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? 

Enjoy!!

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

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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

Postlude:

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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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?

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Here they are, arriving on the port side

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

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

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

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

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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

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Earlier this morning – Deception Island from a distance

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Another view of Deception Island, closer up

Penguins
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”!!) 

Zero

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!

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

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Lido Deck totally cleared of everything

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Humpback whale sighting

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AAC CPA with mainland Antarctica behind him

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Mainland Antarctica

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THIS ONE
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:

Negronis
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

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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!)

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

Boys
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.

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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?

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The Drake Lake?

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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.

 

1st Full Day at Sea

Good afternoon and greetings from the beautiful Crystal Symphony somewhere between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia! Today is the first of 3 consecutive sea days before arriving at our first port.

It’s been a warm and sunny day, but every day will get cooler and cooler as we approach Ushuaia (which will be in the high 40s) and then on to Antarctica (where, if we’re lucky, the 30s).

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I want to share 2 pieces of information with you:

  1. We’re having an amazing time so far; and
  2. Due to the route south to Antarctica, we may (probably will?) lose internet contact from January 18 – January 21. Don’t worry – we’ll be just fine!

In the meantime, here’s a look at our Penthouse Suite on deck 10:

Crystal Penthouse Suite

And here are a few images from our 1st 30 hours on board:

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1st sunset: note the sliver moon in the upper right

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AAC CPA’s 1st breakfast on Lido Deck

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And his 1st cappuccino at the Bistro on Deck 6

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View from our private verandah earlier today – nice and warm, but not for long!!

Tonight’s the 1st formal night, so I have to start getting ready and into my penguin suit, which seems somehow appropriate for a trip to Antarctica, right?

That’s all for now!!

What’s New, Buenos Aires??

I know it seems like all we do is travel, travel, TRAVEL! Cruising around the Caribbean in November, spending Christmas week in London town and now here we go again. Too much galavanting about in too short a period of time, you say? Well, maybe – I’m just grateful that we get to go at all!

You may have already noticed that I like to plan my travel way ahead. At this point, we’ve booked trips (mostly cruises) through 2017. I think it’s great to get them on the calendar. Sometimes, there’s a financial incentive to booking early. If you’re traveling by ship, perhaps you want to snag a certain cabin. Maybe you’re traveling with friends or family and need to coordinate. You get my drift.

Here’s the deal: our cruise line of choice for the past 11 years has been Crystal Cruises. We’ve sailed on Serenity or Symphony more frequently than all other cruises we’ve taken combined. We like the service, the crew, the spaciousness of the vessels and, not least, the passengers with whom we sail, many of whom have become good friends over the years.

TRAVEL TIP: Crystal Cruises

So, about 2 years ago, Crystal announced that, in January 2016, Symphony would be sailing from Buenos Aires to Antarctica and to several other ports. We’d never been to Buenos Aires, let alone South America. And how many opportunities do you have to visit Antarctica? It sounded too good to pass up, and so we booked it, way back then. I contacted my friends at Tully Luxury Travel, chose my cabin, and they booked it for us. Thank you, Nada and Monika.

TRAVEL TIP: Tully Luxury Travel

Crystal Symphony Antarctica
Look what awaits us in about 2 weeks!

As it turns out, my sister, Leslie, and her husband, Ron – who introduced us to Crystal Cruises back in 2005 – decided that they wanted to get in on the action and offered to join us. They’re good sailing buddies, so we thought “why not”?

Crystal Voyage
Here’s where we’ll be going

In addition, we have other good friends who are joining us on this cruise, at least 4 of them (that we know about). One fun thing about Crystal is that, while you’re at the terminal waiting to embark on sailing day, you’re inevitably going to run into people with whom you’ve cruised before. AAC CPA and I are always amazed (and totally flattered) when people walk up to us on line, reintroduce themselves and say how pleased they are to see us again. That’s pretty nice, right? That’s also part of the Crystal experience.

Our cruise doesn’t begin until January 13th, so we decided to fly down to BA this Thursday evening (American Airlines has an 11 hour, nonstop overnight flight from JFK to EZE) and we’ll spend 5 nights at the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt. It’s reputed to be one of the loveliest hotels in Buenos Aires. Thank you Veronica at AmEx Platinum FHR for taking care of our hotel reservations.

TRAVEL TIP: AmEx Platinum FHR Program

BA Night
We’ll be there in just about 72 hours

BA Park Hyatt
Our digs for 5 nights

TRAVEL TIP: Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt

Oh, and here’s another little TRAVEL TIP, if you have the means to do it. You know when your cruise ends and you’re thrown off the ship first thing in the morning (probably kicking and screaming and in total denial)? Well, what if your flight home doesn’t depart for another 13 hours? What’cha gonna do?? Our policy is if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So we asked Veronica if she would contact the Park Hyatt and inquire if we could reserve a “day room” until it was time to leave for the airport that evening. Guess what? We asked and we got! (Thanks again, Veronica!) We’ll be able to check in as early as 9:00 AM, and we’ll have the room until early evening. And, because it’s only a “day room”, the rate has been reduced. So now it won’t hurt so much to get off the ship – we’ll be able to laze around the hotel, hang out by the pool or the spa, and just be pampered, pampered, pampered.

If you’ve been following my posts at all, you know that I’ve already booked our dinner reservations and retained the services of a very cool guide who will squire us around the city.

And for all of you concerned with jet lag, here’s a cool travel fact: there’s only a 2-hour time difference between NYC and BA. Not only that, it’ll be the same everywhere we sail on the cruise. Jet lag: BE GONE!

Casa Rosada
Guess who lived here once upon a time

I’ll be posting while we’re away although, as usual, we’ll probably have the usual lousy Internet challenges for the 2 weeks we’re aboard Symphony. I know, poor us!!

Stay tuned – it’s going to be a great trip!