Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tasmania

 

One of the purposes for this long cruise was to see Tasmania. We had been to all the other states in Australia before, but we had never stepped foot in Tasmania. We did that this trip.

 

 

There were 3 stops on the island state, Burnie, Hobart and Port Arthur. The ship “blew” off Burnie because of high winds. We landed in Hobart and we tendered off Port Arthur. We only stepped foot in Hobart. The rest of the time we were trying to survive our colds. Murphy has a way of working things out—if we had arrived in Tasmania first, we could have experienced all the stops. 

 

Typical street on a Sunday afternoon

 

In Hobart I saw my first Christmas decorations for this year. It seemed strange because it’s late spring in OZ, so seeing snow covered scenes does not make a lot of sense. 

 

Christmas down under

 

I only walked to the City Center Hobart as I was looking for a pharmacy to buy some cough medicine. I bought the medicine, and went back to the ship. Again Murphy working overtime!

 

Christmas banners

 

I did take some pictures...so that’s good. 

 

Alterternative License Plate

 

Monument to the Convict Mothers and Children who settled Tasmania in the 1830s 

Port of Entry building

 

 

I’m writing this from Sydney a few days later. We are feeling better, so the cough medicine did work. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Life on the Maasdam

At port in Hobart, Tasmania

 

Right now we’ve been on the Maasdam 52 days which is our longest cruise to date. When we disembark in Sydney we will have spent 55 days on board. There are about 1250 well traveled pax onboard right now. I don’t think there are any first time cruisers. The average age is OLD, but then HAL tends to be the home of the “silver cruiser.” Don’t join a Holland America ship if you want to have a rollicking party cruise as it’s not going to happen. 

The Library

 

Given that, we’ve had a good time. There are shipboard activities that keep us busy. There have been lecturers; movies, trivia, duplicate bridge, mahjong, wine sampling, martini sampling, America’s Test Kitchen demonstrations, music, live entertainment, singers, dancers, and more I’m forgetting about. On a 55 day cruise there are bound to be a lot of sea days—folks who do a lot of cruising have learned to enjoy these special days as they are as busy or as quiet as you want them to be. I bring along yarn and crochet away; I also load my iPad with a lot of books and Netflix movies so I have a lot of entertainment at my fingertips. This trip I discovered that my Netflix movies only lasted 30 days—

Main pool

 

There is onboard wifi but it is slow and expensive. We bought 1000 minutes for $250 and we’ve been augmenting that time with shoreside wifi. Most ports of call have excellent free wifi in the terminal buildings. And, if you are willing to walk into the towns/cities there’s wifi available at hotels, shops and restaurants too. If you cannot find any wifi ask your cabin attendant and he will tell you where the good wifi is in town—all crew members know where the wifi locations are as they use them when they are ashore. 

America’s Test Kitchen cooking theatre

 

We did have a problem when we were in Fremantle. They had high speed wifi in place set up for 64 bit processors. I updated my iPad to iOS11 before we left the US mainland, but I did not update the other iPad...so I could get online and my husband could not. He was not amused! 

The underused Casino—never seen more than a dozen people in it

 

One of the drawbacks of a long cruise is the chance of getting the ship’s cold...and we caught the cold. For us, the cold turned into bronchitis and we’ve been dealing with that for a week now. We’ve seen the ship’s doc, my husband even had a chest x-ray (they were checking for pneumonia)...and we’ve been coughing. The major part of the illness is finally going away, but it’s not the perfect way to spend a cruise.  I’m hoping that we’ll feel close to 100% by Thursday as that’s when we take the 14 hour flight back home. 

Atrium 

 

 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Southern Ocean

 

How many oceans does our planet Earth have? We have five named oceans ...the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern. But, if you look at a map you can clearly see they are all connected.  Our beautiful “blue ball” has one ocean with five regions, and the region known as the Southern Ocean is a  real “beaut.” Every time I’ve sailed on the Southern Ocean I’ve gotten a case of “mal de mer” and this time was no exception. The Southern is a real ring tail tiger when it comes to being rough. By the way, the reason is simple...there are no land masses to stop the wind, which blows continually. The more the winds blow, the rougher the sea.

 

Yesterday we left the region of Indian Ocean and entered the Southern. As soon as we turned the corner, the seas jumped into high relief. We had 16 foot seas. That means the waves come up to Deck 4 and 5 on the ship. Even with stabilizers out to make the ride more even, the ship is bobbing up and down in the water like a cork, albeit stabilized! It was not a nice introduction to this often rough patch of water.  My stomach did not like it at all. 

 

At first I thought I could avoid eating, but after 12 hours of bobbing around and not eating, I was getting hungry. The best food for me to eat in that situation is toast, so I ordered toast from in-room dining. After the toast arrived, I needed to eat it, and posed another problem. I don’t feel well, I’m hungry and the toast looks horrible. It’s only toast, how can that hurt me? And that’s when I visited the medical center and got a shot for seasickness. It worked like magic. In about 15 minutes I felt like a real person instead of a cramped up rubber spaghetti doll. I’ve heard of “the shot” before, but never took one and that was not wise. I won’t make that mistake again. When feeling seasick beyond a double dose of seasick medication, get the shot and you will feel so much better! 

 

 

Today we are sailing toward Tasmania and the Indian has calmed down a bit. She’s not tossing up and down and I’m liking the water again again. I know the Southern Ocean is rough, but it would be nice to sail upon her just once without getting kicked all over the place.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Perth

 

The University...the only thing we remembered from our last visit 

The capital city of Western Australia is a city of 1.8 million, yet the state has only 2.2 million people. (The state of WA has the same population as Manaus on the Amazon River! I don’t know why I love little statistics like that, but I do) Western Australia is roughly half of the continent and it’s relatively unpopulated. Exmouth, also in WA has 2000 folks.

 

 

After a brief tour of Fre-O, where we saw many old convict built structures. These people are proud of their “convict” past and celebrate it. (Remember, the convicts were not hardened criminals, many were petty thieves trying to feed their families when times were rough in London. For that, they were transported thousands of miles to Australia to make a new beginning.) 

 

 

We drove to Cottesloe Beach on the Indian Ocean and walked around a bit. I think everyone in OZx is a swimmer, as the beaches are used a lot. Each beach has a life guard shack with folks on duty watching all the time. 

 

 

I liked how the beaches were used...folks were swimming and surfing, others were catching the rays, others were using their smartphones, and mothers were feeding their babies. Going to the beach is part of the national heritage. 

 

 

Our next stop was King’s Park in Perth. King’s Park is 1000 acres of undeveloped land, that retains the look of the city  before it was settled. There are scrubby trees and bushes—and then when you least expect it— there’s a beautiful highly maintained botanic garden that has memorials to World Wars 1 and 2. 

 

The city of Perth is huge! Last time we were here we thought it reminded us of Santa Barbara in 1950...well forget that image. After the America’s Cup races in the mid-80s the town “took off” and now it’s a thriving city. The city is set between the Swan River and the Indian Ocean, so it has an interesting set of waterfronts. 

 

 

The Swan River is relatively shallow (4 meters deep) and is not used for commerce, but it is used for recreation. There are beaches and yacht clubs dotting the shore. 

 

 

Perth the western gateway to Australia on the Indian Ocean. I think it has been developed to rival Sydney with high rise buildings and interesting architecture. There’s nothing that matches the Opera House in Sydney, but lots of building is happening right now...there is an interesting bridge. Another one of those silly statistics: Perth is closer to the capital of Java, Jakarta,  than it is to any other Australian capital city. It’s a continent away from Sydney and Melbourne.

 

 

Building boom in Perth
 

 

 

 

 

 

Fremantle

 

Fremantle aka Fre-0

The last time we were here, the America’s Cup was going to be raced and the year was 1986. I remember looking at the 12 meter yachts and thinking these are the strangest looking boats I’ve ever seen. Fast forward 30 years, the yachts are not here, but there’s a lot more activity than there was then. The city has grown too, as it’s hard to tell where Perth starts and Fre-O ends.

 

 

The port of Fremantle is BUSY. There’s container as well as passenger traffic. We’ve not been to a port this size since leaving Sydney. As always it’s fun and interesting to look at all the different activities that happen in a port. Today a sheep ship came into harbor. It looked like a 6 deck cattle car with flies and a really bad smell. I did not take a picture of it, because I did not know what it was...my loss.

 

You might wonder why I called this city Fre-O...it’s simple...that’s the nickname for Fremantle. Aussies have a habit of making long words short, making short words long and ending words with -O...Therefore Fremantle (the name of the captain who founded the town) gets shortened and an -O is added. You don’t go on holiday, you have “hols” and you have a smok-O...it’s just part of being an Aussie.

 

 

Albany

 

Our last stop on the west coast of Australia was at the “one street town” of Albany. Albany was one of the first settlements in the area, but it has never been thriving like Perth or Fremantle. 

Tiny downtown with lots of "heritage" buildings

 

Our excursion was to take a catamaran into the bay and look at the area from a closer perspective than from the ship. The idea was good, but we got a bit more than we expected. 

 

We saw the old light house, now derelict.

We saw the modern granary where wheat is shipped all over the world.

We saw a derelict ship that is slowly sinking into the bay.

AND we saw a zodiac and then a second boat try to pull our cat out of the mud. We had grounded on a sand bar! The zodiac was our first rescuer but we were too big for him. Then another boat came out and we were too big for him too...but the two boats together pulled us off the sand bar and we sailed back to port. Not exactly the excursion we had in mind, but it was interesting.

 

Because we were on the bay too long, we had an abbreviated tour of the city. We saw a replica of the Brig Amity which brought the first settlers...it was not much bigger than the cat we had just left.

The downtown area is filled with “heritage” buildings dating from the late 1800s. Many have been lovingly cared for and/or restored. You can always tell when the Brit’s have been somewhere..there’s lots of stone work around and Albany is no exception.

 

 

Our excursion was supposed to end at 4:30 but we returned to Maasdam at 4:58. Crew members were waiting for us, as the sail away was supposed to be 5:00. As soon as we were onboard, the gangway was pulled and they started up the ship. We had a 5 hour stop in Albany that was a bit more exciting than we thought it would be.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ningaloo—Exmouth, AU

 

Ningaloo Marine Park, Exmouth, Australia 

We are in the back of beyond — on the western end of the Nullabor where the air is dry, the land is dryer and a few hardy souls eek out a living fishing. Exmouth started out as an American military base in 1967. Now it’s a Australian community of less than 2,000. There’s not much here, here.

 

 

We tendered to the port, which was a circular parking lot where a few buses were parked. Our group filed into our tour bus and we drove 35 km to Ningaloo Marine Park to see coral and reef fishes on the west coast coral reef. Ningaloo means pointy-thing like a nose...and Exmouth, has a pointy arm that juts out into the Indian Ocean, hence the aboriginal name.

 

 

 

 

Along the way we saw the communication towers that were built by the Americans. They were the purpose for the base and are still used. They don’t look very impressive, but space here is so vast, it’s hard to discern their true size. The central tower is taller than Eiffel, and the towers encompass a square kilometer.

 

 

There’s an old light house that used to be manned by 2 families, but now it’s electronic. The coastline is relatively flat, so it’s inland a bit on a hill, which is not much of a hill, but you take what you get.

 

Once in our glass bottom boat, we saw the reef. It’s a collection of coral of the “not-very-colorful” variety. We did see a few blue coral, but everything else looked green. We saw coral that looked like boulders, leaves, spirals, knobs...you name it. Color is determined by the algae the coral eat, the algae around here is greenish. The water was still and clear. We saw a giant clam and few fish but most fish were camera shy. 

 

Our guide told us the variety of coral we were looking at, and he also told us it’s age. Most of the reef is about 400 years old, but there’s a portion of reef that is 1000. Considering the polyps that make up the coral are teeny, tiny creatures, that seems like a long life span. The reef is healthy even though there are portions of dead reef. The dead reef is needed to grow algae which is important for the lifecycle of the living reef.