Something you will remember for the rest of your days
The best time to visit South America would typically be from November to early May, and this is when the cruise ships generally run their trips there. This is because South America is in the southern hemisphere, so their seasons are exactly the opposite of ours. Regardless of when you visit, however, be prepared for a variation in climates that can change from hour to hour and day to day.
South America voyages tend to comprise two distinct itineraries. First, there are the “Around the Horn” voyages which usually sail between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, and feature lots of fjords, along with the untamed beauty of Patagonia and Cape Horn, which is the southernmost point on the continent of South America. These voyages almost always last for at least 14 nights because they have to cover quite a lot of ground to get from Buenos Aires and Valparaiso. The “horn,” of course, is the infamous Cape Horn, which is the closest most people will ever get to Antarctica, which lies about 1,000 miles further south.
The major highlight of this itinerary is the Chilean fjords, whose grandeur surpasses even those of Alaska; as well as Patagonia which is a land of deserts and mountains that stretch between Argentina and Chile. A few ships on this itinerary will also include Antarctica, but will not always make it there if the captain determines that the ice conditions are too dangerous to be tackled by ship.
There are few ports visited on these itineraries simply because the region is so huge. But from Buenos Aires, many ships will call at Puerto Madryn, whose big attraction is the penguin colonies. They will also visit Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Puerto Montt and Valparaiso. Some ships will also include stops at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. The highlights to see on this itinerary would have to include Patagonia with its diverse scenery which varies from flat, almost eerily-deserted pampas to a sweeping lakes district ringed by mountain ranges. This region is absolutely breathtaking in its diversity and it’s a site that shouldn’t be missed. Other draws of this area would have to include the nature sightings, which would include penguin colonies, killer whales and glacier parks.
The second type of itinerary is an Amazon River cruise. This type of voyage spends a week or longer just sailing to points on that river, going from Manaus toward the Atlantic Ocean, and watching the colour of the waters change, from what looks like the colour of a milky café latte to what looks like an inky-black cup of espresso. The particularly neat thing about sailing the Amazon is when these two colours come together – as in the merging of the waters – but don’t actually mix! Rather, the two colours run side-by-side for miles as you progress along the river.
Amazon River cruises normally concentrate on Brazil and will usually make a couple of stops in the Uruguay region before winding up in Argentina. They cover ground in undeveloped areas where passengers can take jungle sightseeing excursions, to areas comprised of small towns and cities. Depending on the length of the cruise, ships doing this itinerary may make port calls in Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Recife, Belem, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Punta del Este and, finally terminate in Buenos Aires.
The focus of these cruises, of course, is the Amazon River, so the main things to see are the jungle, nature and the wildlife. Shore trips can include canoe rides and various wildlife encounter experiences. When the ships leave the Amazon and go into the Atlantic Ocean, they head south along the coast of Brazil. There it’s city sights that become the focus, such as the colourful Rio de Janeiro which is a fabulous cosmopolitan city with its own unique exotic flare.
South America is a continent one cannot rush a visit too. Instead it should be leisurely savoured. Try to add a land trip to the beginning or end of your cruise. Some possibilities include a visit to Machu Picchu which is easily accessible from Santiago. Or, perhaps a visit to Iguazu Falls, which borders Argentina and Brazil, would be more to your liking.
Whatever itinerary or length of trip you choose, you can be sure that a visit to South America will be something you will remember for the rest of your days.
Buenos Aires in English means fair winds or good air. It is positioned on the southern shore of the Río de la Plata, on the south-eastern coast of the South American continent. It has been nicknamed ‘The Pearl of South America’ due to its majestic buildings and memorials that have been hailed by architectural experts as being “an authentic view of major world trends and not mere copies from Europe”.
Seeing these many beautiful buildings, museums, and other places of historical interest is a must during your days in Buenos Aires. A guided tour is the usual way of getting around to see all the sights, but if you’re on a budget why not try cycling. This can give you a very relaxing view of the city with no schedule to stick to. You can really take in the atmosphere, grab a coffee, and sample the local food, but you do have to be very careful. This is because local bikers can be pretty erratic as there are no biking restrictions in the city and drivers soon run out of patience. It is advisable, therefore to stick to the registered bike paths, which can be found in the Bosques de Palermo, Costanera, Parque Thays, Av. Figueroa Alcorta, and Avenida Libertador.
The Dutch navigator, Willem Cornelisz Schouten, was the first European to sail around the cape in 1660 and named it after his birthplace of Hoorn in the Netherlands.
Despite its legendary difficult conditions of strong winds and rough seas, cruises around this bleak and wonderful cape are popular with many cruise operators, including Fred Olsen, P&O and Princess.
A significant trade route from the 18th to the early 20th century, the opening of the Panama Canal made its use unnecessary, but it is now a magnet for the intrigued and adventurous, keen to see its beautiful, rocky, challenging and untouched landscape.
Lima is not too well known for being a holiday destination and is more famous for being the capital city of Peru; also for its extreme size. The flat residential area is home to almost a third of the country’s entire population.
But all that is changing for Lima, the city that was once called La Ciudad de los Reyes or ‘The City of The Kings’ by the Spanish conquistadores. Lima is positioned on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, but it is not the beaches that are attracting new visitors. The array of beautiful valleys, hills and mountains that surround the city of Lima tower as high as 500m above sea level and were once inhabited by the mysterious Inca people. It is the ruins of their buildings that have kept archaeologists busy for many years and they are now luring tourists back to the city for countless hours of exploration and discovery.
Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital city and main port, which is also one of the most important in the Americas. The history of the city’s name is somewhat confusing, because as with many things in the area it is claimed by both the Spanish and the Portuguese. One explanation states that it comes from the Portuguese "Monte vide eu" which means "I see a hill". The second explanation is that the Spaniards documented the location of a mountain on a map as "Monte VI De Este a Oeste" meaning "The sixth hill from east to west".
Smaller cruise ships will dock at the Public Pier inside Canal Tenglo, while larger cruise ships will tender to the same pier. From there, it is a short walk into the centre of the town. Puerto Montt is in Chile, and most of the large cruise companies, including Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, offer cruises that include Puerto Montt on their itineraries. Passengers will usually fly to somewhere in South America, such as Buenos Aires or Santiago, to join the cruise.
Cruising to Puerto Montt is often part of a cruise around South America, taking in stops in other countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. You can also find longer cruises that may start or finish in Los Angeles, and include countries such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Depending on how much time you have available, most of these cruises will include excursions at the ports they stop off at. Alternatively, you may prefer to explore on your own.
Even though the city of Recife is the fifth largest metropolitan area in the South American country of Brazil, it has only recently popped up on the tourism radar. It is not as modern or as cosmopolitan as Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, but it is a beautiful city on the coast that is surrounded by a coastal reef and lush vegetation.
The name of the city comes from the Portuguese for ‘reef’, which obviously refers to the long and protective coastal reef on the shore. It is a major port city that has an interesting mix of architecture, featuring high rises, colonial churches, and outdoor markets in a unique mixture of tradition and modernisation. It is also called the ‘Venice of Brazil’ as there are many canals, bridges, and one-way streets across the city. The weather here in this slice of Brazil is typical tropical temperatures that vary little. Rainy in the winter months of June and July, the summer months of mid-December to February are peak season and the warmest.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest city after Sao Paulo. It is renowned for its vibrant party atmosphere, with rumba music reverberating through the famous Carnival and of course the stretches of world famous beach such as the Copacabana. This is all looked over by one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Christ the Redeemer, a giant 40m high concrete statue of Jesus Christ, which sits on top of Corcovado Mountain.
The Carnival festivities are one of the main tourist attractions that date back to 1723. The main goal was basically to get everybody soaking wet. Even emperors took part in the fun. The ritual soon came to an end after a woman was arrested for throwing a lime at Dom Pedro’s escorts. Now a day, the Carnival is dominated by the stupendous samba parade and the street carnivals that happen all over the city as well as the many gala balls that take place before, during, and after the Carnival in Rio’s many clubs.
Roatan is the largest of the Honduras Bay Islands at just 60 kilometres long and 8 kilometres wide. It is located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja and boasts long stretches of beautiful white sandy beaches. Roatan is located near the largest coral reef in the Caribbean and the second largest in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Tourism is the island’s main source of income as it is a major stopping point for cruise ships and scuba divers, but its laid back lifestyle and stunning surroundings also attract a lot of people wishing just to relax in the sun and drink Pina Coladas.
The city of Santos is a municipality situated in the state of São Paulo, in Brazil. Founded in 1546 it is located on São Vincente Island, but extends onto the mainland. It is the biggest seaport in Latin America, with a population of 500,000. While Santos is one of the most important tourist centres in São Paulo it is also an industrial city and exports coffee, steel, cars, oranges, bananas, cotton and oil. Santos coffee, a low acidic coffee is the premium coffee of South America.
Santos has the feel of a big city on the mainland side and quiet country life on the island side. The city is about seventy-two miles from São Paulo International Airport, which can be reached by road, using either of two expressways, in around one hour. The Port of Santos has the distinction of being the Brazilian city from whence the bubonic plague spread throughout the country in 1899, a fact the city would probably rather forget. Since 1912, Santos has been well known for consistently fielding a world champion football team.
Ushuaia is to be found on the southern coast of the island of Tierra del Fuego. It is located in a wide bay which is guarded to the north by the impressive Martial mountain range and to its south by the Beagle Channel.
Ushuaia used to be based around a prison that was used to house serious criminals. The Argentine government had established this prison copying the example of the British who were using Australia as a penal colony and the French with their Devil’s Island; escape was considered to be pretty much impossible. Therefore, the prisoners were very useful as colonists with no choice but to be there. The unfortunates spent much of their time felling timber in the forest around the prison. This was used for building the town and a railway to the settlement. This railway is now one of the city’s major tourist attractions as it is the southernmost railway in the world and is called the End of the World Train or Tren del Fin del Mundo.
Vina del Mar, the ’Garden City’, is one of Chile’s premier beach resorts, with excellent hotels and shopping. Valparaiso, a world heritage site and immortalised in the words of Pablo Neruda, is one of Chile’s if not South America’s most charismatic and historic ports, with its charming "ascensores" (funiculars) and colourful hillside houses. In recent years both cities, together with some of its neighbours have combined their efforts to provide a new year fireworks spectacle ranging several miles of coastline and challenged only by the biggest international events.
Cruises dock in the port and passengers are transported in free shuttle buses to the Valparaíso Cruise Terminal Muelle Prat, which is within walking distance to town. Or a short cab ride to Vina del Mar, the more elegant sister city of Valparaiso.
Stanley or "Port Stanley", as it was formerly known; with its mere 2000 residents is the capital and main city of the Falkland Islands. It is located in one of the wettest parts of the island, on a slope facing north and is situated just south of Stanley Harbour. The Governor at the time had decided to move the capital to Port Jackson, which was renamed "Stanley Harbour", after a survey considered Stanley Harbour to have a deeper anchorage for visiting ships.
For those holidaymakers who are a bit more adventurous a visit to South America would not be complete without seeing the Amazon Jungle. Situated in Brazil’s northern region, Manaus is the capital of the Amazonas State. It sits proudly on the banks of the Rio Negro or Black River and is an important centre for ecological tourism. This is because the Rio Negro is part of an extensive river system that joins with the Amazon River. With Manaus as its main port, it is the perfect departure point for tourists wishing to visit the Amazon region.
Santiago sits in the middle of the Santiago Basin, a large bowl-shaped valley including expansive and rich plains, which are surrounded by mountains. It is one of the most modern cities in the region and is home to almost 5,000,000 people. It is anchored by the main chain of the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west.