Cruising South America 2015
PANAMA for now
Cruise lines are increasingly looking to South America, a continent that offers everything from glaciers to beaches, says Jane Archer...
With its multi-million-pound footballers – think James Rodriguez, signed by Real Madrid for £63.2 million, and Angel Di Maria going to Manchester United for £59.7 million – plus recording artists such as Shakira and Sérgio Mendes, South America has benefited from the cult of celebrity.
This may not be enough of a hook to convince clients to cruise in the region, but factor in the rest of South America’s attractions and it’s easy to see why cruise lines are making a bee-line for its shores – many of them sailing round-trip from the UK for folk who prefer not to fly.
There’s the variety of landscapes, from beaches and rainforests to deserts and glaciers; the lively cities of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro; the exotic wildlife, from penguins in Argentina to toucans and piranha fish in the Amazon.
A cruise is an easy way to tick off many of these aspects on one holiday, which is a big selling point. The Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 and the impending expansion of the Panama Canal add more reasons for selling South America now.
Princess Cruises Managing Director UK and Ireland, Paul Ludlow, said year-on-year the demand for Panama Canal cruises is up 13%. “It has always been a bucket list favourite but we’ve seen more interest recently, with [passengers] citing they want to see how the expansion project is progressing.”
A Panama Canal cruise is one of many favourite itineraries. Others include a voyage around Cape Horn, up the Amazon and to Peru, with land trips to Machu Picchu, as well as two months or so circumnavigating the continent.
“A Panama Canal cruise has long been a bucket list favourite, but we have seen more interest recently, with passengers citing they want to see how the expansion project is progressing ” Paul Ludlow, Managing Director UK and Ireland, Princess Cruises
*Sailing from the UK: Cruise & Maritime Voyages (cruiseandmaritime.com) is offering a 54-night journey from Bristol Avonmouth to Brazil, Argentina and Punta Arenas in Chile and back to the UK on Marco Polo, departing January 5 2016.
Saga Cruises (saga.co.uk/cruises) has a 73-night voyage around South America, round-trip from Southampton, departing January 6 2016.
On Saga Pearl II, the itinerary goes anti-clockwise around the continent and includes a day in Stanley in the Falkland Islands.
Swan Hellenic (swanhellenic.com) is returning to South America in 2015/16 with an all-new cruise programme of mainly 14-night itineraries down the west coast as far as Valparaiso, from where a 19-day voyage sails through the Chilean fjords to Ushuaia and back. A series of cruises then takes passengers back towards the Panama Canal via Peru and Ecuador.
MSC has five ships based in South America for winter 2015/16. The entire South American inventory is now available for agents to search and book via MSC’s trade portal (mscbook.com/uk), having previously been reserved largely for travel agents in the region to sell.
Norwegian Cruise Line (ncl.co.uk) is basing a ship in South America for the first time since 2010. Norwegian Sun will be cruising the continent between November 2015 and March 2016, offering mainly 14-night cruises between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso.
Passengers can welcome 2017 by cruising around Cape Horn on Celebrity Cruises’ (celebritycruises.co.uk) new 15-night Chile and Argentina Holiday cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. The cruise on Celebrity Infinity departs December 24 2016.
Fans of Princess Cruises’ (princess.com) Ocean Princess can say goodbye to the ship on a new 64-day voyage around South America round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, departing January 3 2016. The ship will join Oceania Cruises as Sirena in April 2016.
Norwegian (ncl.co.uk) is spending $50 million developing a new private island in southern Belize. The 75-acre resort Harvest Caye will have a water sports lagoon and beach for passengers who want to relax on the sand, and shore excursions on the mainland for those looking to explore further afield.
Puerto Limon in Costa Rica is planning to develop a dedicated cruise terminal so arriving passengers can avoid the industrial dock. Building is set to start in 2016. The port hopes the new facility will encourage cruise lines back to the country. The number of ship visits has halved from around 127 in 2008/09.
Air Europa (aireuropa.com/en/flights) increased its flights between Gatwick and Sao Paulo from five to six flights a week in March. It will be moving to a daily service from June 28. Flights operate via Madrid, where there is a change of plane, with prices from £487pp one-way.
“The number of cruise passengers visiting Colombia in the first eight months of 2014 reached 202,913, up 12.3% on the same time last year. During the same period, 138 cruise ships from foreign ports visited, up from 132 the previous year. Cartagena is our biggest port, attracting 201,324 passengers, and has fast become a staple on cruise itineraries in the Caribbean and around South America. On the rise are Santa Marta and San Andrés. ProColombia is working hard to promote Cartagena as not only a destination for cruise passengers but as a cruise hub. We want to encourage passengers to extend their stay.”
Maria Claudia Lacouture, President, ProColombia
Where to book it
Holland America Line – 0843 374 230
Holland America’s Zaandam, Maasdam and Prinsendam will be in South America next winter, between them offering cruises around Cape Horn to Antarctica and up the Amazon River. A 47-night voyage round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, departing January 14 2016, includes a three-day stay in Rio de Janeiro for Carnival. Prices start from £4,498pp, cruise-only. hollandamerica.co.uk
MSC Cruises – 0203 426 3010
The nine-night MSC Poesia sailing coincides with the Rio Carnival in February 2016 as well as calling at some of the best beach and rainforest ports. It departs fromBuenos Aires on February 2nd and cruise-only prices are from £939pp. Mscbook.com
Princess Cruises – 0843 374 4444
Star Princess will be sailing Princess’ perennial 14-day Cape Horn cruises between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso South America in winter 2015/16. Prices from £1,311pp cruise-only, departing February 1 2016. princess.com
Regent Seven Seas Cruises – 02380 682280
The 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner is sailing a series of voyages around South America starting January 13 2016 that can be bolted together to create a circumnavigation of the continent. From £25,919pp for 72 nights round-trip from Miami including flights, transfers, shore excursions, drinks, gratuities and wifi (free time depends on suite). rssc.com