An elegant, upscale harbour cruise reminds a rusted on Sydney resident that she lives in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
WORDS: Alexandra Carlton
PICTURES: David Collins
It was one of those early autumn evenings when the sun is still warm but the light has changed from its high-summer brassiness to a mild, toasty glow. I’m sitting on the bow of The Spirit of Migloo, Journey Beyond’s 78-foot luxury cruiser, with around 15 other guests paired off into couples, some holding hands, some with their heads on each other’s shoulders, all with a drink in hands, as we slide silently underneath the great grey curve of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Busy yellow and green ferries dart ahead carrying commuters home from work or revellers into the city for dinner and drinks. The graceful, pale sails of the Opera House blossom larger and larger as we draw closer. Born and raised in Sydney, this was a sight I’d seen hundreds of thousands of times. Yet here I was, hushed into surprised silence by its beauty.
It’s amazing how immune you can become to your own city when you’re in it every day. When you’re stuck inside the CBD you don’t see the stunning geometric skyline of the skyscrapers; you see traffic jams. When you’re racing across the Harbour Bridge you’re not thinking of its architectural majesty; you’re hell-bent on getting to your meeting on time. Taking in Sydney from this unique on-water vantage point, with nothing to distract me and my fellow guests from the view except friendly staff discreetly topping up our drinks, is almost like a meditation of gratitude. “We’re so lucky,” I overhear a woman say to her husband. She’s right. We really are.
silence by its beauty.”
Even without this divine backdrop, this three-hour evening cruise itself is a rare treat. We board at one of Sydney’s party capitals, amidst the bright lights and blaring music of King St Wharf, which makes boarding feel like stepping into a cool boutique hotel. Staff greet us with trays of sparkling wine, mineral water, Corona and Peroni. The lower deck dining area – there’s another one a level up – is carpeted in rich sea-blue navy with grey accents. Bud vases of protea and eucalyptus sit on each table and soft music from The Rolling Stones to REM is playing. Above, the vessel is dotted with viewing spots where you can take in the expanse of the whole city: the wide green of the Royal Botanic Gardens, the giant warships at Garden Island and the elegant mansions around Rose Bay and Double Bay. With a capacity of only 90 people over three spacious levels, it feels stylish, private and exclusive.
Once the sun has melted into a hazy pink and orange sunset, we return to our assigned dinner tables. The ingredients in every course are sourced from NSW: lamb from the Riverina, snapper from the Hawkesbury River and mozzarella from one of the best Italian providores in Marrickville, the foodie capital of Sydney’s inner west. The wine list has been compiled with an expert eye and includes an exceptional riesling from Robert Stein in Mudgee and a top shelf pinot noir from one of the state’s best and most underrated wine regions, Tumbarumba. All the way to dessert, a decadent trio of fudgy chocolate, raspberry and orange cakes, this is anything but ‘cruise food’. It exceeds the standards that food-fussy Sydneysiders expect.
As our meal ends, the night has transformed the city into a tapestry of sparkling lights. We take our drinks and return to the bow and breathe in the clean salt air. I’m reminded again that other people fly thousands of kilometres to get a fleeting glimpse of this, the most beautiful harbour in the world. As a resident it’s mine to admire every day, if only I take the time to slow down and really look.