Monday, 5 December 2011

Genealogy notes 4-5 Dec 2011 - Last day at sea & trip home

Finally finishing off this last daily blog of my Unlock the Past Irish Scottish history and genealogy cruise on board the Volendam. Hard to believe the 14 days are nearly over, I could easily stay at least another week!

The last day was at sea without internet so most people attended all of the genealogy talks starting at 8.10am with Chris Paton talking about Scottish marriages - I had no idea it was so complicated depending on dates and religion. I was next speaker with Making the Most of Australian Government Archives Online which was a quick trip around the various states and territories highlighting some of the features I particularly like.

A quick question to the audience showed that most people had attended the majority of my talks (11 all up) and the feedback I received personally was really nice. I do like to try and help people do their own research once they get back home by providing URLs and broadening their knowledge of what might be available on particular topics. I was also very pleased (if somewhat embarrassed) to be called almost a living genealogy wiki by Jan Gow during her presentation last night. All the people who brought me their individual problems said that I had either found things they hadn't or I had given them other options to follow up so that was good too. It would be nice to know if they ever do solve some of those rather challenging brickwalls.

The afternoon session was back to back talks including Richard Reid's talk Obliged All the Small Cottiers To Leave His Land which was another emotive session followed by Perry McIntyre on Free Women in the 1830s: Irish and English. Keith Johnson's talk on Books for Irish Research was good and he had a three page handout listing books, articles, journals, directories and so on - although when I will find time to read them is another question!

Lynne Blake then did Young Genies: Helping and Inspiring Young People and I particularly liked her phrase 'catch them when their young and hook them before your dead'! We all need someone to leave our research and family stories too. The last session before dinner was Richard again with Sinners Saints and Settlers: Irish Place Stories Kiama-Kalgoorlie and we all have our own Irish stories that should be captured.

After dinner there was a gathering of all UTP cruisers, with photos, thanks and the drawing of the various prizes. The final talk of the cruise was Chris Paton with the The Mount Stewart Murder which is the oldest unsolved murder in the UK and it also happens to be his direct ancestor. The book is coming out next year so I won't spoil it by giving away any details but it is a fascinating story.

I forgot to mention yesterday that there was a session at the Celtic Club in Melbourne with Richard, Perry, Jan and Rosemary giving talks along with Dr Liz Rushen on Researching Irish Emigrant Women and in Sydney Chris and Rosemary gave talks along with Dr Brad Manera on Sydney Under Attack May-Jun 1942 at the State Records NSW. There was also a session on War Comes to Australia: WW2 70th Anniversary.

As I wanted to see the Volendam berth in Sydney I was up early (as were a lot of other UTP cruisers) to watch the ship sail past the Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge before berthing at Darling Harbour. It was a magnificent sight watching as the ship passed under the bridge and I don't think there was a lot of room to spare, so I was really glad I made the effort.

After breakfast we went back to the cabin to wait for our turn to leave the ship, and as we had early afternoon flights we weren't required until 8.45am. We passed through immigrations and customs easily after finding our luggage (all neatly laid out in designated colours depending on your departure time). It was outside that we then ran into problems. We had prebooked and paid for airport transfers from the ship to the airport with Clean Cruising so we expected to simply be put on an airport shuttle.

However we were told that there was no booking and were sent to wait with other Clean Cruising airport transfer people with the same problem. It was compounded by the fact that Brisbane is not on daylight saving time so we had to wait until 9.00am for the office to open. One of our growing party of unhappy people rang and was given a booking number which still meant nothing to the Holland America staff organising everyone to their respective buses etc.

As time was passing a number of people said they couldn't wait and left to get taxis to the airport. We continued to try and get some help from Holland America and were passed from person to person until eventually a spokeswoman came and said to us and said there was nothing they could do from their end, it was a Clean Cruising error. We agreed that our tickets from Clean Cruising were 'ambiguous' but a number of us had also queried it with the Front Office staff on board a few days ago and were all told it was ok when in fact it wasn't.

 By this time (45 minutes later on a cold windy wharf) there were only four of us left so the Holland America spokeswoman arranged for us to go to the head of the taxi queue and also arranged for a maxi taxi to minimise our costs. Ironically, the taxi driver, despite  Sydney peak hour traffic managed to get us to the airport for a cheaper price than what we paid for the airport transfers from Clean Cruising per couple.

Being left 'high and dry' so to speak on the wharf at Sydney was a disappointing way to end the cruise and even more disappointing was the treatment we received from Clean Cruising staff. The staff person who took the phone calls from our party said it was 'not their fault' and it was 'too bad' for us. Well in our group's opinion, it is 'too bad' that Clean Cruising doesn't have a better customer service policy. We will be officially complaining and seeking an explanation along with a refund for the airport transfers that never eventuated.

NB As one who travels all the time, I know things don't always go according to plan but booking a ticket on a transport shuttle is not difficult, especially in your own country and if a travel client has a problem, most companies usually try to help in some way.

We eventually arrived home in Melbourne just after 4.30pm totally exhausted with carrying our heavier luggage and juggling extra bags. So after a nice home cooked curry, an episode of Criminal Minds that I hadn't seen before, I went to bed. Tomorrow will be a catch up day and I am planning to do an overview blog of the cruise in the coming week.

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