When people think of vacationing to South America, they don’t often think of exploring it via cruise. However, this is starting to change as more and more travelers are realizing why seeing South America by cruise is a great way to explore the continent – whether it’s your first time in South America or your tenth.
Cruising South America is an ideal way to travel the continent due to the ease with which you can visit popular cities across different countries. The countries of South America are quite spread out and public transportation isn’t as easy and affordable as it is on other continents, making it hard to visit many different countries on one trip. A cruise makes visiting multiple countries stress-free and often much more budget-friendly. Plus, you only have to unpack once.
Cruise lines that visit South America
A good mix of cruise lines sail South America. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly ship or a luxury vessel – or something in between – you’ll be able to find an ideal cruise environment to be your homebase while you sail around the continent.
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival are loved by families all over the world and each cruise line offers South America itineraries. From Brazil to Panama, you can find your ideal cruise that the whole family will love. Premium cruise lines Holland America, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises are more upscale cruise lines that sail to South America. With stylish décor, classy amenities and plenty of activities onboard, passengers will enjoy seeing South America in style. If you’re looking for as much luxury as possible, sail away to South America on one of the luxury cruise lines that sail there, such as Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises or Regent Cruises.
South America cruise ports of call
When choosing where to start your South America cruise, you have some choices depending on the cruise line chosen and itineraries. Popular embarkation ports of call for cruises in South America are Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. There are also itineraries which embark from the U.S., often from Florida or southern California.
Argentina is home to much-loved ports of call in South America for cruisers to explore, including vibrant Buenos Aires, mountainous Ushuaia and nature-filled Puerto Madryn. While in port, there are a variety of different shore excursions in South America you can partake in. Buenos Aires is often known for its tango dancing culture, so partaking in a tour that lets you watch exciting dance moves while in the city will provide a memorable day in port, which you can do on a Tango and Dinner Show shore excursion. In Ushuaia, you can easily visit Tierra del Fuego National Park. The park is located in the Patagonia region and is the southernmost national park in the world. Also in Patagonia is the cruise port of Puerto Madryn, an area of the world seeped in wildlife and nature. Visit penguins or swim with sea lions while in Puerto Madryn.
Read more: Buenos Aires for cruise visitors
West of Argentina you’ll find the cruise ports of Chile. Popular Chile cruise ports include Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt. On a shore excursion in Punta Arenas you’ll learn that the city is more than just colorful buildings, penguins and stunning ocean views; at Fort Bulnes, you’ll be visiting one of Chile’s first settlements and learn about the history of the people and land. Puerto Montt is a striking port set against a towering mountain backdrop.
Head north of Chile to Lima, Peru. Lima has much to offer from sight-seeing tours to museums, temples and markets. You can even visit indigenous pre-Incan ruins right in the center of the city at Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca (a huaca is a type of pyramid).
Read more about Lima for cruise visitors
A favorite port of call is on the eastern coast of South America: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There is a lot to see in the beach and party-loving city. To experience as much as possible, explore the city on a Corcovado Mountain, Christ Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain Tour. This shore excursion will let you see some of Rio’s most impressive works of art and luscious scenery and rainforests.
Uruguay is also on South America’s eastern coast and is located south of Brazil. Two ports of call you may get to visit during a South America cruise in Uruguay are Montevideo and Punta del Este. Montevideo is a historic in addition to being near an up and coming wine region. You can combine both on the Private Montevideo Sightseeing Tour with Optional Winery Tour and Tasting. Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital and you’ll get to tour Parliament Place and Constitution Square before heading off to a vineyard and tasting the region’s award-winning tannat wine. In Punta del Este, explore another side of Uruguay as you wander around the beach resort town. Learn about the different and upscale neighborhoods of the town, watch sailboats and take some time for shopping during an in the gorgeous town.
One of the most popular cruise itineraries to do in South America is a cruise that sails through the Panama Canal. There are several other ports worth seeing in Panama during a cruise, including Colon and Fuerte Amador. Both are excellent cities to further immerse yourself in the culture of Panama and northern South America. When sailing through the Panama Canal during your South America cruise, you’ll get to watch the process from the deck of the cruise ship and marvel at the locks and mechanical intricacies that make up the famous canal.
North of Panama Canal is Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The country is known for jungles, rainforests, surfing and other adventure activities, and the city of Puntarenas – a popular cruise port destination – doesn’t disappoint. While in port in Puntarenas, take part in the Waterfall Canopy Zipline Tour in Guanacaste. You’ll be flying over rainforest canopies and gorgeous waterfalls on this excursion that is limited to just ten people to give you a more intimate time in the park.
Read more about cruising in Costa Rica
Tips for planning: how to choose the right itinerary
With so many choices of amazing South America ports of call to visit, it can be difficult to narrow down what kind of itinerary is best for you to choose for your South America cruise. New visitors to South America may prefer an itinerary that visits several different countries in order to get a taste of the different areas of the continent so they can narrow down what they want to go back and see more of on a later vacation. Beach bums will enjoy a cruise that predominately sails around Brazil. If you’re interested in history and the way things work, partake in a Panama Canal cruise. Adventure lovers will enjoy a cruise that stops in Costa Rica, while nature lovers will revel in Patagonia and Chile. Those looking for a more cosmopolitan cruise will enjoy a cruise that stops in Buenos Aires or Montevideo. Beyond that, keep your mind open in each port of call you visit – you may find yourself loving some cities and towns you weren’t even aware existed prior to booking your cruise.
When traveling to South America from the northern hemisphere, keep in mind that the seasons of South American countries are flipped. Depending on the country you’d like to visit, you may find that traveling in winter (South America’s summer) means getting humid-monsoon style rains, and traveling in summer (South America’s winter) means much shorter daylight hours in the southernmost areas of the continent, such as Patagonia.
Whether you’re an adventurer or a city-lover, South America has something to offer all travel types. Visiting the less traveled cruise region now let’s you explore an area of the world with more intimacy and hands-on experience. On a South America cruise, you’ll find yourself becoming besotted with South America’s culture and sights plus the art of traveling by cruise.
– Gina Douglas