The glow of the predawn sun was matched by the distant lights of Melbourne as we made our way towards our first Australian port. Green channel markers were off the port side and we could start to make out the cranes, bridges and buildings of the bustling metropolis just starting to wake up.
The maneuverability of cruise ships is impressive as we rotated 180 degrees and backed into our berth alongside the pier – bow facing to sea. The “Spirit of Tasmania” was a ferry moored across the pier getting ready for its daily run to Tasmania. Close behind us was the cruise ship Europa which would also spin and moor across the pier from us, bow facing to sea.
As this was our first stop in Australia we would have to clear immigration which would require everyone on the ship to meet with Australian Immigration officials face to face. Everyone had to leave the ship and no one would be permitted to return until everyone had met with the Australian Immigration authorities.
Every cabin was assigned a number to allow us to wait aboard ship and avoid long queues in the cruise terminal. The first numbers were called abound 8 AM. We were in group 16 and would be called around 9AM. Everyone had an opportunity to request to be in the first, middle or late group. We had requested the middle group.
In the terminal there were 8 immigration officials – 2 to a table – to process everyone on board. They insisted everyone remove their caps and they compared your passport photo to your face. They didn’t ask any questions, or even look at the immigration card that we had prepared in advance. The process was very fast and once they stamped our passport we were on our way to a group of Amsterdam Employees who took possession of our passports once again.
Once past immigration there were probably about 150 people sitting in chairs waiting for the ship to be cleared so they could go back aboard. The only souvenir shop in the terminal was crowded and we joined the fray to buy some post cards and stamps.
After we finished shopping we made our way to street level on the first floor and walked about ¼ mile down the pier to the terminal’s entrance. The tram station that went downtown was about another ¼ mile down the road but we decided to take an Uber car rather that walk and wait for the trams. I pulled up my Uber app on my iPhone and requested an Uber X to go downtown, about 2 miles away. The fare was $13 Australian for the 2 of us, more expensive than had we taken the tram to town, but with such a limited amount of time in port, we chose to spend a little more and get to town as quickly as possible.
Our first stop was the yarn shop Morris and Sons. It was on the second floor of a shopping arcade at 234 Collins street. Judy spent about 30 minutes looking things over and some very interesting Cork Yarn caught her eye. Yes this was Yarn made from cork and shaped like a long ribbon. It’s not clear what you can knit from Cork. They had knit a small pouch on large needles in garter stitch for a sample. And there is a free pattern on-line of a dress. www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cork-dress The dress isn’t Judy’s style and for now she is putting this yarn in the souvenir category.
Very nearby was the Block Arcade, which is a shopping arcade – over 100 years old – of some notoriety with a very beautiful interior. We breezed thru quickly and exited on the other side. A office product store caught my eye and I went inside to get some more photo paper and another ink cartridge for my printer. I brought a Canon battery operated printer a PIXMA iP110 which I used to make prints for other people through the cruise. We always take pictures of our table with any guests and we then make prints for everyone in the picture.
While walking toward the Victoria State Library we came across several fully amplified bands playing on the sidewalk for donations and CD sales.
Across the street from the Library we explored the Haigh Chocolate Shop where Judy bought a large, really big, dark chocolate frog. Don’t ask me why – It’s chocolate!
Nearby the chocolate shop was a Starbucks which had Wifi, comfortable seating and some delicious pastries. Unlike the USA, using the Wifi required a purchase when they would give you a WiFi access code good for one hour.
The Victoria State Library is a beautiful older building with the main reading room on the third floor which is circular and extends over 6 floors to the top of the dome. There are walkways around the reading room on each floor which offer amazing views of the room below as well as the dome above. In the center of the reading room is a large wooden pedestal that supported a circular desk and chair that allowed the librarian on duty to monitor the room and enforce silence. The station is no longer in use, but remains an interesting artifact from the past. Most of the people in the reading room were working on laptops and taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
Back on the street, it was time for Uber to take us about 10 miles to Brighton Beach, home to the colorful Brighton Beach Boxes. There colorful wooden boxes, used for shelter while enjoying the beach, can only be purchased by Brighton Residents and are in high demand – recent selling price $280,000 AUS. The boxes can only be used while enjoying the beach. They are about 10 x 20 feet, without utilities and you can’t rent them out or stay overnight. We spoke with one of the Beach Box owners who showed us inside. She did have solar panels she could use to power lights and a few appliances. As we were leaving the beach, they were setting up for a wedding on the sand and we observed a small group of kilted bagpipers, who were just arriving, start to move down from the parking lot to the beach.
Our final Uber ride took us back to the Cruise terminal with about 45 minutes to spare until our 4PM all aboard. There was Fish and Chips place nearby so we stopped in give them a try. They were very good and the best of the trip so far. While munching on the fish we wrote our post cards and then headed back to the Amsterdam arriving exactly at 4pm. There was another mandatory lifeboat drill scheduled at 4:15 so we proceeded down to our lifeboat station and waited until they called our cabin number. We stood around for another 15 minutes and then were dismissed. They didn’t go thru the instructions of how to don your life jacket as this drill was required to satisfy Australian requirements that only required that the passengers demonstrate the ability to find their lifeboat station.
The Super Bowl rebroadcast took place at 5pm in the Queens lounge while the Sail Away was in progress on the aft deck next to the Seaview pool. We enjoyed perfect weather conditions for the Sail Away along with the company of the many people we have come to know over the last 34 days. After the Sail-Away we went to the Queens lounge to check out the big game. The ESPN rebroadcast and shown on the huge screen. The picture was incredibly sharp and the sound was wonderful. It was really a nice way to watch the game. They set up a buffet line with nacho chips, hot dogs, submarine sandwiches and popcorn. Cruise director Gene along with show hosts Erin and Jodie provided diversions during the commercial breaks as we were unable to watch the USA commercials but saw the same ad for Soccer and Cricket many, many times. During one commercial break guests had an opportunity to kick or throw a large inflatable football thru a large, inflatable goalpost. Successful guests were rewarded with a bottle of bubbly.
Right before the halftime show, guests had an opportunity to toss paper airplanes they had been making since the game started, onto the stage into small inflatable barrels. Ten guests were successful and were rewarded with 1000 Grand Dollars. This was followed by Gene, Erin and Jodie showering the crowd with Grand Dollars from the balcony above setting off a mild frenzy as people scrambled to pick up the paper script.
We left after the halftime show to go to dinner at 8pm. We were the only people at our table as everyone else stayed for the game or made other plans. The dining room was almost empty and we were able to chat more with the staff and learn more about their backgrounds and life back home. The only entertainment this evening was the Super Bowl game so we were able to catch up on some sleep as we head toward Sydney.This entry was posted in Uncategorized