A Life on the Ocean Wave: Australia

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The Achille Lauro

Hello. My name is Emma and I go on cruises. Mostly, so far on P&O ships out of Southampton, but other perfectly good cruise companies are available. ;-) When I can, I con my parents into paying for my ticket.

When I travel, I blog. If you would like to read it all, it can be found at my PS. The Post have asked me to proffer some edited highlights of my ramblings, which I shall now inflict on you forthwith. Enjoy.


Now I get it. I never really understood why people made such a fuss about Australia before. I'd been to Sydney (and been too ill to see much), to Brisbane (just visited a friend and a zoo) and the Whitsunday Islands (where the trip out to the Great Barrier Reef was the most terrifying and miserable experience of my entire existence). Indeed, the bits in brackets may go some way to explaining why I didn't really think much of Oz before. But now I do.

Brisbane is AMAZING. It is beautiful, modern, clean, interesting, historical, friendly and is the first place in the southern hemisphere I have ever considered as a possible place to live. Just wonderful. We met our cousin, who drove us around a bit. We then had brunch with him and then went back to the ship to catch our afternoon tour. We got a guided coach tour of the interesting bits in the centre of town, followed by a paddle steamer trip up the river that runs through the centre of the city. The whole thing was wonderful, although the full Devonshire cream tea on the boat seemed a bit odd!

If anyone is wondering what particularly got to me about Brisbane, it's the public art. I LOVE public art, it's a passion of mine. Well, all art affects me, but public art is so exciting. Brisbane has a sculpture on almost every street corner. It's extraordinary. I tried to photograph as many as I could, and I got even more by accident just by snapping buildings and not noticing what was in front of them! Seriously, there's sculpture and art and interesting architecture on every street. The place is amazing. Loved it. HAVE to come back here. HAVE to.

Then a sea day to recover. Then Sydney. Now, we got to Sydney early because we had to do repairs which we're not supposed to know about or talk about because travelling in that condition probably breaches several maritime laws! Suffice to say, we arrived at midnight, instead of 8am. This meant that I could get off, meet up with Simon and Guy and go out for a drink. We got turned away from the Star City casino - the security guard either doesn't like English people, or goatee beards, or gay men, or check shirts, or, oh, I don't know. He said Guy had had too much to drink. Two glasses of wine with dinner four hours previously hardly constitutes too much to drink. Maybe he just didn't understand that he was listening to an English accent, not a drunk Australian! Anyway, we found a pub nearby and we had a great time just hanging out and catching up. Got to bed about 6am.

Met up again for lunch at a pancake place on the Rocks, which served me beef ribs which turned out to be roughly half a cow. I managed half. Literally half. Heartbreakingly delicious, though. I wished I had the room to eat the rest of it, but there was no way! Then I dragged them both on an open top bus tour, which is my new favourite way to see new cities. They showed me some stuff they'd found that I wouldn't otherwise have seen, including an amazing fountain in the shape of a spiral. We went to QVB (Queen Victoria Buildings) which is a seriously posh shopping centre that was once described as the most beautiful shopping centre in the world. It was amazing. It was carpeted! Seriously, I kid you not! And the loos contained the biggest toilet cubicles I have ever seen. Astonishing. It has that over-ornate beauty that you only get with Victorian and similar era architecture. It looks rather similar to Harrods, but designed by someone who had a real love for curlicues and extra bits. Even the clocks were astonishing. About twenty foot long, suspended from the glass roof and so over ornate, I can't even begin to describe them. You'll have to wait for the photos, I'm afraid. Then back to the Rocks for dinner with my parents and then Simon, Guy and I went to Darling Harbour for a drink at Pontoon, which is a wonderful bar. I heartily recommend it. The view across the harbour is amazing.

So my day in Sydney was the best part of forty-eight hours long. The day before was an ordinary sea day, but I didn't get a chance to have a disco nap before getting off at midnight. There was a brief nap on the 1st between 6am and about 9.30am, but not nearly enough for my system's requirements. We sailed late, because we mislaid a crew member (and eventually sailed without him/her) at about 1ish. I can't even work out how long that comes to altogether. Noon on whatever day it was to about 2am the day after the day after that. I think. Noon on the first, via Des O'Connor live in the theatre in the evening to midnight on the first to Sydney to midnight on the second to 2am on the third. I think. Oh, I don't know. Something like that, anyway.

Then a sea day when I didn't get nearly enough rest, as I spent most of it downloading photos and burning CDs.

And today was Burnie, in northwestern Tasmania. What an absolutely lovely little town. Not much by way of history or "culcha", so to speak, although some Art Deco shop facades have been preserved. Someone has even organised a walking tour, which I downloaded off the internet, that takes in all the Art Deco buildings, but their conservation leaves a little to be desired. I'm not sure you should be allowed to paint them half purple and half yellow or, indeed, clad straight over the interesting bits to conceal them altogether! But there are some lovely bits of architecture, all the same. There are also some interesting little shops and some of the most ludicrously friendly people you could ever meet. Seriously, complete strangers stopped us in the street to ask us if we needed any help or directions. At least three times! Just astonishingly lovely people. The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot, and the whole day was just brilliant.

I've just heard the most wonderful quotation. "Every day you act a little worse. Today you're acting like tomorrow". Isn't that delicious?! It's a line said by Fred Astaire in "Roberta", a film I'd never heard of, but which I am so far quite enjoying. The songs "I won't dance, don't ask me" and "Smoke gets in your eyes" come from it. Bet you didn't know that! I do love the TCM pre-Oscars season. They do it every year —it's called "And the awards go to..." and they show ONLY Oscar-winning films back to back for a month, all day and all night. Superb. They show some very interesting stuff: did you know there was a film musical of Tom Thumb?! Although not everything is the best quality. This film, Roberta, for example, has a terrible sound recording. When the soprano star sings, her top notes distort terribly. It just goes to show just what a difference a digitally remastered film really is. I can see how amazing this film would be if they tweaked the sound. The picture is fine, give or take the odd dust spot flicker, but the sound is woeful. Shame really.

Back in the real world, cruising seems to be getting more dangerous. A week or so ago, a ship slammed into the pier in Sharm El Sheikh killing three crew. Today, an 8 metre wave hit a Spanish cruise ship, killing two. Neither of them was us, relax. But it does bring home that fact that, despite my reassurances to all and sundry that it's a floating fourteen-storey block of flats, impervious to most things, nothing is infallible or invincible or... you know which word goes here... thank you, Mr Ismay and Molly Brown. What with tsunamis in Japan and Chile, and tsunami warnings all around this area (Brisbane was a close call, apparently), reality just keeps popping up and reminding us that, although we are blessed and privileged to be on this cruise, we are not immune from whatever Mother Nature decides to send our way. I trust our captain though: he's a very good seaman. We've watched him drive around storms so neatly that we could see the storm off the starboard side and could see the course correction wiggle in our wake! Very impressive and, more importantly, very reassuring. We're in good hands, worry ye not.

A Life on the Ocean Wave Archive


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