Albany, Australia Tuesday, Mar 26 2019 

Seven chess players faced off with one another on Monday morning, day 81. Geoff Peters detailed the shocking depravities that occurred during the “Mutiny on Batavia.” Our trivia team tied for first with three other teams at 10 points, but we finished tied for second after losing the tie breaker. We attended the port talk on Freemantle, our destination the day after tomorrow. David Burgess detailed “The Incredible Story of Steve Irwin, Australia’s Wildlife Warrior.”

Brig Amity

Brig Amity Replica

We arrived in Albany, Australia, southwestern Australia’s southernmost city, on Tuesday, day 82, a little later in the morning than originally announced. Overlooking the Princess Royal Harbor, the Museum of the Great Southern explores the history of the indigenous Noongar Aboriginal peoples, tales of the early settlers, and the region’s unique natural landscape, flora, and fauna. On December 25, 1826, the Brig Amity arrived with a military party and convicts to establish the first European settlement in the western part of the continent. A replica of the Amity is displayed on the museum grounds. Originally built in 1852 for imperial convicts shipped to Western Australia as artisans and skilled laborers, the Albany Convict Gaol Museum offers a glimpse into Albany’s past. Cells, wardens’ quarters and the Great Hall hold exhibits illustrating the varied uses of the facility throughout its history—from a colonial prison to a police lockup during the Great Depression.

Albany Wind Farm

Albany Wind Farm

We survived some snafus concerning which tour group was going where and what time a tour bus would be available to take us to the Albany Wind Farm. We stayed with the tour and enjoyed our stop to see these enormous engineering marvels, powered by the Indian Ocean breezes. After lunch on the ship, we took the complimentary shuttle to the Tourist Information Offices and library. We saw the Town Hall, Baptist Church, Saint John the Evangelist Anglican Church, the University of Western Australia clock tower building, and Albany Entertainment Centre. I took pictures of the roses in the Memorial Garden before we crossed the railroad tracks via a pedestrian overpass to the ANZAC Peace Park. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops sailed from Albany and Perth in November 1914. Many of the soldiers did not return from World War I. Albany, with a population of only about 32,000, is an interesting city to visit. We were gifted with a colorful afterglow sunset. Multi-instrumentalist Andy Joy entertained us as we sailed from Albany by playing a saxophone, flute, clarinet, accordion, piano, and creating an instrument out of a carrot. Another fun day.

Adelaide, Australia Sunday, Mar 24 2019 

Eight chess players met in the Explorers’ Lounge Friday morning, day 78, a sea day. David Burgess provided an informative lecture on “The Life & Times of Captain James Cook.” Our trivia team again scored 9 points while three teams tied for first with 13. I attended another meeting of travel writers and bloggers. Several new participants joined the two original facilitators and me. Guest Lou Thieblemont explained the physics of “The Sun” in terms the common layperson might understand. The port talk on Adelaide prepared us for our tomorrow’s visit. Geoff Peters shared three of his favorite “Unknown Heroes:” Thomas Cochrane, George Nares, and Douglas Mawson. We completed another interesting sea day with music from Katei, Asia’s rock violin sensation. Interestingly, Katei followed his concert with us with one for the Viking Sun crew.

Glenelg Beach

Glenelg Beach

On Saturday, day 79, we arrived in Adelaide, Australia, the capital of South Australia. This well-planned city, which was not founded as a penal colony, has a one-mile square downtown surrounded by green space. In the morning we took a four hour “Panoramas of Adelaide” bus tour with a stop at the Rundle Mall, a pedestrian shopping area with many restaurants and retailers. We drove past the recently opened Royal Adelaide Hospital, which our guide informed us cost $2.3 billion. Our tour also visited the nearby beach resort town of Glenelg. This palindrome was named after Lord Glenelg, British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, this seaside village on the shores of Holdfast Bay is the oldest European settlement on mainland South Australia. After lunch on the ship, we traveled on a railroad car from the Outer Bank station near where we were docked back into Adelaide. We walked along North Terrace passing the Old Parliament House and Parliament House. We stopped to take a picture of the National War Memorial which commemorates those who fought in World War I. We passed the State Library of South Australia, a mix of old and new, before visiting the South Australian Museum. We focused on the two floors devoted to the Australian Aboriginal Material Cultures Collection. From the Tindale Map, we learned that there were 250 Aboriginal groups at the time of the European arrival. We viewed examples of bark art and learned that Aboriginals painted their shelter walls with similarities to rock art. The variety of shapes in the boomerangs surprised me.

Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of South Australia

We then moved on to the next museum, the Art Gallery of South Australia. There were several unusual art pieces that captured my attention, however, I admit to finding the two headless horses hanging from the ceiling disgusting. Perhaps that was the intent. Adelaide celebrates the arts. I especially enjoyed the “Leafies,” plant sculptures using leaves on wire mesh in human form, found in whimsical poses along the sidewalk. On our walk we passed several stately buildings of the University of Adelaide. Australian football fans sporting team colored shirts and scarves streamed toward the nearby Adelaide Oval for the football (soccer) match between the Adelaide Crows and the Hamilton Football Club. The evening entertainment back on the ship featured Ferry P. Bedy, the onboard pianist, who played some of his original compositions on the Star Theater stage.

On Sunday, day 80, we learned that the Viking Sky has encountered rough seas and loss of engines. Our captain has updated us with the situation they are facing, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them. Seven chess players competed this morning. We attended another informative presentation by Don Walsh, “Global Water Crisis – A Setting for Future Conflicts?” Although 71% of our planet is covered with water, less than 1% is usable. Our trivia team scored 12 points and won the tie breaker over three other teams. According to my records, we have won 6 times and finished second 9 times. The fiction book club met in the afternoon. Six women and I discussed our latest selection about Australia, The Dry by Jane Harper. Our next book is Beyond the Rice Fields by Naïvo, a book set in Madagascar. With the rock and rolling of the ship, guest entertainer Andy Joy stuck to the keyboards playing his favorite Billy Joel and Elton John songs. He also took requests from passengers for impromptu renditions of their favorites. We are experiencing our most active seas to date.

Geelong, Australia Thursday, Mar 21 2019 

Eight chess players challenged each other on Wednesday, day 76. Geoff Peters discussed the career of Mathew Flinders, “The Man That Named Australia.” Our trivia team struggled with only 9 points while the winning team scored 12. I attended the port talk preparing for our visit in Geelong. Lou Thieblemont, a guest on this cruise who is a Viking resident astronomer, presented another of his great lectures. This one was “Exploring the Cosmos – The History of Astronomy.” Two Viking ships, the Orion and the Jupiter, are equipped with state-of-the-art planetariums.

Black Lighthouse & Fort Queenscliff

Black Lighthouse & Fort Queenscliff

The Australian equinox was 8:58 a.m. on Thursday, day 77, about the time we started our Geelong and the Bellarine tour. Geelong, Victoria’s second-largest city, has lost its aluminum manufacturing industry and 5,000 jobs. Many former potato farmers have converted to cool climate wineries. We drove through Drysdale and stopped at the Portarlington pier boasting a family friendly beach and recreational fishing. The Queenscliff South Pier, originally constructed in 1884, houses a Lifeboat Shed that was used in these treacherous waters from 1856-1976. In the distance we could see the Black Lighthouse on Shortland Bluff near Fort Queensland. In the opposite direction we saw a Searoad Ferry heading to Sorrento, a 40-minute trip. A short stop at Point Lonsdale gave us the opportunity to see the 24/7 operational lookout. We drove through Barwon Heads and got a taste of the Great Ocean Road, 150-mile scenic coastal highway. Back in Geelong, we walked from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club to Cunningham Pier in one direction and just beyond the Giant Sky Wheel in the other direction, admiring the decorated figurine ballards. Starting in 1995, we learned, Jan Mitchell was commissioned to transform reclaimed pier pylons. Elle Adda focused her evening entertainment on a tribute to Edith Piaf, a French vocalist, songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress. The only disappointment on this stop, Geelong is not Melbourne which was the advertised destination port.

Hobart, Tasmania Tuesday, Mar 19 2019 

Eight chess players, including two new passengers, gathered in the Explorers’ Lounge on Monday morning, day 74. We took a laundry tour, but photography was not allowed. It is a 24-hour operation using 4 washers that hold 250 pounds and 4 dryers that hold 150 pounds. The mangler dries and folds tablecloths, sheets et al. Impressive! They also have a dry-cleaning service. The total operation is very well organized. Our trivia team tied for second with 12 points while one team finished with 13. Winners receive $2, second place finishers $1 to be used on Viking labeled items in the gift shop. Lots of new players and teams with the new arrivals in Sydney. The menu is always changing – dinner last night: venison, lunch today: kangaroo. We attended the port talk in preparation for our visit in Tasmania. Also, we attended a lecture by one of the new lecturers, Don Walsh. He is quite knowledgeable with a sense of humor. He presented “The Antarctic – The Least-Known Continent.” Another amazing guest entertainer: Katei, a dynamic classically trained rock violinist!

Taiku Bridge, Japanese Garden

Taiku Bridge, Japanese Garden

A colorful sunrise and no rain greeted us when we arrived in Hobart, Tasmania on Tuesday, day 75. Tasmania, named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, is Australia’s smallest state. Hobart, located on the banks of the Derwent River, was founded as a penal colony for some 300 inmates. Our tour of Tasmania’s capital city took us to the Cascade Brewery Company, Australia’s oldest operating brewery, located at the foot of majestic Mt. Wellington. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Australia’s cool climate garden spread out over about 34 acres, has several unique collections including a Subantarctic Plant House. This “cool” building features Macquarie Island flora and the sounds of its fauna. The Anniversary Arch and Floral Clock commemorated the Gardens’ 150th anniversary in 1968. In 2018, the Gardens celebrated its bicentennial. The Japanese Garden celebrates Hobart’s sister city relationship with the city of Yaizu in Japan. The French Explorers Garden features Stephen Walker’s ship-like sculptural fountain of Huon pine. The Conservatory offered some ornamental plants in bloom.

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

After lunch, we strolled along the Franklin Wharf to Salamanca Place with restaurants and shops in historic sandstone buildings. The city is laced with statues. We visited the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The Bond Store galleries featured permanent exhibitions exploring 19th century Tasmanian history. We especially liked the simultaneous video displays on opposite walls showing on one screen the Aboriginal perspective and on the other screen the British settler’s perspective of the same event. In the Argyle Gallery, we saw a mounted thylacine or Tasmanian tiger which, tragically, is now extinct. We learned that demands to end convict transportation (May 1853) coincided with the campaign for self-government. Van Diemen’s Land, the original name used by most Europeans, was changed to Tasmania in 1856. Guest entertainer Elle Adda wowed us with her energetic singing and dancing. Yet another great day!

Sydney, Australia Sunday, Mar 17 2019 

A dozen chess players rotated on four boards Thursday morning, day 70. Our trivia team tied for second with 11 points while the winning team finished with 13. “Sir Charles Kingford-Smith,” the Australian aviator who was the first to cross Australia and the Pacific, was the favored benefactor of William Thayer’s last enrichment lecture. David Burgess lectured on “Aboriginal Australians – The Original People of Australia.” After another gourmet meal at the Chef’s Table, we listened to the final concert by the Virginia Gentlemen. Fifteen male students from the University of Virginia, who joined us in Auckland, performed guest favorites in the Atrium. Great voices! What a way to spend spring break!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The Viking Sun entered Sydney’s harbor, considered one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbors, before sunrise on Friday, day 71. We docked in White Bay because we could more easily pass under the Sydney Harbor Bridge while a bigger cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, occupied a spot in the Circular Quay. Our tour bus stopped under the Sydney Harbor Bridge for a view of the Sydney Opera House. Then, we visited the Sydney Opera House, one of the world’s most distinctive buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for an hour-long tour. Our guide was short in stature but full of theatrics. We visited three of the six theatres and learned about the construction process which took place from 1959 to 1973. The Concert Hall and Opera Theatre use brush box and white birch plywood to attain perfect sound quality. The Concert Hall Grand Organ has a whopping 10,500 pipes. Architect Jorn Utzon was inspired by cutting an orange to design spherical geometry harmony between the shapes that compose the roof. After leaving the Circular Quay, our tour bus stopped by The Gap at Watson’s Bay, but the view of Sydney was hidden in rain clouds. There were a few surfers at Bondi Beach. We exited the tour bus on Bridge Street near the Circular Quay for lunch overlooking the water of Sydney Cove. We looped through the Botanic Garden and around some of the narrow, twisting downtown streets observing historic buildings, statues, and the Macquerie Place Obelisk. Construction is taking place throughout the area. We returned to the Viking Sun using a shuttle boat provided by Viking. In the evening we were entertained on the Pool Deck by “Descendance,” traditional and contemporary indigenous dance and music.

Koala

Koala

On Saturday, day 72, we visited Koala Park which is recovering from a December 15, 2018 wind storm of 124 miles per hour. We petted koalas and fed grey kangaroos. We watched a mother nursing a joey. A white cockatoo greeted us with a “Hello” and danced for us. Although the dingos looked like wild dogs, they were quite tame and enjoyed a walk while leashed outside their exhibit area. The cassowarys have an unusual colorful head and giant feet. A little blue penguin stretched its neck from as it looked out its house. A laughing kookaburra jumped from one branch to another. We also saw red necked wallabys, red kangaroos, emus, and lorikeets. The lush surroundings include soft tree ferns, rough tree ferns, Coopers tree ferns, birds nest ferns, elkhorn ferns, tulipwood, Bunya pines, hoop pines, Norfolk Island pines, coachwood, and Sydney blue gum. A wonderful outing!

Sky Tower

Sky Tower

Today was a transition day for many passengers. Those, probably around 400 guests, who were on segment three departed; those traveling on segment four arrived. In the afternoon we returned to Circular Quay via the shuttle boat. We made our way to the Westfield Sydney shopping center for a 45 second ride to the level 4 820 feet high Sydney Tower Eye observation deck. The Tower itself stands 1,014 feet, the second highest in the southern hemisphere. Although the cloudy grey day with rain spattered windows diminished the 360-degree view, it was amazing to see the spectacular mix of old architecture and new skyscrapers. The Tower was designed by Donald Crone and opened in 1981. The shopping center itself has a wide array of restaurants. We enjoyed a Thai restaurant dinner that cost a little less than yesterday’s lunch. Our walk took us near a spot where food was being generously served to a crowd that were likely homeless. We observed some of these folks preparing to sleep in building alcoves. We completed our amazing day by seeing the sunset light show displayed on two of the Opera House “sails.” Later, as we returned on the shuttle boat, we observed a fern leaf image on the Opera House which was in honor of those so tragically murdered in New Zealand mosques.

St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17, day 73, arrived with a steady downpour of rain. Nevertheless, it didn’t dampen our spirits as we toured Sydney on a scenic motor coach. Because we didn’t leave the bus for photographs, the extra time allowed us to see even more of this marvelous city. We knew that England sent its criminals to Australia starting in 1788. We didn’t know that prior to the American Revolution criminals were being sent to the Maryland and Virginia colonies. The rain slowed to a drizzle during our sail away from Sydney and the sky cleared enough to take some photographs of the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House. We toasted St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness, green beer, or green sparkling wine while the Viking Band, including the female vocalist on violin, played Irish music. It was wonderful to have more time in Sydney.

Milford Sound, New Zealand Wednesday, Mar 13 2019 

Mitre Peak

Mitre Peak

Last night’s evening entertainment featured flutist Gary Arbuthnot performing stage and screen favorites. Seven chess players, including one who wanted to learn how the pieces move, played chess throughout Tuesday, day 68. We did scenic cruising in New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. Both have the name of “sound” but are fjords. A sound is a large sea or ocean inlet wider than a fjord. A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea, with wide steep land on three sides. In 1770, Captain Cook named Doubtful Sound, although he didn’t enter it with his sailing ship. It’s about 25 miles long, has a depth of 1,384 feet, and includes a dozen smaller islands. It was overcast when we entered Doubtful Sound, but we saw brief spots of sun as we passed through. The Viking Sun offered another impressive brunch. Later in the afternoon we entered Milford Sound with better weather conditions than in the morning. We traveled about 15 kilometers from the Tasman Sea to see Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls, the largest falls at 531 feet. The Maori name for the falls is “Hine Te Awa” which means “girl on the river.” Mitre Peak, rising 5,551 feet, is a distinctive pyramid shaped mountain. The second highest waterfall is Stirling Falls at 495 feet. In Maori “Wai Mann” which means “cloud on the water.” Rudyard Kipling considered Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world. A great day of scenic cruising.

Ten chess players showed up on Wednesday, day 69, five regulars and five for instruction. We attended a port talk in preparation of our visit in Sydney, Australia. Our trivia team only scored 9 points while the winning team had 14. Wildlife expert Robin Petch shared stunning “Wildlife Highlights – Miami to Sydney.” David Burgess covered “Why Did Britain Send Its Prisoners to Australia in 1778?” and later. After dinner, we watched another pleasant sunset.

March 13 Sunset

March 13 Sunset

Next Page »