2009 World Cruise – We had three days at sea before arriving at the port city of Freemantle.
Our second day we entered and sailed through the Great Australian Bight, a large section of ocean bay off the coast of southern Australia (the inward curve along the bottom of the continent is the Bight). This is a very bio-diverse area and home to several species of whale. The water in the Bight flows at 9.2 billion gallons per second so it is almost like sailing through a huge fast-moving river.
There are about 1000 passengers on the ship; approximately 700 are doing the entire World Cruise. The remaining passengers are doing a section or two. The first leg was from Los Angeles, CA to Sydney, AUS. There were passengers that departed the ship in Sydney and other passengers that came on board and who will leave at the end of the second leg; Singapore. (The legs were: 23-days LA to Sydney; 33-days Sydney to Singapore; 36-days Singapore to Capetown, South Africa; 22 or 25-day Capetown to either Ft. Lauderdale or New York City.)
It was quite amazing how quickly you get into a routine and how you become comfortable friends with people. We sat in the dining room with Tim and Elaine and Charles and Evelyn – and, 8 years later, we are still in touch with them both. We usually sat in the theater for the show in the upper balcony beside Sally and Angelo – whom we have seen again on other voyages. I joined a Trivia team on Feb 15 where I met Bill, and he and his wife Lynn are still friends of ours. We soon learned that people’s preferences in the type of excursions they enjoyed would put many of the same people on our buses and we had great chats with them as we drove too and fro in the various countries.
We met James and Sherry on the Swan River dinner cruise in Freemantle and really enjoyed talking with them on and off at various places for the rest of the voyage. Scott initiated a conversation about our cameras when we were going through the Panama Canal. He and is wife Rowena had a balcony suite on our deck so we often passed each other going into or coming out of our cabins. Because Rowena is from the Philippines, and half of the HAL cruise staff is Filipino, she and Scott made friends with many of the staff and would be invited down to the crew quarters to visit. Scott treated all the Filipino staff (50-75 of them) who had time off to drinks in a bar in Freemantle.
On our third sea day between Adelaide and Perth we joined a galley tour to see how the food is prepared and served to so many people at so many different places on board. Organization, that’s how!!! We were standing near the front desk after our tour and Scott came along and told John he had arranged with the captain for an engine room tour – since 9/11 they no longer offer engine or bridge tours – and John was welcome to come along. Which he very happily did. Scott and the captain became friends and Scott was going to take the captain swimming with the sharks in Australia but he found out they would be in a protective cage so he didn’t want to do it. (Personally I wouldn’t get in the water with sharks even with a cage.)
We eventually rounded the southwest end of Australia and docked at Freemantle, which has its own identity but has been absorbed into the Perth urban sprawl. Perth was founded in 1829 but grew very slowly due to it’s remoteness. In 1850 convicts were brought in to alleviate the labour shortage. Many of Perth’s fine buildings, like Government House and the Town Hall, were built by convicts. It wasn’t until gold was discovered in the 1890’s that the population had substantial growth – increasing four-fold in a decade. Perth is the capital of the state of Western Australia and is one of the most isolated metropolitan cities in the world. It is actually closer to Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia than it is to Sydney. The state of Western Australia is greater than the size of Texas and Alaska combined, yet has a population of less than 2 million, 75% of whom live in Freemantle/Perth. We did two tours in Freemantle/Perth. The first was a seven-hour tour to Yanchep National Park – to see what? Koala’s and kangaroos of course. On the way we made a one hour stop at King’s Park, which overlooks the city of Perth and the Swan River. The park is also War Memorial Park. After WWI, when the Australian/New Zealand forces fought so hard and suffered so many losses, every town and city in the country built a memorial to their fallen soldiers. AnZac day in April is a huge national holiday with parades and recognition of those who paid the ultimate price for Australia and New Zealand’s freedom.
At the preserve we walked along a 240′ boardwalk where we enjoyed finding koalas nestled high up in the trees. And visited Mongor Lake, famous for it’s black swans – who rudely stayed on the far side of the lake.
Afterward, we gathered in an Aboriginal Cultural Inter-action Center where a young man named Benton showed us how the aboriginal people made fishing spears, tools, and weapons. (They make a super-glue compound out of ground up resin from a Grasstree (after it has been burned), kangaroo dung and charcoal that cemented rocks onto sticks to make an axe.) The Aboriginal people of Australia were the first people to hone a stone to make a sharpened axe-head and the first to grind wheat.Benton showed us how they made fire, Demonstrated a fishing dance Played the didgeridoo. And told us many stories of his people.
We returned to the ship at 4 and at 6 we left again for a dinner cruise on the Swan River. We enjoyed a lovely meal and a relaxing sail down the river, re-entering Perth after dark.