Centenary World Cruise Day 74: Adelaide

Today we hit Adelaide. We didn’t have a shore excursion planned, so we just took the train into town, then walked to the botanical garden a little over a kilometer away.

cute signpost we saw from the train

This one is a little more formally laid out than Melbourne’s, but it had the most amazing thing: the Museum of Economic Botany. Remember that fake “genetic library” at the Museum of the Future in Dubai? Well THIS was the real deal. Plants collected over about 150 years by explorers going all over the world.

The plants were grouped in the cases by family, and there were some surprising groupings. For instance, I didn’t know that tobacco and petunias are part of the nightshade family. There were so many plants, many with labels in faded, spidery writing or beautiful copperplate cursive. I could have stayed all day, but we needed lunch.

We went looking for a particular vegan restaurant, and as we walked along a street lined with restaurants, I was shocked at how many were not yet open at noon on a Friday. They didn’t have the shuttered look that the ones in Darwin had – these looked like if we waited around another couple of hours, they’d be open.

sign on restaurant doorway – “eat and get out!”

The place we were looking for was hidden behind a normal, residential-looking door that led to a steep staircase the width of the door. At the top of the staircase was an adorable, tiny little tea shop that took the place of the vegan restaurant we were looking for. No matter! They served vegan food and delicious tea. They also had a cute little mailbox with paper and envelopes next to it with a sign that said “Write a letter. Take a letter.” The mailbox had the customary slot, but also a door in the front that you could open and take a letter out. And friends, you KNOW that I left a letter there.

From there we went to the Art Gallery of South Australia. This place was a little larger than the museum we’d gone to in Sydney, and we took in every exhibit. I love a museum!

At that point, we were adventured out. We made our way back to the train station and got on the train for the harbor.

someone is really excited about flat pack furniture

It’s a 40-minute train ride, but the great thing is that the downtown train station and the harbor station are at opposite ends of a single line, so it’s not like we had to be paying attention to which stop we needed.

We felt great about having had a better adventure by ourselves than we would have had with a tour group.

Centenary World Cruise Day 73: Kangaroo Island

Today, we were at Kangaroo Island, 13 km off the coast of southern Australia. Our tour first took us to Dudley Winery.

I’ve been to my share of wine tastings, and what I generally expect is that perhaps one of the 2-6 wines being offered for tasting is something I like. At this place, I liked every wine we tasted. Apparently, the grapes are dry grown, and have roots that go deep into the soil so they never get watered. The breezes coming from Antarctica are cool and the soil is sandy. The wines are all both flavorful and mild, and we would have bought a bottle or two, except that wine hasn’t been agreeing with me lately. Just know that if you ever buy a bottle of Australian wine from Dudley Winery, it’s likely to be decent.

While we were at the winery, a guy who looks like Wilford Brimley asked us why we chose to go on this cruise, on the Queen Mary 2. He said we weren’t exactly the “demographic.” The conversation moved on before I could ask what demographic we aren’t. Ancient? British? Posh? I’m now completely curious about what he might have meant. Maybe the next time I see him around the ship, I’ll ask him.

We checked out a lighthouse and a beach camping spot, and they were both lovely, even if the drive there was ten miles over corrugated iron. My kidneys may never recover.

The real star attraction, though, was the tender ride to and from the quay. This is a tiny port without its own tender services, so we used the ship’s lifeboats. They’re pontoon boats, so they’re made of fiberglass and the bottom part is filled with air, so it’s not like they’re going to flip over, but it was like a roller coaster. If we were going parallel to the waves, we bobbled side to side so that the people nearest the windows were looking either into the sky, or down into the water. When we went perpendicular to the waves, we’d crest one wave and hit the trough hard, making every old person on the boat give out a sharp “Oooooooh!” It was like being in a crowd during a fireworks show.

Centenary World Cruise Day 72: Let Me Sea

We’ve been on this ship for two and a half months, and it feels like we’ve only just established a routine. On at sea days, I order breakfast in, while the Pirate takes himself downstairs to the coffee bar for breakfast so he can have decent coffee and sometimes, chia pudding. I make myself a pot of tea and eat my toast and fruit in bed, writing postcards or blog posts or maybe just playing a time-wasting game. After a very leisurely breakfast, I get dressed and head for the gym. After the gym, I take my computer down to the pub and get some work done, which can take until mid-afternoon.

It’s only been a couple of days since Sydney, so all the new folks haven’t figured out where everything is yet. While I’m at the gym, there are usually four or five people who wander in, look around, then leave again. I suspect that most of them will never be back. They just saw an open door and ventured in. Then there are the people who are doing laps. The walking track is on Deck 7, same as the gym, and the new people don’t necessarily know what’s on the other side of the windows they’re walking past. So what do they do? They cup their hands around their eyes and stare in. It’s the creepiest thing imaginable to be in the middle of a workout and look up to see some old guy with his nose pressed up against the window, staring in.

The next time we’ll get a new group of folks won’t be until South Africa, which will be in three and a half weeks. It’s hard to believe that in just a little over six weeks, we’ll be home.

Centenary World Cruise Day 71: Melbourne

I feel sorry for people who lived without the internet (including my younger self). Because we have the internet, we were able to find a place to do our shipping, a post office, and something fun to do in Melbourne while we ate lunch yesterday.

Step One: take two big bags of stuff in a taxi to the shipping place. The guy packed our stuff up in a box, gave us a form to fill in, took our money, and we were on our way.

Step Two: relieved of our burden, we walked the half mile to the post office. International stamps are expensive. On the ship, they’re $3.50, but that’s US dollars. At the Australian post office, they’re still $3.50, but that’s Australian dollars, so significantly less.

For women who succumbed to the 1980s over-plucked eyebrow look

Step Three: stop across the street at the grocery store and pick up some pre-packed salad, a tiny sourdough loaf, a couple of bottles of juice, and some hummus.

Step Four: walk the mile to the botanical gardens.

The walk between the shipping place and the botanical garden is nowhere near any touristy areas of town. There were shops that sold bathroom fixtures, mechanics, small apartment buildings – all the everyday stuff you see in a residential neighborhood. It felt comfortingly normal, and I realized how much I missed a day of running errands and walking around town.

Before the botanical gardens, there’s a huge park planted with enormous trees, most of which had memorial markers in front of them.

The notion of honoring someone’s death by nourishing a life is wonderful, and made the enormous park feel that much more wonderful. Once through the war memorial part of the park, we found the entrance to the botanical gardens. There’s a big sign at the gate that says: “Australia’s #1 Tourist Destination.” The subtext is “IN YOUR FACE, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE!”

Nice to know it’s not just Americans who need warnings like this

The day was sunny and mild, the botanical gardens were beautiful and refreshing, and after walking around and appreciating the beauty of the trees, shrubs, and ferns, we sat in a large gazebo and ate lunch.

We were amused to see that a tour group from our ship had also come to the botanical gardens, and wondered if we’d be able to hitch a ride back to the ship on their bus. As it turned out, we didn’t see them again once we’d left the area of the gates.

Once we’d made our way back to the ship, we were tuckered out. Today was the remedy to some of the homesickness I’ve been feeling. It’s nice to think that, while we still have adventures ahead, we’ll be traveling toward home from here on.

Centenary World Cruise Day 70: As Far As I Can Sea

Another day at sea. Sydney marked the end of one leg of the journey and the start of another, and as with every new leg, we have a whole new group of passengers. Many of them are only on from Sydney to South Africa, which is about three weeks. It’s always fun watching the new passengers wandering around the ship, trying to get their bearings. Awwww…remember when that was us? It seems like so long ago.

Today was also the day we dragged every souvenir we’ve bought since Stonehenge out from under the bed where we’ve been storing them, and packed them into the new luggage. We realized that, because we’ve also bought ourselves a bunch of things that we’re still using (mainly new clothes), that we couldn’t fit everything, even in these giant new suitcases. We decided to ship all the textiles (clothes, dish towels, etc.) and books (OMG, did I ever buy a lot of books). We packed it all up and, since we didn’t have anything planned for Melbourne (we land tomorrow), our adventure will include THE POST OFFICE!

Centenary World Cruise Day 68-69: Sydney

Day 68:

Today was our first of two in Sydney. We had an objective: we needed to buy a couple more suitcases, as we’ve bought so many souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home that there’s no way they’re fitting into the luggage we brought.

Ship’s tender taking folks to Circular Quay

Luckily, the couple who’d had the table next to ours at dinner for the last leg of the trip was from Australia, and gave us some great guidance about where to find reasonably priced luggage, and how to get there. It turns out, Sydney public transportation is really easy to use, and there’s a big station at the quayside.

Me on public transit! In another country!!

The downtown shopping district is interesting – there’s not really any traffic on the main street with all the shops, because it’s taken up by the light rail line. Cars can drive on it, but they mainly go from hotel driveways to the nearest cross street. There are also quite a few pedestrian arcades, so walking around was easy and enjoyable.

Sure enough, we found the department store with reasonably priced luggage, and to make it even better, they were having a one-day-only 40% off sale. SCORE! Although it meant that for the rest of the afternoon, we had to roll two huge suitcases all over town with us. Luckily, there were lots of people who had taken advantage of the sale and were doing the same.

That evening, we had tickets to the opera. The Sydney Opera House is right on the waterfront, so the only traveling we had to do was from the ship at anchor in the harbor on a tender to the quayside. It was kind of nice traveling with a little boat full of people all dressed up for the opera.

Everyone has seen pictures of the outside of the Sydney Opera House, but very few people have seen pictures of the inside. The two surprising things: it’s smaller than you’d think, and it’s done in that kind of “we can make concrete look decorative” style popular in the 1970s. But the opera itself was excellent, and we had a really wonderful evening.

Day 69:

Our second day in Sydney. We went into town again, this time all the way to Town Hall, right next to Saint Andrews Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic Revival church. The bells were ringing for the service as we got off the train, and it was lovely to just stand there on a lovely morning in early autumn, listening to them.

Yesterday, we had the first decent Mexican food we’d had in 2 ½ months. There’s no way you’re getting decent Mexican food on a ship that offers “avocado chutney,” and hates any kind of condiment that might accidentally add flavor. The place in Sydney was a chain called “Mad Mex,” and in addition to decent food, they offered a fun mix of covers of popular music from the 1980s and 1990s – a dubstep version of the Men at Work song “Down Under,” a fun cover of the Eiffel 65 song “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” – stuff like that. So of course, not knowing the next time we’d see Mexican food, we had to have it for lunch again.

Later, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Australia is great about acknowledging the indigenous people’s claims to the land, and celebrating their culture. Then again, there are an awful lot of white people making an awful lot of money on it, mostly by being the ones doing the selling of indigenous art. The MOCA is mostly indigenous art, and it was great fun.

The MOCA is just across from the ship – how convenient!

We came back to the ship just as it started to sprinkle, and decided to have dinner on the balcony of our room. We sat there, eating our dinner and waving at people going by on ferries, who waved back. Just as the sun was going down, flying foxes (a large species of bat) flew past the ship. I’ve only ever seen pictures of them, so was delighted to see them in person. They’re HUGE! (Okay, huge for bats.) There they went, off to hunt some elusive wild fruit.

Centenary World Cruise Day 66-67:

Day 66:

For the second time inside a week, there was a medical evacuation. This time, the person was in their cabin, rather than one of the bars, but it’s the same drill – don’t leave your room until the evacuation is over and keep your balcony door closed.

The last time it happened, the Pirate and I were walking down the hall during the evacuation and heard the telltale whistle that means a cabin has its outside door open. There’s always that one person, isn’t there?

Later, we were sitting at lunch in the only big open space on the upper decks we knew of. There are higher decks on either side, and there are wires going from one railing to another over the open space. Before this, I thought that’s where the helicopter would have landed, but realized that couldn’t be it. After dinner, we went for a walk up on deck and realized that there’s an area on the upper deck dedicated to sports – shuffleboard, basketball, putting green (these last two encased in nets). And right in the middle, a gigantic green circle that is doubtless the landing pad. Mystery solved!

Day 67:

Last night, we got surveys in our mail slot. The cruise company asked us to rate the entertainment, the food, the service, etc. The service, the cleanliness, the staff at the bars and lounges all got high marks.

Then there was our assessment of their onboard app. It seems like everything has to have an app nowadays, and on the Cunard app, you’re supposed to be able to see the itinerary for your entire cruise, all your port excursions, and the schedule for the entertainment on board. You’re also supposed to be able to book spa appointments, alternative dining, and port excursions. NOPE. The Pirate and I can’t do any of that. The only thing we’ve been able to do is see the .pdf of each day’s Daily Programme (which is also delivered in paper form to our cabin each night for the next day). And because the ship’s internet is so awful, even that doesn’t load right half the time.

But what I really lit into them about was the food. The Pirate is vegan, and on a normal day, there is precious little for him to eat. At breakfast they have vegetarian sausages and bacon, but they are so overcooked that they’re inedible. At lunch, even things that should be vegetarian often have gratuitous pork in them. They label everything that has gluten, dairy, shellfish – even celery! But they don’t label anything with meat. And if you don’t spot it, or don’t know their jargon for it, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. They also seem to think that “vegetarian” and “vegan” are interchangeable.

Nearly all the baked goods are stale, as though they were loaded onto the ship at the beginning of the voyage and have sat uncovered and unrefrigerated for the last two and a bit months. The sushi’s also got that dry crunchiness that means it’s not fresh. Honestly, all those people who said they gained weight on this ship make me think that their culinary standards are pretty low.

I don’t expect anything to come of it, but we’ll see.

Centenary World Cruise Day 65: Brisbane

We’re in Brisbane today, and our port adventure was a trip to the Brisbane Zoo. I LOVE zoos. Where I grew up, we were within walking distance of the Phoenx Zoo, which, now that I have been to a few zoos, I can see is large and diverse compared to a lot of others.

It its favor, the Brisbane zoo has tons of animals unique to Australia. We saw koalas (smaller than I thought they would be), echidnas, lots of snakes and lizards, the tallest giraffe in the world, and kangaroos and wallabies. We avoided the famous crocodile show because we’re just not comfortable with animals being made to perform for humans. It feels gross.

The enclosure with the kangaroos and wallabies is huge, and rather than having them in cages, they’re just wandering around. You can buy food for them (it’s those pellets you feed rabbits, plus some corn) and then go into the enclosure and feed them.

First, you have to get their attention. Using the same logic that allows your pet to come running when they hear the can opener, we tried rustling the bags, but that didn’t work. Then we tried putting the food into our hands and holding them out to the animals. That got their attention, but they wouldn’t approach us because these are prima donna kangaroos and wallabies. They didn’t come to us – we had to go to them. Finally, we were able to get them to eat out of our hands.

The Pirate fed the kangaroos, and he looked delighted! Their heads are tiny compared to their bodies, and they look almost like deer heads, with the same kind of long noses, big ears, and long eyelashes. At one point, one of the kangaroos was so excited, it grabbed the Pirate’s hand and held it still, afraid he might take it away. A couple of the kangaroos pooped while he was feeding them, as if they needed to make room so they could eat more. They’re all about efficiency.

I fed exactly one wallaby. It ate a whole bunch of pellets out of my hand while I talked to it about how its ear got split, and how the food it was eating kind of looked like that organic cat litter stuff. It would eat, look away, sniff, eat some more. Every time it looked away, I assumed it was done and went to take my hand away, but then it would turn back to me, so I fed it more. Then it started doing a thing that every cat or dog owner in the world recognizes – the horking and jerking that means an animal is about to throw up. Sure enough, a disgusting gruel of corn and pellets oozed to the ground. Then, like any pet I’ve ever owned, it proceeded to eat that, too. I decided I was done feeding things. And now I can cross “make a wallaby barf” off my bucket list.

A lot of the animals (the wombats, the dingoes, the echidnas, the red pandas) were asleep. I came up with three reasons for this:

  1. It was beastly hot and humid, so they were sleeping through the heat of the day.
  2. There is nothing good on daytime television in Australia.
  3. After hours, these animals like to party. They’re resting up from last night’s festivities in preparation for tonight’s.

Those are the only explanations.

Also, I have decided that Australians are both friendly and not quiet about it, so they’re like aggressive Canadians.

Centenary World Cruise Day 63-64: Whitsunday Island

Day 63:

Today we’re at Whitsunday Island. We didn’t have a port adventure, and the only things within walking distance of the ship are fancy resorts, which aren’t really our scene, so we didn’t get off the ship.

I ended up contemplating the emergency poster on the back of our cabin door. There are two figures on this poster – a guy who looks like an escaped convict, and a person of indeterminate gender. I have to admit, I am far too fascinated with the pictures to have any idea what the poster says.  

Day 64

Another day at sea, where the most exciting thing that happened to me was finally getting to work more on my own writing, now that NonBinary Review is all done. YAY!

Centenary World Cruise Day 60-62: Sea To It

Day 60:

We’re halfway through our journey. There are a few indicators – I had packed my pills in four zipper bags of 30 doses each, and I finished the second one. The list we’d been given of all the ports flipped over to the second page. We’re sick and tired of everything on the ship. Luckily, for most of the rest of the trip, we don’t have very many at sea days in between ports. We’ll be circumnavigating Australia, so it’s only a day or two between each stop.

Day 61:

Well, the pizza was delicious, but I spent most of the day in some pretty severe intestinal distress. Funny – I’ve eaten and drunk in places where other folks have turned their noses up at the food, expressing a certainty that we’d get sick, and it never happened. But in Australia – bingo.

We ended up talking to the couple next to us at dinner about food. When we first got here, several people remarked at the fact that they had gained weight while on the ship. I expected the food on this cruise to be a non-stop parade of deliciousness, but…it’s not. Much of the food here is laced with some variety of pork – ham in the potato salad, pork in the stir fry, sausages and bacon and pork roast at breakfast. Since I don’t eat pork, beef, or lamb, my lunch and dinner choices are much more limited than other people’s.

The food is definitely geared toward not just British tastes, but the tastes of older people. Nothing is highly spiced or very well salted, and because they have to feed 2700 people three times a day, some of their practices (like putting out sliced bread and then leaving it out all day) mean that the food isn’t as fresh as one might hope.

We gave our dinner companions the benefit of our discoveries – like the fact that the coffee bar serves kedgeree (rice, smoked haddock, and hard boiled egg with curry and butter) at breakfast, but the main dining room doesn’t. We also discovered that you can’t get decent coffee or tea at the breakfast buffet, and that the lunch in the pub is better than up in the dining room. So now you know too.

Day 62:

For the second time on this trip, there was a medical emergency that necessitated a helicopter evacuation. Early on, I met a couple who had been on several Cunard cruises, and they pointed out that the demographic on these cruises made it inevitable. They said that they always saw at least one ambulance at every port, waiting for someone on the ship. And now I have seen at least one ambulance at every port, waiting for someone.

This is why you have to have travel insurance. The cruise line isn’t going to reimburse you for the rest of the trip you booked, and on a 4-month trip, that can run into a lot of money. But I wonder whether the cruise line has some kind of waiting list so that they can fill the room of the person who’s been evacuated.