasant.  It had also been so hot the day before that a great white shark had been spotted near shore so the beach had been closed to swimming.

Since we saw everything there was to see we took an earlier shuttle to the airport.  We were hoping to get on an earlier flight, but no luck.  They had plenty of seats available but wanted to charge us $300 extra.  So we sat in that dinky airport and read while we waited for our 8:45 p.m. flight.  This was definitely all part of the learning experience.

We did not get back to Sydney until after 10:00 p.m.  We found a cab to take us to Darling Harbour for our luggage and then on to our Holiday Inn in Old Sydney for the next two nights.  To say we got in late was an understatement!
We had another 24 hour Hop On & Off Trolley scheduled for around Sydney.  Since we got in so late we decided to sleep in.  By starting our first tour around noon we were able to use the trolley until noon the next day and then it would be time to board our ship.

We did two tours.  One was all around the city of Sydney and the other to the Bondi Beach area.  I liked Sydney; especially the old mixed with the new.

We also discovered the city had two cruise terminals.  Much to our surprise there was a Princess ship parked across the street from our hotel when we awoke and the hotel desk said our ship, the Sea Princess, would be docked there the next day.  That would save us a cab ride to the other terminal since we could just take our suitcases across the street and down the steps.

For dinner that night we walked down the street to the “oldest pub in Sydney.”  My brother decided on the Kangaroo steak and it was surprisingly good.  It tasted like filet mignon.

We got up early the next morning and took The Hop On and Off Trolley to the City Market, called Paddy’s Market, which had been closed since our return from Melbourne.  There were a couple of hundred stalls with all kinds of souvenirs.  My brother found a hat he liked and we got sweatshirts at $10 apiece.  I just hoped we could find room in our suitcases for our purchases.

Next up: Our cruise

***Note***  I am having a special book sale.  If you go to my website (www.kileenprather.com) you can preview the first few chapters of each book.  I am selling the books for $10.00 apiece and if you buy three or more, shipping is free.  For more information email me at:  kileenp@gmail.com.

 

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