2016/2017 "Pristine Pacific Rim" Cruise Log

Prologue -February 22, 2016

I was looking at Matt's winter break schedule and found that we could squeeze in a cruise. I made a call to Brenda Pierson at Travel Leaders and within 3 hours, she had us booked and set. Thank you Brenda! We did not get our first choice of cabins, as most were sold out, but did get our category on the 10th deck (1048), which works just fine for me. So...we will be going from Singapore to Sydney on a 21 night cruise with 3 extra days in Sydney after the cruise.

Prologue -April 13, 2016

Because of our status on Regent, we were able to book our flights this early at no extra cost/fee. Brenda was able to get us on the new United Dreamliner, which is the only non-stop from San Francisco to Singapore. We are also booked on United from Sydney to San Francisco non-stop for the trip home. It is nice to know that we don't have to wait until October to see where Regent was going to send us for flights (probably with stops) ...especially as it is the holiday season.

Prologue -July 19, 2016

While on our cruise, we found that cabin 962 has become available and we had the Cruise Consultant onboard make the change. That moves us from being directly under the La Veranda Restaurant.

December 19, 2016 - Departure

It was a full day of getting ready for the trip and saying goodbye to the girls at 1:30. Eric from Vintage Limousine showed up promptly at 5:30 and we were off for San Francisco Airport. We arrived at the airport at 7:15 about 15 minutes ahead of schedule... No lines for the check-in at United, and we lucked out with nobody in line in the TSA pre-check line. It was the easiest check-in that the have ever had. We checked out the United Lounge and decided to walk over to the American Express Lounge to see if it was any better. AE had better food (chicken with potatoes, rice, a choice of salads and brownies. The restaurant area was full so we sat at a table in the lounge. Not the most comfortable seats, so after we ate, we went back over to the United Lounge and sat in the more cushioned chairs until our boarding time of 9:40.
The plane is full and you can tell that most of the "old folk" in Business Class are going to be on the Regent Cruise. We pulled away from the terminal at 10:35, but did not take off until 11:00. The pilot told us we would arrive in Singapore on time. We were offered the normal pre-flight drinks and then asked to order both our dinner and breakfast choices. I opted for the 5 Spice Chicken and Matt had Short Ribs. We both watched a movie while having dinner, then we both tried to sleep. Matt got about 6 hours, I got a few more. I had a hard time sleeping (even with earplugs) as I hear every little thing. We have a "Mr. Cough-up-a-lung", a real elderly gentleman seated very near us...and then there are the people who open and close the upper bin drawers, and that clicking wakes me up too.
Because we cross the dateline, we do not have a December 20th, so we are one day ahead, but 8 hours behind home time. So...midnight in Singapore is 8AM at home.
At 1 AM, then came around with cards to fill out for entry into Singapore. There is always a question or two that you are not sure exactly how to answer.
I watched another movie and Matt watched a total of 5.
The entire flight is close to 17 hours long...one of the longest direct flights offered in the world.
(See next entry for landing and the rest of the day...which is the 21st.)

December 21, 2016 - Singapore - Day 1

The plane landed shortly after 7 AM and we were able to get off the plane, through customs and baggage claim quickly. We had to wait a bit for our Regent Contact to get us to the Hotel. I had met Loanne, who is on our cruise, on the plane and she and one other couple were in our same van.
We arrived at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel shortly after 8 AM and our room was ready for us....NICE! It is a very clean and nice room. We waited for our luggage to arrive, then went out to check out the hotel.
We came back for a bit, then went over to the nearby mall and ate lunch at a Subways. The main language here is English, so very easy to get around and to ask questions.
We went back to the room, took a quick power nap and then met up with the Regent Consultants here at the hotel to make our arrangements for the morning. We are on the 3rd bus leaving that leaves the hotel at 12:30, but bags need to be packed and ready to go at 7:00.
Back to the room until it was time to go over to the Marina Sands Casino for dinner, show (Cirque Adrenaline) and gambling...where we actually did just fine.
At the entrance to the casino, you must present your Passport. Locals are charged a fee to get in, tourists are not. You also have to present your Passport upon leaving.
Took a taxi back to the hotel just after 11:00 and called it a night.
It was very humid today, but we lucked out and did not have any rain. We are in the middle of their monsoon season here

December 22, 2016 - Singapore - Day 2 and Embarkation

I awoke at 5:00 and got Matt up at 6:00. We got ourselves ready and packed up for the 7:00 bag pickup, which did not happen until around 8:30.
Anyway, we went down for the buffet breakfast at 7:00 and it was quite impressive. It covered 2 different levels and had a great selection of food, including specialty items from Asia and India. It was included in our cruise price, but if you were staying here, it is a $35 buffet.
We went back up to the room and just lounged until 10:30 when we went down to the ballroom to identify our luggage, which goes over to the ship separately.
We decided not to wait around for the 12:30 bus, but let the Regent Representatives know that we were going over to the Cruise Center on our own.
We left the hotel at 11:30 and arrived at the Cruise Center at 11:45. Boarding started at 12:00 and after a short check-in system shutdown and restart, we got our room key and got aboard.
We immediately went to La Veranda for lunch. The ship has been refurbished since we were last on the Voyager this summer. So far, the new areas that we see look great!
Just as we were finishing lunch, it began to downpour, which only lasted about 20 minutes.
The room was ready at 2:30 as scheduled, but it took until 3:30 to get our luggage. The reason for the lateness is that the ship is completely full and there is a LOT of luggage to be delivered to the rooms. We met Samita, our butler(ess) and Rohit, our steward. A quick unpacking until the 5:00 boat safety drill, then off to dinner at 6:30.
We were  told that the guests who did the 3-day pre-cruise itinerary to Cambodia will not make it back to the ship until 8:30 (which turned out to be correct), so we will have a later departure than expected (we did not depart until 9:00). The captain told us that the airport was closed due to the strong downpour we had, so that is why they are late.
After our dinner, we made a quick trip around the ship to check out the refurbishments, and as I said before, they did a nice job. The biggest changes that we noticed were to the main dining room, with a entirely new decor and layout, which works quite well...and the casino with a new layout and a much better variety of machines. It was nice to see several of the staff and crew that we have had on other cruises.
We went back to the room and just relaxed before calling it an evening. Oh yes, we turn the clocks back tonight, so an extra hour of sleep is in our future.
We will be crossing the equator overnight.

December 23, 2016 - Sea Day

What is the saying..."Early to bed, early to Rise?" We were up at 5:30 and it is 77 degrees with 85 percent humidity.
Our entire cruise is 5,532 nautical miles. We were at 187 when we got up.
We had breakfast in La Veranda, then went around the ship taking pictures of the refurbishment and of some of the Christmas decorations.
We played a round of Rummikub while the room was being made up, then went and checked out what was new in the store since we were last here in June/July. The answer there is nothing. Same items.
I made my appointment with the Cruise Consultant for 3:00 to try to fix some of the issues in our upcoming cruises.
Then it was up to the pool deck to watch the Equator Crossing Ceremony. It was quite simple compared to past ceremonies. Instead of having a few crew members getting "slopped" and dunked into the pool, followed by pollywogs (passengers new to crossing the equator) kiss a fish,  they just had the pollywogs try "Splat the Rat" (hit a stuffed rat coming out of a pipe with a table tennis paddle). Hit it and you are safe, miss and you have to kiss the fish. All of the fun and laughter of seeing the crew getting messy was gone.
Lunch today included Greek food by the pool and Asian food in La Veranda. We both did a combination of both.
An afternoon visit to the casino did not pay off, so it was back to the room to get ready for the Captains Reception. The only problem was...our suits, tux and shirts were not back from the laundry. A call to the Butler and Matt's suits arrived. Mine still were MIA. It was not until 5:45 that they arrived, so that gave me 15 minutes to "tux up". I made it and we were off. We got our traditional photo with the Captain, who has learned that a photo is in his future.
After the reception, it was time for dinner in Compass Rose. Matt had salmon and I had chicken. The dining room was very warm and both of us were hot and did not eat much.
We dropped by the casino after dinner and played 3 card poker...still not winning yet. Then it was off to the first production show "Dancin' Fool". This new production team has 11 members and no orchestra. They did a nice job.
We were both tired, so after the show it was back to the room, as we know we have a LONG tour tomorrow....9 hours long.

December 24, 2016 - Semarang, Indonesia

Matt got up at 5:55, so that means I was up at 5:55. We were planning on sleeping until 8, but that was not to be. At 7AM, it was 78 degrees out with 89 percent humidity. The forecast is for a high of 89 with a 25% chance of rain while we are on our tour of Borobudur. Last night the Captain told us: "We were late in leaving Singapore, but I have good news...we are going full speed and will arrive in Semarang on time, but currently we are lost."
We had breakfast in La Veranda, then waited for our 10:15 meeting time in the Theater before our tour began. Here is a description of the tour:

Departing by coach from Tanjung Emas harbor, you will journey into the dramatic landscape of central Java en route to the incredible UNESCO World Heritage site of Borobudur. Upon arrival, you will be simply amazed at this incredible man-made marvel that is nothing short of being spectacular.  The world's largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur was constructed between 778 and 856 and built with over two million cubic feet of stone.  This massive building project exhausted five generations of central Java's population, yet within little more than a century of its completion, was mysteriously abandoned.  A subsequent eruption of neighboring Mount Merapi completely covered the site in ash and it wasn't rediscovered until 1814. The painstaking excavation and restoration of Borobudur was accomplished at a cost of $25 million, but has given us today an unquestionably remarkable monument that stands as a symbol to an ancient and glorious heritage.

Following your morning exploration of the temple, you'll be treated to a buffet lunch of Indonesian specialties and a delightful performance by local entertainers before proceeding on to a silver and batik factory. Central Java is well known for its high quality Batik fabric and silver ware and this tour stop will afford you time to browse for some souvenirs to take home or take in a brief puppet demonstration.  Re-boarding your coach, it's a relaxing and scenic drive back to the pier where your tour will conclude. 

The ship got into port a few minutes early and our tour got started on time. When we went to the theater to meet up for the tour, Matt ran into Art and Sandy, who we were on a cruise with in 2014. They were assigned the same bus as us, so we were able to catch up on things.
Our guide was Djamal and we were one of six busses on this tour. That amounts to about 240 passengers. Our busses were lined up back-to-back and we were off WITH A POLICE ESCORT the entire day. They were very good at getting us through backed-up traffic and stop lights. It was quite the way to travel. We passed jack fruit stands set up along side of the road and a lot of kids with signs trying to get the busses to honk their horns (it is a new YouTube trend over here).
We made a quick bathroom/snack break (with the normal trinket sellers following you everywhere).
Then it was off to the Temple, but had lunch first on the temple property.
The temple was AMAZING and we walked up all 10 levels to the top. Djamal pointed out several of the sculptures and carvings along the way.
The visit was a bit too short, but that is how things go when you really want to see something.
Matt did find a nice trinket to buy at the temple. The sellers start at a high price and by the time they follow you to the bus and you keep refusing or offer them a low price, their price has dropped by half...so you learn to show a bit of interest, but keep refusing.
After we were all loaded on the bus, we went straight back to the ship, skipping the batik and silver shop. Not to worry, as most of our tours in Indonesia end up in a batik or silver shop. We made it back to the ship just before the 7:30 "all aboard" time.
A quick aside...while we were driving back to the ship, the gentleman in the seat in front of me kept whistling Christmas songs ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" being his favorite). Although I like Christmas songs, I like napping on the bus much better. Just wish I could have.
When we got back to the room, we found a gift on the bed from Regent. It was a nice box of note cards and envelopes.
We ordered dinner in the suite as we did not want to get dressed up to go to dinner in the restaurants.
Matt stayed in the room to work on photos while I went down to gamble and came out ahead!
We turn our clocks ahead one hour tonight.

December 25, 2016 - Sea Day

First of all, Merry Christmas!
We awoke at 8 and had breakfast in La Veranda. Because it is Sunday, champagne and caviar are served. Matt made his champagne a mimosa, and I just skipped that whole area.
We did some asking around about getting wooden items into Australia. We have seen some very nice puppets that we would like to bring home, but the customs details are a bit sketchy.
We played a few rounds of Rummikub, then tried to play Bingo, but there were not enough passengers to play to make it worthwhile...so...we hung around until 12:00 and lunchtime. They had a HUGE ham at the buffet that they were carving. They were also offering a "Mediterranean Buffet" at the Pool Grill.
After lunch, I went out to the pool to lay out. It was hot and still a bit humid, so I only lasted about an hour. I came back to the room and Matt decided to go spend a half hour in the gym.
We followed that with an hour and a half in the casino and came out ahead. By that time, it was time to get ready for the 6:00 Christmas show featuring the Cruise Director and his staff, the Production team and the housekeeping team. Quite a nice performance.
We had to kill time before meeting up with Art and Sandy for dinner. They had asked us at the end of yesterday's tour if we wanted to join them tonight and they arranged 7:30 dinner in Chartreuse, the French Restaurant.
We followed that with a bit more time in the casino before calling it quits as we have an early wake-up for tomorrow. We are doing 2 tours.
I want to mention how nice all the staff is today. There are "Merry Christmas" greetings from everyone you run into.

December 26, 2016 - Benoa/Bali -Day 1

I woke up this morning not feeling the greatest. Sore throat and achy muscles. Not sure if it is going from heat to air-conditioning, or if I am getting a cold. Did not make for the best of days.
We had breakfast in the room before going to our 7:45 meeting time in the theater for today's excursion, "Discovering Bali":

This day spent discovering the fascinating and vibrant culture of Bali begins with a picturesque drive to Tohpati Village for a demonstration of Batik cloth processing. Along the way, you'll stop and enjoy a Barong dance performance. This well-known and theatrical Balinese dance tells a story of the fight of good vs. evil via a colorful performance. Arriving at the village you'll have a unique opportunity to observe skilled artisans at work as they use the different methods of applying the colors and printing to the fabric.
Continuing on, you'll travel to a Traditional Balinese house compound. The Balinese home is often viewed as a living organism. Much like a human being, it has a head (the ancestral shrine), arms (the sleeping quarters and living room) and legs and feet (the kitchen and rice granaries.) This up-close look allows you a glimpse into conventional Balinese life.
Your next stop is at the Singapadu Temple or Pura Puseh. Built in the 17th century and guarded by four statues of Wisnu that rest on carved pedestals, the temple continues to be used by the local village community for religious ceremonies.
Your final tour stop is at the Bird Park. This amazing attraction is where you'll find the largest collection of Indonesian birds in the world, as well as many varieties from Africa and South America. Covering nearly 5 acres of botanical landscape, the Park provides sanctuary to almost 1000 birds of 250 different species. Taking an innovative approach, the birds are showcased not only in their natural habitats and large walk-in aviaries, but also as free range throughout the Park. Adding to the Park's appeal is a remarkable display of tropical plants and trees which also serve to attract a significant butterfly population.
Following your time at the Bird Park, you'll re-board your coach for the relaxing drive back to the pier in Benoa.

We visited the Batik factory/store. I have done Batik myself before when I was in India in 1974, so I knew the process. Matt found an ebony sculpture and a mask that he liked, so we bought those. The sculpture will look great on our dining room table.
Dana, our guide, was very detailed in describing everything. Sometimes, you just want to keep moving along and see things rather than stand and listen to a lecture.
We then went to the temple for a visit and the show, which was very interesting and Dana gave us a guide to what it was about, which sort of helped.
The costuming was great.
Then it was off to the house compound, an actual home still being used by the family. Finally, to the Bird Park for a 30 minute walk before heading back to the pier.
The nice part of the tour was that there were only 20 in our group and we only met up with other tours at the temple for the show.
Because I am not feeling great, we decided to pass on the 2nd tour of the day which would have been going back to the Bird Park for dinner and another dance show.
Upon returning to the ship, we had lunch and then Matt went out shopping near the ship while I took a nap and tried to get better.
We hung out in the room until dinner, then back to the room. We also skipped the Bali Dance performance in the theater in the evening.
Hopefully I will feel better for tomorrow's tour.

December 27, 2016 - Benoa/Bali -Day 2

Woke up at 6, feeling a bit better today. We had an 8:00 tour, "Royal Temple & Tanah Lot":

This fascinating half day excursion provides an excellent opportunity to discover Bali's intriguing world of gods and temples, along with its traditional arts and crafts.
Traveling along a scenic route from the pier, you'll first make your way to the magnificent Royal Temple, found in the town of Mengwi which was once the center of a powerful kingdom. A spectacular landmark of historic architecture built in the 17th century, Pura Taman Ayun served as the family temple of the Mengwi dynasty, whose kingdom survived until the late 1800s. This wonderful temple complex includes a wide moat, exquisite wooden shrines and beautifully carved gates, making it one of the area's main attractions.
Leaving Mengwi behind, you'll continue on to Bali's most photographed temple, Tanah Lot. Also referred to as the Sunset Temple, the impressive black lava towers of this sacred 16th century temple are dramatically situated on a rocky outcrop that extends 656 feet offshore. Surrounded by pristine aqua waters and the white surf that crashes against the rocks, it's easy to see why this location has become a favorite with photographers.
Re-joining your coach, it's a leisurely drive to your final stop, a popular batik workshop. This lovely Balinese tradition has been passed down for generations and at the workshop you will have an opportunity to admire the distinctive artistry and technique that goes into producing the famous batik cloth. There will be time afforded here to shop for a souvenir to take home.

We, once again, had 20 people per bus, but 8 busses on the tour. Because of the time needed to see the 3 sites before the ship sailed, we once again had a police escort.
We did the events in a different order, with Tanah Lot first, then the Royal Temple, then the batik factory (a different one from yesterday).
We only had a half hour at each stop with 30-45 minute drive between each place.
We got back to the port at 12:45. Yesterday, Matt purchased 2 batik shirts for me at one of the port-side stands. One shirt fit fine, the other was a bit small, so we had time to exchange it for a larger one.
We then came back aboard the ship for lunch and went back to the room to work on photos while the ship left port (at 2:00).
6:00 brought the traditional "Regent Block Party", where you go out into the hall, have wine and cheese and meet your neighbors.
We followed that with dinner, then the casino and finally the Production Show "Lights, Camera, Music!" The production shows are nice. They use a video screen for backgrounds and a pre-recorded soundtrack instead of the live orchestra that used to accompany the shows. They now seem to be a bit over-produced.
I am still coughing a lot. I think I have now become "Mr. Cough-Up-A-Lung" (see Dec. 19 post), but I seem to be joined by many others onboard.

December 28, 2016 - Komodo, Indonesia

Awoke at 7:45 and decided to have breakfast in the room. Bruce, the Cruise Consultant called with the final answers (from the head office) to my questions about next year's cruise and although not every issue went in my favor, enough did that I am happy.
Our excursion, "Komodo Dragons," met at 10:10 in the theater:

Tendering from the ship, you'll arrive at the Komodo Jetty where your exploration of Komodo National Park commences. The world-renowned great wildlife island of Komodo is the desolate domain of a fierce and very rare species of reptile that bears the looks of a prehistoric dinosaur and is appropriately called a Komodo Dragon. A clear indication of Komodo National Park's biological importance is its ranking with UNESCO as both a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve.
The Komodo Dragon is thought to be the remnant of a once widespread ancient order of monitor lizards. Today, fewer than 300 of this protected species remains and its continuing existence hangs in the balance. Often measuring up to 11 feet in length and weighing in at over 300 pounds, this ominous looking creature, with its sharp, saw-like teeth and menacing eyes, leaves a lasting impression on all who have had the opportunity to see it up close. Living on deer and wild pigs that inhabit the island, it is surprisingly agile when covering short distances and a good swimmer.
Once you are ashore, you will be met by your local tour guide to begin your walking expedition of the island. Traveling in small groups with your guide and a park ranger, you'll make your way down footpaths that lead through pockets of thorny vegetation and dry tropical grasslands, senses heightened with anticipation that the dragons will make an appearance. This first-hand look at Komodo will also serve to acquaint you with the other notable species that inhabit the island, as well as the rich surrounding marine environment. Informative commentary will be provided by your expert guides as you navigate this utterly unique locale. Following your guided tour, you'll return to the jetty for your tender transfer back to the ship.

We were in the last group to go ashore and we were divided into 3 groups of about 20, but the 3rd group only had 8, so Katja, the Destinations Manager came over to us and pulled us into the small group. We then became the last of the 3 groups to start the mile and a half loop. We had a ranger in front and one in back with a large forked wooden pole and a guide in the middle. We saw a small dragon right as we started and then several large ones at the man-made watering hole about 3/4 of the way through. We also saw one deer. Our guide told us all about the dragons. Most live 40-60 years. After laying their eggs, the mothers sit with the nest and then leaves after 3 months. When the babies are born, they must fend for themselves by climbing a tree and hanging out for 3 years, so they are not eaten. By the way, the mother does come back to the nest after the babies are born to see if it is "mealtime" for her. They have no connection to their young. Once they are old enough to fend for themselves, they hang around watering holes and wait for animals. Once they bite their prey, they just let it go. It will die in 3-4 days and the dragon's smell is SO good that they can track the prey down for miles. The dragons only need to eat once or twice a month. By the way, we were told NOT to wear anything red and to bring NO fruit or food to the island. Matt and I were talking to the ranger in the front and he said that his wife was manning one of the souvenir stands, so at the end of our tour, we went to their stand a bought one of the small caved dragons. All the stands there had the same 7 or 8 items for sale...carved dragons, jewelry, t-shirts, etc. all brought over from the other islands to here.
We caught the last tender back to the ship, had lunch (BBQ day), then went back to the room to work on the photos.
We took a break and went to the casino (should have stayed in the room) and went back to finish editing photos until dinner time, which was in Sette Mari, the Italian Restaurant. We were the first through the door and service was extremely slow. In fact, they came to the table twice to apologize that they were "flooded" by guests all at once and the kitchen was overwhelmed. We know that they fill up very quickly every night, so we are not sure what the real reason was. We usually eat quickly and are in and out of restaurants in an hour...unless we are dining with others. Tonight it took over an hour to get the 2nd course.
After dinner, it was back to the casino to try to win our money back, but that did not seem to happen.
We decided to skip the show tonight which was our Cruise Director Ray Solaire's puppet and singing show that we had seen before.
Clocks go ahead another hour tonight, and a half hour tomorrow night to get us to Darwin, Australia time.

December 29, 2016 - Sea Day

Wake up time was 8:00. It was already 86 degrees out with 75 percent humidity. Today was a "face-to-face" immigration day with the Australian authorities. Not quite sure what the Pursers office was thinking when they passed out the customs forms. It gave times for us to meet the officials. If you were up early, you could go between 8 and 9, then it was by deck, ie: Deck 10...9:00 to 10:30, Deck 9...10:30 to 12:00, etc. Then it stated that "if your scheduled time conflicts with onboard activities you wish to attend, you are free to present yourself for inspection during one of the other time slots." Ummmm...ok. Just say go anytime between 8 and 3.
So we walked down at 8:45 and there was no wait time. They checked our forms, stamped our passports and that was it.
We then went to breakfast and I followed that with 2 hours of tanning time by the pool while Matt went to the gym.
We met up for lunch in La Veranda, where, for dessert, I had the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I noticed that there was something hard and larger than normal in it. Turned out to be an almond, then another. I went to the restaurant manager right away to let him know, just in case someone had a nut allergy.
After lunch we went back to the room to watch a movie and check the internet.
A bit later, I went down to the casino and did quite well.
When I came back, Matt said that his bed smelled funny. Yep it did. Smelled like a mouse had died in the mattress. We called our Butler and told her about it and that Matt wanted his whole bed changed out. She gave it a whiff and said it would be done by the time we got back from dinner. We also made notes for her to contact maintenance as our lights in the bathroom keep burning out. 2 of them have gone out twice...and that the light switch to the bathroom was slightly broken. Half the time when you turn off the lights, the toggle switch clicks back to the on position by itself. All the items were replaced/fixed as promised.
Tonight was the "Seven Seas Society Party". Since this is a 21 day cruise, everyone aboard is at least a Silver Member, bypassing Bronze. We learned that there are 422 Silver Members (21-74 nights aboard Regent Cruises), 168 Gold (75-199 nights)  45 Platinum (200-399 nights...where we are now) and 8 Titanium (400 nights or more...where we will be next cruise).
The Production team performed to some "Mama Mia" songs, then Ray "I really like myself" Solaire, the Cruise Director did a song, a ventriloquist number, then another song. We weren't sure how long he was going to keep going, so we got up and left. LoAnne was sitting next to us and we asked her if she wanted to join us for dinner, which she did. We had a wonderful conversation.
After dinner, we did the normal casino routine before going back to the room.
Clocks ahead one half hour tonight.

December 30, 2016 - Darwin, Australia

We got up at 6:00 with breakfast in the room. Outside it is 86 degrees with 85 per cent humidity. Our 8:15 tour today is "Territory Wildlife Park". It is a 5 hour tour:

Your tour begins with a scenic drive to the Territory Wildlife Park, one of the major attractions in the Darwin area. The park is nestled in some 400 hectares of natural bush land and has over 4 miles of walking trails that pass through abundant woodlands, lush wetlands and tropical forest. For the convenience of the Park's visitors, carriages pulled by small trucks are available which navigate around the Park, giving informative commentary along the way. As the Park is quite extensive, this may be the most fitting way to travel from one stop to another.
While here, you'll have a chance to see a vast array of native wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies, buffalo, tropical birds, dingoes, crocodiles and Banteng cattle. As photo opportunities will abound, be sure to bring your camera. Attractions at the Park also include the unique underwater walk-through aquarium where you are immersed in the midst of gliding whip rays and other colorful fish and marine life. Another fascinating exhibit is the Nocturnal House which gives an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of many species of nocturnal animals that are rarely seen in the wild. There is also a special enclosure where a scheduled performance is held that allows you to observe some of the Park's birds of prey in full flight.
Although guides will greet your coach, provide maps and be available to offer suggestions and assistance, your time here is unstructured and it is at the individual's discretion which experiences they wish to partake in. It is suggested that you first cover those exhibits you most want to see in the time allotted.
At the conclusion of your visit, your coach will return you to the ship in Darwin.

Right as we arrived at the park at 9:30, it began to rain. A park guide came aboard and said since the carriages (think Disneyland trams) were open on the side and the seats were wet, we would stay on the bus and they would drive us around the circle of the park. We got to the first stop and nobody wanted off the bus to go walking to see the nocturnal animals. Next stop was the Monsoon Forest Walk. Still raining...nobody off the bus. Next stop was the Aquarium. The guide said the bus would wait for everyone and that the aquarium was indoors. Everyone off the bus. Not much of an aquarium, but it was ok. When we got out, the rain had slowed, so Matt and I decided we would walk the park. We went back to the Nocturnal Animal area and took a few photos of baby wallabies and an alligator. Then we trekked over to the Woodland Walk to see the wallabies up close. You walk on clayish paths that, because of the rain, were just huge puddles and water gullies. We went into the electric fence area and there they were, eating out of trays of food left for them. They were not exactly happy to see us and all but one backed off into the woods a bit. Then the torrential rains started, and we were stuck with one other couple standing under a tin overhang waiting for the rain to let up. It did, SLIGHTLY...so we made a run for the main road. We found one of the cruise tour busses that was going around picking up rain-soaked passengers and they let us on and took us clear around to the front. All the other people on the 5 busses were already there. By this time it was only 11:00. They decided to load up the busses and start driving back to the ship. They gave us a tour of Darwin on our way, so we ended up back at the ship at 1:15. It was still raining hard and the wind had picked up. They let us out of the terminal towards the ship in groups of 4 as we had to walk/run outside in the rain to a checkpoint and then up the ship's ramp to get indoors. Our umbrellas were worthless from the terminal to the ship, so needless to say, everyone was soaked. All of that said, just seeing the wallabies made the trip.
We went to the room, changed and then had lunch. When we got back to the room, I took a quick hot shower and Matt took some of our items down to the clothes dryer and he dried our shoes in the cabin with a hair dryer. We just relaxed the rest of the afternoon and then had dinner in the main dining room and a bit of fun in the casino.
There was no show in the theater tonight. A movie was shown (which we had seen) instead. The performers did "Beatles Night" in one of the lounges, but we have always passed on that too.
Tonight, we turn our clocks ahead another half hour.

December 31, 2016 - Sea Day

We decided to sleep in this morning, with me up at 8 and Matt up at 9. We had breakfast in the room, then went to play a few rounds of Rummikub.
We followed that with Bingo. They finally had enough players to make it worthwhile. We still did not win anything. We followed that with lunch, and as it was raining, spent most of the afternoon in our cabin, except for some gambling time.
Tonight was formal night. Our dinner was in Prime 7, the steakhouse, and we had a very nice meal there, per usual.
We went back to the casino and won back what we lost in the afternoon. I went to check out Yakov Smirnoff, our guest entertainer for a few minutes. He was not getting much laughter.
His show ended at 11:15 and everyone gathered in the Atrium for the countdown to 2017. Crowded, but nice.
Just a nice New Years Eve.

January 1, 2017 - Sea Day

Another quiet sea day with us getting up at 8:30 and having breakfast in La Veranda. I went out to the pool for an hour and then we just hung out until the 11:30 Bingo games, where we once again, did not win. It was then time for lunch and a bit of gambling for me (while Matt watched a movie). I then went to talk with Bruce, the Cruise Consultant and booked a cruise in mid-2018 that we will not be taking. The reason you book one WAY out is that you get the benefits of booking the cruise online and you can move to a cruise in the future (up to mid-2019) that has not been published yet. It is a way to save on a future cruise. During that time, Matt watched a second movie for the day.
We finished the day with a nice dinner in Compass Rose and time in the casino. Matt watched another movie before bed.

January 2, 2017 - Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Everyone up at 6 with breakfast in the room before our 7:30 meeting time for the "Port Moresby Highlights" tour:

Papua New Guinea's lovely capital of Port Moresby comes alive on this revealing city tour of its most alluring attractions and historic sites.
From the pier, you'll drive directly to Paga Hill, where you'll be treated to a phenomenal panoramic view of the city, serene Fairfax Harbor, Tatana Island and the traditional stilt village of Hanuabada. Paga Hill is a great starting point and offers an all-encompassing look out over at the capital, which was named for Sir Fairfax Moresby, the father of British explorer John Moresby, who sailed here in 1873. Soon after descending, you'll find yourself at the bustling Koki Market where brief stop will be made. Continuing on, you will pass the contemporary-designed National Parliament House before arriving at the National Museum and Art Gallery.
The museum holds a vast collection of anthropological, archaeological and natural science items collected throughout Papua New Guinea. You may learn about traditional methods of hunting, early agricultural techniques, and even see examples of native artwork culled from around the country. Collections of a different sort await you at your next stop, the National Capital Botanical Gardens, where a wonderland of flora and fauna are found. You might meander through the orchid houses, walk down paths lined with exotic palms and marvel at animals like the tree-climbing kangaroos and showy Victoria Crowned Pigeons.
Finally, after this superb immersion in the local culture, you'll have the chance to shop for primitive Papuan artwork at PNG Arts before returning to the pier.

We loaded into non-air conditions vans with 16 people and did this tour in a different order than described.  We had a guide who was limited in her english, but did the best she could. We started at "Adventure Park/National Orchid Gardens". The park was not open to the general public, so there were only 32 of us there. What was to be a 30 minute stop turned into an hour and 15 minutes. The park had a nice display of Bird and Animal Life as well as the Orchid Garden. We also had a group of women performers. As we were getting ready to leave, 4 passengers from the other van that we were traveling with, decided that they had had enough of the heat/humidity and wanted out of the tour. We had to sit there for awhile while the guides tried to call for another van or taxi for them. We finally talked our guide into continuing since it did not affect our bus. She gave in and we were off to the Parliament House. When we arrived, we were greeted by a guide who took us inside. We were the only van allowed to do so. Matt snapped a shot inside (not really allowed) of the beautiful chambers. We then went to the Museum nearby and Matt once again got a few shots (again, not really allowed).
We ended our tour at the Koki Market which only had a few vendors as today was a National Holiday. There were a lot of clothes vendors and only 2 or 3 who had actual handicrafts. Matt found a carved warrior that we both liked and purchased that as our New Guinea item (see photo page).
We were back on the ship right at noon, so went to lunch and then I went out to the pool deck to tan for 2 hours while Matt worked on the photos that we had taken. He also watched 2 movies.
I have been listening to Carol Burnett's book "In Such Good Company" while tanning and enjoying her stories. I did get a bit burned in the face. It was about 90 degrees out today, but one of the tours (which included a flight from the airport) was late in getting back, so we did not leave until 7:30. The captain has the ship going at the full 19 knots to get to our next port by noon tomorrow.
It was back to the room for me to work on the webpage before dinner in the Compass Rose.
The ship was to leave port at 6:00
After dinner, we went to see the production show "Tuxedo", which to me was very dull. Not up to production standards.
We hit the casino next and on one of the first hands, the lady next to us hit a Royal Flush for $5,000. Fun to see.

January 3, 2017 - Alotau, New Guinea

We woke up around 8, had breakfast in La Veranda at 9 followed by a few games of Rummikub at the Coffee Corner. We were watching the many islands including Rogeia and Sariba. These all look very much like the islands in Fiji. You forget how close to that area we are. We docked in Alotau right around 11:00 and went out on the 5th deck to take photos of our "greeters".
We had a tour scheduled for today, but a few days ago, we decided to cancel that tour and just go ashore on our own. As we got our statue yesterday, there was no reason to get off the ship. Instead, we had lunch and then Matt scheduled a haircut (at 1:00) and I went out to the pool deck. No sooner did I get out there that it started to rain. Now we are even more glad that we did not do the tour.
At 2:00, one of the crew came through our room and went out to paint the balcony. Nice to see that they keep up the appearance of the ship, even a few months after it's full dry dock.
Matt stayed in the spa and had a massage while I stayed in the room and relaxed. We have noticed that many of the cabins on the ship have their shoes in the hallway. From reports that we heard, the tours got very muddy. Also, we found out that many of the van drivers went on strike and so several of the tours had to be cancelled.
We attended the "Gold, Platinum and Titanium" event which turned out to be a performance by our "greeters" this morning. Seems that the New Guinea group that was to have performed got stranded on the other side of the island when a bridge washed out from the rain. The group did 3 numbers.
Dinner followed in the Compass Rose and then casino time.
The ship was to sail at 9:00, but everyone was aboard at 6:30 and we sailed away. The Captain mentioned that this is only the 2nd time that a Regent ship has been to Alotau.
We skipped the violin player, who was the performer for the evening.

January 4, 2017 - At Sea

I got up at 7:00 and had an 8:00 haircut in the spa. Went back to the room, woke up Matt and we had breakfast in La Veranda.
I went out to the pool deck to tan for an hour and a half while Matt stayed in the room.
11:00 brought the 2nd boat drill of the cruise. It has to be done a second time if the cruise is over 14 days long.
12:00 was Bingo time and I won game #3 for $93. It was then lunch time. It was Tex-Mex day at the pool grill. In addition to that, La Veranda had ribs and turkey. Hard to make all those decisions, so I had a bit of each.
Matt spent the afternoon in the boutique while I spent more time by the pool and then winning back some of the money lost at the casino.
We had a later dinner (7:30) with Art and Sandy in Chartreuse before both of us returned to the casino. We skipped the show tonight....Cruise Director Ray's second puppet show.
Another quiet sea day.

January 5, 2017 - Cairns, Australia - Day 1

We were up at 6:15 with breakfast in the room before our 8:20 tour. On our way off the ship to the terminal, we had to pick up our passports and then go through Customs inside the terminal. It went quickly and we were off on the "Butterfly Sanctuary and Aussie Wildlife" excursion:

Departing by coach from the ship, you'll drive to Kuranda, a small township nestled in the majestic rainforest that borders Cairns. Upon arrival, enjoy a brief orientation tour of this charming village before visiting the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
This aviary is home to over 1,500 magnificent tropical butterflies, all local to the area, including the electric blue Ulysses butterfly. As the butterflies are all rainforest species, the aviary is designed to re-create their natural habitat, complete with a running stream. Here, you will have a chance to learn about the many interesting behavioral patterns and the life cycle of these winsome insects. This includes egg laying, courtship dances, and butterfly battles over territory to name just a few.
Following your time at the Butterfly Sanctuary, you will re-board your coach and proceed to the Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary, which forms part of this vast 100-acre park. Here, you can see koalas, wander amongst free-roaming kangaroos and wallabies, and visit an exciting nocturnal display. The Wildlife Sanctuary also gives visitors the chance to have a keepsake photo taken while holding an adorable koala. This photo is optional and not included in your tour cost.
At the conclusion of your tour, your coach will travel back down the mountain, affording you further scenic views of the Cairns region, the Coral Sea and Green Island before you are returned to the ship.

On our way over the mountain to the sanctuary, it began to downpour, but it stopped just as we got there.
The aviary did, indeed, have a lot of butterflies. Hard to get photos of them as they fly more than land. We also got to see them caring for the eggs and caterpillars.
We then drove the 10 minutes to the Wildlife Sanctuary to see the animals there. Although there were not a lot, they had a nice collection. The koalas were the highlight, and we did take the opportunity to have our photo taken with one. We wanted to make sure that we did that somewhere on the trip and it was guaranteed here.
It started to rain again while we were there and did not let up.
We got back to the pier shortly after noon and it was still raining. We had lunch in La Veranda and as we were finishing, the rain stopped.
We then went back to the cabin to work on the photos. Matt took a nap while I relaxed on our balcony. It began to rain again and continued through the evening.
The production company did a pre-dinner show, "Broadway In Concert", where the 6 singers performed songs from Broadway shows.
A later dinner in Compass Rose finished our evening as we have an early wakeup tomorrow for our tour.

January 6, 2017 - Cairns, Australia - Day 2

It was an early 5:45 wake up with breakfast in the room and our 7:15 tour: "Great Barrier Reef Adventure"

Experience a full day adventure visiting the world's richest marine habitat - Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
It's a short walk to where your luxury fast catamaran awaits to transfer you directly from Cairns to the spacious, stable Marine World activity platform. After a scenic sail of approximately 90-minutes, you will arrive at one of the most pristine, accessible and versatile Outer Great Barrier Reef sites available, where you will have access to all of its amenities. Your complete reef experience aboard the Marine World Pontoon will provide you with 4-hours at a private patch of reef and boasts the smallest pontoon passenger numbers, enhancing your overall enjoyment. During your time on the platform, you will have the opportunity to enjoy several inclusive activities in a uniquely relaxed, friendly and personalized atmosphere.
The Marine World platform has a spacious lower deck, with ample undercover seating, large easy access snorkel decks, an Underwater Reef Viewing Observatory and a children's safety swimming enclosure. The ultimate in comfort, Marine World also features a spacious upper sundeck with sun lounges (including shaded areas for summer), and access to fresh water showers and changing rooms. Reef life is located just meters away from the platform, making Marine World suitable for all age groups and swimming abilities from the novice snorkeler to the most discerning diver.
Complementing your day aboard, you will be treated to morning and afternoon tea, as well as an extensive hot/cold buffet lunch. Other optional refreshments and a licensed bar are available for an additional cost.
Following what will surely be an unforgettable day at one of the World's greatest natural treasures, you will retrace your route back to Cairns and your awaiting ship.

Well, not exactly as described. Our ship company was Sunlover Reef Cruises and we did NOT go to Marine World Pontoon (that is another company). We went out to Moore Reef.
The Sunlover pontoon did not have an upper deck and no lounges. They did have a nice snorkeling area, a free "submarine" ride (a la Disneyland) and a free glass bottom boat. We ate lunch right at 10:00 when they started serving, then went out for a snorkel. By doing that, we avoided the snorkel crowd. After the snorkel, we took the submarine ride, which did not show much and rocked back and forth so much that my stomach did not feel well the rest of the day. Our boat left the pontoon at 12:30 and we were back to our ship at 2:30. We worked on photos and then Matt took a nap. I went out on the balcony and watched our 5:30 sailaway.
Matt decided that we should eat dinner in the room, so we ordered, but it took a half hour longer than expected to arrive.
After dinner, I went down to the casino and Matt stayed in the room and watched a movie.

January 7, 2017 - Townsville, Australia

Up at 7:15 for a 9:00 tour, which was delayed by 15 minutes. It was "Townsville and Billabong Sanctuary", a 4 hour excursion:

A short 10 mile drive south of Townsville brings you to the Billabong Sanctuary. Nestled in the hills of the Mutatunga Range and set amongst rainforest, wetlands and eucalyptus trees, the Billabong Sanctuary provides an ideal environment for wildlife and is a popular spot for locals. While here, you will have a personalized guided tour by one of the Sanctuary's qualified rangers who will offer you expert insight into Australia's fascinating wildlife. You will also be afforded free time to explore the different habitats at your own pace. As you stroll along the pathways, you may see kookaburras, dingoes, Australian black swans, cassowary, cockatoos, birds of prey and other native wildlife. There also exists the opportunity to hand feed the free roaming kangaroos, take a photo with a cuddly koala or unusual wombat, or watch the menacing crocodiles being fed. You may also wish to stop at the on-site souvenir shop before leaving to purchase some mementos of your visit.
At the conclusion of your visit to the Sanctuary, your coach will take you back to Townsville. En route to the pier, you will be given a short tour of some of the city's landmark sights, such as the Strand Beachfront Promenade, the museum, casino and the historic buildings along Flinders Street as well as stopping at the top of Castle Hill for a photo opportunity of the panoramic views offered here of Townsville.

We did the tour in reverse as there were 4 busses doing this tour. The Sanctuary was the highlight with chances to take photos with the wombats, koalas and wallabies. It did sprinkle on and off while we were at the sanctuary, but the umbrellas are all we needed.  We did buy some "roo food" to give to the kangaroos and wallabies. We were back to the ship at 1:30 with lunch in La Veranda, then to the room to edit photos, etc before dinner.
Sail away was at 5:00, dinner at 6:30 in La Veranda and a bit of gambling finished out the evening.
Not a lot to write about, but a fun day!

January 8, 2017 - Sea Day

We got up late today...8:45 and had breakfast in the room. It was another quiet sea day.
We played a game of Rummikub while the room was made up and then played Bingo before lunch.
After lunch, I went out on the pool deck (it was VERY windy out there and very few people) while Matt watched a movie in the room.
Today not only had the winds, but the water was choppy. The Captain said that with the headwind coming at us, we may be a bit late getting into Brisbane tomorrow morning.
Mid-afternoon, I went to the casino and won $900 on a slot machine. A few more of those and we will be caught up. : )
We rested the rest of the afternoon and then joined Charles and Marybeth Clark for dinner in Prime 7.
That was followed by the Production Show "Vegas...the Show"...not the best show... and a bit of gambling.

January 9, 2017 - Brisbane, Australia - Day 1

We were told that instead of arriving at 10:00 in Brisbane, it would be closer to noon, and noon it was. We were up around 8, had a light breakfast and I went to the pool deck to sun for an hour. The lunch facilities opened at 11:00 and so, we had a light lunch there. Our original 10:45 tour time was moved to 12:30, but did not get going until 1:15. It was "Leisurely Brisbane", a 3 hour bus tour:

Travel by coach for a delightful tour of Brisbane and its surrounding areas. You will no doubt notice that beneath Brisbane's country-like charm, there is a big city's vitality. The Capital of Queensland, Brisbane is also the state's historic and cultural capital, seat of government and a major seaport. The city has also served as host for World Expo 1988 and the Goodwill Games in 2001. Brisbane was destined to become one of the bright stars of Australia's colonization and today, with a population of more than one million, it is the third largest of Australia's cities. Enjoying a semi-tropical climate, this lovely city is lushly landscaped with jacarandas, flame trees, bougainvilleas and numerous other flowers and shrubs.
Your tour will take you past the Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the old Customs House, the Cultural Centre, the magnificent Botanical Gardens and many other historical and landmark sites. You may notice that Brisbane has the look of a city that has recently grown up. Much of the old areas of the city have been bulldozed and replaced with glittering glass and concrete towers, hotels and paved shopping malls. The meandering Brisbane River, the lush inner city parks and the unusual blend of historic and modern architecture make this a truly unforgettable city.

There was only one bus doing this tour, so it was not crowded, plus we only made one stop at the top of Mt. Coot-Tha for a look out over the entire city. Otherwise, was a quiet tour with a good look at what the city is about.
We were back on the ship a bit early (3:45) and after a few minutes of rest, it was time to join Neil and Massi for dinner in the City. I met Neil and Massi back on my 2nd cruise in 2007 and Matt and I were able to cruise with them again in 2014. We ate at the Staghorn Beer Garden at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. They had great steaks. So glad we were able to catch up with Neil and Massi.
We were back at the ship at 9:45, worked on today's photos and went to bed early, as we have a long 8 hour tour tomorrow.

One note here...I am NOT happy with Regent tonight. Back when we booked this cruise and did our restaurant reservations, we booked one of the specialty restaurants for the 4th. Before we left for the cruise, Regent cancelled our reservation for that night telling us there was going to be the "BBQ Deck Party" and that the specialty restaurants would be closed that night and that they had moved our reservation to another sea day. Fine....but the Deck Party did not happen on the 4th. They did it tonight, which is an overnight port. Many people, including ourselves had made other plans. The party was only announced last night. I am not mad that they did the party and not mad that we missed it. I would rather spend time with friends. I am mad that they did not do this on any of the nights that we were at sea. That only excluded 3 nights. Bad planning on Regent's part.

January 10, 2017 - Brisbane, Australia - Day 2

Up at 7:00 with breakfast in the room followed by our 8:45  8 hour tour, "A Day at the Gold Coast":

When people think of Queensland, they often refer to it as Australia's Sunshine State. Renowned for its dazzling white sand beaches, surfing, swimming, shopping and relaxing atmosphere, your tour will take you to perhaps what is the most famous stretch of beaches in Queensland - the Gold Coast.
Boarding your coach at the pier, you will drive directly to the Gold Coast. Upon arrival at Tiki Village Wharf you will board your boat and enjoy a relaxing cruise in calm waters at Surfers Paradise and the Broadwater, viewing the beautiful homes and lifestyles of the rich and famous. View some of the world's most beautiful high-rise apartments and ever-changing Surfers Paradise skyline.
Following your water explorations, you will transfer to Q-Deck for the best bird's eye view of the Gold Coast. Australia's only beachside observation deck, Q-Deck takes you to the highest point above the Gold Coast and provides stunning 360 degree views from the surf to the hinterland and beyond. Rising 770 ft. into the sky, the observation deck is located on level 77 of the iconic Q1 residential tower. Experience one of the world's fastest lift rides and see spectacular 360 degree views of the Gold Coast through coin operated, high powered telescopes.
After a morning of sightseeing at Surfers Paradise you will have some free time which will give you ample opportunity to enjoy all the area has to offer on your own, at your own pace. Sun lovers will no doubt want to take advantage of sunning on one of the world-famous beaches before enjoying lunch at one of the local cafés. There is also a wide variety of shops available where you may purchase some souvenirs or casual wear. Perhaps you'll simply want to take advantage of the unhurried pace of the day by finding a comfortable spot to relax and do some people-watching. Today, the choice is entirely yours to make. Before disembarking the coach, your escort will advise you of the time and location to meet for the return trip to the ship.
On your way back to the ship, you will receive a brief tour of Brisbane.

We did this in a different order, starting with going to the top of Q-Deck and seeing the overview of the Gold Coast. This is one of the nicer tower experiences. Well maintained and the ride up was FAST (as advertised). 77 stories in 44 seconds. We then went to Surfer's Paradise with 2 1/2 hours of free time. We had lunch at KFC and followed that with shopping and ice cream before going on the Wyndham Cruise (which was only for our 2 busses). We got there at 2:15 and the Captain was NOT going to let us even board until 2:45 and start at 3:00, which would have gotten us back to the ship late. The tour guides huddled with the Captain and all of a sudden, we were able to get aboard and started sailing just after 2:30. Instead of an hour and a half tour as advertised, we got a one hour tour, but that was fine.
We got back on the bus and aboard the ship at 5:00.
Dinner was in Compass Rose, followed by our usual gambling. Tonight we turn the clocks ahead again one hour (for the last time).

January 11, 2017 - Sea Day

Awake at 8, breakfast in La Veranda, then tanning for me and shopping in the boutique for Matt. We followed that with Bingo, where I won the last game, but had to share with another passenger. Won just enough to cover the game cost. Lunch followed in La Veranda, then it was time to start packing.
I went to the casino in the afternoon before we had to turn in our "Regent Rewards Points" (for playing Bingo) for Regent logo merchandise. I ended up getting 7 of the Regent nylon-ish short sleeve T-shirts. I used one on this cruise (that I got last cruise) and it worked great in the humid weather.
We had dinner in Compass Rose , an hour in the casino (where Matt did quite well), then back to the room to finish packing.
By then, it was time to get to bed before an early...and long...day tomorrow.

January 12, 2017 - Sydney - Day 1

A LONG DAY! Up at 6:00 with breakfast in La Veranda and out of the room at 8:00 and to the theatre to wait for our color and number to be called to disembark the ship. That came at 8:45. I breezed through customs, but Matt had to go to the Agriculture Inspection area because of the wooden items that we bought. We took our suitcases outside and they were loaded into a truck to be delivered to the hotel while we were touring.
Onto our bus and our first day of touring was underway. We started with a Sydney Harbor Cruise on a huge ship that held all 320 of the passengers that are doing the 3 day post-cruise program. After passing the Sydney Opera House, a buffet lunch was served. This was about a 3 hour cruise.
We then re-boarded our busses and traveled to the town of Manly where we had an hour to shop and walk the beachfront. We found a McDonalds and had an ice cream sundae.
We then rode back towards Sydney with a tour of some of the small neighborhoods.
Arrival at the Four Seasons Hotel was at 4:15 and they got us to our rooms in quick order....and our bags were already in our room.
Katja, the Destinations Manager from the ship had made arrangements with the hotel to be sure we got a corner room with a view right out the window of the Opera House and the Harbor. Quite nice!
Matt and I then took a quick walk of the neighborhood and found "Neptune's Palace", a malaysian and chinese, ha'lal cuisine restaurant. We ate from the chinese part of the menu and it was a nice change from the ship's offerings.
Back to the hotel to get clothes ready for tomorrow and to crash. Another long tour tomorrow.

January 13, 2017 - Sydney - Day 2

Another Long Day! Up at 6:00 and down for breakfast at 6:50. They had a long line of guests waiting for breakfast and the hotel did not seem to have things under control. I think it is due to not enough staff. They were not bussing tables, so tables were not ready. They only had 1-2 people checking guests in and one would carry the list so the other could not check off people. People who arrived after 7:00 were not able to be seated and have time for breakfast before their tour. They were not happy campers. At least we were seated and had a couple of minutes to run back to the room before our 8:00 tour.
Our guide, ran at the mouth. I have never seen anyone talk so much in my life...and not be understood by over half the people on the bus. Part of it was his monotone, the other was his volume. Before the end of the tour, one of the German guests finally asked him to be quiet for at least 10 minutes. It was a bit much.
Anyway, the tour: We got into our bus at 8:00 and headed to the Blue Mountains to "Scenic World"  where we boarded the "Scenic Railway", a minute ride down a 52 degree hill (supposedly, the steepest in the world). Nice, but quick, then a walk through a forest and over to "Scenic Skyway" back up the hill to view "The Three Sisters", a group of 3 Mountain peaks.
We then boarded the bus and went to another outlook of the Three Sisters.
This was followed by lunch at the Fairmont Resort. We arrived at 12:00, but lunch was not served until 1:00, so we just sat at the tables and waited. They had a choice (I say choice because 2 were listed) of beef or fish. They just served beef to one person, fish to next, beef to next, etc. This is not great as I do not eat fish. They did not want to serve me beef and I told them that I had put in a request that I did not eat fish. They finally brought me beef. Desert was served the same way. A fruit curd to one, chocolate mousse to the next. That was fine as Matt wanted the curd and I wanted the mousse.
We left the resort at 2:00 and drove to the town of Leura. We were scheduled to stay 30 minutes, but the guide said an hour. A small mutiny later, it was back to a half hour. Walk from one end of the town, down 2 blocks and to the bus.
Then it was back on the bus at 3:00 towards Sydney. This is when the guide just kept on and on about the different birds on the Australian coins and their habits, mating, etc. An hour into that was when he was asked to shut up. He said very little the rest of the way and we were back at the hotel at 4:45.
Matt took a nap, as he is still not feeling well, before we went out to dinner to McDonalds. Neither of us felt like eating much. Back to the Hotel to work on photos and just rest.

January 14, 2017 - Sydney - Day 3

We got up at 8 and went down for breakfast and once again, there was the line. 15 minutes to get a seat.
After breakfast, we went out for a walk of the neighborhood and came across a street market. Lots of souvenir items. Nothing really of interest.
Back to the Hotel where I went out to the pool to get some sun.
We then went to lunch at Hurricane Grill where we had ribs. Their half rack is the size of a rack and a half back home.
Back to the Hotel where I rested and Matt re-packed all of the wood items into his suitcases.
A quick run to Subway for a dinner sandwich, which we ate in the room, then watched TV until bedtime.
We heard booming outside and got to watch the fireworks from Darling Harbor (where our first harbor cruise took off from), which we could see from our room. Nice way to end the vacation!

January 15, 2017 - Sydney/ Flight Home

I got up at 6:30, Matt at 7:00. We had to have our bags packed and ready to go at 8:00. At 7:45, we went down to breakfast and there was NO LINE! What a
nice surprise. Back up to the room to get our carry-on bags and go to the bus at 8:45. We arrived at the airport at 10:15 and had to walk our bags the length of the airport (as there was only one place the bus could park).
Check-in with United was a breeze, as we are in Business Class and there was nobody in that line.
We went through the Priority TSA checkpoint. They did question the bird sculpture. It seems that someone tried to get real birds through in the past few days and he wasn't going to let that happen. Matt explained it was a large sculpture and he was let through.
Up to the Air New Zealand lounge (United does not have one at this airport, but they are all part of the "Star Alliance".
We waited the hour and a half before boarding our flight at 11:40 (it is a 12:30 flight). I like boarding early. Lets me get all settled in and relaxed.
This was a 13 1/2 hour direct flight with lunch and then breakfast served. I got a few hours sleep on the plane, Matt...not so much.
There was a bit of turbulence right after we took off, a few times during the middle of the flight and again about an hour and a half away from San Francisco.
We landed at 7:00 and breezed through Customs. The Global Entry makes it VERY fast. No forms to fill out, just go to a kiosk, scan your passport, click a few buttons, have your photo and fingerprints taken by the kiosk and you are done. No lines.
Eric from Vintage Limousine was only a few minutes away and we were off for home, arriving at 9:00.
Another great vacation! Now to try to settle back into the day-to-day home life.