Observations & musings

New Year’s Eve – Darling Harbour

The purpose of our trip to Sydney was to fulfil an adventure that had been on the bucket list for quite a while.  The bucket list said…

Spend New Year’s Eve on a boat, in the middle of Darling Harbour and watch the Sydney New Years’ fireworks. And do it properly!

As a Melbournian, it gives me much pain to give Sydney any credit for, well pretty much anything. It smells bad, it’s built for those wanting to live to work and not the other way around. It’s full of American tourists who think that Sydney = Australia. But you can’t deny it boasts one of the world’s most beautiful harbours and comes with the types of views one would gleefully kill to have in their backyard.

From the Harbour, you get a view of the CBD skyline, the Opera House in full sail, Sydney Harbour Coat hanger and that creepy and colourful clown facade of Luna Park all by rotating yourself on the spot.  It is hard to imagine a more stunning backdrop for the New Year’s Eve fireworks spectacular.  We had started talking about doing this adventure around the year 2000.  And now, we were here.

John Cadman 3

John Cadman III - Photo credit: rivercruising.com

For the night itself, we would be aboard the John Cadman III, a catamaran operated by Captain Cook Cruises. You might think it was extraordinarily overpriced at $500 per ticket but I’ll make a couple of arguments against that view. Firstly, while the John Cadman III usually holds 300, they consciously made the decision to limit the tickets to half of the usual Saturday night tour and only sold 170 tickets. This meant one could feely move around all night without any difficulty. We noticed this wasn’t the case with almost all of the other boats near us that evening.

Secondly, the buffet dinner was astounding. There was enough lobster and enough oysters to fill up everyone twice over, and I observed many seafood-heads sticking to nothing but. For those allergic like myself or for those not all that keen on eating the shellfish, there was plenty of other food on offer. Certainly after the eating was over, the positive chatter about the food went on well into the evening.  I was, I have to admit, a bit disappointed in the dessert menu. Many of the desserts were a little rich for my tastes. And there was no jelly which I thought was a complete travesty.  I mean seriously. Who forgets to include jelly in a dessert buffet?

Beer, wine and soft drink are included and there is a dancefloor on the bottom deck with a DJ punching out the tunes. I found it interesting that you couldn’t really hear it from the floors above but given that disco isn’t everyone’s cup of tea this was indeed a good thing.

My only criticism is that the fireworks show is coupled with specifically-chosen music and you couldn’t hear it very well on the top deck where most of us were. This fact shows though on the video where it can be heard quietly in the background. I felt it was the one time I would want to have music playing so loudly my eardrums start bleed. It wasn’t even loud-ish.

The crowd was mixed and jovial. There were oldies, backpackers, rich-types, and people of all ages. Everyone was very friendly and no one acted like a dickhead. There were some characters which gave rise to the invention of a few nicknames being born. The most memorable was “Russian Bride” that someone in our group gave the 20-something model-looking stick thing accompanying a balding 50+ suited man who reeked of old money. There was no doubt by any of us that some cash had changed hands.

Now, think very carefully on what you’d pay on an all-out New Years Eve night anywhere in the city in the year 2010 and you’ll soon come to realise that $500 for everything I described, is dare I say, pretty good.  Yes, it’s an expensive night out I won’t deny that. But we weren’t robbed. If we were robbed, we’d have had a simple buffet or finger food on board a packed boat like many of the others out on Darling Harbour that night. In my opinion, and to my own surprise, I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I believe it was good value for money.

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