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Old April 13th, 2003, 06:02 AM
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Default Australia

Hi to all,

I am hanging around the boards for the next few months filtering info for Alaska. As I am an Australian living in Australia I am offiering help to anyone who needs it. Please feel free to ask.

Regards,
Mich
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Old April 26th, 2003, 03:12 PM
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Default Re: Australia

Hi Mitch,
My wife and I are booked on the Star Princess for the Jan.3, 2004 embarkation from Auckland to Sydney. Our itinerary is as follows:
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch,Dunedin, Fiordland Nat. Park, Hobart, Tasmania, Adelaid, Melbourne, Sydney.
We plan to stay in Auckland for 2 or 3 days pre and 3 days post-cruise in Sydney. Any recommendations on what to see and do would be appreciated. We've never been Down Under before and are eagerly anticipating visiting your exotic land.

G'day,
Jim from VA
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Old April 27th, 2003, 12:08 AM
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Hi Jim,

You will be coming to Australia during the height of summer and when Sydney is at its best. I will have to think about Auckland, but for Sydney it depends on what you like.

As this is your first time to Sydney I woulld suggest the -

Opera House, Walk from Park Hyatt to Opera House. It affords amazing views and the walk will get you mingling with the locals around Circular Quay. For the Opera House, as you are arriving by Ship - Book your walking tour of the house if you want to do this. I was in Sydney a few months ago doing tourist thing with my relatives from Oregon, and the Opera House tour was always full, due to the ship. I have never had to book before. So wander over to the gift shop first, book your tour for the day, and then take a walk around the front of the House, and check out Sydney Harbour.

Captain Cook cruises depart from Circular Quay ( on the walk) for a variety of tours around the Harbour. My pick is the Coffee cruise at 2.30 pm as it takes you right up to the northern arms of Sydney Harbour and its a great way to spend 2 hours. Highly recommended.

Next - Darling Harbour - both night and day and a great place to eat. Casual dining alfresco - 20 or so restaurants of varying quality and price, Good place to mix with the locals after work.

Queen Victoria Building - great shopping,
Macquarie Street for History and Hyde Park - nice park.

You can walk around Sydney with ease and public transport is easy and everywhere. If you like to get out, the usual Bondi, but not my favourite beach.

Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens will take a full day and the Australian History Museum on College St (?) is worth it.

Food - numerous, but considering where you are from the wow factor must come into effect so do spend the $$ and have dinner at Doyles at Circular Quay. (I am biased) I have been eating at Doyles for years. Pick a good weather evening, get a table outside and watch the world go by. As the sun sets, on a beautiful Sydney summer day and see the lights of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera house light up - you will not be dissappointed, but it is expensive.

The above choices are really on the Tourist route But it is that kind of city. My relatives and I did exactly this a few months ago and it worked well. We had a blast. Walk everywhere.

If you have time and want to get out of Sydney and do a side trip let me know, but you can really fill in 3 great days in Sydney. It is also in the middle of the Sydney Summer Festival so lots happening. Basically most of the residents are on holidays, school and work.

A great time to be in Sydney.

Melbourne I will have to think about.

Hobat is really a great little town. The waterfront is a great walk, the drive up to Mt Wellington gives great views and the weather will change. A small quaint place. Very Very friendly locals. They really turned on the charm when I was there. I am sure that Princess wil have interesting tours.

Thats a point I will go and have a look at what Princess offers and come back later.

Mich
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Old April 27th, 2003, 08:18 AM
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Default Re: Re: Australia

Hi Mitch,
Thank you for the comprehensive tour of Sydney. You make the city sound very friendly and inviting. This is just what I was looking for. My wife and I love to walk around and mingle with the locals and see the touristy things since we will have only three days in the city. We also are opera buffs and would love to get tickets. I will go on line and find a program and probably purchase advanced tickets if necessary once all plans are firmed up.
I will be looking forward to hearing more from you.

G'day mate,
Jim
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Old April 28th, 2003, 12:16 AM
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Default Re: Australia

G'Day Jim.

Glad you liked the info. No worries, 3 days is perfect to walk around and do all the sights. I know that it seemed touristy but Sydney puts on a good show for Tourists. You will be amazed at how special Sydney is. Booking Opera House tickets to a show a must. As it is peak time of the year everything is busy. The locals will treat you very well, just speak up.

I have had a quick glance at the Princess Shore ex, they seem to cover all. I would not bother doing there Sydney trips though, you can do better on your own. Also the latest highlight is to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its approx $120 AUD and do book in advance. I have not done this as yet, but they say its amazing.

If you like food and wine, SAustralia - Adelaide is a must. Get up to the Barossa Valley and sample some of Australias finest wines. We do have the best wines your know.!!!!.

Melbourne is great for eating and shopping. Penguins are neat.

Hobart - Port Arthur is very interesting and so is the fauna and flora, depends on what you like.

Fiordland - NZ - I spent 12 days trapped in Milford Sound by weather and bored to death. It is very beautiful but only for Scenery, or if you are into hiking and have time, portions of the Milford Track are heavy duty but great views. I did not get that far last night on Princess. I was married in Christchurch - quaint English, small, city. Auckland, do get onto the bay, they don't call it the city of Sails for nothing.

Dunedin - never been, tried to once, but the weather beat us back.

More later, running late,
I spent wonderful couple of days in your state.
Mich.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 01:11 PM
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Default Re: Re: Australia

G'Day Mich,
Thanks again for your research and help. We have found, as you observed, that we enjoy going it on our own or using local tour guides is far better than most Princess tours. While usually very good, Princess tours tend to be expensive and shopping oriented and too much time is wasted in shops and waiting. We've come to call them MOOO Buses, as they make you feel like cattle. Our strategy is to study the Princess tours and book those we definitely don't want to miss. Then we do research on our own and find local tours or take the Princess shuttles and tour on our own in locations where this is feasible. Princess cancellation policy is very liberal and we can cancel on board in those ports where we have decided to use other means.
I just went on the Sydney Opera House site and saw that events are only scheduled through November 2003, so we'll have to wait a while to see what is playing at the Opera. We definitely would not want to miss this and we're hoping for a Puccini. We also will plan a tour. Do you think it necessary that we pre-book a tour or would we be able to get one if we just walk in? They say the tours are scheduled on the half hour so I assume you can sign up or buy a ticket for a specific time of day as available.
We look forward to your next installment.

Jim
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Old April 28th, 2003, 05:20 PM
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Default Re: Australia

Morning Jim,

Sounds like you guys are pros at this Princess Thing. I agree the Princess tours are mooo trips, and generally a hoot to watch, especially around food. We tend to do about 50/50.

Opera House tours are generally not booked out, but when the ship is in its a different story. I would suggest booking when you arrive. Head straight to the gift shop (you cannot miss it, underneath the steps on the harbourside ) and book a time for the day. Then do your wandering. I have always walked straight up and hopped on the next tour, but when I was there in March, a cruise ship was parked right opposite and tours were busy, we eventually gave up and the dill factor was in effect. You can specify a particular time of day, so do this first and plan your day around it. The tour is worth it. You crawl all over the place. Do think about the coffee cruise and plan this in as well. Lots of shopping, artsy galleriers close by and plenty to keep you occupied till your time. Full day here.

Another area of interest that you sound like you would like is the Rocks Area. 5 minutes from Opera House / Circular Quay - all connected by walkways. Try to do an hour or so walking tour of the Rocks area to get your self acquainted with the area, then hang out after. The area is full of great history stories, and a haven for shopping, local stuff, and markets at night over the weekend. I am sure that the place will be humming during January.

Philips Foote is a great pup/restaurant that will have you cooking your own steak on the barbie -- Its a great spot, - George St - The Rocks. Wine bar, restaurant, and the famous pagen ritual around the barbie. Popular with the Locals, as is the Orient Hotel. Lots of places to eat.

Jumping around a bit -

Adelaide - no tours listed for Adelaide - but - If you are game, do hire a car and head up into the wineries. Cannot recommend this highly enough. Very different to CA - great food, great wine, just be careful of drinking / driving laws, perhaps a car/driver - or tour would be better. - Depends. The area is 1/12 - 2 hours drive but if you have time - go. Adelaide is a pretty little city with beautiful gardens and heaps of old churches. The Coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide will be the highlight. Hope the ship sails close enough to view the 12 Apostles - pretty neat geography. Check whcih side of the ship you are on. Also the weather can get a little rough in this part of the world.

Don't know if you will have time to get across to Kangaroo Island. Good for wildlife spotting.

Had another look at Melbourne, did not see Penguins on trips, If you want to see Kangaroos, Koalas, etc, Healesville would be the spot.

Cruising the Fiords. Just as well.

Christchurch is a fair drive from Littleton, but the scenery on the way is worth it. Not much happening at Littleton, you will have to organise something. You will see spectacular scenery south so perhaps a look at Christchurch. This will have the kiwis upset, but NZ is not really known for its food, go touristy. Save foodie stuff for Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney - Melbourne is probably the pick. Thats all they do, eat, and enjoy life.

Still have to think about Auckland. Where are you staying in Sydney / Auckland ?. Do you plan on getting up north to the reef / or outback ?. Its a big country and a long way to come.

One small tip - I gather that you will be flying out of Sydney International at the end of your cruise. Sydney airport has some of the best shopping around. Not much more expensive, but fantastic for souviners, things to take home, etc. I always try to get an extra hour or so to buy gifts for relatives. It saves carrying them all over the place. Also wears you out prior to the monster flight. We do this transpacific 3 - 4 times per year, its frightful.

Have a good day,
Email me if I am on the right track and hone in on your likes and dislikes.
Busy organising Alaska at the moment and getting excited.
More later,

Mich
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Old April 28th, 2003, 10:32 PM
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Default Re: Re: Australia

Mich,
You are indeed a lucky find! You should be a travel agent. The mention of Australian wine definitely perked my wife up. She is something of a wine buff and is familiar with Australian wines. She considers Australian wine among her favorites.

By the way, we went on a Princess cruise aboard the Dawn Princess in 1997 and would be happy to try to reciprocate by answering any questions you may have. Alaska is truly a wild and wonderful place and we hope to return again someday soon. We took the inside passage and the land package including Denali and trans-Alaska by train. It was an unforgettable trip.

Thank you for all the recommendations and tips. I assure you that we will put them to good use.

G'day,
Jim
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Old May 1st, 2003, 04:35 PM
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Default Re: Australia

G'Day Jim,

Would love to take you up on your offer for info re Alaska. I am on the run for the next few days so I will gather my thoughts for more details.

First things -

Helicopter to a glacier, Should we do this in Skagway?
Whale - watching cruise in Juneau?
Dog Sledding - a must for me - where ??. Have read various reports on this tour, it could be a total dud, if not researched. I would rather just look at the dogs, than run them around in circles for my benefit. If the run / mush, is along a track or whatever, it would be better. - Wordage is odd - sorry.

David and I are into big scenery and fairly active stuff. Helicopter is really expensive for us, so we don't want to get it wrong. We will be doing a 4 day add on at the end of the cruise up to Denali, and ??. Bears would be neat, but not really into fishing.

Last minute change, we were going to the Med, so we have been caught out, but really excited about Alaska. Long way for us. It seems everything is a long way though.

Have a good weekend,
Mich.
PS - I will start a list of URLS for your trip.
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Old May 1st, 2003, 05:13 PM
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Default Re: Australia

G'day Mich,
I will get my Alaska album out and prepare to Answer your questions. Alaska was our first cruise on the new Dawn Princess in her inaugural year. Wow! We spent nearly the entire cruise on deck with our mouths agape! The sheer size of everything is awe-inspiring and the sights of whales within touching distance, bears, seals, glaciers "calving",and moose were images I shall never forget. Definitely take the domed train and see as much as you can. Denali is also a sight not to be missed. We went in mid September and weather was crystal clear most of the cruise.
I get my Alaska material out and refresh my memory so I can give you specific recommendations.
More later.

Take care,
Jim
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Old May 7th, 2003, 07:50 PM
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Default Re: Australia

Jim, if you will e-mail me, I will send you a review and trip info of our RCI Legend of the Seas trip in March 2002 from Auckland to Sydney and answer any questions I can.
bammoran@bellsouth.net
Loved EVERYTHING and we are keeping an eye out so we can go again! I saw your cruise . . . . ;^)

Beth
from GA
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Old May 8th, 2003, 10:36 AM
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Hi Beth,
Thank you for your generous offer. I sure would like a copy of your review.
If you want to go to Australia again, now might be a good time to book. Prices are coming down and they will probably get lower before winter.
G'day,
Jim
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Old June 21st, 2003, 10:53 AM
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Default Re: Australia

Mich,
I have been reading your email exchanges with BOP and have found them very helpful. It seems that my husband and I will be going on the same cruise from Auckland to Sydney on Princess on Jan. 4, 2004. My question is a bit different. Since the ship doesn't go to the Great Barrier Reef, we want to take a side trip there as we can't see going all the way to Australia and not seeing the GBR. However, the price I got for the Princess tour (2 nights Cairns/2 nights Sydney including RT air from Sydney to Cairn, hotel and a very little bit of sights) is about $4,000 for both of us. Outrageous. I looked at a Newman's brochure as well as Qantas and it looks like I can do it myself with better tours and 2 more nights for half that amount. Any suggestions about the best way to plan this? I'm thinking of flying directly to Cairns and spending 3 nights there and then 3 nights in Sydney. Newmans provides either 3-night packages with sights (Kurunda and full-day catamaran) and 3 nights in Sydney with a 1-day Blue Mountain tour and some city stuff. Or, I can just book the hotel and tours individually.
What do you suggest?
Thanks,
Phyllis
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Old June 29th, 2003, 08:44 PM
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Default Re: Australia

Hi Phylis,

Sorry for the late reply, I have been sailing around the whitsundays for the last 10 days, Lots of fun.

Cairns - its a tourist town and a good jumping point to better. You can fly with Virgin blue - www.virginblue.com.au generally for a lot cheaper than Qantas. To get out to the reef, 2 suggestions - from Port Douglas or Cairns, Great Adventures, a high speed cat with a full day on the reef pontoon. Kuranda is great, definately worth the trip. Cairns is not a highlight. No beaches, loads of t'shirt shops and lots of tourists. Look at Port Douglas, or one of the Islands. Hamilton Island has its own airport so you can fly direct from Sydney - only on Qantas unfortunately, but you can get to the reef on Fantasea Cruises, same as Great Adventures, from the island. Kuranda is great for the Aboriginal experience and the skyrail is a must. Its a toss up, north to Port Douglas, or an Island. I agree with you, such a long way to come and not see the reef is a shame. In January it's the wet season in the tropics, so it will more than likely rain in the afternoon, but it does cool things down. You can book all this independantly or via the web.

Have a look at the islands, Captain Cook cruises also do 3-4 day cruises of the reef, it you need more boats. When we were in Cairns we stayed at the Hilton, good location.

Sydney - All the hotels cater for booking for side trips. Easy.

I will put some more thought into this, I am unpacking and repacking at the same time and trying to get some work done. I will post tomorrow with a better plan, a bit rattled at the moment with more to do than time.

Regards,
Michelene
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Old July 4th, 2003, 03:05 PM
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Hi Micheline,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write me. Maybe you can help sort this out for me. We have decided to add 6 nights after we get off the ship on Saturday, Jan. 17th. The ship comes in at 6 a.m and we plan to get a 10:45 a.m. flight to Cairns, which arrives at 12:45. I guess it is about 30 minutes from the airport to Cairns? We will be there that afternoon and the next 2 days. We want to do the GBF (is Great Adventures or Quicksilver better?) and the Kuranda Railway/sky cable. I guess those are both full days? You said you liked Fort Douglas better than Cairns - but is it more or less convenient for what we want to do? I already made a reservation at the Cairns Hilton but can cancel. Do you happen to know how much it costs from the airport to Cairns or Ft. Douglas? I haven't decided yet whether it's better to book this all on my own or book a 3-night package. Any opinions? Given the short amount of time, I don't think it would be a good idea for us to stay on any of the islands.

As for Sydney, this is also a problem. If we leave Cairns on Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 11:25 a.m., we don't arrive in Sydney until 3:25 p.m. - so that day is virtually shot. We are booked on a flight from Sydney to the US on Friday, so that leaves only 2 complete days in Sydney. All the 3-night packages seem to include a day in the Blue Mountains - which would really reduce Sydney to 1 day. What is your opinion on the Blue Mountains? Is it something not to be missed? If we do that, we have to cram Sydney into 1 day - which I would hate to do. I thought maybe we could get more time in Sydney by leaving Cairns in the evening of Jan 19 , but neither Qantas nor VirginBlue have any flights later than about 5:30. I look forward to your reply. Anything I can help you with for your Alaska cruise? We went many years ago. The best thing is really the scenery - and if you're brave enough to do a helicopter tour.

Phyllis
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Old July 5th, 2003, 09:37 AM
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Hi Phyllis and Michelene,

Phyllis, we look forward to corresponding with you on line and, hopefully meeting you on board the Star Princess in Jan. We have a few people who will be on the cruise Jan 3, 2004, who are keeping in touch on the Princess Board on Cruise Critic. Please join us on the thread.

Michelene, I thank you again for all the recommendations and information on Sydney etc. I know you will soon be off to Alaska. I know you will have a wonderful time in our largest and most majestic state. Perhaps, with luck, we can meet you in Sydney for a drink or a meal. Let me know how your Alaska adventure went.
By the way, if you are staying at Princess lodge in Fairbanks, there is a great restaurant at the bottom of the hill named Pike's Landing. It doesn't look like much from the outside but we still talk about the wonderful food and "Alaska-size" portions we enjoyed there. Don't miss the halibut. We could barely make it back up the hill to the lodge.

G'day mate,
Jim from VA
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Old July 5th, 2003, 01:30 PM
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Jim,
Where is this thread you are talking about?
Phyllis (in California)
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Old July 5th, 2003, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: Australia

Hey jim,

Still here, 2 weeks till we are on our way again. Stay in touch with my thru my email, if I am around in Syd - I will let you know and we can definately get together for whatever. Generally I am in Sydney in Jan some time, perhaps I can swing it to meet the ship.

Looking forward to Alaska,
Take care,
Michelene.
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Old July 17th, 2003, 01:30 PM
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Jim,
Where is that thread you are talking about for the cruise we are taking? Also, what hotel are you staying in in Sydney? I'm narrowing down my choices.

Phyllis
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Old August 7th, 2003, 08:38 PM
Wayne and Pat
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We are also leaving on the Star Princess Jan. 3/04.

we plan on spending 6 days in Auckland prior to cruise and are interested in anything that anyone could tell us about day tours from Auckland. One thing we'
vve read is the Glowworm Caves are supposed to be something to see, does anyone know anything about these?

We were in Sydney 4 years ago and took a great tour to the Blue Mountains with Dal'Myles great tour company. We tried to take a tour of the Opera House but they were booked in the time we had available. Took a Ferry over to the Zoo, if you have time you should do this. The zoo is great and the view looking back to Sydney is something to see.

How do we get into the thread that Bop was talking about.

G'day
Wayne and Pat
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Old August 7th, 2003, 11:04 PM
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http://messages.cruisecritic.com/2/O...537#1383078537
Hi Wayne and Pat,
Copy the above address into your browser and it will take you to the thread on cruise Critic. Welcome aboard!
Jim aka Bop
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