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The hardest part of planning a trip to South America? Trying to fit its far-flung cities and sites into one doable itinerary. From well under $3,000 to over $4,000, these cruises visit both popular and remote spots, while adding on exciting excursions and amenities without breaking the bank.
LESS THAN $3,000
Cruise Line: Holland America
About: Steeped in tradition, this 136-year-old mainstay sails mid- to large-size ships with spacious quarters.
Ship Life: In 2009, Holland America completely refurbished the 1,350-passenger MS Veendam. It has a multimillion dollar art collection and new lanai and spa staterooms.
The Draw: The Falkland Islands, a penguin haven, and Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, are otherwise hard to reach.
The Details: Rates for veranda rooms on the South America Passage cruise start at $2,599; oceanview rooms go for as little as $1,499. Cruises embark November 2 and November 26.
Book It: 877-724-5425, www.hollandamerica.com
Alternative: Costa Cruises, the Italian arm of Carnival, offers a chance to mingle with a largely European clientele onboard the 2,720-passenger Costa Magica. A nine-night trip sails from Santos to Rio de Janeiro and Porto Belo (all in Brazil), then to Buenos Aires, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. From $1,249 for veranda cabins and $2,039 for suites; embarks on March 8; www.costacruise.com
MORE THAN $3,000
Cruise Line: Oceania Cruises
About: Expect itineraries that include many destinations as well as superior service and top-drawer cuisine.
Itinerary: Cruise 12 nights from Rio de Janeiro with stops in Brazil (Buzios, Ilha Grande, Parati, São Paulo, Santos, and Rio Grande), Uruguay (Punta del Este and Montevideo), and dock in Buenos Aires.
Ship Life: On the 684-person Insignia, passengers can dine at the Tuscan-style Toscana or Polo Grill steak house at no extra charge. There’s also a Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
The Draw: Spend next Christmas and New Year’s at sea, and snag two-for-one fares and free round-trip airfare from the U.S.
The Details: For the Samba Serenade cruise on December 21, oceanview berths run $3,799 and up per person, including airfare from some 20 U.S. cities. Book before March 31.
Book It: 800-531-5658, www.oceaniacruises.com
Alternative: Compagnie du Ponant is known for its fantastic food and exotic itineraries. A Panama Canal trip aboard the 226-passenger Le Diamant leaves from Manta, Ecuador; traverses the canal; then sails to Cartagena, Colombia; Venezuela’s Los Roques islands; and ends with three days in the Caribbean. From $3,600 a person for 12 nights; leaves on March 19; www.ponant.com
$4,000 & UP
Cruise Line: Silversea Cruises
Itinerary: Sail eight nights from Rio de Janeiro along the coast of Brazil (São Paulo, Santos, and Rio Grande do Sul), and on to Uruguay (Punta del Este and Montevideo) and wind up in Buenos Aires.
Ship Life: The 382-passenger, all-suite Silver Whisper has elegant, varied cuisine (with 24-hour in-suite dining), one of the finest spas afloat, alfresco
movies, and a casino.
The Draw: The sophisticated ship offers personal butlers and one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios at sea, yielding top-notch service.
The Details: Early-booking rates for Voyage 4032 start at $4,438 per person, which reflects a 60 percent savings and includes drinks and tips. The ship departs November 9.
Book It: 800-722-9955, www.silversea.com
Alternative: Aqua Expeditions’ luxe M/V Aqua sails through remote parts of Peru along the Amazon River and its tributaries with just 24 guests. Guided excursions include jungle walks and village visits. From $5,250 a person for seven nights with meals, excursions, drinks, and airport transfers; departs from Iquitos, Peru, on select Saturdays year-round; www.aquaexpeditions.com
From the Feb/March 2010 issue of Sherman's Travel magazine.