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South American cruises offer soft adventure

I am asked two questions on a regular basis. The first is where can I find the best cruise deals. That is a moving target and should be left to your travel agent.
The second question is one I can answer - what's your favourite cruise? For me, nothing beats South America.
Its major cities, like Brazil's Buenos Aires, will amaze you with their European look, and as you move south into Argentina's Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, you will discover wildlife and plant life that you will not see in North America. As well, the fiords in Chile rival those in Norway.
Keep in mind that Canadians going to Brazil will need a visa.
South America offers what I think a lot of cruisers want today: Adventure. (Although I would call it soft adventure - the kind that gets you away from the standard on-and-off bus tour.)
If the weather is suitable, you will go around Chile's Cape Horn, the southern most point of South America. Memories of all those school lessons will come flooding back, about the great explorers who challenged what many call the roughest seas in the world.
Several South American cruises also venture to Antarctica. You won't be able to go ashore if on one of the larger ships though. Only smaller ships are allowed that privilege.
And visiting the continent may become even more difficult by mid-2011.
Currently, ships are allowed to cruise to Antarctica if they use lighter fuels. They then switch out of the lighter fuels to a normal, heavy fuel when heading back to South America. There is now a proposed change to the MARPOL Convention that covers the prevention of pollution of the marine environment that would force ships cruising to Antarctica to carry only lighter fuel for the entire journey.
Cruise ships that serve South America and Antarctica will be heading back there in the fall, although Crystal Cruises has stated this will be its final year serving Antarctica. Voyages of Discovery and Saga have already pulled out, and Swan Hellenic is not returning after this year.
On the Ports and Bows blog this weekend, I am writing about cruise trips to South America as well as posting a letter I wrote my family that covers my recent trip there.

PHIL'S PICK
To keep on theme, this week's pick is for a South American trip and this one offers you two choices.
Holland America's Veendam sails from San Diego to Santiago, Chile. The 19-day cruise departs on Oct. 31 and costs $1,550. It's one of Holland America's smaller ships, which offers a closer-to-the-sea experience. Ports include a number of stops in Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Manta, Ecuador; two ports in Peru and one in Chile, before arriving in Valparaiso, which serves landlocked Santiago.
There is a 35-day option on the same ship departing on the same date. After it arrives in Santiago, it goes back to Argentina before finishing in Brazil's popular Rio de Janeiro. The price for that trip is $3,333.
These starting prices - available at time of writing - are per person and based on double occupancy, do not include taxes and fees and are in Canadian dollars.

MANDATORYTAGLINE
Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, the best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an e-mail newsletter on the site for even more cruise information.
Phil can be contacted directly at preimer

canwest.com.

Organizations: MARPOL Convention

Geographic location: South America, Chile, Brazil Antarctica Argentina Buenos Aires Tierra del Fuego North America Norway Santiago Cape Horn Holland America San Diego Mexico Guatemala Corinto Nicaragua Costa Rica Ecuador Peru Valparaiso Rio de Janeiro

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