Crystal Symphony Cruise Review by AWHW
- Sail Date: January 2016
- Destination: Antarctica
- Cabin Type: Penthouse with Verandah
We sailed from Buenos Aires on 13 January at 6pm and it was not until the fifth day that we set foot on land. Even on the Argentina coast from day one the sea could not be described as smooth. The first port of call was Ushuaia, the southernmost city on a Sunday and there was nothing to see. The four full days at sea passed well though, that is if you can take the sea. Passengers were allowed four dinners at specialty restaurant without supplement and I took full advantage of this. Both Silk Road (Japanese fusion cuisine by Nobu) and the Italian restaurant Prego were really good, the Italian Maitre d' particularly friendly. This voyage was not full, so that booking at the two restaurant was easier, and it allowed me to decide where to dine after studying the main dining room menu.
Barely about a year ago I sailed on Crystal Serenity, and this time by the third meal in the main restaurant I noticed the marked change of cuisine style. The waiter confirmed that there was indeed a change of the Group Executive Chef. Crystal offers two full menus to choose from, one traditional one modern. The new modern menu was very much molecular cuisine. Excellent presentation of course and restaurant staff service was to Crystal's usual high standard. Together with the best high tea at sea: the Palm Court formal tea is almost a real ceremony everyday, and these made each day a culinary experience of some sort, even though personally I prefer the previous style of more traditional cooking.
On the third night I was told that my PH stateroom was infected with insert even though I did not see anything. I reluctantly agreed to move a few cabin away, and helped by my butler, stewardess and porters, the move takes no time and there was not even the need to pack and unpack.
For this inconvenience I was surprised that an additional credit of USD250 was added to my account. What happened was an indication of Crystal's meticulous attention to hygiene of a highest order, and I appreciate the generosity of the unexpected offer for compensation. I believe most if not all other cruise lines would not do so as it was not really necessary.
We sailed at 9pm towards Drake Passage. The Captain had already announced that due to weather condition we would not be able to sail around Cape Horn next morning. He also warned that passengers should expect rough sea condition near midnight and should take safety caution. Indeed the sea was rough (Beaufort 9) by midnight. I can take any sea condition, and I believe passengers should have the correct expectation as one sails across Drake Passage.
Arrived in Antarctic waters about 8:30 am and the sea turned smooth. The incredibly beautiful and spectacular scenery sent everyone shivering on the deck in very strong wind and around zero degree temperature. We arrived Palmer Station about 1pm and the Palmer crew were on the ship to give a very enlightening presentation of their research work, then they answered questions. The following day was supposedly another day of Antarctic scenic cruising but misty weather condition precluded any good sighting. We passed Elephant Island without view of the island, but there was a brief glimpse of sunset at Antarctica that was simply breath-taking.
Negotiating Drake again for another not very comfortable sea day, we arrived Port Stanley at Falklands. The best excursion was the visit to the penguin colony, and this turned out to be excellent as we get really close to penguins. Part of the drive was by 4x4, 4 in a car, which accounts for the higher cost, but it is worthwhile.
After Falklands the South Atlantic was also rough. There was little interest as a destination for Puerto Madryn. But after another sea day Montevideo was a good port of call, as of course the embarkation port Buenos Aires that I stayed three nights post-cruise.
If this cruise is not for the average cruiser and not really an expedition, it is nevertheless a trip for real travellers rather than for tourists. It takes a real traveller to take in so many rough sea days and three uninteresting ports of call to 'discover' Antarctica (and in my case I needed to fly more than 30 hours just to arrive for embarkation). But what an experience to last a lifetime! A souvenir to take home was an Antarctica Certificate bearing my name signed by the Captain. I am not bored during sea days as I enjoyed the ship's food, the pamper, and not least the entertainment. The evening with the singer Kristen Hertzenberg, a 'real' soprano, was one of the best shows I have seen at sea. If the time spent in Antarctic waters was too short, it was simply memorable.
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