Sample South America by Sea

by  Elissa Garay | Nov 30, 2009
Silver Cloud ship
Silver Cloud ship / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

On Thursday evening, I set sail on luxury small-ship cruise line, Silversea, from Rio de Janeiro’s stunning harbor, bedecked in an evening gown, champagne glass in hand, all under the watchful gaze of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Back in the stateroom, a personally assigned butler worked on unpacking my belongings, while the waitstaff buzzed about taking orders of complimentary top-shelf cocktails. Best of all, with butler service, alcoholic beverages, and all gratuities already included in the upfront Silversea fare, I wouldn’t need to reach into my pockets for any of it. Now this was sailing in carefree style!

With the Silver Cloud’s hull pointed down the coast of Brazil (with ports of call ahead in Parati, Sao Paulo, and Rio Grande), and on to Uruguay (Montevideo) and ultimately Argentina (at Buenos Aires), this 8-night sailing has promised to pack quite the punch in regards to its plentiful ports of call, offering a South America sampler itinerary that one would be hard-pressed to replicate back on land. Aside from facilitating effortless transportation between ports (no long drives to contend with or expensive flights to dish out for), a South American cruise vacation offers the convenience of a floating five-star hotel to serve as a home base (forget about the annoyances of unpacking and packing every other night), where white-glove service from an English-speaking staff (a welcomed respite from the Spanish and Portuguese speakers back on land), gourmet meals, nightly entertainment, fitness and pool areas, and more, await after a day of land exploration (and equally remain at your disposal during those relaxing days at sea). Not to mention incredible value – while this particular top-of-the-line, all-inclusive voyage worked out to about $431 per person, per night (still a highly competitive rate when considering comparable costs at land-based hotels and high-end eateries), much cheaper South American sailings can also be enjoyed on more mainstream cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean (I found fares from as little as $85 per person, per night, though the à la carte extras like gratuities and drinks can add up quickly).

As I began planning this, my very first trip to South America, I toiled tirelessly on where to go. I craved Rio, yearned for Uruguay, begged for Buenos Aires . . . how, oh how, would I choose just one? A former European backpacker (and later, like-minded luggage-toter), I knew, and had grown quite accustomed to, the breakneck American speed possible during travels to the Old World. (Four cities in one week? No problem!) Of course, this was all conceivable thanks to the terrific rail infrastructure and close proximity between countries there – vacationers in search of a similar South American sampler vacation encounter much more difficulty to find one, with hurdles like long distances, virtually no rail network, and expensive intra-continental flights. For many travelers, picking just one destination – with South America's vast treasure trove of animated cities, indigenous sites, and spots of superb natural beauty – is a difficult quest. So, after careful research I determined that there was, in fact, no need to choose, when you have an even better option: to cruise.

An ever-growing number of luxury (like Silversea, Regent, and Crystal) and mainstream (like Celebrity, Princess, and Carnival) cruise lines are now operating in South America, initiating new and exotic itineraries regularly, from sailings along the continent’s eastern coast (Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina) to “Round-the-Horn” (Buenos Aires to Santiago – and vice versa – with Chilean fjords and Patagonia) to more niche Amazonian river cruises (and beyond).

With the South American cruise season now firmly upon us (running from November through May), why not sample a South America sailing of your own? Check out our QuickSearch tool to compare rates on the best South American cruise deals, or opt for the ultimate smart splurge and book your own spot on one of Silversea’s upcoming voyages.

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