Strolling through the Botanic Gardens in the moonlight arm in arm, there’s a smidgen of romance in the air. Well, it’s a tad cold out and getting dark so I guess I have an ulterior motive. Rustling bushes stopped me in my tracks. We weren’t alone. Carrying on up the dimly-lit path leads us to Moonlight Cinemas.
The Lego Movie is showing tonight and there’s healthy mix of the young and the young at heart. There are a few four-legged freeloaders in the treetops but they leave the lawn for ticket holders. A clear starlit sky is bordered by regal trees. We all point our picnic blankets towards the big screen and bats swoop overhead. The neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) crowd roared in the background and allows those interested keep up with the live footy score.
Natural surrounds make a refreshing change to the average cinema experience. Usually the movies are buried in the depths of a mall, lined with red carpet and littered with butter popcorn.
Grab a blanket and settle in for the ultimate outdoor cinema experience. Just watch out for the bats on your way out.
Melbourne’s outdoor cinema runs from December to March at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Moonlight Cinemas is across Australia with locations in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Port Douglas and Sydney. If you’re up for a bit of extra comfort, go for Gold Grass. For more information, click here.
First impressions are important. She moved towards us with elegance and grace. Her sleek lines were appealing and there was a distinctive glint in her eye. With a name like Aussie Princess, there was a fitting association with royalty. She was stunning.
We take a leisurely stroll towards New Quay, with the sun on our backs and a mild breeze permeating our nostrils with a distinct salty aroma. Our group congregates at the edge of the Marina, admiring each other’s boat-chique. There’s an abundance of classic stripes and navy blue.
A woman saunters along the jetty pushing a supermarket trolley with a small collection of consumer goods. She could have carried them in one hand but what do I know? We must remember this is the maritime and different rules apply.
We cast our eyes out to the water and along the row of vessels in search of the Aussie Princess. Next thing, we see a 50ft luxury cruiser heading out in the opposite direction. Did they forget us? We wonder. Surely not! The Princess is teasing us. She turns back to shore and lines up against the dock for us to climb aboard.
Minutes later, I’m on a boat. It’s larger than I thought. It boasts impressive features such as a saloon, a galley and a fly bridge. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the built-in hatch for empties. There’s even a spot at the bow of the boat for a Titanic moment, to which our Birthday Girl obliges.
At the safety briefing, the husband and wife team exchange glances. Robyn asks Lindsay if she should give us the full briefing. She seems to believe it necessary judging by our motley crew and the five minutes we’ve spent aboard so far. We take it as a compliment and her husband assures her that it is not necessary. “I never can tell,” she says.
“Who’s the Birthday Girl?” the skipper asks and our friend steps forward. She’s thirty and our hosts explain that it’s a difficult age to cater for on a boat. Never mind twenty-firsts, dirty thirties are validated when it comes to boat life apparently. Perhaps it’s the combination of more money and less spare time. Oh dear. It appears we are not off to a good start.
Realising the familiar twang of the kiwi accent, Robyn nods. It explains a lot. Only Kiwis and Irish tourists are willing to travel on a boat at this time of year, everyone else is put off by the weather. “It’s a bit cold to throw anyone overboard though” Lindsay and Robyn advise. Thank goodness. Even we Kiwis have our limits.
I’m no sailor. In fact I’m a land-loving scaredy-cat. The idea of consuming alcoholic beverages while at sea is enough to make me nauseous. On rougher voyages, I’ve done little more than stare straight ahead, focusing on keeping my breakfast down. When the lovely hostess Robyn offers me a vino, I cannot say “no, thank you” quick enough. I follow up with a more composed “maybe later.”
The engine starts and soon we’re under the Westgate Bridge, with the Melbourne central business district fading to nothing more than a stack of building blocks on the horizon. We are toe-to-toe with a cargo ship and the towering pile of steel is a menacing silhouette. Well, it makes sense. The Port of Melbourne is apparently the largest container port in Australia. I’m grateful when the giant ship overtakes us, I would much rather have it in front of me, where I can see it.
Upon discovery that we were not on course for high seas, I settled into the harbor cruise (now I think of it, the name should have been a giveaway) and acquired a glass of wine to go with the cheese and fruit platter that was deposited on deck. Food and drink flows with the apparently ruckus thirty year old conversation. We do laps of Williamstown Jetty and come across an old Navy warship with missiles on deck. There’s also the Sea Shepherd, MY Steve Irwin, an ‘Eco Warrior’ ship.
I exit the boat while maintaining a rocking motion that may or may not have had anything to do with the beverages. Thankfully my lunch and the blue cheese managed to stay down too. It’s time to see if we can live up to our thirty year old reputation on shore tonight.
For more information about luxury cruises in Melbourne, click here.