On March 4, 2016, David and Marie Johnston boarded the Virgin Australian Boeing 777 at LAX for a 15-hour flight to Sydney, Australia. They lost a day when crossing the International Date Line, and checked into the Park Royal Hotel in Darling Harbor. This was the first 7,395 miles in their journey around the world.
In Sydney, they boarded the Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria, their home for the next few weeks. The luxury liner has three swimming pools, seven restaurants, 13 bars, a ballroom and a theater. From their stateroom, David and Marie had a perfect nighttime view of the Sydney Opera House as they left port.
Their first port-of-call was close to 500 miles up the Gold Coast of Australia to Brisbane; then on to Airlie Beach where they met two people from the Johnston’s hometown of Belfast, Ireland.
On their way to Darwin, Australia, the ship went around the extreme north of Australia, then crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria, where David says the weather was very wet, hot and humid. Arriving in Darwin at 8 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, they toured the area in a two-deck open bus, and their dining companions aboard the cruise ship gave them green leprechaun hats.
The next leg of their journey took them almost 1,100 miles across the Timor Sea to Bali, Indonesia. In Bali, they had time for a refreshing drink on the beach and a picture with The Friday Flyer. Then it was on to Bruni, also known as Borneo, five degrees north of the equator, with its high temperatures and humidity.
At the “Sultan’s Grand Mosque” in Bruni, David learned the Sultan has 150 Rolls Royces and 350 Bentleys. “That makes my two Bentleys look pitiful,” says David. “How many do you need?” Next up was Vietnam, where they visited Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Nha Trang. They hired a taxi for the 75-minute ride from their ship to Saigon, where they visited Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica and one of the large marketplaces.
In Nha Trang, they took a tour in single-seat pedicabs. Of that experience, David says, “It was very exciting as there were about 30 pedicabs in our group and there were hordes of small motorcycles, making the journey a challenge.”
On ship, David had joined the guest choir, which practiced every day (when the ship wasn’t in port) and got the chance to perform in the Queen’s Ballroom on March 28 and two subsequent dates later in the voyage. Each leg of the trip brought new faces and new voices, but David enjoyed the experience his entire time at sea. Marie joined a knitting group that met in the Commodore’s Lounge, overlooking the ocean. Both of them attended regular shipboard talks provided by a lineup of interesting lecturers.
The first leg of their journey concluded in Hong Kong, where they arrived just as dawn was breaking. They took a tour of the bustling city and found the stores “very expensive.” Their daytime tour took them to what is locally known as “The Peak,” the highest mountain on Hong Kong island with views of Victoria Harbor, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands. They also took a nighttime tour on an open-top bus to see the city lights.
The first leg of their journey, from Sydney to Hong Kong, was 5,587 miles.
On its way to Cape Town, South Africa, the Queen Victoria’s next port-of-call was Singapore.
To be continued . . .