World Wonders Cruise Diary – Day 34 – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Cruise day 34 – Feb 7
After leaving Dunedin’s harbor we sailed around the southern tip of New Zealand and cruised through Doubtful Sound. After looking at the jaw-dropping landscapes there we continued on to Dusky Sound. These weren’t stops for the ship, but rather a day of sailing through some of the most gorgeous glacier-carved sounds in the world within New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. These pristine waterways contain incredible steep and heavily-forested mountains with waterfalls measured not in hundreds of feet, but in thousands!
These pictures don’t do justice, but they’re all we can offer. Unfortunately, the third sound we were to explore, Milford Sound, was closed to marine traffic due to massive rains and mudslides that had made the waterway perilous. We were happy that we had previously traversed Milford sound – exactly 14 years ago to the day – on our last cruise here, but we would have loved to see it again and it was a pity that the rest of the passengers missed it.
Crossing the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia was the roughest we’ve experienced so far – high waves and brutal winds kept everyone inside the ship, with many folks suffering varying degrees of either seasickness, dizziness or bad moods.
It was Mona Liza’s birthday and she wasn’t feeling very well, but amazingly she seemed to snap back to perfect health when presented with a delicious cake and a bottle of bubbly, courtesy of the Viking crew. I tell you it was a miracle, she was cured! Viking came through again with such a nice surprise.
Hobart Sights Excursion
An early morning arrival at Hobart, Tasmania, our first port of call in Australia, gave us a good view of the port-side city that we would spend a cloudy day touring. Although we were now in Australia, the situation of homes and businesses filling seemingly every square inch of land continues. However, the population of 220,000 has managed to keep everything accessible; many homes are within walking distance of downtown businesses, restaurants and shopping areas.
The same goes for the port – although we didn’t have much time here because of our multiple excursions, we could tell there was easy access from the port to several miles of pleasant walking to parks, historical sites and several overlooks:
Hobart is the capital city of the island state of Tasmania, and a lot has happened since our visit 14 years ago. The population has grown by over 50,000, and the city’s modernization is easy to see. Typical 2-3 bedroom homes with a view but not really fancy otherwise go for around a million bucks (I don’t know where the young people get that kind of money!). Traffic didn’t seem too bad, but our tour guide reminded us that most working people walk or use alternate ways to get around, since parking is at a premium.
As usual, the bus tour included a history lesson, and we learned that Tasmanians are proud of their rich convict history. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries about one-fifth of all convicts transported by the British Empire were brought here. They worked off their sentences by building roads and infrastructure, then were released to begin their lives of freedom. Many of the current residents are descendants of those convicts, and they’re proud of it.
We visited Australia’s oldest brewery – Cascade Brewery – for pictures of the buildings, but we didn’t get to tour their operation 😦 At least we were given an hour to enjoy the beautiful Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens:
On the way back to the ship we crossed the Tasman bridge, an interesting time to hear about the 1975 Tasman Bridge Disaster.
This excursion was a good introduction and update covering the city and its outlying areas.
Barilla Bay Oyster Farm and Winery Excursion
This 4-hour excursion with 2 fun stops was a blast! It started as another bus sightseeing drive through the city on the way to our first stop, the Barilla Bay Oyster Farm. We both like fresh oysters, and we got a short overview about oyster farming and grading, and how this place grows millions of them every year:
We next visited another operation on the same property. Gillespie’s Ginger Beer is bottled and shipped from a building right here. We thought it tasted just so-so, but knowing that ginger is helpful for seasickness we bought some of the non-alcoholic variety for you-know-who…
Yet another enterprise here is catching and processing abalone. We knew nothing about that, but our guide schooled us in how it’s caught in the deep waters of Tasmania, then shucked, washed and dried for several weeks to several months. It’s a cultural delicacy that’s exported mainly to China and Japan, and wow is it expensive! She explained that the Tasmanian abalone industry is the world’s largest sustainable wild abalone resource, providing around 25% of the annual global harvest.
Finally, it was time to go back to the main building and enjoy a half-dozen freshly shucked oysters, and we weren’t disappointed!
Another fun stop, with the energetic winery owners guiding our group through the story of how their enterprise came about, using the area’s favorable weather to produce good wines. I’m not much of a Riesling guy, but we both liked theirs so we bought a bottle of it plus one of their higher-end Pinot Noirs.
We’ve been on countless winery tours and tastings over the past 20 years, and we never get tired of them. Making wine is the kind of endeavor I could see myself getting involved in if we lived in the right place. Those were my thoughts as we left this beautiful appellation for the scenic drive back to our beautiful ship.
That evening we had a Tomahawk Steak dinner. It was huge, and we felt so guilty that we couldn’t finish it 😦
Finally, the Viking Vocalists along with the cruise director and assistant director put on a great show: