We had the opportunity to get off the ship in Valpariso for a half day tour. The weather was perfect and we used the ship tour. It was a little overpriced but well organized. We opted to not go to Santiago on an all day tour as half the tour was a bus ride to and from Santiago. The cruise critic group had quite a few that were back to back but we picked up well over 50 new cruise critic people that got on. We had a nice cruise critic meeting the first sea day. The ship contact Matthew was very enthusiastic to assist us and arranged for a buffet lunch on a sea day late in the cruise.
Our first port was Coquimbo Chile. La Serena is another name. We were able to determine that the coastal areas of South America were all on alert for a possible Tsunami from the Japan earthquake. It did not bother the ship as we were well out to sea when the wave passed under the ship. The coastal areas were evacuated but fortunately the water was not much higher than high tide during a storm. It did some flooding in low lying areas and all the ships were sent out to sea to ride it out so there proved to be minimal property damage.
In Arica we took an all day ship tour to a mountain top lake with flamingos and two dormant volcanoes. It was well organized and the school teacher that was our guide was very nice. We won a couple of prizes (color postcards) by answering his trivia questions. It was a long bus ride up above 15,000 feet. One young woman did suffer altitude sickness and was unable to get out and walk around. We had cocoa leaf tea part way to the top and it seemed to help. I did experience a headache on the way back to the ship. We got there just as a hailstorm started. It was not large hail but the tours left early to be sure they were not on bad roads. There was all kinds of wildlife to see. Birds and ducks and flamingos and llamas and vicuna. The box lunch was not all that good but it was from the ship. We stopped to see a roadside souvenir stand and my wife took a little native boys photo she entered in the photo contest on the ship.
We had a nice cruise critic group tour of Lima.
In Manta we took a ship tour with a hike and a beach stop. Our guide was very knowledgeable. We saw howler monkeys and an archaeological site and lots of birds and exhibits. The beach stop was all too short but it was nice to take a dip in the ocean.
Since we had been through the Panama Canal before we opted for the tour to Panama City to see the old city. It was a funeral of a past president so the area we planned to see was closed but we still got to shop and take pictures of the areas that were visible. We had much better weather than the people who stayed with the ship. They had rain.
Our final port was Columbia. We opted for a ship tour to Rosario Island. It was more than we hoped for. We got to snorkel and visited a marine exhibit with a dolphin show and sea creatures on display that we had never seen before like tuna, tarpon, sawtooth fish, sea turtles and such. The high speed boat ride out and back saw a comfortable sea breeze unlike the heat and humidity in the city.
All in all we got to see lots of new places. The weather was even better than we hoped. The shipboard activities were delightful. The food was exceptional. If you have not toured South America before this is the perfect way to see it for the first time.