With more mountains than the Alps, more glaciers than Alaska, and more fjords than Denmark, Norway and Sweden combined, a South America cruise offers a wonderland of contrast and cultures seldom seen by a casual traveler. South America's natural features also include the longest mountain range in the world, dozens of active volcanoes, alpine lakes at amazing elevations, the gargantuan Iguacu Falls, and the magnificence of the Amazon River and rain forest. All of this surrounds modern coastal cities, some of which rival the sophistication of Europe, and ancient ruins from some of the most incredible lost civilizations in the world.
This vibrant, sultry continent flaunts a Latin American flare certain to seduce and enrich even the most experienced traveler. It's colorful, exotic, sexy, historic and modern all at the same time. History buffs, nature lovers, bird watchers and beach bums are certain to discover their calling among an abundant array of wildlife, ancient treasures and spectacular natural scenery.
What can I do on a South America cruise?
Cruise passengers to South America will get the most out of their journey by taking advantage of the variety of shore excursions offered by the cruise lines. These tours will allow you to travel to remote areas in safety, comfort and convenience, plus provide the services of a knowledgeable guide. Many of South America's natural wonders lie deep within the country so flight seeing is also a popular option.
In the seaside cities there are countless galleries and museums filled with ancient fossils, artifacts and pre-Columbian art. In addition, architecture influenced by several European cultures dominates wide plazas, beautiful gardens, and tree-lined streets. But again, organized tours are recommended over independent exploration. In more rural areas, tours at wineries, estate home luncheons, and gaucho barbeques at one of the many cattle ranches make an excellent and tasty day trip.
Where does a South America cruise go?
Around the Horn
The most popular itinerary in South America travels one way around Cape Horn, between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires, through the magnificent fjords of Chile and around the tip of the continent at Tiera del Fuego National Park. Some ships also call in the Falkland Islands in the south Atlantic. Your cruise will usually call in all of the following ports:
West Coast of South America
- Buenos Aires
- Puerto Madryn
- Punta Arenas
- Puerto Montt
If the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu and the Nazca Plateau are of interest, you'll want to take an itinerary along the western coast of South America. The two most common ports of call are:
But other possible ports of call are:
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands, found west of Ecuador, are one of the most intriguing and highly protected places on earth. Here, while viewing wildlife found nowhere else, Darwin created his theory of evolution which has sparked controversy ever since.
Amazon and Orinoco Rivers
Along the northern coast and eastern coasts of South America, the mighty Amazon and Orinoco Rivers enter the Atlantic Ocean. It's common to find ships making ports of call near the deltas of these great rivers, and the Amazon is navigable for miles all the way up to the historical rubber kingdom of Manaus. Caribbean ports of call are also common on an itinerary that includes the following:
- Devil's Island
- Rio De Janerio
- Sao Paolo
- Buenos Aires
When can I take a South America Cruise?
Since South America is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the reverse of those above the equator. Therefore, the summer cruising season begins in late November and ends in early April, with the sailings around Cape Horn taking place during the peak of the season in January, February and March. While Cartagena, the tropical port on the Caribbean Sea, may be visited year-round on a Caribbean itinerary.
Most South America itineraries are approximately 14 nights in length, and at least one additional day before and after the cruise should be added for travel time. It's also wise to consider overnight city stays both before and after the cruise to offset jet lag and international flight delays.
How do I get there?
Many itineraries along the northern, eastern and western coasts of South America actually begin in the Caribbean. It's common to find ships departing from Barbados, and those headed for South America's west coast will transit the Panama Canal.
Although there are tours of the Galapagos Islands available to visitors to Ecuador, the only major cruise line to offer these fascinating islands at this time is Celebrity Cruises Xpeditions series. A small yacht-style ship carrying just under 100 people makes 9-and 11-night cruises round-trip from Quito at certain times of year.
The most common ports of embarkation and disembarkation in South America are Valparaiso, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Look for itineraries on Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises. Also, luxury lines such as Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Silversea, and Radisson Seven Seas may even circumnavigate the entire continent and sell the cruise in segments.