New Year’s Eve – Sydney Australia

Both of us were dog-tired, so we dragged out by 9:00 and went to Gloria Jean’s to see the what for on their Internet connection. They have a sign in the window showing Everywhere Connection WiFi. What is not shown is that it is a subscriber service, so you have to log on and pay a subscriber fee. I really cannot wrap my head around the fact that there are no free WiFi hotspots at coffeehouses or restaurants. This makes me nuts that Budapest is so far ahead of such a modern society.

I paid the fee for 120 minutes time, thinking over the next few days, I would use it up. It was begrudgingly, but I did it. I had just checked e-mail and downloaded it all, when the connection kicked off. I checked my log in…fine. Wireless connection turned on…working fine. Firewall blocking it? No! Reboot the computer and try again. Still now working. Call over the guy from behind the counter. He said it must be the router, so he goes to reboot it or whatever they do. Minutes later, the connection is up and running again. Great. Well, not so great, because within five minutes, it was out again. Called the guy over again, he checked my computer over. No, the problem was not my computer, it had to be their system again. He disappeared to do something or other. Back online, surfing cyberspace, jamming along for a whole ten minutes when whack, hit the cyber wall of no connectivity yet again. Three strikes, they were out and so were we.

After dropping the computer off at the hotel, we decided to do a test run to the ship for tonight’s event. According to the desk reception, it would only take ten to fifteen minutes to walk there. Translation: thirty to forty-five minutes.

Over the hills up and down we went, Ron with map in hand, but the receptionist said it was a pretty straight shot with only one turn. We however, had to stop at the Chinese Garden on the way. But it was closed for the pending holiday activity, so we went through another park instead. Filled with fountains of great magnitude that flow forever around a green space, the Australians take their parks with serious interest and design. In the green area, young men were playing modified cricket and soccer. Further into the park, children can be amused with fun fountains that resemble step farming on the side of a mountain, or spiral shells that finally end in a black hole in the middle. We followed the map provided by the ship company; our dock was located to the side of the Maritime Museum. Going into the museum, we asked to make sure, found our dock and checked our watches. It took one hour and thirty minutes. Okay, we stopped in the park, looked around, relaxed a second or two, so we could not gauge an accurate account of time. However, going back from there to the hotel we could. Here is the scary part.

Each entrance to any of the dock area is a no alcohol area unless you buy it from the restaurants within. There is security at every possible way of getting in and they check your bags for liquor. I asked one of the security guards wearing a yellow vest if the gates would be open all evening. We would need to get through this harbor area to catch our ship. He assured me they would be open all night. When we arrived at the other end, I checked with the guard there also. Sometimes there is a point to being compulsive, other than setting your nerves on edge. His response was that as soon as the crowd gets too large, all gates go on lock down. After sharing what the other guard had told us, he asked “Was he wearing a yellow shirt or a black shirt like I am?” Here is where the problem occurred, yellow shirts are only junior security and do not know shit. Only the guys in black shirts who have had ten years or more experience know anything at all. This guy looked like he was recruited as a gang member or a former Soprano, so we tended to believe him and worried about being locked out and not getting to our wharf for our dinner cruise that we have paid $1,000.00 and were told in no uncertain terms that there were no refunds. Swell! And not the kind of swell that happens in the sea.

With paranoia, we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest, a shower, and then out once again. We did take the city train a few stops to save some time, but we were still far earlier than we needed to be, but cautioning on the side of error.

We made it to the dock with over an hour to spare. I kept checking people’s tickets if they were holding them to see if they were on our boat. No one seemed to have the same tickets, so I again became paranoid we were at the wrong dock. When the last ferry came to board, I asked the guy taking their tickets and he assured me we were in the right place as he scooted me off of the gangplank so the could leave the harbor.

Our trip was on the Princess Cruise line and our ship was the Sydney. When a Princess ship came in and had Sydney Princess on it, my heart sank. There were no tables and chairs, there were a hundred people waiting, there would hardly be room to stand. When we went to board, the guard told us we were not on that ship, but the next one. Ours was just the Sydney.

The second boat that came in was what I had imagined. Larger, it was filled with tables and chairs set for dinner. It had walking room outside in the front and upper deck. After finding our assigned seats, we introduced ourselves to the people on both sides of us. One older couple was from Perth, the other from England. The English couple quickly made arrangements to have a table for two and left us. The Perth couple was charming.

Dinner was a buffet with salads, roasted chicken, roast beef, shrimp, and oysters. They called us up table by table to keep order. The chicken and the scalloped potatoes were to die for; Ron and I agreed, the potatoes were the best we have ever had. All of the beer, wine, and champagne was included. After everyone was served, we were invited for seconds or thirds, but the buffet table stayed up for another hour in case anyone was shy.

Shortly after dinner was completed, everyone was milling around the boat. The city has a shortened fireworks display at 9:00 pm for families and so children can see some fireworks. The boat staff presented a large cheese platter with crackers. You would think that no one had eaten dinner, they demolished this in twenty minutes. An hour before midnight, they put out two enormous trays of fresh fruit cut up.

We cruised all over the bay watching the other boats with their lights on, the city lit up, and the opera house dimmed, but partially lit. It was a magical experience, one that I had been waiting for for fifteen years, and it was worth the wait now that it came to fruition.

The fireworks display was all that I could hope it would be. Not only fireworks in the air, there were others over the tall buildings. When all was over, the staff presented everyone with a meringue type dessert. I am not usually one for meringue, but this was incredibly delicious. All of the staff was so gracious; they all worked endlessly without an obvious break the entire time. Each time someone complimented one of them, they honestly responded with “I am so pleased you are enjoying it.”

By 1:15 am, we were back disembarking and making our way back to the hotel. It was one enchanted evening for certain.We floated back to the hotel and crawled in by 2:00 am.