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It was not for the faint-hearted, but still within the realm of a leisurely cruise. It was not an expedition, despite Crystal trying to make it one, but it is not possible to truly combine luxury with back packing. All and all though ... Read More
It was not for the faint-hearted, but still within the realm of a leisurely cruise. It was not an expedition, despite Crystal trying to make it one, but it is not possible to truly combine luxury with back packing. All and all though Crystal succeeded in providing a platform for some wild shore excursions from a luxury platform. The cost was steep, but once on our way we could see why. Zodiacs and drivers do not come cheap, neither does the British icebreaker, Shackleton, that escorted the Serenity most of the way, nor the four ice-pilots, the special excursion leaders for kayaking, etc. The lectures were plentiful and very high quality. So was the entertainment, mostly above shipboard quality one would expect, and Crystal had done some heroics in resuplying entertainers and provisions in places that did not even have a simple dock. At first we were very apprehensive, did not know what to expect. This was our first cruise with Crystal, the itinerary was the deciding factor, so cannot compare with Crystal people on less adventurous venues. People were friendly, but a bit standoffish. The rather restrictive seating arrangement did not foster wide interaction either. Food was fabulous, well prepared, great selection, daily menus never repeated in 31 days! Specialty restaurants OK, but not above the main dining room. Wine selections marginal. Serving staff exceptional, attentive, knowledgeable, and experienced. Mostly Eastern and Central Europeans, South Africans, and Brazilians, doing a fabulous job. The pastry chef did justice to his Austrian roots. One of us required a serious gluten free diet, and it was readily available without much sacrifice in the choices of dishes. There were some on board who heavily criticized Crystal for exploiting the eskimo villagers visited. This could not be further from the truth. Yes we had visited some people with very limited means, but Crystal did a super job in educating people beforehand, and organizing the tours in a dignified fashion. (This was not the first time a cruise ship visited some poor villages -- how about the Amazon or Indonesian cruises?) The fact is that the visit by the ship probably given a serious economic boost to the locals, asside from the substantial grants given to the communities. Shore excursion team was very good, considering the roughness of the territory. Unfortunately many of the excursions were very expensive. Internet was generous, 1 hr per day, cumulative, but slow. All and all it was an awesome cruise! Read Less
Sail Date August 2017

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