Saturday, December 15, 2018

Around Australia - Sea Princess - Darwin

Our next stop was Darwin and it was probably our second least favorite port of call. As predicted and warned, it was hot and humid. Our plan was to visit the George Brown Darwin Botanical Gardens and then wander in the city center a bit.

There was a bus from the ship that took passengers to the Visitor's Center. From there a couple of buses were running loops, one of which stopped at the Botanical Gardens. We hopped on that and were dropped off in the garden's main parking lot after driving through the central business district filled with uninteresting architecture. When we got to the gardens, we found out that only the early buses were doing the garden route. For the return bus, we would have to walk to the casino, a bit over 1/2 mile. Shouldn't be too bad but we turned the wrong way coming out of the gardens making the hike longer. And our pace was a crawl in the heat and humidity.

After the beautiful gardens in Perth, the Darwin garden was a disappointment. Yes, there were some beautiful trees and blooming shrubs.

But that I felt it was unkempt. I had no problem with dead leaves and branches on the landscaping. That's natural. But no attempt was made to hide unnatural things like the black hoses used for watering the plants. At one point, a small bridge we came to was closed because of rotten planks. If the gulley under the bridge hadn't been dry, which we scrambled across, we would have been looking at a long walk back the way we had come. It would have so nice, and so easy, for someone to put up a sign at the beginning of the path that said "no outlet."

Sailing out of Darwin
By the time we got back to the city center, we were done. While there was a pedestrian mall nearby for shopping (we talked to one lady later who had gotten a pedicure .. wish I had thought of that), we were done. Even the idea of stopping for something cold like ice cream didn't appeal to us. We were ready to go back to the ship.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Around Australia - Sea Princess - Cruising the Kimberly Coast

Broome is part of the Kimberly Coast. The following day, we sailed along the majestic cliffs that make up part of this pristine area, with the timing approaching sunset to set the cliffs aflame. Not much else to say here. Just some pictures of the stunning scenery.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Around Australia - Sea Princess - Broome

Yay!!! Beach day!!!

Broome, located on the northwest coast, is famous for its Cable Beach and camel rides on the said beach. We decided to forego the camel rides and just enjoy the beach.

Words can't describe how beautiful this beach is. Miles of hardpacked sand in each direction with some rocky outcroppings along the way. And beautiful blue water. We had a clear day with perfect beach temperatures. Couldn't have asked for a better beach day.

The ship docked at 2 am. Yes, that's not a typo. There are extreme tides here and to be able to have enough water under the keel, we docked at 2 am. But nobody could get off the ship before 7 am.

We were among that first group off the ship. A free shuttle ran from the ship into town. Once in town, public buses were available for AUD$10 pp for an all-day pass. (It was cheaper to pay by the ride if you were an Australian senior.) Besides the normal bus routes, there was a bus going straight from the Visitor's Center to Cable Beach. We were on the first bus and at the beach at 7:45 am.

The place that rents chairs and umbrellas was just setting up. Perfect timing on our part.

Jerry enjoyed the ocean breeze and reading and napping under the shade of our umbrella.

I walked one way up the beach, then walked the other way down the beach, then went into the very warm water. Not a swimming beach as it has rolling waves but it was still great. Then I rested a bit and then, of course, had to go back into the water again :)

We left about noon and caught a bus back to the Visitor's Center where we spent a few minutes and then walked to the ship shuttle pick up stop.

And here is where part of the day fell apart. The Broome tourism volunteers didn't do a very good job organizing the return to the ship. They were hampered by the fact that one of the buses had broken down. So the area was overcrowded. And although shade and water were provided, it was hot and a lot of people ready to return to the ship. And what made it worse was that there was no organization. All the pax were in a clump ... no line so when a bus did show up, it was mobbed. Not a good situation.

I wondered if we had stayed a bit longer if things would have been better, as in miss the rush. But according to others who came back around 2 pm, it was the same. And with a 3:30 pm sailing, wouldn't want to push it much later.

Those are the camels in the distance

Me enjoying the lounge chair

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Sea Princess - Fremantle / Perth

We docked in Fremantle which is right next to Perth.  Since we were in port from 8 am to 11 pm, there was no need to hurry off the ship.

The train from Fremantle to Perth is about a 15-minute walk at a slow pace (ours lol). The shortest way is to use the bridge over the railroad tracks but I understand that if you walk past the station, there is a place to cross at track level. We used the bridge.

The station was crowded with Sea Princess passengers and a large group of Asians, all trying to get tickets to catch the train. There were two rail agents helping everyone so it went pretty fast. We were soon aboard a very comfortable train for our 25 or so minute ride into Perth.

Once in Perth, we picked up the CAT bus transportation which is free. A bit of a caveat here. First, check your surroundings when you exit this station. I took a quick scan but I know if I had to find it again from streetside, I wouldn't be able to without some help (suggestion is to take a couple of pictures). Second, before arriving in Perth with plans to take the free transportation, check if any of it is on strike. Yes, strike! (Although I understand this doesn't happen too often.) In Perth, the bus lines are identified by color. And when we were there, the drivers for two of the lines were on strike. Fortunately, it didn't affect our plans.

Our first stop was the Perth Mint which has a very interesting history, existing because of Western Australia's gold rush. The mint is privately owned and its customers are bullion investors. We took the tour and enjoyed it, including seeing the largest gold coin in the world, 1 metric tonne of pure gold (around 3 feet in diameter) worth (at that time) over AUD $50,000,000.

Can see people in the background for size perspective
Our next stop was King`s Park, with Perth`s botanical garden. We started with lunch at the cafe in the park. Jerry had the fish and chips and I had the hummus platter. Both very good. The weather was great and we walked and walked and walked. Just beautiful with lots of plants in bloom and views over the Swan River and central Perth in the background.

Finally, time to head back to the ship. Fortunately, we didn't have to find our way back to the station we got off at. We caught a bus at the park and spoke to the driver. At one of the bus stops, she very nicely told us this was our stop and directed us towards one of the underground stations which she said would connect with the Perth/Fremantle train. (It did but a long walk from the platform we got off to the platform for the Fremantle train.)

For those that want to know, there is a Coles supermarket right across the street from the station in Fremantle. And we had hoped to spend some time in Fremantle but by the time we got off the train, we were exhausted. Time to head back to the ship for dinner because we wanted to see that night's show.

Princess had brought aboard the Western Australia Marching Police Pipe Band. We really enjoyed the show and recommend it.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Sea Princess - Busselton Margaret River Region

It was another day that dawned cloudy and looked like rain but we lucked out again and the skies cleared as we started our tour.

For our stop in Busselton, I had arranged a private tour with Dirk of Margaret River Nature Tours. I posted the tour on our Roll Call and two other couples joined us. This was a tender port, so we met our tour companions at 8:30 to make sure we got on a tender together. Since they were Elite, we ended up getting off the ship a lot faster than I thought we would.

We were ashore by 9:00 and then had to wait for Dirk. Our arranged pickup was 10. We spent our time browsing through the visitor's center. (And for those that don't want to go far from the pier, there are some very interesting options. There is a tram that runs along the VERY long jetty and also an underwater observatory, accessible from the jetty.)

We had a list of possible things to do and see which I received from Dirk. Putting our heads together via email, the three couples ( the ladies actually ... the men seem to just go along for the ride) narrowed the list down and I had emailed it to Dirk. We stopped for olive, wine, and chocolate tastings. Along the way, we saw kangaroos in the wild.

We went to Hamlin Beach which is supposed to have a school of stingrays swimming near the shore that you can hand feed. But the water was rough and they weren't there. :(   Still, I got to put my feet in the Indian Ocean, a first for me.  :)

Dirk is very knowledgeable about the geology of the area and the Hamlin Beach dunes and cliffs were a perfect place for a lesson about the ice ages and the resulting land formations.

We drove through magnificent forests where, at stops, Dirk pointed out various plants including several types of orchids. 

He took us to lookout points with stunning views.

We stopped to see one of the many caves the Margaret River region is known for.  A delicious lunch with local wine at Dirk`s B and B broke up the day.

And after a long, exhausting but most enjoyable day, we were dropped back at the jetty at 5:10 pm, in plenty of time for the last tender at 5:30.

Then we managed to finish our wonderful day with a beautiful sunset.