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All at sea

27/11/2013

Captain of Aurora, Neil Turnbull, shares his special highlights from more than 30 years of travel

The epic Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour

As a mere seven-year-old boy, Captain Neil Turnbull had already decided on a life at sea. In 1983, he became a deck cadet aged just 18, and in 1997 he joined P&O Cruises and has served on Canberra, Victoria, Oriana, Arcadia, Oceana, Golden Princess and Aurora. When not at sea, Neil lives in Derbyshire with his wife Jayne, who he met on Victoria, and their four children.

 

Sydney

After 30 years before the mast, the port that still takes my breath away is Sydney. As the ship passes from the Tasman Sea through The Heads, the magnificent natural harbour and its iconic landmarks seem to appear from nowhere. Dawn or dusk, night or day, the spectacular sight that meets you never fails to soften the hardest landlubber’s heart. From that first ‘wow’ as you enter the harbour, the experience just gets better as we manoeuvre the ship past the Opera House into Circular Quay, affectionately nicknamed The Coathanger. Nowadays, I rarely wander ashore, but I always make an exception for Sydney to stroll through The Rocks, walk over the Harbour Bridge or even take in a performance at the Sydney Opera House.

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Hong Kong

As a Derbyshire boy, the hustle and bustle of any big city doesn’t usually appeal, but the wonder of this once-British dependency never ceases to astound. Now under Chinese control, little has changed and many of the locals still consider themselves to be part of the Commonwealth. The spectacular skyline defines Hong Kong and there isn’t one piece of ground that isn’t built on or used. I believe it’s the most expensive real estate in the world, and you can certainly see the incredible wealth here and admire the optimisation of space.

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Stockholm

While demanding for a Captain, the arrival into Stockholm is always a delight. Negotiating some 30,000 islets that make up the Stockholm Archipelago as the ship passes from the Baltic to the city can take up to four hours, but it’s a tranquil and wondrous experience for guests. To me, the city itself is the epitome of Scandinavia: the people are friendly, courteous and, yes, predominantly blonde, while the city and its architecture are well kept and a proud statement of history and culture.

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Tortola

Many Caribbean islands now successfully cater to the demands of tourism and visiting cruise ships, but a last outpost that seems to be bucking this trend is my favourite island stop – the British Virgin Island of Tortola. There is undoubtable wealth here, and one feels that the locals (including many British ex-pats) allow us to visit their homeland as a concession and a treat. And a treat it most certainly is: featuring uncrowded beaches and warm Caribbean waters, it’s as close as you can get to a tropical paradise. Perfect for a wonderful, stress-free day followed by a swift Pusser’s rum. Tortola remains a favourite for me, my wife and our kids.

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