2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.1 of 5 Sydney and Port Arthur

Monday, February, 6, is a national holiday in Australia.  It’s the day the treaty was signed in 1840.  We spent it at sea.  The desk was busy but I won’t bore you with the details.  We had dinner in The Pinnacle for 27 people and it went very well.  Everyone dressed up and behaved themselves and many told me they were pleased with the seating arrangements that had them meeting new people.  I felt like Perle Mesta.

On Tuesday, February 7, still at sea, my email bought a question about the Zuiderdam, from friends who were booking a cruise on her.  I answered: “BB King is Rolling Stone here – more rock, less blues.  How good it is depends on the band.  We have a good one at the moment.  The first one was just too loud.  They have a piano bar with two pianos in it and it’s a nice place to have a drink.  The decor of the ship is pleasant.  It’s a good long walk end to end.  The Crow’s Nest doubles as the Explorations Cafe and has games and such in it.  That doesn’t thrill me.  A lot of the furniture is very uncomfortable, so you can’t light in one place for too long.  She’s a really pretty ship but this crowd, veterans of many world cruises, wishes they had the Amsterdam back.  It was cozier.

The food is good.  The dining room menu sometimes has three things I really want one night, and nothing the next, but we always get well fed.  The Pinnacle is still delicious.  I took 26 people there last night.  They paid for themselves but I poured from my Cellar no 2, and the Merlot was very popular.  Luna Pinot Grigio was on the list but they had run out of it, only a month in.  The substitute was fine, but I am sure Mike Moone would not be pleased to have made the list, only to have had them not buy enough wine. 

The entertainment is pretty good but they have a nasty habit of skipping a night at least once a week.  That never used to happen.”

The next day, Wednesday, February 8, was our last day at sea before Sydney.  I worked the office hour, put together and delivered a four-page newsletter, including two pages of spreadsheets on our activities in Sydney.  I stopped in the middle of my deliveries to eat something at my 3:30 pm breakfast time, and again later when the Canaletto opened to get a couple of dates.  Then I fielded a bunch of phone calls about Sydney, packed my overnight bag, and went to Happy Hour.  There were a lot of people there, with last minute Sydney questions.  Dinner was good and Cantare, too.

Finally, it was Thursday, February 9, and we were docked in Sydney, Australia.  The ride in on the shuttle rom White Bay to Darling Harbour was uneventful.  With my backpack on my back and Roffice doubling as an overnight bag, I was still mobile but not ready to walk a mile.  I pretty much had to, though.  I found the signs confusing, did not fancy escalators up, with no promise of escalators down on the other side of the highway, etc.  I was a pretty unhappy camper, to tell the truth.  My “go-to”, in such situations, is the best hotel I can see from where I am.  Fancy hotels have doormen, concierges and taxi ranks.  The mistake I made was thinking the taxi rank on the side street beside the hotel, was the official one.  I got a map from the Sofitel concierge and just took the first taxi in the rank.  Google had said it should cost $13-$16 to get to the Sydney Boutique Hotel in Darlinghurst.  I didn’t negotiate on the way in and I never asked to see the meter.  I paid the little shit the $47 he asked for just to get it over with.  And Google had been right.  I was robbed.

Putu, the desk clerk, was the first to offer sympathy for that, and he sweetly schlepped my bags upstairs, too.  It was a nice little place, and I had a nice little balcony, but there was no nice little elevator.  I had been so busy organizing opera tickets and dinners before for a lot of people, that I had been glad to just fall in with the hotel already chosen by Dorothy’s daughter.  And, wouldn’t you know it, my gel polish manicure had parted company with one of my nails last night and needed to come off. 

I found a thing called “Nail Lab” just around the corner and Putu showed me the quick way to get there.  They only had an appointment to remove my red claws, with no time to re-apply.  I took it and postponed my meeting with old Hong Kong friends, Helen Pakchung and Nick Hamilton-Kane, a half hour to fit it in.  There was a cute little coffee shop with a terrace behind, next door to the nail place. I texted all this to Helen and they arrived, by train from the suburbs, fifteen minutes early and popped into the nail salon, where I was having my nails stripped, right in the window.  They went next door and I joined them in due course.  It had begun to rain, so we sat inside after all.

Then the skies opened.  Helen and Nick, who live there, had never see anything like it, except in HK, of course, where we called it a typhoon.  There wasn’t as much wind involved as a proper typhoon, but there was thunder and lightning and it was pelting down in buckets.  It never bothered us a bit and was over by the time we were done catching up over pastries and hot chocolate.  I am so lucky to have good friends all over the world.  Next time I come to Sydney, I am invited to stay with them, and I think I will.  Here’s a picture for my HK friends, who will remember Helen and Nick.  It was taken after the rain stopped, by Vicki, whom we just happened to meet. 

Back at the hotel, I made a phone call to the company that was transporting my Opera goers back to White Bay Cruise Terminal after the performance, and got that all squared away.  Then I used the services of the excellent Putu, to help me organize an Uber to take Cindy, Frank and myself to the Opera.  Vicki had done the same.  The Ubers duly arrived and took us to the Opera for about $15AU each.  It was about the same distance I had paid the $47 for, grrrrr.

I was able to pick up all the tickets I had booked at Will Call and those who had booked their own had no trouble either.  They did organize one big table for us for dinner and it did have a lovely view over the harbour as promised.  So far, so very good:

Don Giovanni, from seat F23 in the Sydney Opera House, was nothing short of magnificent.  I had bought that seat back in October, and it was one of the best in the house.  Everyone on our group had pretty decent seats, too, as this crowd was willing to pay for the best.  They weren’t coming by here that often, after all.  The sets, costumes and performers were all exceptional and three and a half hours passed swiftly for most of us.  There was, of course, no photography allowed during the performance, but Dee got this shot of the curtain calls:

The van driver was a good communicator and I was able to send that contingent off in a timely fashion at the end of the show.  I had left my hat at the dinner venue, and Cindy Lai, bless her, retrieved it for me while I was getting the van people off.  Then our little hotel contingent of seven, set off to find an Uber.  It had been easy when we had good WiFi, but, despite having been able to talk on the phone to the van driver, it wouldn’t work well enough on the cell network to find us a ride – or two.  So we walked out, found cabs, negotiated and got back to the hotel for less than $20 per cab.  As we were getting out of our cab, I got a text saying the minibus had just delivered my ten people back to the ship.  We had lost the others, but Frank and Cindy and I had a nightcap at the Kings Cross’ Rooftop bar, down the street.  There we met a delightful young couple and felt young again, ourselves. 

I woke up early in the hotel, on Friday, and realized I hadn’t planned this stayover well at all.  The smartest thing I could do was probably to take an Uber right back to the ship, drop my stuff and come out again, the ship’s shuttle being one of the better ways to get to Darling Harbour.  I managed to shoot myself in the foot again, this time with Uber.  While on hotel WiFi it would only let me book 40 minutes in advance and wanted $37 for that ride.  Once I had it booked, a cheaper, immediate ride presented itself.  I clicked and took it, getting to the ship for $22.  I asked the driver if the first ride would self-cancel as I couldn’t cancel it once I had left the WiFi and he said it would.  It didn’t and Uber charged me a $30 cancellation fee.  I am so careful not to waste a penny of my clients’ money but, when it’s my own, and I am in a hurry, my guard is down.  I have put in a claim with Uber, who seem to be ignoring it, so I’ll be claiming through PayPal.  It’s all a large PIA. 

I had enough time on the ship to clear my email before getting back in the shuttle line, which was unexpectedly long and slow.  But, I made it to Darling Harbour with 5 minutes to spare to meet my people who wanted to be led to DimSum.  Most of them had gone on their own, wanting to do Paddy’s Market before, rather than after.  Some opted to walk and five of us decided on a taxi, so we walked back over to the Sofitel, as I had done yesterday.  The concierge ordered us a big one this time, but, after about 15 minutes, it had failed to appear, so we took two regular cabs, for about $10 each. 

We had the usual trouble finding our way in to Zilver, but it was very rewarding, once found.  It’s one of the best Dim Sum places in the world, outside of Hong Kong. I don’t have pictures, I was too busy eating.  Next we betook ourselves to Paddy’s Markets, which is rather a shadow of its former self.  I won’t be back here again, I am afraid.  I did get a battery into my cheap watch that will give it another couple of years, and I now have a few more pairs of underwear.  Lynann and I had a nice chat with an ABC, but that was all. 

The journey back to Darling Harbour was no fun and it could have been so easy, had the locals we talked to, a parking monitor and a bank security guard, known how simple travel in Sydney had become.  What none of us knew is that you can tap your chipped credit card to take any public transportation.  We couldn’t get a taxi, but there was a tram that would have been a lot of help.  As it was, we ended up walking all the way to Darling Harbour from Haymarket, which wouldn’t have been a big deal, had we not been old and somewhat decrepit.  It was a 13,000 step day and my ankle had a lot to complain about.  Lynann was just so tired that she missed the step getting into the bus and scraped her shin on it.  I am terrified of broken skin in that area, having known of a couple of horror stories personally.  So we got her a wheelchair and whisked her into the medical centre on arrival at the ship.  Her cut was duly dressed and is probably going to be just fine, but you can’t be too careful of such a thing.  We aren’t sure the nurse agreed with us.  She had the personality of a rock through it all and we pretty much missed one of the best sailaways in the world.  This is what it looked like from the medical centre on Deck A:

Lynann’s own balcony was better:

There was a race going on.  Note the black jib.  There were a lot of black sails.  Must be something new, and doubtless fast, but pretty ugly, particularly when both jib and main are black. 

Somehow, we both managed to hobble to dinner, which was good and we were rewarded with some of the best entertainment so far, pianist Hyperion Knight.  He really lifted our spirits.  I love a good pianist. 

Back at sea on Saturday, February 11, it was a fairly easy office hour, with thanks and good reports of Sydney.  Cher came by to tell me to tell all of you about George’s Restaurant in Darling Harbur, where the Internet is blazing fast and it’s not crowded at all. 

Fifty people attended out third cocktail party and 32 of them came to dinner afterward.  These dinners are a lot of fun and there was a production show to follow. 

I took Sunday, February 12 in Port Arthur, Australia pretty much off.  It was a tender port and pretty windy.  I elected to stay on board and try to catch up with my logging and bloging.  I spent the Port Arthur sailaway in the Crow’s Nest with Frank and Cindy, and we had Hyperion Knight at our table for dinner.  He was the most absolutely delightful dinner guest you could imagine.