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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

Royal Princess

March 22-April 5, 2003
South America--Buenos Aires to Valparaiso

by Tom Caballero

We started this trip with a 3 day Princess pre-cruise to Iguazzu Falls. We would highly recommend this trip, as the falls are spectacular! We stayed at the Tropical Das Cataratas Hotel on the Brazilian side of the falls. This is a wonderful hotel and when you walk out the front door you can see the falls. Prior to leaving for the falls we spent one night in Buenos Aires at the Claridge Hotel (an nice older hotel within walking distance of Florida Street) and after returning from the falls we stayed another night at the same place. Worth seeing in Buenos Aires are the cemetery (Recoleta) where Evita’s crypt is located; La Boca (home of the Tango); the Colon Theater; and Florida Street (for shopping). 

The Royal Princess is a wonderful ship (our favorite)… just the right size. She was refurbished in 2001 and looks great.

Our first port of call was Montevideo. This is the only port where we took one of the ship’s tours, but it was great… we went to La Rabida Estancia (ranch). It is a private, family owed ranch and the only way to see it was to take the tour. The family and all ranch hands were most gracious and the food was fabulous. We even got to shear a sheep and milk a cow, as well as take a hayride. A little pricey but worth it.

Our second port was Puerto Madryn where we had prior to leaving home set up a tour with (a company that does tours from cruise ships for a lot less than the ships charges. We were very impressed with the service and quality of the tours. We went to Punta Tombo penguin reserve… the 2-½ hours each way on a dirt/gravel road are well worth it. Never before have we seen so many penguins in one place. Wwe were there at the end of the season (late March) and there was still over 100,000 left. At peak time there can be over 1 million! We were able to stand or sit right next to Magellanic penguins. After the penguin colony we stopped in Gaiman for Welsh tea. It was an enjoyable, picturesque place in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed the great cakes, scones, etc (it was non-stop food for $8.00 pp).

The next port was Stanley, Falkland Islands… it was very wet, cold and windy, but we were thankful because at lest our ship was able to tender in. Hired a private Range Rover for 4 of us for $10.00 per person… the guide was so nice and took us all around Stanley to see penguins (there were about 7 left!) shipwrecks, the church, etc. Got soaked but it was fun!

After leaving Stanley we encountered a storm and had very rough seas for about 7-8 hours (at least it was at night). Our swells were about 20 feet and we didn’t complain too much since we heard the cruise right before ours had 8-10 hours of 60 ft swells (even the grand piano turned over).

Next we rounded the Cape Horn, Although it can also be pretty rough, we encountered seas that were not bad. It was cold and a little foggy, but not rough.

We arrived in Ushuaia (the end of the world) in the early morning (about 5 am). It was still dark but when the sun came up we found ourselves in an absolutely beautiful town surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After a short time, a fog rolled in and we couldn’t see anything, including our ship. We had set up another tour through Portcompass to see Beagle Channel wildlife. If it didn’t clear up they would have taken us elsewhere, however as we headed out it started to clear up and we enjoyed a wonderful day with lots of sea lions, penguins in the water and an abundance of birds. It was VERY cold (probably in the 30’s) but scenic! The water was like glass. After the boat tour, we walked around the cute little town. Ushuaia is 1000 km from Antarctica. Unfortunately we only stayed until 2 pm! After sailing from this port we had some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen…lot’s of different glaciers. We were very fortunate to have a sunny clear afternoon.

Punta Arenas, Chile was our next port of call. Again, we hired Portcompass to take us on a tour that the ship did not even offer. It was called the Rio Verde tour… we stopped at a Nandu Park (Nandu’s are relatives of the ostrich). We actually got to feed the birds. There were also some guanacos (llama’s), which we could pet and feed. The innkeepers had a lovely garden and we also spotted a pigmy owl in their tree! We rode along the Fitz Roy channel, seeing 3 foxes, vultures, geese, more guanacos, and lots of unique birds. We then stopped at an Inn in Rio Verde for an incredible lamb lunch. All of us enjoyed it (and I don’t normally even like lamb)! Before returning to the ship, we toured the town of Punta Arenas.

Another great sea day viewing Chilean glaciers. It seemed like they were non-stop!

Again a day at sea… we sailed the Seno Eyre Fjord which was also beautiful and when we arrived at the Pio XI glacier (the largest in South America), it was covered in fog. Our captain waited for about 20 minutes and all of a sudden, it was like the curtain lifted and in front of our ship was this spectacular glacier. We anchored for a while so everyone could see the beauty and just as we sailed away, the fog rolled back in again… maybe an April fools joke!!

Our last port of call… Puerto Montt, Chile-once again we hired Portcompass to show us the Lake District. It was again another great day of viewing volcanoes, lakes, the quaint town of Puerto Varas, Petrohue River and Falls, and Lake Esmeralda (where we had the option of taking a small boat ride out on the lake). Osorno Volcano was covered with clouds most of the day, but at one point the clouds cleared enough that we could view the snow-covered top. We enjoyed an excellent salmon lunch overlooking one of the lakes (I think they gave is ½ the entire fish). On route back to the Royal Princess we saw some Alpaca near the side of the road so our driver let us get out and take some great close-up pictures.

Today we spent packing… we were so sad our trip was ending!!

Docked in Valparaiso this morning and Portcompass was waiting for us on the dock (as they had done promptly for all our tours). We toured Valparaiso and Vina del Mar before going to Veramonte winery… we had a tour and tasted a few Chilean wines (and of course bought some too!) On the way to Santiago we stopped at Aqua de Piedra in Curacavi, Chile for a “typical” Chilean lunch… it was wonderful! After a tour of Santiago and San Christobal Hill to see the Virgin Mary statue, we were dropped off at the airport for our flight.

In summary, this was our 26th cruise and bar far one of the best! From beginning to end everything was wonderful. We met lots of nice people, had spectacular scenery, and great tour/tour guides throughout the trip!

Photo Credit--Princess Cruise Line

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