Melbourne (Photo:Scottt13/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Melbourne

If Sydney is the New York of the Southern Hemisphere, then Melbourne is Boston or Philadelphia, with attractions centralized rather than sprawling, a low-key atmosphere, a traditional look and tons of restaurants, cafes, nightlife and cultural destinations. Melbourne prides itself on being one of the world's most livable cities, and while that may indeed be true, the capital of the state of Victoria is also one of the most delightful to visit -- welcoming, relaxed, international and cultural.

About Melbourne


Pro

Free 'city circle' trams allow easy exploration of legendary laneways lined with quirky venues

Con

During winter, the weather is often cold and rainy

Bottom Line

Catch a tram from the port to discover great cafes, small bars, art galleries and boutiques


Find a Cruise to Australia & New Zealand



The 1850's gold rush in the state of Victoria propelled Melbourne to become one of the world's great cities by the 1880's, when it was the chief conduit for people, goods and financial matters in and out of Australia.

Melbourne was and still is the most English of Australia's cities, and yet it also has a highly cosmopolitan population of more than three million. Waves of British, Italian and Greek immigrants began arriving after World War II, and when immigration restrictions changed to allow Asians to become residents, a huge influx arrived, including lots who became students at Melbourne University. As the "uni" is close to the city center, the sidewalks tend to be as crowded and lively as those in Manhattan.

The Yarra River slices through the city, and leafy parks and open spaces give relief from the vehicular traffic that travels, as in Britain and New Zealand, on the left. North of the Yarra River, you will find the commercial heart and to the south most of the museums, theaters, concert halls and open spaces -- including the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens. Nearby inland and coastal neighborhoods like Carlton, Fitzroy, Richmond, Toorak and St. Kilda are worth exploring on foot, with each area having its own distinctive flavor.

Happily, pedestrians have lots of rights, and walking is free-flowing and safe. It's also easy to navigate the city via its wonderful tram (trolley) system. The first electric models began running in 1889, and unlike so many other cities, Melbourne never abandoned them. In fact, the network is expanding and well run. It's a pleasure to see them gliding rhythmically through the streets, and they're a joy to travel on.

Due to its southern location, Melbourne gets cloudy, rainy and relatively cold in the winter months (the northern hemisphere's summer) and warms to pleasantly (and sometimes searingly) hot during its summer. Given that Melbournians complain a lot about their winters, travelers are usually pleased to find out that most cruise ships call at Melbourne during the Australian summer. Consider coming out early for a stay of several days before (most likely) joining your ship in Sydney, a short flight or a pleasant daylong train ride away.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships tie up at Station Pier in Port Melbourne, the dock formerly used for overseas liners and the current facility for the Spirit of Tasmania, the overnight ferry that sails across the Bass Strait to Devonport on the island of Tasmania. Melbourne's nearby skyline is well within view.

Good to Know

Be sure to observe what is called a hook turn at intersections where cars wanting to make a right turn across the tram tracks must move into the far left lane when entering the intersection and then proceed with the green light of the cross street. Also, watch for the vertical white signal light that gives trams priority at intersections while car traffic may be stopped.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Bank ATM's are available all around the city. The largest coin denominations are the tiny, gold-color two-dollar pieces and the larger, gold-color one-dollar pieces. (We know that seems backwards so pay extra attention when counting your change.) Check www.oanda.com or www.XE.com for the latest exchange rates. Also you should know that Australia no longer uses pennies, so all prices are rounded to the nearest five cent increment.

Language

English is spoken with various, distinctive Melbourne accents, including an upper-middle-class one often close to British English. The city, by the way, is pronounced Mel-bun not Mel-born. The first meal of the day is breakie, food is tucker and a response to a "thank you" is usually no worries. Once, for me, it was even no dramas. A hotel may actually be a pub, and an institution of higher education is simply called uni. See ya laytah is often said upon parting, even if you never expect to see the person again.

Shopping

The most intriguing places to shop are the one-block arcades, such as the Block Arcade between Collins and Little Collins and the Royal Arcade between Little Collins and Bourke Street Mall. Bourke Street Mall itself is a major, pedestrianized shopping precinct with two department stores: David Jones and Myer. Aboriginal art; paintings on paper, canvas and bark; sculptures and musical instruments are popular buys there and in the museum shops. The eastern end (formerly called the Paris end) of Collins is a center for high fashion. The brand Country Road is known for its quality Australian designs. Melbourne Central, between Latrobe and Lonsdale Streets, is a modern, multilevel complex of 300 shops, restaurants and a multiplex theater.