EPISODE SIX: WE BE CRUIZIN’ (TASMANIA)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, NOVEMBER 12, 2022
Planning our ten week trip, I looked for where we might need some down time. At this point, about one month into our journey, a cruise around Tasmania, seemed perfect. I mean, who doesn’t want to say they’ve been to Tasmania? With boarding the Majestic Princess delayed until 5:00 p.m., we knew it would be tedious to get on the ship. The first clue the trip was not going to be as easy-breezy as we hoped, was the notice that masks would be required in all public areas. At least we could take them off in our cabin. Author’s Note: Once on board we discovered that, yes, a number of people who tested positive for Covid had gotten off the ship. Many of them were completely asymptomatic. What they didn’t tell us: individuals with through tickets, that is those who had booked multiple back to back cruises, were given the option to stay on the ship isolated in their cabin - presumably with their cabin mates. This made us wonder what else they didn’t tell us. I decide to spend a wad of my cruise cash on a manicure. Tom spent his cruise cash on a massage.
Author’s Note: They didn’t tell me now they only use throwaway tools. So there was no little dremel tool to remove the top coat of acrylic from my gel manicure. The technician used an emery board to scuff off the top coat then filled a cup with polish remover and left me there. My manicure took over two hours. There were about twenty choices of nail color when you eliminated the duplicates. Of those many were too sticky to use. It was disappointing at best.
While I was finishing my nails Tom grabbed some amazing pictures as we left Sydney Harbor. If we hadn’t been leaving late we would have missed that photo-op!
We dined in the Concerto Dining room that night and realized that the food was not going to be stellar. Author’s Note: Throughout the cruise the preparation of the lamb was excellent, but most other dishes were average at best. There were several times we reordered because the first dish simply wasn’t good or was cold. Of course, on a cruise reordering is completely acceptable, but it doesn’t make a pleasant dining experience.
Our first stop was Melbourne. We had been there but I didn’t do the street art tour and regretted it! I booked with Blender Studios, a live-in studio co-op, so an actual artist would conduct our tour. It was awesome! We talked technique, analyzed how some
of the art was made and admired our guide’s own work on in one of the alleys.
Author’s Note: There are legal walls, legal when authorized walls, and illegal walls. You will be arrested if you are caught tagging an illegal wall. There are no real rules for painting over other people’s work, but there is respect for some artists whose work remains mostly untouched. It was riveting. Even when the skies opened up to flood the gutters and the wind blew our umbrella wrong side out, we stuck with the tour all the way to the Blender Studio. It was a great way to spend the day!
Author’s Note: One evening our waiter came back to us confused. We gave him our cabin number: 327. He wanted to be sure because we were sitting at table number 327. I made us reservations for shared tables, but about midway through the cruise we started feeling nervous about exposure and changed to a private table. Author’s Note: I would think that “supply chain” issues would have smoothed out so that there would be straws
available during the entire cruise. Apparently cost-cutting measures have diminished the quality of the food as well as the level of customer service we enjoyed before Covid.
We hopped off at The Cascade Female Factory which housed female prisoners. Here the women worked to do to support the prison and learned skills to rehabilitate them. Women were punished if they turned up pregnant. If a woman gave birth in the prison there was a high likelihood she and or her infant would die. It was a horrible, brutal place, with a promise of freedom if they served their sentence and reformed. Some women did survive and went on to marry and raise families in Hobart, but the road they traveled to “respectability” was often tragic.
We walked back up through the park from the Female Factory to the Cascade Brewery. They have been brewing beer since 1832 when it was just a single story building. It seemed appropriate to sample some beer. We hopped back on the bus to return to the pier.
Our third stop required a water shuttle to Port Arthur. Port Arthur was also part of England’s penal colony. According to our guide, the worst of the worst criminals were sent to Port Arthur because it was so hard to escape. It was mostly men, but a few "reformed" females were sent over from the Female Factory to work in the homes of the prison officials. We took a boat tour that circled the cemetery island where many graves remain unmarked as prisoners were regarded as not deserving markers on their graves. Author’s Note: We were going to join the walking tour, but I couldn’t keep up with our young fast-paced guide. We turned back to the ship and I picked up some Little Blue Penguin note cards from an artist, Mel Hills Wild Art. The Majestic Princess provided us eight carefree days with no driving. Princess ships have self-serve laundries and I planned to wash all our clothes before we got off the ship. Three days before we returned to Sydney a sign went up on the laundries that they were closed by order of the Australian Health Department. Author’s Note: To their credit, when I complained they made arrangements for my laundry to be done for me at no charge. I have to admit, this was awesome.
The ship stopped in Eden, but it was another water shuttle disembarkation, so we skipped Eden. Instead we went to afternoon tea. I really enjoy afternoon tea offered in the main dining room daily at 3:00 p.m. It’s ever so civilized with scones (that would be “scōns” if you’re American or “scaans” if you are British), if you please.
Author’s Note: So what is the takeaway from my Princess Cruise rant? Although we have built loyalty with Princess, we may not cruise with them again. They disappointed us on our Alaskan cruise/tour (which is another story altogether) and we may not give them an opportunity to disappoint us again. We returned to Sydney to settle into the West Hotel Sydney. Author’ Note: I thought we’d have a great view but the view was mostly a reflection in the building across the street. Also, Mr. Smith left his toiletries in our shower.
We planned to catch the Hop on Hop off ferry to travel around Sydney Harbor, but discovered it doesn’t run on Monday or Tuesday, the days we are here. New plan: we walked to Darling Harbor, crossed the Darling Harbor Pyrmont Bridge - one of the oldest surviving electrically operated swingspan bridges - to visit the Australian National Maritime MuSEAum.
The museum was fascinating with a submarine tour along with other vessels in the harbor. There were tons of exhibits inside, but the best exhibit for me was the display of winning photographs from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. This competition is sponsored by the National History Museum in England. Author’s Note: The good news? You can see them too! The exhibit we saw was from the 2021 competition. This link will take you to the 2022 winners but you can change the date to see the past years winners. If you click on the photo it will take you to a biography of the photographer and how the shot was made including why the photo is special. I’ve included two of our favorites. I can only imagine some of the photographer’s glee as they took what they were sure would be a prize-winning photograph, only to be squeezed out by another spectacular shot!
As our time in Sydney wound down, we couldn’t resist one more visit to Ester Restaurant. The second time did not disappoint! The meal stated as before with Fermented bread with Kifer and Dashi and roasted Pacific Oyster with horseradish mignonette. This time we added the trout roe to the dashi. Next came the sunrise lime pickled vegetable plate and a blood cake. Author's Note: We both wished the blood cake had been duck terrine. The potato pasta, koji eggplant, mountain pepper had more flavor this time. The rare flank steak, black garlic, was accompanied by hasselback potatoes, and Ester Salad. This time we looked forward the crepe brulee and whole mandarine sorbet. Author’s Note: This meal included a blood cake instead of duck terrine. However, this time we had hassleback potatoes with our flank steak. The potatoes were one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I will make these when I get home, but I know it will never be this good because Ester’s baked them in their wood burning oven. Wow! Just wow!
Stay tuned. We’ll Be in Cairns, Australia soon!