A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Jan. 19 - LEICESTER, MA

SNOW IS ON THE WAY!

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Hello, virtual travel friends. We are preparing to fly to San Francisco on Jan. 24th to board Crystal Serenity for the 2016 World Cruise. Because of a forecasted snow storm we will be staying overnight in Boston near Logan Airport for one or two nights to be sure to catch our flight. The ship actually leaves on Monday so we have some travel time leeway, but not much. If we miss the ship in San Francisco we will have to fly to Honolulu to catch it on its first stop. HOPE WE DON'T HAVE TO DO THAT! We will post more when in Boston.

Posted by Swenigale 05:45 Archived in USA

Jan. 24-26 - SAN FRANCISCO AND AT SEA

sunny 60 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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If you live in New England, you learn to make your winter travel plans with potential storm delays in mind! We did, and what a good decision! After a hotel night in East Boston (at the airport) and an early flight from Logan on Sunday we arrived in San Francisco with time to enjoy dinner at "Pier 39" - within view of Crystal Serenity.

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Fish Tacos - yum

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Strolling along the Embarcadero, looking to Alcatraz in the harbor

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The elegant ship, docked at Pier 27

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Our Monday morning walk brought us to Boudin's Bakery for a wonderful breakfast.

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After an obligatory visit with the Sea Lions.

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We boarded our home away from home in the early afternoon, heading out to sea under the Golden Gate Bridge just before sunset.

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Sunrise on Tuesday - the first of four full days at sea as we are enroute to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Posted by Swenigale 14:15 Archived in USA

Jan. 30 - HONOLULU, HAWAII

sunny 80 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Aloha from our 50th State! After more than four days in the rolling North Pacific we sailed into Honolulu Bay under the noon day sun. Part of the allure and magic of these islands is in their remoteness, in addition to their incredible beauty.

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The first segment of the World Cruise will end in Sydney, Australia. We have filled the hours at sea with presentations by twelve experts in diverse fields, a wide variety of evening shows, musical groups (Jazz band, Dance band, string quartet and piano men), walking the deck, and- oh yes – eating!

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Ed and I both escorted Crystal Tours today.

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Ed’s Tour started with a drive to famous Nuuani Pali Lookout.

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Looked at the view and then found beauty at his feet as well.

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Many of the well-known sites are fairly close together around Honolulu.

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Ed’s “Monarchs and Missionaries” tour focused on the Hawaiian royal family, and the role of the New England Missionaries who came to the islands between 1820 and 1863. Their journey was a bit longer than ours – six to nine months at sea.

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Kawaiahao Church was built of coral blocks in 1842. It was the church of the Hawaiian Royal Families.

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The beautifully restored Iolani Palace

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Koa wood is beautifully carved and curved throughout the Palace.

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Sorry, King Kamehameha, you are being upstaged!

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My tour was to the Lyon Arboretum. Finally, Hästa got to get his little painted hoofs on dry ground.

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My local guide is studying for his Master’s degree in Botany and in non-stop (but good) mode he informed us of so much that I won’t share right now. The Arboretum is home to 5,000 species of plants, and is beautifully landscaped.

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Before returning to the pier we were treated to a view from Pu’u Uala’kaa, or the Hill of the Rolling Sweet Potato. Normally the air is clear, but today Diamond Head looks hazy due to the “Vogg” (the winds today coming from the active volcanic “Big Island”;).

Posted by Swenigale 18:05 Archived in USA

Feb. 2 - FANNING ISLAND, KIRIBATI

semi-overcast 85 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Stepping into a ship's tender (also known as a "lifeboat" in less pleasant circumstances) can be a major challenge. The smaller craft rises and falls and bangs into the open tender platform on the side of the virtually stationary Serenity. But boarding is not exactly a "leap of faith", since four able-bodied sailors assist each guest to time that crucial step.

All safely aboard, we were ferried to Tabuaeran Atoll, or Fanning Island, nine by six nautical miles long and a part of the island republic of Kiribati.

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We are 1000 miles south of Hawaii on this far-flung nation and their own capital is 2000 miles away! Our arrival was greatly anticipated by the residents, and as we approached the shore my first impression was that we would be attending a church craft fair fund-raiser. Just like home!

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Our welcoming singers stayed comfy in the shade for the afternoon of guest's comings and goings.

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Mary, the primary school teacher, gave me her address. Island dancers and drummers entertained and "warriors" posed with guests.

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Beneath the tables filled with crafts handmade from shells, coconuts, and palm fronds, giggling children sheltered from the sun, and eventually the rain.

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This island paradise averages only two to three feet above sea level, making the future uncertain as sea levels rise.

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No sandy beach on this side of the coral atoll. Mounds of smooth sea and wave-tumbled coral make tricky footing.

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The Greig Memorial, erected in 1957, subscribed by Fanning Island Plantations Ltd. The Island's history revolves around trade and harvesting of the bountiful natural resources.

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Possibly first settled by people from Tonga more than 6 centuries ago, the island appeared on Western maps in 1798, when Capt. Edmund Fanning arrived with his crew onboard the "Betsey" from America. He was a New England boy, born in Stonington, Connecticut.

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Our visit to the unspoiled, undeveloped bit of land is a vibrant reminder of the bounty of Creation,

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The wonders of Nature,

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And just how little people truly "need", to be happy. (Yeah, I know, easy to say when we're being spoiled on a six-star cruise ship!). I pray for the future of these wonderful people and their island nation. They are raising money for their new church - hoping for the generosity of today's visitors.

Posted by Swenigale 21:35 Archived in Kiribati

Feb. 5 - APIA, WESTERN SAMOA

sunny 85 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Grateful for the promise of a sunny day, we stood on deck as we sailed to shore. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with its unique architecture stands as a visible testament to the importance of God in the lives of the Samoan people.

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Open-air buses await guests eager to attend a Samoan cultural show.

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A guide and driver prepare to greet their visitors.

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If you get to be a driver - make that dashboard your own!

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My driver, Junior

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Bodies glistening in the afternoon heat, young Samoans impressed with their energetic traditional dances.

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Dance school students demonstrated pareo-tying. The many smiles and greetings from these happy, God-fearing people are infectious.

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Guests were treated to typical Samoan foods and demonstrations of the common arts of the people.

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Before returning to the ship we admired the beautiful Cathedral.

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From the ceiling of carved wood to the vibrant stained glassed windows, an inspiring sanctuary indeed.

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Inside the dome an artist's depiction of the Ava ceremony, Samoa's traditional way to welcome visitors and to mark important occasions.

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Some stops at ports are brief, due to the nature of the cruise itinerary and the distances needed to travel. However, even in our short visit today we experienced the friendliness of a people where faith, family and hospitality are so important.

Posted by Swenigale 20:25 Archived in Samoa

Feb. 8 - YASAWA-I-RARA, FIJI

sunny 92 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Mbula, hello from Fiji! We are now south of the Equator and on the other side of the International Dateline -and I think we found Paradise!

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We are here for a full day - although respect for the equatorial sun limited our time ashore. Time enough, though, to snorkel, stroll the beach and walk to a village.

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Only 2000 Fijians inhabit this pristine archipelago of twenty volcanic islands. Island crafts are for sale, but with no pressure.

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It's no wonder that one of these idyllic beaches was chosen as the setting for the film "Blue Lagoon", both the 1949 and 1980 versions.

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Enjoy the following pictures of the small village, goats, colorful pareos and a local men's singing group.

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Posted by Swenigale 20:45 Archived in Fiji

Feb. 9 - LAUTOKA, FIJI

sunny 93 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Fiji's number 1 export is sugar. Serenity docked this morning near the largest sugar cane mill in the Southern Hemisphere. No tours of the factory were offered (hee hee) so we traveled through the cane fields along Queen's Road to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant.

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The botanical garden was founded by Raymond Burr (yes, Perry Mason fell in love with Fiji and orchards) back in 1977.

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Antelope orchid - see the horns?

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Ornamental Ginger

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Chicken Feet orchid - really?

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Lovely Lily pads and toads

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Climbing higher into the rain forest - melodic bird songs, really high humidity, flowering trees - I'm painting a picture, here!

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Hey! A sense of humor among horticulturists!

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Our excellent local guide explained much about daily living in Fijian villages. Here is a local Methodist church and maybe the neighbor's cow?

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A photo stop at the exterior of the largest Hindu Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. All the materials were brought in from India.

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Our multifaceted tour included a Kava welcome ceremony.

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Our final stop, First Landing Beach - respected by Fijians as the place their ancestors first arrived 2000 years ago after sailing from Tanzania (must fact check). This is Bole, our excellent guide.

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Fiji Gold, an excellent beer. Here's to a great visit to Lautoka, the Sugar City.

Posted by Swenigale 22:35 Archived in Fiji

Feb. 11 - MYSTERY ISLAND, VANUATU

sunny 82 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Intriguing named, this little island (population zero) is a slice of paradise (see map :)).

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It may be a “mystery”, but it is not a secret. Nearby islanders travel to Mystery Island to sell handicrafts and tours. Inclusive, if not politically correct, advertising, for “non-snorkelers or old people”.

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We are at the Southernmost bit of the Vanuatu Archipelago, 80 islands and islets just 1,000 miles from Australia.

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Sunshine, passing rain showers and island breezes blessed our visit.

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Protecting reefs surround the island, creating an underwater coral garden alive with colorful fish.

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A grass landing strip, built by the USA in World War 2 provides quick access for the next door islanders.

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Hästa is posed on Ed’s yellow flipper

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Ship’s tenders ran back and forth all day – providing easy access to a day in the sun for guests and crew.

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Islanders’ ancestors were not so welcoming to early missionaries.

Posted by Swenigale 14:35 Archived in Vanuatu

Feb. 12 - MARÉ ISLAND, NEW CALEDONIA

sunny 82 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Easy to feel proud of this fine-looking ship! She almost sparkles in the crystal-clear waters of New Caledonia.

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We were treated to another amazing day at a fantastic beach.

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Turquoise water and a protecting reef promised good snorkeling.

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We even had our own shade tree!

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A natural cabana

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Just grab your snorkel gear and step into the water, and magic happens.

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Perfect beach to walk

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Caledonia pine trees

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Fossilized coral cliffs – some backdrop!

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Looking back toward “our” end of the beach

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Here’s something we never saw before – yup, he is fishing while snorkeling!

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All seems too good to be true. Yes?

Posted by Swenigale 21:55 Archived in New Caledonia

Feb. 13 - NOUMEA, FRENCH CALEDONIA

sunny 90 °F

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Here we are with another great opportunity to snorkel. Wow! it’s our last port before we arrive in Sydney. A water taxi took us to Duck Island off the coast of Noumea.

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The water taxi “stand”

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Turns out, Ed is the main cameraman on this trip – so I have to grab the camera to get a shot of him!

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French Caledonia, also known as New Caledonia, has been a far-flung part of France since 1853. It has a protected lagoon that is the largest lagoon complex in the world.

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There is an underwater snorkel trail where we saw ever more unbelievably beautiful fish and coral.

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No sunburns – we’ve been careful – Hästa looks a little red, though.

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Caught this big brother doing what big brothers do.

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One side of this small island is a protected nesting area.

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Surprise!

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Nice

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Zooming back to shore

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The bus back to port traveled along the sandy shore. We have two days at sea ahead of us before we reach Sydney, Australia and the end of the first segment of the world cruise.

Posted by Swenigale 19:25 Archived in New Caledonia

Feb. 16 - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

DAY 1 - PART 1

sunny 77 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Can you tell where we are? Right, mate - we found Australia! Here is a Red-Necked Pademelon, would you believe? Our day long tour started at Featherdale Wildlife Park.

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The Common Wombat, same family as the cuddly Koala

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My, what big feet you have!

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Pelicans

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The original "Angry Bird"?

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Day time is sleep time for Koala Bears.

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A special treat

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Fairy Penguin

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Tasmanian Devil

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These Kangaroos have a taste for ice cream cones!

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A Red Kangaroo, at the far end of the park. Now, back to the bus and on to Scenic World - a tourist magnet.

Posted by Swenigale 22:35 Archived in Australia

Feb. 16 - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

DAY 1 - PART 2

sunny 77 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Deep in the Blue Mountains we arrived at the steepest incline railway in the world. New rail cars now let you choose the angle of your seat (cliffhanger, anyone?) as we descend to the rain forest below.

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This is the former Katoomba Coal Mine, which was purchased by a savvy developer years ago.

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The steep incline brought us into an ancient rain forest.

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This towering sandstone formation is known as "The Three Sisters". Anyone following our blogs over the years will recognize these ladies from our visit here in 2007. They haven't aged much.

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We enjoyed a short walk through the World-Heritage forest and the nicely presented portrayal of the workings in the old coal mine.

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Before boarding a cable car back to the top - yet another visual treat towered above us.

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A brief bus ride away we arrived at a panoramic view point to soak in the beauty of the Jamison Valley and the Blue Mountains.

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The Queen Elizabeth Lookout

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The Blue Mountains are forests of Eucalyptus trees - the aroma is in the air! A blue haze lingers over the forest when rays of light strike dust, droplets of moisture and eucalyptus oil in the atmosphere.

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A lizard with a blue tongue! Our last natural wonder - so appropriate for the Blue Mountains - does he eat eucalyptus leaves?

Posted by Swenigale 00:25 Archived in Australia

Feb. 17 - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

DAY 2

sunny 77 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Our ship is anchored in Sydney Harbor, just a ferry ride from Dawe's Point, which is right under the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge.

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This is the start of the second segment of the world cruise, "Australian Discovery".

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Some years ago we climbed the bridge (a great experience, but probably a one-time thing). Today we decided to walk across the bridge (which was free :)).

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The day was sunny and warm, but not too hot. Here is the Opera House seen from under the bridge near the pylon on Dawes' Point.

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Sydneysiders love their wrought iron "Paddington Lace".

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Flights of stairs led us to the Cahill Walk, which would take us across the bridge to North Sydney.

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Here we are with a view of the bridge from the north side.

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Our ship is anchored out in the harbor, seen here from the bridge on our return walk.

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Never ones to pass up an opportunity to climb to the top of something -

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We decided to climb to the Pylon Lookout, where the view was spectacular, and the history of the bridge construction well documented.

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Sydney Harbor

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Our final sight of this enchanting city down under.

Posted by Swenigale 02:35 Archived in Australia

Feb. 19 - BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

sunny 84 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Queen Victoria does not look nearly as welcoming as all of the lovely people we met today in Brisbane!

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It was hot and humid, but there were breezes along the river in this pretty state capital (we are now in Queensland State, Australia). Hästa and I posed in front of the classic Town Hall building.

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Petrie Tableau was created to “honour the early families of Brisbane and to capture the pioneering spirit of the city”. Nearby is Albert Street Uniting Church.

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The 2,250 pipe organ was originally built in 1889.

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Brisbane is a clean, walkable city. They have maximized the considerable advantages of having a winding river flowing through. Both banks are lined with walks and bike trails. On our way to the Botanical Gardens, we saw these school girls stopping for a lunch of meat pies.

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Someone else is also looking for lunch.

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In the Garden – with the roof of the Old Parliament building in the distance

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That wonderful beak is just so handy!

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This is Friday noon and it seems half the population is involved in some form of exercise.

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We walked across the pedestrian and bikes only Goodwill Bridge to have lunch on the south bank.

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Great climbing thing – right next to a giant fig tree! We headed back to the ship and ice cold servings of – get this – Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Yum!

Posted by Swenigale 22:45 Archived in Australia

Feb. 21 - HAMILTON, WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS, AUSTRALIA

sunny 90 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We are anchored in the beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are about 900 islands in the 1,300-mile-long Great Barrier Reef, which is 10 to 125 miles from the eastern shores of Australia.

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These are the Whitsunday Islands. The developed bit we are visiting is Hamilton Island, one of the 74 in the Whitsunday chain of islands.

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Captain James Cook sailed North in the "Endeavor" and charted and claimed this eastern seaboard of Australia for England in the 1770's.

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A Serenity tender cruises ship to shore and shore to ship.

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Enjoying some time in the water on this pleasant but humid day was a treat.

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Saw this sign AFTER swimming. Is EVERYTHING deadly in Australia?!!

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No danger here - beauty only. Just don't stick your hand in the bushes! (You know, snakes, spiders, bees.)

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Walking back to the pier - and a shower!

Posted by Swenigale 19:05 Archived in Australia

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