Port and Shore Excursions
Our next port was Buenos Aires. Again we had contracted for a private tour with Maria for city highlights, plus boat ride to Tigre Delta. It was a great overview of the city, and quite useful for our return later after the cruise. We saw all of the obligatory sights, including Eva Peron's tomb, Rose Gardens, Palermo district, etc.
The ship goes very slowly in and out of Buenos Aires, as the channel is not that deep. We learned that there was only 2-3meters of water under the ship passing through!!
Montevideo was our next port. We had again contracted with a guide for personal tour of the city and area. Tamara Levinson did a great job for us. I found her on the internet, and she had great reviews on Trip Advisor as well. The weather was extremely hot in this port, which made all of us get pretty sleepy quite quickly! We toured the city highlights, and then headed into the countryside to a local winery for sampling and tours. We found the winery very interesting, and thoroughly enjoyed the sampling as well as light snack with the samples. We were able to sample 4 of their different wines, and of course, also able to purchase some before our departure back to the ship.
A few in our group went to Club Andino and did the zipline, which was great fun. It consisted of 8 stations. The excursion was quite inexpensive, $35 per person including transport and equipment and guide. The rest of the gang did a Princess shore excursion of city sights. Most were quite disappointed with this, and mainly due to the guide. The gentleman that was the guide was very monotone, and not informative. Fortunately it was a short excursion, so everyone was able to do some walking around on their own afterwards.
More sea days before our final port of Rio de Janiero. It turned out that Carnival started the day we arrived in Rio. This was both good and bad. Good for those that wanted to stay and spend time to experience Carnival. (however, we had wanted to do so but the cost prohibited us from doing so. Hotels were only available for 3 nights of more, at a cost of $800-$1000 per night for two people due to Carnival. Less expensive ones were available, but not safe) Knowing this ahead of time, we arranged for a personal guide to show us Rio highlights, with a drop off at the international airport. Here we had lots of snags...first, debarkation was postponed for 1 1/2 hours due to customs officals being caught in traffic and not arriving at the ship in time. Then our guides' bus had problems, so he had to round up different transportation for us, which was more costly than originally contracted. Finally at 9:30am, instead of the 7:45Am we had planned, we were on our way to see Rio. However, Carnival once again impeded our trip, and many roads were closed so that getting to the areas to sightsee were impossible. We headed for Sugarloaf, arriving before the crowds, only to find that the cable car was having problems. We were able to get halfway up Sugarloaf for views, but that was all. Again, due to crowds and time limitations, we were not able to get to Corcovado ( Christ Statue), but only saw it from a distance. We were able to stop at the famous Copacabana Beach for beer, and again take the obligatory pictures. Then it was time to head for the airport. Since Carnival made Rio too crowded and pricey, not wanting to go home yet, We all flew back to Buenos Aires on a 3PM flight to spend an extra 3 days there before our trip back to the states. Sunday we had went to the estancia La Alameda for the day, approximately 1 1/2 hours outside of BA. We enjoyed a typical asado meal, including wine and beer, plus entertainment of the Argentine dancers as horsemanship show.
All of us stayed at the Magdalena Apart Hotel. It was very affordable, included breakfast each day, plus each was a small "apartment" with wash machine and small kitchens. We chose to eat out rather than cook ( after all, we are on vacation!!). I had booked three days with the Guideschile ( guideschile.com) and had the pleasure of Leonardo as our guide for all three days. He was absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend him. Our first day together as a group was spent seeing the highlights of Santiago. Leonardo took us to the government areas, as well as overlooks of the city. We spent some time driving around seeing sights from the bus, as well as walking through different areas of the city. Second day took us to the Andes Mts. where we first drove high into the Andes ( only 35 miles from the Argentine border!) and had a short hike with breathtaking views. From here we went back down into the country side to a working ranch for lunch. Our host, Gio, was gracious and prepared a wonderful meal for all of us, starting with empanadas and drinks, then onto a complete meal of beef, potatoes, dessert, and all the accompaniments. Leonardo has arranged for us to have the entire place to ourselves that day, including a swimming pool, tours of the ranch, and drinks outside in the garden. One especially nice surprise was being "hijacked" by a team of horseback Chileans as we approached the ranch, as they escorted our bus to the entrance with flags. Our final day included transfer to Valparaiso to meet the ship. Leonardo once again was our guide, and took us via countryside to a winery on the way, which we stopped at and toured. We were also able to purchase wine there. We continued on to Valparaiso for a tour of the city there, and upon completion were dropped off at the port for embarkation.
Embarkation is Valparaiso went fairly smoothly. Once you enter the port, you drop off your bags, then are actually bused to the ship, as it does not sit directly alongside the entrance. There was no waiting and everything went very smoothly.
Two more days at sea were enjoyed prior to arriving in Stanley Falkland Islands. This was a tender spot, so we had to que up for taking the tender over to the island. A few from our group did the Princess excursion to go see the Magellanic penguins. This was an awesome experience as they came right up to, and some to the point of trying to peck at you!! It was definitely an "up close and personal" experience with the penguins. Others in our group did the Princess city tour, which included the sights of Stanley and some museums. The overall consensus was that this was a worthwhile tour. Some spare time remained for everyone for enjoying some local beer at a pub before taking the tender back to the ship.
Our next day was the port Ushuaia. Once again our group split into two smaller groups for excursions. Six of us went canoeing with Canalfun.com in Tierra del Fuego. They did an excellent job for us, however, again, the weather did not cooperate fully. We had to cut our canoeing short some as the winds came up and the guide warned us we could end up "out at sea" if we did not quit early! We were also able to do some hiking in the area of the Beagle channel as well as drove to the end of the PanAm highway for the obligatory pictures! The rest of our group did a tour with Navegando El Beagle. It consisted of a catamaran tour of the Beagle channel with the sightseeing of wildlife such as otters and birds, as well as the lighthouse. AFter this they went by bus to Tierra del Fuego park for sightseeing, and they too, had the obligatory stop at the end of the highway. The ship sailed at 8 PM this day, so this was our evening to go to the Crown Grill for supper since we missed our reserved seating time in the main dining room.