Excerpts From A Past Travelogue: Circumnavigation of Australia, 2009

Before starting my travel blog, I used to send travelogues of my journeys by e-mail to my friends and family. I saved some of those e-mails as a travel journal to look back on, so I thought I would share some of those with you.  (For a complete slide show of my journey, please visit:  www.ExquisiteCards.Fototime.com and click on the album, “Australia Circumnavigation Cruise 2009”.)

This time, I bring you the land down under: 


G’day from Sydney!

Being back in Sydney is like coming back to my second home; it just feels RIGHT. After a wonderful flight (well, expectations are always low when you’re on a plane for over 14 hours!) and no jet lag (I’m on a roll!), we hit the ground running and have had a fantastic three days!

There is always a skip in my heartbeat and a skip to my step when I lay eyes on the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, upon returning to Sydney. It’s just such an incredible sight! I feel like a kid again and I whip out my camera on instinct. Gawwwd, how many photos do I have of this place by now??? But, I always want to get just one more…


Our first day was fabulous; the weather was PERFECT, we felt great, and we walked and walked and walked… We actually didn’t even hit the pillow until 11:30pm! The highlight was hanging around the Opera House at sunset and watching a cruise ship leaving port. It’s nice knowing WE will be the ones doing that tomorrow!





 Day 2 was spent doing more of the same; exploring the streets of Sydney, looking for places we hadn’t seen before. This time, it was Chinatown. By the way, it looks like Chinatown all over this city! I am amazed how many Chinese, Japanese- and I don’t know who else from Asia- are here. Immigration from those countries has been tremendous; a
huge influx of Asians have made this city look quite different from my first time here, in 1984. I saw a couple of different groups of school kids at the Australian Museum, today, and only a few were of non-Asian descent. The face of Sydney is changing…

Tomorrow, WE get to be the ones backing out of Circular Quay in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and heading out to sea for our adventure. We’ll be heading up to Brisbane, followed by ports in Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania (every state of Australia), before returning to Sydney…

…Just a few tidbits about the state of the Australian economy: We aren’t the only idiots overpaying our corporate CEO’s and giving them huge bonuses when the economy is tanking. The Sydney Morning Herald details the same woes here in Australia. It appears as if greed runs rampant among Aussie CEO’s, as well. And, although their economy is in
better shape than ours, companies here are also laying off a lot of workers and there is fear of a worsening recession…














…G’day from the top of Australia!

I am one happy camper being back aboard my favorite Princess ship (brings back great memories) with a ship full of Aussies! And, being back in Australia is just fantastic!! There are only 198 Americans aboard (a welcome break), along with 210 from the UK, 320 New
Zealanders, and 1,148 Aussies. The remainder of the passengers- 1,970 in total- are from various other countries, including several from Canada.

I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to be on a ship full of Aussies and Kiwis! I walked into the Princess Theater this morning to assist in tour dispatch and the entire theater full of people were amazingly quiet! They were spellbound watching a video on the screen
while waiting for their tour to be called. And, when they were called, everybody was so patient and orderly walking out of the theater by row, single file. Although the tours ran a little late, there was no complaining, no crowding, no going out of turn, no NOTHING! They were all so friendly and well behaved, unlike some of the groups of Americans I had to contend with in the past.

The Aussies and Kiwis are such a fun-loving and friendly bunch, too. Mom and I have had such fun conversations with many of the passengers! And, our classes have been just amazing, because everybody is so patient, grateful, and orderly. So far, we have had anywhere from 32 to 56 people attending our classes; a very manageable group. We have a strong core and they are just fantastic!

The only negatives about this cruise we have encountered so far is missing Whitsunday (more later about that) and having a crew cabin. And, our cabin and bathroom is even smaller than the one we had on the Sapphire Princess! Just how small can a bathroom get? You would be amazed… I can sit on the toilet, shower my arm and leg, and wash my
other hand in the sink at the same time! And, yes, I have the top bunk again…

It’s no big deal, though, really. We are having such a great time and we have benefits being in a crew cabin.  We have a “laminex” crew ID card instead of a cruise card, so we can flash it to the shuttle drivers and get free shuttle. It saved us each A$14 round trip in Brisbane. Although we have passenger status, we also have free run of the crew areas on the ship. It’s an interesting “city” down there! I will get down there and take some pictures one of these days, as long as security allows it… Fourth, we are getting great tour escorts assignments! We got our first choice for Yorkey’s Knob and ended up with a tour worth A$169!

Now, about that “A” in front of the “$” on those prices. This ship is now Australia based, so all prices are in Australian and the Aussie dollar is the ship’s currency. That’s great for us, because the US dollar buys us about A$1.53. And, Westpac bank over here has
reciprocity with Bank of America, so there are no fees at the ATM. Needless to say, we will be paying for everything- including tips- with Aussie dollars to save on credit card fees!

As for other ship news, the food has been terrific, including the seafood and chocolate desserts- my favorites! We also have an excellent team of servers, both female. Thankfully, the gym on board is good and it’s an 8-flight walk up the stairs to the gym and buffet from our cabin, so I’m getting great exercise!

One thing about being on an Aussie ship is getting meat pies at the hamburger grill! I haven’t had one of those in a long time… And, the beer, wine, and champagne on board is mostly Australian- terrific! Cascade beer from South Australia is the best I have ever had and Jacob’s Creek Sparking Wine is wonderful!

So, about missing Whitsunday… Cyclone Hamish was threatening, so we had to outrun it, along with 40 other ships (mostly cargo). Because of that, we had to miss Whitsunday and stay out at sea. Oh well… We ended up having a bit of a rough night, but only because our cabin is all the way forward on deck five. The concussion from bouncing off the sea was very loud and bumpy! We have an outside cabin (but no port holes, because we are too far forward), so the noise against the metal was amazing. And our bunks are right up against that outside wall of the ship. Yikes!

Our stop in Yorkey’s Knob (25km from Cairns) was a fantastic stop, though. Mom and I escorted a tour and got to stick together for the day on the same bus, cable car, and train car. It was a tour to the rainforest village of Kuranda. The Skyrail Cableway took us by cable car above the rainforest canopy to Kuranda, then an old restored train took us back down after a couple of hours in Kuranda. The rainforest was an amazing thing to see! And, the Barron Falls were incredible, because it’s the wet season and they have had a lot of rain.














  Earlier in the cruise, we stopped in Brisbane; my first visit back since 1999. In ten years, that city has sure grown!! We just walked around the city on our own, visiting the South Bank of the river and walking around the Botanical Gardens. We followed a good walking tour and saw a great amount of the city on foot. It was a terrific day!













 From Darwin:

G’day from the top of Oz!

The crew internet is working well, again, so I bought a card to send e-mail from the ship. For the crew, we pay only A$20 for 220 minutes. That sure beats A$55 for 100 minutes the passengers pay! So, here I am on this sea day, e-mailing from the tiny crew internet room next to the crew mess…

It’s another glassy sea day, but a hot one! I can’t believe how calm the seas have been since we dodged Cyclone Hamish. It was calm and beautiful when we first arrived to Darwin yesterday, but it’s the rainy season up here, so we had a lot of rain in the afternoon, towards the end of our tour.

Our tour of Darwin was ok; it gave us a good overview of the city. The highlight was visiting the Museum of Arts & Science and seeing a wonderful exhibit of Darwin in 1974, when it was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. There were several photos that showed Darwin before the cyclone, as well as the cyclone itself and the devastation that resulted from winds that reached 260km/h. Needless to say, the town was flattened and everybody was left homeless. Sixty-five lives were also lost that brutal day…

Broome, Perth, and Bunbury:

G’day from Bunbury, Western Australia!

We are getting to sail to Albany and will soon be sailing the Southern Ocean. On this cruise, we sailed the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and will sail the Southern Ocean, followed by the Bass Strait. Finally, we will sail the Tasman Sea before heading back to where the cruise started- in Sydney.

A LOT has happened since I last wrote- all good, except missing Exmouth due to high winds and too dangerous of a tender operation to risk going ashore. Otherwise, the seas have been smooth, the weather beautiful and the cruise has been wonderful! We are finally in cooler weather now, too; mid-70’s and dry, instead of mid-90’s and VERY humid!
Needless to say, I am much more comfortable in this climate!

So, winding back the calender to the events after I last wrote, I will start with the most spectacular lightening show I have ever seen! It was the evening of the Tropical Island Party and we were amazed at what greeted us as we arrived on the top deck after dinner. The sky was one massive strobe light with bolts of lightening scattered amongst the
flashes. I set my camera down on a railing (no vibration, luckily!) and took long exposures of the action. There was lightening in every exposure, even though the shots were taken randomly! It was an amazing sight; especially on the forward deck of the ship where the lights were turned off. The passengers and crew were treated to a spectacular show! And, fortunately, we all stayed safe, because the lightening was off in front of us. As soon as we approached the storm, we all ran for cover, just in time before the deluge!

The following day, we escorted a wonderful tour in Broome, where “Australia” was filmed. Broome is on the Northwest coast of Western Australia and the town grew out of discovery of the world’s largest pearl shell, attracting hundreds like a gold rush. It was established in the 1880’s by the Japanese.

Our tour included a stop at the Pearl Luggers Museum, where we learned all about the history of the pearl industry. Our guide was terrific at describing the horrible conditions the divers worked under and showing us the dive suits they wore back in the early days. The water was so cold that they had to wear 2-3 layers of heavy woolen clothing under the suits. That, in addition to a very heavy helmet and heavy boots, combined for a total weight of around 150 lbs. of clothing and eqt. on top of their body weight!  One in ten pearl divers would die on the job, due to shark attacks or getting the “bends”. The divers were Japanese, Malay, Filipino, and Aboriginal. And, at one time, Broome supplied 80% of the world’s mother of pearl.

Broome was attacked by Japanese aircraft in 1942; sort of ironic since the pearl divers were Japanese…




Today, Broome is a mecca for artists, writers and musicians, and is a multicultural mix. There are 14,800 residents and the town doubles during the tourist season. It is now one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.

Broome is very tropical and has two seasons; wet and dry. 75% of the rainfall Broome receives occurs in January, February, and March. Fortunately, we had a dry day!  

In addition to the Pearl Luggers Museum, we visited Gantheaume Point where the oceanside cliffs are very red and beautiful. It was a gorgeousl and breathtaking spot for photography and watching the ocean.





 The tour also included a stop at Crocodile Park where we learned all about crocodiles and saw several, both large and small. The small ones had just hatched and could fit in a hand. And, the large ones were HUGE- and mean! We got to see them on the other side of a chain link fence, so we viewed them from very close up. Their teeth look to be extremely sharp!



The highlight, though, was meeting and petting “Ki”, a six month old hand-raised grey kangaroo from Kangaroo Island. The owner of the park raised him and cuddles him like a dog or baby. Ki let me pet him just like a puppy and I can tell you that he definitely was as soft as a puppy! And, CUTE!



After our tour ended, Mom was up for joining me for a mile round-trip walk in the blazing heat to visit Matso’s, an award-winning microbrewery. I don’t know how we made it there and back, because it was bloody hot! But, it was worth it.

We split a tasty sandwich and enjoyed some ice cold ginger beer. (I figured the real beer would nail me in that heat and I knew I had to walk back!)

Finally, we walked around the town, before heading back to the ship for a quick stop and to catch a shuttle to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. Although we were supposed to sail at 4:30pm that day, Captain Andy opted to stay until the next high tide, so wecould have a longer visit. That made up for missing Exmouth!

And, what a sunset it was! Cable Beach, named after the cable that runs from the beach to Indonesia, linking up communications between the continents and the rest of the world, was a beautiful beach! We arrived just in time to see three tour companies leading their camels down to the beach for sunset camel rides. I was intrigued, so I followed them down to the beach, across the red rock formations and tide pools, then down to the sandy part of the beach where the tourists were to meet them. Of course, I snapped shots of all along the way. And, when they stopped, they sat down on the sand, so they could be mounted, once the tour groups arrived. At that point, I got talking with a kid who worked for one of the tour leaders. He said I could “pat” the camels if I wanted, so I did! Then, he offered to photograph me with the camel. He then told me to hug the camel so he could get a photograph with my camera. Nice kid! And, it was a memorable experience!










After, I ran back to meet back up with Mom for a beer up in the cafe, while we waited for the sunset. Swan is a tasty Western Australian beer, but Cascade from Tassie (Tasmania) is still my favorite!

The evening wrapped up with a walk back down to the beach where we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset with a couple of Aussies from the ship. It was a terrific ending to a fabulous day!

Our next port was to be Exmouth, but as I mentioned, we had to give it a miss. The captain did do a scenic cruise along the coast, though, and it gave us a good opportunity to enjoy the views. The beach along the coast looked so much like Coronado or Padre Island; a white sandy beach with sand dunes that was absolutely gorgeous.

Our next port was my favorite so far- Fremantle/ Perth. You may remember Fremantle from the 1987 America’s Cup. And, Perth has is known to have a climate and feel very much like San Diego. It’s a modern city built right on the Swan River; a huge river that also reminds me of Sydney Harbor. And, like Sydney Harbor, there are many beautiful (and expensive) homes built right on the water. One of the is even on the market for A$65 million. Any takers???



Although Perth is quite modern with many glass skyscrapers, Femantle is a quaint town with many restored historic buildings. The town received a facelift when the Aussies won the America’s Cup in 1983 and earned the right to host the Cup in 1987. That was the best thing that ever happened to Fremantle, because it was an old, rundown town up until
then. Now it is a vibrant little town of 26,000 residents and is full of sidewalk cafes.






It was terrific that the ship was berthed right next to the town, so we could enjoy a good look around after our tour on Friday. Since the ship was berthed overnight and didn’t leave until 11pm on Saturday, there was no rush to get back to the ship on Friday. So, Mom and I visited the Fremantle Markets, walked all over the town, then took the free bus around the town to see what we missed on foot. Fortunately, we made it to the bus stop before the rain started, because it came down in buckets! But, lucky for us, it stopped just before we did the full circle and got off…

Our tour earlier that day was terrific! It started with a bus ride to Perth, a city of 1.6 million people where the Noongar Aboriginals lived for 40,000 years, before the Europeans settled in 1829.

On the way to Perth, we drove through posh riverside suburbs where we saw the most exquisite homes. Then, we had a quick stop at King’s Park where we had beautiful views down to the river and the city below. After our stop, the bus took us into the city for two hours of free time to have a look around. Mom and I did A LOT of walking to get in
all the terrific sights before boarding our riverboat for a scenic cruise on the river. Our 11/2 hour narrated cruise took us all around the river where we got close-up views of the riverside mansions, beautiful yacht clubs, and riverside golf courses. It is such a
beautiful area!

The following day, we were met in the morning by Robyn and Michael Coles, who I met in San Diego, while serving them cocktails at the Sheraton Harbor Island East, back in 1986. They were there for a conference and I befriended them when I detected their Aussie accents. I had returned home the previous year from my one-year South Pacific
adventure, so my six months spent in Australia truly endeared me to the Aussies.


Robyn and I kept in contact ever since, sending Christmas cards each year and e-mails more recently. Although I have returned to Australia several times since, I never had the opportunity to get out to Western Australia and visit them. This was my chance, and they welcomed us with open arms as wonderful hosts! And, it was a fabulous day with fabulous people! Mom and I enjoyed it so much that we were in tears when we had to say goodbye- at 10:15pm; fifteen minutes before we were due back. We were the 2 of the last seven people to return to the ship!

Robyn and Michael started their first-class tour by taking us to Cottesloe Beach where we were fortunate to be there for the Sculptures By the Sea exhibit. We were told there would be sculptures in the sand and up on the grassy hill above the beach, but we surely didn’t expect to see sculptures on the jetty and IN the water! It was an awesome sight! And, everybody seemed to really love it; children and adults alike.





The most humorous sculpture was of gigantic plastic Lifesavers (the candy), right in front of the lifeguard station where Aussie lifesavers stood nearbye. Funny!





We were so fortunate that the sun came out while we were there and it was the most BEAUTIFUL day of the trip; sunny and about 75 degrees.  The water was so calm and beautiful, too.

After a stop for coffee (for them) and ginger beer (for me), we headed out to Swan Valley to take in the sights of the vineyards and the tastes of some of Australia’s best wine. We stopped at a very cool gallery, as well as a tiny church in a very scenic setting along a river, before visiting Houghton winery for some tastes. I really liked the Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine! And, the setting was lovely.

Our second vineyard was Oakover, where we had a wonderful lunch and a bottle of the same blend of sparkling wine. Great food, tasty bubbly, a beautiful setting, and great company!

Before heading back to the city, we stopped at Margaret River Chocolate Factory where we indulged in the free samples and picked up a couple of souvenirs (a chocolate bar for my wrapper collection and a cooler tote bag with the factory’s logo). That was fun and sinful!!

After a stop at Robyn and Michael’s home in Attadale, a lovely community next to the river, we headed to King’s Park to take in the view of the city reflecting the golden light of the setting sun. The park is huge, very well-maintained, and full of wonderful botanical
exhibits representing the various Australian regions. And, the setting is truly breathtaking, above the river and the city. Wow!

We stayed in the park for dinner; another very tasty meal (my pizza was made with roasted pumpkin, feta cheese, mushrooms, pinenuts, etc.) and another bottle of wine; a semillon sauvignon blanc blend. Yummy!

That takes us back to the ship where we hated to say goodbye… It was a full and WONDERFUL day; it couldn’t have been better. Mom and I will never forget it!

So, now, back to Bunbury where I started this book of an e-mail. We escorted another tour today; yep, it was a wine tour! I think Mom is finally starting to like wine! And, I sure enjoyed the tastings and both wineries visited on the tour of the Margaret River Wine Trail.



After a drive through the gorgeous Tuart Forest where we saw trees as old as 500 years, we stopped at Leeuwin Estate Winery where we enjoyed Reisling, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and a Cabernet-Merlot. The winery only uses French oak barrels and we learned that they pay A$1,600 apiece for them! I think they only hold about 300 bottles of wine each, if I heard that correctly…

Finally, we visited Vasse Felix Winery where we enjoyed the same wine varietals, as well as a tasty lunch of lamb shank….


…G’day from the smooth Southern Ocean!

We have departed the Indian Ocean and are now sailing the Southern Ocean and heading east for Adelaide. So, to date, we have sailed the Tasman Sea, Coral Sea, Arafura Sea, and Indian Ocean. After we leave Melbourne, we will cross the notoriously rough Bass Strait and head for “Tassie” (Tasmania). Then, sadly, we will return to Sydney for the end of the cruise…

So, here are more of my impressions of the Aussies: The Aussies are far more respectful
of “rules” than Americans and they don’t complain as much as Americans, as a whole. They “que up” (line up) when asked, instead of crowding or taking short-cuts. I have seen this in tour dispatch, our classes, and everywhere else throughout the ship and in port. They are also more easy going, fun-loving, and love to have a good time. I have never
seen a group as enthusiastic as this one when the pianist has sing-a-longs! They just love it and sing with gusto. Finally, during my seven times in Australia, as well as my travels throughout New Zealand, I have NEVER met an arrogant Aussie or Kiwi. It is just not
in their character.



Well, since I last wrote, we visited Albany, on the southernmost tip of Western Australia. Itwas settled in 1826 as a penal outpost and was the first European settlement in W.A. Back then, it was a coaling station for steam ships from England and had a very strong whaling industry (Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales). Today, the main industries are forestry, fishing, and tourism.


I was very fortunate to get my first choice for tour escort, so I could get a good look around Albany. It is an absolutely beautiful place; very hilly and green with a beautiful harbor dotted with picturesque islands.


Our first stop on the tour was to thet op of a mountain for a panoramic view of the city and harbor below. Unfortunately, it was drizzly with very poor visibility, so that stop was a write-off. BUT, magically, the skies cleared up and we had the most fantastic day! It was sunny and in the mid-70’s- beautiful!

Next stop: Princess Royal Fortress where we DID get magnificant views! I’m not a big military buff, but from what I can tell, the exhibits were excellent. What I was after, though, was taking in the beautiful scenery from the walking paths. An for an extra bonus, I got to see the native wildlife; a King Skink. This black lizard is completely harmless and can even be hand-fed fruit. It won’t bite and is not poisonous, and will even let people get up close to photograph them.


We continued on to Middleton Beach where the bus dropped us off at the beginning of a fantastic walking trail along the top of a hill, then picked us up at the bottom, next to the beach. The walking trail had gorgeous views of the harbor below, as well as to the white sand beach lined with tall trees. We even got to see more King Skinks along the way.

The highlight of the tour came next: A stop at Torndirrup National Park where we had plenty of time to enjoy viewing and photographing the amazing rock formations. One of the formations, “The Gap” has a viewing platform at the top of a huge cliff. Looking straight down, we could see the water rushing in and out of the gap between the rock cliffs. It was very dramatic and quite a sight to see!



The other formation was the Natural Bridge, where the rock forms a bridge over the churning sea below. Needless to say, the photo ops. were amazing! Not only did we have these two wonderful formations to photograph; the views off to the distance were majestic, as well. The rock formations were so dramatic and the hills green. The white sand  beaches below looked un-touched and so pristine…

Just when we thought the tour was about to end, our guide, Sally, announced a “bonus” stop that was unplanned. We had enough time to visit the Wind Farm for photographs! Albany gets most of its energy from the “farm” of 65 meter-tall windmills. And, we were fortunate to get so close to them that we could stand right next to them, soaking up the dramatic whooshing sounds as the windmills spun.


The views from the Windmill Farm were just as amazing, as well. Walking paths led to high vistas where we could see miles off in the distance. Rolling green hills, blue water, beautiful beaches, green hillsides- WOW!

This was DEFINITELY one of my favorite ports, along with Freemantle/Perth and Broome. And, the day still wasn’t done! After our tour, the bus dropped us off in town where we could spend our remaining two free hours to wander.






Since the town is only 31,000 residents, the town center is small and easy to navigate. There is one main street that starts at the top of a hill, then continues down to the water front. We started at the top, where the locals set up a craft market and had an excellent jazz band to entertain us- even though it was a Monday! They did it just for us and it was really wonderful!

After having a look around and enjoying the music, we wandered down until we eyed a homemade pie shop. Since our stomachs were growling by that time, we stopped in for a quick lunch. It was the BEST curry pie I had ever had- and I ate many of those during my 1984 travels through Australia…

The town was so quaint and picturesque. They have preserved all of their old buildings and even had a self-guided historical walking tour which we really enjoyed.

The most quaint and memorable thing about the town was seeing tile mosaic squares in front of many of the shops. The pictures made up by the tiny square tiles depicted what the shops had to sell. A women’s clothes store had a bikini tile mosaic and the barber shop had a mosaic of scissors. They were all very cute and colorful!

     After having a good look around, we ended the day with a beer at an historic hotel, located across the street from the jazz band. I enjoyed a Hahn Light, a Western Australia beer that was tasty like all of the Aussie beers I have tried. It was a great way to end a perfect




In Adelaide, I escorted a wine tour to the McClaren-Vale wine region. There were only 22 of us on the tour and it was a very fun group! (It was even more fun, once they all got some wine in them…) And, we had a really fanstastic guide and driver which really helped make the day a memorable one.

Adelaide looked and felt a bit like “home” (San Diego), because it is as far south as San Diego is north of the equator. So, the climate is similar and we had another one of those gorgeous days. But, it looked a bit dry, because they, too, are in a horrible drought and have been for 3 years.

Our tour included stops at three wineries, as well as lunch at the second one and a stop to tast almonds at the “Almond Train”, an old train car turned into tasting room and gift shop.

The first winery, Parri Estate, was a small winery that we had all to ourselves. In addition to tasting several wines, we were taken out to the vineyards for a look at the vines and the hand-picking process. We tasted Cabernet grapes right from the vine and they were delicious! A barrel tasting was also offered, but I wasn’t too crazy about what I tasted there…

The next stop was Woodstock Winery where they killed us with kindness, between the many different wines to taste (including fortified wines after lunch), as well as a delicious lunch. A gourmet platter was given to every two people to share that included ham, sausage, brie, Dukkah (bush “tucker”), olive oil & balsamic vinegar for dipping, French bread, pita bread, olives from the region, liver pate, grilled veggies, and watermelon. It was enough food for four people to share! And, they poured us a full glass of wine to enjoy with it.

After all that, I needed a walk, so I headed out to look for the ‘roos. The winery is located on a beautiful countryside property with huge trees and rolling green hills. They also have an area where orphaned kangaroos roam around. I met “Dusty”, an orphaned 18 month old grey kangaroo. He was a friendly bloke and was very curious to sniff my fingertips. Kangaroos have sharp teeth, but he never once attempted to bite me while I scratched his nose and ears. He was a cutie!

Next, we were off to Leconfield Winery where none of us needed to be tasting any wine, because we were all pretty looped by then. But, wine they poured and wine we drank… And, it was all wonderful; especially the tawny port.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Shiraz wines that are the specialty in this region. (Australia produces 95% of the world’s shiraz- also known as “syrah”.) Blended with Cabernet, they are tasty, as well. It was really a fantastic wine tasting experience! But, I was glad to have a driver doing the driving for us, because I tasted 21 of the 30 or so wines that were offered in total during our day. And, that doesn’t include the wine with lunch! In addition to those, some of the people tasted wines that were on the list but not offered unless requested. Yikes! But, we sure had fun!!

The tour was one of the best I had ever taken and we all had such a fantastic time! And, I must say that the Aussies do a mighty fine job with producing wine. (By the way, the Germans started the wine industry in Adelaide back in the 1840’s…)



Yes, it’s another perfect sunny day and it was a beautiful one, here in Melbourne, Australia. We just got back from a tour to the Mornington Penninsula and it was absolutely beautiful!

The coastal drive to our first stop reminded me of the California coast. Beautiful beaches and rugged cliffs were our view for much of our drive, as well as a few marinas and parks lined with tall trees.

Our tour today started at the Aschcombe Maze, Australia’s largest hedge maze. There were actually two large hedge mazes, as well as a rose maze and lavender maze on the grounds of this gorgeous property. Although the heat wave had killed off a lot of the flowers last week, there were still many beautiful roses to enjoy, as well as trees turning shades of red, fountains, a peaceful lake, rock garden, lilly pond, and all sorts of sculptures and mosaics.





After a beautiful drive through rolling green hills of farmland and vineyards, we stopped at Morning Star Winery for lunch. Yes, more food; something cruise ship passengers don’t miss out on for very long…

Before lunch, we had a wander through the rose gardens, vineyards, and fountains, where we could soak in breathtaking views of the sea below. Awesome!







For lunch, Blue Eye, a type of cod found in Australian waters, was my choice, and it was absolutely outstanding! And, the filet was HUGE! Chardonay and Merlot-Cabernet were our wine choices and both were fantastic. Then, for dessert, we had our choice off the menu and I, of course, chose chocolate. Their version of falling chocolate cake (or molten lava cake) was exquisite, as was the blueberry ice cream served along with it. And, again, the portion was huge.


Needless to say, Mom and I have opted to give a miss to the dining room tonight and we are opting for salad bar, instead- that is, if we even get hungry…

All in all, it was a relaxing day; just the two stops and a gorgeous drive. And, there were only 16 of us, so it was a nice, intimate group. Mom and I really enjoyed it, because we had seen the city several times before and wanted to do something different. Besides, the Formula 1 Grand Prix is going on as we speak and the city is CROWDED. I’m glad we missed the mess…

Next up, we cross the notoriously rough (hopefully not this time) Bass Strait and head to Tassie (Tasmania); specifically, Burnie. Following a full day in Burnie, we have an overnight in Hobart, then a day at sea, while cruising back to Sydney where it all began. What a cruise!

Burnie, Tasmania:







Hobart, Tasmania:







To wrap up this installment, I will leave you with a little bit of Aussie lingo. Aussies have a knack for adding a “y” to many of their words- at least when they say them: (Forgive me, my Aussie friends, if I spell the following list incorrectly.) “Brekky” means “breakfast”.
Hungary Jacks (Burger King in the U.S.A.) even has a sign out front that states that “brekky” is served at 6am. “Tele” is what they are going to watch and “footie” is one of their favorite games to watch on the “tele”. (Australian Rules Football is the game of choice in the southern states and rugby is played more in Queensland and New South Wales.) While watching the “tele”, the kids will snack on “lollies” (candy), while I would be more inclined to enjoy my “chocy”- New Zealand Cadbury Milk Chocolate, preferably, if it’s not an exquisite dark chocolate… Finally, I don’t gamble, but if I did, I would go play the “pokies” (slot machines).

G’day mate!


Excerpts From A Past Travelogue: South Pacific, 2008

Before starting my travel blog, I used to send travelogues of my journeys by e-mail to my friends and family.  I saved some of those e-mails as a travel journal to look back on, so I thought I would share some of those with you.

In 2008, my mom and I taught arts and crafts to passengers aboard the Sapphire Princess, during a 32 day cruise, from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles.  Returning to that part of the world always brings back wonderful memories of my one year backpacking adventure to the same area, back in 1984.

Here are a few excerpts of one of my return trips to my favorite part of the world:

On Australia:


Wow, Melbourne sure has grown along the river since we were last here in 2000. We escorted a tour that included a cruise on the Yarra River and we were amazed at all the construction. Huge cranes and huge buildings under construction make up the landscape further down the river!






Australia is booming; especially Sydney and Melbourne. As our economy heads into the tank, Australia is headed in the opposite direction. Interest rates have been going skyward, increasing several times over the past couple of years. Currently, they are at 8%.

Inflation is heading up, as well. So many people on the ship complained how expensive it was in Sydney! I had to pay $7 for a bowl of muesli and yogurt for breakfast at non-descript cafe while I was there. Apples were $3.77 per kilo (2.2 lbs) at the market.

Pay has increased though. I heard the average salary is $65,000/ year. Waiters make $20/hour; much more than the $8/hr I earned waitressing and bartending in Sydney and Tasmania, in 1984.

Sydney was as wonderful as ever, though. We had a spectacular sailaway with the bridge behind us and the Opera House ahead of us as we headed out of the port. Since we sailed at night, everything was lit up so beautifully. The skyline was really amazing. I got some terrific photos before the ship sailed, too!










So, back onboard ship…

HOW SMALL IS IT??? Our bathroom is so small, you can sit on the toilet and reach over to turn the water on with one hand and the shower on with the other- at the same time! But, really, except for having to climb the ladder up to the top bunk (and climb down in the middle of the night to use the toilet), it’s not that bad. We do have portholes, so we get natural light in our cabin and a great view out to sea! And, the storage is actually pretty good, because it’s an officers cabin. All of our crafts supplies got stored with room left over!!! By the way, my suitcase weighed exactly 50 lbs. How lucky was that?  It was full with craft supplies, so guess what will fill up the suitcase on the way home? New Zealand Cadbury Chocolate!!!

As for service in our cabin, we have a room steward who comes in once each day, but only for making the bed and replacing towels, etc. I have become a cart thief to scrounge up lotions, shampoo, and- pillow chocolates!

It’s funny to see the look on the faces of the crew when they see my 80 year old mom strolling to and from our cabin. They think she took a wrong turn and is lost! We are having a good laugh! Our trips to the crew office for tour escort tickets and other business REALLY draw stares!

On New Zealand:


Milford Sound



A few quick notes about New Zealand that I didn’t add to my last e-mail:I jotted down some food prices at the grocery store, after I nailed the motherlode of Cadbury Chocolate.
How’s this for expensive? Keep in mind these prices are in New Zealand dollars; $1 = NZ $1.25:
Loaf of wheat bread- $4.49
Box of All Bran cereal- $6.17
Peanut butter (store brand)- $2.19
Boneless chicken breasts- $19.99kg (2.2 lbs)
Salmon $28.99 kg
Tomatoes $5.98 kg

That’s just a sampling…

Our day in Auckland, New Zealand was really enjoyable. Getting on the Link (local bus that does a circle around the city) for NZ $1.60 was the perfect way to spend an hour, because it gave me the opportunity to see how the city has grown and changed over the years. We got off several blocks short of the city center, so we could walk in and take in the sights, as well as do some photography.  Auckland has a Sky Tower, much like the Space Needle in Seattle. For around $100, you can now do a “Sky Jump”; a controlled jump off the top in a contraption that stops you just before you hit ground. Yikes! Needless to say, I didn’t do it; I only photographed it…





Next, Mom and I were on a quest for Tip Top ice cream. Now, I hardly ever eat ice cream back in the States, but Tip Top is the BEST! Since I couldn’t decide between the Hokey Pokey (vanilla with bits of butter brickle or whatever that candy is called) and Boysenberry (vanilla swirled with boysenberry), I opted for a double scoop! I HAD to have Hokey Pokey, the local favorite! And, the boysenberry is to die for. Needless to say, I enjoyed every lick…


After a lot of walking around the city center, we still had time to hit up a local pub for some New Zealand beer on tap. I know, I know…   Ice cream and beer isn’t exactly the healthiest “lunch”, but that’s exactly what we did. For those who know my eating habits at home, you know that’s a switch! So, I settled on a Speight’s on tap at “The Muddy Farmer”; a local beer brewed in Dunedin, the port we had to miss due to bad weather. Ahhhhhh…





A good day was had by all! And, it was a sad goodbye to New Zealand as we headed for Fiji…

On Fiji:


Yes, that’s the way Fijians greet one another here. I’m back in Fiji; this time not such a time warp shock, since I was here last September.

Today, my mom and I escorted a tour to the Arts Village. Although we were on separate buses, we were able to meet up there and enjoy the cultural show of firewalking and traditional Fijian dance and song. The show was excellent and the drive out to the village and back was scenic.










As many of you know, I spent 11/2 months here back in 1984, as part of my one-year trek around the South Pacific. Coming back, again, brought back great memories…

A few notes on Fiji:

Houses cost $80,000 – $130,000 for the nicer ones. Salaries are only $80-90 per week. Education is not compulsary and it is not paid by the government. But, healthcare and dental care is. Income taxes are 9% and locals also pay a “value added tax” of 12%. There is a 22% unemployment rate and crime is high. Native Fijians commit the most robberies and drug use crimes, however, the Indians (brought in from East India to work the sugar cane fields in 1874) commit the most murders.

Quick grocery store price: All Bran cereal cost Fijian $8.28. I’m not sure of the conversion rate, but I believe $10 would get you around $14 in their currency.

On American Samoa:




Here is some interesting political scoop: In American Samoa, the citizens were not able to vote directly in the primaries. Instead, the Congressman representing them voted on behalf of his constituents. He voted for Barack Obama, by the way…

American Samoa is very beautiful and lush, the people very friendly. It was the only place where every single kid (school just let out for the day and the kids were walking home from school) waved and smiled as our bus passed them. Everybody is so friendly there and the kids seem so happy. There is no poverty in American Samoa and nobody goes hungry, because of the wonderful food growing on the island. Nobody is rich, but nobody is homeless. And, families really stick together there, living on the same piece of land. They bury their family members on their land, too, because of their tremendous respect for their elders and extended family.















On Raratonga, Cook Islands:

Our next port was one I fully expected to miss, so I didn’t tell any of you we would be going there: Raratonga, Cook Islands. I was sooooo disappointed the ship missed it last September, because I wanted to see it after spending three weeks there in 1984, as part of my S. Pacific adventure. Little did I know, the ship misses the tender port 90% of the time, due to rough conditions (the ship has to tender on the windward side of the island). In addition, the coral reefs make it difficult for the ship to navigate in close enough to tender and they can’t anchor. Instead, they must use the ship’s thrusters to keep the ship in one place- off of the reefs.



Now, knowing all that ( I didn’t know all this prior to the Regal Princess missing Raratonga last September), OF COURSE I wasn’t expecting to make it there this time! But, amazingly enough, we woke up that morning, looked out the portholes to calm seas and screamed, “Yahooooo!” And, it sure was well worth it! We escorted a fantastic tour to a village high up in the mountains, overlooking the island and ocean below. The gardens were beautiful up there and we received a wonderful tour full of interesting history from one of the locals. That was followed by a surprise (it wasn’t in the tour description) “snack” of local foods, as well as a dance performance (this was in the description). This snack was a full-blown lunch, by the time all the food came out for this sit-down feast! We enjoyed Taro leaves that tasted similar to cooked spinach, chicken, native fruits, and their version of french fries, made from taro root, arrow root, and breadfruit- all incredibly delicious! We really, REALLY enjoyed it all!











I got talking with one of the dancers who was from Aitutaki, one of the smaller Cook Islands I visited. Back in 1984, there was only one small resort and some small guest houses. It was VERY remote and NOT touristy at all. I learned that Mama Tanui’s Guesthouse has since been dosed to make way for a large hotel. Evidently, Aitutaki has grown up over the years…

After returning to port, we popped into the grocery store for a price check. They use the New Zealand Dollar. US$1 = NZ$1.25: Cereal $7, apples $3.90kg, tomatoes 12.60kg, chicken thigh filets, 13.90kg.






On Bora Bora and Papeete, Tahiti:


Next port: Bora Bora, another lush beautiful island similar in topography to American Samoa and Raratonga. Mom and I escorted the same tour we took last September, so nothing new to report there. It was a wonderful day, though!










Onward ho to Papeete, Tahiti. Fortunately, we got to escort the full day tour complete with an outrageous lunch buffet. We were able to see the entire island and sample more native foods that we thoroughly enjoyed. Most memorable? The marinated raw tuna (oh my, oh my!!!) and the Poe Banane- banana marinated in coconut milk and sugar; decadent!
What a great day!!!

By the way, Papeete is VERY expensive. Homes all cost over $500,000 and a 1 bedroom apt costs $1,700 to rent.

Tahiti is one of the richest islands in the Pacific; France gives $7,000 to each person every year. They have excellent healthcare and retirement benefits. The state even pays to send their residents overseas for major surgeries or medical procedures, if it can’t be done locally. Minimum wage in Tahiti is $1,800/month.











Scenes from Honolulu:



Hilo, our final port: