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LIVE From the Seabourn Encore with PHOTOs, Sydney-Sydney 3/8-3/22/20


Catlover54
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DH and I boarded the Encore March 8 in Sydney for a two-week cruise to Batemans Bay, Hobart, Portland, Penneshaw, Adelaide, Philip Island, Melbourne, Eden, and back to Sydney.  We spent four pre-cruise nights at the Four Seasons in Sydney.

It is my 8th SB cruise, but my first time on the Encore, a ship significantly bigger than the Quest and Odyssey. We had previously only spent two nights in Melbourne as part of a New Zealand cruise a few years ago on Silversea, so most ports are new to us.

 

This is the route:

 

 

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PRE-CRUISE, SYDNEY:

 

We arrived in Sydney on a non-stop from San Francisco with a pleasant enough  United, Global First flight, booked through SB Air at significant discount. Our previous seat reservations from months ago had disappeared the day before the flight, but we secured reasonable substitutes.

We were and are worried about the corona virus, as is everyone.

 

Four Seasons had our Harbor  view room ready early and after settling in we hit the streets to explore on  a drizzly afternoon.

 

It was already pretty clear we were not in the U.S. when we had driven  by the 

Guillotine restaurant,  we saw the nearby convenience  store had jerkey made from emu, kangaroo, and crocodile, and a local gourmet restaurant menu advertised rare kangaroo filet with fennel. As we like fries, we noted that ketchup is called “tomato sauce”.  Because I take many medications, just in case, I also noted that  a pharmacist is called a “chemist”.

 

Depending on wifi speeds, I will post some of the scenes from our walks the next few days around the Quay, 

The Rocks, Dawes Point,the Opera House, Karabilli, the Botanical Gardens, and Bondi Beach, and on the cruise.  Most photos are by DH with a proper camera, some are by me with just an iPhone.

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First impressions of Sydney:

 

Humid

Expensive

Striking

Expensive 

Friendly

Expensive

Loud

Expensive 

Fit 

Expensive 

Construction

Expensive

Fashion-conscious

Expensive

Asian

Expensive

Dynamic

Did I mention expensive? — and beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

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Inspirational ( including St. Mary’s church, and the Anzac Memorial which requires a large supply of tissues):

 

 

 

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Memorial to Aborigine servicemen:

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Soil from the towns of the soldiers:

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We did a day tour with a private guide including lunch at Iceberg’s restaurant near Bondi Beach, with murals on the way.  
 

But first, Luna Park — the face recently had dental work

 

 

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Memorial to the slaughtered at the Bali terrorist bombing:

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Wendy’s secret garden:

 

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Home construction:

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Alone at last:


 

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We often land up taking pictures of silly or absurd things when we get tired.

 

Here we took a picture of a guy taking a picture of women trying to keep their hair presentable in the wind for a  picture everyone will forget about by next week.
 

Many women back home could use the guys who drive the Hubby van.

 

 

The pointy thing is either a tooth, a wishbone, or a cryptic piece of art

 

The mural looks like it is done a bit in Aborigine style, with dots and circles and a primitive animal that looks vaguely familiar

 

We need about 2000 signs like the one near the bridge,  for San Francisco

 

 

Then a big tall thing that looked like a rectangular government building with a crane pulled up in front of our hotel.  Except it is actually a huge ship with an observation booth in that big swinging arm.

Perhaps SB could do this too!

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DAY 1, Sunday March 8, Embarkation in Sydney

 

Embarkation was at the distant White Bay cruise terminal, which is away from the inner Sydney.

Our cabbie’s GPS took him to the wrong gate and he landed up in a shouting match with a port worker who called him “sketchy” and accused him of trying to cheat us ( though we did not yet feel cheated). I did not know why they were fighting so much about a wrong turn, while we sat mutely  just hoping to get to the terminal.  Finally the cabbie pulled over and started unloading our big bags which would have been great if it had been the area  for the Encore, but it was  for a Holland America ship.  So back into the trunk went the heavy bags.  Meanwhile we did start feeling cheated, as the meter was running.

 

It took just short of an hour to finally get on board, much slower than on other SB cruises, but with friendly port  and SB workers

Despite corona virus concerns in the world , we did not have our temps  taken, we just filled out a simple questionnaire about China and other travel hot spots and the port worker briefly thumbed through a couple of my many passport pages.

 

We headed for our usual boarding lunch at the Colonnade. 

I asked for a glass of Pinot Noir and the waiter  simply said he did not have any, and then stood there.

I countered with, “ none on the whole ship?” He said, after a pause ( not very convincingly) “ no, it was not delivered!” Later at dinner in the TK Grill, it became clear that several Pinot Noir wines are  indeed on board, so the Colonnade waiter was likely simply uninterested in finding one for me.

 

Despite corona, the ship is just short of full, not surprisingly with many elderly people from Australia enjoying themselves.

 

Muster in the casino was also slow getting going, and we received the usual instructions, plus advice not to shake hands or hug fellow pax.

 

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We were also late sailing, sailed at 8 instead of 7.

DH kept himself busy exploring the ship and taking pictures, including during sail away while we dined at the TK Grill.

 

 

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The Retreat ( empty)

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Goodbye to the opera house:

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Hot tub in bow of deck 7:

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Stairway looking down ( or is it up?)

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So far, the ship strikes me as bigger and less personal than the Odyssey or Quest. But 

I liked the bigger TK grill better here, compared with the smaller ships.  There is a nice bar, and it is also a pleasant open area.  It would have been quieter too but for a loud and inebriated American group of eight.

 

Food was ok.

The Dover sole was disappointing this time ( I liked it on previous trips) , but the steak DH had was fine. It was also nice to see premium wines offered by the glass, with Corovin extraction.

 

The suite is fine, and has enough room for our hoarded travel stuff.  It is nice to see both a rinsing hose and a sturdy grab bar in the tub. There are adequate chargers. So far, the stewardess has been responsive to requests.

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DAY 2, Monday March 9

Our Batesmans Bay excursions  were cancelled due to swells so could not tender, and had an early sea day.

Talks on sharks and eggs were offered.  The one on eggs, done by an ornithologist, was very interesting and included a picture  of a 67 year old albatross laying an egg, which she has done annually since age 5.  She looked pretty good too, still fluffy feathered, (so perhaps some ladies in the audience around that age were a bit envious?)

 

Apparently there is a clown egg museum somewhere, with clown facial expressions drawn on the eggs.

 

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Lunch in the calm MDR, a porcetta special, was wonderful, but dinner not so much.  Understaffing is a problem.

We were ignored for 20 minutes after we were seated before we could order anything.  My dish that was supposed to be “pork goulash” was a flavourless desiccated hard series of lumps with tomato sauce and what tasted like a few random charred embers tossed in.  I have had better food and service at basic diners. 

 

My spirits rose, however, during the evening show.

Beautiful, energetic and talented Australian piano  virtuoso Van Ahn Nguyen, wearing a fluffy long white draping dress in which she resembled a swan ( despite the four inch heels) put on a stunning performance.  We had seen her a few years ago on an SS cruise and she remains as impressive as before.

Bravo to SB for bringing her on to allow us to enjoy her playing.

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Artlee, no worries.  We always figure out how to make the best of minor irritations, if the overall experience is good, and so far it is ( if we have Coronavirus quarantine surprises, that will be something else . . . ) ! 

I am a SB fan ( also a Hapag Lloyd lover) but not a cheerleader, and in my blogs I like to report both good and bad so that assuming there is still a cruise industry in the future, people have a lot of information to help them decide which line or ship they prefer. Other blogs and trip reports have similarly helped me plan my travels.

 

Today is DAY THREE, a sea day again,

and I am enjoying just lying around in the gently rocking bed and gazing at the sea on a beautiful day as we head for Hobart. I always sleep well on cruises, more so than in vacation hotels.

 

Formal night is in the MDR tonight. The evening entertainment will be the old Tim Rice show, which we are not huge fans of, so we will probably check out other options.

The schedule is replete with all the usual sea day activities, plus a talk by the captain about Australia, and more ornithology speeches ( including more about albatrosses).
DH has used the gym ( likes it, and also the fact that people wipe down their equipment) and we both have spa appointments later which always help Us relax.

 

People on board seem to be having a good time, though of course you hear many murmurs about the corona news.

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A morning talk was not by THE captain, but by a retired Australian naval officer who talked about prior Australia explorers — Chinese,Portuguese, French, Dutch, and more, not just Captain Cook.  He bounced around a bit so I had some difficulty following, but it was ok. 

 

The ornithologist Danae Sheehan was back to talk in more detail about albatrosses.  Among other interesting bits, we learned about this bird’s built-in desalination “plant” , their salt glands, which along with their up to 13-foot wingspans allow them to spend 95% of their lives gliding around in the open ocean.

I simply love her interesting style. She exuded enthusiasm for her subject, which is infectious, and has inspired me to pay more attention to birds this cruise.  She punctuated her talks with quotes from historical birdwatchers’ writings, in a very pleasant, descriptive voice.  She will fortunately be giving more talks.

 

DH was meanwhile very pleased with his SPA massage.  I had a manicure, in a pleasant, light, open care area where several guests getting nail or hair care sit looking out at the sea and listening to spa music (  nice it was not peppy pop).  It was fine overall, despite a skin nick and blood draw due to overly aggressive cuticle care. The manicurist is from northern Italy, so is obviously worried about the medical mess back home. 
 

MDR lunch was decent.  It is open 12:30-1:30, at least so far and  offers three daily specials plus the classic always available menu. The waiter was good enough, but there were obviously some minor language barriers.  I asked for a cheeseburger with Swiss cheese, done medium.  It arrived very pink, medium rare, and had no trimmings other than the cheese.  Apparently the waiter thought when I asked for Swiss cheese instead of the usual cheddar, it meant I did not want anything else on it.  
 

I recommend having a waiter reflect your order back, to avoid confusion.  I ate it as is, because we were in a hurry to rebook an excursion for tomorrow SB short notice cancelled due to not enough people signed up.

 

A fit SB Ventures team is on board to assist with more active excursions and education, such as kayaking, hiking, biking, and birdwatching, and we were given information about the new expedition ship SB has coming out in 2021.  DH, who (does not know how to swim as iris not a requirement) is now signed up for his first experience kayaking in Hobart ( in a life vest of course). I will just walk.

 

 

 

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Thank you for the lovely photos - you have quite an artistic flare.

 

Not sure when you arrive in Adelaide or what tours they are offering but if you like food and wine we have wonderful wineries in the Adelaide Hills (some vineyards were damaged in recent bushfires but cellar doors are still open for tasting) and of course the Barossa Valley is only a couple of hours from Port Adelaide.

If you want to do your own thing Adelaide is a very walkable city, has an excellent food market (Adelaide Central Market) wonderful restaurants, not much high end shopping but not as expensive as Sydney.

The weather should be good, in fact we are still waiting for summer, I hope you enjoy our pretty city.

If you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try to answer them for you.

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Catlover54

 

Thank you for posting! With the overload of bad news which seems to coming at us from all fronts on an hourly basis - coming across your post a few minutes ago is a welcome respite. Please continue to post if you can and bring us all along as you enjoy your sailing. Stay well - safe and healthy travels.

 

Bob

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I am glad to hear some readers are enjoying the blog, so will keep going. 
So far, so healthy!

 

Last night, service  at dinner in the MDR on formal night after a calming sunset was not great, but good enough and better than the night before.  We were quickly seated at a still hopefully corona-free table for two at 8 PM in a very full room. Because we did not want either of the two dinner wines being offered, or the SB-made semi-sparkling water, it took 20 minutes to get our different wine choices from the not-advertised complimentary list I keep a picture of on my iPhone, and some branded sparkling water from a bottle.  It was not clear who was in charge, as three different guys were showing up asking us about water and wine and they did not seem to be communicating. If we had agreed to one of the two wines offered and the water from the jugs, it would only have taken 5 minutes, so that is good if you are not picky and just want to get on with it.

 

DH had Beef Wellington, and said it was very good.  I had lobster in butter with lemon risotto and asparagus, which was fine ( presentation depicted below), neither the best lobster I ever had (Maine and California, on land) nor the worst ( on a Regent Navigator cruise a few months ago, which was too rubbery to cut even after I asked for a steak knife).  Both our desserts were excellent ( strawberries Romanoff ,which was definitely fit for a czar even if not under pre-execution arrest, and a soufflé with orange essence.

 

Then this morning, we docked in Hobart on a beautiful morning, where was will have an overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

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