Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Silversea’s newest ultra-luxury expedition vessel, the sleek Silver Discoverer, got one step closer today, as I traded Sydney, Australia for the Western Australian city of Perth.
From the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, I walked back to Circular Quay station and purchased a $16.50 train ticket to Sydney’s Domestic Terminal. Less than 30 minutes later, I was walking through security in Sydney. Couldn’t have been any easier. And that extra time worked to my advantage: I had a lounge to check out.
The Sydney T3 Qantas Domestic Business Lounge is available to guests holding First or Business Class tickets on any domestic Qantas flight, or those who are connecting from International First or Business Class on Qantas. But because Qantas is part of the Oneworld alliance, customers who are Emerald Oneworld members can also use this lounge. Platinum Frequent Fliers can are also welcome.
I’ve had Star Alliance status for two years now, and am finally beginning to build up my Oneworld status. While frequent-flier status has its perks, in my opinion none are more important than lounge access, which makes all the difference in the world. I enjoy the lounges so much that I actually arrived at the airport just after 7a.m. for a 10a.m. flight in order to maximise my time in my first Qantas lounge, have a bite to eat, and get some work done.
The lounge is attractive, with blonde slatted wood wall treatments and offset navy-blue and beige furniture. Light globes hang from the ceiling and a massive wall of windows runs the length of the room and overlooks the tarmac and gates below, where a steady stream of Qantas Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft have been coming and going all morning.
The Qantas Business Lounge has a few things going for it that really help to set it apart from some of the other domestic lounges I’ve been in across Canada and the United States.
The most important for the road warrior is, obviously, private shower rooms, which are in abundance here and are frequently overlooked in many domestic airport terminals. But the other truly cool feature is an actual barista that can whip you up a cappuccino, latte, or just a “long black.” Like the Shangri-La that I just left this morning, they also have Australian Dimah Tea, three different kinds of fruit juice, and hot and cold breakfast offerings that even included freshly-made pancakes.
That the lounge includes complimentary Wi-Fi internet access isn’t perhaps that surprising. That it also offers Apple computer workstations and wired internet connections is. The lounge offers meeting rooms, and Qantas will even dryclean your clothes if you’re departing from and returning to Sydney or Melbourne when you leave your car with the airline’s Valet Parking service.
Because I’m a cruise nut through and through, you can understand my excitement at finding localised Cunard and Royal Caribbean brochures on the magazine rack, along with P&O Australia’s complete 2014-2015 brochure. Brownie points, Qantas. Brownie points.
Is it worth buying a business class ticket for? I’m not sure about that – but it is most definitely worth maximizing your frequent-flier status for. Sydney’s T3 is a very nice terminal, but it’s infinitely nicer up here in the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge.
Sydney’s T3 is also home to a Qantas Club Lounge located between Gates 4 and 5. It’s open to members of the Qantas Club, First and Business Class passengers, and Oneworld members who have Emerald or Sapphire frequent-flier status.
Interestingly, it’s only as I’ve sat here watching the numerous movements of the airline’s iconic red-tailed aircraft from the Lounge that I’ve realized the true extent of their domestic operations. Qantas has 291 aircraft that are pretty well split between offerings from Airbus and Boeing and which run the gamut from small Bombardier Dash 8 prop-planes to massive Airbus A380’s.
From Sydney, Qantas offers nonstop service to the cities you have likely heard of before: Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne. But they also fly to dozens of places that you’ll likely hear for the first time when I type them out: Wagga Wagga. Karratha. Uluru – better known as Ayers Rock. Townsville.
As it turns out, I’m rather glad that I spent two days in Sydney en-route to Perth. If you’re coming from North America and intending to take one of these Silversea departures from Broome or Darwin, don’t try to be a hero and complete the entire trek in a single, massive journey. Not only would you miss out on one of Australia’s great cities, now that I’m back at the airport I just can’t fathom having done this in a single day.
After a comfortable four and a half-hour flight from Sydney, my Qantas A330-300 (VH-QPF) touched down at Perth Airport’s Terminal 4.
As far away from Sydney as Los Angeles is from New York, Perth is the capital city of Western Australia. It’s a rather young city, having been designated as such in 1856 by then-Queen Victoria. It’s also very remote, with a little over two thousand kilometres separating it from the next major city with a population of over 100,000.
But Perth is also Silversea’s base for pre-cruise stays on Silver Discoverer’s journeys out of Broome due to the relative lack of hotels in the latter. My home for the evening: the Pan Pacific Perth, located just 30 minutes away from Perth Airport.
While the lobby is gorgeous and the hallways, bars and restaurants look like they’ve been the recipients of a recent makeover, rooms at the Pan Pacific could use some TLC. The varnish has completely worn off both bedside tables in my room, and rust and mildew cake the tub and shower in my bathroom. The bed is comfortable and the room is clean, but it’s not at all what I’d expect from a Pan Pacific.
However, for a stay that lasts less than 24 hours, there’s nothing wrong with it.
By the time I set out to explore Perth, it was coming up on three in the afternoon. There’s a two-hour time difference between Perth and Sydney, so it felt much later to me than it actually was (Sydney is two hours ahead.)
Of course, today is Sunday – and it’s Mother’s Day, no less. But Perth remained eternally sleepy this afternoon, with almost no need to utilise crosswalk signals before setting out for the other side of the street.
I love Perth. There’s not much to do here, but Perth has a look and feel all its own. In fact, it reminds me of my birthplace of Calgary, Alberta – a pretty city that comes with a downtown core that completely clears out on weekends.
A few extra photos from my afternoon in Perth:
Tomorrow is the big day. We’ll fly to Broome in the morning and embark the Silver Discoverer at her berth in the afternoon, before setting sail that evening for the start of our Australian and Indonesian adventure.
I can’t even begin to fathom what the next 12 days hold – but I am looking forward to finding out!
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|