You’ll typically spend two weeks on board ship, and some overnight in the embarkation/disembarkation ports.
For a full taste of Buenos Aires or Santiago (about 90 minutes from the port of Valparaiso), however, you’ll want to build in extra time before or after your cruise for extended shore excursions.
You’ll find the two capital cities distinctly different. Buenos Aires, still reeling from Argentina’s economic collapse in 2002, is cheaper, more colorful and livelier than Santiago, but the Chilean capital offers easy access to wine country in a nation increasingly renowned for its quality vineyards. Plus Chile itself offers some of the most striking geography in South America, including the majestic fjords that are transited on most South America cruises.
Two nights in Buenos Aires is sufficient to take in the Argentine capital (although a third or fourth night allows visitors to get to Iquacu Falls on the Argentine-Brazil border), but at least three nights are required to see the sights around Santiago — particularly if you plan to visit the area’s wine country.
Dust off your Spanish phrasebook, but be prepared for some surprises. Argentines pronounce the double “l” as “sh,” so that a phonetic phrase such as “me yamo (me llamo),” is pronounced “me shamo.” Chileans use different words altogether. Avocado, known as aguacate throughout most of the Spanish-speaking world, is “palta” in Chile. Still, grade-school Spanish will help, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Remember that South America’s seasons are reverse from North America’s, so the summer cruise season is staged during the North American winter.
For Port Profiles, Shore Excursions and What To Do In Argentina, click on the destinations below.