This morning we awoke to a bright sunny morning in gorgeous Cairns and headed to a mid morning flight to Sydney. The Cairens Airport is almost like new…clean and neat as can be…very orderly and well organized….and a very simple security system….and after a short coffee break we were on Virgin Australia bound for Sydney. We were met at the airport by the transfer service and got to the Marriiott at the Quay by 4 PM….waited for Carrie and kids to arrive at 6…and then set off for the evening. After a quick dinner we headed down to the pier area which is about 3 blocks…and board the Manley Ferry…a 15 minute ferry ride to Manley Island…going right out past the Opera House while it was still light. We spent about an hour walking around the quaint island of Manley…down to the beach…then back on the Ferry…and back towards the sparkling lights of Sydney and the lit up Opera House. As it looks on my web page…really nothing like it in such a magnificent setting right on the water at Sydney Harbor. Breathtaking at night….and a beautiful building all the time. Literally a landmark for Sydney for decades.
Sydney is a beautiful city…the setting right on the water is beautiful….and Quay and the nearby Rocks area are both old and new….with high rise buildings looking down on history ….. Just a wonderful city, and we are just beginning to have 3 days here before we board the ship.
The plan is to have a “quiet day” here…as Carrie has been going strong….as have we…so we will stay in the downtown area and just enjoy the Rocks and the Quay…should be fun. More to come.
We had decided early on to do some “catch up” on our last day so started off by going to the old Train Station that Audy had remembered. Still there and still old…but a new section built on as well as a huge underground West End Mall…that runs back under the entire busy traffic corner. Then went across the street to the Libri Department store…found a good cap for me and some clothes for Audy…great prices.
Back to the hotel to pack and get ready to board the ship…and left the room about 4 PM to taxi to the boat dock about 1/4 mile away. The greeting from Viking starts at the curb when they get your luggage and take it directly to your room (we had it all labeled in advance)….and immediately felt at home and very comfortable. The folks at the front desk were perfect…check in took maybe 2 minutes.
These Viking River Cruise boats, which are also called shipped, and referred to as a ship by the staff…..are specially made long boats made in Germany…and made for this specific purpose…to transport people up and down and around the Rivers of Europe and the world. Initially designed for the European Rivers…they now are used worldwide, and have become very popular. Viking River Cruises was one of the first to do this…and they are the largest fleet now, and voted #1 by a number of Travel rating services. Clearly #1 at this stage for us.
The first night was introductory…dinner at 7, etc…an outstanding briefing on what was planned for Monday….just a great professional opening experience to start the Viking River Cruise.
Monday started with an early sit down or buffet breakfast in the restaurant, and they only have one big restaurant, but there are options for sit down or buffet, and very well laid out. At 8 we exited the ship and boarded the Mercedes Benz busses for the 4 hour Budapest Panorama Included Tour. . Very well done, and saw areas, such as the Hero’s Square, that we had not seen before…and ended up on Castle Hill at the Matthias Church. This in itself is almost worth the trip to Budapest, but the guide gave us a complete tour of the magnificent church, which sits on the top of the Buda hill overlooking Budapest and Hungary, for that matter. Photos, of which I have many, will attest to both the indoor and outside grandeur. I know this will sound like a record, but one of the most outstanding churches we have ever seen, or been in.
So, in Budapest, 2 magnificent churches, St Stephens Basilica and Matthias Church….the overwhelming Parliament Building right on the river, and the Castle Hill area and Gellert Hill overlooking the Danube River….which is the center of the entire area as it goes under the 9 massive bridges, including the historic and famous Chain Bridge.
The 4 hour bus tour ended up about 30 miles to the north, where we caught up with the Ship and re-boarded….lunch was ready…and off we went up the River…and the days activities on the Ship began. A full schedule from lectures to a Champaign welcome party to the Captains briefing …all very well done.
Our room is more spacious than and on the Cruise Ship….and each room has a full glass window-wall to view the river and the villages and cities that we pass. The beds are comfortable; the rooms are so quiet….the bathroom is plenty big, and the storage areas are great.
At this point, for us…this is the nicest set up we have had on the Cruises…can’t wait for the rest of today.
And, Viking Cruises will be added to my list of Cultural Events and Activities that I will be emphasizing…as this is among the very best way to fully appreciate the culture and history of Europe and the world for that matter….this will sell, as it has over the years, and I am happy to be part of “this world”.
After the trip I will start listing the upcoming Viking Cruise Ship trips, programs, tours, etc…and having been on 3 of them within the past year…can give first hand experience thoughts…so stay tune…all for now…Tuesday morning, Dec 12th……