The news came as a shock to many. We would not be at a dock for our visit to Sydney, Australia. It was explained that Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth bumped us from our spot. Now there was lots of scuttlebutt about why we were bumped. Cunard had paid for the extension of the dock thereby giving it priority was a favorite tidbit to circulate. The confusing part was that both cruise lines, I’m sure, had their itineraries planned at least a year in advance and would have put in for dock space. Bumped? I don’t know.
We were also told that we should be up early for the sail-in to the harbor which was to happen at 7. We were up at 6:30 and found that we were already anchored in our spot. The bright side: we got to see the sun come up and enhance the beauty of the Sydney Harbor. I for one was glad we hadn’t docked. Our view was much nicer than it would have been from the dock.
Large local tenders (tour boats) were on their way to begin ferrying passengers back and forth to our tender drop off spot under the bridge and about ten minutes walking distance from Circular Quay. The tenders were nice and scheduled every half hour. We finished our breakfast-with-a-view and got in line for our face-to-face immigration meeting. We’ve been involved with these before. Once it went well. Once it didn’t and the line wound around the whole deck of the ship. This one was somewhere in between the two. While the line got long when internet didn’t work well, it went quickly once they got it together.
Our passports and visas accepted, no Ebola problems (we haven’t been to Africa yet) and nothing to declare, we returned to our room and grabbed our gear. We were headed for the Blue Mountains and needed as early a start as possible.
After a brisk walk to the transportation terminal in Circular Quay, we bought our ticket to Katoomba and received our instructions on where to change trains. We’d done this before but somehow it seemed a little more confusing this time. Once on the train to Katoomba though, we relaxed and enjoyed the two hour ride and the changing scenery out the window. Plus there was internet on the train!
The Explorer Bus that is a hop on hop off for the area was right around the corner from the train depot and bus ticket place. We needed to hop on the first one that came along because there would be an hour gap of time for the drivers’ lunch if we didn’t but we were hungry too. (Cruise passengers get used to little time lapse between meals.) We happened upon a Subway and grabbed a quick sandwich, wolfed it down and ran across the street in enough time to catch our bus.
We got off at one stop in the park and walked to another to see the cable car and sky train (funicular) that gives you a spectacular view. We’d done the sky train before and had no stomach for the cable car but it was fun to watch others.
As we waited for the bus, we studied our map and decided we could do the rim walk. Once we found our way to the right trail we began what turned out to be a three hour walk, a little longer than we’d planned on but there were some ups and downs to the trail. The downs aren’t bad but as the saying goes when we hike, what goes down must come up. The ups are a little harder.
We finally made it around to Echo Park where the famous Three Sisters landmark is and had enough time for pictures before meeting the bus. It was an hour later than we planned but there was still time to make it back to the ship. It just meant that there wouldn’t be time for dinner on shore like we planned—mainly because we needed showers before we could be presentable in a restaurant and Bob didn’t want to go fast food again when I suggested Hungry Jack’s (Australia’s version of Burger King).
Still, by the time we made it back on board, our dinner seating time had passed. We showered quickly and headed for a specialty restaurant called Tastes on Deck 12. Tastes has lots of ala carte dishes and is sort of like Spanish tapas. We had no reservation and hoped we could get in. It was more crowded than we counted on but the charming maitre’d managed to find room for us after a short wait. Soon we were dining on our favorite lamb kebobs, salad, and a variety of other dishes and of course what has become my favorite dessert, a trifle that resembles bananas foster.
Our evening ended with a stroll around the deck and my camera set up on a tripod to take pictures of the opera house and bridge at night before we left for the open seas again. There would be a day at sea before getting into Melbourne and what a day it would be!