Feb 14, 2014
14.02.2014 - 15.02.2014
Welcome to Melbourne
Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia with 4.2 million Melburnians. Although it is about the same distance from the equator as San Francisco, it is known for its changeable weather conditions due to its location on the boundary of very hot inland areas and the cold southern ocean. The day for us was in the low 20’s with a significant haze partially caused by the smoke from the massive bush fires they have been having further inland.
Melbourne was recently rated the world’s most livable city as well as the 5th most expensive city in the world to live in. Its initial growth and prosperity resulted from the gold rush of the mid-1800s. Since the mid-1990s it has maintained significant population and employment growth. It was the least affected of the Australian cities by the world financial crisis of 2008. Currently more new jobs are created here than in any other Australian city. Its property market remained strong resulting in historically high property prices and widespread rent increases. From what we could see housing prices are very similar to the sky high prices of Toronto as signs abounded offering “deals” on the latest new mini condo at $399,000 to $499,000.
Car prices are similar to Canada with a low end Suzuki sub compact being advertised for $14,999. A Toyota Camry look alike was advertised for $25,999. There are a good number of Nissans and Hondas as well. High end cars are popular with Mercedes probably being the most popular followed by Audi. There are also quite a few Lexus but BMW has not penetrated this market like it has in North America. Like Europe, smaller cars are the norm with Toyota clearly dominating the market. The only North American cars we have seen are Ford sedans that look like our Fusion. There are very very few SUVs and those that are here are mostly smaller Honda CRVs, Suzukis or at the high end the big Land Rovers or big Toyotas. Motorcycles are primarily scooters and mid size sport bikes. There are a few Honda or Yamaha cruisers and the very odd Harley Davidson cruiser. We have yet to see a full dress tourer of any brand. Fuel prices in Australia are a bit higher than Canada with regular grade fuel being advertised at $1.46 per liter. In New Zealand fuel was very expensive at $2.15 per liter.
Solstice tucked behind 2 other ships at St. Kilda Pier
After breakfast we left the ship which was docked at the pier at St. Kilda, a beach dominated suburb of Melbourne. Melbourne city center is about a 20 minute drive but luckily the Hop On Hop Off bus has a stop just a short distance from the pier. We were able to catch the bus and take a double tour which took us all around Melbourne and then back along St. Kilda’s Beach to the pier.
Melbourne is big and bustling with lots of commercial activity going on and the ever present construction cranes dotting the skyline.
Melbourne Sky Scrapers and cranes
Although there are lovely historical areas of the city much of the development in the city has taken place over the past 25 years so much of the city looks quite modern.
Mixture of old and new buildings
Towers and Condos
The Eureka Building – Melbourne’s tallest tower
Planners have done a great job as streets are fairly wide and well laid out. Many streets are tree lined and often they have center boulevards which are also tree lined even in fairly busy commercial areas.
Street – with trees from bus
There is an abundance of public transit infrastructure with many LRT lines running on their own right of ways or down the center of major street right of ways. There is also a tram system with old looking trams which may even use the same rails as the LRT, not sure about that as there are so many rail lines embedded in so many of the major streets. In addition there are a good number of diesel powered busses.
Transit tracks from bus
The only disadvantage of their transit system is that most of the vehicles are electric and they get their electric power from overhead wires so there is a spider web of overhead wires everywhere. You’ll see evidence of those wires in many of our pictures. The good side of all this transit is that even in the commercial core of Melbourne, although busy, it is not clogged bumper to bumper with cars creeping from traffic light to traffic light. Traffic planners here have also made generous use of traffic circles or roundabouts in the less densely populated parts of the city which are extremely efficient at keeping traffic moving. City planners also did a nice job of locating a number of lovely parks so there is a green feel to many parts of the city. Although with the recent heat and drought much of the ground cover is very brown.
Australians love their sports and there were a number of large sports complexes around the city – one for cricket, another for rugby, a large swimming complex and the Rod Laver Arena
Rod Laver Arena
After a great overview of this lovely city, we returned to have a late lunch on the back deck of the ship.
We cast off our multiple lines just as we sat down to dinner at 6:00 pm ship’s time. The Melbourne outer harbour is very large so we were still following marker lights and changing course three hours later as we headed out to the open southern ocean around 9:00 pm.
Saturday we woke up to cool (17C) hazy skies and calm seas but there was a significant long rolling swell running at about 10 feet or three meters according to the morning announcement. For the boaters in the crowd the swell was catching us on the starboard aft quarter so induced a fair gentle roll on the ship making many of us walk down the corridors looking a bit drunk. A number of people had motion sickness patches on today and a few put on the arm bands. None of our hardy team of experienced cruisers felt it necessary to take precautionary measures against sea sickness although we brought patches with us. This was a sea day as we steamed towards Adelaide. It was a day of learning: we attend seminars on cooking, forensics and local sea life and more specifically on Shaaaks as they pronounce it in Australia. There are three Professors on board who give presentations on a variety of topics every day we are at sea. This is a nice feature that we have experienced on other Celebrity ships we have sailed on. Sea days are really just a series of pauses between wonderful meals. We are all getting pretty good at pacing ourselves with regard to food and drink which is a true challenge on these all inclusive cruises where all food and drink (except the most exotic alcohols and wines) is included in the fare.
Next post - Adelaide