There are two itineraries that exist for South American cruises — Amazon river or round-the-horn. Amazon trips call in ports like Santarem, the village of Boca da Valeria, Recife, Montevido and Rio de Janeiro. Round-the-horn voyages call in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Puerto Montt, Valparaiso and sometimes Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Temperatures change constantly on these voyages and rough seas are common when sailing round-the-horn, however, so be prepared for itineraries to change.
South America is an enormous continent, so conditions vary widely. Roughly 75 percent of the continent is south of the equator, and winter runs from June through September and summer is from December to March. High-altitude Quito, Ecuador, is cool, while Amazon basin Brazil is hot and humid year-round. You encounter less summer weather the further south you move from the equator. March and April have the fairest weather across-the-board.(image by Francisco Aragão )
The South America cruise season runs from November, which is considered “late spring,” to early May or mid-autumn. The busiest travel times coincide with holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter and Spring Break. The Carnival of Brazil, the week before Ash Wednesday, is one of the biggest draws.
Smarter Travel advises to look for sales during spring and fall and to book at least six months in advance. Prices for South American cruises vary widely, depending on the popularity of a particular itinerary. Budget Travel recommends cruising at the beginning or tail-end of the cruise season in November or March. Low-season deals occur just after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.
South America repositioning cruises are more diverse itineraries and half-rate daily prices. The downsides are more days at sea and paying to fly to and from more exotic ports. Look for ships leaving San Diego and Miami to begin their South American cruise season in October and early November. In April, these ships will be reversing their courses traveling northbound to their homeports.
Events occurring during the South America cruise season include All Soul’s Day and Independence Day in November, with big celebrations in Ecuador especially. Peru hosts the Santuranticuy Festival the day before Christmas in December. New Year’s Eve is huge in the bustling port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The beaches are packed with musicians and theatrical performers. Parades, dancing, candlelit ceremonies and fireworks are all part of the fun. Carnival before the start of Lent is a huge celebration in Brazil and Argentina. During Holy Week, Montevido and smaller cities host barbecues and parades. Peru celebrates Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria in early February and Chile celebrates Festival de la Canción in late February. You might catch the Festival Internacional de Teatro in Venezuela during an April cruise(image by bmeabroad)
A wise traveler knows the times and seasons, just like the birds do, use our tips and make your Suth American trip a success, you might also consider bringing your family with you. 2014’s world cup is also something that you really ought to time, book your tickets and flights in advance to avoid price hikes as well as missing out on places to stay.
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Feature image Bill Evitts