February 8th
Sydney….take 2!

I guess I was just too wound up to sleep last night.  I ended up sitting on the verandah until around 2 am.  I was tempted to go out to the aft deck in my bathrobe (for a wider perspective), but thought better of it.  The starboard side corridor of deck 8 appears to be less densely populated on this segment; & it gives you the feeling that that special area back there is private.  I suppose some would take offense if I made myself at home out there in my ‘lounging attire’.

There is a bell tower on the next street over that peals on the top of every hour.  I woke up as it struck 10; & it was nice to just wallow a little while longer.  For the first time in 3 weeks, I didn’t ‘have’ to be somewhere.  And for the first time, I just walked out the door without giving any thought to putting on my ‘face’.  I just left.  I hadn’t been to the Bistro for my morning capp in 3 days!  It’s another grey day out there; but at least not raining yet.

Walking forward on deck 6, I encountered 3 different groups of ‘visitors’ touring the ship (in wide eyed wonder).  I would bet that a lot of travel agents (specifically) have wandered through Serenity these last 2 days, admiring the work done during the recent ‘refit’.  She does look magnificent; & one would never believe what can be done during a 14 day dry dock.

Bridge Walkers waving goodbye

As soon as I entered the Bistro, I spotted Celeste & Bill.  I had to hear about their ‘night at the opera’ (Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ in English).  Bill (being a rock & roll kinda guy) wasn’t looking forward to it quite as much as Celeste; but he admitted that it was very ‘tolerable’.  They had to leave the ship about 5:30 (therefore missing dinner); & they were impressed to find the Bistro open & offering meal service when they returned after 10:30.  I also spotted what must have been the Discovery Channel film crew having a morning powwow (who else would have multiple huge cameras & telescopic tripods by their side).  I settled in with some muesli & Portuguese custard tarts & read for about an hour.

Had time to do some photo editing before my afternoon tour at 1:30.  This tour (SYD-CW) was a 3 hr. cruise of Sydney Harbour.  Crystal chartered a private catamaran; & there were about 30 of us onboard.  It was very cloudy & humid; but everybody pretty much wanted to sit outside on the top deck.  The indoor lower deck was set up with tables & tablecloths since tea & pastries were going to be served.  I had struck up a conversation with a sweet lady named Andrea while we waited for our tour to depart.  She & I were the last to board; & found that there was going to be no place for us to sit outside.  The Capt. said not to worry, we could go all the way up front.  When we did, we realized that there were no seats up front.  Within minutes the crew brought out these big, square, leather, ottoman-looking things.  It was then we realized that we were the lucky ones to have the best seats in the house.  We settled in right next to the bow railing.  Perfect spot for taking photos.

And there we sat for the next 2½ hrs; that is until a light rain began to fall.  Then everyone was making a mad dash for that inside cabin.  Our route took us out of Sydney Cove, north around Bennelong Point where the Opera House is located, then easterly to sail into Farm Cove where the Royal Botanic Gardens & The Domain are located.

Then we sailed back out into the greater harbour, rounding Mrs. Macquaries’ Point (where her ‘chair’ & lookout point were from yesterday’s tour) & then into Wooloomooloo Bay & Potts Point.  There they pointed out a wharf area that has been converted into luxury condos with views looking out across the navy shipyard.  Russell Crowe converted the whole top floor of one of these buildings for his family.

We ducked in & out of several more bays where the really expensive homes are; Elizabeth Bay, Double Bay & Rose Bay.  The narrator pointed out several mega mansions in the Point Piper area.  One very pretty pink one is owned by the Disney Corp. for the use of their executives.   One quirky thing about the property is a large colorful statue of a cow in the back ‘yard’.

The most expensive home they said was a 10 bedroom waterfront mansion, $90 million AUS.

This 'skinny' mansion caught my attention.  Makes you wonder how & why they subdivided the lot.

Lots of sailboats out today.  One in particular was pointed out to us because it had the America’s cup emblem on its sail.  Although it sails under a different name now, it was the former Kookaburra III.  Celebrity’s Century was still at anchor this afternoon.

By this time, EVERYONE, realized how good our 'seats' were at the bow.  And it soon became standing room only.

We sailed as far as Shark Island where we turned & headed back westerly.  Points of interest in this area were the Taronga Zoo & Robertson’s Point Lighthouse.  We sailed back under the Harbour Bridge.  The narrator pointed out a beautiful off white house high up on a bluff where Queen Elizabeth stays when she visits Sydney.

The last part of our cruise took us back around “The Rocks: & Miller’s Point on into Darling Harbour.  It was at this time that it started to rain; & I don’t know if that had anything to do with why we didn’t venture further back into Cockle Bay & Darling Harbour.  I was hopeful, especially after it was dropped from our itinerary during yesterday’s tour.  Anyway, the other cruise ship terminal (Barangaroo) is located in this cove.  It’s not as convenient as Circular Quay; but it has its own merits.  It’s a major entertainment area, very close to Darling Harbour.  The Seabourn Odyssey was docked there today.

We arrived back to a berth right in front of Serenity a little before 4 pm.  It had stopped raining by then, so I walked a little bit around the terminal to check out the various restaurants that it houses.

I stopped by the Bistro to pick up a snack (some prosciutto, salami & fruit) to tide me over until dinner.  I went right to work on the photos.  We were to set sail at 6; but we were bunkering additional fuel, so it was closer to 7 when we pulled away from the pier.  BTW, lifeboat drill was held at 5:30; & I did not attend.  I haven’t usually attended a 2nd drill on a back-to-back; & didn’t think it was necessary to do so today.  Well, I was wrong; & fully expect a letter of reprimand tomorrow.  They made today’s drill ‘mandatory’ for all guests (not just those who embarked yesterday).  I have since learned that they have set new standards for ‘in transit’ guests since the Costa Concordia ‘incident’.  They used to require that you attend lifeboat drill at least once a month; now you have to go every segment.

In my defense, I was uploading photos to the blog; & it was going lightning fast.  I was not gonna stop for anything.  Since it was going to be a big night ‘out’, I needed to shower & dress; but hesitated to do so until well after we sailed.  The Capt. had informed us that the Discovery Network crew would be filming our departure from a helicopter; & to not be alarmed if we kept seeing it circle around us.  I also spotted a cameraman on one of the pilot boats.  Too bad, it was such a dreary looking afternoon.  Not the effect they were looking for, to be sure.

I had to scramble to get up to the Cruise Critic cocktail party in the Palm Court at 7:45.  Although the seas were only supposed to be about 6’, the ship was really rockin’ up there.  Maybe that had a little something to do with the poor showing, since I know there were a lot more of us than the dozen or so that attended.  For some reason the temperature up there was quite warm; glad I had my trusty folding fan.  Before long, Pat & Celeste were standing close by to catch the residual breeze.

Celeste & Bill had graciously invited me to dine with them in Prego (Italian restaurant) tonight.  I had not yet dined in there this cruise.  We had a delightful time chatting.  Celeste was in an especially jovial mood.  We requested an order of bruschetta (which is not on the menu), asking for extra garlic & to be sure to toast the bread.  It was one of the best ‘batches’ I’ve ever had there.  All three of us lapped it up.

I started with a Caesar salad; Bill had minestrone & Celeste had an appetizer portion of the gnocchi.

Tonight’s special sounded very interesting; & Bill & I both had the Tasmanian deep sea black cod served on a bed of citrus risotto.  The citrus flavor came from grapefruit; & it perfectly complimented the cod.  Celeste went with my usual favorite, osso bucco.

They had a new dessert special “Lemoncello Cloud”; a very light fluff made of egg whites with lemoncello liquor flavoring drizzled with a raspberry coulee.  It was good; but I’m not a lemon lover.  So I went out on a limb & made another special request.  Do you think it was tacky of me to ask for a scoop of lychee sorbet from the Japanese restaurant next door?  I really just wanted something light & sweet; & the head waiter was a doll & said ‘no problem, as long as you don’t tell anybody’.  Oops…..but I just told you.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening; & we were the last to leave the restaurant at 10:30.

I haven’t had this much excitement in one day since I boarded the ship 3 weeks ago.  It was a great day; but an exhausting one.  Tomorrow is a sea day; so it’s back to setting the alarm so I’m not late for bridge class.  It’s now almost 1 am; & I’m more than ready to call it a night.  I felt very melancholy when we were sailing away from Sydney.  I grew attached after only 2 days; but there is so much more ahead.  A day to rest up; & then tackle Melbourne on Friday.

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