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Auckland to Sydney - Jan. 6-18,'05 Ports


scampi

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Kimba99 was "right on" in her description of the ports so I'll just add a few other details to the Sapphire Princess' Ports of Call:

 

Auckland: January 6, 2005 Embarcation

A nightmare. Just picture long stationary lines of people being soaked in the rain without cover outside the Hilton at Prince's Wharf, 147 Quay Street.

 

Wellington: January 8th Pouring rain. We fortunately got in the taxi line just as you exit the terminal building. We split the cost of a taxi to the Te Papa Museum with another couple who were in front of us. The full fare was $11.80 nz for the 4 of us. It was much closer to the Visitor Centre (where we were to meet for a tour) than the ship's shuttle service, faster & less expensive. We had booked via the internet the Rover Day Pass for $35NZ per person with 2 other Spangle couples in our cc group. The tour was fully booked so our pre reservations were necessary. While waiting for the private minivan, we purchased an All Day Stagecoach Wellington Day Tripper from a Yellow City Circular Bus ($5 pp NZ or $10 for a group of 4 - What a bargain!) Our Red Rover 2 1/2 hour tour would have been excellent if not for the rain. Our tour guide highlighted a lot of information from the LOTR including Peter Jackson's waterfront home(s), etc. We got off at the site of the Botanical Gardens & Cable Car Museum just as the sun came out. Briefly toured the gardens around the observatory & the museum & rode the cable to town for less than $2 nz. We used the City Circular Bus to tour the city, stopped off at the Te Papa Museum (free admission), did some shopping, caught the bus (runs every 15 minutes), exited at the Railroad & walked about 5-10 minutes back to the ship. Great day!

 

Christchurch: January 9th Overcast but no rain! The ship has a free shuttle bus that takes you to the Lyttleton Club on the corner of Dublin & London St. in Lyttleton. You are not allowed to walk from the ship to the outside gates. There are representatives from the Visitor Centre at the club who sell tours, give out information. Also there are buses that will take you into Christchurch's Cathedral Centre, etc. I had family who met us there for a reunion with friends & family. One of the highlights of our day was going to the Sunday open air markets inside the grounds at the Arts Centre in the former Christchurch University. Bought Maori jewelry at reasonable prices from individual artists at the stalls.

 

Leaving the ports: Crowds of people lined all around Lyttleton roads waving us goodbye. There were bagpipes playing in Wellington with cars honking their horns & waving to us as they passed by the ship. It was quite a moving send off!

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Dunedin: Monday, January 10. Light a.m. showers. We had pre-booked from Princess the A.M. Half-day van with driver-guide PC3U1. We divided the $249 cost between 4 couples from our Spangles cc group. We had pre-confirmed a tour at the Albatross Centre (info.@albatross.org.nz) (cost $25 ppnz) followed by a 10:45 am tour at Penguin Place penguin.place@clear.net.nz (attn: Liz McGrouther). Our guide Ken from Dunedin Taxis was excellent. He followed all of our pre planned itinerary. We briefly toured the railroad station, followed the Nightcliff & Harrington roads to Taiaroa Head going and the scenic Harrington & Portobello Roads coming back. Three couples were dropped off at the Octagon & one couple chose to ride back to the ship with the driver. It was perfect weather for the albatross who soared in the wind & displayed all kinds of interactions with each other. I purchased a wonderful video, "Grandma, the oldest albatross" by Wild South at the center that was filmed at this Albatross Colony. Buses & tour groups were deciding not to tour Penguin Place. They were told that 97% of their newest baby Penguin chick population had died from a mouth disease. Six of us chose to take the tour and we were glad that we had. Our informative guide from Penguin Place drove us by bus through spectacular back country to the colony. We saw seals sunning themselves on rocks, juvenile penguins in nests and an adult penguin waddling out to sea. Back at the entrance we observed an injured adult penguin in their "hospital." They had reduced the price for the tour to $20nz although the tour was worth much more! In town my DH and I also had a pre-confirmed 2:00p.m. $12 pp Senior rate Speights Brewery tour (www.speights.co.nz). This Heritage Tour was also excellent and anyone who hadn't prebooked was out of luck! After, a short walk to the Octagon we took the ship's shuttle back to the ship. Bagpipes played and people from Port Chalmers and all along the Otago Peninsula shoreline waved us goodbye for another heart warming sendoff!

 

Fiordland National Park! The weather was warm and the skies were clear! The lecture by John van Tunzelman in the Princess Theater, and his commentary via the loudspeakers and the television was very informative and helpful! It didn't matter if you were port side or on the starboard. All the scenery was magnificent! We spent most of the day on our balcony and there was great viewing on the decks whenever we chose to eat at Horizon Court. Another marvelous day at sea!

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Hobart: Friday, January 14th Warm, clear day!

 

We went through a well organized Australian Customs and Passport Inspection

process before going ashore. Make sure you do not have any food of any type with you as you disembark in the Australian ports. That is also true of all the New Zealand ports. There were dogs sniffing purses, etc. in Hobart and in Wellington.

 

We had booked the Princess tour "Forest Nature Walk & Wildlife Park" (8:15 am to 4:15 pm). We didn't leave until well after 8:45 because of late passengers & some who didn't show. (I had forgotten why I enjoy small minivan tours better.) The guides were very good and knowledgeable. Most of the passengers were friendly and courteous. A few were not. One was particularly rude to a tour guide shouting out at him to put on his hearing aid. Our tour included a fabulous buffet luncheon at Kabuki by the Sea. This restaurant perched on a cliff top overlooked Great Oyster Bay to Maria Island. Our feast of a variety of seafood, salads, etc. included beer, wine, or a soft drink followed by tea and an array of sinful desserts. Our tour took us to the East Coast with some beautiful scenery. The tour ended with an hour to spend at Bonorong Wildlife Park. We patted a koala, hand fed kangaroos and marveled at Tasmanian Devils, wombats and other wildlife indigenous to Australia. Then it was back to the ship and unfortunately no time to see Hobart itself. One tip: There are vendors outside on the docks selling boomerangs, etc. Save your purchases for Melbourne or Sydney itself. We bought some items that we later learned were at least double in price.

 

Melbourne: Sunday, January 16 Beautiful warm day!

After the Hobart bus tour experience, I cancelled our Princess tour for the day.We bought an all day metlink pass at a local store a short walk from the ship. We used the pass often and visited the Queen Victoria Market, the Melbourne Museum, and lots of other sites. But our favorite was the Melbourne Highlights Coffee Cruise that included a cruise up the picturesque Yarra River on an antique steamboat with commentary on the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne Cricket Grounds, the Governor's Residence, the various historical bridges and more. We then cruised down the river on a ferryboat with commentary on the Crown Entertainment Complex, the Convention center, the Polly Woodside ship and more. The fare was $32 aud for the 2 of us (half price) with our prebought Australian Privileges card. Getting back to the ship with our metlink pass was a cinch thanks to very helpful bus drivers and Melbourne passengers. Again, crowds of people waved us goodbye from outside the gates. Someone told me they were merely giving us the Australian salute (waving off flies) but I prefer to believe they were truly wishing us a fond farewell!

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Scampi,

 

So glad your day in Melbourne was so pleasant. Don't take any notice of those who said we were waving the flies away. :mad: We love seeing the big ships in Port and everyone loves to say farewell. :) :) Anyhow this summer I haven't seen any flies in Melbourne only down in the bush. :(

 

Jennie

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Sydney: Tuesday, January 18 to Saturday, January 22nd

 

January 18th: We were awakened at 4:30 a.m. by lights outside our balcony. It was a tugboat directly at the aft & port side helping to dock the Sapphire Princess. The view of the Opera House and of the city in the morning hours was awesome. I hope our pictures turn out. After an early breakfast in Horizon Court, we were one of the first to disembark (Brown #4 Independent arrangements) at 6:45 a.m. We had a 9:30 a.m. appointment at the Marriott Harbourside to meet family/ friends who had come from Pheasants Nest in Australia and from Christchurch, New Zealand. Disembarkation was easy and well organized. Our only problem was one of our luggage pieces was labeled to be opened for inspection. The "problem" turned out to be a wooden suit hanger. Beware of bringing any wooden items into Australia. The hanger was o.k. for entry. Also allowed was our boomerang from Hobart. There are plenty of taxis and minivans outside the terminal. For those with lots of luggage, walk past the taxis to the minivans. It was only about $5 aud to get to the Marriott. Actually it's a little over a 5 minute walk.

 

January 18-22nd:

Thanks to Priceline we had pre-purchased 4 nights for a total of $392 U.S.(including tax)at the Sydney Marriott Harbourside. We were offered an upgrade of $99 aud (for 2) and $140 aud (for 3) per night for the Executive Level which we accepted. Our room upgrade included a great Harbour Bridge view on the 29th floor of not only our ship but of other ships passing under the bridge. It also included a full daily hot & cold breakfast buffet from 6 - 11 a.m.; hors' d'ouevres (more like another meal) and desserts from 5:30 -7:30 pm; cocktails (gin,vodka,whisky, and mixes, etc.), beer, wine, soft drinks from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and tea, coffee (cappuccino, cafe latte, etc.), bottled water and softdrinks all day until midnight in the lounge with excellent views.

 

The Marriott location is perfect for walking around the Rocks, Circular Quay,

the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens and more. We bought a 7 day pass at the train station for $40 pp aud that included all day bus, train and ferry transportation. We never had to call a cab or even catch a bus. We went by ferry to Manley Beach, twice to Darling Harbor and one day to Parramatta with our new cruise critic friend Roseberry (Kathy & Dennis). We went by train to the Blue Mountains ($12 RT) & toured them via the Hop on Hop off Explorer Bus ($22 aud) there. Kathy & Dennis showed us around their hometown in the 7 Hills area and we ate at a wonderful steakhouse with them. Our new Spangle cruise critic friends Cinnamon (Corinne & John) dropped in on us at the Marriott and told us about the Queen Victoria Building & Chinatown market buys so the next day we were off to explore those gems. The Paddington Market in Chinatown has wonderful buys. Just take your time walking through the aisles looking for items. We were very pleased with our buys. We walked to and attended a performance at the Opera House, walked through the Botanical gardens and enjoyed a walk through the Rocks open air Market on our last day, Saturday the 22nd in Sydney. We visited many more places and have wonderful memories of Sydney and of all our other ports. We know you will equally enjoy your vacation to the land down under!

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Hi Cinnamon & John, Yes we absolutely loved the Queen Victoria Building. We had no trouble finding it and it was an excellent walk from our hotel. What an architectural treasure both inside and out. We browsed the shops, marveled at the clocks suspended from the ceiling and also enjoyed the displays, especially the Chinese wedding all jade carriage. Even the women's bathroom was unique. We made it to all 3 levels but I'm sure we didn't see even a third of it. Many thanks to both of you for telling us about the QVB and also about Chinatown. We ended up in Darling Harbour and took the ferry back to Circular Quay. It was a great day! Hugs, Santa & Bob

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