Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013: First day on the ship. We do not sail until tomorrow. We ended up sitting out by the pool, but Dad’s suitcase did not come very promptly, so he did not get to get in the hot tub with us. Our evening meal was shrimp cocktail, prime rib, mushroom soup and profiterole with pecan ice cream and chocolate sauce. Scrumptious.
Stacey & Craig with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background
, January 17, 2013: Second day actually ON the ship and setting sail at 6:30 p.m. for Melbourne. We had dragged our suitcases from the Holiday Inn in the old part of Sydney down to the cruise ship (Celebrity Solstice) without benefit of a cab. Today, we did not sail until the evening, so we went ashore and took a Jet Ski boat trip that was quite wet. It was my pick and cost $60 per person. We put on red ponchos, but that didn’t help much. We got our seat assignment changed from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and, tonight, we met Dom and Kath, who were from Manchester. Tomorrow we are going to take part in a wine tasting onboard ship. Dom and Kath are newlyweds and seem quite nice. Tomorrow is the “dressy night” in the dining room.
Sydney Opera House.
Friday, January 18, 2013: Third day. At sea. After our late dinner seating, everyone was so tired that the movie Stacey selected (“Jeff, Who Lives At Home”) was incomplete when we turned it off and retired at midnight. At that point, I was the only one awake, and I wasn’t watching the film at all, as I saw it at the Chicago Film Festival year before this (2011) with the Director present to answer questions. So I continued reading my selection (“Odd Thomas: The Apocalypse” by Dean Koontz), obtained from the free onboard Library. (I had planned to take John Irving’s latest, but I didn’t grab it in time and it was gone.) You can just take a book and you are simply asked to return it at the end of the cruise. Sort of the honor system. Someone topside was reading a book that had, in big letters, WILSON, and I commented that it was too bad it wasn’t one of MY books, but it underscores the prevalence of the surname “Wilson” in the world of literature (or anything else.) At breakfast today, the Captain came on and announced that we had traveled 270 nautical miles and had about 285 nautical miles to go, i.e., we are roughly halfway to Melbourne, which is, according to Stacey, about a 9 hour drive by car. We are traveling at 18 knots. It is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the water temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. There are 20 to 25 mph winds and we will arrive in port around 3 am. There are reports from the Melbourne area of forest fires raging out of control. The town of Toongabbi reported a temperature of 43 Celsius (about 110 degrees) and Shane Fitzsimmons of some authority reported on our in-room TV that the Newell Highway was closed in both directions. We were told all this on the elevator by an Aussie couple and Craig responded, “I guess I’ll have to look for smoke,” which convulsed them with laughter as they departed the elevator, since we are roughly 300 miles away. The Captain’s quote (Words of Wisdom, he called them): “Borrow money from a pessimist; he won’t expect it back.” Not sure what that has to do with anything, but, at 2 p.m., we are scheduled to go to wine tasting with our old friends Dom and Kath also in attendance ($23 per person). Stacey and I purchased the Coca Cola plan, which allows you unlimited Coke products, as long as you only take one at a time. It costs $8 per person, per day, and we definitely have been getting our money’s worth, as the cost, per Coca Cola, is about $3 otherwise. This is an American boat, which means that all my pluggable items (hair dryer, curling iron, electric rollers) work. Stacey is the one who needs an “adaptor.” This will all change when we return to Sydney for 2 weeks, at which time we will need all the adaptors we can get out hands on. They sell for about $12 per adaptor down here in stores near The Rocks, but the Holiday Inn put a $32 charge on our bill until we returned a borrowed one. I also posted one time, from our hotel room, and I had to sign on and got kicked off quite late. Rather than purchase 24 hours (for $22.95), I purchased one hour for $10 and, later, after we watched Stacey’s friends plan at the bar, $10 for another hour. Unfortunately, with 5 minutes left in my hour, the machine kicked me off. I thought, “Oh, well,” and signed on for (yet another) $10 hour, but the computer would not allow me access. Therefore, Craig had to argue about taking the charge for $10 off for the last hour (which I did not use, it being close to 1:30 a.m. at the time). We did succeed in getting the $35 in bogus charges removed, and the hotel was so close that we could walk to the boat pulling our luggage. I thought I would be unhappy that I had taken my computer AND the normal 2 bags I travel to Cancun with (one for clothes, one for make-up) but, so far, I have been very happy with my choice of garments, which ignored all the “It’s hot” stuff and brought lightweight sweaters, etc. to wear with lighter-weight garments. I am wearing my sleeveless blue-with-silver dress now and I found a blue top that compliments it (but not the one bought to go with it, which I could not find). We ate breakfast a few minutes ago, and it was a huge buffet with most things one would expect at breakfast. (eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns, corned beef hash, fruit, etc.). Only the orange juice was sub-par. Apparently, it is made from concentrate and the concentrate had run out in our dispenser, leaving us with water. I drank a fruit juice (like Hawaiian punch) that was like that given us as we boarded. In order to board after disembarking, we have to show our key card, which has a picture attached to it. They are very particular about NOT bringing booze onto the ship. They put your luggage through a metal detector and, if booze is found, they confiscate it and store it in the duty-free room until after the cruise. I am happy because, being an American ship out of Miami, the cruise offers Berenger’s white zinfandel by the glass, which almost no one in Australia has, according to Stacey. We will sample various wines at 2 pm today, and then, tonight, is the Captain’s Welcome with fancy clothes. I plan to wear a fancy black jacket with white cuffs and a sparkly clasp and a long black velour skirt. Tomorrow’s temperature is going to be only 72 Fahrenheit, so my outfits will be fine, although Stacey, who started her sojourn in Melbourne, says there isn’t that much “tourist-y” to do in that city. I’m not paying for Internet on this cruise, since it is slow and unreliable and extremely pricey.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Downtown Melbourne, Australia.
We arrived in Melbourne today. I got up at 8:30 a.m. , showered (no bathtub, unless you forked out an additional $4,000) and we set off for Melbourne. I knew little to nothing about Melbourne. We found out that the Australian Open Tennis Tournament was going on about 2 miles from where we were. We walked up and down Swanston Street and had a drink at an outdoor café. (I ordered a lemonade from Schwappes, and it tasted like 7-Up). Here, they call “McDonald’s” Maccas. One Krispy Kreme donut was $2.50. At home, you could probably buy a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for $2.50! We tried to go to the Aquarium, but the line was horrendously long, so we got out of line and went to an Internet Café, instead. I got a nice note from Pam, at home, and a note from Pan, my friend in Minneapolis, saying her account had been hacked and not to open any mail from her. My impression(s) of Melbourne were that it was not much different than many seaport towns: nothing architecturally interesting, etc. The homes we saw along the trolley route reminded me of the homes in Mesa, AZ in that they didn’t have any basements and were relatively alike. The park (and hotel near it) were kind of grubby and flat. It wasn’t my favorite Australian city by a long shot. (Of course, it’s only the second one, and I’m not likely to visit many others.)
Sunday, January 20 We danced to Beatles music in the main area after dinner. Stacey had a Swedish massage. I had a facial. We were at sea. I watched “The Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Monday, January 21
Milford Sound, Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (Dusky is only reachable by boat.)
Dr. Jose (Hernandez?) from Mexico told me about the Alaskan cruise involving a helicopter ride. Tomorrow, the Milford Sound stop where only 120 people live but over a million people a year visit. One of the wettest places on Earth. Sand Fly Point is mentioned for the end of a 6 hour run to that point. Different things to see coming in to Milford Sound: waterfalls—some of them are fed by moss—so thick that it can absorb water and hold it for day and feeds the waterfalls for days afterwards. Water falls over one kilometer (over one mile). With the very high falls, they don’t actually get to touch the water of Milford Sound, which gets blown away. Mitre Peak is named after the 5 peaks of a Bishop’s mitre. Rock faces all the way around. Rain forest going all the way around. The Elephant and The Lion are the most famous peaks. We pull in at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Mitre Peak, The Elephant and the Lion are the 3 we will see upboard on deck. Mitre Peak is 1700 meters out of the water and one of the most photographed peaks of N.Z. The top is often shrouded in mist and clouds. We should be able to see at least a portion of that big mountain. New Zealand is a hiking center. “No worries.” It’s possible to climb Mitre Peak if you have overnight and don’t mind falling. I0 hours one way. Below the water, it is a similar temperature in winter and summer: cold all the time. The water flows down the cliffs and gets soaked by the tannens from the plants and creates a unique sea water barrier that blocks the light. With that light being blocked by the tannic water, black coral and other weird sea life forms are fostered. Black coral usually lives 500 meters below the surface, but you can see it only 10 meters below the surface. It is a popular dive site. The temperature can be challenging for a beginning diver because of the tannic water, you can’t see much.
Tuesday, January 24, 2013
Dunedin, New Zealand, just opposite our private deck, on the hill.
Today, we sailed into Milford Sound. It is rocky with mountains with fog on top. Stacey and Craig went upstairs to take pictures. I followed along, but not until about 10 a.m., at which point the boat had sailed in, turned around 360 degrees, and was sailing out. We will sail into Doubtful Sound at 1 p.m. It is now 11:30 a.m. Stacey has (apparently) lost our TV control, so we now cannot watch anything on our in-room TV, which sucks. It was cold on the deck, and I could never find Stacey and Craig. I eventually went into the dining room and had a roll, some fruit, and some juice and talked to a couple from Dallas/Fort Worth area. If we can relocate Stacey, we may be able to relocate our TV control, but, otherwise, we are screwed. We have several channels and free movies IF we can find our TV control to use our TV. My shots from the on-ship doctor seem to have left little “bumps” at each side of my mouth. I wonder if the Pearline is suppose to disperse downward over time? Otherwise, I have 2 little “gopher pouches” on each side of my mouth, which is interesting, to say the least, but not quite what I thought was the desired effect. At least it was not as painful as Restylane in Cancun, with just an ice cube.
Wednesday, January 25, 2013 Spent the day in Dunedin (Port Chalmers) New Zealand and took a train ride, which I hope to illustrate with photos.