11By Kris Madden

South America is a hot destination for Australians at the moment, not only for exploration by land, but by sea. Cruising is emerging as an alternative for travellers wanting to experience multiple destinations on this vast continent, with the most recent industry statistics [2013] showing a 75 per cent rise in the number of Australians cruising South American waters.

Encompassing thousands of kilometres, with 14 countries and territories extending from the equatorial tropics to the sub-Antarctic, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and much of it is best seen by ship. product manager Carina Mullen says interest in South America is high, and growing, with multiple cruise lines operating in the region and expanding their offerings.

“South America can be a daunting destination and navigating different modes of transport, airports and organising an independent itinerary can be challenging. A cruise is a stress free way to experience this part of the world. There are different styles of cruising on offer from large ships, to mid-size ships and smaller expedition style vessels, so there is an option to suit most people and budgets.

“The most popular itinerary is a cruise between Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina with highlights being the Chilean Fjords and travelling around Cape Horn. Many people choose to add on an Iguazu Falls trip from Buenos Aires which can be easily arranged,” she says.

Princess Cruises VP Australia & New Zealand, Stuart Allison says more Australians are recognising that cruise ships present a very comfortable and affordable way of visiting these remote and exotic areas.

“Our new South America circumnavigation has attracted huge interest and is the only one of its kind from Australia. To tackle an itinerary like this from land would be a real feat – but we’re giving Australians the chance to see all these places in a very relaxed and comfortable way as they cruise between ports. No airports, no repacking, no long bus trips – they just have to sit back and unwind as the destinations come to them,” says Allison.

Princess’ round trip voyage to the continent includes Chile’s Amelia Glacier, Tierra De Fuego, sailing around Cape Horn, Salvador during the Carnival, a full transit of the Panama Canal and overnight stays in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Lima. There are also overland excursions to Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. On board, passengers are immersed in the colours and cultures of the region with regional cuisine, tango dancing and expert presentations on each destination.

Karen Christensen, Silversea’s general manager Australasia, says the luxury cruise line has seen a steady increase in the number of Australian guests seeking information about cruising within South America, and ultimately booking.

“Feedback from our guests is that an attractive itinerary is the key decision maker when booking a South America holiday,” says Christensen.

“Our guests can indulge in the beaches of Brazil, the icy majesty of Argentina and the breathtaking fjords of Chile, all in one luxurious trip. For adventurous travellers, voyages to South America’s more remote destinations provide guests with the opportunity to travel from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Valparaiso, Chile and beyond to Ushuaia, Argentina. Our itineraries also enable guests to experience the stark beauty of the Atacama Desert and its Valley of the Moon; the ‘White City’ of Arequipa; or the coasts of Chile and Argentina.”

Gareth James, general manager of Lindblad Expeditions Australia, says South America holds mass appeal as it is still home to relatively untouched landscapes and wildlife, therefore enhancing the cruise and travel experience for guests.

“Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic have been exploring this part of the world for almost 50 years – we send more Australians to the Galápagos Islands than any other overseas destination that we offer,” says James. “Our focus is on enrichment, onboard and onshore, and visits to offbeat ports in South America with naturalists, historians and undersea specialists on each trip.”

For customers in search of natural beauty and breathtaking scenery, mountains, fjords and tropical rainforests that seem to stretch forever, cosmopolitan cities, and indigenous peoples and cultures, South America is a cruise revelation. South America is, of course, too big to sample on a single cruise, creating a wealth of opportunities for repeat sales to clients enchanted by the destination.

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