The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are the city’s most famous landmarks.
The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are the city’s most famous landmarks. Shirley Sinclair

Sightseeing by sea in Sydney

ONLY hours after boarding, the Phillip Saloon aboard MV Captain Cook’s Explorer is filling with laughter and chatter as 92 passengers – mostly strangers from all over the world – become friends and companions.

While being entertained by easy-listening and hot jazz bands each night, we are served and treated like royalty by Captain Cook Cruises’ international crew, which hails from countries as far-flung as Poland, Turkey, Peru, Nepal and Estonia.

Like ships in the night, we have found ourselves at the same place at the same time, sharing Sydney Harbour – one of the world’s great expanses of water – on a two-night Sydney Weekender cruise.

Soon we have friendly faces to drink champagne toasts to, share a tale with around the decks, or sit down with over a quick coffee and croissant before our morning strolls.

At dinner on the first night, we look up from our knives and forks to see the Opera House and its sky-piercing, asymmetrical sails looming large right outside our window or pass under the Harbour Bridge beside a massive pylon bathed in a golden glow.

We play “What bay is that?” with Sydney locals, who need a minute or two to get their bearings through the panoramic windows lining three sides.

Unlike flowers that close up after dark, Sydney Harbour comes alive at night, with blazing neon lights competing for attention atop office buildings, millionaires’ harbourside mansions screaming, “Look at me!”, and Luna Park’s waterside sideshow begging us to jump ship and join the fun.

At sunrise the first morning, we see the most regal of views from the balcony rail outside our cabin and the crowning glory of our Farm Cove anchorage: the old “Coathanger” embracing the Opera House.

The postcard shot is a topic of conversation at breakfast with our newfound friends, who each have their own story to tell about why they have come onboard this particular weekend.

Young American sweethearts Chris and Stephanie, from Phoenix, Arizona, are on a whirlwind honeymoon and second trip to Australia.

Barry and Olwyn, from Parramatta, have been given the trip by their children to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

Jan, from Newcastle, has been on the same harbour cruise 14 times since her husband died in 2002 and despite a bad hip, never tires of the ship, the itinerary or the majority of the walks. Each time, she brings a friend along and this time, she has her grateful hairdresser, Kerry, in tow.

At the safety talk, not 30 minutes after boarding, we meet the chatty Heather and her ever-smiling husband Peter – a former yachtie and rower, who has now been struck down by the heart-breaking Motor Neurone disease.

Although caring for her husband and explaining why his speech is so slurred cannot be easy for her, Heather is determined to make every moment count in their remaining time together. Before disembarking, she signs them up for Captain Cook Cruises’ Murray Princess paddle steamer cruise in South Australia as another treat.

Cruise director Henryk Trocha says mostly Aussies but also many Americans and Germans take up the chance to do the weekend cruise and see Sydney Harbour up close and personal from the water.

Many of those use the very agreeable cruise to mark special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, but also to reunite family in one place for a whole weekend or celebrate special dates on the calendar.

It does not matter that we may never see any of these people again, share another laugh with them, or welcome each other at breakfast to another beautiful morning on the harbour.

For two full days, we have had a special experience together.

And we are bound together forever in our hearts.

Captain Cook Cruises’ Captain Cook’s Explorer can welcome aboard up to 124 guests in 62 cabins on a two-night voyage, leaving King Street Wharf each Friday night.

For more information, visit

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