Fiji Island Cruise - February 27 - March 9, 2014


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Oceania » Australia » New South Wales » Sydney
February 27th 2014
Published: February 27th 2014
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Monday, February 24 – Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What an eventful trip planned for the next 14 days. We are off to Sydney, Australia to join a Royal Caribbean cruise to New Caledonia and the Fiji Islands. Exciting times ahead.

We arrived at the Houston airport around 11:00 am, the American Airlines ticket counter was empty, not sure what was going on for a Monday morning. The gentleman at the American Airlines ticket counter was super nice and was very excited for us taking this trip. He actually visited Fiji before and absolutely loved it. He gave us a few tips on how to greet people and told us about the Kava. I heard the Kava is pretty potent stuff.

We boarded our American Eagle flight to LAX. Although this was a regional jet and small it was not too bad. The crew on the flight was real friendly. He was real easy to talk and joke with. He also had visited Fiji before. That is two people in one day that have visited Fiji. I guess we are slow to visit here. Our flight was 3 hours and 40 minutes to LAX. It went by fairly quickly. We did arrive in LAX at 2:15pm.

Once we arrived in LAX, we were at a satellite terminal, American Eagles terminal. We had to take a shuttle bus to the main terminal at the LAX airport.

Once at the main terminal we settled down in the Admirals Club lounge. This lounge is larger than Admirals club lounges in the US. Once again, the service was awesome. So far today, customer service is fantastic. Cindy and I found a location in the lounge to set up shop for our 8 hour layover before our Qantas flight to Sydney.

While in the lounge we found out that Qantas had a desk which gives us information as it relates to the numerous flights to Australia. They said we can take a shuttle to the international terminal between 6 – 8 pm, running every 15 minutes.

We decided to catch the 6:15 pm shuttle. When we arrived at the international terminal, we had several food options, however before eating in the terminal, we wanted to scope out our options at the One World Alliance lounge.

We navigated our way through in the remodeled international terminal, the very long way, and finally arrived at the lounge. Because I am Executive Platinum on American Airlines, Cindy and I were able to use the first class lounge. This is a small, by very cozy and beautiful lounge. Not sure why all international lounges have free food, but they all seem to have this option along with free alcohol. Each of the international lounges we have visited over the years are unique and a lot of fun. The One World Alliance lounge had a great selection of food items. Cindy and ate a variation of garlic tomato soup, spinach dip with chips, beef Colorado/chicken cocciatore, creamy penne & mushroom, and fragrant rice. They also had several wines, we drank white. The wine was a 2012, The Hermit Crab, vineyard McLaren Vale, Australian of course.

We spent about 3 hours in the lounge really just relaxing and checking social media stuff and skyping family. Before heading to the gate, we were able to use the showers to freshen up before our long flight. At about 9:10 pm, we headed to our Qantas gate and by 9:45 pm, we were able to board our flight. Apparently the normal aircraft used for this route is an A380 airbus, however this aircraft was under maintenance. Our aircraft was a 747, 800 series. This Qantas jet was seriously old, however in the end it was comfortable. The seating configuration was 3, 5, 3. We sat on 3 side, Cindy sat in the aisle, I sat in the middle next to an young Australian chemical engineer.

Prior to departing at 10:20 pm, the flight crew handing us menus of what our choices were during the 14.5 hour flight. I was impressed considered this was in coach class. The dinner options were Provencale Beef or Massaman Chicken. The dessert was valrhona chocolate and your choice of white/red wine, soft drink, or beers. Cindy had the beef, I had the chicken. Cindy said the beef was so so, my chicken was so so too. Following our dinner, Cindy and I sleep off and on for about 11 hours and then we both watched an on-demand movie. We both watch Last Vegas. What an awesome movie and super funny. People around us were probably irritated because kept laughing.

About one hour before landing we ate breakfast. The choices were continental breakfast, cereal, or hot breakfast, spinach/pepper frittata with bacon. We both ate the frittata, this was not bad.

Strangely, we leave Houston on Monday; arrive in Sydney on Wednesday morning. But between the time zone changes and crossing the International Date Line, I see why we arrived when we did.

We arrived at the Sydney airport 30 minutes early, 7:50 am. For the most part, we had a smooth flight. There were a few bumps along the way, however for a 14.5 hour flight, not bad.

We disembarked our flight and found free Wi-Fi at the airport. Cindy and I got on the Internet and sent notes to our kids and checked emails. We both mentioned how strange it felt traveling with the kids. We have traveled to so many places with them.

After doing the Internet activities, we were able to proceed through immigration quickly because we had an ExpressPass. We gathered our luggage and proceeded to the taxi stand.

Our taxi ride was 45 minutes, windows down, feeling the warmth of summer in Australia. Australian summer are opposite from the US. The taxi fare was $61.00 AU.

Our hotel is the Marriot-Sydney, Circular Quay. I stayed at this property before and the service is always fantastic. The staff is very caring, particularly for those have traveled all evening. We around 9:15 am. As expected, our room was not ready; however they said by noon we would be able to access our room. We secured a pass to the Executive Lounge where we were able to relax, eat and drink, and map our day. Cindy and I met two gentlemen traveling together from Chicago. They just arrived from a long trip in New Zealand, my next destination, just sayin. Also while in lounge we were able to Skype family.

Our room was ready at 11:00 am, great news. We needed a shower and change of clothes. We were getting a little gamy. Our room was wonderful. King size bed, room overlooking the Sydney Harbor Bridge. After settling into the room, we showered, changed clothes and took a 1 hour nap. This took the edge off the jet lag. The nap was awesome.

Around 1:30 pm, we left the hotel and decided to take the Coffee Cruise around the Sydney Harbor. Cindy and I have both done the Harbor cruise twice, however separately. We have never been to Sydney before together, so taking the harbor tour together was so awesome, particularly during the summer months. In the past, the tours were in the winter months.

The Coffee Cruise was Captain Cook Cruises and lasted 2 hours. During the cruise, there was a narrator pointing out many of the spots on the harbor. Some of the areas we passed included the Opera house (the most expensive neighbor ‘Elizabeth Bay’ in Australia, 9th in the world), Fort Denison, Clark Island, Double Bay, Shark Island, Watson’s Bay, Manly, a nude beach, South/Middle/North Head, Grotto Point, The Spit, Clontarf, and Blamoral. We also went under the Harbor Bridge. This structure is huge and landmark like no other. Cindy and I sat on the top deck of the tour boat and were able to take some awesome photos. I attached some photos in the blog.

Following the Coffee Cruise, Cindy and I walked around the Rocks area. The Rocks area is hilly and full of restaurants, bars, and wonderful shopping. It is always bustling with people and people watching. This area is also the entry area to the Harbor Bridge for foot traffic or for those who paid to climbing the bridge. We took several photos here. We to next walk over to the Opera House are to scope out restaurant options for the evening and take close up photos of the Opera House.

After walking around, we returned to our room and had a tray of Brie cheese/crackers and a bottle of Chardonnay wine in our room. We indulged with the lovely cheese and Australian wine (Lorimer, 2013 Vintage). We then ventured back to the Executive Lounge for cocktails and appetizers. It was nice to have a cocktail on the 30th floor overlooking Sydney as the sunset.

We returned to our room to get dressed for dinner that will be on the harbor. We wanted to take evening pictures of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. While walking to take photos and go to dinner, we did encounter rain and a thunder storm, however in the end we were able to take some awesome photos. Attached is a photo. People were super sweet to take our photos.

We ate dinner at a bar. Cindy ordered Steak Diane with a glass of Merlot, Todd ordered a burger (second best burger I have ever eaten) with glass of Australian Pale Ale beer. It was so smooth. While eating, watched a cricket match. Not sure I quite understand how the game is played, but got the basics down.

We retired for the evening around 10:30 pm. We did well with the jet lag coming here. Sometimes this can be tricky for us.

We are looking forward to Thursday. Todd is running on the Harbor Bridge and we are boarding our cruise to New Caledonia and Fiji Islands.

Here is a little about Sydney, Australia (sources: Sydney tourism and Wikipedia).

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales, the most populous city in Australia. It is on Australia's south-east coast, on the Tasman Sea. In June 2010 the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people. Inhabitants of Sydney are called Sydneysiders, comprising a cosmopolitan and international population.

The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip, of the First Fleet, as a penal colony. The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson, which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prominent structures. The hinterland of the metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and the coastal regions feature many bays, rivers, inlets and beaches, including the famous Bondi and Manlybeaches. Within the city are many parklands, including Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

ydney is a consistently high-ranking world city for quality of life and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked it the world's third most expensive city in 2013. It has hosted multiple major international sporting events, including the 1938 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games), the 2000 Summer Olympics and the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The main airport serving Sydney is Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport and its main port is Port Botany.


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1st March 2014

Trip sounds Great
Todd/Cindy: Sounds like things have been very good thus far at the start of your trip. Do hope you continue to feel well and you enjoy this awesome time together. Cheers!

Tot: 3.388s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 10; qc: 43; dbt: 0.0673s; 3; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb