friday, february 7th – buenos aires, argentina – depart 6:00 pm
saturday, february 8th – montevideo, uruguay – 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
sunday, february 9th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
monday, february 10th – puerto madryn, argentina – 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
tuesday, february 11th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
wednesday, february 12th – port stanley, falkland islands, uk – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
thursday, february 13th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
friday, february 14th – cruising drake’s passage
saturday, february 15th – cruising neumaier channel, antarctica – 11:30 am – 1:30 pm – cruising paradise harbor, antarctica – 3:30 pm – 6:00 pm
sunday, february 16th – cruising cruising deception island, antarctica – 8:00 am – 9:00 am – king george island, antarctica – 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
monday, february 17th – cruising drake’s passage
tuesday, february 18th – ushuaia, argentina – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
wednesday, february 19th – punta arenas, chile – 7:00 am – 8:30 pm
thursday, february 20th – cruising the chilean fjords
friday, february 21st – cruising the chilean fjords
february 22nd – puerto montt, chile – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
sunday, february 23rd – cruising the south pacific ocean
february 24th – valparaíso, chile – arrive 8:00 am
friday, february 7th – buenos aires, argentina – depart 6:00 pm
Romanticized in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical
Aires is a legendary city. Its history has often been tumultuous, but even
through the hardest times the hearty people have persevered. It is true that
the Argentine people loved their Evita for bringing the concerns of the common
people to center of the political stage, but a price had to be paid for the
attention. The turmoil that characterized the country before and after she
lived continued to reverberate in economic doubt. Since 1990 (and hopefully
after the recent political and economic struggles), a new era seems to have
finally dawned, and the country appears to be on a stable economic path for
the first time in decades.
We were up a bit earlier than usual, so we had some time to turn in our QAP forms and chat with Elizabeth and Billy at the Front Desk. From there we wandered over to look at the Dining Room lunch menu, but it didn’t interest us and we went up to the Lido. The ship was so empty this afternoon that we caught up on a few photos of the Deck Stewards we missed last week: Ricky, Ruel, Dennis, and a new shot of JP. We also got Willy, the Headwaiter at Jade Garden, and Giovanni, the Trident Bartender. All of them have been here forever, but had somehow evaded our photo sessions in the past.
Click for Daytime Activities.
We received two new flower arrangements, we assume from Crystal Society. So far today, we haven’t received any notice of the credits we are due for this segment. We also noticed from our statement of account for the past segment that we did not receive the free shore excursion we should have received from our 25th Milestone, nor did Lara credit us for the cocktail party. If we don’t receive the Crystal Society credit automatically, it’s time to make a formal complaint about these “oversights”, especially now that the amounts are so significant. It does seem odd that the bouquets of flowers and bottles of wine aren’t “overlooked”, only the money. Even with some credits missing, we begin this segment with about $8,900 left as a credit on our account. We only managed to spend $1,200 last segment, most of which was Internet usage and extra gratuities.
On the way out of the room, we heard someone calling after us. It was Susanna (Suzie), our stewardess from last year. Her husband had told us she was ill, but she said she had fully recovered and was back good as new. She admonished us for being unshaven, so we told her we had let ourselves go since she wasn’t around to keep us in line.
Lunch consisted of the Asian selection of sliced beef in ginger sauce, plus some of the freshly carved BBQ chicken, which was very good. There were only about ten guests in the Lido today, so it was a great time to get some photos of the entire food selection. We have said before that we consider this buffet to be very limited, but now our readers can see it for themselves. The line starts with the cold soup, then a big pile of bread that never changes, followed by trays of smoked salmon, cold cuts, and other similar items. Next is the serving station for the Asian selection of the day followed by the hot food, then the carving station. Salads are featured around the curve at the end of the buffet. Directly across from this area, next to the doors to the aft patio deck, is the station where the made-to-order pasta dish and salad of the day are prepared. During breakfast, this is the made-to-order eggs and omelet station. Along the back wall of the Lido is the huge dessert and fruit area. The left side features fancy desserts and cookies. In the center there is a warm dessert such as bread pudding, today it was cinnamon-sugar Churros with chocolate sauce. To the right is a selection of cheese and crackers, and bowls of strawberries, whipped cream and cut fruit, and a tray of sliced fruit. In the morning, this area serves made-to-order waffles.
As usual, we were fawned over by the entire staff of the Lido, all of whom know our name and usually who is who. The weather today was rainy in the morning, but turned to light overcast. On the plus side, it wasn’t nearly as hot and stayed in the low 70’s all day. After lunch we took some new photos of the Palm Court: Left Side, Right Side, Left Side Toward Bow. It is difficult to get a good angle on this room, but we did a little better than our effort from last year. We finally met Ronnie, the Librarian, who has wanted to meet us for two weeks based upon reports from Tom and Pat. He was quite jolly. While we were there, a guest came up to tell Ronnie that he and his wife were leaving because she had to have emergency surgery last night. She is still in the hospital. They are younger than we are, so apparently age has nothing to do with stamina on a cruise. It’s a shame that two couples on the full World Cruise have had to leave because almost everyone went on the cruise specifically for this segment to Antarctica. This brings the count of full World Cruise guests down to 103.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the cabin recording the boarding info for future prosperity and watching the new batch of passengers arrive from our verandah. Of course, we can’t tell who is a real guest and who is entertainment, but there appears to be a bigger group of younger people (meaning less than 80) coming on now. The passenger mix means almost nothing to us, we’re just pointing it out. It is interesting to see how drastically the atmosphere can change from segment to segment.
At around 5:30 PM we had to go up for ice cream or risk fainting dead away before dinner. During that time, the lifeboat drill was held for newly embarked guests. We think it is better to do the drill just before the first sailing rather than the next day. First of all, it gets the whole thing over and done with. Second, what if something happens the first night? We’re glad we are exempt from further drills. While Dave was getting some cookies from Rodel, a chef came up and asked if he could take his photo. We have no idea why. Rodel said he is his new boss from Crystal Serenity.
As we were wandering the halls killing a few minutes, we came across a guest just standing blankly in front of the elevator. So, we went up and pushed the only button there is, UP. When the elevator came, we got in along with this older gentleman. We pushed our floor and he stared intently, from about two inches away, at the buttons. Finally, we asked which floor he wanted (we started on six). He wanted five, but this elevator doesn’t go to five, hence the reason there was no DOWN button outside. Apparently he thought if he stood there long enough one might materialize.
Waldo tried to bring us snacks, but even we aren’t decadent enough to have ice cream, cookies and then have him bring the evening snack as well. We convinced him that we don’t ever want caviar, smoked salmon or anything else “slimy”. He is bringing tea sandwiches tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual and we’re back to two seatings. We are on late seating that begins at 8:30 PM, so we’ll probably return to our habit of having an afternoon snack. Not to worry, we have both lost weight since the cruise began.
We were standing in the lobby minding our own business waiting for dinner when Tom appeared to be gesturing at us, subtly, from the piano. So, Dave went over to see what he wanted. Nothing as it turns out, he just saw us across the room hiding. The walk across the room brought us to the attention of a man we met, sort of, on a previous cruise. We know we know him, but neither of us knows his name or anything about him. He acted like we were his best friends, but we think Tom had something to do with that. Anyway, he seems fine and is only on one segment, so it’s safe to be friendly with him. He did ask if he could join us tonight, but we didn’t know if we’d have our regular table or not. Before we could decline, the woman he came with (a friend, not a spouse) arrived and he went over to her. The Blacks came up and started talking to us, eventually joined by Mel and Barbara, so we were off the hook for the other date.
Food review: Everything was satisfactory. Nothing stood out as exceptional, but the dessert was the best course. We had the “always available” filet steak as an entrée and it was quite good.
There was a bit of a tizzy because someone new was sitting at Mel and Barbara’s table. Rather than make a scene, we told them they could sit with us, so Jerry went to find some chairs and additional place settings. The headwaiters were frantic and Remy went over to throw the invaders out even though we all kept saying it was fine this way. The issue is pointless anyway because the first night is always without seat reservations. We don’t know why and we don’t like it, but that’s the way it is. We have been told before that a World Cruiser's table is reserved, but have had our table given away before, so it isn’t unheard of. Apparently, this isn’t supposed to happen, so there was much apologizing and fawning, although none of us cared once we worked it out among ourselves.
It was fun having dinner with them tonight, but we wouldn’t want to do it every night even though we do like them. It’s just too stressful to try to eat and carry on a conversation at the same time. We heard the story about Barbara’s shoulder for the sixth time, but we didn’t say anything, of course. Even after we were finished, waiters kept apologizing for messing up the seating. Jerry was especially worried about it because he knows we don’t like to sit with other people, but we invited them, they didn’t barge in.
The Evening Entertainment is the usual welcome show plus a short presentation by Tango Express from last cruise. Everyone went to the introductory show except Dave, who went to start tonight’s upload. Poor Tom was stuck talking to his admirer who arrived today, but there wasn’t much we could to do help him, except wave from across the room. We’ll see if there is something we can do to help buffer him once we get a chance to talk again.We received a voicemail message informing us that we are to meet in the Starlite Club at 8:45 AM “contrary to what the invitation said.” The invitation said nothing about meeting, but we did get a letter from Rosemary later saying to meet pier side at 9:00 AM. Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter. This ought to cause a bit of confusion since we doubt most of these people have a clue how to retrieve voicemail. It’s rather cumbersome even for us to figure out. All we know is it is too early for us to be ready to go anywhere, so this had better be good.
saturday, february 8th – montevideo, uruguay – 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
About a third of Uruguay’s people live in Montevideo.
Though a local joke laments about how the city is ignored in favor of dazzling
Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata and Sao Paulo and Rio to the
north, Montevideans are very proud of their own unique traditions. More than
99% of Uruguayans are literate. Their culture includes the gaucho,
who is akin to his cowboy counterpart in the United States. The gaucho is the rugged hero that tamed
the wilderness. The Museo del Gaucho y Moneda, dedicated to the
near-mythical figure, is one of the most treasured collections for the
We were up at the crack of dawn, literally, to be ready for our meeting time of 8:45 AM for the World Cruise Event. Waldo brought the breakfast we had ordered with the door hanger last night and said he thought it was a joke or something. It is somewhat overcast, so it isn’t too terribly hot, mid 70’s or so.
Click for Daytime Actvities.
After waiting in the Starlite Club, where we determined about 80 of the full World Cruise guests were present, we were instructed to proceed down to the gangway and the waiting busses. We always wait until the end of the line because we usually end up on the least full bus with more staff than guests. The latter wasn’t true this time, although Rosemary was there. The officers were rushed ahead in a van to meet us there.
First there was a city tour with a stop at Independence Square for photos. Montevideo is a compact city on a much smaller scale than Buenos Aires. There are no high-rises to speak of and the city is relatively crime free. That’s not to say it is particularly prosperous, but there weren’t any people begging and graffiti was no more than normal for any city. Being a Saturday, almost everything was closed. The city has a sort of semi-ramshackle look, but it doesn’t appear to be deteriorating, it’s just old.
The square is pleasant with huge date palms in a number signifying something that we have forgotten. There are charming fountains at each corner and a huge bronze of the usual hero on a horse at the center. There is also a big marble stand intended for another statue that never was installed. That theme runs throughout the area. A big modern office building intended for the Supreme Court has been standing here nearly finished since 1982, but the money ran out, so it sits vacant. Also on the square is the oldest hotel in the city that was the tallest building in South America when it was built in the 1920’s. It has been converted into apartments. The original Government House also faces the square.
Our stop here was only for five minutes and we were on our way again. First we passed the old Parliament building and it’s annex before continuing on along the curve of the bay to the outskirts of the city. In general, the city looks fairly pleasant, but in an old world sort of way. There is nothing flashy or trendy to be seen and many buildings are empty. However, much of the economic crisis was caused when Argentineans suddenly pulled all of their money out of Uruguay. The country has the same set up at Switzerland with complete banking privacy, so Argentineans had kept their money here rather than in their unstable country. When their banking crisis hit, they lost confidence and moved their money to the U.S., so many finance related operations here folded.
We drove through what the guide called a poor section of town that consisted of ramshackle houses along dirt roads. However, they had street lights, TV antennas and were constructed in a fairly permanent manner, not like the cardboard slums in Brazil. We were told that Uruguay has a literacy rate of 96% which is right up with Costa Rica. Education is free for all levels and financed by high VAT taxes and by deductions from paychecks. Medical care is also free or very inexpensive. It was apparent that many people are poor, but we didn’t see the begging and homelessness we have seen in other countries. People seemed to have all of the basics they need. The guide said that nobody is staving in Uruguay and that there is always plenty of food available to anyone who needs it. We tend to believe him as we didn’t see any evidence of begging anywhere we went.
Our 45-minute drive through the countryside was along a modern, well-maintained highway through flat pastures and farmland. Cattle are still a mainstay of the economy here, with tourism, mostly from Buenos Aires, right up there. We turned off the highway onto a dirt road and drove for another ten minutes or so before reaching our destination, Estancia Las Rabidas, a working ranch that has been opened up to select tourists from cruise ships on an appointment-only basis.
In this case, being a well-respected group from Crystal on a World Cruise, the family had brought all of their grandchildren and sons from Paraguay where one of them has set up his own business. Another son who did the cooking was heading off to Angola tomorrow to open a restaurant. The children and ranch hands rode horses alongside the busses waving and looking as though they were happy we had come.
To be honest, we were expecting sort of a cheesy tourist attraction, but this really was the family who owns the ranch and their children, plus the regular ranch hands doing double duty as cooks and servers. The matriarch of the family was there to greet everyone and could not have been more friendly and fun to be around. There was a BBQ area set up under a grove of trees where they were serving drinks and juices made from locally grown fruit. The fresh strawberry juice was to die for. They also had grilled corn on the cob, sausages and grilled vegetables as snacks, plus beer, and locally produced wine.
Now, we’re not ones to jump up and down and scream over something good, but in this case, let’s just say that we have never seen such gorgeous ranch hands! When you see the first close up we got of the welcoming group of children and the two men holding the flags, you’ll get an idea, but that was only the start. If you think the old ladies’ jaws were hitting the floor when they gazed upon the first group, you can double that for us. Even the cruise director, who is about as macho as it gets, said he thought they must hire them directly from the Versace ads. In our opinion they looked better than the men in the Versace ads. Have we carried on enough? Well, no, but we can’t think of anything else to say that we can write in a public forum. By the way, the women weren’t bad either.
OK, back to the subject at hand. Family members walked around serving empanadas that were freshly made containing beef or corn and cheese . Then they brought out the hot grilled corn prepared by the most attractive trio you are likely to ever lay eyes on, particularly since these are real people, not models. There was also a pair of musicians playing guitars under a tree. The general area was very picturesque with horses in corrals just across the pasture.
Eventually, one of the women called everyone over into a circle to meet Olga, the matriarch of the family who now owns the ranch alone since her husband died a year ago. He didn’t like to travel, but wanted to share his culture and ranch with the public, so his son came up with the idea to offer these afternoon tours to select groups, only from cruise ships. Three of her sons and one daughter were there, each as charming as the next. To see a group of grandchildren so well mannered was an attraction in itself. They were hands down the most hospitable and friendly people we have ever met. There couldn’t possibly be a better representative for the country of Uruguay.
After an amusing introductory session by Olga and her sons, we were asked to choose one of the provided means of transportation for a tour to the beach and back. The children followed along on horseback while guests piled into old cars, carriages, and in most cases, hay wagons pulled by tractors. That was where we ended up, along with a few other guests, the Captain, Elizabeth the photographer, and the Chief electrician. The guests seemed delighted to be going on a hayride at their advanced age. We thought it was fun, but not nearly as much as they seemed to. Had we known we could have chosen to ride horses, we might have gone that route, but maybe it was just Marco, Renato and Craig (the Land Programs Vice President from L.A.) who were allowed to use that method. They were the highlight of the drive as they galloped past the vehicles full of guests.
The ride to the beach took about twenty minutes, passing cows within touching distance, and various crops and pastures. The ride was pleasant and nobody complained, which was a first. We have to digress again to point out that the man driving our wagon was so stunning that Elizabeth, and everyone else with a camera, took his picture at one point or another. Being discreet, as we try to be, we didn’t find the chance to do so, but Elizabeth jokingly said she would send us an 8x10 print.
Upon arrival at the seaside, we left the transport and walked down a rather steep cobblestone road to the beach. We didn’t have any trouble with this coming or going, but many guests had problems on the uphill climb. At the beach, all of the children, one of the women, and two men had gathered to coordinate a lineup on horseback spelling out “Welcome” on placards they held up, which was cute. Then they galloped around the beach and off into the surf where they took a running start at the beach. The little kids raced up and down the beach to the delight of the guests. Craig said he was worried because he came here yesterday to check it out and the waves were crashing up onto the area where we were supposed to stand. Not so today, the sand was nice and clean with no waves at all.
Back at the hay wagons and other conveyances, the children and Crystal Cruises staff, including Craig, jumped back on their horses for the ride back to the homestead. We passed more crops, mostly potatoes and corn, plus additional cows who thought the hay wagons were bringing food, so they would rush up to be first in line. Some of the children were following our wagon so closely that one of the horses was drooling on the Captain’s white shoes. He didn’t seem to mind and it was really cute.
We passed some of the small houses and a swimming pool for the family before returning to the administration offices, where the BBQ was being held right outside. Most of the guests hightailed it toward the BBQ, but one of the sons told us that we could go see the Ostriches if we wanted to, so we went in the opposite direction. They raise Ostriches for meat because it is cholesterol free and becoming very popular. The birds looked more like Emus to us, but he called them Ostriches. These birds are very aggressive and will grab anything shiny, which was rather amusing when it wasn’t happening to us. We could walk right up to them, separated only by a low wire fence. There was also a separate enclosure full of chicks that were quite cute.
Back at the BBQ, there was a huge covered barn sort of structure that appeared to have been constructed for this purpose. It was open on two sides with windows on the other two. They had nicely set tables ready for lunch. Click to view today's Menu. A large variety of salads were served efficiently at three identical stations where the flies were kept away by the women waving palm fronds, much to their amusement. All of them spoke English well enough to joke with them, which it made it enjoyable to interact with them. Marco asked us to sit at the far end table so he and Renato could sit with us and not other guests. We took our bowl of marinated tomatoes, pasta salad, etc., all made from freshly picked produce from the farm, to an empty table. The young man there said that two staff members were sitting there, but there was plenty of room. As it turned out those two were John Mentis, the Avenue Saloon pianist who is finishing the World Cruise video for Jeff, and the Cruise Director, Paul McFarland.
We had a nice talk with Paul, which we have never had the chance to do before. He was much more forthcoming than he usually is with us or anyone for that matter. He said it is a nightmare to get entertainment for the ship because if an entertainer gets even a few “Poor” ratings, they can’t come back. That’s the main reason there aren’t many comedians. He said someone or other is always offended and that’s the end of that one. He has been doing a better job of keeping the classical pianists out of the main lounge, which he thought, and we agree, was a better way to handle it because the complaints mount if there isn’t something in there with a “Wow Factor” as he put it. Also, Thank God, he said the Medieval show "Excalibur!" is going away shortly. It was amusing when he asked if we had seen the original version of that God-awful show. He said people had no clue what was going on and neither did he. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to him and completely ignored the folkloric show that was going on in the background. We saw part of it and it was fine, but we preferred chatting with Paul.
Next was the hot food selection from the BBQ served by the hunkiest batch of butchers we have ever seen. They had pork, chicken, beef, and lamb, along with a tasty clear sauce. Olga pulled the two of us aside to show us how they were baking potatoes in salt on a big metal table. They had sweet and regular potatoes that were topped with pesto. They were exceptional, as was the tasty meat. Olga was serving grilled vegetables from a big shovel and only semi-willingly posed for a photo after making sure her hair was in order. She was extremely nice.
As we were wandering around waiting for the after dinner activities, Elizabeth came over and asked Dave if he wanted a photo with the men at the meat tables. In case you were wondering, one of them was the same guy who was driving our hay wagon mentioned above. She said, “Just point out the one you want and I’ll work it out.” You had to be there, but it was really amusing. However, amusing as it was, she did exactly what she said she would do and dragged the best ones over for a photo. OK, we can go home now. We'll have a copy of the photo posted in a day or so.
Olga pointed out the dessert selection to us and said to skip everything and go directly to the grilled fruit with homemade ice cream. They had other things that looked good, too, but we did as she said. Oh my God, was it good! Dave went back and asked the cook how it was made. All he does is smear some butter on a big metal table over a fire, throw sugar on it and wait until it caramelizes, then he throws in fresh peaches (or whatever) and tosses it around until the fruit is hot. This is definitely something we’ll have to make at home for a party sometime, especially when we have access to our own fresh fruit.
The last activity was being dragged around a grassy field behind a horse. No really, that was what most everyone did! They had tied cowhides to a rope attached to a horse. Then they would pile on a couple of their kids and gallop full speed around the pasture. Obviously, they didn’t gallop around with guests being dragged, but they did trot. It looked fun, but we didn’t feel like pushing the old men out of the way to get to the front, so we just watched. Probably a good thing with Dave’s neck issue. Bill’s favorite cowboy was dragging the guests, but since he wasn’t riding with them we didn’t see much point in putting ourselves out.
By this time, we were well past the departure time and the tour operators were getting frantic. It was about 2:45 PM, the ship is supposed to sail at 4:00 PM, and it is an hour drive back to the port. So, they started rounding everyone up, which took a considerable effort because people were taking their time thanking the family and such, as were we. We did eventually make it back to the busses as the family stood waving goodbye. Once we started moving, the ladies on the bus started carrying on about the gorgeous men and how unbelievable they were. Everyone loved the event in general, but the men were definitely the highlight for the old ladies and some others who shall remain nameless. It was hysterical when we passed one of the young men on horseback on the way down the road and one of the woman said, “I’ll just take that one back as a pool boy.”
Of course, many guests were frantic because they didn’t think we would make it back to the ship by 4:00 PM. Apparently, it escaped them that the Captain was with us, along with the Chief Engineer, Food and Beverage Manager, Bar Manager, Crystal Society Hostess, Cruise Consultant, World Cruise Hostess, etc., etc. How hard can it be to figure out that the ship can’t sail without the Captain, let alone all of the World Cruise guests and other staff?
We made it back with fifteen minutes to spare and the Captain literally ran onto the ship to get things moving. We waded through the line, sanitized our hands with the required towelette, and hobbled up to the cabin. Waldo was waiting with our laundry and tea sandwiches. Exactly on time, we set sail. The only tall building in Uruguay is a very modern, and, of course, unfinished tower for the communications company owned by the government. There were a few other ornate old buildings at the port, but they appeared to be unused. We decided from the look of the guards on the pier that all of the men here fell out of the pages of a catalog.
The Captain announced that the sail away would be tricky because the port is fairly shallow and the ship has to turn on a dime to get out through the breakwater. Then, once out in the open water, there is only six feet of water under the keel so he has to be very vigilant to avoid running aground. By the quantity of boats aground in the harbor, this certainly appears to be true.
We ate a few of our sandwiches and prepared for dinner, which is Informal tonight. With time to kill now that we are back to late seating, we first tried the Crystal Cove, but it was full. So, we went up to the nearly empty Palm Court to sit and watch the ocean go by for 45 minutes until dinnertime.
With five minutes before the Dining Room opened, we watched Tom from the balcony above where we could gesture to him and he could confirm who his returning admirer is. It was the guy we thought it was, sitting within direct eyeshot of the piano. Niklas came over to chat and we told him about the day’s experiences and sights, which were of immense interest to him. He declared Elizabeth to be wonderful for her photo arrangements today. As soon as Tom finished playing, he ran up the stairs to talk to us. He said, “You’re so popular your groupies are coming to you now.” He seemed sort of rattled about the guy coming back, but we didn’t get all of the information because Niklas was there and we didn’t want to bring anything up that Tom didn’t want spread around. He also seems to have gossip for us about his evening on the town with Pat in Buenos Aires. Niklas was appalled at how much ship gossip we are aware of. We know things he doesn’t know and he works here. We told both of them that they are welcome to join us any time in the Dining Room because our table has room for two more people.
We kept trying to leave after the Dining Room opened, but first Niklas kept us talking, then Tom followed us downstairs and wanted to talk some more. Apparently, he hasn’t told us the whole story about that guy, although we don’t expect anything major to be revealed. All this talk made us almost 30 minutes late for dinner, so we told Josef he could slap our wrists. He said, “You guys can arrive any time you feel like it, no problem.” Ordinarily, we arrive promptly and we really don’t like to be late when there are assigned seatings. Jerry didn’t seem to mind, but he wanted to complain about yesterday when he had to do luggage duty on top of his regular job. We agree it is tiring, but it’s only once every two weeks, so we can’t see what the big deal is.
The menu tonight was exactly the same as the second night last segment. We didn’t receive a menu in advance today, so we don’t have it for the diary tonight. Neither of us was very hungry, so we just had soup and salad, plus the salad entrée. Everything was satisfactory.
Augusto was mad because one of the lecturers complained when he wouldn’t seat her by the window during lunch. The rule is that only paying guests get the prime window seats, but this woman thought she deserved more. We were sort of trying to get to the show and when we started leaving we had 20 minutes to spare. By the time Augusto followed us out to the lobby and continued to talk, we were fifteen minutes late. That was really OK because the first act was the dance team. Although they are very good, we have seen every routine they do several times.
The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Show featuring the dance team, Curtis and Natalie, plus comedian Mike Goddard. Mike has been on every World Cruise and is very amusing, but he has been relegated to only half of a show the past few years. We can imagine that he has probably offended his share of passengers over the years, but he is usually very funny. He’s also a raging drunk, so there might be more to the limited show time than we know about. Mike seems to have recovered from being drunk all the time because he was hysterical. He does much of the same material each time, but his delivery is always fresh and with a new spin on it that makes it funny all over again. He works off the audience, so the majority of his act is improvised and just as funny as the jokes. We saw him in the lobby afterwards and he looked much better than he has in the past.
After the show we went to look at the photos from today’s event. We ordered four that show us, including the specially arranged photo with the meat carvers/hay ride driver. The photo came out better than expected of the particularly attractive one. At the time we thought he was taken aback and was just standing there, but he looked perfectly happy to be in the photo. We’ll have that picture to show in a day or so. We informed Mel and Barbara that it was a great day and that we thought it wasn’t properly described and kept many guests away. We mentioned that to Paul at the lunch, too.
Niklas came over to view the photo we had told him about and agreed with our assessment of the afternoon. Several of the old lady World Cruisers came to look at the photos and began raving to Josef, the Hotel Director, about how gorgeous the men in the family were. The ones we are talking about were farm hands, not family members, but the point is that the major attraction for everyone was the living scenery. Everyone agrees, however, that it was the friendly, hospitable nature of the entire family that made this event so wonderful. Two of the women, who have been on many World Cruises, said this was the best event they have ever attended. We can’t vouch for that, but it was one of the best we have experienced.
We’re hoping to sleep in tomorrow to make up for our lack of sleep today, but we’ll see what happens in the morning. The ship is bobbing slightly tonight, but it isn’t rough. Keiko said there is some sort of swell in this part of the ocean that makes ships tip slowly from side to side even though the sea appears to be calm. It isn’t bothersome to us at all so far.Two gifts were received tonight: $300 on board credit and a box of small truffles from American Express, and $100 pre-paid on board credit from AAA. We still have not received any Crystal Society credits this segment that should be $300 per person.
sunday, february 9th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
We didn’t sleep in as late as we thought we would, but it was for no particular reason. Today was a repeat of the Asia Café buffet around the Neptune Pool, so we went directly up there when we were ready to go out at 12:30 PM. Obviously it was more crowded than any time last cruise, but there were plenty of tables out by the pool where Ricky took our trays. The food was better than last segment, although the selections were the same. Several of the items were very good with the rest being satisfactory. We can attribute this to more astute choices rather than a real improvement.
Click for Daytime Activities.
The weather today is perfect, low 70’s and mostly sunny with a calm sea. There is no wind to speak of either. We stayed outside watching the odd collection of new passengers wallow around the pool area. We’re not being catty, they really are more strange than usual.
After the band finished at 1:30 PM, we headed down to the lobby to look for Rudolf because we inadvertently snubbed him last night. We don’t really think he was aware of it, but we didn’t want to risk it because we do like him. However, he wasn’t in any of the shops. Next stop was to check if any more photos had been posted, where we ran into Elizabeth pulling the ones that had been ordered already. She said all of the guests were still talking about how wonderful it was, especially the attractiveness factor. Actually, that aspect has grown to fantasy proportions among the staff and some of the guests. We all agreed that this is the kind of thing Crystal should concentrate on rather than formal events. Elizabeth also said how many guests commented that it was nice that the lecturers and other hangers-on were not invited. We have always felt that way, but we didn’t know the majority did.
We were stopped by a newly arrived lecturer and his boyfriend under the ruse of figuring out how to find the Lido Café. We answered his question, whereupon he introduced himself…Kevin Carlisle and his friend Sean. Kevin is touted as an “Multi-Award winning producer/director/choreographer.” We’ve never heard of him.
We needed to talk to Lara about our missing Crystal Society credits, so we killed an hour wandering around until just before her desk hours by chatting with Barbara in the lobby. We like her, but she tells us the same things every time we talk to her as though we have never heard it before. Once or twice was fine, but we’re on the fifth rendition of some of it.
Lara arrived promptly at 3:00 PM and was pounced on by two guests who were waiting their turn. So, we kept talking to Barbara until she was free. The moment we sat down she started fanning herself and recalling the men at the ranch yesterday. She said the women were so enthralled that they didn’t want to leave. Again, the women were enamored of the men in the family, not the workers. Apparently they don’t know a good thing when they see it. We reiterated the information we got about the guests being happier without the lecturers around and how we resent them being invited because they aren’t paying passengers. She told us she was glad we mentioned it because someone at the office thinks most guests want them there. We assured her that was not the case and she thanked us for telling her. She wholeheartedly agreed that Crystal needs to concentrate on less formal events because we get plenty of that on board.
About that time, another guest came up, so we got to the point of our missing credits. She couldn’t believe it had happened again, but confirmed it was in fact true by looking at our account in the computer. She is also going to credit us the cocktail party and the extra transportation. We weren’t concerned with the transportation because we did use more than we were really allotted, but we figure that since we had to ask twice for our regular credits that we would take whatever she was offering. She is also checking on why we were charged for our free shore excursion last segment.
We ventured up toward the shops because we had seen Rudolf arrive, but it was too busy to bother him. We figured it was time to go back to the room and vegetate until snack time. Waldo brought a plate of jumbo shrimp, a bowl of peanuts and a bowl of pretzels. He then insisted on serving us soft drinks from our refrigerator. Is he bored or what?
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Gala Reception. We noticed that they are not referring to the receptions as “Welcome Aboard” or “Farewell”. Rosemary confirmed yesterday that they are doing this on purpose so it doesn’t exclude intransit guests. We skipped the reception and went down to the lobby, stopping to chat with Rudolf and the newly arrived Debbie in Apropos. Then, we went down to the Crystal Cove to listen to Tom since there was no one else there for once. We figured he would have a lot to talk about, and we were right. However, we only had a few minutes after he finished playing before we had to go to dinner, so we didn’t finish the conversation. It appears he wants our advice about what to do about his admirer. Our conclusion, made without all of the facts, of course, is that he sort of wants to go with this guy, but knows there is no way it will work out. Now we will start working backwards from that theory and let everyone know if we were right at a later date.
Food review: Everything was satisfactory, but the fish was outstanding.
Jerry wanted to know what was up because we were having a rather intense conversation. Usually we just sort of sit there, but we were busy analyzing the bits and pieces Tom had given us to work with. Now that we have it all worked out, we’ll have to wait and see if it proves to be true. Dave usually gets things like this worked out accurately, so we’re hoping for the best on this one. The best meaning to prove we are right, not that it is the best choice for Tom to make.
We finally remembered to ask Maria if her boyfriend has “abs of steel.” We knew she would be amused, which she was. She also confirmed that he does indeed have them. Then she tried to get us to tell her who had told us that information, but we wouldn’t. So, she began to guess along with providing why these people (all men in case you were wondering) were interested. She didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already, but it was amusing. She thought so, too.
Augusto attempted to make the dessert we had at the ranch, at tableside. They didn’t have any good peaches in the kitchen, so he used the pineapple that has been outstanding so far. He didn’t let the sugar caramelize enough before adding the pineapple, but after cooking it for a few minutes, it worked out fine. He decided to use more sugar next time, which is probably a good idea. However, it was outstanding as it was, topped with vanilla ice cream. It only took a few minutes to prepare and we had all of the tables around us wondering what he was making.
Since Augusto usually knows everything about the guests, we asked him what the name of the man is who acted like we were old friends the other day. He didn’t know, so he enlisted Albert in finding out by reading the place card at his table (he is at an officer’s table, so they have place cards). Between the two of them, they were able to enlighten us. We had asked Tom earlier, but he didn’t know either. So, that dilemma is solved.
Jerry was in a good mood tonight and trying to find ways he could come work for us. He was half joking, but we think underneath it all he is a bit serious. There is nothing we need done for us that would justify hiring any live-in help, that’s for sure. Besides, we doubt Jerry is going to uproot his whole family. He hasn’t ever expressed any displeasure with living in Poland.
The Evening Entertainment is the newest production show, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”. We only planned to attend because we missed it last cruise, so we didn't know if they made any improvements since it first debuted. When we saw it during the premier, it was pretty bad and we were not expecting much. This could have been an entirely new production because we didn’t recognize much of it. It appeared that they had pulled bits from an old Gershwin show and inserted them in the new production’s boring or weird sections that hadn’t worked before. This version had lots of energy, moved along nicely, and was rather enjoyable. The only drawback was that the costumes look like a Technicolor factory blew up. Some of them are so ugly that they are distracting enough to overshadow the performers. We are glad it has been improved and it has been elevated enough that we won’t avoid it anymore.The arrival time for the port tomorrow is an hour earlier than originally announced. We have heard from everyone who knows anything about it that none of the tours are worthwhile, so we seem to have made the right decision not to book any. We do plan to go out and touch shore for at least a few minutes depending on how things look from the ship in the morning.
monday, february 10th – puerto madryn, argentina – 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Chubut Province was already named when European
explorers arrived. The native (Mapuche) word for the area was chupat,
which means "winding river," and refers to the long Rio Chubut
that crosses the province from the Andes to the sea. The central valley
is irrigated and is a rich agricultural region while the western part of the
state, nestled in the foothills of the Andes, is sheep country and huge
ranches cover the landscape.
Photos from World Cruise Event in Uruguay: Officers at World Cruise Event - Left to Right, Josef-Food & Beverage Manager, Abigail-Cruise Consultant, Rosemary-World Cruise Hostess, Glenn-Captain, Paul-Cruise Director, Lara-Crystal Society Hostess, Ship's Doctor, Chief Electrical Engineer, Evelyn-Bar Manager, Reidolf-Chief Engineer. Dave & Bill at table with, from left to right, John Mentis-Avenue Saloon Pianist, Paul McFarland-Cruise Director, Renato Correia-Shore Excursion Manager. Dave & cook/cowboy (this is the picture Elizabeth arranged). Hayride with Captain.
We arrived several hours earlier than scheduled, so the ship was cleared by 8:00 AM. Not that it mattered to us, of course, just passing on the information. We were up by 10:30 AM though, for no reason in particular since we had no plans for today that required any sort of schedule. It was much warmer than we expected, 75 and sunny. There was a constant breeze, turning into a strong wind in the late afternoon.
Click for Daytime Activities.
Because one of the tours was leaving at 12:15 PM, the Lido and Crystal Dining Room opened a half-hour earlier than usual at 11:30 AM. So, we didn’t have to wait for lunch. Why they opened early is anyone’s guess because there were only a few guests in the Lido when we arrived just after noon. They had both sides open, which is a first. There must be a formula that when there are a certain number of guests on board, they open two lines, but it was a total waste as far as we could see. We both had the Asian selection, but it was rather boring. The beef kabobs with a roasted pepper sauce were outstanding though. JP stopped to say that his brother is going to be working on the Serenity, so JP thinks he will go there also. If everyone who tells us he is going to the Serenity actually does, there won’t be anyone left on this ship. We’re coming to the conclusion that they are telling everyone they might go over there rather than disappoint them now.
When Dave went to get dessert the spoon for the bowl of cut fruit wasn’t in reach and the waiter who was standing there, Pedro, jokingly said, “I’m just here for looks. Get it yourself.” This lead to a fantasy conversation in which his sole purpose on board is to stand around looking attractive. Well, he’s dreaming if he thinks we think he’s attractive, but it was amusing. OK, so you had to be there.
After lunch we went up to take our usual port photos, but there really wasn’t much to look at. The city is located across a small bay from the pier area and there is pretty much nothing in between. The land is low, dry, and dusty. The cliffs along the beach look like those around Camp Pendleton in California. Since it wasn’t too hot outside, we figured we would take the free shuttle to town, walk around and come right back. Photos starting at the pier going left toward the city: Left of Pier, Center City, Far Left Outskirts, Lands End Left, Right of Pier.
At the end of the pier by the shore, there are a bunch of beached, rusting boats that were abandoned when their captain’s decided they couldn’t make it around the horn. Apparently, this has been going on since time began because this is the last major anchorage before it’s too late to turn back. It wasn’t rough at all getting here, but that is unusual.
We collected our stuff and made our way down to the gangway on Deck 5. We passed Mel and Barbara sitting in the lobby. They said they had heard the tours weren’t very interesting and there was nothing much in town. We already knew that, but we hadn’t planned to do anything anyway. A woman in the hallway told us it was a good place to buy leather, but we’re not really interested in that.
Once on the shuttle, we had to wait about ten minutes for the scheduled departure time, during which Augusto and several other staff members arrived. Augusto was looking for a specific restaurant in town, but he didn’t know anything else. The drive took about fifteen minutes through a small resort and beachfront tract houses that looked very nice. Otherwise it looked like any small coastal California town. Well, we thought it looked like Barstow with a beach if that gives you a hint.
The shuttle dropped us on the beachfront street in front of a large monument to some hero or other. Of course, the main street of town was again 9 de Julio as it has been in every Argentine city so far. We walked the few feet to the beachfront promenade where a few people were sunning themselves. We thought it looked sort of like Sunset Beach or other less popular resort area. Although some areas were in need of repair, it was no worse than any beachfront in the U.S. There wasn’t any graffiti and the buildings looked to be in good repair. The ship was visible across the bay from the beach, so we’re not all that far from the ship.
We arrived around 1:30 PM, so it was siesta time and most of the shops were closed. We just walked along a tree-shaded sidewalk fronting the beach until we reached the main part of town. Then we turned inland for a block just to see if any shops were open. Some were, but nothing interested us, so we kept walking. This is a resort for local people and so there are lots of small hotels, a casino, and tidy little beach bungalows. The town is only about four blocks deep and then you are out in the barren pampas with almost no vegetation at all.
Turning back toward the beach, we found the busy section of the sand, but the town was pretty much empty. The walk back along the beach was pleasant, but getting too hot to suit us. If it hadn’t been for the constant sea breeze it would have been much worse though. We were back at the shuttle stop just as the tours arrived and let people out for photos.
Rosemary arrived while we were waiting for the tours to leave and the shuttle to arrive. She was still raving about the event in Uruguay, which deserves to be raved about. We told her we didn’t think the formal event in Sydney was a particularly good choice and she agreed as much as she could without specifically saying so.
Within fifteen minutes the shuttle arrived and we were back on the dusty road to the pier. We were shocked to see the locally supplied gangway going up at such a steep angle. We doubted most of the passengers could climb it. It didn’t have stairs, just a textured metal ramp with a bump every two feet. Luckily, most of the group we were around were staff members returning, but we have no idea how some of the less ambulatory guests made it back onto the ship.
Back on board, we went up to get a snack of ice cream and then sat out by the pool until abut 4:30 PM when Dave decided he needed an hour nap to make it through dinner. So, back to the room it was where the aforementioned nap did indeed take place.
The ship sailed promptly at 6:00 PM in an unusual manner. The pier sticks straight out into deep water, but the ship backed up for at least fifteen minutes before turning around and heading out to sea. We thought maybe we were going to back up all the way to the Falklands. By this time, the wind had really picked up, so the Captain warned everyone to be careful out on deck once we got out to sea. We got the impression that he was hinting it might be rough tonight due to the wind, but there was no indication of that at this point.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We stayed in the cabin until fifteen minutes before dinnertime. So, we just stood around the upper level of the lobby at listened to Tom. He waved at us the moment we arrived and was looking either tired or forlorn. We didn’t find out which.
Food review: The soup was outstanding, but the salads were barely worth eating. Nothing was wrong with them, they were simply boring. The chicken was satisfactory. The Soufflé Cake was outstanding, as usual. We only ordered the Cinnamon dessert because we have never been able to get an explanation of what it was. Well, it was a rock-hard chunk of cinnamon ice cream topped by rock-hard frozen whipped cream, and all set on top of incongruous sour cherries. It was ghastly and one bite was plenty.
Jerry swore the chicken didn’t have bones in it, but when he looked at it, it had one bone sticking out. He removed it just so he could say he was right, but he did point it out to us. Ben stopped to tell us it would be cold from now on, but we pointed out that he said the same thing yesterday and it was hot today. Maria said her boyfriend was embarrassed because someone had told us about his abs of steel. She thought it was very amusing, as did we. We have never even spoken to him. She said we should run up and poke at his ribs and take a picture of his reaction for her. We said, “Yeah sure, you just want a picture of him punching us out.” We have no intention of doing it, by the way.
The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Show featuring singer Michael Maguire, harpist Shirley Dominguez, and Jonathan Winters. We had forgotten what it was like to listen to a harpist who can actually play. The one who is on the whole World Cruise is terrible, but this one was great. We were a bit afraid that Jonathan would be embarrassing, but he wasn’t. There really isn’t anything else to say about it except that it was short. Michael Maguire was good, but two of the songs he chose weren’t really appropriate for him. Otherwise he was worth the time.
Tonight was Darwin’s birthday, so we gave him a card. He wanted to know how we knew it was his birthday (it’s on the TV along with the guests’ birthdays). Our answer to this question is always, “We know everything.”
We heard that there was some sort of "cultural problem" during one of the tours today, but we don't have any details yet. We'll pass it on as soon as we can find out what happened.
Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.
tuesday, february 11th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
Since it is a slow news day, here is a scan of the Dining Hours, etc. for yesterday. It is typical of any day at sea. The Dining Hours don't change much, even on port days. Click for Daytime Activities.
Our first stop today was the Lido for lunch. The weather has cooled considerably, but not enough for a jacket. It is still very windy and the windows are covered with salt spray, but it isn’t particularly rough.
There wasn’t much of interest on the Lido buffet, but the carved chicken made up for it. It has been consistently outstanding. The made-to-order spaghetti with meat sauce was also very good. Pat joined us, but he wouldn’t tell us what happened when he and Tom went out in Buenos Aires. Damn, we know something juicy went down, but Tom wouldn’t tell us with other guests around and Pat was being discreet for the first time in his life. Niklas wandered by and asked if he could join us. We told him he couldn’t, but he did anyway (we were joking…come on, we’re not that obnoxious!)
Niklas told us that he only agreed to come on for the World Cruise and has no desire to work more than that. He didn’t say what he had done before, but he said it was time to retire. He had done that just days before Crystal called to ask him if he would come on the World Cruise. His intention is to just come back each year for four months and take the rest of the time off. He told us that he had to take all three security guards with him to the Afternoon Trivia. At first we thought he was joking, but he said he really did because some of the guests have started to take it way too seriously. We stayed talking to Niklas and Pat until 2:30 PM when Niklas had to go for firefighter training.
We wandered across the deck and down to the lobby where we ran into Barbara. She was on her way to her room while Mel charmed the women in the Bridge Lounge. Since the ghastly harpist was playing in front of the shops, we didn’t stay around very long after Barbara left. It was too early for our afternoon snack, so we went back to our room to kill an hour or two watching TV and doing computer stuff.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual/50’s. As we have mentioned before, very few guests participate in the costume aspect of 50’s Night, although we did see a few more than usual (meaning ten out of 800). We just waited around the lobby for about ten minutes before dinnertime.
Food review: As always, the Corn Bisque was wonderful. The salads were mediocre. The meatloaf was very good, as well. Dessert was good, but not spectacular.
Jerry was in a good mood, as was Maria who got started on a story involving a wine bottle that we won’t repeat. It was funny though. It sure is amazing what staff members will tell us. Jerry wanted to know if we wanted Andrejus to stay with us when Jerry leaves in Valparaíso. We told him we did want him, but only if he wanted to stay. Jerry said he had asked him to ask us because he likes us and was hoping to stay. We left the dining room relatively early because nobody came over to talk to us.
Mel and Barbara were sitting in the Crystal Cove, so we joined them to wait until show time at 10:30 PM. Niklas came by dressed in jeans and a t-shirt for 50’s Night. That drew stares, or rather gawks, from Tom’s admirer who happened to walk by. After Mel and Barbara left, Tom finished playing and came over to sit with us. He told us that he will only talk to the admirer in the lobby and confirmed that he isn’t interested in him and doesn’t find him attractive. It also became apparent to him during a conversation yesterday that he understands far less English than Tom thought, so he can’t really carry on a conversation at all. When he walked by on the level above, Tom gestured for him to come down, but he didn’t. We couldn’t drag any information out of Tom about what happened in Buenos Aires, so we assume we will never find out. So much for living vicariously through others.
The Evening Entertainment program includes the production show, "Rock Around the Clock", a Sock Hop and a 50’s Name That Tune. We didn’t attend any of the entertainment tonight.
There is a 50’s Midnight Buffet tonight as part of the theme and Tom was hungry for something sweet, so we went up. They set up the Bistro with tablecloths and candlelight, which was nice, but unnecessary. They seem to have cut out most of the fancy foods at last. There are hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, Jell-O, ice cream sundaes, shakes, etc. We had popcorn and shakes while Tom loaded up on desserts plus two shakes. He asked us afterward not to let him eat so much late at night, but we told him he’s old enough to know better on his own. Carlo, the dancer Niklas was catty about the other day, came over and Tom introduced us. He sat down and chatted for awhile. Apparently, he also had a wild time in Buenos Aires and didn’t get back to the ship until the next morning at 9:30 AM. However, it sounded more like bar-hopping than anything else. He said that this troupe is the relief set and they go between Symphony and Harmony. Two revamped old shows are coming back, "Cole" and "Berlin", which are good choices. There are two brand new shows coming out for the Serenity.
We all sat talking until 1:00 AM surrounded only by crew members after the first few minutes, which was fine with us.
Another world cruise gift arrived with a card that reads: “Welcome to World Voyage II. As we embark on our journey from Buenos Aires to Valparaíso, we look forward to visiting places of vast contrast – from the ports of Uruguay and Argentina to the natural splendors of Antarctica. We are delighted to present you with this blanket to add to your comfort during our voyage and upon your return home, as well, where we hope it will bring back fond memories of exotic places.” The blanket is made of polar fleece in navy blue.Although it continued to be very windy into the late night, it was no rougher than it has been, which is negligible. The temperature at 1:00 AM was 54 degrees, which isn’t bad for this part of the world.
wednesday, february 12th – port stanley, falkland islands, uk – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
We finally found out what happened on that tour in Puerto Madryn. The afternoon tour to the Welsh countryside was stopped by a roadblock plus a bonfire in the road. At first they thought it was just a protest by workers lacking jobs, but as they got closer it was apparent that it was an anti-American rally. The guides quickly ordered the busses to turn around and go back to the city where the tour was cancelled. We also learned that one of the lecturers had a “scary incident” regarding anti-Americanism in the town. We find that a bit hard to believe unless he provoked it, but that’s what we were told by someone who generally gets the facts straight.
Click for Daytime Activities.
Lara called to say that the office had sent us the missing credits, but only one of them came through so it has to be done over again. We did receive a credit for $300 which we assume is for the unused transfer we were entitled to. The whole program is so confusing there is no way to be sure whether we have received everything we are entitled to or not. We believe more and more that this kind of thing is done purposely and that most guests never notice and lose the credits.
Our day started as usual with lunch in the Lido. Some guests had already returned from the penguin tour we opted not to book. One person told us they only saw six penguins and it was basically a waste of time. That’s pretty much what we expected and the reason we chose not to go on tour here. We finally remembered to get a photo of Leo, the Maitre d’Lido. He has been here for years, but we never seem to have the camera with us when we see him. He didn’t escape us today.
The landscape of the Falkland Islands where we are anchored is windblown and stark, with a few granite outcroppings and hills on the otherwise flat landscape. There are no trees to be found expect in the small village of Stanley, which is our destination for today. The weather is overcast and very windy, but it wasn’t too cold with just a light jacket.
We took a rather bumpy tender ride that lasted about twenty minutes. Our timing was perfect as we avoided the departure of the afternoon tours and had the boat nearly to ourselves. The arrival into town is inside of a small bay. Even inside the protected harbor, the waves were causing the floating dock to bounce a bit, making it difficult for some people to negotiate.
The public pier is at one end of the main street where all of the gift shops and such are located. We started off walking into the wind that had grown very strong by this time, 1:30 PM. The town is neat and tidy with old English style stone houses, townhouses, and row houses. Our first stop was in a gift shop located along the waterfront where we ran into several crewmembers who told us there were a few more stores up the road. We purchased a few souvenirs, hindered by Billy telling the clerk that she had better call the bank before taking our credit card (he was kidding, obviously).
Back out in the wind, we continued along the waterfront to the old stone church, an arch made of whale bones that is the major tourist attraction here, and onward to the memorial to the people who lost their lives in the 1982 war to liberate the island from Argentina’s invasion. There were several old shipwrecks along the way. They are there for the same reason as the last port, they weren’t seaworthy enough to make it around the horn, and so they were abandoned here. There are more than 100 of them scattered about dating back to the early 1800’s. We walked to almost the end of the main street before turning back.
We stopped in a couple of other shops, but didn’t find anything of interest to buy. Turning back, and with the wind at our backs, we started back toward the pier. We took a turn inland a few blocks just to see what was there. There were more tidy row houses and small houses, each with a well-tended vegetable garden. It really was a slice of England complete with the typical red English telephone booths.
As we walked back to the pier, we noticed there were no tenders in sight and the officers weren’t standing at the embarkation point anymore. We intended to stop into the Visitor Center anyway, where we found several guests wandering around. We were there for only a few minutes until someone announced that a tender had arrived and we all herded out to the dock. The water was much rougher than it was upon arrival, but it wasn’t too difficult to board the boat.
It took longer to get back to the ship than going the other way with the water splashing over the top of the boat and leaking in through the cracks. It wasn’t as bad a some people made it out to be, but it was quite rough. Once back on board we learned that the Captain had forbidden anymore guests from going ashore at 2:00 PM, just after we had left. That’s why there weren’t any tenders at the pier. No crewmembers were allowed ashore because there was no way to know when they would be able to get back to the ship.
It was 3:30 PM when we returned, so we decided to go to Crystal Tea Time in the Palm Court. It was quite busy, but there was plenty of room. We felt that the food offerings had been cut back from previous years. They served the same cookies available everywhere, finger sandwiches, and desserts leftover from last night’s buffet. In the past they also served scones and cream, but they were nowhere in sight today.
There is a notice in the Reflections today from the Captain announcing that they expect very rough seas after today and instructing us to put away any breakables. We can just imagine the complaints they’ll get, but it is a part of the world where this kind of thing is to be expected more often than not.
Waldo came by to bring ice and see if we needed any snacks (we didn’t). We sent him down to check on our reservation at Jade Garden tomorrow since we had never received a reservation card after Rosario asked us when we wanted to go there. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the room.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We still don’t know if we are going to Jade Garden tomorrow night.
Food Review: The cream soup was outstanding. We ordered one without the shrimp and it was somewhat better without it. The pineapple soup was basically just chopped pineapple in juice with a mint leaf tossed on top. The salad was terrible and barely worth eating. It just tasted like wet lettuce. Both entrees were very good, but we would prefer the chicken dish without the bones considering how messy the sauce was.
Augusto tried to make the Uruguay dessert using peaches, but it was better when he used pineapple. It was above average, but the peaches weren’t juicy enough, so it wasn’t great. It’s nice of him to keep trying. We told him it won’t be right until be wears a Gaucho outfit and gets all sweaty first. Maria thought that idea was hysterical. Nothing else of note happened during dinner.
The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring violinist Nicola Loud and comedian Mike Goddard. We arrived a couple of minutes after the show started. It opened with Mike dressed as Tuna the Stewardess, which was amusing in itself. The violinist was outstanding, but we’re glad they are presenting this type of act in smaller increments rather than giving them an entire hour. Mike finished the hour with his usual routine, but it was laugh out loud funny.By the time the show was over, the ship was moving quite a bit. The Cruise Director reminded the audience to secure everything in their cabin and to be careful that something doesn’t fall on us during the night, “Especially one another.” It has been getting steadily more rough as the evening wears on, but it isn’t nearly as bad as we have experienced at times on other cruises.
We received complimentary maps of Antarctica tonight. Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.
thursday, february 13th – cruising the south atlantic ocean
It was quite rough during the night, but nothing unusual. We did wake up quite often, but nothing fell from the shelves or anything dramatic. That is, until around 1:00 PM when we were about to leave for lunch. A huge wave hit the ship and everything catapulted off of the counters, the drawers flew open, the melted ice in the ice bucket dumped into the open drawers, and Dave was attacked by the killer kiwis from the fruit bowl. Everything on the shelf in the closet was now on the floor, where it stayed. We picked it up once, but it was back on the floor soon enough, so we figured there was no point. The stewardesses, who were almost finished with the rooms, had to start over and do them all again.
The weather varied between sunny and rainy very quickly. The only constant was the high wind. The temperature was about 45 degrees. Seas were about 20’.
There was a Cuisine of the Sun buffet held in the Lido rather than around the Neptune Pool, but ultimately that didn’t help much. The same wave that dumped our counters threw everything in the buffet onto the floor, all of the carts tipped over, and supplies fell out of the refrigerators in back. We were headed for the Trident Grill anyway, so we only heard about the mess through the Deck Stewards. We got cheeseburgers and a small pizza and sat down by the pool. When Dave went to get some mustard, another wave hit and the bowls of condiments went flying. Back at the table, Bill was only able to save one plate while everything else hit the wall, leaving a gooey skid mark. Oh well, we’ll just start over.
Just before we had arrived, the water had sloshed out of the Jacuzzi, so they had to quickly drain it, which is very unusual. They are designed not to slosh, but there is a limit to anything. The Captain made an announcement saying that guests should stay out of the Palm Court and should try to stay in the public rooms on Decks 5 and 6 because lower decks are more stable than the upper ones.
Some casino staff sitting on the other side of us started to fetch someone to clean our mess, but we knew the stewards were too busy to do it now, so we told them not to worry about it. Eventually, Norman came and cleaned it up. That’s when we heard the gory details about the mess in the Lido. Later, we saw some of the Lido waiters splashed with food and various sauces. They are very lucky nobody was injured. By the time we got the camera, about half an hour later, everything was cleaned up, so we didn’t get any photos. It was obvious there had been a mess because there were ketchup stains on the carpets and all of the rolling carts of dishes were laying down. We heard that all of the dishes that had been piled up for use were smashed.
Rodel, the ice cream man, was looking quite green, but everyone else seemed fine. Many of them were busy in the back cleaning up a vat of strawberry syrup that had fallen out of the refrigerator in back. We chatted briefly with Darwin who had a birthday party last night. He was hanging onto a pole through the entire conversation. There was an announcement by the Cruise Director telling us that many of the activities for the day had been cancelled or re-arranged due to the weather. We didn’t bother scanning any of the activities for the diary today because almost nothing was held as scheduled.
Niklas stopped by and told us they are expecting it to become extremely rough by 8:00 PM tonight. When we asked why they didn’t just say so and stop hedging, he said, “Well, they aren't SURE it will be that rough.” We can never understand why they don’t just tell us it is going to rain or whatever. We’d much rather be prepared for it than think it’s going to be hot and sunny.
We decided to go down to the lobby and shops to see if we could find anything to photograph, but whatever had been messed up had already been put back in place. Eveline, the Bar Manager, told us that four bottles of liquor were broken, lots of glasses, and a few things in the Bistro. The only big loss was one of the POS computers in the Palm Court that was smashed. They use touch screen LCD displays and we know those cost thousands of dollars. The only indication of anything unusual was that some of the racks in the shops had been moved away from the windows or removed.
There wasn’t much else to do, so we went back to the cabin. On the way, we ran into Maria who agreed with us that this weather was kind of fun, although we all felt guilty about it because of all the extra work it caused the staff. We can’t imagine how some of the people who can barely walk under ordinary circumstances are able to get around at all today.
Waldo brought us some vegetables and a ghastly dip that smelled like feet, plus some pretzels. He said that several of the TV’s in the Penthouse Suites (the next step up from what we have) fell to the floor with the first wave. They are attached to a turntable that pulls out from a cabinet and when the table came to the end of its reach, the TV’s kept going. We were surprised to notice that our VCR, which is on a shelf under the TV on the wall, is not tied down to anything. The only thing that kept it from falling earlier today were the wires attached to the TV.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal/Medieval. Tonight’s menu is The Royal Feast, so we won’t bother including it in the diary again. If you’re interested, just look back to the last segment and you’ll find it there. The production show that goes along with it, "Excalibur!", was cancelled in anticipation of the rough seas.
Our dinner was at Jade Garden tonight at 8:30 PM. We were surprised that so many people were in the lobby and elsewhere. We only overheard a few people saying someone or other was seasick. Carlo said his sister couldn’t even get out of bed, so we let him know she could get a shot from the doctor to take care of it. You’d think someone who works here would be aware of that, but he wasn’t and was grateful we told him about it.
Jade Garden was completely full, so that tells you something about the popularity of the Medieval menu in the Dining Room. We don’t have a menu for the diary, but it is basically the same as always with the addition of a few items from Wolfgang Puck’s Chinoise menu. We had his Chinese Chicken Salad and the Lobster Spring Rolls, neither one of which was worth eating. Everything else was outstanding and vastly improved over past years. We ordered a couple of items that weren’t on the menu, Crispy Beef and Lemon Chicken. The special items were slightly better than the regular menu selections, but everything was as good as any fine Chinese restaurant ashore. We didn’t care for a couple of the dessert samples from Chinoise, but the Mango Sherbet and Green Tea Ice Cream made on board made up for it.
We overheard many stories about the mess this afternoon. One of the Prego waiters stopped to tell us that all of the dishes were smashed in the Lido. There are signs outside of all of the restaurants tonight announcing that the Lido will be closed for breakfast tomorrow and will only open for lunch if weather permits. We were told that they felt it was too unstable up there to be safe for guests. The Palm Court was also closed off tonight for the same reason.
Barbara told us that she was in the Dining Room and the same thing happened there. All of the dishes and silverware fell from the waiter stations and some guests fell out of their chairs, one of whom fell onto her. Luckily, no one was injured during all of this.
The extra rough weather predicted for tonight didn’t materialize. In fact, it calmed down slightly from around 8:30 PM until after midnight when it picked up a bit.
Tonight’s entertainment schedule changed several times, so we haven’t bothered to scan the program. As mentioned, the production show that goes with this evening’s theme was cancelled. The replacement was a concert by classical pianist Min Kwon, but we couldn’t imagine how they were going to manage to do that in the Galaxy Lounge where there is no way to tie the piano to the floor. No need to worry about that show either because it too was cancelled just before dinner. They aren’t sure what activities will be offered tomorrow because it is expected that the rough seas will continue as they are or, more likely, be even worse. We all agreed tonight that this is nothing compared to other times we have been here, especially the storm we experienced in the South China Sea during the second segment of Crystal Symphony’s first world cruise.
After dinner we went down to the Crystal Cove to see if we could listen to Tom. We stood talking to Mel and Barbara, plus the Bridge Instructor who Bill complained about last year because she was so rude during a tour. She didn’t make the connection, so it was OK.
We stayed talking to Mel and Barbara until after midnight. There were no other guests in sight anywhere by the time we went up to the room. Josef Matt, the Hotel Director was coming down the hallway, so we talked to him for a few minutes. He said nobody has complained and, in fact, several guests have said they enjoy it when it is rough. We agree with that, but we also know that people are so stupid they blame Crystal for rough weather.By the time we were ready for bed at around 12:45 AM, it had become quite rough again. Not worse than before, but just as bad. Nothing is on our shelves or counters, so the only hazards are the drawers that open themselves and stay that way. Should be an obstacle course for getting to the bathroom if the need arises. Thank goodness they thought to build in a night light in all of the cabins.
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friday, february 14th – cruising drake’s passage
Although it was rough enough to prevent us from getting much sleep, it didn’t get much worse than it has been. By morning, it had calmed down to a gentle rocking from side to side, mostly due to the high winds. The sky was clear all day; however, it was very cold at only 37 degrees. The water temperature was even less, 32 degrees.
We took a bottle of champagne to Shore Excursions for Renato’s birthday on our way to lunch. Marit said she had a déjà vu experience when we brought the champagne because she was there last year when we did that. Of course, in this case, it really did happen exactly the same way.
The Daytime Activities list had to be revised before noon to reflect the closure of the Palm Court and the Lido Café for the day. We arrived at the Dining Room around 12:30 PM to find it packed. However, Augusto saw us and ran over to get us because he had a table for two available. Every seat in the room was full, which is extremely unusual. But, with no other option for lunch available, everyone was in the Dining Room. They had to recruit all of the waiters from the Lido to handle the crowd. Maria thought we were sick last night because we weren’t at our table, but we assured her we had gone to Jade Garden and everything was fine.
Lunch hours were extended until 2:00 PM to accommodate everyone, then they began resetting the room for Afternoon Tea because the Palm Court is closed. Just to clarify, the Lido Café and Palm Court are closed because they are on the highest deck and the motion is more pronounced up there, not because of the damage from yesterday.
The motion was fairly constant all day with an occasional large wave adding to the excitement. However, there were no big surprises like the two yesterday when everything went flying. We stayed in the cabin all afternoon and watched videos brought from home.
Waldo brought tea sandwiches around 5:00 PM while Bill was out getting ice cream and cookies. He said he would be happy to get the ice cream for us, but that’s way too decadent for us.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal. By dinnertime the larger waves were few and far between, so things were pretty much back to normal for the open sea. The lobby was decorated with a Valentine’s Day Table and red lights on the fountain for portraits. We were going to get a portrait including Elizabeth, but we decided it was too busy to make a scene. We’ll do it next formal night.
Food review: The fruit came in a large sherbet glass, so it was double the usual size. Otherwise it was the same as always. The fruit in general since the cruise began has been great everywhere. Both soups were satisfactory. The halibut was good, but not outstanding. The Valentine’s dessert was so bad it was inedible, but it looked nice. It was exchanged for the sherbet after just one bite. The Panna Cotta was basically mocha-flavored flan and was pretty good, although it looked disgusting.
We were delayed talking to Jerry and Andrejus until well after the last guest had left the Dining Room. Jerry is always a good audience, but Andrejus hasn’t heard any of our stories, so he is even more interested, particularly when prompted by Jerry so we will tell the stories he likes again. Augusto talked about remodeling his house to make the kitchen larger. After what we are paying for ours, we think maybe we should move to Norway. Jerry said he might have to stay until Auckland because he will definitely be going to the Serenity. If he left in Valparaíso as currently scheduled, his vacation would be much too long.
The Evening Activities for tonight were limited to the Officer’s Ball. It had to be moved from the Galaxy Lounge to the Starlite Club because the Galaxy is in the bow and the movement is quite exaggerated up front. By the starting time the sea was calm enough that they could have had it in the Galaxy anyway. They did a nice job decorating the room for the theme.
We wandered the length of Deck 6 to see what was up in the various locations. There were quite a few guests in the Starlite Club for the ball, but we only stopped long enough to hear Niklas asking, “Who has been married the longest…to the same person, that is?”
Next stop was to visit Ronnie, the Librarian. Bill had dropped off one of the tapes we had finished watching, but he was busy then so we went back to explain what it was. We stayed and talked to him for over an hour. Apparently, he is an amateur drag queen and is often asked to perform the role of Vanna when they do game shows. He said that Paul, the Cruise Director, specifically asked him to bring all of his gowns and wigs to use on this cruise, although he doesn’t know what he will be doing yet. Ronnie is very amusing and seems like a really nice guy. One of the dancers came by and was making rude comments through the glass door. Then he realized we might be quests and he was mortified. We told him not to worry about it because nobody else does and they seem to tell us just about anything. No kidding. There is no way we could report even half of what we are told.
We have no idea what time we are supposed to start gazing in awe at Antarctica tomorrow. After all the hype, they have failed to tell us when we are supposed to see what. They gave us another map with the area we are sailing, but no other specifics. The best we can figure out is the sailing through the channel is from 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM and Paradise Bay is in the late afternoon. We figure they will awaken us with constant announcements anyway, so we’ll just play it by ear in the morning.It is very cold outside and raining at 1:00 AM, but the sea is almost completely calm now. Hopefully we will get some real sleep tonight now that the drawers aren’t rolling in and out every few minutes.
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saturday, february 15th - cruising neumaier channel, antarctica – 11:30 am – 1:30 pm – cruising paradise harbor, antarctica – 3:30 pm – 6:00 pm
If you are keeping score, you might notice that the order of sights cruised switched days, so we’re doing the channel and harbor today. Times were also adjusted. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and it snowed overnight, coating the decks with snow and ice. There was an announcement at about 8:00 AM telling us that the ship couldn’t enter the channel due to the low visibility, but we were going to wait a while to see if it cleared up. Shortly thereafter, an announcement was made that all outside decks were closed and that we must stay inside. The Daytime Activities schedule changed a bit during the day, but it was closer to reality than yesterday's.
At around 10:00 AM, the weather cleared enough for the ship to enter Neumaier Channel. We had to travel very slowly, only 3 knots, because there were many large and small icebergs floating about. We were told that it is unusual at this time of year to have any ice flows, but considering that there are glaciers for as far as the eye can see it seems like it would be fairly common to find ice in the water. At first, all we could see through the low clouds was a shoreline of towering glaciers. However, after we sailed for about an hour into the channel the weather lifted a bit more and we could see part of the sheer cliffs and mountains that spawn the glacial ice.
We were surprised to see so much bare rock. That’s not to say it wasn’t covered with ice hundreds of feet thick, but we sort of expected the ice would go all the way down into the water. Basically, this was like a cruise into Glacier Bay in Alaska magnified a million times. There were no breaks between the glaciers here. The walls on both sides of the ship were sheer ice cliffs in a variety of whites and vivid blues.
It was interesting to note the noises coming from the smaller ice flows as they passed. They made a sound sort of like extremely magnified carbonated water bubbling. Now and then we could here the thunder of the big ice cracking, but we didn’t see any calving as there is in Alaska. That’s probably due to the colder temperature here. The high temperature for today was 33 degrees.
When we came to a bend in the channel where it starts to narrow, an announcement was made that we would have to turn around because the visibility was too low to see if it was blocked with ice up ahead. If we had continued and found it blocked, the ship would have had a difficult time turning around. The original plan was to sail all the way through, but we turned around and went back out the way we came. We stayed in the cabin and watched from the verandah. Well, actually, we watched from inside and only went outside to snap a photo now and then. More photos: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten.
We went to the jam-packed Lido for lunch and had the Asian special that was described as Chicken with Pineapple and Green Beans, but there were no green beans in it. The Country Style Meatballs were better. At the stroke of 1:15 PM, everyone left, so we went to get some cookies from the ice cream bar where the Deck Stewards were huddled around the waffle iron trying to keep warm. The roof was closed over the pool, but the sliding glass doors to the outdoor pool were wide open, defeating the purpose.
It was amazing how close the icebergs came to the ship. They have to maneuver around them, not just push them out of the way. Even the small ones could cause lots of damage if the ship hit them. On the way out, the wind picked up and some of the icebergs moved out into the channel. They did manage to steer between them, but there must have been some nail-biting on the bridge.
Isabela and Hazel came to clean while we just sat inside watching the view go by. Hazel had never seen snow until today, so it was quite a thrill for her. After we navigated back to the towering peaks that mark the entrance to the channel, we turned back along the icy shoreline toward Paradise Harbor. The weather got worse as we sailed and the snow started falling again in the late afternoon, obscuring the view entirely. There were still many large icebergs floating by, so we’re sure the navigators were keeping busy.
At 3:30 PM the Captain announced that the weather was worsening, so we could not venture into Paradise Harbor today because they can’t see far enough ahead to avoid the ice. So, we are sailing out to open water where we will wait to see if the weather is better tomorrow. He warned us that the winds are up to 40 knots and it is likely to be rough again tonight even though we not be sailing very fast, if at all, during the night.
There was supposed to be a Goulash Soup Party outside on Deck 11 for World Cruise Guests, but it was moved inside. We didn’t attend, seeing no point in it since there is nothing to see and we’re not hot to visit with the same people we will be looking at for the next two months. At 4:00 PM we sailed into a huge snowstorm and the ship slammed on the brakes. We assume that’s because the visibility was suddenly cut down to nothing. After a few minutes, the snow really began to fall, changing from wet ice to huge flakes. We thought it would be interesting to venture up to the pool deck to take a look.
What an unusual sight the Seahorse Pool was! Everything was covered with snow, something never seen before on Crystal Symphony. There were only a few guests out for a look, a few of whom had started to construct a snowman. We took some great shots of the snowfall from the Sun Deck by quickly running out, snapping a photo, and getting back inside before freezing. We sure wouldn’t want to be the Captain trying to navigate through the icebergs with zero visibility, but it was fun for us.
We went down a deck and crossed to the center of the ship so we could get a better view of the wide open deck where the Filipino cooks were out frolicking like little kids in the snow. They had never seen snow before. Even Renato was excited because he had never seen snow falling, only after it was on the ground. Pat came out and we coaxed him out onto the deck for a photo. He was afraid he would die if he stayed out too long, but we assured him this was nothing unusual and he would come out unscathed.
By this time, Filipinos were pouring out of the elevators with cameras in hand. Not only the staff who had never seen snow, but soon Lara, Abigail, Paul, Josef and a variety of officers were out frolicking with everyone. The Chief Housekeeper was pelting everyone with snowballs. The snow started falling in even bigger flakes and began to build up quite a layer on the chaise lounges. We’re sure the Seahorse Statue has never looked quite so frosty before. At this point, a sort of Filipino free for all began and they got up the nerve to actually wander out into the snow. It was really fun seeing how delighted they were. Finally, a few guests began to emerge, but we’d guess less than twenty of them saw this once in a lifetime spectacle. The rest of them sat placidly in the Palm Court staring at the fogged up windows and trying to figure out what the commotion was in the corridor. Here's a photo of us to prove we were there.
While we were gone, Waldo brought us a supply of chocolate chip peanut butter cookies to tide us over until dinnertime. An announcement was made at 5:30 PM advising us that in about three hours we will be out in the open ocean and it will again be extremely rough. We were told to secure everything in the room and put away anything breakable. Let’s hope the crew heeds this advice this time around. Tonight’s piano concert has been moved to the Starlite Club because it is amidships and a bit more stable.
There was another announcement that the Captain had spied a big iceberg with penguins on it, so the ship was turned around to give everyone another look. We never saw it from our side of the ship, but while Bill was in the computer room he saw a whale. While we were on our verandah a huge iceberg resembling a castle drifted by. It was interesting to view it as it came into view, from the side, and again after it passed to see how much it changed at different angles. We had some time to kill before dinner, so we went up to sit in Palm Court. The snow had lifted revealing a striking glacial landscape in the distance with the water still dotted by all sizes of icebergs.
While taking in the view from Palm Court, we saw several whales frolicking and several icebergs went by carrying penguins. Every time someone would spot a whale or penguin iceberg and call it out, the entire population of the room (less us and the ship's nurses behind us) would rush across to the other side. We figured if we sat there long enough, the view would come to us, which it did.
The point of sailing out into the open ocean was to avoid hitting an iceberg during the night, but we could still see them until it became completely dark after 9:00 PM. During this time the wind came and went, it rained or snowed several times as well. The extremely rough weather never did materialize, before midnight, at least.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual.
Addition to Guest Chef Guillermo Pernot’s Special Menu Items,
Paradise Cake with Coffee Ice Cream
Food review: Everything was acceptable except the Guest Chef Filet, which is only the second dish Dave has ever sent back in 30+ cruises. Nothing was wrong with it technically, but it smelled like feet. It was odd to begin with and topped with sort of a marinated coleslaw. The stuffing, more on that later, was a dark brown goo like wet pumpernickel bread. We never did figure out what it was made of. The potato served with it was equally repulsive. Bill thought it was semi-edible, but Dave took one bite and had it replaced with the always available grilled chicken breast. We had Grand Marnier Soufflés for dessert that were a special order intended for another party. Paco had two left over from his tables. Good thing because no way were we going to try the guest chef’s dessert. The soup was satisfactory and almost good, except it was too salty.
Neither of us knew what Morcilla stuffing was, so we asked Jerry. He didn’t know and said he would go ask. Before he could do that, Augusto came up and told him to bring some out. We didn’t want that at all, but it was too late. When Jerry came back, he had an entire plate set up, except without the meat. All we wanted was to either find out what a Morcilla was or to look at a small sample, not have an entire plate of it go to waste. Oh well. It didn’t smell quite as repulsive without the meat, but the completed dish was simply ghastly. This is nothing new, as most guest chef items are bad.
Tonight’s Entertainment is a concert by pianist Min Kwon. We skipped it, of course. Besides, we didn’t get out of the Dining Room until after the show had begun because Augusto was chatting about something or other we have already forgotten. We decided to stop by the Library to get a photo of Ronnie, but we were intercepted by Roseanne, the Bridge Instructor Bill hates from last year. She seems to have decided that we are her buddies now because she has been forced to talk to us a few times. She is actually fairly pleasant in conversation, but Bill is still holding a grudge against any and all lecturers.
Ronnie escaped while we were talking and we ended up chatting with Niklas (Assistant Cruise Director) and John (Avenue Saloon Pianist). Since we had the camera in hand, they were captured for our viewing public at last. Niklas was quite talkative and asked if everyone thought we ran a porn Website or something because we don’t say what we do. That has never come up as far as we know, but he said that’s the first thing people assume he has done to be able to retire at 35. We must look more respectable or something. He said he owns the company that supplies the lecturers and clergy to various cruise lines. He had decided to retire and let his partner run the business when Crystal called to ask him to do this cruise. It is plausible because of his reaction when Bill told him during our first conversation that he has a problem with the lecturers.
Niklas said he was just up on the bridge and it looked like a scene from Titanic with all of the officers staring out the windows with huge night-vision binoculars looking for icebergs. Sure will be a fun night on the navigation bridge, won't it?
We decided that we would call it a night and started back toward the front of the ship where we ran across Ronnie changing the posters in the Galaxy Lounge Marquees. We forced him to pose for a photo and he said he would only do it if we would take another one when he is in his mermaid outfit.As mentioned earlier, the rough weather did not materialize. There was a bit of a rocking motion, but no more than usual. We are supposed to circle back to Paradise Harbor tomorrow, but the information we received was again vague and subject to change. We’ll just find out the same way we did today when the announcements start at 8:00 AM.
sunday, february 16th
With the exception of one big slosh that knocked our bud vase into the wastebasket, there was nothing exciting to speak of during the night. The ship just sat out in the open ocean waiting for morning when we started sailing quickly back toward land. We didn’t get up to see Deception Island at 8:00 AM (the schedule was reversed), but we heard much of the running commentary. The point was to see whales, but since we had seen them last night and many times previously, we didn’t think it warranted an early rise.
Click for Daytime Activities.
We did get up and look outside when the Captain announced that an enormous iceberg was just off the starboard side. How convenient! All we had to do was to open the drapes and there it was not 100 feet away. It was taller and longer than the ship and looked like something out of Titanic. The ship passed it rather quickly because we were trying to keep the new schedule of viewing King George Island by 2:30 PM. In the meantime, we passed many huge icebergs that were impressive even from quite a distance. There were several that were so big they still appeared huge even though they were on the horizon. Many more went by during the day, each bigger than the last. The ones we saw today were much bigger than those yesterday. Even miles from any visible land, there were enormous icebergs everywhere.
There was a Nuevo Latino buffet in the Lido. It was a scaled down version of the elaborate buffet held outside last segment. The items we had were very good, but not in the slightest authentic. Anything is good for a change, so we were happy to get it. Tom and Sheila Green joined us because all of the available seats were taken. They were at our table at the Bon Voyage Party, so we were acquainted with them. They had been trying to book an extra segment to get them back to Florida, but Tom said that Crystal wouldn’t give them a good deal, so they gave up. You would think Crystal would be happy to have any booking for a Panama Canal crossing that they practically have to give away even in good times.
After the Greens left, we were sitting there killing time and Tom came by and sat down. He wanted to know if we thought it would be a good idea to have a “Friends of Dorothy” party. Actually, it was Niklas who asked him to ask us. We weren’t particularly interested in the idea because we don’t really want to meet any of the people we don’t already know. Tom said that’s the reaction he has gotten from the other couples and groups, also. He informed us that the band leader had decided to pretend he was coming out so that he could attract more women. His take on it was that all the girls hang out with the gay guys, but he seems to have missed the point. They do that because they don’t have to impress us. When he walked by, Bill asked him what he was going to do when they get mad after he tells them the truth. He hadn’t thought that far ahead, needless to say.
Tom told us we didn’t miss much by not getting up to see Deception Island this morning. The ship stayed quite a distance away. The main difference from what we saw yesterday was that the island isn’t covered completely with ice. It is a volcanic crater where ships used to pass through an opening to escape the rough open sea. The last eruption was in 1970, so it isn’t extinct by any means. It was mostly obscured by clouds, so there wasn’t much to see.
While we were sitting there, King George Island came into view. We also started to pass more huge icebergs. Suddenly, the ship did an abrupt U-turn about as sharply as it is possible to do without knocking everyone off their feet. The ship turned completely back on its wake and started back the way we came. Eventually, the Captain announced that the winds were at 50 knots and he had spoken to the weather station in the bay we were supposed to visit and found it the same. He said that made it too dangerous for us to go there, so he had decided to give up trying to visit any more Antarctic ports and head back toward South America.
His announcement continued by telling us that in about three hours we will be back in extremely rough waters with waves currently over 30 feet. The highest they have been so far is about 20 feet. He said that he hopes it will turn out to be less than that, but we know when a Captain says that, he knows damn well it will be very rough. We quickly observed officers scrambling to instruct the Deck Stewards to tie everything down in the Lido, including laying the granite-topped serving carts on their side. The doors to the aft deck were blocked with chairs. We ventured outside to get a farewell photo of King George Island in the distance.
Back at the room, we relaxed until dinnertime. While the waves became higher and the motion of the ship more pronounced, the fog rolled in to completely block visibility. It stayed that way until after dark that we know of.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We spoke briefly with Billy at the Front Desk. He had a different take on the island this morning, but he's the type who says everything is the best thing he's ever seen in his life. It's refreshing that he is so enthusiastic about things, but he isn't a reliable source for getting an accurate depiction. We're sticking with Tom's less dramatic description.
Food review: Everything was satisfactory, but not quite as good as the last time this menu came around. However, the chicken selection was outstanding in spite of the mess of removing the bones.
Dinner was made eventful by the occasional dramatic movements that came unannounced. This happened twice and sent trays crashing to the floor and the silverware drawers slamming in and out. We had to hold onto our water glasses a couple of times, but that was the worst it got. It was a bit rougher before dinner than during, with the exception of a big one now and then.
We amused Maria with a greeting card we thought she would like, which she did. She also approved of the photo of the ranch hand in Uruguay we have been intending to show her for weeks. We still think she is making up her own jokes about us, but at least she thinks we’re amusing.
Jerry finally got the word that he doesn’t have to stay after Valparaíso and so he will have an extra-long vacation. The alternative was for him to come back early, but he wanted to be home for the birth of his baby, so that wouldn’t work. During the conversation, we learned that there will only be 350 guests on the segment after this one. Our desserts continued to melt while we ran through a conversation with Augusto regarding tomorrow’s menu that he knows we don’t like. He is ordering boneless Chicken Cacciatore for us. Then, Josef arrived and began a lengthy conversation about the Internet camera on the bridge he never knew about until today. His main purpose in going to each table was to inform everyone that the Lido will be closed for breakfast tomorrow due to the rough seas.
The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring Violinist Nicola Loud and Broadway Vocalist Michael Maguire. We did manage to get out of the Dining Room in time to make the show, but Dave decided it was too rough for him to sit in the Galaxy Lounge for the show. He wasn’t sick, but sitting in there during rough weather is a guarantee of getting there, and fast.
It became a bit rougher after dinner, but not continuously. There was a constant rocking motion that wasn’t bad, but now and then there would be a big gust of wind or a wave that would cause things to slide off of the counters. It must have been fun for the performers on stage tonight.
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monday, february 17th – cruising drake’s passage
The Lido Café was closed for both breakfast and lunch. In our opinion, it wasn’t nearly rough enough for that to be necessary. It has become much less rocky since midnight and continues to get less so as the day goes on. It was still cloudy, foggy, and cold outside, but the wind has died down.
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Because the Lido was closed for lunch, the Dining Room was completely full and way too hectic to interest us. So, we went up to the Trident Grill for hot dogs, the daily wrap sandwich, and pizza. It took two tries to get an elevator that was working. It didn’t go anywhere twice, so we jumped out the second the doors opened and took a different one up to the Lido Deck.
It was cold even with the roof closed over the pool, but many people had gone up for their lunch rather than brave the Dining Room. The grill guys looked frantic, but there were only a few people waiting and we were served within five minutes. It was too cold to stay there after eating, so we went to confirm our haircut appointments. No luck doing that because nobody was manning the desk.
Back in the lobby area, we wandered past the Bistro for some cookies, but ended up staying for tea and pastries. They had left the breakfast selection out on a side table because of the Lido being closed. Too bad we didn’t know that earlier. Maria and Ben came over to poke at us, as did JP and Ricky when we first arrived.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the cabin. We received notice that we have to meet for our tour tomorrow at 7:45 AM. We’d probably be better off just staying up until then, but we’ll just suffer through it. The Captain announced that the ship will have to drop anchor for twenty minutes at 3:30 AM to meet some sort of Argentine immigration requirement. He didn’t sound very happy about it and just said, “That’s the way they want it, so that’s what we have to do.”
Tonight’s dress code is Informal.
Food review: The pasta dish was the only choice we would consider above average tonight. Too bad we didn’t order it as our entrée. We had ordered Chicken Cacciatore without the bones as a special order and we did get it. But, it was almost too salty to eat and the meat had been de-boned rather poorly. Augusto was annoyed because it was served with fried polenta rather than creamy, but we didn’t care about that part one way or the other. We both had frozen yogurt for dessert.
Jerry said that this morning and afternoon were even worse than yesterday because nobody was seasick, so everyone went to the Dining Room for both meals. We told him we went to the Trident Grill, but it seemed like nobody else even knew it was there. There were some of the old diehards up there, but not many more. Anyway, Jerry was in a good mood tonight. Maria told us the convoluted manner in which she got together with her current boyfriend on board. No need to bore everyone with the details, but it is something that could only happen on a ship without ending in a fist fight. Augusto tried to sell us on several special order items, but they were all things neither of us likes. We eventually settled on Steak Diane for the last formal night this segment.
The Evening Entertainment is a presentation of Celebrity Liar’s Club. We didn’t attend because of our early call for tomorrow morning for the tour.
We received nice black leather picture frames with this card: “North of beautiful Paradise Harbor, we’ll enjoy sailing the Drake Passage to the tip of South America where Crystal Symphony will make its maiden call to Ushuaia, Argentine, the world’s southernmost city. Farther north lie the beautiful fjords of Chile and the ports of Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt and Valparaíso. We invite you to enjoy this handmade “wave” frame as a reminder of your adventures at sea. May it hold a favorite memory of this voyage.”The sky was clear with a beautiful full moon reflecting on the water as our evening came to a close. We seem to be back to smooth water for the time being, as well.
tuesday, february 18th – ushuaia, argentina – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost town, lies on the triangular-shaped island of Tierra del Fuego. While Ferdinand Magellan was exploring the straits between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in 1520, he was amazed by the smoke and fires which seemed to appear at every turn. These fires, which were kept continuously alight by the Yaghan and Ona Indians, became the inspiration for the name “Tierra del Fuego,” Land of Fire.
Little has changed since the days of those intrepid first explorers. The abundant wildlife, scenic beauty and mysterious history of this rugged frontier land still retain an irresistible fascination.
When we awoke at 6:00 AM, the ship was still sailing slowly toward the small town of Ushuaia. The setting resembles a town in Norway or Alaska more than anything, with stark, snow-capped peaks surrounding the town. As we arrived at the pier, the entire town was visible. The population is only about 50,000. With the pier at the center of town, the rest of the city is about five blocks deep and just a couple of miles wide along the shore.
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Waldo brought our Continental breakfast and we prepared ourselves for our tour, “Tierra del Fuego by Chartered Steam Train.” The meeting time in the Starlite Club was 7:45 AM and we left promptly at 8:00 AM the moment the ship was cleared by local authorities. It rained the entire day and was quite chilly, as well. Not freezing, but cold enough to require many layers and a hat. The walk from the ship to the end of the pier was about two ship lengths, in the rain of course. There was a small tram to carry those who couldn’t walk that distance. We walked and beat the tram to the busses. Billy came running out of the ship saying he was late to his job as an escort for our tour.
When we arrived at the five busses, we were told to go to bus number five, but saw Billy at number four. We ignored our instructions and went with him. The people on our bus were about half full World Cruisers, so that part wasn’t too bad. The guide said this was his first tour in English and to forgive his pronunciation, but it was fine. People here look more European and lighter-skinned than in other parts of South America.
The bus itself was fine, but as soon as everyone boarded with their wet jackets and hot breath, the windows fogged up and we saw basically nothing of the city. That wasn’t really a big deal because most of the city was plainly visible from the port anyway. We passed some government-built apartment blocks, plus an exclusive tract of expensive homes that looked quite nice. The guide said they were “extremely expensive” at about $150,000 U.S. The same size house at home would cost at least five times that much, so it’s a good deal if you are willing to put up with the weather here.
We were told that the warmest it gets is about 55 degrees in summer, which is the season now. It was about 45 today due to the rain, but the guide said it was warm and sunny yesterday. It seems as though we are missing the good weather by one day wherever we go.
There was a short drive to the national park where we were to board re-created steam trains for a 50 minute ride through the park. It was pouring rain when we arrived at the former site of a huge prison. The railroad was built by the inmates to bring wood back from the surrounding forest. When they were used for prisoners, the cars were open, but now they have glass windows and padded seats.
We waited briefly in the small wooden station and looked at the surrounding scenery through the rain. We’re not sure which, if any, of the buildings were left over from the prison. The whole thing seemed like a Disneyland attraction, not the real thing.
There are two steam engines that each pulls several cars. We were ushered to our seats opposite two old biddies who were already complaining when we arrived. One of them didn’t really say much and just sort of put up with the other one. The talkative one had no clue what the point of the tour was, why we were on a train, how long it lasted (in spite of being told twice by her friend), what we were going to see, whether we were being served lunch at the end, how we would get back to the ship, or how we would see out through the foggy windows.
The latter question was intended to prompt everyone within earshot to wipe the windows so she could see out. Nobody did so because there was little point and basically nothing to see anyway. At one point some people wiped the sections directly adjacent to them. When Dave did the same thing, she insisted he wipe down the entire section to which we replied, “Why don’t you wipe off the section right by your face and look out there?” Obviously, she didn’t like that answer, but it did shut her up and we imagine it amused her companion who didn’t lift a finger to clear the window on the other side.
We’re not quite sure of the point of this whole adventure other than to tell the story of the inmates who suffered to build the railroad while denuding the forest. All we saw were wet, grassy fields dotted with old tree stumps. According to the commentary, we were, “Wallowing in nostalgia.” OK, whatever. Eventually, we arrived at a wide spot next to the tracks where we stopped for photos of the small river valley below. Of course, there was a small snack stand that was immediately overrun with people dying for a snack or beverage since they had been away from the ship for 30 minutes already. Another river photo.
The two old biddies reluctantly got out of the train saying, “Why are we stopping here? Is this the end? What are we supposed to be looking at?” We didn’t answer them and ran off as quickly as we could. The view was pretty, but not worth taking a train ride to see. Even if the weather had been perfect, we doubt this excursion would have shown us anything very exciting.
Back on board, we traveled for another 30 minutes looking at exactly the same scenery we had seen for the first 20 minutes of the ride. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the people behind us had stopped talking about their condo in Miami or whatever irrelevant subject they were discussing. The woman in our section continued to whine and complain that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she booked, etc. We never said a word to her or even acknowledged her after the first run-in, so she was essentially talking to herself.
At the end of the line, we piled out, took a photo of the train, and high-tailed it past the throngs who were just standing there with no clue where to go. Hint: The walkway only goes to the right. We quickly found the proper bus and waited for the rest of them to dawdle in.
The next stop was a Ensenada Bay for more photos. The bay would probably be even more spectacular if the sun was out, but it was beautiful even so. Across the water were tall snow-capped mountains that are in Chile, a short distance across the channel. The forest along the water looked exactly like those in Alaska in the lower regions where cruise ships go. It was pretty, but not worth making any effort to see it. Most people took advantage of the chemical toilets provided.
Just about two and a half hours after we left, we were back at the pier. Billy thanked us for our patience, although we didn’t really have any problems with the bus portion of the trip. All in all, we would say this tour was a waste of money and would not have been worthwhile even in good weather.
Back at “El Fin Del Mundo,” we wandered to some small shops along the water, bought our usual postcards and a keychain to turn into a Christmas ornament. Billy was there looking for a refrigerator magnet, his only collectable. We walked the short distance to the main street of town, but didn’t see anything that interested us. We took a couple more photos and walked back to the ship.
A trio of dogs was playing on the pier of the way back, which was cute. They didn’t seem to mind at all being soaking wet.
After warming up and drying off a bit, we went down to see what was on the menu for lunch. It was only 11:30 AM at this point, so we had half an hour to wait. In the meantime, we chatted with Maria and Ben in the Bistro. Ben tried to sell us on having tea and cookies for lunch, but we were starving and wanted real food.
The moment the Dining Room opened, we went in a got a window table with Jerry. He was shocked to see us, but Augusto had seen us going out, so he expected us. He also knew we’d be tired and ready for bed by the time he saw us again. Lunch was tasty…beef stroganoff for one and orange glazed chicken breast for the other. We asked Jerry if he would like one of the chocolate penguins we got at the Bon Voyage Party for his wife, and he was thrilled. Bill took it down to him after we were finished.
At 2:00 PM when we were scheduled to sail, the Captain made an announcement that we were delayed because one of the tours hadn’t yet returned. We assume it was the added afternoon departure of the train tour we took earlier. We heard from some other guests that the morning flight tours were cancelled due to the weather. They didn’t seem to mind too much.
The plan is for the ship to back track out of the channel because it is too shallow ahead to use it as a short cut. Then, we will turn inland again and sail the Chilean fjords and view some glaciers from 5:30 PM until 8:00 PM. Our plan includes napping until 5:30 PM!
The scenic cruise through the fjords was the best part of the day. It started off with a few tall mountains topped with very small glaciers and culminated with a gigantic hanging glacier with an enormous waterfall gushing down the cliff to the water hundreds of feet below. In between were countless stuffing vistas of snowy mountains, turquoise blue glaciers of all types (Glacier 1, Glacier 2, Glacier 3, Glacier 4, Glacier 5), and verdant forests right at the waters edge. We decided that sitting in our room looking out at the scenery as it passed by beat any group tour we have ever taken. We’re almost certain to cancel the upcoming six-hour adventure to see more mountains and lakes in Puerto Montt.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal, although there is a Casual Dining option in the Lido Café tonight. The magnificent scenery continued passing by until after dark. We owe Nikki for switching us to the starboard side for this cruise because 99% of the best sights so far have been right outside our window. It hasn’t ever been necessary for us to venture out on deck or to a public room to see the best angle on anything.
Food review: The appetizer was outstanding, hot and crisp as advertised. Both soups were very good, also. The salad was disappointing and a very small portion. This used to be our favorite salad, but it hasn’t been very good either time we have had it this cruise. The pasta was satisfactory. Our entrée was very tasty and tender. The dessert was edible, but nothing more.
Maria told us about her nightmare flight to the ship sitting next to a family with three kids on one side and a couple with out of control flatulence on the other. That prompted Jerry to start telling his story about almost missing a flight on the way home. He stopped when he realized it might show him in a bad light, but we persisted and he finished telling it. Basically, he and a friend had too much to drink, then met a bunch of other waiters intransit at the airport. Long story short, he had to beg to be let onto the plane when they arrived seconds after the door had been closed. This happened when they had a two-hour lay over, so there wasn’t much excuse for missing the flight.
Jerry wanted to know if we would copy our photo of the waterfall glacier for his roommate, which we agreed to do, of course. Ben was looking embarrassed about something, so we had to kid him, along with Maria. That lead him to start laughing every time he walked by. He’s usually fairly cheerful anyway, but he was even more so tonight.
The Evening Entertainment was a Variety Showtime featuring “The Juggling Wizardry” of Tony Duncan and Comic/Pianist Dale Gonyea. We almost didn’t make the show because Jerry kept talking to us, but we did manage to arrive with a few minutes to spare. Why, we have no idea. We have seen both of these performers more than once and we have never liked either of them. The juggler was just plain boring. He did a fine job at what he did, but it just wasn’t very exciting. He’s likeable enough, but that’s all we can say for him. We first saw Dale Gonyea on the Maasdam over fifteen years ago. We didn’t like him then, and we didn’t like him how. Small wonder since he’s still doing essentially the same act with maybe ten minutes of new material thrown in. About 1/3 of the audience left halfway through his part of the show. A few people left during the juggler, too, but no more than usual.
The most amusing thing to happen during the show was an abrupt shift from smooth sailing to nearly tipping over just as the juggler began his act. As soon as he was finished, it was back to normal. We had a few brief encounters with a gust of wind throughout the night, but it wasn’t as harsh or consistent as it was during the crossing.
wednesday, february 19th – punta arenas, chile – 7:00 am – 8:30 pm
The most southerly city of its size on earth, Punta Arenas is surprisingly active and prosperous. Gaze out over the icy blue Straits of Magellan from La Cruz Hill, or visit the Colegio Salesiano museum for Indian lore and natural history. Weather permitting, you can explore the majestic White Continent of Antarctica in a chartered plane.
Our arrival and departure times changed dramatically as you can see above. Originally, we were scheduled to arrive at 8:00 AM and depart at 6:00 PM. We’re not sure, but we think the reason was to allow more flights to Antarctica for sightseeing. Unfortunately for those who had re-scheduled for today, the flights were cancelled again because the weather at the destination was poor. It was mostly sunny here until mid-afternoon when it became mostly cloudy. It was rather chilly though, only about 45 degrees.
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We were up by 10:30 AM for no particular reason. With nothing to do, we went to the Bistro for a snack, chatted briefly with Ben, and then stopped by the Front Desk to turn in our tour tickets for Puerto Montt. We decided to cancel the tour after re-reading the description. Too few sights and too many shopping stops and a lunch for us. If we were doing the same thing on our own it might take three hours rather than the six for the tour.
There was still some time to kill before lunch, so we went up on the Sun Deck for our usual port photos. There are no high mountains anywhere in sight, just low rolling hills covered with scrub vegetation. Contrary to predictions, it wasn’t windy at all today. We were warned that there is no UV protection here because of the hole in the ozone layer. No kidding! Our self-darkening glasses turn dark almost instantly and were darker than they have ever been before.
The city is inland inside an enormous protected bay, so the water was very calm. We had to anchor off shore because there was a smaller ship already at the dock. We’re not sure the dock would have been big enough anyway. The town looks about the same size as Ushuaia, except the setting isn’t as picturesque. The pier sticks out from what was probably a grand boulevard at one time, but it has seen better days. The whole town has a sort of faded glory look to it, but it doesn’t seem downtrodden. It looks more Old World than the last few places we have been and more subdued.
After lunch in the Lido, we took the tender for the short ride to the pier. Nobody seemed to know where the shuttle stop was, so we went out to the port gate where there were a few other guests standing around and crewmembers shopping in the curio shop there. Eventually, the bus came and went inside the port, so we walked back and got on. It was only a wait of about five minutes before we were on our way to downtown.
We were told the ride was twenty minutes, but it was maybe five at the most. If someone had pointed us in the right direction we could have easily walked there. The drop off point was the main square where a statue of Magellan stands at the center. It is good luck or something like that, to touch his foot, so that part of the statue is polished from all the hands on it. We refrained.
It was apparent when we arrived that there was nothing here worth staying for, but we decided to walk around the perimeter of the square and take photos of some of the grand old buildings. There was a group of very young schoolchildren doing a dance routine that was, well, suggestive. Everyone thought it was cute, but we doubt any teacher could get away having young children do those moves at home and not be arrested.
We ran across Pauline, who has been everywhere at least once. She said she had been here ten years ago and it is exactly the same. She confirmed there is nothing to do except look at the old buildings, so we trudged onward.
The first photo stop was the cathedral directly across from the bus stop. Around the corner was another old building that might have been a private mansion at one time. Adjacent to that was a grand old office building and a hotel. On another corner stood an ornate old bank building. Beyond that was a ratty old hotel where a big group of young people was gathered wearing matching jackets. We weren’t sure if they were part of a tour or waiting to start a protest, but they were just standing there and didn’t look threatening. The police arrived later, but we didn’t see if there was a problem or not.
On the other side of the park, the street was lined with a very ornate old building that was a club of some sort. It, too, looked like it had been a private residence at one time. It had huge wrought iron and glass conservatories filled with vines and plants on all four sides.
We crossed the street and decided to walk a block down the main street, take a picture of the front of that club building, and see what else there was to see. Answer: Nothing. The area catered to locals, so everything was closed for siesta. We didn’t come to shop, so we didn’t care. We just walked around the block, where we ran across a couple who had come on the shuttle bus with us. They asked if we had seen anything, so we informed them of the location of the small shopping center and basically told them, that’s pretty much it. Across the street was a glorious stone mansion that had been converted into a museum.
Back at the square, we walked up toward the Magellan statue which was surrounded by a sort of tourist-oriented flea market that springs up whenever a ship calls. We bought a couple of our usual keychain souvenirs for a total of $11.00, which we thought was high, but not ridiculous. Other people said the prices at the tourist shop by the ship were double that. The people were friendly, but spoke very little English. The park was neat and tidy and had several older gentlemen sweeping and tending the plants. Otherwise, it had seen better days and the pavement needed repairs.
We decided to walk the short distance back to the port, so we headed off down 21 de Mayo. Although the town looks weather-beaten and rather downtrodden, it wasn’t scary. The people were upscale and nicely dressed. We’re guessing that the weather is so harsh that there isn’t much point in keeping the buildings painted and the sidewalks in good repair.
When we arrived at that grand boulevard mentioned previously, we stopped for a photo of another big statue marking the beginning of this street. The area was more residential than commercial and the houses were neatly maintained. They weren’t huge or grand, but nice.
The tourist shop at the gate was packed, but didn’t have much to offer except the ubiquitous stuffed penguins and tacky tourist stuff. They were doing a brisk business from the other ship in port which we decided was a converted ferry or maybe an icebreaker. All of the passengers we heard were either French or German. Everyone was wearing the same red parka, so we assume this is one of those ships that provide adventure travel to Antarctica. We had never heard of the ship, Nordnorge, or recognize the cruise line’s logo.
The tender left as soon as we boarded, so we were back on board in no time. We shed our jackets and went up for some ice cream. Rodel always wants to know what the ports are like because he has to work all day, every day, so he never gets to go ashore. We assured him that he hadn’t missed much. The area under the sliding roof was comfortable even in the sun. The only time this area is reasonably comfortable with the roof shut is when it is freezing outside. Otherwise, it is too hot and humid.
Snacks completed, we went back to the room to nap until dinnertime.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We were on the way to Palm Court before dinner, but stopped to chat with Jose and Waldo about the bitchy, miserable young woman who was on the cruise last year. Jose probably wouldn’t have said anything, but Waldo jumped right in. Apparently, she complained at length about everyone, so the office just kissed her off as a crank, which she was. She told Jose that she wouldn’t go to the group World Cruise photo because everyone hated her so much. She was right, too.
Food review: The beef soup was very good, as usual. We expected the plum soup to be odd, but it was fine. Not the best cold soup ever, but certainly not the worst. The salad was again disappointing with a tasteless dressing that resembled no French dressing we have ever seen. Augusto stopped, looked at it, and made a face. The salad entrée was very good and plenty of food for a main course. The fish was acceptable, as was the always available chicken added to the plate with it. Dessert was extremely sweet, but had a nice flavor.
The Evening Entertainment is another Variety Showtime, this time featuring Musical Sensation Salima and Top British Television Star and Recording Artist Brenda Cochrane. We didn’t intend to go to the show, which was a good thing because we didn’t finish our conversation with Jerry until 1:00 AM.
It started with Jerry asking when he would see us again. We weren’t sure and he was visibly disappointed. Again, he promised to call after his baby is born in May, just after we get home. After that, we talked about general things, nothing worth repeating. Andrejus was involved for the first hour when they were both talking about obnoxious guests. Jerry was annoyed about the Lido being closed a few days ago when it wasn’t rough. He agreed that they always react to things rather than putting any forethought into it. On the day when everything was broken in the Dining Room, he said all anyone did was scream at them to lock the drawers and cabinets to keep everything in. Good idea, except they don’t have keys to them anymore. The company who made them went out of business and there are no keys for the locks. Now we know we can wander into the Dining Room at any time and steal the silver, should we choose to do so.
The rest of the conversation revolved around building a house and such. We shared our respective horror stories about building and remodeling and agreed you are screwed no matter what you do. That subject led to taxes in Poland and a variety of other subjects. It sounds boring writing about it, but at the time it was interesting and the time went by very quickly. We were there for so long that the night cleaners arrived and turned up the lights. We didn’t know it got that bright in that room.
We received an invitation to the American Express Platinum Cocktail Party we never attend anymore. Mel and Barbara said they have stopped going, also. It isn’t hosted by anyone from the ship, so the only point is to get a free drink and stand around with people you don’t know. This perk could be cut out with no complaints from us.Rosemary’s letter advised us that the party scheduled for tomorrow night for World Cruise guests has been cancelled because the weather is still too cold to be outside and there was no other space available at that time. No big deal to us since we didn’t even remember there was a party scheduled.
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thursday, february 20th – cruising the chilean fjords
During the night, it became extremely rough again. Dave woke up just in time to catch the ice bucket before it dumped all over the floor again. We didn’t look outside until around 11:00 AM and found it foggy and pouring rain. That continued all day without a break and on into the night. However, the ship sailed into an inside passage route that did provide for smooth sailing during late afternoon and early evening hours.
The wind was extremely strong all day, even in the fjords. However, the ship was sailing directly into the wind, so it didn’t cause any rocking. We’re not sure what we were supposed to see today, but whatever it was, we couldn’t see it. Occasionally we would pass a forested island, but we couldn’t see anything more than a mile away, if that. It was also very cold outside, about the same as yesterday. A crew fire drill scheduled for this morning was cancelled due to the weather for the second time.
We had lunch in the Lido where Dave decided he needed to go back to bed because his neck was bothering him, causing a headache. This is typical, so don’t feel too sorry for him. However, combined with rough seas it made him fairly miserable. Everything in the Lido was either tied down or stuck to the counters with plastic wrap. Only a few loose dishes were put out on the trays in case the ship tipped suddenly. Nothing that dramatic happened though.
Back at the cabin after lunch, Dave promptly crashed while Bill watched DVD movies on the computer for the afternoon. There was nothing to see out the windows due to the fog anyway.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Crystal Society Cocktail Party before dinner. Dave revived after sleeping it off all day, so we were dressed and downstairs for the party about fifteen minutes before the doors opened. Tom came by and said he was feeling tired today, too. He went down to start his set at the Crystal Piano where his admirer was already waiting to gaze adoringly, or creepily, depending on your viewpoint. Ours is the latter.
We had been told that there would be an Express Lane to bypass the receiving line from now on, but the side door wasn’t open. That didn’t faze anyone, including us. People were walking in that way all night. We headed for our usual corner and ordered a couple of ginger ales. Are we drinkers, or what? We passed on the cold hors d’oeuvres, the exact same selection of four choices they have been serving for the past eight years: Caviar, Smoked Salmon, Pate, and Shrimp on toast (plus some garnish, of course). They look nice, but how hard can it be to vary the offering once in a while? The hot selections are also always the same: Teriyaki Shrimp, Vegetable Spring Rolls, and Meatballs. At least they are something edible, but we sure do know what to expect at every party.
We left the party a few minutes after it was over, but still managed to arrive a the Dining Room before it opened. Apparently, there was a delay during the first seating that caused a ripple effect.
Food review: The fruit was outstanding with the best plums we have ever tasted. The soup was very good, but a bit too heavy on the salt. The salad was boring and barely worth eating. We had difficulty choosing an entrée, so we sort of mixed and matched. The lamb was satisfactory, but it has been better. The vegetarian ravioli was very good, but would have been better without the sautéed spinach that did nothing but make it slimy. The pasta special was selected as an entrée and was also satisfactory. The soufflé for dessert was outstanding, as usual.
Jerry was in a jovial mood tonight. He said the photos we copied onto a disk for Richie were great and he thanked us again. Augusto and Maria said they were very tired. That seems to be the trend today. The only person who claimed not to be tired at all was Ben, who stopped to tell us that his wife is coming back to work next cruise, so, “I have to behave myself.” We doubt he gets very out of control anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem for him. Maria repeated her cure for headaches that she gave us last time it happened. We won’t repeat what she told us, but we assured her that it wasn’t the solution in this instance.
We had plenty of time to spare when we started to leave for the show, but Augusto stopped us to chat about nothing worth repeating here. When we say that, it doesn’t mean it was boring or anything of the sort, just that it was general chit chat and nothing else. Many of the crew have been working longer than usual because they will be going to Crystal Serenity in June. In order to make their schedules work right for that, they have had to stay a few extra cruises, and it is beginning to take its toll on them. Six months is a long time without a day off. The last few days have caused very long hours for them because of all the changes and longer Dining Room hours while the Lido was closed. At least they have next cruise with a nearly empty ship to look forward to.The Evening Entertainment was the spectacular production show, "Million Dollar Musicals". This is by far the most outstanding of their current shows and we make every effort to see it every cruise. The performance was fine even though the ship sailed back into open water just as the show began. It wasn’t quite as rough as it was over night, but the show lounge is in the bow of the ship, so any movement is exaggerated. They did a fine job with no slip ups that we noticed.
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friday, february 21st – cruising the chilean fjords
Today’s weather was a copycat of yesterday, except it wasn’t quite as windy. The schedule is to cruise more of the Chilean fjords beginning at 2:30 PM, which did appear to the be case, but with the rain and fog, almost nothing was visible.
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They were finally able to hold the twice-delayed Crew Boat Drill, so we were awakened every few minutes before 10:00 AM and several times thereafter with announcements telling us not to be alarmed and that guests are not involved. We think sounding the alarms in the cabins and making announcements pretty much involves us, don’t you think?
There was an American Classic Buffet around the Neptune Pool today, not a wise decision in our opinion. It is still quite chilly outside and putting on a BBQ with the roof closed isn’t the best idea. They did it anyway, so the corridors on Deck 10 smell of smoke and grease. We chose to go to the Dining Room and arrived just after it opened. So, we were seated with Jerry at our regular table. He exclaimed, “Oh, my VIPs are here!” Shortly after that, everyone else arrived and the available tables were quickly filled.
We both ordered the boiled beef brisket, which was very tender and tasty, plus a side of onion rings that were also very good. Augusto is still whining about being tired, but everyone else seems to have recovered.
After lunch we went back to the room to wait for our haircut appointments at 2:45 PM. During our haircut, a woman at the next station was complaining about the cruise. She said she was going to have to choose more carefully next time because, “I didn’t know it would be so cold.” What did she expect in Antarctica, palm trees?
By the time we were finished with our haircuts, the weather had let up a bit and there was actually some scenery to view. After an ice cream break, we went up to the top deck to watch the scenery go by. Essentially, it is the same as the Inside Passage of Alaska. Rocky hills with a stone shoreline, topped with scrubby forests. We couldn’t see in the distance because of the clouds, but now and then it would clear up enough to see that the hills close by were backed up by larger versions of the same. We passed a Chilean gunship in the channel just as we were returning to the open ocean. We saw several different kinds of wildlife, mostly birds, but also some sea lions frolicking in the water near the ship. More photos: One, Two, Three.
Waldo brought us some guacamole and chips, which we didn’t need at all. But, since it was only 4:45 PM, we thought we just might need a snack before dinnertime. Besides, we won’t have the chance once we return to single seatings next segment.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal. We went up to Palm Court where the American Express Party was being held. We were invited, but it wasn’t worth a free drink for us to hang out with 200 people we don’t know. Our primary purpose up there was to watch the beautiful view. By this time, the weather had cleared up and revealed a mirror smooth bay surrounded by jagged, black mountains. In the distance there were several towering, snowcapped volcanoes. The area we are visiting tomorrow has several enormous volcanoes that are still active.
Food review: The fruit continues to be outstanding, although tonight’s selection wasn’t anything unusual. The won tons were good, but nothing special. The pasta dish was odd because it had three different sauces on the same spaghetti, meat, tomato, and mushroom cream. The turkey was satisfactory. We both had ice cream for dessert.
Jerry had asked to see the pictures of our Bonsall house, so we brought the laptop to the Dining Room to show him. He didn’t have many guests tonight, so it was easy to wait until the others left. We offered to go in back, but he said we could just do it at the table, which we did. That drew the attention of Augusto, Paco, Maria, and several waiters in the vicinity. Everyone was beyond impressed, needless to say. We’re impressed, too! After everyone else had moved on, we showed Jerry our pet photos that he had also asked about. He said he purposely had us show the pictures at our table because he knew the others would be interested.
The most amusing part was when Dave touched the screen on the laptop. It makes a sort of rippling water pattern when touched. Jerry nearly freaked out because Richie, his roommate on board, won’t let him touch the screen. So, of course, we invited Jerry to touch our screen. He was like a little kid. That drew everyone else over to touch it, including Richie. We’re guessing Richie just doesn’t want a bunch of finger prints on his screen, but ours is already a mess, so it was fine to give them a small thrill. Augusto was interested to see Augusto 2002 vs. Augusto 2003.
Jerry let us steal one of his name plates from the table. He said he wouldn’t need them anymore because he’ll get new ones on the Serenity anyway. They aren’t gold or anything, just laminated cards, but it will be a nice keepsake. He reiterated how thrilled he was that we would make the effort to show him the photos.
Next stop was the Front Desk to show Billy the photos. He had imagined all sorts of things we could do to annoy the neighbor at South Peak, so we thought he would be interested in the new place. He was. He actually agreed with the changes we are making, which was quite a change from the Dining Room where they were appalled we would change anything at all. Billy knows something about one of the staff members who suddenly vanished, but he wouldn’t tell us.
The Evening Entertainment program is a Celebrity Showtime featuring The Celtic Tenors. We were told they are not to be missed. Needless to say, we missed it because of our picture show in the Dining Room that went on until 11:15 PM.
It was smooth sailing tonight even out in the open ocean. By the time dinner started, the sky had cleared, as well. So, maybe there is a chance it won’t rain tomorrow. It was still very chilly outside all day, requiring a jacket on the open decks.
saturday, february 22nd – puerto montt, chile – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Facing huge Chiloe Island across the strait, German-flavored Puerto Montt is at the place where South America breaks into islands and channels. The beautiful Chilean Lake Country is at its back. And to the south lies the channel-cut expanse of Patagonia. View Mt. Osorno, Petrohue, Waterfall, and lovely Lake Esmerelda, one of the word's most beautiful.
Although the day started out similar to those previous rainy days, it quickly cleared and turned into a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid 60’s. The port city is located in a large bay protected by volcanic islands. This was a tender port because the tide is over 16 feet and the dock area isn’t deep enough at low tide. From the ship, the view was spectacular.
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We went up to the Lido for breakfast, then outside for our usual port photos. Starting off with the port area where the tenders land next to a huge pile of wood chips, to the left is a small island where there is a small, muddy beach. Continuing to the left, was another island-dotted bay. To the right of the port, the city spreads along the waterfront. We could plainly see a carnival being set up, the Plaza de las Armas where the shuttle would drop us, a modern downtown area, and then a huge shopping mall. Beyond that was another hill, then a beautiful green section that looked to be the ritzy part of town. We couldn’t tell if the city continued over the hill, but we’re fairly certain it did not, so it was only about six blocks deep along the waterfront.
The water was completely calm today and the sun was shining by the time we reached shore in the tender. We bypassed the few shops set up there and boarded the shuttle for the five minute ride to the Plaza de las Armas on the other end of town. The city is more modern than the last port and quite upscale. The buildings have a German look to them in the downtown area.
The Plaza de las Armas is a relatively new development that sports a huge shopping mall at one end and a new German-style hotel with intricately carved wooden balconies at the other. In the center is a fountain that erupted like a geyser on a schedule we never did figure out. Across the street is the beautiful bay with Crystal Symphony floating in the center providing a tourist attraction for the locals who were posing for pictures along the sea wall. On the other side of the plaza is an old German church surrounded by modern additions for concerts and such.
The people here were much more upscale than previous ports and this is obviously a prosperous area. However, everyone was smiling and friendly. We started off by walking along the main shopping street toward the center of town. On one corner there was a rock band playing to the locals out for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon. We saw many families walking arm in arm and enjoying the shopping and waterfront.
We turned toward the seaside promenade and came upon on enormous statue of two lovers sitting on a bench facing the sea. This seemed to represent a common activity along this walkway. The landscaping was in the process of being renovated, so it wasn’t looking it’s best, but all in all it was attractive. Crystal Symphony made a nice backdrop to the view and was very popular with the locals. A woman stopped us to ask if we knew the name of the ship. She was there with her husband and daughter, all of whom spoke perfect English. To us they looked German, but they said they were from Valparaíso. They were thrilled when we told them we think Chile is the nicest country in South America (we were telling the truth, by the way). They asked some questions about the cruise and were quite friendly. We continued walking toward the port where we found the same family sitting on the wall for a photo. The mother told us she had just sent her husband to get the camera. They were on their way to the Artisan’s Marketplace beyond the port, so we figured if it’s good enough for the locals, maybe we should go there, too.
The walk was about 1.5 miles. We passed the modern center of town and then continued past the carnival area and back to the port area. There were small motorboats available for hire to take visitors across the channel to the “beach” on the other side. Many locals were taking advantage of this service, but the muddy shoreline on the other side didn’t look very appealing. We would imagine the water to be freezing, as well. A navy ship began to sail out of the harbor with music blaring. We’re not sure this was an authentic ship because there were several yachts stored on the bow and there were civilians standing on the helicopter landing pad at the back. There was a panoramic view of the entire bay from this area.
The only beggars we encountered were dressed like gypsies, so we doubt they were local Chileans. They weren’t a problem since they spoke no English and we just pretended we didn’t know what they were saying. There were only three in two miles, so it wasn’t an issue. We crossed through a run down park at the edge of the port and back onto the main highway to walk back to the port.
We briefly wavered on whether to continue to the marketplace, but when we saw so many local people walking that direction we thought we should check it out at least. The walk was another few blocks through a very old part of town. It wasn’t scary, just commenting that the buildings were very old. The Artisan’s Marketplace lined one side of the busy highway and was jammed with locals and very few tourists. We figured if that many locals were shopping there that the prices should be pretty good.
Too bad we don’t need any alpaca sweaters, hats or gloves, because the prices were indeed a bargain. Most every garment and shawl we saw was priced at $10 - $12 U.S. We were looking mainly for our usual item to adorn the Christmas tree, but weren’t having much luck. We bought a nice handmade copper and brass with enamel mobile for just $11.00. The quality was very good for the price. Most of the stores sold exactly the same items, although we did see several where the vendor was actually knitting the garments. We lost interest looking at the same thing over and over, so we turned around and started walking back. We bought a tiny wooden bucket for our ornament collection that was so cheap the vendor gave us another one to add up to $1.00.
Back at the port, we found a llama proudly dressed up for photos. We’ve never seen an animal dressed up that looked proud of it, but this one certainly seemed to revel in it. We snapped a picture from a distance, but those willing to pay $1.00 could pose by it. It really was extremely cute up close with its colorful blanket and mountain hat. As we mentioned, it didn’t seem to mind at all and the owner treated it nicely.
We found some penguin woodcarvings at the port to buy for a reasonable price. Two of the Turkish waiters were trying to bargain the price down, but to no avail. The prices were already fair, but that is what they are used to doing and it’s hard to break the habit. We saw the identical metal mobile we had bought for $11.00 marked $25.00 at the fancier stall at the port, so we had made a wise purchase.
Unfortunately, we arrived at the tender landing when the tour returned, so we were stuck on the boat with quite a crowd. This was the tour we had cancelled, by the way. One woman was describing it to the crewmember who was helping her down the gangway and it sounded like we made a wise decision to cancel. She enjoyed it, but for all the reasons we would have hated it.
By the time we returned to the ship, the sky was so clear that we could see that the city is completely surrounded by huge snow-capped volcanoes. There was a huge one in plain view close to the city, another one to the left with a pointed Mt. Fuji-type cone just visible over the hill, to the right was another one behind the mountains, then two more in the distance, plus another one way across the water.
We went directly up for our afternoon snack of ice cream and cookies and sat outside where it was very pleasant. The view was worth the price of admission. We, and several others, weren’t thrilled when they started setting up the tables for this evening’s casual dining without regard for the food already in front of us. Would it have been that difficult to wait until the current guests moved before setting the table?
At around 5:00 PM we went back to the room to wait for the 6:00 PM sailing time. There was an announcement that we would be slightly delayed because one of the tours busses had broken down. This was after the anchor had been lifted, so the ship was slowly drifting away from shore. The delay was no more than ten minutes, however. We sailed away with the tender still dangling from the side.
As we sailed we could see more beautiful vistas in the distance with a flock of birds at our eye level. At one point, the two huge volcanoes that were visible behind the city could be seen from the side. One of them was an exact replica of Mt. Fuji, except with more snow. Pauline said she went on that tour today and that volcano is really the biggest of them all. It just looks smaller because it is quite a bit farther away. She told us the tour today (the one we cancelled) was spectacular and we should have gone. However, we spoke to another man later tonight who said that three hours were wasted getting on and off the bus and eating a fairly bad salmon lunch. We still think we made the right choice, especially since we enjoyed our day walking and shopping anyway.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We were headed downstairs about half and hour before dinner, but detoured to talk to Ronnie in the Library. Pat was there, so a lively conversation ensued about drag queens and Pat’s desire to participate. He was shocked that we didn’t have the same inclination, but we assured him that he should do whatever makes him happy, not what other people think is acceptable. That pretty much summed up what Ronnie thought, as well, but Ronnie dresses in drag and plays Vanna for the game shows on board, so he’s not particularly objective. Ronnie was shocked at how popular he was during the Liar’s Club the other night. He said it was standing room only and most people stayed the entire two hours just to see what he would be wearing next (he changed five times). Mostly, he was shocked that it was so well-received, but we have always thought Crystal is way too conservative and cautious about the entertainment. The passengers here are older, well traveled and certainly not middle America for the most part.
With a few minutes to wait before dinner, we made our debut appearance on the bizarre sofa in the middle of the lobby. It may look interesting, but it is one of those pieces where it is impossible to sit upright. Come to think of it, we’re not even sure it looks nice. Anyway, it gave us another perspective on the Crystal Fountain and a chance for a photo. Carlo bee-lined over to talk to us. He seems to have decided we are OK since Tom introduced him. We don’t really have much to say to him, but he’s pleasant enough for the amount of time we have to interact with him.
The Dining Room opened, but nobody rushed to go in. In fact, there were only about ten people in the lobby at all. So, we wandered across the lobby toward the entrance without having to dodge walkers and wheelchairs for once. Tom gave us one of those odd looks again, but we have no idea why.
Food review: The fried shrimp was very good and very light. The chilled soup was also very good. The pasta was satisfactory, but had only a single shrimp in it. The halibut was fine after we made changes to the way it was described in the menu. We had two special desserts described below.
The Dining Room was very slow tonight, but not unusually so. There seemed to be something going on that was causing a commotion among the waiters and assistants. We caused part of it by changing all of the sides on the halibut plate and then requesting one of them without the sauce. We rarely do this, although it is encouraged. For some reason, it caused Jerry much consternation on how to write up the order. In the meantime, Andrejus was having problems bringing out the right combinations of appetizers while having some sort of dispute with Paco over territorial rights on the counter. Paco didn’t seem upset about it, but Andrejus was furious.
Augusto asked if we would try a new kind of special dessert, so we said fine. Maria came over and said there was a big bowl of cut strawberries and sugar under the counter, but she didn’t know why they had added vinegar to it. She thought that sounded disgusting. Of course, she didn’t know that Jerry wanted to surprise us with the strawberries over vanilla ice cream. He knows we like it and he wants to please us by making it himself and serving it unannounced. We know that Augusto always wants to add vinegar to it, but we always tell Jerry to just do it the way we told him and don’t let Augusto change it. Maria was sorry she blabbed, but we were glad she told us about the vinegar. We assured her we wouldn’t let on that we knew because we know it means a lot to Jerry to surprise us.
Of course, Jerry hadn’t planned on Augusto forcing off another dessert on us, so that kind of upset him. The new dessert was, well, odd. It was a sort of doughy boiled dumpling with a whole plum inside. It was sprinkled with a crumb, sugar, cinnamon topping. It was almost edible, but mostly tasted like dough. Jerry came over later and said that it is a famous Czech dessert served in every restaurant in that country but it is made differently. As usual, in an effort to fancy it up, Crystal’s chefs had relegated something simple and outstanding to nearly inedible.
Jerry brought the strawberries and apologized for not knowing about the other dessert first, but we assured him this would be far superior to what we had just tried. He was, as usual, thrilled that we liked it. Had we not been tipped off to the vinegar, we might not have noticed it. We can’t see any point to adding it except to make the dish smell like vinegar. Maybe if the strawberries were poor it might draw out more juice, but we had been told by the Executive Chef himself this morning that they were fresh from the fields. Anyway, they were fine and everyone was happy.
Augusto came over, sure that we would say there were the best strawberries we had ever tasted. So, Dave said, “Well, I can’t see how adding vinegar improves it, but it’s still very good.” He thought he had discerned the vinegar on his own, of course. We told Jerry that, as he already knows full well, simple is better and don’t let the headwaiters try to convince him to change something a guest asks for. We can’t conceive of why they would change a recipe that a guest provides to them. Obviously, that version is the one the guest likes, so why try to embellish it? We were extremely appreciative to Jerry. When he apologized again for making us eat two desserts, we said, “That doesn’t mean you can’t serve it tomorrow, too.” That pleased him. He informed us that our waiter for the rest of the cruise will be Bruno, but it is supposed to be a secret. We're not completely sure who Bruno is, but Jerry said he has been here forever and, "Is a great guy." We shall see.
The Evening Entertainment was a Variety Showtime featuring the juggler and the singer from a few nights ago. We didn’t intend to attend, nor did we. Instead, we went out to the Crystal Cove to listen to the last few minutes of Tom’s set. He stood talking to us for a few minutes before declaring that he was starving, so he was only going to go talk to Ernst (his admirer) for five minutes. We find that time limit hard to believe, but we didn’t say anything. After he left, the God-awful harpist arrived to play in front of the fountain. We were around the corner, so we couldn’t see her.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, there was a tremendous crashing in the lobby as though someone had fallen over the railing or a window in a shop had broken. Several people, including Bill, got up to look. Apparently, the harp had fallen over. We’re not entirely sure because we didn’t actually see it happen, but judging by the reaction of the people who were looking in that direction at the time (both of them), we think the harpist fainted and fell over, too. A few people went over and asked if she was OK and she resumed playing right away. But, two of them stayed there watching her for quite some time, apparently to be sure she didn’t fall over again. When one of the men came back to the lounge, we heard him say that she told him the harp just tipped over on its own. Then, he rolled his eyes and said something in a whisper we couldn’t hear.
Pat arrived and we asked him to find out what really happened and let us know. We’re sticking with the fainting story until we hear otherwise. How else would a harp fall over unless the harpist fell over first?
While waiting for his turn to play, Pat picked up the dressing in drag issue again. Apparently he wants to do that, but is afraid it isn’t normal. Well, of course it isn’t, but if he wants to do it, he should do it. We insisted we aren’t afraid to do it, but that we don’t want to do it. He didn’t buy that, but it’s the truth. It seems that Filipinos, even gay ones, buy into the stereotypes set out for them. He asked several more questions that gave us more information about him than we really wanted to know, but we answered him based on our own perceptions. Let’s just say that our description of how to behave in a relationship does not apply to him.
Pat seems to think something is really brewing with Tom and Ernst (gee, what a surprise), but we’re not sure that’s completely true. However, we do know that Tom is hedging when he talks about the whole thing to us and he did say he was sort of depressed now, but will feel better once this cruise is over. We asked if that was because Ernst would be gone, and he said, “Yes.” Sorry, but we have found it difficult to be sympathetic when he continues to spend time with him. That’s not the way to convey the idea that one is not interested, assuming that is, indeed, the case.We noticed in tomorrow’s Reflections program that they have neglected to mention the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party. We know they are having it because of the adjusted showtime after dinner, so let’s hope people can figure out there really is a party without being told or it will be an awfully lonely night in that lounge.
Our Preliminary Statement for this segment indicates that we will have basically the same amount of credit left for next cruise, over $7,500.00. What we spent this segment was covered entirely by the new credits that we accrued. Next segment we will get twice that amount because it counts as two cruises.
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sunday, february 23rd – cruising the south pacific ocean
It didn’t take long for them to figure out that the Captain’s party for tonight wasn’t mentioned. A new schedule was on the clip when we got up with the revised activities list.
The weather is back to its usual foggy self, but no rain and the temperature is warmer. That’s not to say it is hot, but probably high 60’s or low 70’s. Seas are calm.
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This is Grand Gala Buffet day, so we went down to watch from above as usual. Maria joined us, saying she never attends either, just watches and makes fun of the outfits some people wear. We’re glad we aren’t the only ones who do that. Tom and Ernst were gazing at each other across the crowded room. That prompted Tom to play “Some Enchanted Evening”. At least he waited until Ernst was gone before doing it, but just the fact that he thought of it amused us.
After watching for about an hour, we went up to the Lido for lunch. Only one side was open, but there were at least 50 people there that we counted, so we’d estimate that over 100 people chose that alternative over the buffet. Yesterday’s Asian selection tasted like cigarette smoke, so we were leery of having it today, but it was fine. The best part of Gala Buffet day is that the Lido also serves the warm bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Who needs lunch when they are serving bread pudding?
Rosario thanked us for our “extreme generosity” in tipping the Deck Stewards. They usually fawn over us themselves, but we got the impression it hadn’t been announced to them yet. Unlike sending a tip to your waiter, when sending to a group it goes to a headwaiter or manager who then distributes it equally to all of them. However, by the end of lunch, the individuals were coming up to us to thank us. As we say every year, the Deck Stewards are the only ones who make the effort to acknowledge the tips unless it is way over the usual amount. We still think that everyone should thank the giver if only so the guest knows it was received by the right person. They have gotten better at that, but it still needs work.
After lunch we went to the room to start on the QAP forms and decide if we want to book any tours for next port. We weren’t able to decide based upon the information in the booklet, so we had to visit Ross at Shore Excursions to get his viewpoint. Thank God he said we don’t need to bother with tours in the islands. He didn’t come right out and say it, but he said the main attraction in these places is beaches and scenery and everything else is contrived for the tourists. That was good enough for us to decide that walking through town on our own was good enough. We did book a tour to the volcanoes on Easter Island because we found the tours last year to be quite interesting. Only six people go in a van and are dropped off at the sight where a guide is available to explain it. That’s a reasonable way to see it rather than being stuck on a bus with 40 old ladies with walkers who took the "strenuous walking" tour.
We were back at the room by 3:00 PM, done for the day until dinnertime.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Gala Reception they finally remembered to announce. We slipped in through the Express Entrance where Rosemary and Josef Matt greeted us. The party was quite short and was over before the Dining Room opened for late seating. The Captain hinted that we should say we loved this segment because then Crystal would schedule a return to Antarctica. He also said that now that they have scouted it out, he would be able to find a place to drop anchor so they could use the tenders to take us ashore. We’ll believe that when we see it, but it’s a good idea considering the popularity of this segment compared to the rest.
Food review: We stared at the menu forever trying to find something we wanted. Luckily, Augusto had already planned to cook Steak Diane for us, which he did. It was outstanding. He left out most of the mushrooms at our request and changed the amount of pepper, so it was much better than usual. Generally when he cooks something himself it is quite good. Everything else except the fruit was just satisfactory. The fruit was very good. The Baked Alaska has to be the worst version we have ever tasted. It has always been bad on this ship, but it was even worse than usual. How that was possible, we have no idea, but it was.
There was a new assistant helping Richie because his regular guy was sick. The poor guy looked so scared that he might faint any minute. Andrejus finally had to help because he was totally lost. It’s a shame to start someone on the last formal night when it is jam-packed and everything is as fancy as it gets.
Jerry thanked us profusely for our extra tip that was posted to his account today. He has always been very gracious and thankful for what we give him, but he was really excited this time because it wasn’t the entire cruise. Since it is really Crystal’s money, we’re not out anything and it makes him happy. He said he would put on his makeup for a photo session with us tomorrow night. He was kidding, don’t get excited.
Augusto had an awful cold, so we rushed to wash our hands the minute we left the Dining Room. You can’t be too careful around here. The same cold has been going around since we got here. Hopefully we didn’t start the whole thing, but we’re not telling if we did. Actually, lots of people who came on at the beginning were already sick, but just with a cold, nothing serious. We did hear that two guests were quarantined in their cabin. We were told that anyone who came down with the Norwalk virus would be forced to stay in their cabin until they recovered, but there has been no evidence of that type of illness. Believe us, we’d know about it by now if there was.The Evening Entertainment program is the production show "Symphony of Nations". As you know, this isn’t one of our favorites, but it is good enough to watch now and then. Yes, it’s even better than staring at the wall. There were a few glitches with the sound, but otherwise it was fine. We felt kind of sorry for one of the new male dancers who is a bit over the weight limit. They had to practically squeeze him into his costumes and it was quite obvious they were too small. One of the women had to hold the back of her finale outfit lest it be lost where the sun doesn’t shine. We couldn’t quite figure out what the problem was to cause that, but it was amusing to watch.
monday, february 24th – valparaíso, chile – arrive 8:00 am
In 1536, Juan de Saavedra named his new community Valparaíso
(Valley of Paradise) in honor of his native Valparaíso de Cuenca in Seville.
There is not much room between the high cliffs and the sea, but Valparaíso
and Viña del Mar comprise Chile’s third largest metropolitan
area after Santiago and Concepción. Until the Panama Canal
opened in 1914, Valparaíso, affectionately known as "Valpo," was
one of the busiest ports in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Chile’s National
Parliament still meets in the city of about 150,000 people. Mining and food
processing are major industries and it is still the country’s main shipping
port. The city layout ensures you will get lost. Its enclosure of high hills
is pretty, but the streets wind in labyrinthine fashion. There is no order,
and even the best maps are often wrong. Even so, the wide bay is a perfect
natural harbor, and Valpo is Chile’s most particular city. Its energetic
pulse is alluring.
The Captain’s 9:00 AM update was another ridiculous attempt to cheer up the guests by saying, “We hope the weather improves by this afternoon.” Of course, it didn’t. The only problem was that it was foggy and drizzly all day. It never rained, but the low clouds hampered the views, which are usually spectacular. It was a little bit cool, but about the same as California in the winter, so not bad.
Click for Daytime Activities.
We had no plans to go out today because we were here last year and saw everything we wanted to see. The only difference today would be that the shops in Viña del Mar are open, but with the cloudy weather, we just didn’t care enough to be bothered going into town. The area around the port is nice enough with steep hills covered with apartments and houses, including mansions. These aren’t the lawless slums of Rio de Janeiro, just old neighborhoods that developed in a haphazard manner.
Directly adjacent to the port is one of the many ascensors, a sort of funicular that takes you up to the top of the steep neighborhoods around the city. At the top of the closest one there is a huge white mansion overlooking the port. The cars on these contraptions don’t look very fancy. In fact, they look like those metal containers used to transport goods. But, they seem to get the job done.
We went down to the lobby to turn in our QAP forms. Mel and Barbara were there, already returned from the city on an adventure to buy Listerine. Mel said it cost $20.00 for the cab ride, plus triple the usual price at home, but at least they got what they were looking for. We tried to tell them to take the shuttle bus to Viña del Mar, but we’re not sure what they actually concocted from the answers we gave to their questions. They were here last year also, but we’re guessing they don’t recall that visit. They went to the Dining Room for lunch, but we made our usual visit to the Lido.
We found the identical menu in the Lido, so we didn’t miss anything by skipping the Dining Room. The waiter handing out trays was desperately trying to sell the cold soup, but it was too strange even for us…tropical fruit with chicken. The cold soups are usually very good, but they never have had meat in them. He said nobody had taken any and it was near the end of lunchtime. Everything we had was very good, although a strange combination. Grilled Chicken Quesadillas, Peasant Style Beef with Beans, Vegetable Spring Rolls, and Garlic Fried Rice. The warm dessert today was fabulous, Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. Yum!
JP came over to thank us and to say goodbye because he is leaving tomorrow for vacation. He has always been extremely nice, not only to us, but in general. Willy stopped to tell us that Jade Garden and Prego will both be open tonight and on embarkation day. He said we could probably just walk in without a reservation if we decide to do that tomorrow night. Ordinarily we would probably do that, but since we will be going back to single seating there isn’t really a need to avoid the Dining Room that night. We’ll see what kind of mood we are in tomorrow.
After lunch we went up on the Sun Deck for our usual port photos. Crystal Symphony is closer to the port gates than last year when we were at the far end of the port. Even so, it is necessary to take a van to the gates because this is a cargo port and too busy for pedestrians. Another shuttle will take guests the ten minutes to Viña del Mar. Even with the fog, the view from the top of the ship was impressive. There is a floating dry dock, containing a cargo vessel being remodeled, floating across from us. The hillside neighborhoods are best viewed from this angle, as well. The previously mentioned ascensor is directly across from the ship. Next to that is a steep hill with a church at the very top. In the old port area an elegant old apartment building had been revealed by the demolition of the warehouse in front of it. The residents there certainly have gained a great view. Directly adjacent to the ship is the center of the city with a small area with a crafts market and a dock for sightseeing boats geared to locals. This is where we walked around on our second day last time, but saw nothing that warrants a return.
We hung over the railing to watch some of the pallets of new supplies being loaded. We didn’t realize that the ship has a sort of metal tongue that sticks out to take on an entire pallet from a shore side forklift. It seemed to work pretty well in spite of the movement of the ship away from the dock now and then.
By about 2:30 PM the sun started to break through the fog at bit, but not enough to prompt us to go out. Doing laundry seemed like the best alternative.
Mrs. Black, who is a reliable source and very coherent, said that “everyone” is complaining about the Crystal Serenity Inaugural. Apparently, Crystal is going to require full payment before the World Cruise is over, but nobody on board has a clue how to handle it. Besides that, no guests are being included in any of the ceremonies, nobody wants to fly to Europe, and it is the 4th of July weekend to boot. Who the heck is going to want to fly during probably the highest security there is? She hinted that many people are doing exactly what we are and hoping for a delay and some sort of compensation for our “inconvenience” even though few of us actually intend to go. The Vice Captain is taking the new ship out for the first time in a few weeks, so that should tell them whether there will be a delay or not. Whether they will announce it to their booked passengers is another story. It will be interesting to see whether their sold-out inaugural turns into a ghost town. The buzz seems to be that the new Joe Watters cruise line will steal business from Crystal (he was formerly Crystal’s president), but his new venture is a relatively low-budget line, so we don’t expect it will make much of an impact even if it lasts more than a year.
We stayed in the room until about half an hour before dinnertime. When we emerged, we found Hazel, our Assistant Stewardess, in the hallway and finally managed to get a photo of her. She would only take a photo if we were in it with her, so here we are. We didn't see Isabela anywhere, so no photo of her. Both of them are leaving tomorrow. Hazel said that all of the Filipinos have to take a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, lay over for 11 hours, and then take another flight to the Philippines. It sure seems easier to just fly straight across the Pacific, so it must be cheaper to do it this way. She has to be ready to leave by 7:45 AM, but we know Jerry isn’t being picked up until 3:00 PM.
Since we finished another of our ancient tapes of programs from home, we dropped it off for Ronnie in the library. He’s always amusing to chat with, but there were some other guests there, so we just dropped the tape and continued down to the Dining Room. Tonight’s dress code is Casual.
Food review: Both soups were very good, but the main course wasn’t as good as last time. Usually the prawns are outstanding, but this dinner they were soggy and just not very good. The mousse cake was extremely sweet, but very good.
Jerry was in a good mood tonight, apparently looking forward to going home. He said that Waldo told him he was surprised we had given him (Waldo) an extra tip because we haven’t asked him to do anything special. He also told us that Waldo always has something to complain about, which, of course, we are already well aware. We also prompted him to whine about Richie, his roommate, because he isn’t as considerate as Jerry regarding quiet time or whatever. Jerry is somewhat more mature than most of the waiters, so that wasn’t shocking to us, although Richie seems fairly mellow.
We ended up taking several photos, most at Jerry’s prompting. We started off with Jerry alone, Jerry with Andrejus, Andrejus alone, Jerry and Andrejus with us, and Maria with us. Jerry also insisted on a photo with Martin because, “he’s our teddy bear.” OK, whatever. In reality he is Richie’s assistant.
Jerry said he always gets nervous when he goes home. He knows there is no reason for it, but on the way home he starts to fret over what to say when he first meets his wife. We suggested, “OK, let’s go,” which he said was about how it is and probably the reason he ends up with another kid after a long contract. He still swears he will call us in May.
Maria was stuck on board with In-Port Manning, so she decided to take some of the mousse cake to her room and watch TV. She was walking through the Dining Room after everyone had left except us. Jerry called out to her, she turned around, and the three pieces of cake she had on a plate slipped onto the floor. Oh well. She said she would get some when the leftovers arrive downstairs, but was hoping for a head start by getting it directly from the kitchen.
We went up Prego to see if we could make reservations for next cruise in Jade Garden, but stopped at the library when we saw Tom and Ronnie. The intention was just to say hello to Tom, but he said they were talking about us, so we had to barge in, of course. A conversation started with Tom saying he wasn’t going out tonight because he’s too tired and Ronnie saying he was going to go to his room and crochet something. Finally, Tom called Pat because we were all in disbelief that he wasn’t going out tonight. That call lead to Pat insisting that Tom go out with him. It didn’t take much arm-twisting to get Tom to go, by the way. Ronnie insisted his crochet project sounded more appealing. We agree. Everyone we talked to in the Dining Room said there is nothing to do here at night. If the crew stays on board, you know it’s boring.The Evening Entertainment program is a local folkloric show by the Chilean National Ballet. We saw this show last year and it was outstanding. It wasn’t possible for us to attend this year because it started at 10:00 PM and we were still poking around with Jerry and Andrejus at 10:30 PM. We didn’t finish talking to Tom and Ronnie until around 11:00 PM. No loss. How many times can a person watch the same folkloric show anyway? In case you are wondering, the answer is one in our case.
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