Sunday 5th March 2017

Sydney

And we're off!

Having booked this cruise in the Autumn of 2015 we've always seen it as being impossibly far off, especially when we still had our Japan and Burma cruises in front of us. And now, all of a sudden, we've survived a twentytwo hour journey from Heathrow to Sydney via Dubai and have checked into our rather nice hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Emirates' in-flight entertainment is packed with excellent choices, and we both watched films and snoozed for an hour in between. We both watched 'Fantastic Beasts' yet again and really enjoyed it, Gill chose 'Manchester on Sea', 'Bridget Jones' Diary' and 'Allied'. I went for 'La La Land' plus a German language film and, 'Midnight Sun', a Swedish/French made-for-TV detective thriller that I gave up on after the third one hour episode because of its gruesomeness.

We went out to The Rocks nearby for breakfast to pass the hour until our room was ready, then had a couple of hours of shut-eye before heading to the Opera House for 'Great Opera Hits'. We'd visited before but couldn't get tickets, even for a guided tour. This time we had a good look around inside, and found couple of superb vistas over the Harbour and towards the Bridge. You can certainly see why Australians are so proud of the building.

The concert was quite short, lasting less than 90 minutes including an interval. There were thirteen pieces, by Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Delibes and Leoncavallo, sung by two tenors and two sopranos supported by a pianist who was also the host. The audience was incredibly appreciative of the performances.

At the start of the show the host asked the audience where they were from. “Anyone from the USA?”, he asked. Cue cheering and applause. “What HAVE you done?”, he said, to thunderous applause. “Anyone from the UK?”, he asked next. Cue more cheering and applause. “And what have YOU done”, he enquired, to equally enthusiastic applause, which seemed to show that it really is true that travel broadens the mind ;o)

On our way back to our hotel we stopped at The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar by the harbour for excellent fish and chips. We've had quite a day.

Tomorrow morning we're being collected from the hotel, together with eight other Britons, and taken to the ship for midday embarkation (1am UK time). Can't wait!

Monday 6th March 2017

Sydney, on board Sirena

The transfer from the hotel to the ship wasn't nearly as good as you'd expect from a cruise line of this class, with unnecessary delays and waiting around. Even so, we were on board at about 1pm and went straight to lunch in the buffet.

I might have mentioned this before, but there was a cruise line called Renaissance that commissioned eight identical ship at around the Millennium and then went out of business after 11th September 2001 saw a collapse in the cruise industry. Oceania subsequently bought four of them, including Sirena, and Azamara two more, and we've been on four of them. So, boarding any of them brings a real sense of déja vu.

Well, I said 'buffet', but it's grander than that. Just like Azamara have done with 'Journey', Oceania have uprated this part of the ship with grander furniture and furnishings, and the food is as wonderful as we remember.

Also, as part of our overall package we have a fair amount of complimentary alcohol to choose from, including champagne! Paid for as a 'drinks package' it would cost us $40 each per day, or over $300 for the cruise. We also have an unlimited Internet package that would have cost us over $900 if bought separately, so Gill's eagle eyes have secured us quite a deal! On top of this we have 'pre-paid gratuities', which removes another expense.

Sirena's expected departure time of 6pm was held back by the late in-bound arrival of another ship, 'due to adverse weather conditions'. This didn't make much sense until after we'd sailed under the Bridge, past the Opera House and out to sea, when we found that the high winds were whipping up the waves. It really is very choppy out here, with the ship rolling a bit and passengers having to hold on to furniture when moving about.

Dinner was magnificent, and very much the sort of cuisine we enjoy. We independently chose the same dishes for three of the four courses, all of which were small and gone in a flash; warm duck paté in puff pastry with port wine sauce, cream of cauliflower soup with chicken quenelles and pan-seared jumbo bay scallops with cauliflower mousseline in sherry vinegar glaze. It just confirms for me that P&O's offerings are unambitious and simply not in the same league.

After dinner we stopped off to listen to an excellent string quartet composed of four young women from The Ukraine and other eastern European countries. Two of them had left young children at home and one of these was quite tearful about it. It made their beautiful playing all the more poignant.

The night's show in the theatre/lounge consisted of the Cruise Director (Entertainments Manager), the Sirena six piece band, a pianist and six singers and dancers each doing a brief performance ahead of longer shows in the weeks to come. Some of it was lost on Gill and I because we, still jet-lagged, kept nodding off. Luckily, the lounge was nice and dark and we were sitting in shadow ;o)

Tomorrow is a sea day on our way to Brisbane, so there might not be much to write about.




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