Day 53 - Tuesday 3rd March - Melbourne
I set the alarm nice and early for Melbourne for two reasons - one to see the sail in, and two to buy a mega phone/ internet/ text package which is only available in Australia and the USA! With the help of the friendly man at 3 mobile, who had a panic when he realised I was ringing from abroad and shouted "this is a chargeable call! Hang up! I will call you back! Quickly, quickly!" and then proceeded to credit my account with the amount I had been charged for the call (I even made a small profit!), I eventually managed to buy my add on package, so rang my mum to celebrate! :-)
We went up on deck at sunrise time to discover we were nearly there already and that the sky was too cloudy to actually see the sunrise! But we were greeted with four hot air balloons floating through the sky, as if to welcome us! We watched the ship approach the dock, with lovely views of the nearby beaches, small piers, and the city skyline in the distance.
We had breakfast and then went to meet for our tour - Arcades and Alleyways. After a slight delay, we headed ashore and met our guide for the morning. She walked us through the port to the nearby tram station where we caught a tram to the city centre - far quicker and more exciting than the shuttle bus the ship was providing! She warned us to hold on tight as some tram drivers thought they were Grand Prix drivers, and sure enough it was a quite a speedy ride!
We got off at Queen Street in the centre, and this is where our walking tour began. Our guide took us inside many buildings which we probably wouldn't have thought of entering if left to our own devices, such as the gorgeous gothic bank and Old Melbourne Stock Exchange, which has a beautiful mosaic floor, towering arches, and stained glass windows inside! We also went into a business building with an amazing domed roof, where they had kept all the original architecture but built a modern building around it. It was then time to walk through the historic arcades, seeing beautiful murals on the ceilings, tiled floors, intricate arches, stained glass windows, and glamorous shops. My favourite window display by far was in the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, where there were patisseries galore! There were also a number of weird statues up above the shops in some of the arcades, such as the creepy Gog and Magog who are apparently based on statues in London. We walked through a number of interesting alleyways also, some with walls dedicated to street art, some full of coffee shops and eateries (everyone was getting increasingly hungry by this point!), and some with modern art pieces installed. One was full of large rubbish bins which are apparently a popular location for bridal photos?!?!?! Back out in the open we walked past many more majestic buildings, such as the imposing Town Hall, the old General Post Office (which is now an H&M store!), the amazing Flinders Street Station, and the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral, which we also looked inside. This took us to Federation Square, a cultural central space in the city. It is full of modern architecture, cafes, and deckchairs which people can sit on in the sunshine and enjoy the FREE WIFI!!!! This was where we finally got to have some refreshments (a drink and a yummy raspberry muffin!) at one of the cafes. All refreshed, we set off again, this time for views of the Yarra River, the business district, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the biggest in the world). Then back through some more arcades and alleyways to return us to the tram station.
At this point we were given the options of either returning to the ship with the group, or taking our tram ticket and making our own way back later. We chose the second option because next we had one of the highlights of our cruise coming up - meeting up with a very old friend :-) We met up in Federation Square and then went for a lovely walk along the Southbank area, admiring the high rise buildings, blue sky, and sun which was beginning to glitter on the water. We stopped at a local food festival area for a drink and a good natter, and for me to open my very exciting 'welcome to Melbourne' present! :-) We then had a wander through the extravagant Crown Casino complex, where the sun doesn't shine and much of Melbourne's money is made! We walked back along the promenade on the other side of the river, looking at the bridge of true love padlocks, the black swans, and the incredible buildings all around. All too soon it was sadly time to say goodbye (until next Christmas in England!). Thank you Lindsay for a lovely hour! [JL: Lindsay is not at all old. She is a gorgeous 30 something, see the photos on Facebook. Thank you Lindsay, we had a great time on our walk].
We spent a little more time in Federation Square, enjoying the luxury of free wifi, before making our way back to the tram. We managed to find the right tram stop, and get on the right tram going in the right direction - woohoo! We were soon back at Port Melbourne, and since I'd already missed afternoon tea, we decided to go for a little wander along the beach just next to the dock, enjoying the views of the palm tree lined road and the skyscrapers in the distance.
We got back on the ship and went through the usual security procedures including the bag X-ray machine. I was then asked a question I have never been asked and probably will never be asked again: "Ma'am, do you have a boomerang in your bag?!" I was puzzled for a moment and then realised that the souvenir magnet I had bought was boomerang shaped! I searched through my bag and found it, and was allowed to proceed. Unlike the poor woman next to me who was most annoyed at having her full size boomerangs confiscated!! "We're just taking precautions - you have no idea the sorts of things we see people do on cruise ships ma'am!" she was told when she professed her innocent intentions! She was told they would be safely stored and she would have them back in Southampton! [JL: the security lady really should have asked me: "Sir, is that a boomerang in your pocket or... Etc... Etc...]
We had just enough time for a quick shower before dinner. From there we went to another lovely classical concert, and then to see an act called Viva Voce - 4 British guys who sang a range of pop and opera songs. And then an early night ready for another long day ashore tomorrow!