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”.

2016-01-08 14.53.37
The fabulous Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Hotel

2016-01-08 15.18.16
2nd favorite meal in Buenos Aires, and a 5-minute walk from the hotel

2016-01-09 15.29.22
Quiz: What song did Evita sing from this balcony?

2016-01-09 20.25.51
Favorite and most elegant meal in Buenos Aires

2016-01-10 11.00.11
Seeing Buenos Aires with Pedro, one of the best tour guides ever

2016-01-10 15.25.24
Visiting La Boca (in the rain)

2016-01-11 13.28.31
Teatro Colon: one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses

2016-01-12 09.02.02
Crystal Symphony in port as seen from the Park Hyatt Hotel 

2016-01-13 10.28.39
Repacked and ready to embark Symphony

2016-01-13 20.17.58
AAC CPA on deck for the 1st sunset

2016-01-13 20.19.36
Gorgeous sky 1st evening at sea

2016-01-14 09.26.50
Breakfast al fresco 1st full day at sea

2016-01-14 20.06.50
Family Negronis on the 1st formal night

2016-01-14 22.34.03
Formal Shoes

2016-01-15 20.18.05
The Virginia Gentlemen – Bar none, best entertainment on the voyage

2016-01-16 07.59.56
Invited to have a cocktail with the Captain in his quarters

2016-01-17 09.51.52
The beauty of Tierra del Fuego National Park

2016-01-17 11.57.12
AAC CPA at the end of Route 3 – 11,090 miles from Canada – the lowest piece of land in the world

2016-01-17 21.16.48
More yummy food on Crystal Symphony

2016-01-19 06.42.33
First look at Antarctica from our balcony

2016-01-19 06.55.26
AAC CPA appreciates the view

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

2016-01-19 13.48.18
A delegation from Palmer Station arrives for a visit

2016-01-19 16.31.07
More sea lions just hanging around

2016-01-19 19.44.21
Cruising around Antarctica at about 8:30 PM

2016-01-19 23.27.27
And about 3 hours later! It’s still light out!!

2016-01-22 08.45.46
AAC CPA welcomes you to the Falkland Islands (and its lovely weather)

2016-01-22 20.24.29
But we enjoyed another amazing sunset at sea

2016-01-22 22.37.30
And AAC CPA conjured up a full moon for your viewing pleasure

2016-01-23 20.04.48
Back by popular demand: The Virginia Gentlemen entertain in the Crystal Cove

2016-01-24 08.54.02
Welcome to Puerto Madryn

2016-01-24 11.29.27
This product is sold in the local market

2016-01-24 23.10.32
Late night at sea: full moon on a deserted Promenade Deck

2016-01-25 15.56.04
And another gorgeous day at sea as seen from our balcony

2016-01-26 08.04.36
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

2016-01-27 09.31.17
Disembarking Symphony for the last time (those smiles are FAKE)

2016-01-27 12.07.05
AAC CPA back at the Park Hyatt for 9 hours before the flight home

2016-01-27 23.17.53
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:

2016-02-05 08.28.37

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

Gangplank
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!!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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.

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.

 

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).

S24381A

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:

2016-01-Sunset Moon
1st sunset: note the sliver moon in the upper right

2016-01-Breakfast
AAC CPA’s 1st breakfast on Lido Deck

2016-01-Cappuccino
And his 1st cappuccino at the Bistro on Deck 6

2016-01-view
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!!

Buenos Aires – Day Five

Well, here it is: our last day in town. Our chariot – a/k/a Crystal Symphony – awaits and we will board her tomorrow for a 14-day cruise that will take us to Antarctica and other unusual places. This is the first trip that AAC CPA and I have taken in many years where every place we visit will be for the 1st time. Exciting, right?

Crystal at Harbor
The beautiful Crystal Symphony, as seen from our hotel room

So our plan today was an easy one: We paid a visit to Templo Libertad, just a block away from Teatro Colon. Adjacent to the synagogue is the small Jewish History Museum. The best day to visit the synagogue is on Tuesdays, beginning at 11:00 AM. Due to security, a passport is required and the entry fee is 140 ARS, about $10.00.

The design of the synagogue, which opened in 1932, is heavily influenced by Roman and Byzantine architecture. It is home to the Congregación Israelita de la República de Argentina (or CIRA).

On the way to the synagogue, we made a return visit to Teatro Colon, just because it’s such a beautiful building. And it was there that we had a surprise reunion with two friends who are going to be on the cruise with us. Here’s AAC CPA’s surprised reaction when he saw them (with Leslie and Ron in the background).

AAC - BA
AAC CPA surprised by our Crystal sailing buddies

Here are a few photographs of the synagogue:

Libertad Synagogue Gates
Templo Libertad 

Libertad Synagogue
Templo Libertad gate detail, showing the 12 tribes of Israel

Libertad Overhead Entrance
No, that’s not the Vulcan salute!!

Libertad Sanctuary Entrance
Entrance to the sanctuary

Libertad Sanctuary - 01
Inside the sanctuary

Libertad Sanctuary - 02
A closer look at the “bimah”

Museum Typewriter
It’s an old typewriter with Hebrew letters found inside the museum

TRAVEL TIP: Templo Libertad

This afternoon was quite lazy and we began the arduous task of repacking. I don’t know why it should be difficult, since we’re not adding anything to what we brought from New York but, somehow, it’s very challenging and fraught with peril and emotional outbursts. Perhaps you’ve also had that experience, too?

2016-01-12 18.46.22
Is repacking more stressful than packing?

Tonight, for our grand farewell to Buenos Aires, we’re staying in and starting our evening at Vinoteca, which offers an extensive selection of wine tastings, particularly of the Malbecs we’ve been enjoying while in town. There’s also the option of sampling a selection of artisanal cheeses while you’re sipping the wines you’ve chosen. From there, we’ll have dinner at the elegant Duhau Restaurante, the gourmet restaurant at the hotel.

Park Hyatt Vinoteca
Vinoteca at the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt

Park Hyatt Duhau Restaurante
Duhau Restaurante

11:00 Update: We had a great meal, preceded by an amazing wine and cheese tasting at Vinoteca. We sampled 8 different wines: 4 red and 4 white, and 7 different cheeses, all of which were home grown. The dinner at Duhau was excellent and each dish was beautifully presented, as was the service. 

A DESSERT
Desserts at Duhau – A sweet end to a perfect meal

CUISINE TIP: Duhau Restaurante and Vinoteca

A PALACE
Another part of the hotel – just ‘cuz

PS. Internet reception aboard ships can be notoriously terrible, so you may not hear from me for awhile. Not to worry – I’ll keep in touch as best I can.