Cruising in South America

Two week cruise aboard the Norwegian Crown visiting ports and lake districts of Chile, Argentina, Falkland Islands and, Uruguay.

Cruising in South America

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on April 17, 2007

We boarded the Norwegian Crown in Valparaiso, Chile to begin a two week cruise over the Christmas holidays with destinations in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Falkland Islands. Christmas Day was celebrated with an appearance by Santa Claus and was not over-done but simple and tasteful. It was sweet to see the children sit on Santa's lap and receive a small gift while cruising in the middle of the ocean. It made Christmas extra special. I couldn't resist hopping on Santa's lap myself which was captured by the ships' photographer. The purchase of the photograph pricey at $12 but it was all in good fun and what a great memory.

A couple of days before Christmas Day Gingerbread houses started to appear throughout the ship adding a nice touch. Folks helped themselves to the decorations and after a few days I was amused to see that the gingerbread houses were stripped of their candy canes, goodies and other edible decorations.

Highlights of the cruise were seen mostly from great panoramic viewing on deck 11. Seeing some of the most unsurpassed and unspoiled scenery in the world; from snow capped mountains to huge Chilean Fjords even more beautiful than Norway was spectacular. The captain pulled the ship fairly close to glaciers, approximately 300' to the delight of the passengers as we continued along the Avenue of the Glaciers where we saw at least seven glaciers, one after the other and named for different nations. Going around Cape Horn and through the Straits of Magellan I felt like I was re-living my high school geography classes. It was exciting.

The second trip highlight was an optional tour in Puerto Madryn where we walked among thousands of Magellanic penguins. The price of $119 per person seemed high but this soft adventure was beyond description for two senior travelers and was priceless! The penguins were so comical to watch and we couldn't stop taking photos of them as they went to and from the sea to get fish to feed the baby penguins. We learned the baby penguins are greyish in color and don't develop the white ring around their neck until they become adults. They are protected so you were not allowed to touch them.${QuickSuggestions} It was summertime in South America. As we sailed we experienced cool winds and temperatures in the '50s which was not the typical summer weather we experience in the US. South America is not the Caribbean as some folks thought and only bought summer clothes. Pack well; layering is very important to be able to adapt to various temperature changes.

This is our first experience with Free Style Cruising which is basically unstructured, more choices and flexibility to dine when you like and a more relaxed dress code. The main dining room was never crowded except on Christmas Day. Reservations were not necessary; dinner was served from 5:30pm to 10pm. The food was quite good and many choices were offered. We ate in the Italian restaurant at no additional charge but reservations were required. It was booked up fairly quickly and we had to wait a week to reserve for the specific time we requested. The food was good; but let's face it, the same chefs are preparing all of the food no matter where being served.

A French restaurant was available for an extra charge of about $17.50 per person but we didn't feel it was necessary to pay extra to eat on a cruise.

We were not enticed to try a so-called Chinese restaurant situated in the rear of the buffet area at no extra charge. Some samples of the mediocre Chinese food was served at the regular buffet.

Breakfast and lunch were available in the dining room as well as the buffet which was more than adequate and the option to eat when you wanted was appealing.

The only dress requirement was for "resort casual" attire for the dining rooms in the evening. Optional formal evenings were offered but many folks seem to prefer dressing casually.

The ship was not too large, about 1,500 passengers, small library, Internet, so-so shows, casino, outdoor Jacuzzi, and pool.

The spa area was huge offering various types of massage treatments and reflexology. I was lucky and won a hair treatment massage and hair style, and mini-leg massage valued about $65.

Accommodations were adequate with great care by the cabin stewards. The ship was very clean with hand sanitizers throughout the ship. I thought the crew were very service oriented and the dining room staff especially kind, courteous and professional. ${BestWay}

Puerto Montt, Chile

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 15, 2007

Our first South American port of call was the small but vital city of Puerto Montt, Chile. This is the transportation hub to the Patagonia region and the Chilean lake district.
The city is not particularly attractive but bustling with traffic and shoppers. The main shopping area of stores, some modern, some quite dated, as well as produce stands on street corners make for a good photo but this is their way of life. There is much salmon cultivation in this district.
This region was originally settled by German colonists in the 1800s. We took an optional bus trip to neighboring village of Puerto Varas, about 20 miles away. The quiet resort town had a casino. The main streets were lined with beautiful roses and an outdoor holiday craft fair was going on. I bought a beautiful alpaca scarf for US$5.

A short drive away was the town of Frutillar which some consider the prettiest town in the lake district. It felt like you were in Bavaria with the German-style houses, lace curtain windows, gnomes in the front yards, and beautifully landscaped and manicured gardens and lawns. We had to try the delicious strudel in a cafe that tasted as good as in any German city. We visited an outdoor living museum with a typical house and gardens from the 19th century. This area is also a popular destination for International Music festivals. The villages were much cleaner than the city of Puerto Montt and we enjoyed the contrast.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 16, 2007

Port of call, Punta Arenas, is Chilean Patagonia's largest and most important city situated at the foot of the Andes in the province of Magallanes which includes Tierra del Fuego Island and is correctly termed "Chilean Patagonia." The atmosphere feels like turn-of-the century Europe.

Before the Panama Canal opened, the city was a booming port of call at the tip of South America. Seems to be the most prosperous city we visited in the Patagonian region. Nice walking city with good views. The Magallanes Regional Museum is an interesting trip back in time to the early Indian settlers and missionaries.

The Sara Braum museum is housed in a beautiful French style building. It has some nice design and artwork. Each museum cost about US$4 each and can be visited in about an hour. We found a local coffee shop for espresso. The very smoky atmosphere was reminiscent of a European coffee house.

Puerto Chacabuco Chile & Surroundings

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 17, 2007

This port is quite isolated but interesting if you are a spirited traveler. We hopped on a local bus for an 8 mile trip to the nearby town of Aysen. For $1 US dollar we got our first glimpse of Patagonia as we passed a fjord and salmon being cultivated. Even though it was raining, the scenery was picture perfect.

Salmon farming is a major industry in this area.

The locals on the small bus, more like a van, were amused at the bunch of about 10 cruisers chattering about and being fearful of getting lost or getting off at the wrong stop. The bus ride was worth the anxiety as we saw a town where the average people in the area are living and working. Shops didn't start to open until after 10am and leisurely pace prevailed.

On an excursion we visited the Rio Simpson Preserve while interesting was not worth the $40 US dollars per person for the 2 & 1/2 hour bus ride. We saw basically the scenery on the $1 bus ride and it was more fun. The tour guide was a university student not quite having a grasp on the English language but what was charming was her enthusiasm and love of the country.

Falkland Islands

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 21, 2007

A tender was needed to land at the capital Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. There are frequent winter gales, 80-foot waves and treacherous reefs and hundreds of wrecks along the coast. A memorial stands high above the harbor to commemorate those sailors lost at sea.

The currents were so strong that tendering was delayed several hours which cut short our stay. After being asked why are you going to the Falkland Islands, I was curious about this windy and desolate area of the world. I found it fascinating port.

The wind was quite severe but died down in the late afternoon as I walked around the island. It was summertime, a bright and sunny day with temperature in the 50's and a constant wind.

I really would have loved a little more time to explore the area high up in the hills.

The Falklands are 350 mile east of Tierra del Fuego and northeast of Cape Horn. There are more than 700 small islands. This territory is British dependent and the residents are mostly British and Scottish. Only after the 1982 conflict with Argentina did anyone ever hear of the Falklands. The main street consists of several stores and residences in the British style. A very interesting Anglican church, Christ Church Cathedral had kneeling pews covered with needle work of the local church members. A very helpful and friendly volunteer at the church answered any questions.

A British style pub the Globe Tavern advertised great fish and chips. We have had much better and were very disappointed bur still enjoyed the pub atmosphere. There were several other restaurants but all closed as Boxer Day was being celebrated.

I dropped into a hotel and inquired if anyone came to the Falklands but the cruise ships. "Oh yes," explained the lady, many people that come here are serious bird watchers. There are many varieties of birds as well as penguins. The land is rugged and not particularly attractive but I was intrigued. Since the island is in such a remote part of the world it is unlikely I would get there again but I highly recommend a visit if in the neighborhood.

Ushuaia, Argentina-southernmost tip of South America

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 28, 2007

Ushuaia is the image of Tierra del Fuego as named by Spanish explorer Magellan. The name "land of fire" was given when he saw mysterious flames in the darkness when first passing the island. As described by some travel guides, the town feels like a wild outpost, an odd blend of modern tourism, Klondike-style boom-town and gateway to the world's last great wilderness. I would agree this is the feeling you have as you walk around town among the locals and young back-backers. I could imagine some hippies targeting this spot to hide out for a while.

Many restaurants advertised King Crab but our timing was off and most restaurants were closing early for Christmas eve.

The Museo del Fin del Mundo deserved a visit. It was very small and could be seen in less than half an hour. Sections of the museum were devoted to the aboriginal groups of Tierra del Fuego and to the first voyagers arriving into the island. Another room depicted the prison which is one of the most important historical landmarks of the city. A third room of the grocery stores which were the most important trading points in the city.

Another highlight is a visit to the post office. The letters are stamped with an exclusive seal that gives proof and testimony of it being sent from "the end of the world."

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 28, 2007

We are finally going to see some penguins in South America. We booked an optional excursion to Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery to see the Magellanic penguins. This was a pricey tour of $119 per person and took the whole day. We did not see much of Puerto Madryn except the dry desert like terrain which is due to lack of rain during the summer and winter months.

Many of the early immigrants to Puerto Madryn were from Britain and there is a large population of Welsh today keeping the culture alive.

The area is rich with sea creatures, mammals, and birds such as the cormorant.

After a bus ride of approximately 2 1/2 hours we arrived at the Punta Tombo Nature Reserve where over a million penguins breed and live during the peak season. The bus ride was described as bumpy over dusty roads but the road conditions were fine on our trip.

Being able to walk so freely among the penguins was magical and an experience of a life-time if you like penguins and natural habitats.

The experience was priceless and so thrilling. We watched the penguins swim to the sea to catch fish and then waddle back to feed their babies as they waited in their nests that appeared to be deep holes.

The bus trip back included a huge box lunch with more than we could possibly eat. Many people left much of the untouched food for the driver. It was quite a satisfying day and the money and time spent getting to the rookery was worth seeing the fascinating penguins.
Punta Tombo Penguin Reserve
Route 1 187 Km South From Puerto Madryn
Puerto Madryn, Patagonia

Montevideo, Uruguay

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 29, 2007

The ship docked in Montevideo, Uruguay where the temperature was finally quite balmy. The city is quite tourist friendly and I believe this could be quite the up and coming city to visit in a few years. A free shuttle meets the ship and drops you off at a leather shop and you can hop back on a bus at the shop after you have walked around the city.

This is a very old city, not very clean and with much decay but with some interesting buildings that resembled many European cities. A small section of wall from early battle days still existed in the Plaza Independencia. A bus tour took us outside the city to a beautiful and wealthy residential area. The contrast to this part of Montevideo versus the downtown area was quite striking. Many public buildings and monuments were covered with grafiti.

We lucked upon an antique fair in the main square which was fun to browse through.

I was okay walking around but felt I needed to keep a certain sense of alertness as to my surroundings.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sandy Goes on May 29, 2007

We debarked the ship in Buenos Aires just in time to spend New Years Eve and experience a heat wave in the city. It must have been close to 100 degrees, hot and humid, a little warmer than usual for December.

This was our second time in BA so we felt quite at home. Our hotel, the Marriott Plaza was quite luxurious and situated at the end of Calle Florida, a walking street full of shops and restaurants and many interesting characters. During the early evening hours as you walk along Calle Florida you will hear tango music playing. A crowd starts to form to watch tango dancers dance perform on the coble stoned streets and then pass the hat for the few coins that audiences parts with to show their appreciation.

BA is a great walking city. Taxi's are inexpensive. We were warned to only take a radio dispatched taxi. Any hotel or restaurant will call a taxi for you.

The Argentine government collapsed in 2001 and the economy is finally recuperating. There is much poverty in the city as in most big cities so you need to beware of the pickpockets and beggars. However, the rate of exchange is $3 Argentine Pesos to $1 US dollar and a great bargain for US tourists.

BA is a city of European-style boulevards, with a Parisian influence of great architecture and colorful neighborhoods. There is some pollution on the buildings but the beauty is still evident.

A city bus tour is advisable to experience the flavor of BA and find your way to the areas of Recoletta where Eva Peron is buried, lovely al-fresco restaurants in this ritzy area, the Italian section Palumbo with its beautiful parks, San Telmo where an antique-art fair is held every Sunday with tango dancers performing right on the streets. Newly upcoming is the port area Puerto Madera with upscale restaurants and a walk way along the water. Not to be missed is the very coloroful Caminito Street in LaBoca. You can pose with tango dancers for a photo and a fee. This area can be rough and it is recommended not to go there at night. It is also usually crowded with tourists and interesting to see the dilliplated and colorful tin covered buildings.

The Fine Arts Museum is lovely to visit as well as the Casa Rosada free museum from where Eva Peron made her balcony appearance. In the movie Evita it appears that the song "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was performed from this balcony.

Argentina is one of the biggest beef-producing countries in the world and meat is everywhere. There is always a parrilla, or grill. You can get a decent meal with wine for about $30 US. Wine is good and inexpensive.

We enjoyed a Tango performance including transportation, dinner and a bottle of wine at the beautiful Astor Piazzolla Theatre for $75 per person (a bit pricey as the rate of exchange is $3 Argentine Pesos to $1 US dollar) but it was an excellent professional show, great wine and a really good dinner.

A trip outside the city to a gaucho farm is a fun day. A barbecue is served and a show of folk dancing and gauchos with their bollo's and some horsemanship is displayed.

Another nice trip is to the Delta Tigre. A bus and train will hook you up for a pleasant boat ride to see the delta and the homes along the delta where people live; many us this as a retreat away from the city.

The sharing of Mate, a Paraguayan tea, is a ritual more than a beverage, and if offered is a special expression of acceptance. Everywhere in most So. American countires people walk around with a thermos of hot water and a bowl for mate that they brew and sip all day long, something like people walking around with a Starbuck container of coffee. One of our tour guides offered a taste of the herb-like tea that you sip through a straw. It was a bit bitter but it was fun to experience their custom.

BA is a great city and well worth repeated visits as there is much to see.

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