South America has interesting ports of call along virtually every part of its coastline, from the easternmost part of Brazil to the southern tip of Chile. You can start and end your entire cruise on this continent or, in some cases, cruise from Fort Lauderdale on one-way routes. Either way, you will see a continent that boasts everything from bustling cosmopolitan cities to dense tropical jungles to towering icy fjords.
Itineraries run from a few days to more than three weeks. You can choose to spend the bulk of your time at sea—say, cruising round-trip from the eastern coast city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a few nights’ visits in Brazil—or you can see far more shore-side sights by cruising from, say, Buenos Aires down south through the Straits of Magellan and around Cape Horn, then up north along South America's western coast to Valparaiso, Chile, or even farther north to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Some of the better ports along the way are Argentina's Buenos Aires, Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, and Punta Arenas in Chile.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is one of those cities that seem to attract the world's most beautiful, most sensuous people like a magnet. This is a city that tangos, a city that sways, a city where passion has been known to run just as deep for games of soccer as for entanglements of the heart. It is a place special enough that you should consider spending an extra night or two in a hotel if you have the opportunity and want to drink it all in.
JUST FOR PARENTS
A fun excursion in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is to the wine-producing regions of Cafayate and Mendoza. You'll find common names on the labels, including chardonnay, merlot, and pinot noir, but also some names that might be new to you, such as chenin blanc, Torrontes, and ugni blanc.
This capital city is known as the Pearl of South America, with beautiful European-inspired architecture, including fountains and a massive clock tower. Tango and jazz bands still play at the old coffeehouse known as Cafe Tortoni, and street artists often work along Florida Street performing whatever they can to attract the interest (and tips) of shoppers and tourists. Whether you want to wander and ponder or get into the music and movement of the city, you will find excursions to your taste in Buenos Aires.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you need an even sexier stopover than Buenos Aires to satiate you, Rio de Janeiro is the place. Consider that the favorite dance here is the samba—a sort of bump-and-grind evolution of the anticipation-filled tango—and you quickly understand that Rio is called the Marvelous City for a reason.
One of the top excursions here is to the beach. The spectacular waters and soft sands are a huge draw for tourists from all over the world, many of whom come to show off their bodies in a style not unlike the parade of bikinis in Miami Beach, Florida. If you prefer substance to skin, you can hop in a tour bus and ride about a half-hour away to Petropolis, home of the Imperial Museum and the crown jewels, which are on display. There are also nature excursions for sightseeing amid the waterfalls outside of the city.
Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas is at the southern end of Chile. While the downtown offers more than enough to keep you busy for a daylong excursion, you're more likely to join the crowds and use this city as a jumping-off point for more exotic excursions beyond.
Some cruise lines offer specially organized flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica for sightseeing amid the glaciers, penguins, and sheets of snow and ice that seem to stretch right into the horizon. You can also visit the nearby colony of tens of thousands of Magellan penguins if you'd prefer to stay on land and stick to wildlife sights alone.
Magellan penguins are the most common species in South America, and tens of thousands of them live at a single colony near Punta Arenas. It's hard to believe that with all those birds around, the males mate for life and can recognize one another by voice.
Other excursions from Punta Arenas include a day of watching sheep-shearing at a working farm or a tour of the Torres del Paine National Park, which includes three breathtaking granite towers more than 10,000 feet tall.