Australia Solar Eclipse Cruise 2012
In late October 2012, I flew to Sydney, Australia to go on a solar eclipse cruise. From Los Angeles, on the great Air Pacific, I met up some past clients and kept my eye out for some new ones. There would be 54 of us total. The Air Pacific 747 was a cast off from Singapore Airlines from what I learned. Okay, I slept all the way: Alcohol good, food bad.
We arrived in Fiji for our layover. They have a super cheap fare to Sydney if you are willing to layover for about 8 hours. That would of been fine except the airline would not keep our luggage. Then we had to go through customs and waste more time. Too tired to venture out with luggage, we ate some breakfast, then lunch.
Once in Sydney we I took the train to Central Station and walked to my hotel. Glen raced out of the station to his hostile (my name for hostels). Somehow we got separated from Robert and Catherine. I catch up with Robert the next day and give him my suitcase full of solar eclipse tee shirts. I did some touring of Sydney, the markets, the Bridge.
That evening I made a point to attend Hillsong Church Sydney. That makes the trip worthwhile right there. Sunday afternoon I took my next flight to Sydney. I got to the airport 20 minutes prior to my flight and made it. Instead of taking the train, the hotel arranged a transfer. “It would save me $10.” The agent called people for that flight to the front of the line and then moved me to the front of the security line. Good thing the plane was 20 minutes late. I took a flight to Melbourne to meet up with some people I met in China a year earlier.
I arrive in Melbourne at the wrong airport. I enter MEL, book a ticket and it prints out Avalon. It was an extra half hour for my host Brent of Passport Travel Centre. Melbourne was big, clean and the weather was nice. I loved the trains and the circle streetcar. Brent and his wife Elaine live north of Melbourne in the forest. This forest burns every so often. He explains how he in on the lee side and does not get the winds that drive the fire as the other side of the mountain does. None the less, I am impressed by his water tank setup just in case of fire.
Brent arranges a train tour for me on the Puffin Billy. It is an old steam train set up for tourists. I loved the coal embers floating on my red jacket. I am glad they were cool when they landed on my clothes.
Back to Sydney to catch the Dawn Princess for the solar eclipse. You can check in after one pm, but they said not to come on time because the lines are long. Best to come later. Well when I got to the end of the train line, there was no place to store luggage. I could have stored it at Central Station and made the trip to retrieve it. I just assumed I could check it in town. So saddled with luggage, I my as well wait at the ship than slug luggage around the “rocks.”
Okay, I get to the ship, suffer with the lines and get to my cabin. I am waiting for Tristina and Paul to arrive. In the meanwhile I go up deck and eat some grilled vegetable burger.
I missed the tours Princess gives to acclimate you. At sail away, I saw past customers Diane and Jim, and their friends. My video camera was already frozen being in the cabin a short while. We cast off and Princess has a cart full of welcome cocktails on a cart. I thought they were free. I found out quickly they were US $14. They made for a good laugh when the wind blew over about 20 of them.
Dinner was great. I can’t recall what I had. I did pass on the prime rib. That was a mistake because it did not show up again for about 8 days.
Our first day at sea was uneventful. We tried to find members of our group to hand out tee shirts. We found about half. We could not schedule a cocktail party until the third day because the rooms were all booked.
In Brisbane we get off the ship. Several of us take a taxi to the foot of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. There we caught a boat upriver to the Koala Reserve. It was like a Zoo except you could hold a Koala for a small fee and have your picture taken with one in your arms. There were kangaroos and other Aussie wildlife. The river ride was great passing many nice homes and going under several bridges. On the way back the riverboat lets us off at a dock within view of the Dawn Princess. We should have taken a taxi. The ship looked close but was probably 2 miles away. Once we found the ship, it was an ordeal to figure out how to board it.
Paul and Tristina was outside trying to find their way aboard. I heard their names over the loud speakers. The Princess crew was trying to find the last 5 people to board.
Oh well we make it to our table for four for dinner. It was Glenn, who I met prior to the 1998 eclipse on the Star Clipper, Tristina and Paul.
We have our cocktail party get together. I must have given about a forty minute talk. Only time for two drinks for me. There was a big rush with 5 minutes remaining for drinks. I think most had about three. Pretty good for people who mostly say they don’t drink. Or even funnier, they only drink wine. It was good to see some more past customers who we have not been able to find on the big ship. All the shirts are gone now.
The next morning we did a mini eclipse seminar. I handed out Eclipse Shades brand of solar eclipse viewing glasses. People mingled and made introductions. I also gave out some solar film for binoculars.
We missed our next port due to rough seas. Onto Airlie Beach we go. We took a ferry to Daydream Island and spend the day. We swan in the resort’s pool and ate a one of the restaurants. The weather was late spring and quite balmy. We hiked though the rain-forest on a well worn trail. We take the ferry back to the mainland.
Then there were lines waiting for the launches. Luckily Princess charters some very large catamarans to ferry some of us to the ship from the shore.
The next stop in Port Douglas. This was Eclipse Central. There were tee-shirts and eclipse shades for sale. As usual too few tee shirts and lousy designs. The best supply and designs were in Baja 1991. The Mexicans know how to make a buck off tourists. I would have liked to drink a beer or two and eat a bucket of the wonderful shrimp I saw at the seaside restaurants, but the ship leaves on time.
Meanwhile we go on a catamaran out to an island for the day. The shrimp for lunch were huge and very tasty. The ride out to the reef was rough and many were using their little bags below deck. We snorkeled and saw may fish, coral as we frolicked in the warm sand.
We had two lectures aboard about the eclipse. They played portion of them over the TV for days. The interviews with the Captain both before and after were great. He was probably the Captain in 1998 when the Dawn Princess was new and a solar eclipse occurred in the Caribbean where she was. Tropical Sails put several clients on her back then. We were on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises Polynesia in 1998. She was a tall ship and there were just 120 of us, not 2000 as on the Dawn Princess. There were several of our clients aboard from way back then. That was fun.
One of the highlights of the lecture was the fact that it would be high tide during the eclipse, thus little space on land for setup. We heard mixed reports as to whether or not they saw the whole eclipse from land.
Eclipse day came and we were out early homesteading the deck. We knew the sign would be high over the rail due to observations made the previous day. My video camera was frozen, even though wrapped in a towel. The clouds dissipated and the eclipse was wonderful. I think the video says it all. The Captain had the starboard side to the eclipse, so everyone could spread out and see. Several took great photographs including Paul Kim.
The ship became dark and the deck lights were lit. The film crew did a good job of recording the change of light and catching the emotion aboard. The ship had sets of photos to sell, but Paul’s were just as good, and it was his first solar eclipse cruise.
The next few days we dieseled south to Sydney. We were settled in by now. We knew where the disco was, the bars, and could stay awake for the evening entertainment. I found out you could have a sit down lunch rather that the Horizon Court. I equate the buffet like eating at the Golden Coral everyday.
It was kind of breezy to sit by the pool and there were waves as the seas were high for most of the trip. We finally saw some lobster and Glenn was so excited about the escargot. Our waiter brought us extra orders. The assistant waiter was a Filipino girl. Her super polite manners drove us crazy, but we tipped them both well.
Back in Sydney, it took an hour or so to get off the ship. We checked into the Mecure Hotel and went shopping. Paddy’s Market was the best place to go. We should of went back and ate dinner in one of the stalls. We went to Chinatown and the bill was just pain obscene.
The trip home is a story in itself. Air Pacific’s old 747 broke down, so I had to spend the night in Fiji. Worse was that we arrived there about 11 pm and had a 0330 wake up call. We left Fiji two hours late and I missed my new connection in Los Angeles. Air Pacific put me up at the Hilton. Others were barely able to make their connections. I was unlucky but made it home the next day about noon. I was not getting up early again!