What a way to finish: A little wallaby, a little mutton bird oil

The Orion pulled in to Macquarie Wharf in Hobart while we were having our breakfast; we disembarked around nine this morning. I had to walk all of about a hundred yards to the Henry Jones Art Hotel where I’m staying for a couple of days. It just so happened that as I was checking in, the executive chef, Andre Kropp, came out of the hotel restaurant, Henry’s. I introduced myself and asked if, by any chance, Ross …

Read moreWhat a way to finish: A little wallaby, a little mutton bird oil

A lesson learned: Don’t mention the Titanic to a ship captain

We are on the final leg of our cruise. Tomorrow morning when we wake up, we’ll be in Hobart where we’ll disembark and I, for one, will spend a couple of extra days seeing a bit more of Tasmania. So this afternoon I went up to the bridge to say hello to the captain, Andrey Domanin. He wasn’t the most gregarious guy in the world. Maybe because he was miffed I’d turned down an offer to eat …

Read moreA lesson learned: Don’t mention the Titanic to a ship captain

For now, there are no penguins for Mick and Corina…but a baby is due

Orion’s expedition team leader, Mick Fogg, sat down at lunch with me today. He wanted to apologize for sending me on the Oyster Lovers Tour in Cole Bay when there were no oysters. Not a problem, I told him. There was nothing anyone could do about it. It was just the weather. Besides, I said, I got my oyster. “So I heard,” said Mick, laughing. Mick and Corina He’s a great guy, Mick. Way over-qualified to be …

Read moreFor now, there are no penguins for Mick and Corina…but a baby is due

A bit of Australian history: Port Arthur’s convict prison

Cold and gloomy day today, which seemed appropriate for our visit to Port Arthur. You’ve no doubt heard Australia’s infamous convict prisons, well, Port Arthur was the worst of the worst. From 1833 until 1877, Port Arthur was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the U.K. colonies. If you got sent here, you were in for it, mate. The system used here was concocted by a British sadist named Jeremy Bentham who described …

Read moreA bit of Australian history: Port Arthur’s convict prison

The secret to the Tasmanian food on this cruise: Everything is local

Since the Orion is providing us with a Tasmanian food and wine focus, and there are only 63 passengers, it probably won’t shock you when I say the food has been extraordinary. A sampling from the dinner menu: fillet of local blue-eye trevala; Cole Bay scallops in basil butter; slow-cooked loin of local lamb; olive oil poached Tasmanian ocean trout; summer salad leaves with Tassie blue cheese dressing. The key, of course, is that almost everything executive …

Read moreThe secret to the Tasmanian food on this cruise: Everything is local

Meet the grandfather of Australian whisky: Bill Lark

Yesterday, my buddy Lobke, the tall, stately, gorgeous maitre d’ from South Africa, asked me if I’d like to have dinner with the captain. “No thanks,” I told her. “I’m dining with Bill Lark.” “Ah,” she said. “Aren’t you the lucky one?” I haven’t mentioned Bill Lark yet. He’s another of the guest lecturers on our cruise and is often described as “the grandfather of Australian whisky.” You didn’t know Australia made whisky, did you? I didn’t …

Read moreMeet the grandfather of Australian whisky: Bill Lark

There were no oysters on the oyster tour…but I got one anyway

A couple of nights ago at dinner I pulled aside Mick, our expedition leader, to see if I couldn’t finagle my way on to the Coles Bay Oyster Lovers Tour in Freycinet. I knew it was a long shot. There were only 12 slots open and those had been filled before the ship even sailed and earlier Mick had told me they had at least four people on the waiting list. Still, you’ve got to give something …

Read moreThere were no oysters on the oyster tour…but I got one anyway

So it wasn’t a picture-postcard day, we saw a pretty amazing sight anyway

Listen, when you get a cruise brochure and you see all those gorgeous photos of the places you’re going to visit, it gets you pretty excited, right? Golden beaches, deep blue skies, swaying palms. But it’s not always like that, right? Sometimes a little Photoshop is involved but usually it’s just bad luck. Like today. We were anchored in “iconic Wineglass Bay in the centre of Freycinet National Park. You’ll arrive to find the view is spectacular, …

Read moreSo it wasn’t a picture-postcard day, we saw a pretty amazing sight anyway

Sausage-making on this Food & Wine cruise on the Orion

I think I’ve mentioned that this is a Tasmanian Food & Wine cruise and onboard the Orion we have several guest lecturers including Gary Willis, a chocolatier; Andrew Hood, who has been making wine in Tasmania for over 20 years; Bill Lark, affectionately known as “The Godfather of Australian whisky”; and Ross O’Meara, a pig farmer on Bruny Island. Ross O’Meara makes sausage I love Ross (as well as his lovely wife, Emma, and their red-headed toddler, Felix). …

Read moreSausage-making on this Food & Wine cruise on the Orion

Double mission: Finding mutton-bird oil and wallaby salami

The early morning transfer to Flinders Island aboard Zodiacs necessitated a wet landing at Trousers Point beach, which meant wearing reef shoes or flip-flops in the boat and then switching to walking shoes once on shore. Beautiful spot, Trousers beach, a curvaceous bay with cerulean water and blond sand from which lichen-painted boulders, the color of dried oranges, hang out over the crystal clear water. While I was sitting on a rock putting on my running shoes, …

Read moreDouble mission: Finding mutton-bird oil and wallaby salami

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