Cruising South America

by Wendy Fougner

On one of our most recent trips, Bruce and I embarked on a South American cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago. Two days prior to the cruise I flew to Buenos Aires to spend some time in the Argentinian capital. I spent the first day in Buenos Aires by myself as Bruce was in LA on a basketball trip. I booked a room in a boutique hotel in one of Buenos Aires’ trendy neighborhoods. The location was perfect because every weekend the neighborhood features a market, or feria, where you can find beautiful handmade goods, antiques and art.

During my stay in Buenos Aires I had a guide who was just lovely. On the first day we walked all over Buenos Aires, visiting important historical sites and places of interest. In the evening, she took me for a local Argentinian dinner and tango show. The performance was wonderful and included a brief history as well as a traditional indigenous dance. I was really happy that I had her as a guide and was able to enjoy the experience with another person.

The next morning Bruce arrived and we met the guide to further explore the city. We went around the city by taxi, visiting some of the most interesting sites from the previous day. One of the highlights of our city tour was seeing the balcony of the Casa Rosada where Eva Peron addressed masses of Argentines. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and it was interesting learning about Argentina’s history and hearing the Argentinian perspective on the invasion of the Falkland Islands. Overall, we found Buenos Aires to be a fascinating city.
After two days in Argentina’s capital we boarded Holland America’s ms Veendam and set off on our cruise. We had a beautiful balcony cabin on the back of the ship which we really loved. Sailing south was particularly lovely, as we sat outside in the mornings and enjoyed spectacular views of the sea.

Our first port was Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. A nice aspect of cruising with Holland America is that passengers are allowed to bring their own wine onboard. We decided to take advantage of this and brought a rolling suitcase when we disembarked the ship so we could stock up on South American wines. We purchased some wonderful bottles which we enjoyed through the duration of the cruise.
The next stop on our cruise was Puerto Madryn. The ship offered a number of excursions to passengers, but we decided not to book and explore the city on our own. However, I would recommend booking an excursion on the ship as our fellow passengers had fabulous experiences. On one excursion, passengers visited the penguin colonies, which are meant to be exceptional. On the sea lion excursion, a woman was able to swim with the sea lions and said it was a remarkable experience.
After visiting Puerto Madryn we unfortunately missed several ports due to weather conditions. We had chosen the last sailing of the season which meant that we were not cruising in optimal conditions. The ship’s captain was exceedingly cautious, and as a result we didn’t visit a number of ports on our itinerary. For this reason, I would recommend traveling earlier in the season to avoid disappointment!

Despite this, we were still able to have a great time onboard the ship. We spent six days at sea, during which time we were witness to stunning scenery. We sailed through Glacier Alley, saw Amalia Glacier and the Chilean Fjords. In particular, the fjords were very scenic and sailing through I was reminded of Norway. In addition to the scenic beauty, we were able to enjoy a number of entertaining activities provided by the ship. Every night the ship offers trivia, which was a great way to make connections and get to know the other passengers. Other interesting activities included dance lessons, cooking lessons, live music and evening shows. One night, a spectacular pianist played songs from numerous Broadway shows. His extensive knowledge of music and his artistic abilities were unbelievable.

After six days at sea we were able to port in Puerto Montt. Here, we took a taxi out of town to the beautiful Petrohue Falls. It was great to be back on land and we had a lovely time on our excursion to the falls. Our final port was Valparaiso (Santiago). Initially we had planned to take a flight from Santiago to Easter Island, but due to weather conditions and the captain’s cautious sailing we came into port late and missed our flight. Instead, we stayed in Santiago, rented bikes and had a wonderful day biking around the city. Throughout our time in Chile we were struck by the incredibly warm, friendly and helpful nature of the people. During our bike trip my kick stand broke and kept falling down. A local biker stopped to help fix the kick stand, finding a plastic bag to tie it up to the bike. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt which is an amazing hotel. Again, the staff were consistently kind and friendly.
On our last day in Santiago we went on a tour of three wineries in the valley. The wine country outside of Santiago is absolutely stunning and I felt like I could easily live there. Driving through the valleys I was reminded of the Okanagan. If you’re visiting Chile, make sure to visit the wine country!

Overall we had a good time on our South American cruise. Because we embarked on the last sailing of the season, we faced some disappointment. However, despite this, we were still able to experience South America’s stunning beauty and visit several fascinating destinations.