Our first ever cruise was on the Mediterranean (back in the pre-blog days), and at least view-wise, it spoiled me for all our other cruises. Every morning when we'd wake up, outside the ship would be a new, beautiful view. And while New Zealand and Australia didn't come up short on beauty, the port-side views were all fairly industrial. That was until Sydney, where the ship was docked at Circular Quay, between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Sarah made the point that it's good that we went from Auckland to Sydney and not the other way around, because every deck-side view after this would have been a terrible disappointment.
There were no tours this today, it was just the two of us wandering around the city. We started off heading towards the Harbour Bridge. Some folks (I'll call them 'fools') can opt into a full scale bridge climb, where you walk along the catwalk to the summit of the bridge (no cameras allowed, but they're gracious enough to take a picture for you.) This costs two-hundred dollars. For less than ten dollars you can climb to the top of one of the pillars, which offers comparable views, where you can take your camera, and where you don't have to wear a jackass harness and jumpsuit. So yeah, we went with Option B. Back on the ground again, we spent some time shopping in The Rocks--a convict town 200 years ago, The Rocks is now a series of streets filled with shops and restaurants. We managed to finish off the last of the souvenir shopping, and then we stopped for lunch at a nice place (name forgotten) with a garden patio hidden around back.
We dropped our swag off back at the boat, and then walked along to the opposite end of the docks where the Sydney Opera House is. It's an insane structure--like all the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona it makes you think, "Who would let anyone build this?" Of course, it all turned out pretty decently in the end. We took a guided tour which was excellent. Within, there are two major stages--the Concert Hall and the Opera House--in addition to other smaller stages. We started in the Opera House, where stage techs had just finished striking the set for Carmen and were putting together the La Boheme set. We were told that it is one of the busiest stages in the world. There are typically two different shows a day, and the company generally cycles five to six different shows throughout a season, to spare the voices of the leads. The Concert Hall was next, where we were permitted to snap a few photos, and it's the most impressive stage to see. It seats over 2,500 people, has the largest pipe organ in the world, and is built so that the acoustics provide a two and a half second delay (which is apparently the perfect delay for auditorium music). After the tour, we were kicking ourselves for not arranging to go to a concert, but we also committed to coming back again some day.
Because the ship was doing an overnight, we'd discussed the idea of going to a pub in the city after dinner. But everyone was pretty much exhausted, so we decided instead to sit out and have a few drinks on deck. (We still ended up closing the bar out, to our credit.) Great way to end the cruise, though. Opera House on one side, Harbour Bridge on the other, and nearly all the friends we'd made hanging around, throwing back one more drink.