Feb 21, 2014 to Feb 23, 2014
21.02.2014 - 24.02.2014 25 °C
Special thanks to all of you who have left comments on our blog site. It is great to hear from home and we appreciate your comments on various aspects of the blog. We are also open to all suggestions as to what you might like to see more or less of. As we have already mentioned we have to keep things fairly tight as Wi Fi speeds are painfully slow on board ship and we buy our internet time by the minute which can be as much as 75 cents a minute depending on what bulk package of minutes we choose to buy.
Perth in Western Australia is the fourth most populous city in Australia, with an estimated population of 1.9 million living in Greater Perth. It became known worldwide as the "City of Light" when city residents lit their house lights and streetlights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7 in 1962. The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead on the Space Shuttle in 1998.
We docked in Fremantle which is in the greater Perth area. When we docked we experienced the first really warm weather of this cruise. Here, summers are generally hot and dry, lasting from December to late March, with February generally being the hottest month of the year. By the look of the grasses this summer has been especially dry as everything looks brown and sun burned. Perth is about the same distance from the equator (although south of it rather than north) as El Paso, Texas. On most summer afternoons a sea breeze, known as the "Fremantle doctor", blows from the southwest, providing relief from the hot north-easterly winds. Perth is the sunniest of the major cities with an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. The nearest city to Perth with a population of more than 100,000 is Adelaide, South Australia, which is 2,104 kilometers (1,307 mi) away. Author Bill Bryson states that Perth is the most remote city on earth. It is about 5 hours of flying time from Sydney to Perth.
Perth was the official end of the first cruise and the start of our second. Although there are over 800 of us who are doing this as one cruise it is officially treated as two cruises by the cruise line. This meant that about 2000 passengers would be leaving the ship today and another 2000 would be boarding to join us. The ship had done an excellent job of having the 800 of us “continuing cruisers” clear Customs & Immigration a couple of days ago while at sea. They have Australian Customs and Immigration officials stay on board the ship and while we are at sea they process our passports. If there are any issues they just call us on the PA system. What a great idea, far superior to what we have experienced in the US when doing back to back cruises where they require us to get off the ship, be processed all at one time by Customs and Immigration and then go through Customs & Immigration and re-board the ship again.
For us “continuing cruisers” we just had to close out our onboard accounts for the first cruise and open a new account for the second cruise. This required that we also had to be issued new “sea passes” – the plastic credit style card which acts as everything from door key to charge card while on board. The ship is a totally cash less operation. Anything you purchase on board from drinks to clothing is charged to your sea pass card. $12.50 per person per day is automatically added to your bill every day for tips, which you are free to reduce or increase by going to the front desk. At the end of the cruise everything is totaled up and a statement is sent to your room on the last day. Unless there is a dispute the total amount is then charged to the credit card which you gave them at the start of the cruise. You can also check your account any time on your interactive TV in your room.
After breakfast the 800 of us “continuing cruisers” were quickly processed on one of the top decks of the ship to keep us clear of the 2000 newbies who were being processed in the cruise terminal and who would be allowed to start loading around 11:00 am. Our own situation was complicated a bit as we also had to move rooms between the two cruises. This was because when we booked the cruise 8 months ago there were no staterooms left that were clear for both cruises. Rooms are immediately assigned when the booking is made. This allows early bookers to pick and choose their favourite rooms as some rooms in each class are preferred by experienced cruisers. We are finding that the cruising veterans often book more than a year and even longer in advance. The cruise lines also offer some pretty attractive perqs for those who book a year or more in advance.
After a leisurely breakfast on the aft deck on a beautiful sunny morning we returned to our old rooms to await moving assistance from our cabin steward. We only had to pack what was in the drawers and then our cabin steward simply took everything out of our closets on hangers, hung them on a trolley and moved them to the new room and hung them up in the new closet in the new stateroom. By 10:00 am we were unpacked and settled in our new stateroom and ready to head ashore to explore Fremantle and Perth. We departed through a large and well organized passenger terminal.
Port of Fremantle Passenger Terminal
Once outside of the air conditioned building the heat settled on us and we thought of all of that snow back home and had a “Finally – Heat!” reaction. All too soon we were looking for shade from the blistering sun and the 30C temperature. Right outside the terminal we found an “hop on hop off” bus and proceeded to explore Fremantle which is an interesting old city.
The Fremantle Railway Station
A lovely old church
The Fremantle Jail
Typical Fremantle street scene
Western Australia Museum Shipwreck Galleries
The National Hotel
We stopped at the Monument Hill Memorial Reserve
Which recognized those who served in both of the great wars.
After a stop in the center of town to have a look in some of the shops, we decided it was too hot to spend much more time outside, so found the hop on hop off bus and returned to the ship for a late lunch.
The ship sailed with its new set of passengers which now includes Jan and Terry, friends of Joan and Cal who flew in from Toronto and joined us in Perth. We were able to arrange a table for 10 for dinner with the original 6 along with Jan and Terry and a New Zealand couple, Lee and Larry. (Lee is Terry’s sister for those of you who are trying to keep track of this diverse group!)
At 10:00 pm sharp we moved away from the big pier and made our way out of the Fremantle harbour.
View from our balcony as we move out of Fremantle harbour
View of the mid ship open air pool deck first night out from Perth
The next two days were spent at sea as we moved northward towards the equator up along the west coast of Australia. Our next port of call, Port Headland, is roughly 800 km away on Australia’s northwest coast so the captain applies a little bit more speed and we are now travelling at an average speed of 17 knots which is roughly 25 km/h. Again we have calm seas (3-5 feet and no chop) and sunny skies both days with mid-day temperatures of 30+. In order for the ship to be allowed to operate the Casino and the Duty Free Shops we are travelling just outside the 12 mile limit so we can frequently see the outline of the coast line in the distance. As we move further north from Perth the population density declines rapidly and we see unusual place names on the map such as “Useless Loop.” Unlike the first half of the cruise the weather has rapidly warmed up and the humidity is rising making it a bit of a cooker on deck. We have also lost the strong cool breezes which we have had for the previous two weeks. The wind is now directly behind us at the same velocity as the ship is travelling so it is hot and calm on deck so we find ourselves spending more time on the inside of the ship attending various events and seminars and even catching the odd afternoon nap. Our first sea day ends with a formal night in the main dining room, one of three formal nights on this second phase of the cruise. Formal nights are a hotly debated feature on most of the cruise lines with advocates both for and against making their points vigorously in various cruise related publications. The rest of us just pack a few dressy items and comply. I must admit it does look nice with everyone dressed up on the evenings. Dress code for the dining room on the remaining evenings is dressy casual so everything from dressy spots wear to elegant cruise wear.
Seven of our travelling group ready for our first of three formal nights on phase 2 of the cruise
FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS TRIP WE HAVE TO STOP THE PRESSES FOR EVENTS FROM SOCHI
The Canadian men’s hockey team was playing for Gold this evening and the word was out that the game would be carried live on the multi-screen TVs in the Casino Bar. So right after dinner a group of about 20 Canadians showed up at the Casino Bar to watch Canada take gold with a shutout victory. It was a great evening with loud cheers every time Canada scored and groans when the opponents took shots on the Canadian goal. One couple had the foresight to bring two Canadian jerseys and a big Canadian flag which the bar staff quickly decorated the bar with. Then the couple insisted that the bar tenders wear the Canadian jerseys for the evening. The ship’s HR Manager, Shannon, is a big hockey fan from the Halifax area (home to Sydney Crosby) and she treated everyone in the bar to a round of drinks as the game got started. That set the mood for a wonderful fun filled evening of Canadian camaraderie culminating in the win to wild cheering and a boisterous singing of the national anthem while other passengers looked on or joined in on the celebration. What a great way to wrap up the Sochi games, watching the Canadians win hockey gold on this beautiful ship cruising through the Indian Ocean at the Northwest corner of Australia. We will remember this wonderful trip for many reasons, this evening of fun and camaraderie with our fellow Canadians will certainly be one of them.
A special shout out to our friend Michael Landsbury who is a freelance TV Director and who was the TV Director of the television feed from Sochi for the Olympic Figure Skating. Great job Michael, congratulations to you and your crew for wonderful coverage. Once again you have shown the world how great figure skating TV coverage is done.
Hockey Night on the Indian Ocean on the Celebrity Solstice
Our bartender in a Canada jersey – honourary Canadian for the evening
A bottle of Canadian Club holding up the Canadian flag in our bar.