Archive | February, 2011

February 28 – Stargazing

28 Feb

In Sydney, Mr. Dan Benedict, an Astro-Journalist joined the QM2 as a speaker.  JJ and I were so excited, we love looking at the stars and ever since we first saw the Southern Cross stars, we always look forward to seeing it again!!

In his first talk, Mr. Benedict told us that we were about to enter one of THE premier spots in the world to view stars  —  there is very little pollution (light or otherwise) that would prevent us from seeing stars.  Mr. Benedict then told us that at 10:00 pm, there would be a stargazing session on Deck 13 and that the ship would turn off the lights (on Deck 13) just so that we could all see better!

After dinner, JJ and I quickly put on appropriate clothing to protect us from the wind and off we went to find the meeting spot on Deck 13.

Even though it was past my bedtime, at 10:00 pm sharp, about 150 passengers gathered to see what we could see!  At about 10:10 pm, most of the ship’s lights were turned off . . . AMAZING . . . the night sky just lit up – you won’t believe it, but JJ and I got to see the Milky Way!!!  Mr. Benedict used a very cool laser pointer to show us the various stars.  Seeing the stars and the Southern Cross was wonderful; however, it was the Milky Way that was just about the coolest thing that I have ever seen!  Our necks got really sore looking up into the sky, so JJ and I decided to lie down on the deck.  I guess that we looked pretty funny – laying down and face up – on the deck of the QM2 –  watching the stars in the night sky!  We may have looked funny, but we had an awesome view!

Mr. Benedict is scheduled to lead other stargazing sessions as we sail toward Guam – remember that there is very little light pollution between New Zealand and Guam – and guess who’ll be on Deck 13 to see the stars again?  You guessed it  —  me and JJ!

February 27 – Wellington, New Zealand

27 Feb

Wellington, New Zealand



 

 

 

Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia

Flag:

Population: 4,252,277 (July 2010 est.)

Capital: Wellington

Language: English (official), Maori (official), Sign Language (official)

Currency: New Zealand dollars (NZD)

Industries: food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, tourism, mining

Area Comparative: about the size of Colorado

Geographic Notes: almost 90% of the population lives in cities; Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world

Did you know that New Zealand is not a continent?  It is part of the geographic region of Oceania.

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Click Here for Time and Weather in Christchurch

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World Cup Soccer – New Zealand style!!

We arrived in Wellington very quietly – we hadn’t expected to be noticed too much as we were coming in with very little notice.

The Tour Office on the ship had scheduled tours for our new port of call  —  and these sold out quickly.  A shuttle bus was arranged for all of us independent travelers.  The bus dropped you off at a good location in the CBD.  The CBD of Wellington is quite flat and easily navigated.  There are hills that are just beyond the CBD that makes the city look really pretty.

JJ and I didn’t have any plans for the day!!  We decided that we would just wonder and check out some of the points of interest that were recommended in the Visitor’s Guide.

First on the list was to obtain New Zealand dollars.  We tried to find a bank that was open, but because it was Saturday, they were all closed.  But JJ went to the money exchange machine on the ship and we were all set!

As recommended by the Visitor’s Guide, here are some of the highlights of our tour:

  • The Beehive  — this is the nickname that has been given to the Government building.  Do you see that this building is almost in the same shape as a beehive?  That shape is what gave the building the nickname.

  • Across the street from the Beehive is New Zealand’s Grandest Wooden Building.  A lovely and quite large building that is now used as a Law School at the University of Wellington, Victoria.


  • The Wellington Cable Car – this red cable car whisks you up almost 394 feet to the suburb of Kelburn for a lovely view of the city and the harbor.  There is an Observatory and Botanical Gardens at the top of the hill.  The cable car is a big tourist attraction as well as local transportation for college kids and the local residents.


  • We enjoyed seeing the restored historical buildings adjacent to new high-rise buildings.  Many of these historical buildings have been converted into shopping malls.  We also noticed that many buildings were in the process of renovation.
  • The main street of town has a median divider with trees and flowers.   Giving an otherwise dull street a very welcoming feeling.
  • Public transportation is plentiful and cost effective.  The buses travel in a special traffic lane that is painted green.
  • Street performers were abundant – but the kid playing his violin was our favorite.


  • Lots of American brand named products make you feel right at home!
  • We found the people of Wellington very friendly and helpful – they are very proud of their fine city and want to help you enjoy it to the fullest!!

But all good visits must come to an end.  It was time for us to leave Wellington.  The lines were loosened and off we went – it took about an hour to get out of the harbor and into the Cook Strait.  Once in the Cook Strait, we made a left turn and are now heading north toward Auckland.  The Cook Strait is a 17-mile wide body of water that separates New Zealand’s South Island from the North Island.  Both Wellington and Auckland are located on the North Island.  Did you know that the country of New Zealand is actually made of two islands?

Just when we reached the Cook Strait, we saw a beautiful rainbow!


Now we’re officially in the Pacific Ocean . . . but, most important in the big picture of our life at sea  —

WE DON’T HAVE TO TURN OUR CLOCKS BACK ANY MORE THIS TRIP!

From now on, we will be gaining time, not loosing time!!

JJ and I are very happy about that!

Let me tell you about our Time Changes:

Because we have been traveling eastbound, JJ and I have lost a total of 18 hours since we left home!  If we were traveling westbound, we would be gaining time!!  On the days that we lost an hour, we only had 23 hours in those days.  From now on, we will be gaining back the 18 hours that we to get back to the same time as the east coast of the US.  On some days, we will be setting our clock back.  That means that on days we gain an hour, we will have 25 hours in those days  –  we like that much better!!  Just think about the time lost and gain just like when we change to or from Daylight Savings Time in the Spring and Fall.  Remember when your Mom and Dad have to change all of the clocks in the house?  Same thing with us!

 

February 26 – Sydney – Day 2

26 Feb

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Good Morning Sydney!

A beautiful day greeted me and JJ this morning in Sydney – still some clouds around, but much more sun and warmer temperatures.   But, we will be always be prepared – take your umbrella, just in case!!

Today we decided that we would take the shuttle bus into town and to go to the Chinatown area.  We would be walking away from the Circular Quay area and would end up nearer the Convention Center.

JJ and I are almost like residents – we did not need the map – and we found Chinatown.  The streets of Chinatown were just beginning to bustle  —  there were people sweeping the sidewalks, straightening the tables and chairs and getting ready for the early lunch crowd.

We then spied Market City/Paddy’s Market . . . this is a 4 story building full of shopping opportunities of all descriptions.  Market City has permanent stores and a huge food court.  Market City is interesting, but cannot compare with the unique organized chaos of Paddy’s Market.  The semi-permanent stalls are crammed FULL of a wide variety of stuff  —  cell phone accessories, t-shirts, souvenirs, leather goods, hats, Asian styled clothing, games, and some very cool toys.  And there is also a fresh fruit and vegetable market area – the signs said that almost all were products of Australia.  Most of the fruits and vegetables were common to the US – although they might be called something else in the US  — for example we saw a fruit that Americans would call a Cantaloupe and the Aussies call it a Rock Fruit!

We walked up and down each aisle of Paddy’s Market, just to make sure that we didn’t miss anything!!  Fascinating to see all of the stuff that people sell  —  and equally fascinating to watch all of the people.   Yes, we did buy some very cool stuff!!  JJ and I could have spent the day just strolling Paddy’s Market, but we had places to go and ships to board, so off we went . . .

We walked a new route, just like residents (didn’t use the map again!!) back to the bus stop!!  We took in some new sites – the Town Hall, the Queen Victoria Building with its very upscale shopping and the Pitt Street Mall.  It is a short (10 minute) bus ride back to the QM2 – we didn’t want to be late for the boarding for our new destination of Wellington, New Zealand.

The Commodore made the announcement that we were ready to leave . . . and shortly thereafter, we let loose the lines and made our way into the harbour.  We blew the whistle to get everybody’s attention.  Our whistle is very loud and can be heard about 10 miles away!!  We moved away from the dock.  The QM2 then backed out of Woolloomooloo and backed all the way down to the Opera House – for one final look!!  Thank you Commodore for that beautiful sight!!

Then with our escort of boats and ferries,  we slowly made our way to the heads, said bye-bye to the Pilot, sounded the ship’s whistle one final time and out sailed into the Tasman Sea . . . thank you Sydney for a very enjoyable visit, as always!!

February 25 – Sydney – Day 1

25 Feb

After all of the excitement of the sail into Sydney, what comes next?  Well, breakfast – of course!

Remember that the ferry boat captains want all of the cruise ships safely docked no later than 7:00 am to avoid any morning traffic jams in the harbour!  And both the QM2 and the QE played by those rules.

All good tourists need a hardy breakfast to start the day . . . we ate and then headed off the ship.

The QM2 was docked at an area that goes by a couple of names – either Garden Island or Woolloomooloo.  This is also the area where the Australian Navy docks their ships.  Although this location is not as convenient as the Oversees Passenger Terminal, you do get a very nice view of the city skyline – and if you go to the top deck on the QM2, you get a good view of the Opera House and the Bridge.  A complimentary shuttle bus had been arranged to take those not on a tour to the just about the center of downtown – maybe a 10 or 15 minute ride.  The bus stop is located very near the Sydney Tower.

We had made our wish list of stuff to do and things to see, including:  to walk across the bridge; to see the QE and Circular Quay; to go to Paddy’s Market; to visit China Town and any and all sights in between these destinations.

Sydney is a fairly easy city in which to get around by foot.  So, we started walking toward Circular Quay.  We very much enjoyed seeing all of the shops, the people on the streets, the smooth flow of traffic and all of the busy activities of a major city.  There are lots of beautiful historical buildings that have been restored side-by-side sparkling new skyscrapers.

Upon arriving at Circular Quay, the area was BUZZING around the Queen Elizabeth.  It was amazing how many people were taking pictures of the new ship!  And there were water taxis that were charging $15.00 each to take people over to see the QM2!!  And, of course, the regular ferry service is jamming.  Tour groups on bicycles; school children taking tours; cruise ship passengers coming and going; street performers.  Organized chaos!!

JJ took my picture at the new Queen Elizabeth ship and off we went to the Rocks area to find the steps to the Bridge.  Intermittent showers kept us from walking all the way across the Bridge – so we walked about half way and started toward the second destination.

Back to Circular Quay to check the ferry schedule to Manly.   JJ and I like to ride the ferry to Manly because it has a great location in the first bay just inside the North Head.  In fact, the Manly beach is located on the ocean.  Manly’s location also makes it the farthest point to which you can go on the ferry – making the ferry ride a good value if you don’t want to take a harbor tour.  We took the high speed ferry to Manly – a quick 20 minute ride.  The heavy rain shower upon arrival in Manly made an easy decision to make to take the ferry right back!!

After we walked and walked and walked, it was middle of the afternoon and we were ready to go back to the ship – getting up at 5:00 am makes for a very long day!  We began to make our way back to the bus stop and our free ride home.

The area around the ship, while in port, is always fun.  This time we were disembarking about 1,000 and embarking the same number of passengers.  So, we watched as luggage and people were loaded aboard – along with supplies; a steady stream of admirers – kayakers, small boats, large boats, ferries, yachts – you name it, we saw it – coming by for a quick look at the BIG Queen; and our usual “fill-er-up” on the tank of fuel.  This “fill-er-up” is also known as bunkering.  We get amazing MPG on this ship – actually it should be called “feet per gallon” because it takes one gallon of fuel to go 50 feet!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A nice nap is always welcome . . . Dog tired, JJ and I had dinner, walked the decks for the nighttime view of this glorious city and off to bed we went!

A wonderful day’s adventures in a wonderful city!

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February 24 – Arrival in Sydney, Australia

24 Feb

The schedule for our arrival in Sydney and our rendezvous with the Queen Elizabeth seemed quite simple – meet at the heads at 5:30 am, load the pilots and then proceed into Sydney Harbour with the QM2 going first.  When the QM2 almost reached the Opera House, we would turn around and pass the Queen Elizabeth.  The QM would go and dock at the OPT (Overseas Passenger Terminal) and the QM2 would go to the area where the Australian Navy ships are docked – the Woolloomooloo Wharf area.

And, as all good plans go – everything went exactly on schedule.

JJ and I set the alarm clock and got up at 5:00 am.  We got dressed and then off we headed to the Observation Deck (just under the bridge) for a wonderful vantage point to watch all of the action.

When we reached the Observation Deck there were about 5 other people there.  The air was chilly and the sky was full of heavy clouds!  We were amazed that we could see most of the Sydney skyline from the ocean.  The QM2 slowed down – almost to a stop . . . we watched the Pilot boat approach us . . . and turned around to see the Queen Elizabeth not far behind us – all lit up for the occasion!!

Marking the heads was not only the familiar lighthouses and shipping lane buoys, but also lots of tiny white lights – those tiny lights belonged to private boats who had come out to greet us.  Along with these small boats were several ferry boats packed with passengers that had made this a special trip – and we’re sure that they charged BIG bucks for the privilege of getting up early!

The parade quietly made its way – navigating all of the turns – and finally we were heading directly into the Bridge!  What a beautiful sight!  The sun was now rising and we could see it all – the city skyline, the Opera House, the Bridge, north Sydney!!

As scheduled, the QM2 turned around and now we faced the Queen Elizabeth  —  horns blasts were exchanged several times – frantic waving from one ship to the other – more horn blasts – and the QE went on to the OPT to dock.


It took a little while longer for the QM2 to get settled in . . . the Captain had to put this very large ship into what looked like a very small space between two Australian Navy ships!!

Welcome to Sydney, Australia!!


February 23 – Itinerary Change

23 Feb

There is a change in the Itinerary.  If you look at the itinerary, the next port of call after Sydney was to be Christchurch, New Zealand.  But because of the terrible earthquake in Christchurch, our itinerary has been changed.

Our next port of call is Wellington, New Zealand.

Take a look at your map or globe and see if you can find Wellington.  Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is located at the very southern tip of the north island of New Zealand.

The ship will be going through the Cook Strait on the way to Wellington.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the citizens of Christchurch and New Zealand affected by this horrific natural disaster.

February 21 – Adelaide, Australia

21 Feb

We needed to take a class called “How to See Adelaide in 5 Hours”.  Yes, that’s all the time that we had for Adelaide – so much to see, so little time!!

As we docked, we thought about our last visit in Adelaide.  Our dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. McKee, had a very nice party and lunch for us at their home – and what a wonderful time we had!  Mr. and Mrs. McKee are currently aboard the ship, the Queen Elizabeth, and hopefully we’ll see them tomorrow morning!!

There was no margin for error in our departure schedule from Adelaide.  Remember, that the next port of call is Sydney  —  that is one city in the world where the ferry boats “rule the roost”, or the harbour in this case!!  From our previous visits to Sydney, we know that the ferry business dictates that all of the cruise ships arriving in the morning must be safely docked no later than 7:00 am.  Even if you are “royalty”, as in a “Queen”, you still must get out of the way for the ferries!!

We have another big event in Sydney – we’re meeting the Queen Elizabeth (QE) on her World Cruise.  There are passengers who are disembarking the QM2 to join the QE to complete the World Cruise.  Some of our disembarking passengers will complete the World Cruise on all three of the Cunard Queens  — they came from  Southampton on the Queen Victoria, cruised on the QM2 for a while and  will go back to Southampton on the QE.

OK, back to Adelaide . . . we arrived right on schedule – just before 8:00 am.  Today’s tour was to the Barossa Wine Valley.  JJ and I were excited because we were going to get to see some more of the Australian countryside.

We were greeted at the port by a helicopter buzzing about; another ship, the Amadea already docked; and a busy group of volunteers in the terminal ready to take care of business.

The weather was cool and cloudy and off onto the new highway we went – bypassing all of the normal traffic to get to the Barossa Valley quickly.  The goal was to reach Jacob’s Creek Winery.  Along the way, we stopped at Mengler Hill Sculpture Park for a lovely panoramic view of the Valley  —  very, very beautiful —  all of the lush green acres and acres (40,000 acres) of grape vines and acres and acres of field full of freshly baled hay and lots fat and happy sheep!  And something we didn’t expect were the acres of olive groves.  And some almond trees thrown in for good measure  —  do you think that this sounds like Southern California?

The Barossa Valley was founded by the German Lutherans.  A good combination – the Germans with their brewing talents and good work ethics and because of religious persecution, the strong desire to move to a new land for freedom – especially religious freedom!

We drove through the quaint town of Tanunda – known as the unofficial “capital” of the Barossa Valley and known by most as the “heritage Heart of the Barossa”.  The town was getting ready for one of the many festivals held in the Valley annually.

The Valley has a multitude of family owned boutique wineries and several large, internationally famous wineries.  The names Americans will quickly recognize include:  Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek, and Wolf Blass.  Shiraz wines from the Barossa region are well respected.

There were very nice ladies that helped us at Jacob’s Creek Winery.  Even though we didn’t get to stay long, we had a good time.  JJ and I even saw a book about winemaking that we thought you might find interesting.  Here’s a picture of the cover of the book.

We watched, with interest, the returning passengers and the activity on the gangway.  Exactly at 1:00 pm, it appeared that all the passengers were aboard . . . no wait . . . there are six people running toward the gangway!  Now we’re ready . . . so, load up all of the QM2’s stuff and get ready to move the gangway . . . no wait . . . one security person frantically runs off the ship . . . and 2 exasperated passengers come running onto the ship . . . passengers on board cheered . . . now we’re finally ready . . . the gangway is raised and . . . only about 5 minutes late leaving.

The crowd on shore cheered “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie . . . Oi, Oi, Oi”!!  And of course, the Aussies on board cheered back.  Lots of cheering and waving and we’re off through the northern tip of the Tasman Sea to Sydney!

We had some rougher seas last night – but the ship’s rocking helped to put us to sleep . . .

The Captain told us that we would be meeting with the Queen Elizabeth at 5:30 am on Tuesday morning.  Then our ship, the QM2, will lead the parade into the harbour!  We’ll be looking for Mr. and Mrs. McKee on the Queen Elizabeth.  Mrs. McKee sent us an email and told us she would be wearing orange so we could wave to her!!!!  JJ and I will have to go to bed early tonight – we’ll be getting up early and we’ll have a long day of site seeing!  Sydney is one of my favorite cities in the world!

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