The cruise from Rio de Janiero to Santiago was really quite beautiful and included several interesting stops. We arrived in Rio 3 days early since it was near Carnival and we wanted to experience the atmosphere. We stayed at the Marriott on Copacabana and felt perfectly safe. We did follow the usual rules concerning jewelry (none) and leaving money and passports in the hotel safe. They close down half of Avenida Atlantica on Sundays and strolling down it is a wonderful way to get to see the Brazilian people at play. Lots of families. As you get to Ipanema Beach it becomes a much younger crowd. Food was surprisingly expensive and we did tire of all the meat all the time. But it was tasty. We tried feijodas, the national Brazilian dish of beans and meat, and it was delicious. However, one order would serve several people!
Going up to see Christ the Redeemer was the highlight of our Rio experience. Be sure to get there first thing in the morning so you can get pictures w/o hordes of people. The views from there were magnificent. I'm not sure I would do Sugarloaf again. It takes forever to get up there (2 separate trams -each with their own line) and all you see are the beaches.
From Rio we flew to Iguassu, Brazil and stayed at the Hotel das Cataratas, the only hotel on the grounds of the national park. It was a huge place and there was a lot of walking involved - just getting to your room. It was nice to be able to go for a walk back to the falls after hours (which one of our group did) but I was way too tired for that. The Falls themselves are spectacular! And the walkways bring you very close to the largest ones. You will get a bit wet from the spray but it's incredible. Much bigger than Niagara. We also did a great Zodiac boat ride on the Argentine side. To say you get drenched is an understatement but it is so much fun.
Flew back to Rio to board the ship. This was my 2nd cruise on the Star so I knew exactly what to expect. There did always seem to be people waiting to use the the exercise equipment and I don't know what they can do other than expand the area. It's unrealistic to expect to get off after only 20 minutes (which is what the signs say). The food was fine. I don't expect gourmet food on a cruise ship that feeds thousands at every meal but I think the selection is very good and the food itself is tasty. It's also easy enough to accommodate many different diets - assuming you have the willpower.
We were fortunate that the weather was perfect for sailing around Cape Horn: calm seas and 40 degree temps. It is a wonderful experience and it seemed that everyone was on deck taking pictures - even after it started raining. Next to "rounding the horn" the highlight of the cruise was sailing through the Chilean fjords. The best of it lasts about 2 hours and the scenery is incredible. Really, all the scenery along Chile was breathtaking and we were delighted to have several days at sea to enjoy it.
My only caveat about this trip is that if you go expecting that you will be able to visit Antarctica, you will most likely be disappointed. I don't believe any of the cruises this year succeeded. It's also a VERY expensive excursion but there were still plenty of people who were hoping. Otherwise, this is a wonderful cruise to a region that not many people get to visit.
This is a lovely city with many beautiful buildings. 6 of us arranged a tour with balocal.com and were very pleased. It's always nice to sightsee with a small group. And we did see all the requisite sights including the various neighborhoods, the Plaza de Mayo with the palace, Eva Peron's tomb in the fantastic Recoleta Cemetery. It was especially fun to spend time walking through the La Boca neighborhood with the colorful buildings and street scene.
It was Carnival Tuesday and nearly all shops were closed. There are a few historic places to see but probably not enough to justify a tour. We did love the food market which is very nearby. They have huge firepits (indoors) where every type of meat is roasting and the smell is great.
We were lucky to visit Punta Arenas on a warm sunny day. Apparently they are quite rare. And that makes all the difference in enjoyment of a port. We walked to the main plaza to see the famous statue of Magellan. It was a lovely plaza, with century old trees, and surrounded by beautiful buildings. There was a big flea market in the plaza (probably for our benefit) and the jewelry was very nice and incredibly inexpensive. And they do take American dollars. Some other members of our party took a ski lift up above town and hiked back down, but they were rather disappointed in the hike.
This was a beautiful city at one time. Now it seems a bit down at the heels. We drove by incredibly beautiful homes and neighborhoods but none of them were residential any longer. Everything is covered in graffiti and just looks dirty. The outskirts of the city are much newer and much more attractive. And there are great views of the snowcapped Andes Mountains everywhere you look.
This was a terrific port. Everyone was so friendly and happy to tell you how much they love living in the Falklands and how much they hate Argentina! We took the Bluff Cove Tour to see penguins and it was just great. However, do not take this trip if you have back issues as it is quite "bouncy" on the cross country part which lasts 20 minutes. You are crossing over huge boulders in a Range Rover in order to get down to the Beach. But once there, you are rewarded with hundreds of penguins. Most are Gentoo with a cluster of Kings as well. They are strict about how close you can walk to the penguins but apparently the penguins didn't get that message because they will walk very close to you - especially down on the beach. It's very cold and windy - even in their summer. After visiting with the penguins, you are invited into a small house/cabin where the Falkland women have prepared a feast for you. There are muffins, cookies, pies, cakes, and plenty more, plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate. And it's all free. They also had an accordion (which they call a squeezebox)player, so it was very festive.
We did not get to visit this port because Argentina denied us permission to their port. It was in retaliation for having just visited the Falkland Islands. This may become a problem because of the tension between Argentina and Great Britain over the Falklands. We were told by the locals that large oilfields have been discovered there, which explains a lot!