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9 Crystal Buenos Aires Cruise Reviews

I chose this itinerary because I wanted to see Antarctica, experience sailing the Drake Passage, Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, and specifically on this ship. In addition we saw the Falkland Islands, sailed through some of the ... Read More
I chose this itinerary because I wanted to see Antarctica, experience sailing the Drake Passage, Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, and specifically on this ship. In addition we saw the Falkland Islands, sailed through some of the fjords in Chile and made several stops in ports along the way. I had wanted to get back to Buenos Aires and also not having ever been to Santiago, this itinerary was perfect because we left from Buenos Aires and the trip ended in Valparaiso from where I then went on to the Chilean capital. Buenos Aires and Santiago are each wonderful cities with a very different character to one another. Antarctica was extraordinarily beautiful, unforgettable and must be seen since the experience is truly indescribable. From sailing among giant icebergs, tabular and otherwise, to witnessing the landscapes and wild sea life all in weather that kept changing dramatically every 15 minutes, the entire experience was as visually dazzling as it was thrilling. Sailing through the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel and Chilean Fjords (parts of each) provided endlessly beautiful scenery and extraordinary climate-enhanced views. The Crystal Symphony is an elegant spacious ship with a very great and extraordinarily dedicated staff, consistently stellar service, wonderful cuisine and a 360 degree open Promenade Deck close to the sea that remains one of the ship's most remarkable features, in addition to the usual surrounding open deck space at the top of the ship. Even when full, the ship feels at all times very uncrowded and exudes an intimacy despite its size. It warrants repeating on its own: the staff and service on the Crystal Symphony are extraordinary. Embarkation and debarkation procedures were amazingly simple and confusion-free. Note: In the Ratings below I left Entertainment blank only because I did not attend any of the evening shows. There should be a separate category for lectures which were beyond excellent*** as usual on Crystal, and the movie offerings constituted a good range. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our 3rd cruise on the Crystal line and our 2nd on Symphony (which is our favorite). We had so much trouble getting to the cruise due to a blizzard in the NYC area. The two days we booked in Buenos Aires were lost to us and we ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise on the Crystal line and our 2nd on Symphony (which is our favorite). We had so much trouble getting to the cruise due to a blizzard in the NYC area. The two days we booked in Buenos Aires were lost to us and we arrived in the city only a few hours before our boarding time. What a relief it was to walk into the Crystal environment after such a anxiety filled experience. Embarkation took a little longer than usual due to a large number of people showing up at the same time, but Crystal still handled it well and we were through the lines in no time. Our room was ready before 3. Some people think the rooms are too small, but we find them to be just fine. I asked for ginger ale to be stocked in the mini bar and for a different type of pillow for my husband and our stewardess complied quickly. We have never had a bad stewardess or even a mediocre one, they are all excellent. Dinner in the main dining room was wonderful as always. Our waiter and headwaiter were the best yet. So was the sommelier. I didn't care for the particular white wine served that evening, and he suggested another type that I loved. He would always offer it to me at every dinner in case I didn't want the type served. (Different types of red and white wines are offered every night, but I noticed many people ordering different types). It's all included unless you get into the really pricey area of wines. I have to say something about the itinerary. It was the most spectacular and exciting trip I have ever taken, and my husband and I have traveled extensively. We LOVED the penguin colonies in the Falklands. If you have the chance, you have to take one of the excursions out to the colonies. Ours took 3 hours each way but it was worth it. The icebergs and the wildlife in Antarctica were unbelievable. We ran into some wild weather while there, but it just added more adventure to the trip. We loved seeing where Ernest Shackleton landed with his men on Elephant Island. There were several lectures on board: one on Shackleton and some on wildlife and Antarctica itself. All well worth attending. The most beautiful evening of all was at sunset while sailing through the icebergs. The ship gets quite close to them. Crossing the Drake passage was especially exciting with 30 foot waves. I took Less Drowsy Dramamine and had no problem with sea sickness. Next were the.Chilean fjords and the Strait of Magellan. Absolutely stunning and all wild. No houses, towns and only a couple of small fishing boats were seen in the whole day. As usual we met some great people and just had a wonderful time. As far as the downside, the only thing I can complain about was that the movies were kind of old. Not as up-to-date as our first cruise. Would I go with Crystal again? Absolutely. We are now planning our next adventure for 2017. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We had not sailed with Crystal since the Fall of 2013, and were a little leery about the sale of Crystal to a Chinese company. Since our first cruise on the Symphony in 2004, we loved both the Symphony and the Serenity - for service, ... Read More
We had not sailed with Crystal since the Fall of 2013, and were a little leery about the sale of Crystal to a Chinese company. Since our first cruise on the Symphony in 2004, we loved both the Symphony and the Serenity - for service, food, and for the way we were always made to feel taken care of and "special". We tried two other lines, Oceania and Silverseas, because we wanted to be CERTAIN Crystal was "our" cruise line. Well, thankfully, we had worried about the ownership change needlessly. Within 24 hours of embarking on our 18-day Buenos-Aires-Valparaiso cruise (with Antarctica as the highlight), both my husband and I and the couple we travel with all agreed - Crystal is absolutely the BEST, and we have no desire to travel with any other company. In no way did Oceania or Silverseas meet the very high standard set by Crystal - especially regarding the food and service, and wonderful concern they have for their passengers' every need and for their safety and well being. The first night, we were delighted to return to the concept of assigned seating and a set dinner hour FOR THOSE WHO CHOSE - in the main dining room. (For those who find this all too formal, open seating is available in another part of the dining room). We were all smiles as the marvelous maitre d' Mario and the usual cadre of elegantly-clad waitstaff greeted and then escorted us to our window table for two - our dining "home" for 18 days. The room, as always, was festive and elegant, with tables set with the usual gleaming silver and crystal, and beautiful porcelain dinnerware. We were thrilled when we were introduced to the lovely men who would be our senior and assistant waiters for the entire trip, Juan and Ferenc. What's wrong with having waitstaff who understand your culinary preferences and eccentricities, who are knowledgeable about the fare of the day, and are there to make sure every meal, every course, is prepared and served to your liking? The food itself was marvelous, from the first meal to the last. And because we also prefer being served for breakfast and lunch instead of eating buffet-style, we returned for almost every meal every day. Head waiter Vlada did his customary great job with special requests - including classic Caesar salad prepared tableside (when was the last time YOU experienced that treat!?!), Kosher chicken, cherries Jubilee, Schnitzel Holstein, etc. etc. NEVER AGAIN Oceania, where we were told "there are no tables for two or you will have to wait a while for one or sit at a larger table with others" - OR Silverseas, where we were never sure which part of the room we would be in or who our waitstaff would be. Everywhere we went, the "Crystal culture" of service above and beyond was the norm. Our cabin stewardess was a lovely young Chinese woman, Yunger, who seemed to anticipate our every need and kept our stateroom immaculately. Because there were quite a few days of rocky seas, we chose to have cocktails in the Crystal Cove (midship) almost every evening. The atmosphere in that venue illustrated why the Crystal ships are designed to make passengers feel as if they are at a party every night - the people watching there is fabulous, the wine and cocktails constantly flowing, and on many evenings - live music is provided by either the Crystal Cove pianist or by members of the terrific Galaxy Orchestra. The Bistro provided snacks and tidbits of the highest order when we sought that "little something" midday, and we actually enjoyed breakfast up top in the Lido on mornings when we had very early excursions. We loved going to the Trident Grill for lunch on days that were warm and sunny. In all venues, the food was excellent and fresh, and the staff was top rate, led by marvelous Philippine crew members, many of whom have been there for ten or more years. Of course, Nobu satisfied out desire for superb Japanese/fusion cuisine (Wow! the sushi!!!), and we enjoyed Prego, too, though I felt the atmosphere on Serenity's Prego is cozier and more inviting. The ship, though not "young", is maintained perfectly and is as clean as a whistle. Crew members are constantly polishing and cleaning on every deck and in every rest room. We do not partake of the enrichment activities or the entertainment - but SPECIAL KUDOS to the musicians on board. They are all so special. Every night, I turned to my husband and said, "How rare is it - and what a treat! - to hear REAL LIVE music like this!". In general, shore excursions were excellent. But I say this with a caveat - standards in most South American ports and towns are not like those to which are accustomed, even in Europe. Roads were often substandard and dusty, and rest room facilities were sketchy. But another Crystal PLUS - We do love having an "escort" from the ship in addition to the tour guide, on EVERY excursion. This is something you do NOT find on either Oceania or Silverseas. This additional person ensures that the tour guide is not distracted by the need to count heads or chase down a stray passenger. We were on deck 8, Horizon, and yes, the staterooms are small. However, they are extremely well designed so that everything you bring on board has its special place. We especially like the layout of the bathroom, with double vessel sinks, and a tub/shower that we find very comfortable, with plenty of room. Security on Crystal is stellar and reaassuring. On both Oceania and Silverseas, there were one or two gentlemen checking cards as we deboarded or boarded. And one or two men helping us on or off the tenders. Not so with Crystal. Three or four security personnel, and three or four crew helping with the tenders is the standard. Embarkation in Buenos was atypically poor for Crystal. REALLY atypical. Generally we are onboard and settled for lunch in the bat of an eye - 10 minutes tops. But there were several bottlenecks this go-round, and it took us almost an hour. I understand from the front office that 450 passengers showed up unexpectedly at noon, when usually, there is a slow trickle of about 50-100 guests per hour. Bottom line: We will probably never sail with another cruise line, and are already looking forward to back-to-back New England-Canada cruises on Serenity in September. We also have deposits on two river cruises - in 2018! One from Paris to Normandy, and the other, round-trip Vienna over the holidays. Can't wait to discover this brand new world of Crystal! I bet the other river cruise lines are quaking in their boots! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Except for a very short cruise of the Greek Isles, we have never used another cruise line, nor another cruise ship. The Crystal Symphony has been our home for progressively longer cruises. From embarkation to debarkation, our experience ... Read More
Except for a very short cruise of the Greek Isles, we have never used another cruise line, nor another cruise ship. The Crystal Symphony has been our home for progressively longer cruises. From embarkation to debarkation, our experience has always been virtually flawless. And, those flaws on this cruise were due to weather in the area of our cruise, not Crystal. Due to local weather we missed one port where we would have taken a shore excursion that would have allowed us to land on the continent of Antarctica, and, due to weather another shore excursion was cancelled by the vendor because of rough seas. Our cruise started in Buenos Aires and headed south to Antarctica (four days cruising the Antarctic coast), then back up the Pacific coast of South America to Valparaiso. We stayed on board for a "back to back" and continued up the coast, through the Panama Canal and ended in Miami. We took a 4 day land excursion to the Galapagos during the transit. We don't splurge on a cabin as we don't spend much awake time there; it's small but very comfortable and there's always enough storage. The head is also small, but nicely done and very functional. The shower water pressure is exceptional. We enjoy the main dining room and eat most meals there. We had a table for 8 at the 6PM seating. When four of us took exception to the company of one of our tablemates after several meals, the maitre'd graciously found us other accommodations. The food was generally spectacular with a few exceptions which were always remedied with grace and speed, on the spot. We found that service was slower as a table for 8; we frequently had to rush dessert in order to make the 8:30PM show. We will not make that choice again. The specialty restaurants were spectacular. In all venues, all we had to do was look thirsty or hold our hand out and immediately it was filled with the drink of our choice and the staff seemed so attentive to getting to know each passenger, that we frequently did not have to specify what we wanted before it was delivered with enthusiasm and a smile. We can't compare to other cruise lines but on a long cruise (or back to back long cruises) you wind up seeing repeat performances of certain stock entertainment. Some you don't mind seeing twice; others you just find another activity to fill that time. There was plenty to chose from. The shore excursion selection was excellent. My only complaint, ever, was that too many of the participants failed to heed such warnings as "strenuous" or "requires extensive walking" and as a result, they tended to hold up large groups of us while we waited for them to catch up or recover. We would absolutely travel with Crystal again and have already booked our next cruise. This is a biased review as we have NOT ever traveled with any other cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Voyage No. 6202 on Crystal Symphony was aptly named Antarctic Discovery: though a very brief discovery it was, a 14-day cruise with only about one day's time on Antarctic waters often at foggy weather. 8 out of 14 days were sea days, ... Read More
Voyage No. 6202 on Crystal Symphony was aptly named Antarctic Discovery: though a very brief discovery it was, a 14-day cruise with only about one day's time on Antarctic waters often at foggy weather. 8 out of 14 days were sea days, mostly rough, but to me, even the limited time at Antarctica was rewarding enough, with spectacular scenery unseen anywhere and it will linger in my memory for life. 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. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the ... Read More
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the holidays on a 6* ship plus experiencing Antarctica at the same time does not get any better. We were constantly amazed at how incredibly well Crystal provided for nearly 900 passengers + 500 crew, cuisine-wise, entertainment-wise, and service-wise. Exceptional quality and variety! We also like the demographics of fellow passengers: from all over the world and of all ages (we are 61 and 77 respectively). There were nearly 70 well-behaved children, ages Itinerary: Buenos Aires to Valparaiso Dec 20/21 - BA - we did on our own; we stayed at Caesar Park Hotel (excellent) and dined at NY Times recommended restaurant Tarquino's in Recoleta (seafood), a short walk from our hotel. Tarquino is for those who are not fans of beef or lamb. It is very stylish and non-traditional, if you are looking for the latest in dining adventures in BA! We did a Milonga tour in the evening and city tour the next day, both very expertly provided by Cultura Cercana Tours, in addition to airport/port transfers. (Andres and Mirta expertly navigated us through the city maze to Milonga venue; Flavio was our awesome guide for the city tour). Dec 21 - Embarkation in BA was flawless: well-signed, organized, and efficient, even though we had heard that BA embarkation facilities were not the best. Dec 22 - Montevideo - we enjoyed our day here, again pre-arranged with Cultura Cercana; we knew that Sunday the shops were closed, but we knew the Sunday market was in full swing (colorful and very local). Crystal had cancelled their Jewish sites shore excursion here well ahead of time via their website due to closed venues), so we advised CC ahead of time we were interested in seeing some Jewish sites. We had a great time with our 22-yr old novice guide, Emiliano, protege of CC's Bruno; he loves history and his city so we really got the most out of it, including a great seafood lunch at the seaside. Later back on the ship, we found most folks had not enjoyed their experience here. With a little pre-planning and research, one can get the best out of any place! Dec 23 - at sea - marvelous! Love the service and staff onboard! And the cuisine is divine! Dec 24 Puerto Madryn - this was the only Crystal shore excursion we took, because we were a little worried about making it back in time for departure. We should not have worried. We did the Punta Tombo excursion. The destination and the amount of Magellanic penguins (mixed with guanacos!) you could walk amongst did not disappoint. The drive there and back (2.5 hrs each way) isn't pleasant any way you slice it, but unfortunately the guide on the bus did not have the best command of the English language, so she was very difficult to understand. Had we arranged a private tour through CC, we could have easily asked our guide to repeat and explain better in the more intimate setting of a small vehicle. Next time.... The town of PM is not anything to write home about, but is only a jump off point for the Valdez Peninsula, Punta Tombo and other Patagonia wildlife areas and Welsh towns. Other folks we talked to onboard enjoyed their excursions to Valdez Penn. to see the sea lions etc. Back onboard, Crystal put on a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner. BTW - The decorations that Crystal had all over the ship were astounding and were all managed/maintained by 'Santa's Elves'. Very smart. And I don't think any cruise line tops the entertainment quality that Crystal does. Their in-house ensemble cast of singers/dancers/entertainers together with guest entertainers provide night-after-night quality and variety. Really impressive. Dec 25 - Christmas at sea - wonderful with Santa handing out presents to the children; Crystal's signature Christmas brunch with ice sculptures and phenomenal variety of cuisine was a huge WOW. Dec 26 - Boxing Day - Falkland Islands - this was a highlight for me (not so much for my husband); I love remote, expansive, unique places and interesting geology, fauna, and flora, so I was in heaven. We were lucky to be able to tender into this sometimes inaccessible place (40% of the time ships can not tender in due to weather/seas). We pre-arranged thru Nyree at Estancia Excursions a 4WD tour to Volunteer Point King Penguin colony. VERY bumpy ride to and from over non-existent roads, but amazing scenery, history, local commentary, and loads of King and Magellanic penguins. They should sell "I survived the ride to Volunteer Point" t-shirts! Do not miss this experience if you are waffling. Bring British Pounds with you to pay for the tour, as no ATMs in Stanley and only one bank. We were there on Boxing Day and also one of the days of the Stanley horse races, so again we knew some shops would be closed. But cruise business here is big, so some tour operators were working and a few tourist/handicraft shops and cafes were open. Cold and windy, but not rainy. Bring your warmest clothes! Dec 27 - Drakes Passage southbound - relatively calm seas so we were very lucky Dec 28 - arrived at Elephant Island at tip of Antarctic Peninsula; weather mixed but first glimpses of Antarctica were surreal; continued down to King George Island; amazing sunset tonight (11pm or so) Dec 29 - sunny weather with gorgeous white clouds for perfect photos; King George Island to Esperanza Station and Hope Bay in Antarctic Sound; AMAZING humpback whales and Amelie penguins everywhere with lots of icebergs; photo ops were continual. Hate to go to sleep, as the scenery is epic 24hrs a day (although the sun technically sets btw 12midnight and 2am, it is always light). Continued to Deception Island - again a gorgeous day with amazing Antarctic backdrop scenery; huge colony of chinstrap penguins at the deceptive Deception Island (so named because it looks like a round solid island from a distance, but is actually hollowed out with a narrow channel inside.) Dec 30 - to Gerlache Strait and through the very narrow Neumeyer Channel to Anvers Island. Again, picture-perfect weather and amazing scenery. We were lucky to transect this channel, as it was too full of ice the week before. If we were successful in getting through, we would be the first ship of the season to do so. We made it and continued to the U.S. Palmer Station on Anvers Island where we were able to pick up two zodiac loads of researchers and scientists there. They gave a great presentation on board and Crystal thanked them with lunch onboard and boxes of fresh produce and other goodies to take with them. A class-act all the way. At the end of the day we headed north into Drakes Passage once again. A bit heavier seas this time, but not bad. Dec 31 - New Years Eve bash onboard - another out-of-the park Crystal celebration - great entertainment, dining, and NYE party. One of our best, land or sea! Jan 1/2 - Ushuaia - 6pm arrival; clearing from some earlier rain; we disembarked to walk around this fun adventure-seekers town; beautiful backdrop mountain scenery. We were both down with minor sniffles and purposely did not pre-book any excursions here, as we knew the weather could be unkind. The next day, it was pretty overcast and drizzly and as others went off for 'scenic' shore excursions, we chose to take the morning off and then independently went through the wonderful Maritime and Prison museum, well worth a look. Jan 3 - Punta Arenas - again we did not pre-book any excursions here, again due to iffy weather, and we still had our colds, so we walked the town for several hours, using our guide book and had a wonderful seafood (King crab!) lunch at Sotito's near the port/water. A good way to spend the day if you are not excursioning. Jan 4 & 5 - at sea in the Chilean Fjords; cold, blustery and cloudy, but still amazing scenery with waterfalls and glaciers down to the sea. Many folks stayed inside behind salt-sprayed windows, but if you braved the outside decks you were rewarded with some interesting color and clouds for photos. Jan 6 - Puerto Montt - we pre-arranged an excursion here with Cultura Cercana to Petrohue Falls, Osorno volcano, and Puerto Varas. Our guide was the very good Claudio, who with his wife, Ingrid (an English teacher), are the guides here for CC. Claudio was very informative and responsive and whisked us away from port ahead of the excursion coaches and smartly headed directly to Petrohue Falls first. This was a gorgeous site with glacier-green waters. We then headed to Osorno volcano, which was shrouded in low clouds. The drive up was interesting for me from a geologic and flora perspective (beautiful native flowers in bloom), but the whole point of going to the top of the volcano is for the view, which was non-existent. Claudio probably should have had us go back to Puerto Varas first to walk around and have lunch, then go up to the volcano as the day cleared, as it usually does. Still, all in all, it was a pleasant day and we are glad we did it privately. Jan 7 - at sea along volcano alley; gorgeous weather as we progressed up the coast with one-after-another impressive volcano; again a photographer's dream with interesting cloud formations. And of course we enjoyed a final sun-drenched day by the pool to work on our tans! Jan 8/9 - disembarktion Valparaiso + Santiago - Valparaiso is a big, non-user-friendly port, but Crystal bussed us from ship to terminal and our luggage was ready there and very organized for quick retrieval. We again arranged transfer and tours through Cultura Cercana. This is the only time CC has let us down, but they quickly redeemed themselves. Leonardo (CC has 3 Leo's there, one of whom is the boss) was our guide for Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and the Casablanca wine valley en route to Santiago. This Leonardo's English was sub-par, he was a bit late to meet us, and his greeting sign was pretty bad, so we were not pleased. He was not organized in how he toured us through Valp. and it is important when you do this crumbling heritage city that you have a good introduction, otherwise you come away frustrated and disappointed. It was very difficult to get any information out of him, so we didn't.... We did have a good visit at the winery Casa des Bosques and had a great lunch (on our own) there. We continued to Santiago where Leo left us at our hotel (arranged on our own). We stayed at the boutique Le Reve in Providencia, which we like a lot - quiet street amongst some of the best restaurants and cafes and near other upscale areas, such as San Sebastien. We had dinner at the hotel's recommended seafood restaurant a few blocks walk away, Aqui esta Coco. Outstanding cuisine as well as decor. Highly recommend this. I also contacted Cultura Cercana re our guide Leo, and they immediately remedied the situation by having the owner of their local office take us on a complimentary city tour the next day. Very smart and we had a great time, so we ended our trip on a high note. All in all, a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Nothing but the best regards for Crystal. The only exception is that from here out they will be charging a supplement for more than one dining reservation at each of their fine dining venues, Silk Road and Prego. Perhaps they will reconsider after a year and resolve the special dining venue demand differently. FYI - we used LAN Airlines, business class and were very impressed. FYI - Our cabin (Deluxe with veranda Cat A) we knew was not on the large size, as cruise ships go, but because Crystal Symphony's public areas are so spacious and inviting, we do not feel cramped in our stateroom. I do recommend the balcony even in cold destinations, because access to fresh air and unobstructed views for photos is important. Also we purposely chose a starboard cabin for this departure which definitely did afford the best immediate views during our right-to-left journey from BA to Valparaiso. AND one final important note - the onboard destination expert, Ed Larson, and the other enrichment lecturers, as well as our 'ice pilot' were all excellent additions to our experience. It would not have been half as interesting without their involvement!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
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 ... Read More
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.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US ... Read More
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US Palmer Research Station as they sped back to their icy home in Antarctica in their zodiac. It had been fascinating to talk to them earlier about their work (and play) in their remote workplace. I had learned, for instance, that every year the South Pole moves around 30o - that's how fast the glacier it's on is moving - so every year the geographical South Pole is measured, and repositioned, in a ceremony held on New Year's Eve. Unusually for me, I had been up, dressed and out on deck by 7.30, witnessing the breathtaking scenery as we passed through the Neumayer Channel, with great views on either side, followed by Port Loch Roy and Anvers Island. I was ready for the welcoming complimentary glass of gluwein when I returned inside, several hours later. That day we sailed to 65o South Latitude and experienced 22 hours of daylight. The previous day Captain Ralf Zander had navigated the Symphony along "Iceberg Alley" to Deception Island and the day before that we'd sailed past Elephant Island, and the marker that indicated the point where Ernest Shackleton's men were rescued to South Shetland Islands. Throughout the voyage the sun had shone and the seas remained calm; even "rounding the horn" had proved an anticlimax as the legendary huge waves had failed to materialise. The voyage through Antarctica had been the real draw of this cruise for me, but I knew that, with Crystal, I would witness the grandeur while being cocooned in the lap of luxury and not have to endure the rigours of zodiac landings, which suited me perfectly; my days of roughing it have passed. The cruise had commenced in Buenos Aires, so I took advantage of a pre-cruise trip to Iguazu Falls, which everybody had told me is a "must". I was not disappointed, although I did become the main course for the mosquito population. Back in Buenos Aires, I was able to take advantage of an Argentine Tango lesson + milonga, and invested in two new pairs of tango shoes - at half the UK price. Our first port of call was Montevideo, where I attended a performance of a play specially commissioned for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate. The next port was Puerto Madryn, where I took a bus out to the Eco Centre and looked around the pretty little town. After a day at sea we arrived at the Falkland Islands where I took a trip out to Volunteer Point to see the largest colony of King Penguins. They were a source of constant amusement and waddled right up to us; some hobbling along, encumbered with a large egg under their skirts. Our ex-Liverpudlian guide, Dave, had married a local girl and was living there during the war, so had many tales to tell. The mine-clearing programme is progressing slowly and there are still many no-go areas. It was very sad to see the war memorial in Stanley. The new year commenced with an overnight stay in Ushuaia, so were able to sample dinner in a typical local restaurant. The following day was spent in the National Park, followed by a chairlift to the Martial Glacier. I had nothing planned for Punta Arenas, so took the shuttle bus into the main square, Plaza des Armes. Suddenly I was surrounded by TV cameras and photographers. Had my fame swept so far south, I thought to myself? Eventually the crowd parted and I saw that it was not I who was the object of interest, but former President Eduardo Frei, who was seeking re-election as President after an absence of 10 years. He seemed to have quite a following, judging by the reaction of the crowd in the square, but, as I couldn't understand what the Christian Democrat Party were promising, I retreated to a local hotel. Much to my surprise, he turned up there shortly afterwards, followed by the media frenzy. I hastily returned to the ship and relaxed as we cruised the Chilean Fjords for the next two days. Puerto Montt was a delightful port. I took a full day tour, driving around Lake Llanquihue to the attractive Bavarian-style town of Frutillar, then on to Puerto Varas for a pit-stop. On to view some llamas, then a delicious lunch of locally caught wild salmon, washed down with several pisco sours (I had been acquiring a taste for this local brew over the last few days in Chile). After lunch I drove to some magnificent falls at Petrohue, on Lake Todos los Santos, and a sleepy drive back to the ship. One more lovely sea day and we arrived at our final destination, Valparaiso, where Santiago Airport beckoned. During this amazing cruise, I was lucky enough to attend lectures which enhanced the experience considerably. Crystal prides itself on engaging the very best speakers, and this is one of its strengths. The Destination Lecturer on this cruise was Professor David Drewry who had served as Director of the British Antarctic Survey and Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and had led scientific expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. He also proved to be a very amusing and entertaining tablemate; the first I've had who has a mountain and a glacier named after him. The Special Interest Lecturer was Rex Ziak - what he didn't know about James Cook wasn't worth knowing. Dr Bridget Buxton, deputy director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography told riveting tales of the numerous underwater sites she had excavated, unfazed by the fact that all her luggage had failed to turn up on the ship. As a contrast, we also heard stories from Tom DeFrank, an award-winning journalist who has covered the White House since the Nixon administration, and Herb Keyser, who related entertaining stories about the lives and music of geniuses of the American musical theatre. Add to this the extensive Crystal Creative Learning Institute, and there's no excuse to be bored on a Crystal cruise. I'm already looking forward to my next, with a Big Band theme....maybe I'll get a chance to practice my Argentine tango moves? Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Crystal Symphony Buenos Aires  Miami April 13  April 29, 2006 and Iguassu Iguassu The trip to Iguassu was not part of the cruise - but it was part of our trip of which the cruise was the center piece. I booked flights with TAM and ... Read More
Crystal Symphony Buenos Aires  Miami April 13  April 29, 2006 and Iguassu Iguassu The trip to Iguassu was not part of the cruise - but it was part of our trip of which the cruise was the center piece. I booked flights with TAM and a hotel-tour arrangement with Iguassu Falls Tours (www.iguassufallstour.com). TAM mailed me e-tickets. Iguassu Falls Tours emailed me that our guide would be Edson. They also emailed me pictures of Edson and of the car that should take us on our tour. Our flight from Buenos Aires left one hour earlier than indicated on our tickets. We had to change planes in Curitiba. The plane from Curitiba left one hour late. In Foz do Iguassu Edson was waiting. The car, a Renault MEgane Scenic, was big and comfortable. We were brought to our hotel, the Tropical das Cataratas. There we changed quickly and walked the Brazilian side of the falls. While we were changing Edson brought the car to the end of the trail. By the time we were ready Edson was already waiting for us. During our walk Edson kept informing us about everything we wanted to know and I kept recording on video tape. We just had enough time to walk the trail and look around at its end before it got dark. At the hotel we were lucky to get a table. The food was good but we had had better and we were going to have better on the cruise ship. The next morning Edson was waiting for us when we were ready. First he took us to the Itaipu dam and then to the Argentinean side of the water falls. Having visited the falls twice before I was really impressed by the sights we got from the top of the falls (devils throat). That walk way had not existed when I visited before. I was also happy to see two caimans each about one meter long. We walked almost all afternoon on the different paths and Edson pointed to this fall, that bird, named the butterflies that landed and stayed on us. Toward the evening we went to the three lands marks and then back to the hotel. Again it was dark by the time we got there. And we had willingly skipped the boat ride underneath the water falls (since we did not want to get soaked) as well as the alternatives Edson had offered us. The next morning we were scheduled to fly at 6.50 a.m. Again Edson was at the hotel by the time we were ready. He brought us to the airport in time. Unfortunately there was fog so all planes had to wait for two hours before they could leave. This time we had to stop in Sao Paolo. The ground staff of TAM was very helpful so we got a connection to Buenos Aires without even having the time to sit down. At Buenos Aires international airport the taxi that was supposed to drive us to the hotel had left during our delay but the man who manages taxis to different hotels had the hotel taxi pick us up in about half an hour. Summary of the trip to Iguassu: It was worthwhile. We crammed too much into too little time. On the first afternoon we got really wet (from the falls and from sweat) on the second day we were fine (watch out about the season). Buenos Aires and Cruise Our hotel was about one mile from the cruise ship pier. So the taxi to the pier cost less than $10.--. Since we had two rooms, one that we were happy with and one that we were not as happy with  not that we were really unhappy - I will not give more information about the hotel. According to Crystal we were supposed to board at 3 p.m. and the ship was supposed to leave at 5 p.m. So we took a taxi to the port at about 12.30 p.m. Embarkation took only seconds  well about 7200 of them. We were neither the first no the last in line. I wonder what time Symphony would have left if everyone had come to the pier at 3 p.m. People in wheelchairs and with obvious problems to stand were escorted to the front of the line. On the ship we were escorted to our cabin. Then we went for lunch where we were offered a glass of sparkling wine. Choice and preparation of food was very good throughout the cruise (I do not use the word excellent for qualifications). We went to the two specialty restaurants but beside the advantage that we could chose the time we wanted to start our dinner I see no big pros or cons to go to the specialty restaurants. I did not find Crystal to be any dressier than other cruise ships I had been on some five years ago. The pool was just like on any other cruise ship I remember. There rarely were many people in it at the same time. What I disliked was that there was little space by the pool where I could lay in the shade for a few ours. Either the sun would shine on the head or on the feet after rather short moments or if laying close to the doors by the forward elevators the air-conditioning would make me feel uncomfortable. The level of the seat rows in the theater differs little. That enables you to conduct a profound study about the shape of the head of person sitting between you and the stage. Unfortunately if you like to watch the shows you can miss good parts of them. Rooms  I do not know about suites  seemed rather small to me. They are not smaller than the ones I had on other cruises but since the closets are on one side of the bed it just meant that we had to squeeze by each other. I found it supportable but not really comfortable. What we did appreciate were the free washing machines. Unfortunately we were not the only ones so we had to look for the right moments to use them. Stating that I cannot make a statement about the entertainment shows that there was a lot and many events took place at the same time. So we had to decide what we wanted to attend. Shore excursions: buses seemed to be among the best in each town and I have nothing to complain about the guides. Shore tours were expensive. We were in Montevideo on Good Friday. Our tour took us to Etchegarays house where we could see a collection of fine furniture, watch a tango dance, listen to the musicians and sip a drink. The house did though seem rather crowded with one bus. Shops were mostly closed except for one big shopping center. There was a free shuttle to that center. To my disliking they did not run according to the times they told us but only when the next shuttle had arrived. Therefore we lost a lot of time waiting for the bus to leave. As a result we missed the walk I had intended to take. In Rio de Janeiro we took the $ 107.-- tour to the Corcovado, a Churrascaria lunch and the Sugar Loaf. Unfortunately it was cloudy when we reached the top of the Corcovado. The statue could barely be seen trough the mist and the city could not be seen at all. Then it started to rain  well pour is more precise. So we went for lunch. The food was very good. After lunch we had to wait for the bus outside the restaurant. That was no problem since there were only a few drops. After boarding the bus we left for the Sugar Loaf. While we were driving a long the Copa Cabana Beach the weather turned to storm. As a result the cable car to the Sugar Loaf would not run. The alternative program was to visit the cathedral where only few people left the bus. I consider that we got little value for $ 107.-- per person. In Salvador it started to rain shortly after we got on the bus. And the rain continued with brief interruptions throughout our tour. First we went to the Upper City from where we could view the port. Then we walked to the cathedral, to the Franciscan church and through a small part of the historic center. After that we took the bus to the Carlos Costa Pinto Museum. The churches were certainly worth seeing but the city tour over all was a lot shorter than the two city tours I had taken on earlier stays in Salvador de Bahia. So I was rather disappointed about that part of this tour. However I was very impressed by the Museum that had opened exclusively for our cruise. I would have liked to spend more time there. It was too bad too that we were not allowed to take pictures or video recordings. After that we drove back to the ship. Some fellow cruisers left the bus at the Mercado Modello. In the afternoon the sun was out so we walked to the Mercado Modello ourselves. When we were in Fortaleza, Brazil enjoyed a holiday. Good for them  bad for us. There were few people so traffic was very fluid but we did not see what the city would be like on a normal day. The highlights of our tour were certainly the Teatro JosE de Alencar and the handicraft market in a former prison where the majority but not all of the shops were open. In Bridgetown we visited the Graeme Hall Swamp and a museum in a former fortress. I was happy to see both attractions. Arrival in Miami was comparable to the other ports. I did not see the usual long lines for immigration  but I did not miss them. I was not happy with the schedule to leave the ship. The good things were first that we could wait in our room and second that we got off as scheduled. Fares for taxi transfers to the airport Miami were at a flat rate of $ 24 plus & I do not remember having any reason to complain about a cruise director on a previous cruise. And this time was largely comparable: the information we got was okay including when he pointed out the Southern Cross. Rather special to me was the debarkation talk where I remember hearing that Crystal does not accept a very good but wants and excellent. Now this subject was not treated that briefly. The message I remember is that the passenger should comply with the expectations of the company. I would have preferred the company tell the employees how to do the job  and make sure that the resources to do it are sufficient  rather than tell the passengers or even the employees how they want the passengers to qualify the service they received - on the last full day of the cruise. Deciding what is excellent, very good and what is good seems quite difficult to me. Lousy service can only be qualified as poor. I would consider it fair that it also be split in lets say: throw the person into the pool, throw the person into the ocean or feed him or her to the sharks. For that part of the debarkation talk our cruise director would have been well advised to wear a bathing suit. Summary of the cruise: We were happy with the food. The room was good but not outstanding. There was a big choice of entertainment. The pool was good. The deck at the big pool offered too little shade. Due to the small number of port days and due to the weather we got too little out of the long trip. Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
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