Saturday, February 17, 2018

Crystal Symphony - Sydney to Tahiti - Day 1 - Fri Feb 16, 2018 (Sydney)

Sydney, Australia
Arrival at our destination was welcome after such a long flight.  We stopped at the ePassport kiosk to scan our passports to expedite immigration.  The kiosk scanned our passport pictures, gave us a ticket and we continued to the ePassport unmanned gates.  You feed your ticket into a machine with a gate, it takes a picture of you and compares the picture to your passport picture.  It worked beautifully for Bob and he was through immigration in mere minutes.  Not so much for Julie.  It couldn't match her kiosk photo to her passport picture.  She was referred to the immigration line.  Sigh.  It took her another 20 minutes before she could join Bob at the baggage claim where he had already collected their luggage. 

We had so much luggage it was quite difficult to manage. Sydney like most international destinations has free luggage carts. Bob loaded all 4 huge suitcases, the carryon roller-board, Julie's carryon bag thing, and Bob's backpack. It was a HUGE load and extremely heavy. The luggage cart seemed to do well going straight, but turning was a bear. When we got outside near where the Uber guy was to pick us up, a turn of the cart near the street and the whole pile toppled into the road. Geez, what a pain. We sorted it out and eventually got to the Uber and off to the hotel.

Our hotel is the Holiday Inn Old Sydney.  Check in was a breeze and we were upgraded to a King Room with a view of Sydney Harbor.  We were also informed that today is Chinese New Year and that there will be fireworks from the Sydney Harbor bridge tonight about 8:15 pm.  And, more good news - our room was ready when we arrived at 11 am.  

After showers and changing into shorts (yes, it is warm here) we were ready to see some sights.  Our hotel is in a great location - right downtown on Circular Quay and walking distance to the sights. This is our first visit to Sydney and we had two primary goals for today - to see the Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens.  We accomplished both.

The Crystal Serenity was docked right across the street from our hotel. Crystal has two cruise ships, the Symphony and Serenity. This year, they created a very different world cruise experience. Instead of just one ship going on the 3+ month excursion, they decided to use both ships and have them rendezvous in Sydney and allow a mix and match experience. People could choose to sail on one ship and switch to the other or stay on their ship for 4 different variations. The Symphony was not scheduled to arrive in port until Saturday morning.

The Harbor bridge certainly was very close. We visited the park near our hotel looking at the bridge and the Opera House.

People on the Harbor Bridge climb, roped together so when one falls, everyone falls. :) 

The amusement park across the bridge.

All around Circular Quay were decorations of Chinese year symbols (the dog, the rabbit, the dragon, etc.)

And of course the flying pig!!

The Opera House is certainly iconic with its amazing architecture. Planning began in the 1940s and it opened in 1973. It houses multiple performing arts venues. Surprising to us was that as we approached it the roof is made of cream colored tiles. In pictures it certainly looks bright white in the sunshine. During our first glimpse it was cloudy and definitely cream colored.  Later as it cleared, it appeared to have a white roof.  

We walked around the Opera House and then into and through the adjacent Royal Botanical Gardens.  The gardens opened in 1816 and occupy 74 acres.  It is a beautiful harborside park with many flowers, trees and lots of open space.  There are various gardens to visit, and it was great to see so many blooming flowers in February!

The government house.

On our way back, the Opera House appeared white in the bright sun.

Dinner was at a pub style restaurant, named Ribs and Burgers, across the street from our hotel.  Casual restaurants in Sydney seem to all take order and payment first, and then put a number on the table for food delivery.  It was rated as "Best Burgers" in Sydney, and we found the burgers (and local red wine) excellent.  We decided a nice casual meal was in order prior to boarding the ship where the food will be much fancier.

We went down waterside to view the Chinese New Year's fireworks.  Julie has always wanted to be in Sydney on New Year's Eve for the fireworks over the harbor and bridge, and had high hopes.  What a disappointment it was.  The display was minimal, and quite far away, not over the bridge as advertised.  Oh well, maybe another time.

The Opera House at dusk.

We walked a total of 8.3 miles, 19,879 steps, in our quest to see Sydney and fell into bed at 9 pm.

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