Days 176 – 181 (Nov 24th – Nov 29th) At sea and Tasmania, Australia. Hobart and Port Arthur

Thanks to the captain avoiding the worst of the weather we had 4 days at sea. Previously these have been fine, calm days with warm air and being able to sit on the rear of deck 7 all afternoon. Changes in our latitude and the weather systems might impact both of these so it was with some trepidation we recommenced sea day mode. Would the entertainment be changed?

Luckily, the first day’s highlight was returning to winning form at trivia. And, given we had time to spare, we arranged all our prizes to take a memorial photograph

Trivia Spoils

As previously stated, the food onboard is good but repetitive and we had spoken to a few others about the possibility of arranging a brunch. Breakfast onboard finishes at 10am and just occasionally it would be nice to have the chance of “a very American all day breakfast”. This presented a great opportunity for a sea day, so having asked Frederico, head of food and beverage, it was agreed to have it at lunch time on Sunday 27th. Perfect, egg, bacon and mimosas were promised and delivered in style at our table placed strategically in the midst of the restaurant. Toast, marmalade and marmite just finished it off superbly. Already the next one is planned for our final weekend but we may be expanding our presence..

The weather was too cold to sit out and increasingly rough but this did present a lot of opportunities for sea bird spotting with 4 species of albatross and a few new species including 2 species of prion, tiny little seabirds that are barely visible from deck

Fairy prion
Broad-billed prion

The 36 hours prior to landfall weren’t the most comfortable as the ship was lurching and pitching in the rough seas and high winds and these, plus the spray, made going on deck a risky business. Probably the worst bit was the banging as the ship went through turbulent waters and at night especially, this could be quite disturbing. However, seasickness there was none, prevented by a homemade remedy containing a high percentage of Jamiesons.

Arriving in Hobart, the sun was out and the sea was calm. It was so nice to see land again although the temperatures were quite low. Hobart started as a penal colony and has also enjoyed a heyday as a whaling centre in the 1830s. Today the wharfside warehouses of Salamanca Place are filled with shops and restaurants, and the settlers cottages in Battery Park are lovingly restored by proud owners. Hobart is Tasmania’s main cruise port, having Australia’s deepest harbour. The port is located on Derwent River, while the city’s background is dominated by Mount Wellington. Hobart is the country’s capital city of Tasmania, which lies approximately 240 km (150 mi) south of mainland Australia.

The city has some lovely buildings reflecting its English history and some parts look very English, including the weather on this particular day.

Hobart used to be a centre of jam-making and this is one of the buildings used back in the day

Later that evening we dined at one of the many high class eating establishments in town

Walking back we passed one of those photo opportunities begging for a witty caption

Overnight we sailed round the coast a few miles to dock at Port Arthur, a small town (500pop) and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula. Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most significant heritage areas and officially Tasmania’s top tourist attraction.

Before immersing ourselves in history, we were booked on Robert Pennicott’s award-winning 3 hour coastal wilderness cruise in an area reminiscent of the Algarve or the Jurassic Coast. The wind was bitterly cold and after a short coach ride across the peninsula we were provided with windproof smocks, ginger tablets to prevent seasickness and boarded a nautical version of a saturn rocket, but without the walls or windows.

Each seat had a seatbelt and these were needed at times as we powered through the occasionally rough seas into a freezing gale. But the scenery was superb as we headed in the direction of Tasman Island, beyond which is nothing until the Antarctic.

Seals and cormorants abounded plus we saw a small pod of short-beaked common dolphins and some albatross and Australasian gannets

The Port Arthur Prison and Coal Mines are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation protecting the convict history of Australian settlement and were located right next to where we were dropped off. The imposing Penitentiary, the chilling Separate Prison, the 4 Convict Church, and the ruins of the coal mine community bring to life the earliest European arrivals in this land.

The prison is set in an very English-like landscape, with interesting trees and gardens

Plus quite a nice cafe, with a display which nicely summaries the Australian tendency to abbreviate everything

Tassie wines and beers were also available..

Next to the cafe was a display area plus some terminals so us Brits could check whether anyone with our surnames had been sent over as a convict

We sailed south, out of the harbour and turned east past Tasmin Island before moving north up the Tasmanian coast.

As we passed Tasman Island, huge flocks of sea birds passed down the port side and across the bow of the ship.

Another sea day beckoned, to be followed by adventures on Phillip Island..