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Photo Review: Solstice 12 Night New Zealand Holiday Cruise Dec 23 2019


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Milford Sound.jpg

Milford Sound; Dec 31, 2019

 

 

Background

 

I had many mixed feelings about writing this photo review.  Originally I was all motivated to get it out quickly for those who were taking a New Zealand sailing later in the season.  But then the COVID-19 virus brought the travel world to a standstill and my desire for publishing this faded away.  

 

But with this extended cruise stoppage now set to enter its 7th calendar month, I am getting restless and I have decided to publish something after all.  For all I know it may be a story about how cruising was before the pandemic.  We will see.

 

My job is keeping me very busy and so it may take me a while to get this entire review posted, so I hope you can bear with me.


 

Introduction

 

For those that don’t know us, we are a family of 4. At the time of this cruise our two kids were 27 (daughter) and 24 (son).  Counting this one, we have been very fortunate to cruise as family 14 times--all on Celebrity.  It was our first cruise to New Zealand but our second time on Solstice (we did the Great Barrier Reef in 2018).  Except for my wife who visited New Zealand on business many years ago, it was our family’s first visit to the “Land of the Long White Cloud”.  

 

We booked this cruise while on board Solstice during our 2018 GBR cruise (709 days in advance of the New Zealand cruise).  Our son said he was interested in seeing New Zealand and that is why I chose this itinerary.  Now that the kids are fully employed in the working world, their available vacation time has become limited.  And without the long vacation breaks that their high school and college schedules use to afford us, I find myself now booking our sailings around the expensive Christmas holidays.

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Looking forward to reading this. We cruised Auckland to Melbourne in February on Solstice. We were very lucky to get back to the U.K. less than 2 weeks before we were locked down. 

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Dec 23 2019 Solstice Itinerary and Map.JPG

 

 

Trip Outline and Plan

 

The above photo is taken from the ship’s embarkation newsletter.  It was a 12 night round trip sailing out of Sydney with five ports of call in New Zealand and a sixth stop in Australia.  We had five sea days including one that sailed through Dusky, Doubtful, and Milford Sounds.

 

Fortunately Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Years all fell on sea days which is the way I like it.  As you would expect, we had three Evening Chic nights and appropriately two of them fell on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.  

 

We flew out out of Chicago on Dec 17 2019 and explored San Francisco during our 12 hour layover.  We spent 4 nights at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel before the cruise and immediately flew back home to Chicago when we disembarked on Jan 4 2020.

 

Here is an overview of our entire trip, schedule, and activities (link)

 

New Zealand Cruise Trip Plan and Schedule.JPG

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11 minutes ago, barneyboy said:

Looking forward to reading this. We cruised Auckland to Melbourne in February on Solstice. We were very lucky to get back to the U.K. less than 2 weeks before we were locked down. 

 

Very lucky, indeed.  

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Hi David, so good to see this review- I actually haven’t been on Cruise Critic for a # of weeks, but just happened to sign on this evening and see this. I hope you and your family continue to be well. I’m so glad that you got this cruise in, before things went dormant. John and I REALLY enjoyed our South America/Antarctica cruise Feb 2-16, before things shut down- it was a magical cruise with excellent scenery and weather!
 

Our next ones are a Feb 2021 Caribbean on the Constellation and a B2B from Amsterdam on May 29 (Norway, Iceland, Ireland, etc between the two cruises). Prayers abound that we will be back to cruising as normal around those times...but of course, we remain realistic.  In the meantime, we have taken trips this summer to visit our adult daughters and sons-in-law in Houston (driving, 17.5 hours) and Henderson, NV (flying), and little lake/ cabin trips in MN and WI.
 

Our youngest Daughter (who met her Australian boyfriend on our Australian cruise in April 2018) has plans to go on the Dec 23, 2020 New Zealand Holiday cruise on the Eclipse out of her boyfriend’s hometown of Melbourne....but has very little hope remaining of going on this one. It is too bad, because the cruise is celebrating her boyfriend’s 30th birthday and they have probably 30+ family members and mates accompanying them and the cruise has been planned for 18+ months. So unfortunate....right now, she is filing something like a Compassionate Appeal to even try to just do a simple visit to her bf in December, since they haven’t been able to see each other in so long. I really admire their dedication to their relationship and keeping their commitment to each other. She hopes to move over to Australia within 12-24 months, when she finishes Grad school. 
 

Anyway, God bless you and your family... I look forward to the rest of your review, and I will definitely tell my daughter to look at it, since she may have to reschedule her cruise.

Best regards, Sharon 😊

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2 hours ago, WeBcruisingMN said:

Hi David, so good to see this review- I actually haven’t been on Cruise Critic for a # of weeks, but just happened to sign on this evening and see this. I hope you and your family continue to be well. I’m so glad that you got this cruise in, before things went dormant. John and I REALLY enjoyed our South America/Antarctica cruise Feb 2-16, before things shut down- it was a magical cruise with excellent scenery and weather!
 

Our next ones are a Feb 2021 Caribbean on the Constellation and a B2B from Amsterdam on May 29 (Norway, Iceland, Ireland, etc between the two cruises). Prayers abound that we will be back to cruising as normal around those times...but of course, we remain realistic.  In the meantime, we have taken trips this summer to visit our adult daughters and sons-in-law in Houston (driving, 17.5 hours) and Henderson, NV (flying), and little lake/ cabin trips in MN and WI.
 

Our youngest Daughter (who met her Australian boyfriend on our Australian cruise in April 2018) has plans to go on the Dec 23, 2020 New Zealand Holiday cruise on the Eclipse out of her boyfriend’s hometown of Melbourne....but has very little hope remaining of going on this one. It is too bad, because the cruise is celebrating her boyfriend’s 30th birthday and they have probably 30+ family members and mates accompanying them and the cruise has been planned for 18+ months. So unfortunate....right now, she is filing something like a Compassionate Appeal to even try to just do a simple visit to her bf in December, since they haven’t been able to see each other in so long. I really admire their dedication to their relationship and keeping their commitment to each other. She hopes to move over to Australia within 12-24 months, when she finishes Grad school. 
 

Anyway, God bless you and your family... I look forward to the rest of your review, and I will definitely tell my daughter to look at it, since she may have to reschedule her cruise.

Best regards, Sharon 😊

 

 

Hopi Point.JPG

Hopi Point

 

Hello again, Sharon.  I am glad to hear that you and your family are doing well.  Yes, both you and I are very very lucky to get in our cruises before things came to a skidding halt.  In fact I was able to squeeze in a mini family vacation to the Grand Canyon in early February to celebrate my 60th birthday!  At that time we were reading about the virus when hadn't yet come to the USA.  But it is here now.

 

That Dec 23 Eclipse boyfriend family cruise to New Zealand looks great and is almost identical to our Solstice sailing.  But, I agree that there is little hope of it going.  We have a Solstice cruise out of Sydney booked on Jan 3 (to Vanuatu and New Caledonia) and I don't see it happening either.  I feel bad for your daughter.  On the other hand, if they are to eventually get married, she should be thankful that it did not occur this year!

 

David

 

The Wave.JPG

My first hike as a 60 year old!

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we did the 14 night one about 3 years ago, thanks for bringing back the happy memories....  I haven't finished my photo review of our Iceland cruise, but you're inspiring me to stop moping & finish it,  thanks :)

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3 minutes ago, cruise kitty said:

we did the 14 night one about 3 years ago, thanks for bringing back the happy memories....  I haven't finished my photo review of our Iceland cruise, but you're inspiring me to stop moping & finish it,  thanks 🙂

 

Aww, @cruise kitty, you beat me to the punch.  I was going to mention to everyone including @WeBcruisingMN) that in preparing for this cruise, I found your photo review very helpful--and I even have it bookmarked: link.  It is very informative with very nice photos.  

 

And yes, I definitely want you to finish your Iceland photo review.  It will be good therapy for you and the rest of CCers.  I look forward to reading it!

 

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Thank you for this review.  Australia/New Zealand is on my bucket list!  This will help escape the gloomy non cruising world.  We have two planned next year, a trans-Atlantic on Princess and the Baltic on our very first Celebrity!  So, I will sit back and eagerly look forward to your review.

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I am enjoying this photo review!  We did a 16-night Australia and New Zealand cruise on Solstice in 2018.  Unfortunately we missed. The Sounds due to a medical emergency that required us to return to Melbourne.  It was a wonderful trip with a few days pre-cruise in Perth and post-cruise in Sydney.

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16 minutes ago, bama4cruisin said:

I am enjoying this photo review!  We did a 16-night Australia and New Zealand cruise on Solstice in 2018.  Unfortunately we missed. The Sounds due to a medical emergency that required us to return to Melbourne.  It was a wonderful trip with a few days pre-cruise in Perth and post-cruise in Sydney.

We were on that cruise with you!

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Mono Lake.jpg

A view of Mono Lake on the way to SFO.

 

Flying Logistics

 

The flying logistics was going to be different than normal for my family as our son moved to San Francisco while the 3 of us live in Chicago.  The flying plan was originally for the 3 of us to fly to San Francisco and for our son to join us on the trans-Pacific flight.  

 

One of the disadvantages with flying during the holidays is the expensive airfare.  When we flew to Sydney in Jan 2018 for our Great Barrier Reef cruise, I was able to spend 160,000 freq flyer points to get us the 4 of us there in economy class (and another 160,000 points to get us back).  No such luck this time.  United did away with the fixed award chart and went to variable pricing.  Flying to Sydney was now going to cost us 115,000 points each for economy class and 150,000 points each for the return trip!

 

We were originally planning on flying out of Chicago on Wed Dec 18.  However if we flew out on Tue Dec 17, the price for an award ticket fell to 40,000 points each and the cost for an additional hotel night was much cheaper.  So we moved our flights to Sydney to that date which allowed me to buy 3 round trip award tickets for 570,000 points which left me with having to purchase a round trip ticket with cash.

 

Our son did not have the vacation time to leave for Sydney one day earlier, so we flew him out on the original planned date which meant that he would arrive one day after we did--taking the same over the water flight that we took, just 24 hours later.  As it turned out, that was a good thing for us.  

 

Air Fare Screenshot.JPG

 

When I selected our tickets for the 3 of us out of Chicago, I decided to choose a 12 hour layover in San Francisco.  One reason I selected such a long layover was 2 years ago when we flew to Sydney for our Great Barrier Reef cruise, we almost missed our connection in LAX because of the weather in Chicago even though the connections were 4 hours apart.  The other reason for the long layover was that it gave us a chance to briefly see my favorite city again (for the 3rd time in 2019).  It also meant that we would have dinner with our son during the layover (even though we would be seeing him a lot for the next two weeks). I also thought that the energy spent touring San Francisco would make it easier for us to fall asleep for the overnight flight across the Pacific.

 

Here are our flight details:

ORD to SYD Flight Details.JPG

 

SYD to ORD Flight Details.JPG

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972057615_BayBridge.thumb.JPG.edcb923f31e713cd43a179e5bd0d2cca.JPG

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

 

 

First Stop, San Francisco!

 

Unlike our last time we flew to Sydney, the weather on this December day in Chicago was fine and our flight took off on time.  We landed without problem at SFO.  When we landed we stowed our carry-on luggage at the airport (link) so that we could roam around the city unencumbered.  We gave them 3-4 pieces of luggage and it cost me a total of $75.  

 

Skyline.JPG

The new Salesforce Tower dominates the San Francisco skyline view from our Lyft.

 

 

We have been to San Francisco on several occasions as a family, so I didn’t plan a sightseeing tour involving the top flight landmarks.  Instead we were going to check out lesser known places that we had never been to and we took it easy.  

 

Ferry Building Ceiling.JPG

Ferry Building Marketplace

 

 

Our first order of business was to get some lunch.  So we grabbed a Lyft from SFO and headed to the Ferry Building for lunch (layout map). When planning the trip, I didn’t know what to expect as far as how crowded it would be at lunch on a Tuesday.  A couple of the restaurants that I was interested in (e.g. The Slanted Door) were full.  We ended up sitting down at the Boulibar which required a very brief wait in line.

 

Ferry Building.JPG

Ferry Building Marketplace

 

 

We then went took a Lyft to REI because we needed to buy my wife a jacket/shell for the cool and rainy weather that we might encounter in New Zealand.  Although we didn’t find anything to her liking, I always love visiting REI stores.

 

Exploratorium.gif

Floating water droplet exhibit at the Exploratorium

 

 

My daughter had a chance to visit her brother in San Francisco earlier during the summer and one of her newly discovered joys was visiting a tea shop in the city.  As it would turn out, tea would be one of the minor themes of this trip.  So on a whim, we took a Lyft over to Samovar at Valencia Street (Mission District) to enjoy an afternoon tea.  Unfortunately the coronovirus induced shutdown has forced it to temporarily close this tea shop.

 

REI.JPG

REI

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Street View of Salesforce Tower.JPG

San Francisco street view

 

Tue Dec 17: Dinner in San Francisco Before We Fly to Sydney

 

After that we decided to kill our remaining time before dinner by taking a Lyft to Union Square to check out the shops.  Although it was in December, the weather during our day there was overcast and a little cool but comfortable.  

 

Bus meets car door.JPG

SF Muni bus (left) hit the open door of the blue parked car (right).  Unhappy car owner walks towards bus......

 

 

While visiting the North Face shop (where my wife did buy a jacket), we witnessed a San Francisco Muni bus clip the open door of a parallel parked car on Post Street with the driver about to get out of his car.  Everyone was ok and the bus immediately stopped, but the car door was a mangled. The above photo shows the stunned driver walking towards the stopped bus.

Mourad Reservation.JPG

 

 

We had dinner reservations at a nice Moroccan restaurant, Mourad, at 6pm and our son met us there.  During our meal, my wife realized that she had misplaced her purse as it was not to be found in its usual place in her backpack. 

 

Mourad Tree Root Art.JPG

Massive cross section of century old tree root greets you at the Mourad lobby.

 

 

She called Boulibar, where we had lunch, and they said that they had found the purse earlier in the afternoon and turned it over to the Ferry Building security department which is open 24 hours a day.  That was great news as we could pickup the purse on our way to the airport after dinner.

 

4 Embarcadero Center.JPG

4 Embarcadero Center as seen from the Ferry Building across the street.

 

 

After dinner, we hugged our son goodbye as he got into his Uber to take him back to his Mission District apartment.  The rest of us got into our Uber and made a stop first at the Ferry Building to pick up my wife’s purse.  It turned out that the purse was indeed at the security office, however it was locked in a safe and the employee with the key had just gone home for the night which was a real disappointment for my wife.  She was upset that she didn’t interrupt our dinner to recover it immediately instead of waiting until afterward. The good news was that she was allowed to authorize our son to come by in the morning to retrieve her purse for her and then he would bring it with him to Sydney where family members and purse would all be reunited.  The extremely good news was that her passport (needed for our flight to Sydney that evening) was in her backpack and not in her purse!

 

We were able to get our things from luggage storage at the airport and headed off to the International Terminal to board our United flight (UA863).

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Flight 863 Position and Flight Info.JPG

 

 

Tue Dec 17: Onto Sydney!

 

Last time we boarded a plane for Sydney, they had to re-open the plane door to let us in because of our flight from Chicago was so late.  Thankfully this time there was no such excitement although my wife was still annoyed that she was boarding without her purse.

 

Flight 863 Schedule Performance.PNG

Despite the pandemic, UA863 still flies daily from SFO to SYD.

 

 

Our actual flight time was 14.5 hours and it was uneventful.  I managed to get about 6 hours sleep and I didn’t feel cramped in our economy class seats aboard our 777-300ER.  The real enemy was boredom, restlessness, and impatience. 

 

View of Australia 117 mi north east of Sydney.JPG

Smoke or clouds?  Our plane was 117 miles away from SYD near Nerong.

 

 

We landed at SYD at 8:40 am.  We gathered our bags which took some time because we had an oversize box that had to be retrieved at a special location.  Passing through customs and immigration was very easy.  At 10:04 am we were boarding our Maxi-Taxi.  The skies were overcast and it was quite warm.  The traffic was fairly heavy.  On the way there, our driver offered us his business card and asked that we consider using him during our stay in Sydney.  

 

Maxi Taxi at SYD.JPG

 

At 10:39 am our taxi arrived at our hotel, the Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay.  The total cab fare was $104.22 AUD.  

 

SYD to Marriott Circular Quay Maxi Taxi Fare Details.JPG

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Marriott Sydney Harbour Sign.jpg

 

Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay

 

We checked in at the front desk.  Understandably, our rooms would not be ready until in the afternoon.  However we were given a key to the Early Arrivals Lounge on the 6th Floor which had a nice multi-room living space with snacks/drinks and most importantly, bathrooms with showers. 

 

Originally a Renaissance hotel, it was re-branded as a full service Marriott property in 2003.  The hotel was a welcome sight for our tired eyes and we were really looking forward to getting our assigned room later in the day.

 

Early Arrivals Lounge.JPG

 

This was our first time at this hotel.  During our only other time at Sydney for our GBR cruise, we stayed at what was then the Westin Sydney which had just withdrawn from the Marriott hotel family and became a Fullerton Hotel.  The Westin Sydney was conveniently close to the shopping areas but was located further away from the harbor.  So we were very eager with trying out this new location.

 

Our luggage.jpg

 

The hotel is located near the harbor and is very close to the Overseas Passenger Terminal where Solstice would eventually dock.  Unfortunately there is a very large skyscraper building (Gateway Tower) that blocks the hotel from having a full and unbroken panoramic view of the harbour and any view of Solstice when she is docked.  

 

Marriott Sydney Harbour Floor Plan.jpg

 

One thing to understand that is not immediately obvious when you are trying to book a room there is that the hotel floor plan is shaped like a triangle with very specific views of iconic Sydney (as long as you are on a high enough floor). Rooms on one side of the triangle (such as ours) have a view of the Sydney Opera House but cannot see the bridge.  Rooms on another side of the triangle have a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but no view of the Opera House.  Rooms on the third side look south and look away from the harbor, and consequently can see neither the bridge nor the Opera House, but they do have a nice city view.  When booking a room on the Marriott website, the specific views (Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and City view) are clearly noted.  We had booked an Opera House view room.

 

The room cost us 150,000 Marriott points for 3 nights (105,000 points base + 45,000 points to upgrade to an Opera House View room) which I booked 11 months in advance.  Several months later, when I decided to arrive in Sydney one day earlier to save on air fare, rooms were no longer available to book with points only.  So instead we had to pay approximately $217 USD to reserve the extra night.

 

Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay Website Photo.JPG

Marriott website photo showing the triangular hotel and its specific views.

 

As you can imagine, the location of the hotel was excellent as it put us within easy walking distance of all the main attractions around the harbor.

 

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On 10/4/2020 at 2:55 PM, Luckynana said:

Following along!😉

 

Writing this review has slowed considerably because I have been so busy at work.  So please bear with me.

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Formal Tea at the QVB.jpg

 

 

Thu Dec 19: Our First Formal Afternoon Tea

 

Once we were done getting cleaned up, it was time for the three of us to go to the beautiful Queen Victoria Building for High Tea at the Tea Room

 

 

The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building.jpg

 

 

Our reservation was for noon and it was going to serve as our first meal after getting off the plane.  Again this was a treat for our daughter who was discovering her passion for formal tea. All told the bill came to $165.00 AUD for the 3 of us.

 

 

Food Served at the QVB Tea Room.jpg

 

 

Afterward we did some shopping at the QVB and then we went back to the hotel and we were able to get into our room.   As advertised, our Opera House View guest room (which is what we reserved) had a nice view of the Opera House.  But because of the smoke from the bush fires, our first view of it from our hotel room was hazy and it was difficult to see the other side of the harbor.  Although our room was located in the corner of the building, there was no window on the other exterior wall to provide a second view which would have been of the city.

 

 

Hazy View of the Opera House from the Sydney Marriott.jpg

 

 

Our plans for the rest of the day were very modest and unambitious since we were waiting for our son to arrive in Sydney the following morning.  

 

For dinner, we took a Lyft to the Broadway Shopping Centre and we ate at Din Tai Fung which is a Chinese restaurant specializing in the Huaiyang cuisine.  This chain restaurant was a suggestion from @Holly2 (post).  This location was not a stand alone restaurant, but rather a restaurant inside a food court so it lacked some ambiance.

 

 

Macarons at the Broadway Shopping Centre.jpg

 

 

After dinner, we did some more shopping where we purchased a 3 foot collapsible artificial Christmas tree with lights that we intended to set up in our large stateroom.  I guess that was our first souvenir for the trip....

 

Before we went to bed we received this email from our tour company: 

 

“Because of the current fires burning along our route to the Southern Highlands we have regretfully made the decision to cancel the wildlife tour for tomorrow”

 

Darn.  That tour was supposed to be the highlight tour during our time in Sydney as our family really enjoy seeing animals.  Part of that all day tour was to be conducted at night in order to have a shot at seeing some of the nocturnal animals in the wild such as the amazing platypus. The email was technically wrong as our tour was scheduled for two days later.

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Sydney Opera House.jpg

 

 

Fri Dec 20 Sydney Day #2: One small crisis solved, another crisis takes its place

 

The day turned out to be a much better day weather-wise.  Compared to yesterday, the temperature was not as hot and the air was a lot clearer and our hotel room view of the Opera House had improved.

 

With my wife’s status with Marriott, we ate all of our breakfasts in the Concierge Lounge.  The amount and different types of food that were available in the buffet were pretty good. 

 

 

Breakfast Buffet 1.jpg

 

Breakfast Buffet 2.jpg

 

Breakfast Buffet 3.jpg

 

 

When we went to sleep the night before, my wife discovered that the she left behind a critical part (gasket) that was needed for her CPAP to work properly.  The CPAP is important in keeping her migraine headaches in check and the thought of going on a cruise without a working CPAP is, well, unthinkable.

 

So while she was a few hours away of having our first crisis (misplaced purse) solved, another new problem popped up for us to address.  Quite frankly, for our family a cruise is not a cruise if there isn’t some kind of forgot-to-bring-this-important-thing crisis for us to spend some of our valuable pre-cruise time (and money) to solve.  It creates quite a bit of anxiety when it is first discovered, but then it makes for wistful reminiscing afterward.

 

So after eating breakfast, my wife made a few calls and found the Sydney Sleep Centre carried the parts that she needed.  It was located within a short walk from the hotel on Macquarie St.  So we made a quick trip over there and they repaired her CPAP for $129.95 AUD--another crisis averted.  This was not the souvenir I was expecting with our first purchase for the day in Sydney.

 

We then went back to the hotel to await our son who would be bringing my wife’s temporarily misplaced purse, resolving the earlier pre-cruise crisis.  

 

Our son would be taking the same United flight from San Francisco that we had flown on the day before.  Flying across the Pacific by himself is something our 24 year old son is very accustom to as his Apple job has him flying to China 4-6 times a year (although they fly him on Business Class).  He does enough business flying with United that he is a Premier 1K loyalty club member.  In fact that his why he was the recipient of the one roundtrip ticket that I had to purchase with good old fashion money since we only had enough frequent flyer points to get 3 round trip tickets-where we needed 4.  He would be awarded more frequent flyer points for the paid ticket because of the generous multipliers that the Premier 1K members get compared to the rest of the family who have no such status.  I bought him an Economy Plus Class fare that was eligible for an upgrade with the use of one of his upgrade certificates, but alas, when it came time to handing out the leftover Business Class seats at the time of departure, much to his chagrin he did not get one. 

 

View of Sydney from the room.jpg

A full view of Sydney from our hotel room

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IMG_8678.jpg

 

Fri Dec 20 Sydney Day #2: Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

 

Our son arrived at the hotel at 10:26 am.  My wife and her purse were reunited at 10:31 am.  After he took a hot shower and got cleaned up, we headed off to lunch.  The prior time we visited Sydney, the kids absolutely loved the restaurants at the international food courts located in the Sydney shopping centers.  So I let the kids pick one for our lunch and they selected the Wintergarden food court which was very close to the hotel.  It is also very reasonably priced which was good because we would later eat at some restaurants that were not going to be so reasonable.

 

With our two crises solved and with the whole family now back together, it was time for us to go out and see Sydney.

 

Tree Shadow.jpg

 

During our last visit to Sydney our pre-cruise time there was all geared around celebrating New Years Eve and consequently we didn’t visit many of Sydney’s iconic sites.  This time we were going to do better.

 

IMG_8676.jpg

 

After lunch we went to the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens (no admission charge) to check it out.  The garden area is expansive.  We spent a couple hours there which meant that we only saw a bit of it.  

 

IMG_8712.jpg

 

One of the things we wanted to see were the large bats (flying foxes) that were known to camp out there during the day.  We had seen them hovering above us during our New Year’s Eve cruise (Dec 2017) in Sydney Harbour and these things were absolutely huge.  Apparently our information is very out of date.  We asked a groundskeeper where the bats were and he casually explained that they were harming the trees in the gardens and thus have been scared off from camping there so they are now roosting elsewhere in Sydney.

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On 10/3/2020 at 7:20 PM, mahdnc said:

Marriott Sydney Harbour Sign.jpg

 

Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay

 

We checked in at the front desk.  Understandably, our rooms would not be ready until in the afternoon.  However we were given a key to the Early Arrivals Lounge on the 6th Floor which had a nice multi-room living space with snacks/drinks and most importantly, bathrooms with showers. 

 

Originally a Renaissance hotel, it was re-branded as a full service Marriott property in 2003.  The hotel was a welcome sight for our tired eyes and we were really looking forward to getting our assigned room later in the day.

 

Early Arrivals Lounge.JPG

 

This was our first time at this hotel.  During our only other time at Sydney for our GBR cruise, we stayed at what was then the Westin Sydney which had just withdrawn from the Marriott hotel family and became a Fullerton Hotel.  The Westin Sydney was conveniently close to the shopping areas but was located further away from the harbor.  So we were very eager with trying out this new location.

 

Our luggage.jpg

 

The hotel is located near the harbor and is very close to the Overseas Passenger Terminal where Solstice would eventually dock.  Unfortunately there is a very large skyscraper building (Gateway Tower) that blocks the hotel from having a full and unbroken panoramic view of the harbour and any view of Solstice when she is docked.  

 

Marriott Sydney Harbour Floor Plan.jpg

 

One thing to understand that is not immediately obvious when you are trying to book a room there is that the hotel floor plan is shaped like a triangle with very specific views of iconic Sydney (as long as you are on a high enough floor). Rooms on one side of the triangle (such as ours) have a view of the Sydney Opera House but cannot see the bridge.  Rooms on another side of the triangle have a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but no view of the Opera House.  Rooms on the third side look south and look away from the harbor, and consequently can see neither the bridge nor the Opera House, but they do have a nice city view.  When booking a room on the Marriott website, the specific views (Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and City view) are clearly noted.  We had booked an Opera House view room.

 

The room cost us 150,000 Marriott points for 3 nights (105,000 points base + 45,000 points to upgrade to an Opera House View room) which I booked 11 months in advance.  Several months later, when I decided to arrive in Sydney one day earlier to save on air fare, rooms were no longer available to book with points only.  So instead we had to pay approximately $217 USD to reserve the extra night.

 

Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay Website Photo.JPG

Marriott website photo showing the triangular hotel and its specific views.

 

As you can imagine, the location of the hotel was excellent as it put us within easy walking distance of all the main attractions around the harbor.

 

 

Thanks for this very nice review.  We also stayed at this Marriott in Sydney (post-cruise) and liked it very much.  Close to everything and a very fine hotel.

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