Cruising South America

 

Seabourn pride in Rio de Janeiro
Seabourn pride in Rio de Janeiro, a popular port for cruisers due to its beaches and Carnival celebrations.

 

South America is more than just a jump-off point for Antarctica cruises. Crystal Cruises will run three separate South America cruises in 2011—all aboard Crystal Symphony, beginning with its January 5 Aztec & Inca Treasures cruise from Los Angeles to Valparaiso. Of Note: The cruise includes a maiden call at Golfo de Papagayo, Costa Rica, which is notable for its array of sandy beaches. From there, the Symphony starts out on its 18-day Antarctica itinerary—a voyage through the fjords, crystalline lakes and snow-capped mountains of Patagonia, which includes a crossing of the Drake Passage. Crystal ends its South America season with the 16-day Tango in the Tropics voyage, a Crystal Wine & Food Festival sailing. The cruise departs from Argentina and ventures to such ports as Devil’s Island, French Guiana and Rio de Janeiro for an overnight.

Silversea Cruises still has sailings available in 2010, each aboard Silver Whisper. Its November 17 cruise leaves from Argentina and winds down in Santiago, Chile. In between, port calls include Montevideo and Punta del Este in Uruguay; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; and Punta Arenas, Laguna San Rafael, Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Montt in Chile. Highlight: In Puerto Chacabuco, we advise partaking in the kayaking on Lake Los Palos Silver Shore Expedition. Hint: Don’t forget to bring a change of clothing in case you get wet.

Seabourn Cruises’ January 4, 2011, 58-day Grand Voyage South America aboard Seabourn Odyssey includes a transit through the Panama Canal (an experience that never tires). Seabourn offers a two-night pre-/post-cruise Iguazu trip (or one-night mid-cruise trip). The adventure begins with a morning flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls in the border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Upon arrival, the tour starts with a visit to the Argentine side of the falls. At the nearby Cataratas Station, guests board a gas train that visits the falls’ highlights (think Devil’s Throat and its walkway over the water and islands below). Note: Some 270 individual cataracts plunge 300 feet along the massive horseshoe precipice. Day two takes you to the Brazilian side of the falls—equally thrilling. There are footbridges and belvederes strategically placed to afford optimal views of each and every cataract.

 

Peruvian Musicians
Peruvian Musicians greet guests with local music.

 

Seabourn Sojourn (the 450-passenger sister ship to the Odyssey) debuts this month; in October 2011, it will get its first taste of South America with its Treasures of the Inca Coast cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Santiago, Chile. The itinerary is heavy on Peru and Chile, but also includes a stop in Manta, Ecuador.

Seven Seas Mariner handles South America duties for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. For a grand experience, there is the 71-night Grand Circle South America cruise, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale departing January 11, 2011. (Don’t worry, if 71 days is a tad too long to be out of the office, the cruise can also be done in segments from 11 to
25 nights.) The cruise covers every nook and cranny of the continent and even goes around Cape Horn and into Antarctica. Tour Tip: In Montevideo, don’t miss out on the Juanico Winery Visit. The first vineyards in the region were planted in 1835. Today, the best classic varieties are grown based on organic agriculture principles. White varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Gris. Red varieties include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Marselan, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and the flagship Uruguayan variety Tannat.

Voyages of Discovery is following Seabourn’s and Regent’s lead with a new 78-day Grand South American Discovery cruise, which sails around the continent, and parts of the southern Caribbean, from January 3 to March 21, 2011. The Grand Voyage, aboard the 650-passenger mv Discovery, visits 17 countries or autonomous island territories and combines five shorter cruise itineraries, each of which is available individually or combined with others. The journey begins and ends in Barbados and visits such cities as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso and Ecuador’s Guayaquil.

What we like: Every voyage includes presentations by expert guest speakers, who narrate and explain to passengers various facets of each destination, including geography, culture, history and wildlife. After spending much of January cruising the Brazilian coast, with stops in ports, including Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Rio, mv Discovery continues to Uruguay, Argentina and the Falklands, then back to the Argentine port city of Ushuaia. From there, the ship rounds Cape Horn and enters the Chilean fjords before continuing north along the Pacific coast. It then sails north to the Peruvian port of Callao, enabling passengers to venture to the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, before the voyage resumes and continues to Ecuador, Panama, Colombia and the north coast of Venezuela. The final week of the cruise features Caribbean destinations, including Aruba, Curaçao, Grenada and Mayreau Island.

Another company making waves in South America is Iberostar, which is known more for its hotels and resorts than cruise ships. However, its Iberostar Grand Amazon certainly breaks the mold (think  cruise ship with all the trappings of a luxury hotel cruising along the Amazon River).

Iberostar’s itinerary begins in the Brazilian city of Manaus and makes stops at various spots in the Amazon Rainforest. Along the way, guests hop into smaller boats for jungle exploration. Note: All excursions are included.

The ship itself boasts 72 cabins, including two royal suites situated in the front of the vessel.

Of course, the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are a popular destination for South America travelers. Galapagos Explorer specializes in the archipelago offering cruises of three, four and seven nights. Eco Note: In keeping with its commitment to sustainable tourism, the M/V Galapagos Explorer II has been designed to reduce its impact on the archipelago. Nevertheless, the ship is pure luxe (think all-suites, a solarium and a massage suite). Galapagos Explorer offers cruises throughout the year. 

 

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls, taller than Niagara Falls, is on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones.

 

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