by Elizabeth Heath, The Telegraph, July 12, 2019
A voyage to South America is the trip of a lifetime for many travellers. The continent of nearly 7,000,000 square miles has it all – from pulsing metropolises to lazy beach resorts and colonial-era cities, plus deserts, mountains, the rainforests of the mighty Amazon, and even glaciers. It’s one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and its stunning archaeological sites demonstrate the engineering, architectural and astronomical genius of its earliest inhabitants. In South America, the dilemma is not whether to go, but where to go.
From itineraries that ply sections of the Amazon, bounce along the Pacific or Atlantic coasts or island-hop in the Galápagos, there are innumerable ways to explore the continent on a small or big boat. Here are some exciting new ships and itineraries debuting in South America this year and beyond.
Argentina to LA on the Viking Sun
“Epic” might be the best word to describe this two-continent, 11-country, 48-day odyssey that begins in Buenos Aires, birthplace of the tango, and ends in La La Land . Along the way, guests take in what is considered the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, before navigating Cape Horn, cruising the Chilean Fjords, and soaking in neoclassical Santiago and colonial-era Lima prior to heading to Central America and on to the US. The itinerary includes opportunities for cultural interaction, wildlife watching, scenery beholding, and city breaks.
With a maximum capacity of 970 guests, the Viking Sun offers the amenities of a larger vessel – think pools, several restaurants, and a spa – coupled with the intimacy of a small ship. Even the entry-level staterooms come with balconies and king-sized beds, and palatial owners’ suites really amp up the perks, right down to the welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot. There are certainly worse ways to travel...
• Viking’s 48-day Exploring the Americas cruise departs Buenos Aires on November 18, 2019, and reaches Los Angeles on January 4, 2020. From £11,990pp including return flights from the UK and some shore excursions ( vikingcruises.co.uk ).
Party in Rio on the Azamara Pursuit
Sailing in South America isn’t all about rainforests and remote national parks. Luxury cruise line Azamara debuts two new, city-focused voyages on the Azamara Pursuit, both beginning and ending in Buenos Aires. Their 15-night New Year’s Eve in Rio Voyage sees guests celebrating Christmas at sea, then docking at Rio de Janeiro in time for what’s sure to be a raucous New Year’s Eve party. Stops along the way include Sao Paulo and Copacabana Beach, Brazil and Montevideo, Uruguay .
Meanwhile Azamara’s 12-night Carnival in Rio Voyage invites guests to dive into the world’s biggest pre-Lenten street party – then return to the plush modern comforts aboard the Pursuit. The newest ship in the Azamara fleet, the Pursuit has a capacity of 684 passengers. With seven restaurants, including gourmet dining options, a pool and a spa, the Pursuit ensures that days spent at sea don’t shirk on the pampering. As with all Azamara cruises, these sailings are geared to adult voyagers.
• Azamara’s 15-night New Year’s Eve in Rio Voyage departs Buenos Aires on December 21, 2019, and returns there on January 5, 2020. From £3,320pp excluding flights. The 12-night Carnival in Rio Voyage is also a round-trip from Buenos Aires, departing February 19, 2020, and is priced from £2,377pp excluding flights ( azamaraclubcruises.co.uk ).
Chilean fjords aboard One Ocean’s RCGS Resolute
Best-known for its polar expeditions, adventure-focused One Ocean debuts three springtime Central and South American itineraries this year aboard its newest ship, the RCGS Resolute. Following in the footsteps of Magellan and Darwin, the 13-night Chilean Fjords Adventure starts in Ushuaia and from there, meanders through the fjords and channels that define the remote southern coast of Chile . Excursions include zodiac and kayaking outings to get close to marine mammals, Andean Condors and calving glaciers, as well as frequent landside hikes and opportunities to meet indigenous peoples.
With a focus on comfort rather than luxury, the intimate 146-passenger Resolute, a repurposed research vessel, offers generously-sized staterooms, most with picture windows. Amenities include two restaurants, two bars and a library, as well as a small pool, a hot tub and a gym. A ship’s naturalist accompanies every sailing.
• One Ocean’s 13-night Chilean Fjords Adventure sails from March 29 to April 9, 2020, and departs from Ushuaia, Argentina and concludes at Valparaiso, Chile. Priced from £4,375pp excluding flights ( oneoceanexpeditions.com ).
The Galápagos on Ecoventura’s MV Theory
Ecoventura has for decades offered small-ship, environmentally friendly cruises in the Galápagos Islands. Its newest ship, the 20-passenger MV Theory, debuted in 2019 and jacks up the luxury factor by offering posh ambiance, the deftness of a small ship and a very low passenger-to-staff ratio. In keeping with the company mission, the eco-conscious MV Theory is among a new generation of green luxury yachts – and were there any doubt of the luxury quotient, it was awarded a Relais & Châteaux certification.
• Seven-night Galápagos cruises aboard the MV Theory start and end at the Galápagos’ San Cristóbal Island and follow either a southern or northern itinerary through the remote island group. Both routes offer close-up encounters with wonderfully rich and dense flora and fauna, including marine and land animals. Itineraries can also be combined for two-week voyages. Cruises run year-round with rates starting at £6,185pp excluding flights ( ecoventura.com ).
Patagonia and Chilean fjords with Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer
Well-established Aurora Expeditions has been leading adventurous travellers on small-group sailings to the Antarctic since 1991. With a brand-new ship, the Greg Mortimer, named for Aurora’s co-founder, who was the first Australian to summer Everest — and without the use of oxygen — the company is now offering an in-depth, 14-day voyage through the thrilling land- and seascapes of Patagonia and Chile. After departing Ushuaia, the Greg Mortimer plies the Beagle Channel and stunning Glacier Alley before turning north to cruise the protected channels and fjords of Patagonia and spot humpback whales, seals, sea lions and orcas. Zodiac and shore excursions are included, and sea-kayaking is a paid option.
The sleek, purpose-built Greg Mortimer represents a new generation of expedition ships and a departure from the clunky research vessels of yore. With room for about 120 passengers in bright, modern staterooms, the ship features a gym and sauna, two whirlpool plunge-pools and two bars.
• Aurora Expedition’s 14-night Patagonia and Chilean Fjords Explorer sails from April 2-15, 2020. Departing from Ushuaia, the cruise ends at Puerto Montt, Chile. Twin staterooms are priced from £6,030pp, excluding flights but including one night’s accommodation in Ushuaia ( auroraexpeditions.com.au ).