A Travellerspoint blog

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

Feb. 12 - BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

semi-overcast 80 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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This was our early morning approach to Bora Bora. A focus of the Serenity’s lecturers in the past few weeks has been early explorations of South Pacific islands, the history and the navigation methods. Once we even joined the astronaut Dr. Tom Jones in some star gazing. He pointed out the Southern Cross and other constellations. It was early morning (5:05am) and our main reason for being up on deck 13 in the dark was to watch the Space Station cross the sky in its orbit! Awesome!

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The island was discovered by Captain James Cook more 200 years ago and luckily for him and for us, there is an opening in the reef that surrounds the island, wide enough so that we could sail in to safe anchorage.

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Looking up at the ship from a tender

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Most people come to Bora Bora to enjoy the beaches and water sports.

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We made our way by taxi to the beautiful public beach to do a bit of snorkeling. This early in the morning we had the place to ourselves, just us …

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…Hästa…

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…and the dog with the crooked tail!

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We swam way out before we found live coral, but there it was with all the brilliant fish. Some time later rain started to blow in and we decided to return to our ship.

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The island is only 17 miles around, and there is local transportation (“le truck”;) for five bucks. No surprise, they do accept American dollars!

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An obligatory photo stop at famous “Bloody Mary’s” (remember the film “South Pacific”;) – if we had peeked inside we would have seen lots of guests and crew, mainly there for the Wifi! (Internet on the ship has been spotty to nonexistent.)

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Back onboard and walking some laps – here you can see the ship’s spare anchor resting in the bow.

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The skies cleared before we were to leave – lighting up the 2,000 foot peaks of Bora Bora.

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A local sport – riding boat wakes in an outrigger canoe

Note: As we attempt to post this via email we have already had a day at sea and a skipped port since Bora Bora. Today we were supposed to anchor off of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, but the wave swells were too dangerous for the tenders and our captain has cancelled the port. Instead, we will arrive in 4 days’ time in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand (an added stop).

Posted by Swenigale 18:25 Archived in French Polynesia

Feb. 18 - PAHIA, BAY OF ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 72 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Our revised itinerary (skipping Rarotonga due to sea conditions for the tenders) put us in Pahia in the beautiful Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand. It also changed which day we omitted when we crossed the International Dateline. We had our Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday morning before we arrived. However, there was no Shrove Tuesday! If you are keeping track of "our" time, at this point we are 18 hours ahead of East Coast time!

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Sunrise

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We took a ferry from Pahia to have a look at Russell, across the Bay.

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Russell is very much like a coastal New England town (in the summer - which it is, at the moment).

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Yeah, kind of

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The oldest church in New Zealand

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More photos of Russell - our blog posts may be a wee bit scanty in the days to come, since we will be in ports daily until the end of the month! We'll get pictures up, but you may have to guess at what they are ;)

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On the ferry back to Pahia - before my afternoon haircut in town

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Ever wonder how a Port Pilot boards and disembarks? They climb and/or jump!

Posted by Swenigale 22:25 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 19 - AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (DAY 1)

sunny 80 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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The Auckland skyline - the "City of Sails". Don't even try to figure out what day this is!

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Now that's a philosophy!

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We had a lovely tour with friends today. Somehow, we can't stay out of boats! We went out into the waters near Auckland to Rangitoto Island, an extinct volcano. The following photos are all from that wonderful adventure.

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Just kidding! Ed wasn't really the captain.

Posted by Swenigale 21:15 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 20 - AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (DAY 2)

sunny 80 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We began the 3rd segment of the World Cruise on our 2nd day in Auckland.

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In our 7 years working with Crystal Cruises today was the first time we docked in the same port at the same time with Crystal's first ship: The Crystal Harmony. She is no longer part of the Crystal fleet. NYK, the parent company, renamed her Asuka II some years ago and she sails as a Japanese ship.

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We took to the water again, armed with camera and binoculars. The 360 Ferry would take us an hour and twenty minutes away to Tiritiri Matangi Island, a scientific reserve.

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Tiritiri's forest had been cleared for farming in past years and thus many bird species were forced to leave. Some of the rarer birds have returned, due to intensive replanting of the forests. The following pictures list the Maori and English names of some of the birds we saw and were able to capture on "film". (Why do we still say "film"?)

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Kakariki/Red-Crowned Parakeet

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Toutouwai/North Island Robin

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The symbol of New Zealand, the Silver Leaf Fern. The trees and ferns here are fantastic, as well!

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Takahe

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Kakariki/Red-Crowned Parakeet

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Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

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Tui

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Two Tui

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Tieke/North Island Saddleback

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I think this is a Kakariki?

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Hihi/Stich Bird

Posted by Swenigale 17:15 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 21 - AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (DAY 3)

semi-overcast 74 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Third day, another ferry. We crossed Waitemata Harbour to historic Devonport.

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This is a Victorian suburb of Auckland. Here we are walking along King Edward Parade.

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Since the rain was holding off we decided to climb Maungauika, North Head, the hill seen in front of us here.

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This had been a defense post from 1887 which employed the famous “disappearing guns”. Really. They were on hinged assemblies designed to pop out, fire, and then disappear underground.

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Crazy Kiwis race up on this hill on their bicycles!

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Not us.

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Hästa looks to our next challenge: the hill where Fort Victoria is located.

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Meanwhile, amid tooting ships’ horns, the Asuka II sailed away after her brief visit.

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Red Sox Nation is here, even on a Cricket field!

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I thought this was really funny – Ed, not so much.

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Holy Trinity Anglican church

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Finally, we found a Pohutukawa tree with a few blossoms remaining!

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Climbing up to Ft. Victoria

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Made it!

Posted by Swenigale 20:35 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 22 - TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND

overcast 70 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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This post is all about “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”: our day in Tauranga was the perfect time to visit the movie set at the farm in Matamata (just an hour away from the port).

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Sorry if you’re not a fan, but it was pretty exciting to be in “The Shire”!

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Looking up from the Party Field to Bag End

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Sam’s house

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The Green Dragon Inn

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A glimpse of Smaug

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The Stone bridge

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Inside the Green Dragon

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Our first New Zealand meat pie

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Hästa got in the act with Gandalf

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There are 39 Hobbit holes – here are a few more:

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Posted by Swenigale 01:05 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 24 - NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 70 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Napier is situated on Hawke's Bay, famous for its wines, so our plan for this day had to include at least one winery! The name of the tugboat that met the Serenity, Te Mata, would actually become the theme for the day!

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Napier is an Art Deco town.

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We drove south - destination, Te Mata Peak.

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Many tight, steep turns later - we were all up on top!

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Halfway back down, we stopped for a short hike on the Piwakawaka Loop Trail.

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Following "The Plan", we stopped at Te Mata Estate for a wine tasting.

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What's next? Lunchtime! A yummy New Zealand meat pie at - wait for it - Te Mata Bake House!

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Failing to find a Te Mata Chocolate House (what's the mata with them?), we settled for Silky Oak Chocolate Company.

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And - final stop - beautiful Mission Estate Winery.

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My Dapper Dan and his cruising machine (not really)

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We returned the rental car and couldn't pass up a stop at Opossum World! Yup. Here, serenading us back to the ship: Opossum on the Roof.

Posted by Swenigale 20:55 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 25 - WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 70 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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The native Radiator Pine is a major product exported, primarily to China, in many of these ports.

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We started our day (pausing to be amazed by crazy New Zealand window washers - they were 10 stories up) with a brief stop in the Te Papa Museum which currently has a New Zealand Air exhibit.

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The airline's latest safety video features Lord of the Rings characters.

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Now that's a ball of wool! Shrek" evaded sheep shearers for 6 years and became somewhat of a celebrity.

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Bad Orc!

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We traveled to Miramar Peninsula in windy Wellington to visit Sir Richard Taylor's movie studios, Weta Cave. No pictures allowed on the tour, unfortunately.

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Later, we returned to Wellington center to ride the classic cable car and take in the view over the city.

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Posted by Swenigale 13:35 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 26 - AKAROA/CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 68 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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In February of 2011 we visited Christchurch with Crystal Serenity as the city was still recovering from a 2010 September earthquake. A few days after our visit another devastating earthquake hit, from which they have only started to recover. Our port is in Akaroa, a 90 minute drive from Christchurch.

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We booked a tour that would take us into Christchurch via the scenic countryside, up and around the rims of three extinct volcanoes.

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Massive damage in Christchurch is still evident. In this photo you can see the A-frame shape of the transitional church of the Anglican Cathedral. It is made of cardboard (really - look it up!).

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The Roman Catholic Cathedral was also destroyed. Shipping containers are strategically placed to shore up remaining walls.

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The Chair Memorial for those who died.

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The centerpiece of the city, the Anglican Cathedral today

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There is major controversy over whether to restore, rebuild or what to do with the Cathedral.

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After four years progress is finally being seen. A boost to the spirit: the trolleys are back.

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The River Avon still flows.

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In the city center shipping containers form shops and food stations (and bathrooms) for locals and visitors alike. Long-range full recovery estimate? 20 to 30 years.

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On our drive back to Akaroa - a quick glimpse of the cows in New Zealand's steepest dairy farm returning to the barn.

Posted by Swenigale 19:25 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 27 - DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 68 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Golden morning light bathes the waiting timber.

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The wee town of Port Chalmers is our gateway to Dunedin. Dunedin is named in Gaelic for Scotland's Edinburgh. It is said that beautiful Dunedin is the "most Scottish city outside of Scotland".

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We drove with our guide on a wildlife tour on Dunedin's Otago Peninsula.

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Every city has its controversial "artwork": this is "Harbor Mouth".

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The peninsula has many amazing beaches.

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For fertilizer?

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You can see why Scots settled here.

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Our destination

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We followed our guide, hoping to find.

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.a sea lion! There's a sleeping one, surrounded by giant kelp.

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What's this? Penguin tracks!

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Aha! I spy a Little Blue Penguin! (Using a really strong zoom lens for this close-up. We didn't bother the little guy.)

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This South Island Fur Seal is pretty relaxed, as well.

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What a fabulous day! Can it get any better?

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Well, one can try :)

Posted by Swenigale 20:15 Archived in New Zealand

Feb. 28 - FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK, NZ

semi-overcast 65 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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New Zealand's 14 major South Island Fiords, misnamed "sounds" by early explorers, are all a part of Fiordland National Park.

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It rains 200 days of the year here and as we entered Dusky Sound the low clouds made a misty, moisty morning spectacle.

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Fur Seals waited for the sun at the mouth of Breaksea Sound.

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We had sailed into Dusky Sound and traveled north, exiting into the Tasman Sea between Breaksea and Doubtful Sounds, and again between Thompson and Milford Sounds.

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Milford Sound is the steepest and narrowest fiord and has an almost hidden entrance.

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This is also the only fiord accessible by car at its interior, so there are tour boats that take visitors out to see the fiord and the magnificent waterfalls.

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Serenity's Captains like to give us all a thrill by nudging her bow in close to the waterfall and getting the crew drenched in spray.

Posted by Swenigale 17:15 Archived in New Zealand

March 3 – SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

sunny 80 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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In the early morning hours we arrived in Sydney Harbor, after our 2 day crossing of the Tasman Sea.

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We anchored out in the harbor on a beautiful, sunny day. We had been scheduled to tie up in Circular Quay, just opposite the Opera House, but we were “bumped” by …

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…The Queen Elizabeth! She is on a world cruise and the Queen herself will be onboard to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

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We walked to the Opera House early in the morning and took a guided tour that included the different venues and the history of its controversial and challenging construction.

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This is a wonderful small theater in a former storage area beneath the concert hall.

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The glass fronts overlook the harbor.

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Across the water is a white building with the dentist’s office at the real 42 Wallaby Lane from “Finding Nemo”.

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This is the larger of the two big “sails”, the Concert Hall which houses the world’s largest mechanical action organ.

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Design and construction innovation create a wonderful story (the over 1 million tiles were made in Sweden by the way).

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Operas are performed here in the Joan Sutherland Theatre. No microphones are needed. The seats are even constructed with acoustics in mind. The stage has yet to be set for the night’s performance of “Madam Butterfly”.

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Wow. This is where we made some phone calls home to the USA! Not bad.

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Nearby, a puzzled Ibis has speared a piece of bread

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And we spied a Cockatiel not too much later.

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We walked back to the chartered ferry that would take us back to the Serenity. This picture was taken from the elevated Cargill Walkway.

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“The Rocks” section of the city seen from the walkway

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Clouds rolled in late in the afternoon as returned to the city by ferry. We attend the 7:30pm performance of “Madam Butterfly” – wonderful!

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This picture, taken during the ferry ride after the performance, looks very similar to Danish architect Jᴓrn Utzon’s winning concept drawings for the Sydney Opera House. That building put Sydney and all of Australia “on the map” for the rest of the world!

Posted by Swenigale 03:15 Archived in Australia

March 5 - MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DAY 1

sunny 75 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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After a rough weather night we arrived in beautiful Melbourne, capital city of the state of Victoria. It has consistently been voted the world's most liveable city (also one of the most expensive).

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This is the view from the "Highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere", Eureka Skydeck 88. The Yarra River winds through the city.

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Today we enjoyed blue skies and cool weather, perfect for walking and riding trams. This close-up photo from the Skydeck shows the Gothic Revival styled St. Paul's Cathedral, the impressive Flinders Street Train Station and Federation Square.

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Eureka Tower was so named because of the fortunes made in the 1851 Gold Rush. The red "drip" at the top symbolizes the blood shed in that quest.

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Our arrival today was at noon and it was great weather for exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens. Photos to follow.

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Posted by Swenigale 19:55 Archived in Australia

March 6 - MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DAY 2

overcast 68 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Full day in the city, today - starting with the open-air Victoria Market

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Ohhh, Kanga!

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Melbourne is laid out in a grid pattern, so we found our way around easily - in spite of the names!

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The Melbourne Star was just opened in 2013 in the Docklands section of the city.

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Looking down on this overcast day the buildings look black and white.

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It's the end of summer and we were pretty much alone here.

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The classic free City Circle Tram

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The Barak Pedestrian Bridge, a gateway to famous places

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The Fitzroy Gardens. This is the house Captain Cook's parents lived in in England. It was brought here brick by brick.

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An author/sculpture created this "Fairie's Tree" for the children of Melbourne in 1932.

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Nearby is a model Tudor Village. It was donated to the people of Melbourne in thanks for their gifts of food and aid after World War 2 by the citizens of Lambeth, England.

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The JFK Memorial Garden

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Back in the city center in time for the end of school and free Wi-Fi!

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Posted by Swenigale 01:45 Archived in Australia

March 8 - ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - PART 1

sunny 72 °F
View Serenity 6- WC 2015 on Swenigale's travel map.

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When a visit to a city is confined to just a few hours, you just have to make choices. Today, with the promise of seeing a Giant Panda, the Adelaide Zoo became our priority.

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We were so delighted with the Zoo that we decided to make it a real visit, and we stayed there until it was time to find our way back to the port.

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Many of the animals and birds are native to Australia and the Austral Asia region, but not all (tee hee).

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In order to include as many photos as quickly as possible, the following captions will be limited. This is a Red Panda.

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Southern Cassowary

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Spoonbill

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Meerkat

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Australian Sea Lion

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Wombat

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Baboon (3 months old)

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Mandrill

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Malaysian Sun Bear

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Gray Kangaroo

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Sleeping Koala (it was daytime after all) - keep watching for more photos from our day at the zoo -

Posted by Swenigale 22:05 Archived in Australia

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