Our primary thought about this cruise was that we were very lucky to visit the Antarctic for a few days when the weather was ideal. We had clear and sunny skies with little wind and were fully able to view the spectacular scenery and wild life around us. An outstanding event was the visit of about ten scientists and support staff from the US Palmer research station that came on board for presentations and to answer our questions. Crystal even had an ice pilot aboard, a former US Coast Guard icebreaker captain, so we wouldn’t have the same problem as the Russian ship stuck in the ice while we were there. It was a wonderful experience and for us the main reason we went on the cruise. Everything else was in some sense secondary.
We had very long flights Toronto-Buenos Aries and Santiago-Toronto which we found tough going. We made it both ways in spite of ice storms and low temperatures at home. The so-called reciprocity documentation required by Argentina and the somewhat lesser bureaucratic processes of Chile were somewhat of a pain. Therefore, travel to and from the cruise ship was our biggest trial but we had good experiences getting on and off the ship.
The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the holiday events were very good. This was the first time on Crystal that we saw more than a few children aboard but this was no problem since they were well entertained by the programs for them. The service was very good and many of staff did learn our names.
Dining was up to Crystal’s usual standard. Generally we enjoyed the food although there were occasional lapses. For example, there was a dish that claimed to be “coq au vin” which was just roasted chicken covered with a dubious sauce and worst of all in one case frozen peas and mechanically diced carrots that looked like they were bought at Wal-Mart. This time we took care to make all our dining room reservations on line before the cruise. This worked out with no trouble and we would strongly recommend doing this since we were told the Crystal dining room can only handle about 70 “dining by reservation” couples per cruise. Don’t believe your travel agents if they tell you that you can straighten it out when you board the ship – you can’t.
Two very good young male vocalists (Will Martin and Jonathan Ansell), an excellent guitar player (Byron Johnston), and a vocal impressionist (Karen Grainger) were the highlights of the entertainment for us. A comic ventriloquist, a mid reader, and a multi-instrument guy were just so-so and we found the production shows tired and boring. The Magic Castle magician put on a short but a very good show. The lecturers were also very good. We particularly enjoyed David Drewry (deep knowledge of Antarctic science), Ed Larson (a great storyteller) and Roberto d’Alimonte (a political expert - needs a better sense of humor) but Dan Raviv’s presentations on media events although smooth were mostly without meaningful content.
We visited some ports in Argentina and Chile which were OK but not great. However, we did find the Falkland Islands rather interesting. We were told there were 3,000 people, 500,000 sheep and 96,000 land mines in an area similar in size to Connecticut. However, we observed in various places in Argentina how passionate they feel about having the Falklands (they call them Los Malvinas) except that the people of the islands overwhelmingly want to stay British. This situation is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The Beagle Channel, Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn also made for interesting cruising.
All in all we were very satisfied with this cruise.