Several people who are regular visitors to this site have asked for an update on the very lengthy (48 days!) cruise my husband and I are taking. That voyage began on October 8th in San Diego, and has taken us across the Pacific with stops in Hawaii, Tahiti and French Polynesia on our way to Australia and New Zealand. We will fly back from Auckland on November 26th.
I am writing this from Sydney, Australia, looking out over my laptop at the famous Sydney Opera House and the very busy–very beautiful– harbor. By the time this posts–I’ve been working a couple of days ahead, given my indeterminate access to Internet–we will be in Melbourne.
I have no coherent “story” to tell, at least not thus far.. .but here are some impressions.
Our ship–the Noordam–is part of the Holland-American line, and the passengers include a wide variety of nationalities: we’ve met Dutch citizens, Germans, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese…and of course, a number of Americans. I am happy to report that, despite an average age of approximately 110 (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little), I have seen no petulant outbursts, no cranky or entitled behaviors, and lots of good will.
I’ve been particularly pleased by the absence of what I call the “Fox ‘News’ Cohort.” On a cruise we took several years ago, a Princess cruise to Alaska, we encountered several couples who (insistently) shared their conviction that only Fox was a reliable information source. (We tended to avoid them…) We haven’t had many political discussions on this trip, but on the rare occasions when politics has come up, with only one exception (a guy from Florida), everyone we’ve encountered has been refreshingly liberal.
I should mention that there is a daily PRIDE Meetup on the “things to do” menu, for LGBTQ passengers and allies. There are also Catholic and Jewish religious services, and daily “Friends of Bill” meetings. Something for everyone.
Our stops in Hawaii reinforced my lack of interest in that state. I know that makes me an outlier–and I also know that brief stops and taxi tours are hardly a fair way to evaluate a place. And I’m a city girl. Still…color me unimpressed.
What struck me most about the Islands in French Polynesia, Tahiti and Tonga was the mixture of magnificent nature and grinding human poverty. Again–there is very little one can learn about a people’s history or culture in a few hour tour…
Our first stop in Australia was in Brisbane, a city of just under three million people. My impression from that abbreviated visit was that it’s a really nice city: compact, clean and well-maintained, with lots of apartment towers in and around the city center.
Then we got to Sydney. I think I’m in love. (I told you I’m a city girl…)
Before we toured Sydney, the only thing I knew about it was the Opera House, and that edifice is every bit as impressive as its pictures. But I was unprepared for the other incredible architecture, the multiple, immaculate parks, the variety and number of public transit options and the enormous number of glitzy apartment towers.
Some observations, several courtesy of my architect husband:
- sidewalks were rarely concrete; instead, they were brick or granite–longer-lasting materials.
- we saw no trash on streets or sidewalks, or in any of the meticulously-maintained parks.
- the parts of the city we saw were densely developed, and historic structures were incorporated into newer ones with sensitivity.
- there were dozens of newer buildings, and most of them were spectacular. This is clearly a city that is architecturally adventurous, and that adventurousness has paid big esthetic dividends. It isn’t just the Opera House.
- retail stores and businesses all had names familiar to any American–we really do live in a global economy.
- population was diverse and people were everywhere–in the parks, on the streets, on the boats in the harbor. (They all seemed young, but then everyone seems young to me…)
- the people we met were unfailingly helpful and polite.
When I returned to the ship from our tour of the city, I consulted Wikipedia, and learned:
Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, Sydney frequently ranks in the top ten most livable cities. It is classified as an Alpha city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, indicating its influence in the region and throughout the world. Ranked eleventh in the world for economic opportunity, Sydney has an advanced market economy with strengths in finance, manufacturing and tourism. Established in 1850, the University of Sydney was Australia’s first university and is regarded as one of the world’s leading universities.
Coming up, Melbourne and Tasmania–then New Zealand.
It’s an adventure…