Recap: Antarctica and South America

I hope you didn’t think that I’d forgotten about you – after all, it’s been almost 2 weeks since my last blog entry. The truth is: after being away for 3 weeks, it took me awhile to return to normal (whatever that is) life.

So I hope you didn’t miss me too much (actually, I hope you missed me and my posts a lot), but now it’s time for TheCulturedTraveler to get off his – ahem – backside and get to work.

Therefore, I thought that today’s post should be a “highlights” replay. After all, I’d have to say that we had an amazing time on this latest adventure. If you were following me throughout Buenos Aires and aboard Crystal Symphony, you’ll most likely be familiar with what you’re about to see. But what the heck, right? 


Luggage for 3 Weeks
It took this much baggage to get us from “here” to “there”.

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The fabulous Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Hotel

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2nd favorite meal in Buenos Aires, and a 5-minute walk from the hotel

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Quiz: What song did Evita sing from this balcony?

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Favorite and most elegant meal in Buenos Aires

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Seeing Buenos Aires with Pedro, one of the best tour guides ever

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Visiting La Boca (in the rain)

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Teatro Colon: one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses

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Crystal Symphony in port as seen from the Park Hyatt Hotel 

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Repacked and ready to embark Symphony

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AAC CPA on deck for the 1st sunset

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Gorgeous sky 1st evening at sea

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Breakfast al fresco 1st full day at sea

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Family Negronis on the 1st formal night

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Formal Shoes

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The Virginia Gentlemen – Bar none, best entertainment on the voyage

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Invited to have a cocktail with the Captain in his quarters

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The beauty of Tierra del Fuego National Park

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AAC CPA at the end of Route 3 – 11,090 miles from Canada – the lowest piece of land in the world

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More yummy food on Crystal Symphony

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First look at Antarctica from our balcony

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AAC CPA appreciates the view

Antarctica - Penguins & Seals
Penguins and sea lions (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

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A delegation from Palmer Station arrives for a visit

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More sea lions just hanging around

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Cruising around Antarctica at about 8:30 PM

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And about 3 hours later! It’s still light out!!

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AAC CPA welcomes you to the Falkland Islands (and its lovely weather)

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But we enjoyed another amazing sunset at sea

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And AAC CPA conjured up a full moon for your viewing pleasure

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Back by popular demand: The Virginia Gentlemen entertain in the Crystal Cove

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Welcome to Puerto Madryn

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This product is sold in the local market

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Late night at sea: full moon on a deserted Promenade Deck

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And another gorgeous day at sea as seen from our balcony

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Approaching Montevideo, Uruguay

Juanico Building - 01
A private field trip to Juanicó

Touring the Grounds - 01

Lunch Table
Enjoying a private lunch at the vineyard

Wine Tasting
The wines we tasted at lunch

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Disembarking Symphony for the last time (those smiles are FAKE)

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AAC CPA back at the Park Hyatt for 9 hours before the flight home

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AAC CPA hunkers down for the 10+ hour flight home


All-in-all, we had a fabulous trip. Visiting Buenos Aires for the first time was a total delight. As a dear friend of ours’ puts it: “BA is beautiful – a bit shabby but, like some aging countess, still elegant”. So true. We learned that Argentina is a country that, in all things, is in a perpetual pendulum swing. We had the benefit of an outstanding tour guide, enjoyed several memorable meals, accompanied by some amazing Argentine wines (let’s hear it for the Malbec!), and just marveled as we walked through the city.

Then we had the great pleasure of returning to Crystal Symphony for 2 weeks. Having sailed on Crystal many times, it’s like returning home. The Crystal fleet is elegant, beautiful and has a crew that has but one goal in mind: to insure that you have the best time imaginable. 

The days we spent in Antarctica were so memorable for the things we saw and which are hard to capture on camera. You’ll just have to take my word for it: you must see it for yourself.

Finally – and I know I’ve said it before – we live to travel and we travel to live. It’s a truism that we must get outside of our shells (and, sometimes, our comfort zones) and go exploring. Whether it’s on land, sea or air, there is so much to see out there and we diminish ourselves if we don’t take the opportunity to visit new places, whether it’s the town next door, the state across the border, the other coast, or another continent. 

Give in to your own personal wanderlust and go a-traveling!

PS. Here’s how we know we’re back in NYC and the vacation is over:

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Montevideo, Uruguay – A Day at Juanicó

Our last port – yesterday – was Montevideo, and we wanted to do something special. We decided to arrange – with the help of Crystal Symphony’s concierge and shore excursion manager – a visit to the Juanicó winery (dating back to the 19th century), located about 45 minutes from the port. Our excursion included a driver, round-trip transportation, a tour of the winery, and a private lunch with wine pairings.

We had a wonderful time.

Our driver, Alvero (who spoke no English), picked us up at the ship and we arrived at Juanicó right at 11:00 AM. We were greeted by our guide, Dianela, who showed us the vineyard and explained how the wine was made. Having made many visits to the Napa Valley and the Paso Robles wine region of California, we’re very familiar with the production (and consumption) of wine. Daniela was a wonderful guide and we enjoyed the tour, which lasted about 45 minutes. 

Here are some photos of what we saw:

Juanico Building - 01
The main building at Juanicó, where we were to have our lunch

Touring the Grounds - 01
Touring the grounds with our guide, Dianela

Vines - 01
The vines, the grapes of which will eventually be used to produce cabernet sauvignon

Grounds - 02
Some of the grounds surrounding the winery

Wine Vats - 01
Part of the production plant

Bottling the Wine
Assembly line production to bottle, cork and label the wine

Old Building
This building was built by the Jesuits back in the 18th century

Following the tour, we went back into the main building and Dianela showed us the private wine cellar, down some very rickety stairs. The cellar was being prepared for a special dinner that evening.

Stairway to Cellar
Scary stairway to the wine cellar

Cellar - 01
Wine is stored in these casks from 1 – 3 years.

Cellar - 02
Setting up for a fancy dinner in the wine cellar

While we were in the cellar, Dianela showed us a very special place: the Wine Library, a secured area of the cellar in which are many very fine bottles of vintage wine are stored. Dianela unlocked the door and told us to go inside and choose a bottle as part of our wine tasting. How does one choose from so many treasures?

Wine Library - 01
Dianela helped us select the perfect wine to accompany our lunch

Wine Library - 02
Daniela displays a 2004 Don Pascual Merlot – the unanimous choice

Wine Stairway Family Photo
Ascending the stairway – much easier than descending

Once we got back upstairs, we were shown to a beautifully laid out table next to a huge picture window overlooking the vineyards where we were to enjoy our lunch.

Lunch Table
Sitting down to lunch

Lunch Table View
And our view

Wine Tasting
The 6 wines we sampled at lunch, including the very special Don Pascual merlot

As Dianela poured the 1st and, a bit later, the 2nd wine, she presented us with a tray of meats, cheeses, olives and bread – a wonderful start to our lunch.

Lunch Appetizer
A little something to get our lunch started

Then, for our 1st course and our 3rd wine, came individual quiches with a fabulous pear and blue cheese combination, incredibly fresh plum tomatoes and delicious greens.

Lunch - 1st Course

Next up, paired with the 4th and 5th wines, came a tenderloin of beef served with a delicious wine reduction and grilled vegetables.

Lunch - 2nd Course

During this course, Dianela presented the Don Pascual Merlot, which perfectly complemented the beef.

(By the way, we were encouraged to ask for seconds on any of the wine(s) that we enjoyed.)

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel, dessert appeared.

Lunch - 3rd Course
Individual cheesecakes topped with fresh fruit

By the time we’d finished dessert, it was time to return to the ship. We thanked Dianela for a delightful experience and departed.

45 minutes later, we were back aboard Crystal Symphony.

Cost of the Juanicó tour (exclusive of transportation), 3-course lunch with 6 wine pairings was $90 per person. We thought it was quite a good bargain. The wines are perhaps not the quality that you’ll find in California or France or next door in Argentina, but they were delicious and this excursion was one of the highlights of our 3-week vacation.

Should you find yourself visiting Montevideo, I would highly encourage you to arrange your own excursion to Juanicó. It will be time well spent.








Crystal Symphony Crew: An Appreciation

Good afternoon and greetings from somewhere between Puerto Madryn, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay (our last port city before disembarking on Wednesday in Buenos Aires).

Today, I want to celebrate the wonderful crew of Crystal Symphony. We’ve sailed on the 2 Crystal ships a total of 11 times (and counting), and the crew on these vessels is unsurpassed. On Symphony, the passenger to crew ratio is 1.7 to 1, which means that you are going to be very well taken care of while you’re aboard.

My focus will be on the crew members with whom we interacted over the past 2 weeks. I will have missed a few I’m sure (and apologies to any I’ve not mentioned here), but you’ll get the idea.

Starting with our cabin crew:

Raja - India

Here’s Raja – our butler. When you’re fortunate enough to travel on the penthouse deck, you will have a butler assigned to your cabin. Raja has been terrific, always cheerful, always ready to help. The butlers’ service can include packing and unpacking, making reservations for the specialty restaurants, taking care of special requests. One of those requests was putting together a cocktail party we hosted in our cabin last week. Raja rose to the occasion, delivered invitations to our guests’ cabins, worked with us to develop the menu and made sure that the party was a great success. (It was!)

Vida - Lithuania - Catherine - India

And here are Vida, our assistant stewardess, and Catherine, our stewardess. Twice a day (morning and evening), they take care of making up the cabin. They are both delightful, friendly, and do their jobs extremely well. (What are we going to do on Thursday when we have to make our beds and clean up after ourselves? It’s going to be a very sad day, I think.)

Next to the cabin crew, the folks down on Deck 5 take care of a myriad of things we needed while on board.

Natalia - Chief Concierge - Portugal

Here’s Natalia, who is the chief concierge. We’ve sailed with her before. Last year, when we needed a reservation at a restaurant in Lisbon during a port call, she took care of it for us. This time, she helped to arrange a private visit to a winery in Montevideo, as well as set up our private transfer when we disembark in Buenos Aires. She’s great.

Merlii - Estonia

And here’s Merlii, who manages shore excursions. She went to great effort to finalize the plans for that winery visit we’re making in Montevideo, which turned out to be no easy task. She also arranges for the huge selection of shore excursions that are offered on every Crystal cruise.

Paula Jean - USA

Paula Jean is your go-to person if you want to book your next Crystal cruise. There’s a great incentive to booking while you’re on board, as you get an extra Crystal Society credit. We’ve just booked 2 back-to-back river cruises (not until 2018!!), and Paula Jean explained that by booking back-to-back cruises, we’d get an extra 5% discount. Remember that when you’re booking your cruises!

As I’m sure you’re well-aware by now, Internet connections can be extremely challenging when traveling by ship. Crystal ships have Computer University on board, with a dedicated staff ready, willing and able to help you with any computer issues you may have.

Jessie - Tech Concierge - Philipines

Here’s Jessie, who runs Computer U (and put up with me over the past 2 weeks, no mean feat)!

Perhaps the most talked about part of any cruise is the food. Crystal is very well-known for the excellence of the food on board (the gala buffet lunch is being served as I prepare this post), and the execution and service is outstanding.

Remi - Poland

Here’s Remi, who is our Maitre ‘D on this cruise. We’ve sailed with him many times, and he is outstanding. He always manages to assign us our favorite table (midship starboard window table), and he makes sure that the Crystal Dining Room runs like a fine-tuned Swiss timepiece, which it does. He’s also a wonderful conversationalist on many topics and we’ve had many enjoyable chats with him. He’s also quite knowledgeable about fine restaurants all over the world.

We also had a specific team that took care of our table:

Bruno - Portugal

Here’s Bruno – our headwaiter. We were bummed when we boarded to find out that Bruno’s section ended a table away from ours’. But, after making a special request to Remi, Bruno became our guy. We’ve also sailed with him before and he’s been great tending to all of our special dining requests: steak tartare, Dover sole, kosher roast chicken, Crepes Suzette, etc., all of which he executes with great flair and good humor.

Marjan - Serbia

Marjan is our senior waiter and we really like him. He’s attended to all of our dinners in the Crystal Dining Room and is extremely professional and fun to be around. He’s also very good at making recommendations about what to eat.

Stanko - Serbia

Stanko is our assistant waiter and he, too, is just excellent. These guys have their act down and the do it really well. And we very much appreciate that they kept the cauliflower off of my plate for (almost) the entire voyage.

Ilija - Croatia

Ilija has been our sommelier and he’s extremely knowledgeable about wine. I probably haven’t mentioned it yet, but Crystal instituted an “all-inclusive” policy back in 2012, which means that, among other things, your wine and spirits are included in your fare. While there’s also a premium wine list from which you can order at an additional charge, the complimentary wines have improved every year, and there is a large variety of them from which to choose. Ilija has been a great resource in acquainting us with these wines, always making the perfection recommendation depending on what we were eating on any given evening. It was also interesting to hear him describe the various wines (and he’s very generous with the pour).

Now you won’t always be eating in the CDR, as there are 2 specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road. Here’s Paolo, who manages these two restaurants.


He’s the go-to guy should you want to book the specialty restaurants.

On Lido Deck, you can order food from the Trident Grill every day from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Here’s Gabriel who’s one of the short-order cooks:

Gabriel - Philippines

I’ve mentioned in other posts that there are many watering holes wherein you can dip your beak should you be thirsty. One of them, Crystal Cove on Deck 5 features a pianist for your listening pleasure several times a day. Here’s Gordon, who you’ll find at the ivories playing your favorite melodies:

Gordon - Pianist

Last – but definitely not least – I want to highlight the guys who work up on Lido Deck, both inside and out, who – many say – are the heart and soul of the ship. These are the guys – and there are many of them – who will bring you drinks and food and are always ready to help you, but they’re more than that. When you first meet them, they ask you your name, which they then commit to memory. But they’ll remember you, not just during your cruise, but on the next cruise you take and on the cruise after that. How they are able to manage that, I’ll never know but somehow they do.

Here are just a few of the guys on Lido Deck that we’ve come to know over the years:

Allan - Philippines

Dio - Philippines

Kiko - Philippines

Ricky - Philippines
Ricky (in his Crystal Cove evening garb)

My favorite anecdote about these guys happened back in 2012 on Symphony’s sister ship, Serenity. We had first sailed on Serenity in 2005 with my sister, Leslie, and her husband, Ron. The guys on Lido Deck were very friendly and attentive and we made several new friends on that voyage. So, now it’s 2012 and we’ve just boarded Serenity for another crossing, this time from Barcelona to Miami and we’re taking our first stroll on Lido Deck. One of the guys, Jun (with whom we’d sailed back in 2005), strides up to us and says: “How’s your sister, Leslie?” Well, I was just gobsmacked (and wouldn’t you be, too?).

And this – I believe – is the Crystal difference. Everyone on the crew with whom we’ve come into contact delivers that same commitment of service and friendliness which, I believe, keeps us coming back year after year. 

I’ve only been able to share with you a few of the many crew that are aboard, but I want you to know that the service we’ve received from these few is indicative of what you can expect and we give our sincere thanks to them all.




A Quick Sunday Post

Good afternoon, everyone. We’ve just departed the small port city of Puerto Madryn. Our cruise is beginning to wind down now: one more sea day, one last port (Montevideo, Uruguay), and then we disembark where we began – Buenos Aires – on Wednesday morning. Can you believe it?

Anyway, here are a few images from the past 24 hours that I thought you might enjoy – nothing earth-shattering or life-changing, but just for your enjoyment:

Saturday afternoon: rough seas developing – Promenade Deck closed due to high winds. The intrepid AAC CPA and I snuck out on Deck 11 aft and took the following shot – great poop deck action, right?

2016-00 - Rough Wake

Here’s a shot of the full moon as taken from the Crystal Dining Room on Saturday night. The wetness on the large window is due to the fact that we were having 20 foot waves hitting the ship, several of which crashed right into that window, causing AAC CPA to jump into the air each time it happened. It was very dramatic. Nice moon, though.

2016-01-Full Moon

2016-02 - Tartare

And then our headwaiter, Bruno, appeared to prepare an encore presentation of his famous beefsteak tartare. It was beyond delicious.

After dinner, it was supposed to be showtime in Galaxy Lounge, Deck 6 forward. But the rock and roll was SO intense, that the show had to be canceled at the last minute. The ship’s cruise director, Paul, literally had to sit down on the stage (so he didn’t fall over) to explain that it was too dangerous for performers to come out on the stage. In this case, the show must NOT go on!!!

We crept back to our cabin – the pitch was really fun – and attempted to get ready for bed without falling over too much. And then we were rocked to sleep!

Sunday morning and here we are in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Puerto Madryn Tourist

Our landing early this morning:

2016-01-24 Dock

Just a few random shots:

Port at Puerto Madryn

How we got off and on the ship

Walking around the town for about an hour or so, we stopped in a market to see what they sold. Not sure what this product is for – any thoughts?

Product in Market

Here’s good old Symphony seen from town:

Symphony from Town

“The King” is still very big in Argentina, as seen on this billboard:

Elvis in Puerto Madryn

To be honest – perhaps it was Sunday – there wasn’t a lot to see or do, so we just came back to the ship.

Symphony at Dock - 02
Returning to the dock and the ship

A few hours later, it was time to depart:

AAC Departs PM
AAC CPA bids a fond farewell to Puerto Madryn

Captain Backs Us Out
Captain Ralf Zander (left) and his officers oversee our departure 

Departure from PM - 01
Another officer at the front of the ship observing our departure

Time to get ready for our evening Negroni, and our fantastic butler, Raja, will be stopping by in a few minutes to bring us something tasty.

Have a great evening, y’all!!






Crystal Symphony: Where’d Everybody Go?

Good afternoon and greetings from the Falkland Islands. We anchored here at about 7:00 AM today and will be departing in a few hours. 

Here’s AAC CPA greeting you from the Promenade Deck – note the lovely weather:

AAC - Welcome

Yes, gentle readers, the weather today is not ideal for going ashore and traipsing about. So AAC CPA and I elected to stay aboard. And it was really interesting, because everyone else went ashore and we were left almost all alone. 

I thought that, as we have the run of the ship, I’d give you a tour without being distracted by any other passengers of the beautiful Crystal Symphony. Count the number of people you see as I show you the ship.

We start our tour up on Deck 11 where, all the way forward, is the Palm Court, an oasis of calm (and palm). Unless it’s right now where afternoon tea is in session and then the places gets pretty busy. Or during the cocktail hour, where you might drop by for a pre-dinner libation. On port days, however, the place is empty and AAC CPA and I spent a few luxurious hours up there all by ourselves pretending that we owned the ship and had it all to ourselves which, actually, we did for awhile.

Palm Court

Let’s move down to Deck 6 where you can find the Bistro, open all day and into the evening. It’s here you go for your morning coffee, snacks and small meals during the day.


Next up is the Starlight Lounge. During the day, you can play Team Trivia (we’ve won twice, btw), or attend a lecture or, at night, come for a cocktail and dancing.

Starlight Lounge

Proceeding aft on Deck 6, we hit the Connoisseur Club, one of the very few places on the entire ship where you’d go for a stogie and some cognac. I think it’s a smelly room, but that’s me.

Cigar Lounge

Next door is the Avenue Saloon, a place where everybody knows your name. Wait, isn’t that in Boston? Anyway, it’s an intimate bar for drinks, chatter, live piano music, and, on some nights, karaoke!!

Avenue Saloon

Next door is Computer U, where you go with all your tech issues. We’re lucky to have Internet right now, so I’m rushing to get this blog entry completed ASAP.

Computer U

Computer U also offers classes in their very own Computer U classroom.

Computer U Classroom

All the way aft on Deck 6 is the card room where, on sea days, duplicate bridge games are available. Please don’t trump my ace!!

Card Room

Moving forward and to the port side is the 1st of the 2 specialty restaurants on board, Prego, serving up delicious Italian fare.


A little further forward is the 2nd specialty restaurant, Silk Road, where the cuisine of the great Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, is served. We were there last night, and I had sushi for dessert. Seriously, I did.

Silk Road

Next door to Silk Road is one of the special culinary treasures of the ship, the Vintage Room. It is here – for an additional, but completely warranted charge – that you can enjoy an intimate 7-course meal with wine pairings, hosted by the ship’s head sommelier. It’s a real treat. And for only 10 – 12 guests.

Vintage Room

Moving back midship on Deck 6 is the fully stocked library.


Or, if reading’s not your thing, how about taking in a movie at the Hollywood Theatre? They show fairly new films and serve fresh popcorn, too.

Hollywood Theater

If it’s a live show that you want to see, you’ve got the Galaxy Lounge, all the way forward on Deck 6. Shows are presented every night for your viewing pleasure.

Galaxy Lounge

Finally on Deck 6, if Lady Luck is with you, check out the casino, where slots galore and table games await you. (The blackjack tables have been very unkind to me on this voyage.)


Let’s move down to Deck 5 which is, perhaps, the hub of the ship. Let’s burn some calories after all the eating we’ve done over the past 9 days, and take the grand staircase to get there.

Crystal Cove Stairway

And here’s the reception desk, where you can plan a shore excursion or ask the concierge to make you a reservation for some hot restaurant in a port city, or just about anything you want.


Directly across from the reception deck is the Crystal Cove, yet another watering hole. This one gets very crowded just before dinner. There’s another pianist here to entertain you while you sip your cocktail.

Crystal Cove

Just next to Crystal Cove is the ship’s signature fountain and waterfall. They’re big.

Crystal Cove Fountain

Although you can only see a part of it, immediately in front of the waterfall is an open area that, on big-band cruises, can be used as a dancefloor for pre-dinner dancing. It’s swank.

Over your head is the stained glass Crystal Cove ceiling.

Crystal Cove Ceiling

And, because you’ll want to book your next cruise before disembarking, here’s where you can meet with a Crystal Cruise consultant who’ll answer all your questions and make your dreams come true. I kid you not, I was talking to Paula Jean earlier today about booking back-to-back river cruises – for 2018!!!!!

Book a Cruise

Just aft of Crystal Cove is the place where you’ll spend a lot of your time, the Crystal Dining Room. Overseen on this voyage by the incomparable Remi, the CDR is the place where you’ll be very spoiled by the excellent service and cuisine.

Dining Room - 01

And here’s a section of this afternoon’s lunch menu, which I know will make somebody’s day.

Lunch Menu

So that’s my little tour of the ghost ship, Symphony. I hope you enjoyed it.

Do you believe me now about how empty the place is today? To give you a better idea, I was told that, at noon, there were only 67 passengers aboard. Full capacity is 922, so you get the idea, right?

Tomorrow’s a sea day and then, on Sunday, we dock at Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Adios, amigos!!!



Another Day in Antarctica

I am here to tell you that it never gets boring. If you even think you might become a bit ho-hum about sailing around Antarctica, just wait 5 minutes and see another marvel.

This morning, we woke up to find ourselves near Deception Island. If penguins are your thing, this is the place. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them running all over, scrambling down to the shore (a/k/a “Penguin Highway”) to find food, then back up into the hills. It’s fascinating.

We’re now en route to Elephant Island, which will be our last stop here before, once again, sailing through the dreaded Drake Passage on our way to our next port, the Falkland Islands.

Here are more images from the past 24 hours:

And oh, did I mention that we had visitors yesterday from Palmer Station, who came aboard to tell about what they do here?

Palmer Station Crew.jpg
Here they are, arriving on the port side

BTW, they played to a packed house and they were extremely interesting as well as entertaining.

Look at this amazing photo of seals and penguins! (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

Can you believe these penguins? (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

Iceberg Under Water
Another iceberg – note that you can see it underwater as well

AAC - Iceberg Evening
AAC CPA on deck at cocktail time – it’s now about 8:00 PM

Evening Front of Ship
Same time, from the bow of the ship

Evening Back of Ship
And from the stern

Evening on Promenade
And along the deserted Promenade Deck

Iceberg Sunset
Is that a fabulous sight or what? Still 8:00 PM yesterday evening

AAC Evening Cocktail
And, immediately after, cocktails in the Palm Court

Sunset - 1130 PM
Sunset in Antarctica – at 11:45 PM

Deception Island.jpg
Earlier this morning – Deception Island from a distance

Deception Island - 01
Another view of Deception Island, closer up

Those spots are penguins – wish I had a telescopic lens for my iPhone!

The last photo today is for our sailing buddy, Jim Brochu, who has entertained aboard the Crystal ships many times. Every day at sea, one of the activities is “Team Trivia”. The following question gave a sly wink to Jim, as #4 is a show that Jim wrote and performed for a season in New York and later performed on Symphony back in 2012. (7% of the respondents voted for “Zero Hour”!!) 


That’s all for now, folks! 



Breaking News: Antarctica!

Greetings from the bottom of the world! For some unknown reason, we have the best Internet service since we boarded the ship last Wednesday. I’ve decided to strike while the iron is HOT, and am posting a few pictures from our first 5 hours in Antarctica. The photos probably don’t do justice to what I’m seeing in front of me at the front of Crystal Symphony’s Palm Court. I’m here with a couple of hundred other passengers taking in the sights. Wish you were here to share them with us!

AAC - 01 - 0655
AAC CPA at about 6:15 this morning – icebergs in the distance

Antarctica 01 - 0642

Antarctica 01 - 0658

AAC - 02 - 0655

Antarctica 01 - 0754

Lido Deck - 0745
Lido Deck totally cleared of everything

Whale 0833
Humpback whale sighting

Antarctica 01 - 0929
AAC CPA with mainland Antarctica behind him

Mainland 0915
Mainland Antarctica

Antarctica 01 - 0927

2016-01-19 10.55.38

Taken from the top of the ship on Deck 12

Pretty amazing, right?

More to follow, as our Internet connection allows!



Day 6: The Dreaded Drake Passage

Good morning and greetings from somewhere inside the Drake Passage. First of all, we still have Internet service, so I’ll try to get this post done quickly.

Were you worried about us last night? Wondering how we were doing as we made our way through the Drake Passage (especially after the Captain’s scary announcement – which he repeated THREE TIMES IN A ROW!!)? We left Ushuaia on schedule at about 9:15 PM, while we were in the middle of dinner.

Detour: Look at some of the yummy things we had last night:

Starting the evening with Negronis in our cabin with the family, followed by:

Pork Tenderloin
AAC CPA’s pork tenderloin – deeelicious

Bruno - Crepes Suzette
Our headwaiter Bruno made us some Crepes Suzette for dessert

After dinner, we checked out the sights as Ushuaia receded in the distance:

Ushuaia in the Distance
Ushuaia far away at 10:30 PM Sunday night; it isn’t quite dark yet

We were all a bit tired after our day at Tierra del Fuego National Park, so we decided to call it a night. On getting back into our cabin, we made sure that everything was secured, especially the booze, which we wrapped in cloth napkins and placed in a drawer. Any that could roll or slide or fall, we took care of it. We read for awhile and then packed it in.

I slept through ’til about 7:00 AM and was only slightly aware during the night of any movement around me. Turns out that it was quite a rough night. The ship was definitely pitching this morning, but in no particular direction – it was shake, rattle and roll for awhile, then settle down, and then lurch forward. In a word, it was “fun”. (We’ve been through much worse.)

We decided to get dressed and head down to breakfast, but we had a problem. Apparently, during the night a drawer opened inside our closet and jammed the closet door shut. Uh-oh – no clothes to wear! Fortunately, we called our intrepid butler Raja, who got the right guy with the right tool to remedy the problem. Thus we were able to go down to a mostly empty restaurant. Seems like there may be some unhappy sailors this morning. But we soldier on!

AAC CPA is at some lecture, but I decided to climb high in the ship and came all the way forward on deck 11 to Palm Court. A delightful cocktail lounge with great visibility of the ocean in front of us. It’s also where afternoon tea is served each day.

Of course, being so far forward and so high up, there’s a lot of motion up here. I kinda like it. (AAC CPA recalls being up here a few years ago during really rough weather, when he basically had to crawl out, because the motion was so bad. Fun times, right?)

So, here we are in Palm Court as I complete today’s blog entry:

Palm Court Entrance

Map - Position
Just inside Palm Court is this map to show us our current position 

Palm Court
Big dance floor in the middle of Palm Court

View from Palm Court
Our current view – not so bad right?

Creepy Statue
Creepy statue in Palm Court – I just don’t get it

My view - 02
And here’s the view from where I’m sitting right now; yes, that’s my foot

Bottom line: If this is as bad as it’s going to get, bring it on. In about an hour, the Captain will make his daily announcement and we can expect an update on weather conditions. If all goes well, by this time tomorrow we will be cruising around Antarctica. Isn’t it worth a bit of rough seas to get there to see it?

Stay tuned!! (Ooooooh, we’re really rocking and rolling now. It’s the Drake Shake for sure!)

Day 5: Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego

Buenas tardes from the almost the bottom of the world. Today we anchored in Ushuaia, Argentina – the lowest point in South America. We were supposed to have docked early this morning, but wind conditions prevented that from happening.

Speaking of which, the Captain’s Announcement just came through to the entire ship literally this minute! Change in plans – when we depart Ushuaia later early this evening, we will not pass by Cape Horn on our way to Antarctica as originally planned. The reason? The pilot boats refuse to get off the ship there due to the bad weather forecast that has been predicted! Instead we will head directly towards Antarctica. (Remember my last post about “the Drake Lake” vs. “the Drake Shake”? Looks like we’re going to get the latter.) The seas should turn rough around midnight. Winds up to 30 MPH and wave heights up to 14 feet. Let the games begin!!

Ahem – as I was saying – we had a marvelous day traveling to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which I described in my last post. Let me share with you some of the photos I took today:

Ushuaia Sunrise - 01
Sunrise in Ushuaia at 6:00 AM today as seen from our cabin

Ushuaia On Deck
AAC CPA on deck a few minutes later – it’s cold out there!

Ushuaia Sunrise - 02
Portside view

Symphony from Harbor
The beautiful Crystal Symphony as seen from the pier

Post Office - 01
1st stop inside the park: the world’s southern-most post office

Post Office - 02
Postcards for sale at the post office

Lake Shot - Panoramic
Panoramic photo lakeside

Visitor Center
AAC CPA at the Alakush Visitor’s Center

Roca Lake
Another lakeside view – note the beautiful snowcapped mountains

Condor Hill - AAC - 01
AAC CPA with Condor Hill in the background

Lowest Sign - AAC
Lapataia Bay – AAC CPA is at the lowest point at the end of Route 3

Lapataia Bay
Lapataia Bay

That’s all for now, kids. Time for us to batten down the hatches and get ready for our roller coast ride to Antarctica.

Remember: we’ll probably be out of internet range for the next 4 days or so. When I return, I hope to have lots of adventures to share with you.

Still On the High Seas: Tierra del Fuego and the Drake Passage

Greetings and salutations from the beautiful Crystal Symphony. Thought I’d say “hello” and tell you a little bit about what’s in store for us over the next few days.

Before I do, however, here are a few pix from the past couple of days:

AAC - 1st formal night
AAC CPA on our 1st formal night

Family Negronis
Family Negronis in Palm Court (the 4th glass is MINE!)

Formal Shoes
Formal shoes on formal night

At Home Negronis
Our butler, Raja, delivers yummies to us each evening; I make the Negronis

Pre-dinner entertainment: The Virginia Gentlemen from UVA

Captains Invite
Look where we’re going tonight before dinner

It’s our 3rd consecutive day at sea – a very lazy afternoon – and tomorrow we arrive at our first port: Ushuaia, which will be our portal to Tierra del Fuego which, in Spanish, means “Land of Fire”. It was named by Ferdinand Magellan who, when passing by in 1520, saw a number of fires burning on the coastline.

Tierra del Fuego Pic - 01

Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago at the southern most tip of South America, including Cape Horn, and is divided between Chile on the east and Argentina on the west, but the entirety is governed by the latter country.

The earliest known civilization dates back to 8,000 BC.

Our excursion on Sunday morning will take us from the port town of Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park, about 10 miles away. This enormous park – measuring over 155,600 acres – has one of the most beautiful cold forests in the world. As we are at the southern-most tip of South America, we can expect to see many areas of the forest blanketed with snow.

We will also witness and admire the flora and fauna of extreme south Patagonia.

Part of our excursion will take us to Roca Lake, from where we will be able to see Condor Hill, the natural border with Chile.

Lapataia Bay, considered one of the most stunning sights on the island, will be included in our itinerary.

Throughout our journey, it would not be unusual to see wildlife.

We are advised to wear layered clothing, as the daytime temperature will be in the mid to high 40s.

When we depart Ushuaia on Sunday evening, our real adventure will begin: crossing the notorious Drake Passage on our way to Antarctica. I used that adjective intentionally, as you never know what you’re going to get whilst in the passage. It can be relatively calm, or you can be in for one heck of a ride.

Drake - Map

Apparently, we can expect one of two things: “the Drake Lake” or “the Drake Shake”. Which would you prefer?

Drake - 02
The Drake Lake?

Drake - 03
Or the Drake Shake?

(We have friends, traveling on an expedition vessel, who attempted to cross the passage 3 times, but we unable to complete the journey to Antarctica and were turned back because of the rough waters.)

We’re pretty good sailors – don’t generally get seasick nor miss meals – but can admit to being a bit intimidated by crossing the passage not once, but twice over the next few days.

So why all the hubbub? Apparently, this body of water marks the convergence of the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans. The potential (probable?) turbulence is attributed to the passage’s geographic position between the cool conditions of the southernmost part of South America and the frigid regions of Antarctica. Another contributory factor is due to the volume of water traveling through the passage, about 600 times the flow of the Amazon River!!

Anyway, it’s going to be a once (twice, actually) in a lifetime experience regardless of what happens.

Don’t forget that, due to our position, we may lose Internet reception for a few days, particularly once we enter the Drake Passage and throughout our visit to Antarctica.

Don’t worry – we’ll be just fine, and I’ll report back to you once we’re back in range.