Cruising the South Pacific: How it Came to Be

So how did I come to leave my corporate job and hop a cruise ship to Fiji? Well, it went something like this:

For several years I’ve been receiving emails from a group called Abraham-Hicks. The Abraham-Hicks group does several cruises a year to various parts of the world, and I have been receiving emails describing these fantastic trips for years, always with the same result: I would open the email, read all the exciting details, sigh, and then…delete the email. Those trips were for other people, not me.

Finally, one morning while at work, I opened my Abe Hicks email, read all the details (well, most of them), and said to myself. I’m doing this! I bookmarked the website and started thinking about how I might pull it off. It would take careful planning and a bit of money, but I was determined!

On further study of the details, I realized the cruise set sail from the Port of Sydney. For half a second I thought, I can’t do that. Sydney is halfway around the world! That’s crazy! But then I came to my senses and thought, Of course I can do this. Other people do this sort of thing all the time. Why not me? And so I set about planning the details.

I decided I was comfortable doing the cruise on my own because I’ve participated in Abraham-Hicks events in the past so I know for sure that people who attend those events are generally happy, friendly folks. I was sure I’d find people to hang out with.

As I was planning the details around getting to the cruise ship, I decided that since I probably wouldn’t get to Sydney again any time soon, I should probably spend a few days there and see some sights.

The idea of a 23 hour flight from Nashville, TN to Sydney was daunting. One night, as I shared some of my thoughts about the trip with friends, I was given the idea to split up the flight by stopping over in Hawaii. Perfect! I hadn’t yet been to Hawaii either!

When it came to booking my lodging, I decided not to stay in a conventional hotel. I would use Airbnb for all my stays. I am not interested in the downtown party life, so staying outside the city sounded like a perfect fit for me. Airbnb would provide me a connection to local folks with inside information on best ways to get around and best sites to see – without the influence of tourist industry hype. I had used Airbnb a total of one time prior to this on a short trip to Charlotte, NC, but that was enough to sell me on the idea.

Due to the length of the Sydney and cruise portions of the trip, I decided I would keep my Hawaii stays short. I could take a longer trip to Hawaii another time, so I planned for only 1-2 full days on the island of Oahu for each leg of the trip. That would be enough time to hang on the beach for a day and maybe see a site or two. I was mostly concerned about being able to rest up between flights. I also decided to book different Airbnb locations for each of my Hawaii stays so I would have perspective from slightly different areas of Honolulu – for next time.

I booked my air travel as two separate round trips, one from Nashville to Honolulu, the other from Honolulu to Sydney. I ended up on three different airlines. The Nashville/Honolulu leg was on American Airlines. Honolulu to Sydney was JetStar. Sydney to Honolulu was Hawaiian Airlines. I booked it all through the eDreams website, which I had never before heard of, but after searching on Kayak, that is the booking site where I found the best fares.

So, there it is! In October 2015, I (over)packed my bags and got on a plane, headed for the biggest adventure of my life (so far)!

NEXT STORY: Honolulu – Day 1 – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Goodbye Sydney, My Love!

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The Celebrity Solstice arrived back at the Port of Sydney at 6:30 a.m., right on schedule. I was booked for a 9:20 p.m. flight to Hawaii on the same day.

I had originally planned to spend the final day of my “out of country” experience seeing some additional sites in Sydney before heading to the airport, but a few days before the ship arrived back in port, I came to my senses. I realized spending the day in Sydney would mean either:

  1. Schlepping my luggage around town all day – or –
  2. Paying for my luggage to be stored for the day.

I didn’t like either option. Also, there was the issue of transportation to the airport, and, frankly, I was too tired to even think about that.

While the cruise had been relaxing, I was still struggling with congestion and cough, and the idea of public transportation and managing luggage for the day felt too complicated. I opted instead for option 3, which was to pay $30 to have my bags picked up at my cabin door the night before arriving in port and then having them loaded onto a bus first thing in the morning, said bus also transporting me to the airport straight away. This would mean passing on the downtown site seeing I was hoping to do on my last day, like the Botanical Garden, but…it had been a long trip. Unfortunately, option 3 also meant spending a full day in the airport. Fun.

When I chose this option, I thought the part about picking up bags at my cabin and loading onto the bus would be accomplished without my intervention. I was wrong.

As I disembarked with the thousands of other passengers who had also chosen this option, I found that my bags had been removed from the ship and placed along with bazillions of other bags in the cruise terminal! (I was not the only one surprised by this.)

I was to pick out my bags from one of the loosely organized, massive groupings of bags and transport them to the bus, which would be located outside the terminal. There, my bags would be loaded into the cargo area on the bus.

Turns out the reason you must pick up your bags in the terminal and transport them to the bus yourself is because there are several buses making the same trip and they are loaded to capacity and driven to the airport as people arrive, so this is the only way to keep the buses running smoothly, and to ensure that your bags travel with you on the bus. Makes sense now, but was a bit frustrating at the time.

So, by 9:00 a.m. I was on a bus and headed to the airport for my 9:20 p.m. flight! It was such a beautiful day, and I was so sad I would be spending it in an airport instead of beautiful gardens, but…

As the bus traveled away from the terminal and through the city, I caught one last glimpse of the city that had won my heart! It was with sweet sorrow that I was leaving such a beautiful city and country!

I have often thought, since my first day in Sydney, that if I ever needed to choose another country to live in, I would definitely pick Australia! It is so beautiful, and the people are so friendly and nice! You can have a conversation with just about anyone here, and they will treat you as if you belong!

At the airport, I found a great place to hang out – The Terrace Bar, Bistro and Cafe. Here I had breakfast (Eggs Benedict, of course!), then came back later for a beer and finally dinner. Between meals I wandered the airport, pushing my trolley full of luggage from store to store. I bought more souvenirs as well as some postage stamps, and then sat down to write out the post cards I had purchased on the Sydney portion of my trip. I wanted my Sydney post cards to have a Sydney stamp and postmark! (See my earlier post, Touristing in Sydney).

At about 6:30 p.m. the line began forming at the ticket counter. I was on my way home!

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NEXT STORY: Hawaii Redux – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

One More Thing About The Surf Shack…

NEXT STORY: Celebrity Solstice – Day 2 at Sea – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Just a little more about the Curly Surf Shack before I go…

It is such a serene space, I had to share some of the outdoor pictures as well. This is a view before I settled in:

Resting Space at The Surf Shack
Resting Space at The Surf Shack

It’s where I hung out most evenings for writing:

Curly Surf Shack
Curly Surf Shack

And eating:

Dinner at the Shack
Dinner at the Shack

And one of my favorite things was this little guy. He would greet me every morning and every evening with cuddles and kisses!

My new friend Snoopy!
My new friend Snoopy!
Puppy kisses
Puppy kisses

There was also a tree just at the end of the deck where several different types of birds would gather, like the Rainbow Lorikeet and the Australian Magpie. The Magpies were very vocal but also elusive, so I wasn’t able to get a picture on my own.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Australian Magpie (photo obtained from http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder)
Australian Magpie

 (Magpie photo obtained from birdsinbackyards.net/)

This place is a much better choice than a hotel any day (in my opinion)!

NEXT STORY: Celebrity Solstice – Day 2 at Sea – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Touristing in Sydney

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On my last full day in Australia before the cruise, I ferried may way back to Circular Quay and then wandered the streets of Sydney by the bay. Highlights included:

Aboriginal Musicians were set up on the wharf, playing the didgeridoo, dancing and selling hand-painted boomerangs.

I wandered over to the Opera House and had a beer in the Opera Bar. The wait staff were very nice there! I didn’t do the tour. If I had been with someone who was interested I would have, and I’m sure would have enjoyed it, but by myself it wasn’t at the top of the list. Beautiful place though, and I took lots of pictures of it on land and by ferry.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

I stopped at several art galleries, which carry mostly aboriginal art – very interesting and even mesmerizing to just stand and stare at some of these pieces. One style is lots of tiny dots that form a larger pattern; another is small petal-like swatches of paint that form patterns. (I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, but I wanted to remember and share the style of the work found here.)

Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art

I spotted Fortune of War, Sydney’s Oldest Pub and decided to stop in for some Fish & Chips and a beer. Apparently it’s Australia’s version of a “Good Ole Boys” club, because the only female in the pub was behind the bar, and – though she did make eye contact several times – she never acknowledged me or attempted to serve me. I got the message loud and clear and headed down the street to The Rocks Café where I had some lovely Fish & Chips and a Pure Blonde beer (very light, and only 1.7 carbs)!

Fortune of War, Sydney's Oldest Pub
Fortune of War, Sydney’s Oldest Pub
The Rock Cafe
The Rock Cafe
The Rock Cafe Fish & Chips
The Rock Cafe Fish & Chips
Pure Blonde
Pure Blonde

I don’t know what this place is. It was in the middle of a cluster of buildings containing businesses. Very interesting little space where i imagine people may go to have a quiet lunch.

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There are so many interesting little vignettes throughout Sydney.  Here is a courtyard where I enjoyed a glass of Shiraz.

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After Shiraz I made a stop at a  Gelato shop (Salted Caramel, please!) and then headed back around to the wharf, where I listened to music performed by Pete Raven. Such a beautiful voice! I was really surprised at the sound quality here.

Next I headed to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, where tomorrow I will board the Celebrity Solstice! I dropped in at the Cruise Bar and had a (very pricey) margarita.

$16 Margarita
$16 Margarita

I have come to the realization that the cost of living in Sydney is much higher than in Nashville, TN. I could have looked that up ahead of time, but…I am the consummate “seat of the pants” traveler!

Now back across the bay to Manly by ferry for my final night at the Curly Surf Shack! I will be sad about leaving – it is such a serene space!

Now that I’ve written it all down, I realize I’ve had quite a bit to drink today! No wonder I was so tired when I got back to the shack!

NEXT STORY: More About the Surf Shack – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

More About Dee Why Beach, Australia

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I sat at the beach a while, listening, watching, contemplating…then decided to explore a bit. I followed the walkway toward the point and discovered a swim club, which is apparently open to the public. The pool is filled with sea water and is refreshed each night when high tide comes in.

Dee Why Beach
Dee Why Beach’s, Swim Club on the Point
Ocean side pool
Ocean side pool
Ocean side pool
Ocean side pool

On the far end of the swim club is a rocky area with tide pools and cliffs beautifully decorated with succulent plants. A small heron was fishing in one of the pools and didn’t mind that I came right up to him to get a picture!

Tide Pools on the Rocks
Rocky area just beyond the swim club
Heron
White-faced Heron
Scenic Cliffs
Scenic Cliffs
Scenic Cliffs
Scenic Cliffs

NEXT STORY: Touristing in Sydney – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page