The thousand mile voyage from New Zealand to Australia across the calm Tasman Sea was unremarkable apart from an albatross sighting, the master aviators of the Southern Oceans. I have mentioned before the elegance of seabirds on the wing but the albatross is in a class of its own. They look deceptively small against the huge backdrop of the ocean but in fact can have wingspans of three metres plus. I have described them as elegant, I could add effortless, majestic, even serene and still not do full justice, the pinnacle of evolutionary development.
Sydney is up there with Rio, Hong Kong and San Francisco, the iconic harbours of the cruise circuit but today she was below par. Last month we brought drought breaking rain to San Francisco and today repeated the favour in New South Wales. I wouldn’t say Sydney in the drizzle is reminiscent of Bolton on a wet Monday morning but she didn’t look her best. Queen Elizabeth attempted to inject some colour to the grey backdrop, decking herself out with a huge multi-coloured banner celebrating Mardi Gras, today's big event in town. Despite the weather many on board were on deck early as we berthed overlooking the famous Opera House newly scrubbed and looking splendid. The excitement and anticipation on passenger’s faces was testament to Sydney’s special status, what a mooring, the Opera House on one side, Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other. Our arrival did not go unobserved; several Oz TV channels had helicopters in the air covering our entry to the harbour, Cunard PR people are obviously doing a good job. Such attention does make you feel special although we doubt the BBC will be on hand to record our return to Bolton in April!
The cruise terminal in Sydney is wonderfully positioned allowing passengers direct access to the town centre, a real bonus. As today was Mardi Gras our first encounter on shore was naturally a spectacular drag queen, tall slim and disturbingly beautiful. I was quickly brought to heel however as Linda set course for the shops, Ugg boots and handbags were calling to her. The grey start to the day turned to rain but we manfully battled on, bagging a brace of Uggs before returning to the ship for lunch, sadly there were no further sightings of the androgynous one!