6 am doesn’t sound that early when you set your alarm, but it is plenty early once it goes off and it’s time to get up and head to the bow for the spectacular views while sailing into Sydney Harbor. It was still dark when we looked outside our cabin but the horizon was starting to glow and the Sydney Skyline was coming into view. We hurried to the bow with temperatures in the 60’s and a light breeze and even though you didn’t need a jacket many people were bundled up as if it were much colder. There were about 150 people enjoying the view and the beautiful sunrise.
The Sydney Opera house grew larger on our port side with the Harbor Bridge dead ahead as we continued toward our berth at the White Bay Cruise Terminal.
A pair of Australian flags were flapping in the fresh breeze atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge, but there were no bridge climbers anywhere to be seen. Bridge climbers wear dark jumpsuits to blend into the bridge to they don’t attract attention and become a distraction for the drivers below.
Sydney Rolls were set out on a table, along with coffee and orange juice and were quite popular. Last night Gene let us in on a secret that these rolls, a close cousin to a jelly doughnut, were also known as Panama rolls and will be also be known as Suez Canal rolls and Hong Kong rolls depending on where we happen to be at the time.
The sun rose over the opera house, now behind us, as we passed Circular Quay where the Dawn Princess was moored. The Dawn Princess was our first cruise ship when we cruised for the first time in 1998 and she always brings back fond memories. We passed underneath the Sydney Harbor Bridge and headed toward our berth at the White Bay Cruise Terminal (WBCT.) The Dawn Princess would leave later today and Explorer of the Seas will take her berth tomorrow. Berthing at the Circular Quay is far, far more desirable and it is assigned on a first come, first served basis unless the ship cannot fit under the bridge. Then you can get bumped to the White Bay Cruise Terminal out in the sticks. On a later ferry ride, we were told by the ferry captain that the fee for cruise ships to berth at Circular Quay was $100K AUS per day.
The Amsterdam spun 180 degrees just past the bridge and backed into her berth at the WBCT, with the port side facing the terminal, so our cabin would enjoy a view of the terminal with the other side getting city views. Sometimes facing the terminal allows access to the shore based WiFi, but today, Wifi was not available in the terminal.
They will typically place a sign on the wharf marked “Bridge” so the captain can line the ship up with the elevated gangways leading to the cruise terminal. Today as we were closing to within 100 feet of the wharf, a ground handler quickly moved the “Bridge” sign about another 50 feet down the wharf. We were amused that his distance wasn’t completely nailed down well in advance.
At 10 minutes to 8 AM, we were all secure with the gangways open on Deck 3 and passengers were allowed to go ashore.
The shuttle busses to Circular Quay wouldn’t start until 9AM. We left the ship about 9:30 and learned that the terminal is a ghost town, there is nothing inside, no shops no snack bars, no WiFi. We were a little puzzled when we saw many passengers sitting in chairs staring at their phones, usually a sure sign of a WiFi hotspot, but learned that they were waiting for the next shuttle bus. HAL passed out numbers to organize the queue for people to wait for the next shuttle bus. Once we saw “tender tickets” were involved, we shared a cab with another couple and headed to Circular Quay on our own. We normally take UBER, but the cab was right there so we jumped in with the other couple. This ride provided another reason to avoid taxis and take UBER as the cab driver got confused, or lost, and we were well past the Circular Quay freeway exit by time we got turned around. The taxi dropped us off at the southwest corner of Circular Quay which happened to be the same spot used by the HAL shuttle busses.
While walking down the sidewalk to the Sydney Harbor Ferry Terminals we came across our dining room steward and his assistant hurrying the other direction, They only get a few hours ashore, if that, so we didn’t stop to chat but waved as they passed by.
Our timing for the Manly Fast Ferry was perfect and we hopped onboard just as it was getting ready to leave. We bought our tickets onboard $8.60 AUS (Credit cards only – no cash) and were soon racing down the harbor at 28 mph passing the Opera house once again. While 28 mph is pretty fast for a ferry boat, I always recall being on USN aircraft carriers that would exceed 35 mph while launching planes and leave a mile long wake.
Manly is a pretty beach town about 6 miles NE of Sydney on the Pacific Ocean. While only 18 minutes away by ferry, it would take much longer to drive the 15 road miles or so as you have to wind around town and fight traffic. Manly is very popular with all tourists and today’s weather was absolutely perfect – you couldn’t have ordered a more perfect day.
We strolled down the main street called “The Corso” and enjoyed people watching and some window shopping. The street spills onto a sandy beach on the pacific ocean that was crowded but not overflowing – with plenty of space remaining to lay down a towel and get some sun. We budgeted a few hours here to wander about before we needed to catch our next ferry to Watson’s Bay.
The Sydney Harbor is served by several ferry companies and they are all quite prompt – don’t be late. The City operates massive ferries which are tied into the bus system and people can use their “Opal Cards” to move around the water. The Manly Fast Ferry and Cooks Ferry are smaller and cater more to the tourists. The ferry ticket agents are all very friendly, so simply approach anyone you see and explain what you want to do and they will map out your best option.
Now back at the Manly Wharf, we boarded our next ferry to Watson’s Bay. Watson’s Bay is home to Doyle’s Seafood restaurant which achieved some minor fame in the USA years ago when it was the subject of a TV commercial about how they only take VISA and don’t take American Express. Watson’s Bay is much smaller than Manly and there wasn’t much there except for Doyle’s and another restaurant and hotel. There is another pretty beach and this would be a nice place to stay if you wanted to avoid crowds and relax.
Our search for the best Fish and Chips continues so we ordered a plate from Doyle’s right on the Wharf. While Doyle’s was good, the best so far on this voyage was from D’Lish Fish and Chips in Melbourne.
We caught our ferry back to Circular Quay which had stops at the Zoo and a small island national park called Fort Denison. If you go to Fort Denison, be sure to standing on the pier at your scheduled ferry time, because they don’t even stop if they don’t see someone waiting.
Once back at Circular Quay we went to the HAL shuttle stop which was crowded and no buses in sight – not anyone from HAL that we could see. We didn’t wait around to see how long that would take so we called an UBER and were on our way in 3 minutes.
At 4:30 pm we were back on the ship and had 1 hour to meet our friend in the Lido for dinner before heading back to town to see the Barber of Seville at the Sydney Opera House. We grabbed a quick Lido dinner from 5:30 to 6PM and then we were back on the pier to catch another UBER to the opera house. You occasionally see a taxi waiting at the terminal, but more often than not, you will have to have someone call one for you or use UBER. My advice is to put the UBER app on your phone and get comfortable using it back home as it will come in handy once you are on the cruise.
We had planned to go to the opera tonight months ago and bought tickets online as soon as they were available. The opera was the Barber of Seville although it didn’t really matter since we just really wanted to experience seeing a performance in this magnificent venue. HAL offered a tour for the same performance, but again you pay a premium for the convenience and it is really quite simple to buy tickets on your own.
One of the downsides of UBER is that they can’t go certain places like taxis. The Sydney Opera House (SOH) only allows busses and taxis to drive right up to the venue so we had to walk a couple hundred yards from where we were dropped off to the SOH entrance. Since the weather was gorgeous and the sun shining at 6:30 PM when we arrived, we rather enjoyed the short walk and were able to enjoy some magnificent views.
Picking up our tickets was fast and easy and we were soon waiting outside the Joan Sutherland Theatre. The theatre waiting area opens to a balcony offering stunning views of Sydney and we didn’t mind waiting for the show to start at 7:30. The SOH also has free WiFi which was pretty fast considering the number of people using it at the time.
The opera was performed in Italian by an excellent Australian cast. We particularly enjoyed the performance by the female lead, Anna Dowsley, who played Rosina. They had 3 small screens showing English subtitles, but the program had a synopsis of the story and its best to read that beforehand as it is a little awkward to be looking at the subtitle screens. The plot isn’t very complicated so you can understand what is going on pretty easily. The Barber of Seville is a comedy and it was funny and very enjoyable. The performance ended at 10:25pm to long waves of applause.
Our evening was not complete as we decided to head to the BLU Bar on 36 at the Shangri La Hotel for a night cap. After a pleasant walk, probably close to a mile, we were in the elevator up to the 36th floor where we were rewarded with an amazing view of the Sydney skyline at night. We headed back to the ship when the bar closed at midnight. This is probably the first time I was in a bar near closing time in years.
As usual, UBER responded in minutes and we were on our way back to the Amsterdam. The normal, elevated gangways were closed, allowing us to enter the ship on deck two directly from the wharf. Security was also back on the ship rather than inside the terminal.
After enjoying some late night room service – coffee and cookies – it was time to rest and get ready for another day.
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Todays GPS track
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