Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cruisin' around the Land Down Under


As I mentioned in the previous post, we opted to take a 10 day, 9 night cruise around the south eastern coast of Australia. We booked this cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines. During the northern hemisphere winter, ships will 'reposition' and they offer more cruises during the southern hemisphere summer. So we took advantage of that and got a great deal on the cruise (don't ask about our airfare....flying so close to the holidays meant no specials). After we boarded, we explored the ship while waiting for our luggage to be delivered to the room/the ship to set sail. We were sailing on the Norwegian Jewel which departed from the Sydney Harbour adjacent to the Sydney Harbour Bridge...which makes for great family photos!



So there may have been a little bit of a breeze when we are were leaving....lol.



We had a great vantage point for a panoramic of the whole harbour! As we sailed out of the Sydney Harbour, the Opera House was given a golden hue from the lovely Australian sun trying to peak through the rain clouds.


The first night for dinner, we opted for the buffet restaurants.....we allowed vacation rules for the kid's dinner....pasta with a side of pizza and fries.....lol. They then went off to their respective kids/teen clubs. Clarissa was at the perfect age!! She LOVED Splash Academy!!! Richard and I figured out some shore excursion booking details and checked out the 'Luminescence' show. It was a light/acrobatic show. It was funny in that they asked people to not use cameras/recording devices. Of course there were rule breakers and some lighting people would shine a laser on people breaking the rule...ha ha busted!!

I forgot to take our own photo...so here is one from Norwegian's website of about what our room looked like when we first saw it (before we dropped our bags immediately on the bed).

from: https://www.ncl.com/cruise-ship/jewel/staterooms/oceanview

So the website says this room will sleep 4 people. I could not figure where the fourth person would sleep. I saw the drop down bunk on the left for number 3 and the middle was just a queen....hmmm. Even google searches came up empty. After we returned from our evening adventures, we knew!


Another bed was rolled into the room (or had been under the master bed all along). The big bed pushed to the side to make room. It was quite cozy, but worked! We were super happy we had spent the little extra for an oceanview room, just having the feeling of more room made it seem not as cramped on those 'fun days at sea'!!


By the next morning, the ship had arrived into our first port. A small fishing village called Eden also located in New South Wales. Eden's is one of Australia's best places for oyster farming and is surrounded by national parks, wilderness areas, and beaches. The package we had booked offered some excursion credits so we opted to use one of them here and we picked "Tea and Kangaroos"...who wouldn't want to have tea with roos! Lol, just kidding, I could totally see that going all Real Housewives of Australia with Roo's kicking over the tables. We were taken by bus to a golf course, served morning tea, then we got to drive golf carts around the course to see the wild kangaroos hoping around/next to the course!


So, apparently after the golf course was built the kangaroos slowly moved in. At first, they hung out around the sides not entering the course and eating their native grass. At some point, they tasted the course grass and realized it was much tastier! Now they eat that!


They will then just hang out in the trees when not feeding.


We saw a range of age groups. Moms, pouch joeys, older joeys, and males.


Random magpie bird on the course as WE drove around (and by we....I mean all of us...Clarissa steered our golf cart so I could take photos while Richard and Mason took turns driving their cart).


The course is so big there are actually several troops of kangaroos in different areas.


They didn't really seemed bothered by the golf carts driving by. They would occasionally look over but just seemed to just sit around and do their kangaroo thing.


A fun fact we learned about female kangaroos. They can be pregnant, have a joey in the pouch nursing with one type of milk, as well as a joey outside the pouch nursing with a different type of milk....poor mommas!


After our kangaroo time, we caught a ride back into Eden. We opted to hop off the bus in the middle of town, wander around a bit (grabbed some fresh strawberries to eat! Yum we miss those in Fiji), then walked back to the dock to catch the tender back to the ship. Caught this great view between some trees on our walk back!


That night after dinner, the kids went off to do their thing and somehow Richard and I ended up as contestants on the Newlywed Comedy Gameshow....ironically as the Newlyweds (our 10 year anniversary is coming up very soon!!). The next morning, we were in the island state of Tasmania at our next port - Burnie! We had pre-booked the Gunns Plains Caves and Wildlife Tour. We hopped aboard the tour bus and headed through the farmlands, past the mountains, and into the Gunns Plains. While driving we felt it reminded us of New Zealand....like New Zealand lite. We learned lots of fun facts while driving past fields of poppies (they are so tightly controlled they have flower counts/can genetically trace any flowers if they are ever stolen back to their field), potatoes, diary cows, etc.


On our way, we stopped to look over the Gunn Plains. Lovely view, though a bit chilly as the forecast at the coast was 64°F (19°C)....brr cold for nearly summer!!


While mom is away taking photos, I steal her awesome new hat! At least she looks cute! Our first excursion was Wing's Farm Park. It is a small family operated facility, primarily rehabilitating animals to release back into the wild with some full time residents.


Our main draw in going was to see Tasmanian devils while in Tasmania. They are most active at dawn/dusk and we would not be on the island at that time...so this was the next best thing.


There were a few sleeping under the trees as well. We lucked out and were there for feeding time. We got to see the devils up real close, but those photos are a little bloody as they eat raw meat. We then headed over to the feed kangaroos enclosure. Even if you didn't have food you were able to pet the kangaroos. We were pleasantly surprised at how soft kangaroo fur was! I think I was expecting it to be coarse but it was softer than IsaLei's fur!






Love this momma lugging her joey around....


Black swans were on the farm.


There was a baby wombat available for holding, but we were mean and didn't partake. It was super adorbs!!


Afterwards we headed to the Gunn Plain Caves which is part of a State Reserve. The caves were discovered in the early 1900s and relatively soon after it became a "show" cave with tourists coming to visit and see the unique formations.  Clarissa took her time deciding to come into the cave (it was pretty dark), but eventually came in after Richard got this sweet photo of her!


We were able to get one decent shot of some of the formations. There were also gloworms in this cave! (Remember we saw them on the North and South Islands of New Zealand!). We were told no flash photography, I attempted to catch them glowing with the video function of the GoPro but sadly that didn't work.


The bus back to the ship took a different route along the coast. We drove through the town of Penguin. Which aptly has a giant penguin in the middle of town....which was dressed for the holidays!


Upon arrival back at the ship, a group of Scottish bag pipers/drummer were playing some music as we re-boarded the ship. Apparently, the Scottish were the third largest group of migrants to Tasmania and began migrating to the island in the 1820s.


The way the tour was timed, we never ended up eating lunch (good thing we packed snacks). So we were famished, grabbed dinner and then the kids went off to do their own things.....Richard and I just explored the ship. Since we were sailing further south we enjoyed a late sunset in the Bass Strait (8:45 pm!!).


Day four of the cruise we woke up in another new port, Melbourne! In fact we were in new state, Victoria. When talking about our then upcoming cruise at book club, we realized that a friend of mine would in Melbourne the same day we would be!! None of the ship excursions seemed really interesting to us, so we went rogue and did our own thing!! We booked tickets on CitySightseeing Melbourne Hop On/Off bus. It was easy to catch, after we disembarked we exchanged our online booking for our tickets in the terminal and then we walked about five or so minutes to catch the bus! Super Easy!

Ok....totally looks like another logo we know doesn't it! Burger King?!?! Richard researched it - here's the cliff notes version - apparently there was a quick thinking fellow who registered the Burger King trademark before the American Burger King made it across the Pacific. His thinking was that he would make bank and could sell the trademark.....lol, not so much.


Eureka Tower - the tallest building in Queensland (as of this writing it is 15th tallest in the world according to wiki) and has the highest habitable apartments in the world! It was neat to hear about all the symbolism in the design of the building. The red towards the very top signifies the blood shed during the revolt and the gold at the top is nod to how Melbourne was a major gold rush boom town in the early 1800s. The blue hue to the glass is a nod to the Australian flag.


We got off at this stop, to see the Polly Woodside (an iron-hulled barque - type of sailing vessel - built in 1885 that has since been restored and is now part of a museum). We didn't go inside the ship though, we went into the mall next door for the Smiggle store...to Clarissa, the highlight of Melbourne!


Also got a great family we-sie from a nearby bridge!


We hopped back aboard the bus. Got off a few more times (walked through the big market...lots of fruits/veggies but we could not take them back on board, as well as tons of souvenirs). I think by mid-afternoon Mason and Richard were starting to get tired out.


We went through a part of town with very gothic architecture (first building was a church) and then a part of town with creative architecture (the colorful containers reused as apartments).


Clarissa insisted I get a picture of the cute Elephant sign.....who doesn't want to drink at British pub with a drunk elephant in a wheelbarrow for a logo?!?! As we made our way back towards the coast, we passed Melbourne's Luna Park (technically in St. Kilda). Clarissa was so creeped out by the face, she curled up and I had to tell her when we were past it. I doubt she would ever walk into the mouth..lol.


I think parasailing is quite popular here!!


So my bookclub friend and her family had flown in from Europe the previous day, so we met up by the beach for some ice cream. She forgot her sunglasses so she borrowed the traveling hat so as to not make the squinty face in the photo!


Sadly, after chatting we had to hustle back to our ship. From our evening explorations, Richard and I knew where we could view the action on the bridge. So we took the kids up to there to watch the Captain and crew navigate our departure from port. It was neat to see us moving through all the range markers and back out to sea.


Till next time Melbourne. It was fun!


Day five of the cruise was a fun day at sea. So naturally, Richard and I started the day off with Hot Bamboo Massages up in the spa! The kids opted to sleep in (this stay up late in kids/teen club to 10pm and then having to be up and off the ship before 9am is hard on their beauty sleep schedules). If you recall when I wrote about our South Island of New Zealand trip, I said I was rocking between Melbourne and Kangaroo Island....so that's what I did on my fun day at sea! Richard and I also went to art auction. I made the mistake of working on the blog post and not paying attention to what he was doing and at some point we apparently bought some art....oops! That evening, we had to go and pay for the art....it wasn't that bad. It was a set of three and we got to pick which pieces. So we are happy with the pieces we got. In the bridge viewing room, we took this picture of the 'you have traveled map'. I guesstimated the rest of our route, highlighting in red/pink this fun day at sea.


The ship is also getting decorated nicely for the holiday (all the enjoyment, none of the work....best of both worlds!!). That evening, Richard and I went to the Movie Sketch Comedy Night....it was a entertaining and we had a good chuckle.


They had so many details. The above one had a working train. There were things inside the windows.


This huge display even had a pond!


If we could of picked any port to have more time in, it would have been Kangaroo Island! There was so much to see here and we barely scratched the surface. We booked an afternoon excursion, so we didn't have to rush off the boat in the morning.


We thought we saw some penguins on the rocks when we came into the docks! When we walked out on to the rocks upon closer inspection they were not (disclaimer: the kids did not make it very far as all the bird poop smelled a little too 'lovely' for their liking!).



Oooh, look I did find some super cute penguins!


So I totally did not write this, but it would be a waste to not use someone else's handiwork!


So according to the map, this little rocky area is where the little blue penguins (formerly known as fairy penguins) will come on shore to roost at night. They will leave their nests at sunrise, go forage for food all day, then return just after dusk. Sadly we were not cleared to get off the ship before sunrise and had to be back on board before dusk....so no chance to spot them then.


If I were a little fairy penguin, I think this little nook would make a great nest!!


Richard and Clarissa took their time on the beach. Clarissa is in the bright pink shirt in the middleof the image....super easy to spot from afar!!


We had a little time and walked about to a coffee shop. What should we see up in the trees?!? Wild cockatoos!!


Coolest road sign ever!!


The waters of Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island were beautiful!


Our tour bus was running late, therefore we had some time to kill....impromptu photoshoot on the rocks!


Somebody took this quite serious!


Then I turned and aimed the camera the other direction. It look like a totally different landscape!


I think some of these rocks had pyrite (Fool's Gold) in them. They were very pretty and sparkly. Unfortunately, we could not take any with us as no rocks/soil can be brought into Fiji. On the distance hills, you could see patches of Eucalyptus trees growing on the ridge. Apparently about 22 species are native to the island!

 

The highlight of our excursion was a trip out to Seal Bay to see a colony of Australian sea lions (nearly 1000 - according to the park website) and one of the rarest species in the world! On our walk down we happened upon the skeleton of a stranded whale. 


The skeleton up close of the juvenile humpback whale. It washed on shore in 1984 and was moved to this location to protect and help it last longer.


Beautiful views from along the walk down.


Sea Lions!! Since they are eared seals, technically the beach name is accurate?


Action sequence! This male popped up, hustled down to water and started fighting another seal trying to come ashore.


Confronting the other seal lion right in the face ("close talker")!


The flight began! Our angry seal lion kept barking as the other one hauled itself up on shore.


Possibly the Alpha Male? Nobody messed with this male!


All the barking action and fighting didn't seem to bother the rest as they continued their sunning and naps.


Mason seemed to enjoy watching the sea lion action.


Richard got this picture of us hiking back up to the tour bus.


Our tour had two more stops - at a eucalyptus distillary (who knew how many uses there was for it) and a honey farm (Clarissa found the real queen bee in the hive, though I was queen bee here in this photo).


Richard helped himself to a honey wheat ale made with honey from the hive. He said it was different but good.


On our ride back to the ship, we had a few minutes to make an unscheduled stop at a breathtaking lookout.



Zoomed in, you can even see a couple surfers in the water!


On the rest of the drive back, we could see some of the male kangaroos coming out of the shade they had been keeping cool in all day and laying out in fields now that the heat of the day had past (taking a photo, while speeding down the road of a light brown animal in brown grass sadly, doesn't turn out well). It was a really rough tender ride back to the ship. We later found out if the captain had know the weather was going to be that rough he would of cancelled the excursions to the island...eek! I'm so glad we were able to at least get a glimpse of what Kangaroo Island had to offer!


The next day, we made it to our final port of call, Adelaide, in the state of South Australia. We opted to do our own thing and booked our own excursion...we did the Ultimate Adelaide and Hahndorf tour. It was better (and more affordable) than anything the ship offered....the only hiccup was the ship did not change to local time and the tour company did not account for that....we made it back (and the driver was talking via radio to the ship)....but it was a nail biter of a ride back looking at our watches and knowing when all-aboard was (we made it with about 2 minutes to spare!!).


The surveyor who chose the location of Adelaide/the city design was done by Colonel William Light, in his honor a statue has been erected on top of Montefiore Hill overlooking the whole city with it's grid-like pattern. I'm in front of the view....it used to be much better, before the new Adelaide Oval was built and somewhat blocked it (and the rain clouds).


Another major stop was the St. Peters Cathedral, it was construction started in 1869!


The stained glass was really quite impressive!



In one corner, there were a number of old and tattered flags. Not really sure of the history of them.


Outside the church was one of a several garden clocks we saw around the city. Very pretty.


The highlight of the tour was the stop at the chocolate factory!!! CHOCOLATE FACTORY! Unfortunately, with it being nearly the holidays they were not doing tours so we had to just deal with free samples.


Outside they had this old delivery truck, we thought it was for decoration....later we saw it driving around town....oops, glad she had not bumped anything.


We definitely bought some to take home with us (we did verify after all the announcements about not bringing fresh food back on board that we could bring chocolates....chocolate is it's own food group and okay...whew!).


After lunch, we headed up to Mount Lofty Summit Lookout. At the top of the summit is Flinders Column, in honor of William Flinders, the English navigator and cartographer who circumnavigated Australia (and declared it to be a continent).


View of Adelaide from Mount Lofty Summit Lookout.


After we left the summit, we started seeing koala crossing signs on the side of the road on our way to Hahndorf. We were looking!


As luck would have it, a koala must have fallen out of a tree while sleeping and was suddenly running down the road in the front of us (wow, taller than I expected, about 3 feet tall). Our tour bus slowed down as it ran to the slide of the road and shimmied back up a tree. Luckily I was able to grab the camera.


The splotches on the koala's on bottom indicate that it has chlamydia. Scientists are not sure if overpopulation or stress to habitat loss (or a combination of the two) that causes outbreaks of chlamydia in koala populations....but we saw koalas in the wild...check.


We had a quick stop in Beerenberg at a strawberry market. We had enough time to get a punnet of berries and then we turned into strawberries....j/j.


So in South Australia, there is a small German village and we were visiting it.


For some reason there was a giant panda sculpture in Hahndorf (there are two pandas in the Adelaide zoo so maybe that is why). Mason was surprised to see them!


Clarissa liked the villages holiday decorations (Richard enjoyed the complimentary German beer!).


As I mentioned, it was a nail-biter making it back to the ship that afternoon, but we made it back with moments to spare. It is quite odd that Australia's central time zone is only a 30 minute time change...which is quite confusing (and only 4 of the 7 states observe daylight savings).


Our last two days on the ship were fun days at sea as we sailed back to Sydney. Sadly the weather was still chilly (highs were around 70°F (21°C)) and not conducive for just lounging on the sun deck. In fact, the first day the pools were drained the seas were so rough. We did do some fun things like went and played Deal or No Deal (I won a free 8x10 photo!), Clarissa spent a lot of time at Splash Academy (Richard and I reveled in the we told you it would be fun!), Richard went to behind the curtain Q&A where he learned all kinds of neat facts about how a cruise ships runs, Mason played in the Giant Pictionary challenge game, I did some more blogging, Richard and I went to another art auction (though we did not buy any more art this time)....we all found plenty of fun things to keep ourselves entertained. On the staircase closest to our stateroom (which we frequently took since it was faster than the elevator most times), there was a piece of art by one of the artists that Clarissa would say was 'mommy & daddy'.....so I took a picture...this piece was never up for sale.


We played bingo our first afternoon. With a paying adult, each kid got a set of bingo cards. We all had a blast playing even though no one won. So we decided to play again our second day also. Low and behold, on the second game Mason called BINGO first!! He won (a second person also had bingo, so he had to share the winnings but he got the larger portion).


On the last night, we went to the show in the Stardust theatre. It was a performance by The Aussie Boys (though one was from New Zealand) and they primarily sang well known Australian songs. It was interesting to realize how many songs I didn't know came from Australian musicians or the song was about Australia....it was a really good show! After our two fun days at sea, we were back in Sydney as I mentioned in that blog post, we spent another day sightseeing before heading home to Fiji. We all enjoyed the cruise, it was an easy way to see 4 of the 7 states of Australia. There are things we missed (like the Great Ocean Road and seeing penguins in the wild) as well as other parts of Australia we still want to see....so we plan to come back....but for now that is wrap on our trip!