Well, we have now been home for a month, which included a three week visit from my dad to see his Great Grandson. As can be expected, life has been rather hectic getting caught up after six months away.
Finally caught up, and with nothing better to do on a rather dull, grey and rainy day in Maple Ridge, I have an opportunity to pen our experiences during our three days in Sydney and the rather long flights home.
When I re-scheduled return flights, after cancelling our 3-month post cruise tour of Australia, the first available flights were Monday, which required a 3-night stay in Sydney. Certainly not an inconvenience, as Sydney, with its multitude of world famous icons, is undoubtedly one of our favourite places to visit. We could easily have stayed at our downtown timeshare, but I was concerned that 3 days of playing tourist would overly stress Judi’s back prior to the long flights. Therefore, to resist temptation, we booked a relaxing stay at the Rydges Airport Hotel.
Our original plan comprised the all day disembarkation tour to the Blue Mountains concluding at Sydney Airport; but, unfortunately we were the only ones interested in that excursion. The tour department provided a couple of alternatives, so we elected the City Drive that also terminated at the airport.
Disembarkation was a breeze, sitting in the Wheelhouse Bar until our group was called. From departing the Wheelhouse, until sitting in the bus was probably only about 15 to 20 minutes, very impressive. On departing White Bay Cruise Terminal we crossed the ANZAC Bridge, which is notable in that the Australian and New Zealand flags are both flown at the same height.
Flag etiquette normally states that no other flag flies at the same height or higher than the National flag. The bridge was named on Remembrance Day 1998 in honour of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) from WW1. The Australian flag flies from atop the Eastern pillar while the New Zealand flag is atop the Western pillar.
On crossing the ANZAC bridge we toured around Darling Harbour and downtown. Enjoy the following photographs, which commence with an older photo from 1977 to compare the many changes, since I visited Sydney on a cargo ship. In addition to my own photos, I have used some of those taken and edited by our table mate Bruce Floyd.
Sydney Opera House
Departing downtown we drove passed the Cathedral and then out to Bondi Beach.
St Andrews Cathedral
This completed the highlights, so from Bondi Beach we headed to the airport. We disembarked at the International terminal, with the bus having to drop us off at the opposite end from the hotel. The ballroom dance instructors, bound to San Francisco, were also staying in the same hotel, so we had an interesting chat. They had also worked on the Pacific Princess World Cruise, so I found their comparisons very interesting.
Check in was prompt and the young lady noting the number of cases, advised, to save hauling them all up to the room, that she could store the ones we don’t require during our stay. Excellent service, especially as we packed so we only required 1 case at the hotel. Our room was on the top floor and overlooked the entire airport. I would sit at the window for hours, just watching the take-offs, landings and other airport operations. Took me back many years to the days we lived in Prestwick, Scotland, I used to visit the airport viewing area for plane spotting.
The room was comfortable, with the only notable incident happening shortly after breakfast on day 2. While sitting in the room we heard a key in the lock and a young chap entered the room to check the contents of the mini bar. We thought it rather strange, as normally they knock, advising room service. Judi called the front desk and on explaining the issue was immediately transferred to the manager. Most apologetic, he immediately provided complimentary breakfasts the next day. Now that is exceptional customer service. Our 3 day stay was very pleasant and comfortable.
On the Monday we headed over to the International depatures and quickly checked in and sped through security and passport control. Spent a couple of hours in the very comfortable business class lounge before heading to the gate for our 13:00 departure to Dallas Fort Worth. At present, this is the world’s longest commercial flight at 8,800 miles and over 15 hours in the air. However, it will shortly be upstaged by the Emirates flight from Dubai to Panama.
The very comfortable Qantas A-380 that flew for over 15 hours, covering 8,800 miles between Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW). They must have some huge fuel tanks, or in flight refueling over the Pacific.
Great flight, with comfortable seats that recline flat for sleeping. In our experience, the Qantas service is vastly superior to Cathay Pacific and about consistent with British Airways. After lunch and watching a couple of the videos from the cruise I levelled the seat and got about 5 or 6 hours sleep, which definitely helped pass the 15 hours.
Our transit through DFW was rather disappointing, starting off at the entrance to the security screening. At the entrance we both headed to the boarding ticket inspection desk, Judi with her walking sticks and me the tickets. An overly officious employee starts screaming only 1 person at a time. Never in all our extensive travels have we ever experienced this. Therefore, I had to separate the passports and boarding passes and hand Judi hers, so he could look at it. Once he looked at Judi’s boarding pass, I could depart the queue and proceed to his desk. Ridiculous. The remainder of the security screening was a breeze, so with a few hours before the Vancouver flight we went looking for American Airline’s business lounge. Wow, what a disappointment. On checking in they give you 1 ticket for a free drink and any meals or snacks cost money. Even the seats were uncomfortable and the cups of tea were disgusting. With out a doubt, the worst airline lounge we experienced, even worse than Vietnam. We departed the lounge shortly after arriving, finding a Starbucks, where we enjoyed a cup of tea and internet access.
The flight to Vancouver was uneventful, although being a B-737, it was definitely a let down from the A-380’s, B-787’s and B-777’s that we experienced on previous flights. While the service was good, the meal was basically inedible, just your typical airline catering.
Arriving Vancouver we were met by our daughter, son-in-law and little grandson Owen, who is now 8 months old and a robust 23 lbs. He is the primary reason we cut our holiday short.
I certainly hope we don’t have to purchase carbon offsets, as we have covered way too many miles in the last 6 months.
- Cruise – 37,154 miles
- Flights – 41,575 miles
- Total – 78,729 miles
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our recent travels and the many photographs I included. However, on returning home and reviewing posts from the ship using MS Live Writer, I noted the photos did not display correctly. My apologies for not noting this earlier and trying to correct.